Old Dog, New Tricks

January 31, 2010 at 10:37 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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As a hapless prawn of the foodservice corporate conglomerate, I–
Did you say “happless *prawn*”?
Yeah.  Well, at first I felt like a fish out of water.

I’ve decided to stick it out here at The Three Jakes Sammich Shop.  As promised, the money has started to come around.  It’s not the best, mind you, but it’s purty damn good.
Real good, in fact.  I’ve had a few nights there where I had to look down to make sure I wasn’t dressed like a stripper, because they were just throwing money at me.  But I’m still keeping my pasties on.
My problem with the place early on (and I wonder now how long ago it was that I wrote about it.  I’ve had this title stuck in my head for a few weeks but I’ve been too busy to write it.) was that I was working in the store too much for my nominal title of driver, which was beginning to seem moot.  But bidness picked up, and with it, my spirits.
I’m not shallow, I’m focused.  Or I’m trying to be.  I have a nut to make, remember?  And working inside the store reminded me that I am new at their special little way of doing things.  If it was pizza, I’d run laps around them and laugh.  I eventually caught on–most of it is the same.  A restaurant is a restaurant is a restaurant.  They all try to do one thing:  serve food without killing anyone.
By and large we succeed.
A problem I had to adjust to was wearing gloves.  In pizza, it’s not necessary.  Partly because we don’t care if we kill anyone, but also because we can handle the food with our bare hands because it’s going to go in a 500 degree oven.  If any germs can survive that, they deserve to be the dominant species.
First there is the size.  They biggest they come in is large, and my hands are much bigger than that.  And you *know* what they say about guys with big hands, right?  They wear big gloves.
I got used to putting them on, albeit slowly.  But after a week and a half, my hands started to itch and break out.  I had an open sore.  Good God, I had herpes on my hand!  Good thing it was my right hand, because I *need* my left hand, you know?
But Brian the manager ordered some non-powdered gloves.  That’s much better, but the powdered ones are easier to get on, kind of like a pre-lubricated condom.  Finally–in the last couple of days, actually–I got used to getting these on my hands.  They are tight, which is good because I don’t want them sliding off when I’m repeatedly thrusting my large throbbing hands into the vulnerable and soft, moist flesh of a sammich…
Oh, shit, where was I?

Let’s talk about the people, then we’ll talk about the delivery area, okay?
The people are mostly good–kind of a microcosm of the fucking world, right?  We had a way-too-damn-perky assistant for the first couple of weeks, but she was nice.  We had a guy named Von, a nice young black guy who, as it turned out, had only been out of prison for a month.  I had given him a ride home a few times.  Am I a sucker?  I don’t think so.  I talked with him a few times at work, and we bonded a bit, over Jesus, oddly enough.  He was explaining why he couldn’t do a few things, like drink or go into a bar or anything like that–not just because of parole, but he is saved and he’s trying to fly straight.  I had to confess to him as well.
And the reason is this:  if you are a believer in Jesus and a follower of his word (and don’t YOU judge me, brothers and sisters–I know wherein my faults lie, and I know I am not the best example of a Christian, but I know what he has done for me and you can’t take that away) then it’s important to understand that God can forgive many things–most things, in fact.  To paraphrase HIS word from somewhere in the Bible, “I, the Lord shall forgive whomsoever I shall forgiveth; nonetheless, it is my word and my law that you shall forgive everyone.”  Having said that, what is the most grievous sin that he ranks above all others is denying HIM.  Once you know the Lord, you cannot turn your back to his word and his works.
I’m done preaching now.  But we talked, and he’s a good guy, trying to fly right.  He said so many guys in prison “get religion” but essentially they are paying lip service.  They don’t mean it, they are using it as a tool for parole or what-have-you.  He’s not that way.  He means it.  I hope he succeeds.
What did he do to go to prison?  Well, I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell me.  I understand about a man wanting to keep his sins in the past even though I vent them and share them with the entire intarweb for all who care to read.
We also had a couple of cute young girls working there.  Man they were tiny things.  I understand now how perspective works in porn.  If the guy has an average size dick but he’s with a girl who weighs about 95 pounds, he’s going to look humongous.  And these girls were tiny.  Each one weighed about as much as one of my legs.  The names were Shannon and…something else.  It doesn’t matter.  One got fired and the other got transferred to a store closer to her house as she requested, out in the county.
There is a nice young black girl named Kelly, and we hit it off right away.  Meaning, she started right in with the mocking me.  But I helped her with her car a few times.  I convinced her not to buy a Dodge Neon with 160 thousand miles on it, for one thing.  And she finally bought a little Toyota, I agreed to do the brakes on it for cheap.  Then I drove it and said, you don’t need brakes.  And you don’t need a power steering pump either.  The car is fine.  It’s just smaller than the behemoth her mom has that she had been driving, and she’s not used to that “Close to the road” feeling you get with a tiny, tiny car.  Nigel, we miss you.  By the way, Detroit seemed completely unphased when I told her that a hot young black chick gave me her phone number.  Sucks to be undangerous.
Brian is the manager.  I still don’t have him figured out.  He’s serious about the job, though; some people are like that.  Tony is the manager I work with most.  He’s been with the company for a month or so and already disgruntled, which I use to my advantage.
A chick named Cat started as a driver and entered the management program.  Good for her, I thought.  Until I had to work with her.  As a driver, she would panic if I got there at 501 instead of 500, because she’s a single mother with a kid and blah blah blah.  I know.  I know.  One minute isn’t going to make the
difference in your mother of the year nomination, trust me.  Not compared to the psychological damage your undoubtedly doing to them.
But then she becomes a manager, and she is all about exerting her power or making a statement or flapping her gums or over-sharing or just being a ridiculous bitch.  She casually mentions to us that Adam–yet another manager–is going to be fired because he was an hour and a half late at great inconvenience to her and no he didn’t call can you imagine the nerve he said he was watching *his* kid which I personally don’t believe because no one else can have issues with childcare because that’s MY thing and anyway he has a girlfriend or a baby momma or something like that and they need to coordinate their schedules because I have a life too.
This is in answer to the question, “Are you closing tonight?”
Her irrational behavior almost cost me the other night but I used it to my advantage.  I came back from a delivery and there was another one.  She explained at great length and speed that the customer said to just call when the driver gets there but she said she didn’t know if they could because she didn’t know if I had a cell phone or not.  The guy said he’s never had a problem before but she wouldn’t let up because it’s important to maintain control of the doctor-patient relationship.  Or green, inexperienced restaurant manager to customer.
Thanks for pissing off the customer, retard.  And you think, what–because I am oh so very old that maybe I don’t have a cell phone and you didn’t want to assume that I was down with what all the hip young kids are into?  Lick my individual balls.
But since I knew what happened, I am prepared.  When I get to the customer, I give him a call–because at this place, you have to, it’s a secure apartment complex–and he comes down.  I said to him, “Hey, sorry about the girl on the phone. She’s worked there a while, but she’s new to being a manager, so she
wants to do everything right.  And that means pissing off the customer.”  He laughed at that, and gave me a five dollar tip.
I am the man.
Who else do we have there?  A worthless little prick named Peter.  I swear to God–watching him make a sammich is like watching a fish flop around on the ground trying to breathe–I just want to stick his head under water and let him inhale.
There are several other people that I see come and go, and most are nice kids.  Kids, I say.  I’m the oldest fucker there.  They need to respect the wisdom I have to offer.  If I have any.

Besides the money, which is getting better, I love the idea of driving in this neighborhood.  I’ve been everywhere–suburbs, exurbs, rural, floating space
platforms–but to be in the actual real and true city is just cool as hell.  I thought it would be scary–but that’s just the unknown.  In the city of St Louis, there are several neighborhoods, and they all have different names.  I hear them on the news when there’s a murder–Dogtown, Southside, Northside, Central West End, Hyde Park–shit like that.  There is downtown Proper, which we are directly south of, in probably the most famous St Louis neighborhood:  Soulard.
From several vantage points, I can look to the north and see The Arch and look south and see the gigantic BUDWEISER sign at the brewery.  Directly between them is the famous Soulard Farmer’s Market, there since 1769.  I shitteth thee not.
The neighborhood is full of all these old brick houses, walk-ups, shotgun flats, storefronts and warehouses that have been rehabbed and bought by yuppies (and, I find later, guppies and DINKs).  It was once a thriving, bustling area, and then the nameless urban blight set in.
Meaning, a few blacks moved in, all the white people fled, more blacks moved in, the area became blighted, all the blacks moved outward, and then…after the dust settles, the white people move back in and fix it up.  I’m not casting aspersions, or placing blame.  I’m just tellin it like it is, bro.
It’s a pretty nice area, and fairly safe.  Still, that chick I saw jogging at 9 o’clock better be fucking armed, or at least a bad ass kung fu lesbian assassin.  There are some homeless wandering around.
It used to be that if someone was walking around talking to themselves, you’d think they were crazy.  But then with a bluetooth, now you think they are talking to someone on the phone.  But here, chances are it is a crazy person like the one I saw walking in circles in the parking lot having an argument with Archduke of Ferdinand.
I enjoy driving the neighborhood.  And every door I go to is a new enjoyment of architecture, and every dangerous alley I go down because I can’t find the fucking number and and to wander around like homeless guy talking on my bluetooth to the customer as they try to pinpoint where I am, where they are,
and what lies between is a hapless junket of structural pleasure.
And just outside of our delivery area proper is an area I’ve gone into a few times anyway, and when I saw the street signs, it hit me where I was:  My dad always talked about the neighborhood and different streets he had lived on down in the city.  The dreaded “State” streets–California, Ohio, Missouri.  They are all right here.  I get to see where my parents used to live, and I feel a connection to it.  Kind of a vicarious nostalgia.  I can imagine the place in the fifties.  Now that my parents are gone, I feel connected to them again.


Coffee House Jamboree

January 27, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Eclectic in measure,
But I don’t like the coffee
Where Suits and Hippies mingle.
A student writes a paper
And an artist sits and broods–
Because that’s what they do.
A young black businesswoman
And a gay Asian preppie are
Served by the perky goth chick
Who doesn’t get irony.
Stereotypes have run amok here,
At this intersection of life and caffeine–
And it lends to my feeling of hipness.
I feel very cool sitting here;
The atmosphere is electric,
Even with the old people
Who read the obits like racing forms. 

What eluded me as a young man
I have finally achieved
And it’s bittersweet:
Middle-aged, fat, and cranky,
I’m cooler than I ever was when I was
Fresh-faced, wide-eyed, innocent and clumsy.
Now grizzled and wary on the outside,
Bitter and jaded on the inside–
I’ve developed layers.
I feel like a swollen Kurt Vonnegut,
Thinking deep thoughts of civil unrest
And a bagel thick with cream cheese.
The detached and disaffected youth
Think they are cool because
They are jaded and disgusted with society,
But they got nothing on the adults.
Listen, punks:  if you think you are jaded now,
Let’s see how you feel after you
Helplessly pay taxes that you can’t afford
To a government you don’t trust
To pay for shit you don’t believe in
And your hopes and dreams fade away
Like your energy and good looks.
Your life and your youth will slip easily
From your fingers and be replaced with
Poor vision and knees that hurt all the time.
For over twenty years I’ve been an adult.
Or at least for the last two or three…
I don’t know if I’m more angry about
what is happening or that I can’t do
Anything about it.

Sitting here in shorts and black dress socks
And a shirt that doesn’t quite fit–
I am a rebel and an anarchist.
I feel very cool.
If only I could get the goth chick’s attention;
I need more coffee, but she thinks
I’m a creep because I stare at her cleavage.
I’m not really a pervert.  Well, maybe.
It just reminds me of the promise of youth–
Christ, I need some decaf.

You can all snap your fingers now.

Radio Free Missouri Part 3

January 27, 2010 at 3:29 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I wanted to make sure I could find the "venue" for the live event–  this little city hall.  I drove there, and they let me in to look at it when I explained who I was.  Hmmm.  Okay.  I can work with this.  Outlets over here, table here–okay.  I left.  This was noonishor after, and I went home and laid down for about an hour.  I got up at 2pm.  Time to go.  The plan is:
  200-leave to pick up the girls
  300-get there, pick them up, and drive back (its about a one-hour drive)
  400-get home, pack up van, practice a bit. 
  500-leave to go to place
  530-get there, set up, practice
  700-event would start  who knows exactly when after that we go on.
  Afterward, I have the two hour drive to bring them back and then go home.  I was looking at a long night, but I didn’t even think about that part yet.  I was focused on the show.
  I roll into Troy and give my daughter a call when I’m a few minutes from her house.  She said she would call the other girls.  A few minutes later, as I’m about two blocks from her, she calls back.
  None of the other girls are around.  It’s just her.
  What?  Jesus Christ!  Fuck me.
  She explained.  Jessica, the 18 year old, is out of control.  Her dad had to kick her out–again.  She either went to her mom’s in Columbia Missouri, or to somewhere in Southern Missouri to stay with a grandparent or great grandparent.  Someone who wasn’t tired of her shit yet.  Jessica needs to live somewhere with rules, and she needs to be beaten until she follows the rules.  This is my analysis, and I stand by it.
  Samantha, who is 13, decided to go live with her mother.  In the middle of the school year?  What kind of shit is that?  Who does that?   Who lets their kids do that?  Becca, one of the friends, they don’t talk to anymore (it had been four days–young teen girls are volatile.)  And she had an infection in her nose from a recent piercing.
   But we did track Dollinee down, and Catherine.  Okay.  Before we did that, however, I talked to my other son’s girlfriend, Nyssa.  She is a singer, and I had wanted her to do this before but wasn’t sure how to ask.  Being in dire straits allowed me to ask.  She said, "Sure."  By now, it’s 330.
  And she made Mitchell come to.  We went to school where my daughter Melissa was working, because she would have the video camera with her.  Except, she didn’t.  It’s at her house.  Okay.  I’m looking at the clock, and its 345.  We go pick up the other two girls, then go to Melissa’s house to get the camera.  Okay.  Basically 400.
  We drive.  The girls practice in the van.  Nyssa and Miranda sound good, but I can’t hear the other two dunces all the way in the back.  They won’t speak up or sing louder.  We get to the house about 500.  Mitchell helps me load the PA equipment.  Mitchell was leery, I know, of coming to my house.  This is the first time–first time since I lived in the apartment and I had him help me unload when I moved in.  In hindsight, maybe not good.  But Alex wasn’t there–the source of his mistrust.  Brandon popped his head in, God knows why.  None of this was his business.  Mitchell gave a funny look.  I wanted to tell him, "Yeah, we don’t like him either."
  Detroit wants to not go–we all fit exactly in the van without her, and she has other excuses.  Fine…but she’s going to owe me.  She weighed escaping several hours of boredom and discomfort against the few minutes it would cost her to escape it, and agreed.  So I have that going for me, which is nice.
  We bolted.  It’s now about 515.  Shit-fucker-damn-damn.  We arrive before six, and no one is there.  Well, okay then.  It looks locked.  Well.  Okay.  Then–we drive around to the other side, which is the police station.  Listen, this is the city hall/police station in a semi-affluent community in the suburbs of St Louis.  I go into the police station and it looks…closed.  I walk around and find my way up some stairs and into an area that looks familiar.  There’s the door to the outside.  It’s not locked.  The place is wide open.
  I go back, get the van, move it back up, and we go in.

  Lou shows up, as does Suzan.  Lou and my son set up the sound and video.  Nyssa practices the sound, and Miranda more or less behaves.  Dollinee and Catherine, however–and I’ve a feeling it was all Dollinee–can’t just sit quietly and brood in a typical teen bored fashion.  No, they have to run around, be annoying, get yelled at, and then get sensitive and pouty and full of attitude and not want to sing. 
  Luckily I don’t have 114 other things that I’m trying to do.  I get them straightened out and calmed down, and I get them to get in front of the mic for a soundcheck.  Barely.  They don’t want to do it because they’re embarrassed, and are nervous about singing in front of people.  Jesus.  They’re in the choir.  And they agreed to do this.  Jesus.
  Charm and charisma got me where I am–I get the girls to cooperate.  We are set, and people start to arrive.
  The "event"–as it were–is a local Republican Club meeting.  The have a few speakers on some notes, and then a guest speaker about the Fair Tax, and then us, as entertainment.  That’s what the program says.
  The first several speakers weren’t supposed to number that many or go on that long.  Suzan, who is actually *in*to the whole political thing, leaned over to me at one point and whispered, "Oh, my God–this is boring."
  "Really?  Good.  I thought it was just me."
  It started at 700pm.  It was after 8–and running late–before we got on.  Oh boy.
  I swear I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes.  Audacity, always audacity.  I just winged it, dove right in, and went for it.  So to speak.
  I guess overall, the show was very…okay.  It certainly wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination.  But it wasn’t completely horrible.  I didn’t have groupies clinging onto me when it was over, I know that.  That’s how you measure a performance.
  The songs went well.  The first one better than the second.  The audience laughed and enjoyed them.  I wonder how the audio is.  We’ll find out.  (Haven’t heard it yet.)  Nyssa told me she got some very nice compliments later from the audience, both about their singing and the lyrics.  Hey, I wrote those!  Well, good on me.
  But since we went up late, we cut a few things out.  And we were reading from our scripts, kinda.  It was a little sloppy.  I kept my eye on a woman in the front row who had the MILF appeal.  She liked the show, she thought it was good.  Not good enough to want to meet me after the show, though.  It’s a fine line. 
  Since I had my eye on her, I didn’t notice what Suzan told me about later–a bunch of people got up and left throughout the show.  At first it didn’t phase me, and then I was upset about it, and I’m back to where it doesn’t phase me again.  As I say on the website for the show:  we’re not for everyone.  Chances are, we’re not for you.
  My audience is not 120 year old Republicans.  Actually, right now my audience is non-existent.  But who I’m going after are younger to middle aged people who may be on the fence about things.  I want to persuade with humor and sarcasm.  And shock.  I want to say things that are shocking enough to make you think new ways about things.  That’s all I want.
  But groupies would be nice too.

Radio Free Missouri Part 2

January 27, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I was feeling like a real producer for the live event, and I felt like the radio show idea was taking off.  It was past "in development" and becoming a real thing.
  Saturday, January 16th, we were slated to record "Show 0" for the radio.  Show 0 would be the unaired pilot, the practice run.  There, in theory, we would work out all the kinks and devlop our voice and get used to equipment and become professional radio hosts, all in the span of two hours.
  Well, that didn’t happen.
  The becoming professional, I mean.  But we did do the show, and we had a good time.  We did have our bubble burst by the fact that, although regular shows on the radio can use bits and samples from songs, we on the internet radio can’t.  We all have to pay for it, and people on the real radio have listeners and advertisers and money–the three things we don’t have yet–things that allow them to do that.  Well, crap.  Ya know?
  We had intended to go through what we were going to do at the live event, but that didn’t happen.  This thing called show prep is elusive to me, and a mystery to Suzan.  This will come to us, I’m sure.  Or, I’m sure hopeful.
  The previous Sunday I had gone up to see my daughter, and talk to the grand daughters about being in my choir.  The "Radio Free Missouri Choir."  I had buy-in from six girls.  Daughter Miranda, grand-daughters Jessica, Samantha, and Dollinee, and a friend, Becca, and the daughter of my son Mike’s girlfriend, Catherine.  I think.  Things were looking good.  That was the 10th.
  On the 17th, I went up to practice with them.  I had three girls.  Miranda, Dollinee, and Becca.  All of these girls, except Jessica, are about 12 or 13 years old.  Jessica just turned 18.  The others were off with friends or whatever.  Okay.  Just because I said I was going to be there and they said they were going to be there doesn’t mean anyone has to show up.  But I figured with three of them, I could work, and then Thursday, pick them up and have them all practice in the car.
  While they were practicing, by the way, I noticed something.  My daughter can really sing.  She has a good voice, and knows how to use it.  She understands harmony and rhythm.  She was good.  The other two girls, quite frankly, were filler.  Of course Miranda gets this from her mother, who is also a singer.  At least my ex does something good with her mouth.
  Other things in the works:  I arranged to borrow a digital video camera to record the girls singing, and Alex had a friend who could loan us a PA system, through which Lou could record the audio.
  Monday, MLK-day, Suzan and I took a meeting in a coffee shop with the wireless laptoP to work on the show.  I’m not sure how much progress we made, except to scrap some parts that were already done.  We figured out in general what to do, and what the plan was for the next several days.
  I was writing material at a furious pace.  Quality?  Not sure, man.  Tuesday I arranged with the Big L for him to take my shift at Imo’s for Wednesday.  This turned out to be a good idea–I was wrapping up the material after midnight Wednesday night.  I had already arranged to be off from the bank both Thursday and Friday.  This was beginning to be alot of work for something that wasn’t going to get me paid.  Or laid.
  But I had the material done, I had the show.  Thursday morning I met with Suzan at a different coffee shop.  She was running behind, and I had time to sit there and go over the material and also write a poem about the coffee shop experience.
  We walked through the material, and it seemed good.  We’ll see.

Radio Free Missouri Part 1

January 27, 2010 at 3:27 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I’ve haven’t been here much lately, and now I’ll tell you the story, so siddown and shaddup.
  Like Barbara Walters once said,"I had this idea for a show–"  As you know, I am interested in all the myriad media.  I’ve wanted to do everything, from a cartoon strip to movie writing to stand up to mime.  Shields and Yarnell had a profound influence on me.
  A variety of factors came into play, and they all approached confluence in subtle and complex ways, like the first half a thousand-page Stephen King novel.
  My sister was in radio at the collegiate level, and now she has an radio show on the intarwebs.  Her friend Lou is the producer.  He has a studio and servers and everything.  Hang on to that background for a moment.
  Meanwhile, a few months ago, when I was looking for a job I would peruse Craiglist for jobs other than what I was searching, to see what was out there.  I applied for a few writing gigs, to see what would happen.  (So far, nothing.)  I also looked at the TV/media section.  One ad said it was looking for ideas to develop for your own internet radio show.  I hadn’t really thought about it before (unless I did and forgot), but I had just recently started a political blog. 
  And that was an idea I had had for a while.  This is how that happened:
  I work with a guy named Joe, and we do similar work–scanning.  So we have time to peruse the internet, and I’ve become a news junkie.  We email each other links to stories and add our own snarky analysis, from the conservative perspective.  I had been thinking for a while that I’d like to have a separate site to just do that–post news links and add commentary.  Finally, I started one.
  A woman I work with–Suzan–I became friends with, and there is a group of us at work that are connected.  Bunny was manager of the consumer loan department, and Suzan works there.  Suzan got the job through the same person Joe did, her sister Carrie.  Joe’s wife Sue (different Sue) had worked with Detroit before, and that’s how she got the job, because I knew Joe and that’s how they met and now they are friends too. 
  We are just one big-ass happy family. 
  Suzan is of the same political mind as we are–in fact, most of us in this group are.  She would send Joe and I stuff as well.  One day she came to me and said I should listen to these two different Internet radio shows.  Why?  Because they were crappy and boring, and I could do better.  We could do better.
  And thus the idea was born.  This was maybe November or something.  The end of October at the earliest.  We discussed it and looked into it, and I happened to mention it to my sister.  She informed me, "You know, Lou has been wanting you to do a show for some time."
  That’s interesting, because the last time I was on the air on a college show that my sister was helping out, I got several people on the show in trouble because of the stuff that comes out of my mouth.  (A little thing I like to call "comedy."
  I did finally talk with him, and he said yeah, we should work together on a project.  That is such a Hollywood thing to say.
  Suzan and I worked on developing the idea, and then we took a meeting with Lou.  We had a theme–in the loosest sense of the word–and we were full of ideas.  We were ready.
  Meanwhile, I find out just how politically active she is.  She is involved with a few conservative groups and a TEA party group and Missouri Sovereignty group.  She mentioned our project to some people, word got around, and the next thing you know, we are invited to do some "comedy" for a local Republican group meeting.  O—kay.
  The timing for all of this became such that we had the "premier" of the radio show closely coinciding with the live event.  So I have both of these things going on.  The way the live event was sold, it would be the introduction of our new radio show, and they would be a test audience.
  I was working hard on creating material when I had a flash of brilliance.  I had re-written the lyrics to some Christmas songs with a political theme.  I had showed them to my daughter Miranda, who thought they were hysterical.  My daughter, I found out, is a terrific singer.  A natural.  I wanted to have her and some of her friends from choir sing the songs while I recorded them and put them on You-Tube.
  My brilliant idea?  Ha.  What happens next?


January 27, 2010 at 3:25 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I’ve had so much going on this last couple of weeks, and I’m going to have to talk about it all.  Probably in pieces.  I’ve learned–and then had it reinforced–how hard it really is to be creative and produce work.  When I don’t have a schedule or a specific agenda, the crap floweth from my well like an overflowing toilet:  it’s all over the place, it’s messy, there’s more crap than is possibly useful…and it stinks.
  But if I have project that I’ve committed to working on and promised several people I would participate in, there’s more pressure to create.  I’ve never encountered the phenomenon called "writer’s block."  I’ve heard some who have had it describe it as a faucet that just shuts off.
  If I had it, let’s just say…if the faucet was shut off, the pipes would burst and leak and it would come out anyway, and flood the house when no one was home.  I’ve flexed some different creative muscles the last couple of weeks and I’ve become a producer.  I’ve never before thought that the job of producer would fall into the realm of creative work, but it does.  It also–even more oddly to me–allowed me to use my restaurant management experience.  Producing is management.  And management requires creative thought.  No, really.
  It’s actually now that I can tell that my ADD medication is working, and thank God it’s time-released.  I still juggle 17 or 30 things in my brain, but I’m also able to keep the balls aloft, and sort them in the air and spin a couple of stacks of plates at the same time.
  I need to make a new appointment, and get a refill on my meds.  I have some stories that I plan to tell.  Here they are:
  Office Antics–yeah, shit going on in the office.  We’ll see how interesting it is.
  Radio Free Missouri–in several parts, about the radio show and the live event.
  Make that Missourah–my trip to the Boot-heel.
  That might be it.  Start here at the bottom and read them in order.  Oh, wait.  Also–Old Dog, New Tricks, which is about the new job at Three Jakes.  I hope to get to all of these this week.

All Dogs Go To Heaven

January 12, 2010 at 3:21 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  I took it harder, I thought, that than the rest of the people in the house.  Of course I never know what the sociopath feels, if anything.  But Bonnie was sad, I knew.  Old people like dogs, and the ease of companionship.  She immediately bonded with him, and like a grandchild, it was their little secret that she fed him treats and things.  How, exactly, is it a secret when he follows her to her room all the time?
  Kim is always so quiet with her emotions.  Alex, too, didn’t say much.
  Mac didn’t sleep in our room any more; we couldn’t take it.  I mean, maybe I snore, and I know Kim does, but the dog just lays there and breathes heavily.  Fast and heavy, and loud.  Maybe that was a sign something was wrong.
  He took to sleeping downstairs, often in Alex’s room.  He couldn’t take the noise either, and so Mac slept by himself on the floor in the basement family room.
  I guess I don’t understand dogs.  I understand them better than I understand women.  I’ve was never much of a dog person before Mac came along.  Since childhood, I had a fear of them.  A friend of my dad with some ties to gangsters had a German Sheppard.  I was five, and we were visiting for God knows why.  I don’t remember a thing, actually.  Not one bit.  But I have a scar on my cheek from where I was bit.
  My brother was always good with dogs, and we had a variety around when I was growing up.  Dad, too, used to trade dogs with other hunters.  Most of their names and doggie faces are a blur.
  Like Red, and other typical names of hunting dogs.  And Huge, a big black and tan coon hound that the neighbor poisoned after their retarded son John tried to play with him, like a dumbass.  Dad’s favorite was Billy Joe, gentle little hound meant for hunting.  In later years, we kept him in the house.  Dad was genuinely sad when he died.
  We even had a poodle in the house at one time.  What the hell was the purpose of that?
  So with all of this knowledge and experience, you’d think I’d know more about dogs.  I actually learned quite a bit from watching the Dog Whisperer.  That almost made me want to be a dog trainer.  But…it’s a lot of work.  
  But here’s why I’m not real good with dogs.  I have a hard time with something that is *that* dependent on me.  I could barely take care of my kids–I sure can’t take care of a dog.  The ex had wanted a dog, and I said no.  Looking back, I can’t believe I actually got my way for once.  Maybe it was a mistake, but I’m glad now.  I didn’t want to have to share a dog with her also.
  Dogs also have this unconditional love/loyalty thing.  That’s a big chunk of responsibility to handle, and one that I am not suited for.  I don’t deserve and certainly don’t need that kind of adulation.  (You’re happy to see me when I get home?  Really?  Why?)
  But dogs are not people.  Caesar has said over and over that is the mistake that most people make with their dogs.  Treat them like people, and they start to act weird–about food, territory, status. 
  When you treat a dog inconsistently, for instance, it loses its program about what to expect.  You can make them crazy.  Consistency is important.  And love.  Dogs like love, affection, and attention.  In that way they are much like people.  But unlike people, they hold no reservations or quirks or baggage about it.  They unashamedly want affection.  They see nothing wrong with it–because really, what is wrong with it?
  Part of Mac’s demeanor, Kim said, was because he was a rescue dog.  She got him from a shelter.  Rescue dogs are just so…happy to be with someone who isn’t abusing them. 
  When it rained, he was okay.  But if there was thunder, he tried to hide.  When we lived in a one-story house he would hide between the toilet and the tub.  Later, at this house we are in now, he would be in the basement, in the utility room.  Behind the furnace.  Under the stairs.
  Mac would come to me when I’m sitting down on the couch.  We don’t…we don’t speak the same language.  Does he want out, or is he hungry?  Or does he just want attention?  It took time, but eventually I learned to read him somewhat.  I’m sure he had just as much trouble reading me.  And I’m a more complex creature.  I think.
  This last year, Mac started having trouble getting around.  He couldn’t see very well, and his hips seemed to really bother him.  He would lay on the hardwood floor, and his legs would scamper like Bambi on ice when he tried to get up.  He was having trouble going up and down the steps to the basement, but still he went.  Some people were upstairs, and some were downstairs, and he wanted to be able to be with all of his people.
  Even for the two steps to the landing to go outside, he paused to consider them, and gather his resolve. 
  Looking back now, I feel I real tear in my gut when I think of every time I yelled at him, or pushed him away because I was busy.  The hell of it is this:  I know he loved me anyway, even when I mistreated him.  To be clear, it was nothing bad.  I didn’t kick him or beat him.  But sometimes I just ignored him, or pushed him away when all he wanted was affection.  You shouldn’t do that to someone who loves you.
  And love is different for dogs than it is for people.  Or, the emotion dogs feel for humans is different.  It is something that there isn’t one English word for, but maybe there’s a German word for it–like Fahrvergnügen–something that means love and loyalty in equal measure, with a bit of worship thrown in, a gladness to see you that causes the past to yield to it, a happy innocent knowledge that they will be fed and cared for, that the simplest thing they can do will make their master happy, and they are anxious to please.
  You want me to go outside and pee?  Terrific!  It’s dog food again?  Fantastic!  You’re going to let me up on the couch?  I’m in heaven!  Can I just lie in at your feet and be near you while you click away on the keyboard?  Thanks!
  Are we going bye-bye?  I’m so happy I could lick myself!  I think I will!  Then I’m going to stick my head out the window, because there isn’t much that’s better than that!

* * * * *
  I told my brother recently about the best day Mac ever had.  We loaded up the pickup and went to my brother’s place for his annual pig roast/bbq/party/reunion.  He has about forty acres, and ten of it is like a park, with grass and some trees, and a pond. 
  We took Mac with us, and for him, seeing the pond must have been what it’s like when kids see Disneyland for the first time.  There were all kinds of people around, and many were willing suckers to toss down a tidbit of food.  There were kids to run and play with, and a few other dogs that had the same mindset.  And there was the water.  Glorious water!  This is a great day! 
  There were a few squirrels that needed to be chased, and some rabbits, too.  But like the Call of the Wild, the water beckoned to him.  Mac played all day in the water.   He would come out briefly for a break and a snack, and then go right back in. 
  Often we project our own feelings onto our animals, and anthropomorphize them.  Can you really *know* what a dog feels?  In this case I did know.  I knew Mac was happy.  This was the simplest animal pleasure that a neutered Golden Retriever could have, and as far as he was concerned, this was all a party for him:  To run and play and swim and eat and run and swim some more.  He did it all with an innocent, robust gusto–and with his tongue hanging out.
  Later in the day, Mac was completely worn out.  We sat by the fire in the dark of the country night, with more stars in sky than we had seen under the city sky.  We had hauled Mac out of the water once and dried him off because we thought we were leaving.  But we turned our back on him–
  And he was back in the water.  We gave up and stayed longer.  Mac was now out of the water and dry, and lay on the ground beneath Kim’s chair, sleeping.  Completely out of his control, his tail would wag.  I imagined he was dreaming of the day he had just had.

* * * * *

  I got up and puttered to the kitchen.  It was a Sunday morning, and I didn’t have plans for the day.  What a great feeling.  It was the last day of the New Year’s weekend, and it was cold outside.  Just give me an excuse to not put shoes on.  Kim had gotten up earlier, and she was in the basement doing laundry.  She heard me, and called up to me quietly.  "Bryan, honey, can you come here?"
  Oh, fine.  It’s a little early to tackle the steps, but okay.  As I went down the steps, she was standing at the bottom, waiting for me.  She didn’t look directly at me, but she took my hand.  She turned in Mac’s direction, where he lay on the floor.
  Her words were quiet, and her sentences were short.  She was fighting to hold back tears.  "Mac is gone."  A pause.  "I thought he was sleeping."  A sigh, and a sharp inward breath.  "He’s cold.  He’s not breathing.  He’s not moving."
  I took her and held her, for comfort.  I didn’t cry–not then.  Not yet.  Crying came later.
  First we had to call around for someone to take him.  The ground was frozen and he is a big dog, and I can’t dig that hole.  I just can’t.  I called my friend Kim, and she told me to call an animal hospital.  We found one that was open on a Sunday.
  Alex helped me pick him up, and then I carried him up the steps and through the garage to the back of the truck.  He was heavy, and it was cold.  The things a body does when the spirit is no longer in it are messy.   I laid him on the tailgate, wrapped in an old bed sheet.   Then I turned, away, sick to my stomach.
  Kim and I drove down to the Rock Road, to the animal hospital.  It looked deserted.  Inside, Kim talked to the receptionist while I looked around.  Christmas decorations were still up in the office.  My gaze stopped at a small wooden manger scene.  It was a silly but sweet little thing.  The regular manger scene, but in addition to the Baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and the wise men, there was a row of dogs looking on as well.
  That was my breaking point, I think.  I walked outside briskly.  Inside, Kim made the arrangements.  We weren’t getting any ashes back, which was fine with me.  They took care of him for a small fee.  A week later they sent us a plaster cast of a paw, and a lock of his curly hair.
  I was outside, leaning against the truck, looking but not looking at Mac.  It was cold.  Mac liked the cold.  With snow on the ground he loved to go outside just to sit in the yard, and watch the night sky.  Honestly, what could he be contemplating?  And what was I contemplating?  In these few minutes all the thoughts and regrets I expressed earlier came to me, especially about Mac’s best day.  I hoped–I wished–that when he went, he was dreaming about that day.
  Two attendants of the animal hospital came outside with Kim, pushing a cart.  I helped them load Mac onto it, and they took him away.  Kim studied my face.  "Are you okay to drive?"
  "Yeah.  I can drive."

Jake Expectations

January 6, 2010 at 3:11 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 2 Comments
  Already I’m regretting it, but I said I would give The Three Jakes until the end of January to Show Me The Money
  The more I work here I see it confirmed that delivery is not really a priority for them.  I also talked to Todd the other day, and he had worked here in the past.  He confirmed this as well.
  My first night–opening day!–I took four deliveries, and made 10 bucks in tips.  Outstanding.  The next night was New Year’s Eve, and in the course of four hours, I took three deliveries.  Nine bucks in tips.  Just…incredible.  Friday night I worked at Imo’s and made a total of 118 bucks, which comes out to 21 bones per hour.  My bestest night ever at Imo’s.  I’m not quitting that job yet.
  Saturday was Three Jakes.  I took five or six deliveries in the course of about 6 hours, and made, I think, 18 bones, or clams, or whatever it is you call them.  Monday I worked again, making…shit.  What did I make Monday?  Four bucks?  Six?  whatever.  Last night I took one goddamn fucking damn bullshit fucking ass dickhead delivery–for a buck fiddy.
  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more "tested" by God on a job.  I mean really.  What is the purpose of this bullshit in my life?
  I am technically designated as a driver here at The Three Jakes (where we care more about your sammich before 10am than you care all day.)  What this means is that while the others–the ‘in-shop’ peepul–make 8.50 per hour for the highly desirable skill of putting meat and condiments in the middle of a piece of bread and folding it over, I make the current minimum wage of 7.25 because of all the deliveries I make and all the tips I earn from them.
  In between the breathless excitement of all the deliveries I make, I get to do everything in the store that everyone else does.  This isn’t so bad and I expect this, but Christ–one delivery?!  The night could not have dragged on longer than it did.
  Of course, I enjoy most of the people.  First of all they’re new to me, and it is a diverse group.  I described the manager already, and he hasn’t changed from that description.  Many of these others are young.  Oh, so young.  Two young girls–oh, they are pretty little things–just started working on my shifts.  They are both kinda blonde, tiny, skinny things, and pretty.  And young.  One of the brothers working said he was 23.  Carrie said she was 21.  And then these girls said they were 18.  I just said, "Jesus Christ."  They look like they’re 12.  I felt my bones start to fossilize.
  I don’t even know if they have individual names or if they just share one.  Too, too many people to keep straight.  I told one guy that I can’t learn his name today because I already learned someone else’s.  Tell me tomorrow.
  Carrie, by the way, is a firecracker.  She’s an example of everything wrong with this place, too.  It just sucks you in, if you let it.  She knows everything there is to know about making a sammich.  That’s just…terrific.
  She’s bubbly and smart, and sexy in a clean-cut alternative hipster chick kinda way.  She’s 21, and married.  She’s been married for two years, since she was 19.  Seriously, is she nuts?  Who does that shit nowadays?  I said to her, "So…this is your starter marriage?"
  She laughed, understanding.  "Oh, I hope not."
  We all "hope not," sweetheart.  But it is what it is.  I’ll bet all the tips I made tonight ($1.56) that you’ll be on your second marriage before you’re thirty.  She’s sassy, and tries to pull off that disaffected youth thing, but she’s too perky for that.  The ironic detachment thing?  I know, right?  (That comes out of her mouth on a regular basis.)  Leave the ironic detachment to the experts at being bitter, jaded, and resentful.  That…would be me.
  Of course we were having a good time, and she made it a fun workplace.  At one point she came around the corner and said something, but her mouth was full.  She covered it and said, "Sorry."  Then she said, "I had a mouthful of bacon, if you must know."
  The standard line is, "So that’s what you sound like with your mouth full."  But there are other ways to push the edge of sexual harassment.  I didn’t see all those videos and take all those tests for nothing.  I went over to her and said (and you have to do this with the barest hint of a smile, and nothing more, and then leave it.  It’s all about subtlety)–I said, "Carrie, it’s none of my business what you have in your mouth."
  She thought that was funny.  She then responded, with a raised eyebrow, "Not unless I make it your business."  So basically she was–well, you *know* what she was implying.
  I swear I don’t get it.  Or maybe I do.  It’s one of two things:  Either I am just irresistibly sexy to these women and they want me; or–
  I’m a sad, fat old man who is mildly amusing, and in their view basically harmless and ineffective.  Yay.  Bitches. 
  I enjoyed working with her, but it’s just temporary.  She’s going to go back to her regular store once our management schedule is straightened out.  Speaking of schedule–
  Brian the manager posted the schedule.  Something in print, impressive.  It’s about 40 lines on one page, using about about a 6-point font.  Fuck me, I couldn’t–I had to get on my knees on the floor (because it was put down low on the wall for short people) and get up close to it and take off my glasses to read it.  What the shit kind of shit is that?
  This is final, of course–subject to someone else’s approval.  He scheduled me for all the days I said I was available, and one extra, to boot.  He put me on Sunday.
  Now you KNOW I don’t work Sunday.  For the most part I’ve avoided it all together, even when I was a manager.  But now–I have a day job, and with these part time jobs, I want to have one day off of all of them.  I picked Sunday.  I need off Sunday.  But also, I work Wednesday and Friday at Imo’s–those were the days Brad gave me.  So I’m scheduled for Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Yes, their fucking week starts on a Wednesday.  I don’t give a shit, there’s no logical reason for that whatsoever.  Whatever reason you have for it is bullshit.  Shut the fuck up and get a goddamn calendar.
  I don’t like this job near enough to do this.  Also, I’m scheduled from 5p to 9p on these days, so that is only 20 hours.  Except it’s not 20 hours.  It’s more like 27 or 28, because the guy that comes in after me (yeah, someone actually comes in and works, in theory, from 9pm to 2am, or 9p to 4a) can’t actually get there until almost 11pm.  But the schedule can’t say Bryan, 5p to 11pm and then Steve, 11pm 4am.  Why?  Well, it just can’t.  The schedule is structured.  Were you looking for a logical reason?
  Like so many things here, there are reasons why but they aren’t even remotely logical.
  One tiny thing is this check off list of duties and crap.  On the surface, it seems like a good idea.  It gives little jobs to do every day, and track all the prep and cash and so forth.  Wow, what great organization.
  But then also, there’s the spot where someone goes back and checks the night before.  Good, right?  Well, you (whoever is doing this) is REQUIRED to find at least three things wrong.
  What if there aren’t three things wrong?  What if it’s a brand new store and everything is neat and clean and perfect and not busy enough yet to get trashed and slow enough that all these people looking for something to do get every little job done simply from boredom and overkill?  Then what??  Find something anyway.  Is this supposed to foster an atmosphere of dedication and hard work?
  Speaking of hard work, most of the day people were leaving when I arrived.  There is one young stallion whom the others already deemed as weird.  I had chatted forgettably with him once.  I saw him work, though.  He attacked the floor with the broom with vigor, and jumped on the line to make a sammich like they were giving away blow jobs.
  He’s hard working and energetic, and I’m sure he thinks he’s going places.  I was once like him.  I just want to grab him and say Stop, look at me.  Look into my eyes.  "What am I looking at?"  Your future, son.  Your future.
  Eventually they’ll break him.  He’ll stay, but he’ll be broken, and he’ll follow company guidelines like they are gospel without ever questioning the logic.
  For instance, the guidelines state that only managers can "do" bread and only managers can slice.  The reasons for this are liability and so forth, blah blah blah. 
  However, most places that have this type of operation simply have training, certification, and follow-up in place, and safety procedures.  But no–here, only managers can do these things so they have to fit them into their already hectic and unreasonably long day.
  So what happens in the real world, the world you and I live in?
  In the real world, people other than the manager does these things.  Now, here is the process for bread.  Explain please, to me, what part of this sounds like it MUST be done by a "manager"–you know, some one who is entrusted to be reliable.  At bare minimum, not a dumb-ass.

  Pull the boxes of frozen dough out of the freezer and arrange the pieces on a tray to thaw.  Put them in the "thaw box"  (It might have another name.  Don’t know, don’t care.)  There are a few technical things you have to do here, like count to twelve, and cover the shit in wax paper.
  After it thaws, change up the twelve pieces so there are only six per tray, separated by some distance, lined up more or less straight, and stretched all the way from top to bottom.  Throw these in the "proof box."  Again, don’t know, don’t care.  Set the timer for a specific amount of time (I wasn’t paying attention) and remove when the timer goes off.
  Then put the proofed loaves in the oven and set the timer.  When it goes off, remove them.  Place the tray in a rack to cool.
  After it’s cool, loosen and separate the rolls from the tray and each other, and line them up, this time 9 per tray.  I think.  Now it’s ready to use.

  The only thing I might imagine a manager HAS to do is put the bread in the oven and take it out.  That way, they are the ones that risk getting burned.  I’ve been in this ridiculous place for a week and I’ve been told "Don’t do that–only managers do bread."  And I have also done every step in the process at one time or another.
  Slicing is a different story.  In addition to running the slicer–which can be dangerous if you’re stupid or have loose skin with no nerve endings–you also have to be able to read a digital scale.  Reading never was mentioned as a job requirement, so that is best left to managers.  However, I have seen one long-time non-manager employee slicing.  No matter how I say "good for him" it still sounds sarcastic.
  In addition to these attractions at the carnival, we also get to do various cleaning and prepping and standing around.  The movie "The Hours" is actually about this place.  After I had done every little thing I could think of to do, I was standing there, leaning, and looking pretty.  Carrie said, "So, how’s it going?  Making good tips?"  Either vapid or sarcastic, I didn’t care.  "Oh…you’ve only had the one delivery.  Bummer, right?"
  "Carrie, let me explain my angst."  A customer had just received his sammich, and was still in earshot as he got his drink.  Carrie stopped and turned to me, as though I had her attention.  I continued.  "Imagine that you are a high-priced call girl–" her eyes got wide "–and you are very good at what you do.  You move to a new town that is all men and set up shop.  You are expecting to make a lot of money.  Then you find out that all the men are eunuchs."
  One of the young girls overheard this part and said, "What’s a eunuch?"
  I ignored her, and continued with Carrie.  "That’s exactly what I have here.  I was lured in with the promise of money, and I’m getting nothing so far.  And make no mistake about it:  I am…a high-priced call girl.  The best."

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