Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's the last day of 2015 and I've been vegging out on my couch since 8am this morning...

The entire day seemed to go by really slow today, but I still can't believe there's only about an hour left until the clock strikes midnight. Well, I'm ready for you, 2016!

Have a happy new year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"As her confidence grew, her bad habits faded.

'I had to take control of my life,' she said. 'I quit drinking. I don't want to see another drink in my life again.'"

From the December 29, 2015, New York Times series The Neediest Cases: Finding Her Footing Once More After Slipping Off the Career Ladder. Written by John Otis.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Give me the song, 
and I'll sing it like I mean it."

From the song Sewn by The Feeling.
If someone in one hundred years watched the news of today, filled with so much about disastrous and extreme weather, they'd recognize it as the beginning.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

As of today, I am officially on vacation until after the new year. My roommate also happens to be going out of town during this period, leaving me the luxury of an empty apartment for the ultimate staycation.

I'm really looking forward to this alone time to finish off the year, and start anew.
"Personally, I wouldn't marry a man who proposed to me over an invention."

Said by the character Katie in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis. 
Why does it feel so impossible to ever get ahead?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Or do you not think so far ahead?
'Cause I've been thinkin' bout forever."

From the song Thinkin Bout You by Frank Ocean.
An old coworker that I used to work with more than six years ago has been in my thoughts the past few weeks. There's no real explanation for it. I asked about her to a mutual friend some time ago, and ever since I've just constantly been wondering about how she's doing and what she's been up to.

And then today, lo and behold, I was on the block of my office on my way to get lunch when I happened to see her walking by me. I excitedly yelled out her name and we both caught up for a minutes before exchanging phone numbers. I love when stuff like this happens.
Feel free, for a fee.
"'William, an artist is someone who combines a desperate need to be understood with the fiercest love of privacy. That his secrets may be obvious to others doesn't mean he is ready to part with them.'"

From the book City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. Page 166.

Friday, December 18, 2015

"Tanya Nicole! I love your mole."

Said by the character Tanya Nicole in the sitcom Martin. Season 3, Episode 17.
"Nearly 16.6 millions babies were born in conflict zones this year, Unicef said Wednesday. Its report said newborns and mothers faced particularly acute risks in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan and Syria. 'Every two seconds, a newborn takes its first breath in the midst of conflict, often in terrifying circumstances and without access to medical care,' said Anthony Lake, Unicef's executive director."

From the December 16, 2015, New York Times story: Millions of Babies at Risk, Unicef Says. Written by Rick Gladstone.
"I'm not miserable. I'm just not there yet."

Said by the character Ally in the show Ally McBeal. Season 1, Episode 19.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"And who are you hiding from?
It ain't no life to live like you're on the run."

From the song Water Under the Bridge by Adele.
"If you're not the one for me,
why do I hate the idea of being free?"

From the song Water Under the Bridge by Adele.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"I don't know for certain,
how I'll live my life.
Now alone,
without my beloved wife"

From the song Beloved Wife by Natalie Merchant.

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I'll oddly have a song already stuck in my head. And for a song like this, I definitely don't mind.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The struggle is the journey.
"These are the days."

From the song These Are The Days by 10,000 Maniacs.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Besides using it to bring home your newly purchased furnishings, those blue Ikea bags' other major function is for lugging laundry.
"Ally: Why does she want to marry this guy?
Renee: She hit 30."

From the show Ally McBeal. Season 1, Episode 14.

Friday, December 11, 2015

It’s when I’m sitting at a restaurant during the peak of dinner service when the nostalgia comes back in full force.

Table upon table is filled with happy revelers immersed in good food, booze and conversation. All of the wait staff is busy in their poetic dance of service that seems so perfectly in synch. Orders are taken. Food is delicately placed on tables. And dirty plates are expertly passed off like a baton with no glances and a flick of the wrist. The deafening noise level is a mixture of flatware in good use and jaws chewing with a balance of laughter and stories recounted. There’s music on in the background, but it’s impossible to tell what song or even genre is playing because it exists only as the counterpart of chirping crickets in nature.

It’s at these moments when I miss working in restaurants the most, where I used to be just one person in a chain of employees whose only objective is to make sure you have a kickass night out with some great food.  

I first started working full-time in restaurants after I was laid off from an epicurean magazine. This was at the height of the economic crisis years ago, and was my umpteenth job in an office since graduating from college. Getting laid off was one of the best gifts I could’ve ever been given because it forced me to make a much needed change in my life I was too scared to make on my own. Being in my mid-twenties, I felt burnt out. The minutiae of office life in a fluorescent-lighted world that seemed devoid of reality was also something I wanted a break from, so I excitedly jumped head first into starting work in a completely new environment.

I had worked odd restaurants jobs since I was a kid and felt confident walking in on the first day of my gig. But being a dishwasher when I was twelve years old at my parents’ old restaurant or waiting tables at a café during college could have in no way prepared me for what was to come.

The restaurant I started working at was a well-known spot in the East Village of Manhattan that was recognized for its award-winning food without the uptight service. I was first hired as a runner, which is the person who brings you your food from the kitchen and lets you know what dish it is while you and your friends unknowingly ignore them. Then I worked my way up to host, server, and bartender before eventually becoming a staff captain.

Climbing up the front-of-house (FOH) ladder was a lot of hard work, but something I really loved. Restaurant-goers might think that FOH employees just show up to our shift and only do the work you watch us do with your own eyes, but it takes so much more than that.

We learn in detail beforehand about every dish on the menu including its history, preparation, and cooking technique; which farm, ocean or source that each ingredient came from, along with how it was grown or raised. Then there’s everything to know about allergies to save you from having it be  your last meal ever. The same studying was also required for the drink menu along with every specialty cocktail and its ingredients, and every bottle of wine offered including its region and grape varietal. On top of all this, there are always the daily specials. Learning a restaurant’s menus can sometimes be no simple feat, with the number of ingredients and techniques on some easily running into the hundreds.

And it’s not just the food knowledge that needs to be studied. Because no two restaurants ever run the same way, there’s also the computer system, floor plan, company history and countless other details like the first step to follow in case a health inspector rolls through.

However, all of that is the easiest part of the job. Working in the FOH of a restaurant is pretty much all service work---and with that comes the customers.

For the most part, the majority of diners who eat out at restaurants are normal and treat the staff with respect like a fellow human being. But then there are those certain people who from the moment they interact with the host or sit down at their table, you know they’re going to require a lot more handholding. From snapping their fingers or manically waving their hand to get your attention, to initiating confrontation or openly patronizing you somehow in front of their tablemates, these guests get off on exhibiting any form of power. It’s one thing if these customers have been provoked with bad service or unprofessional behavior, but I am referring to those who do it regardless.

It took me a bit of time to learn how to handle customers like this, but when I did, the solution was so formulaic that it became second nature. It’s at that moment where I would tell myself that this is my job and livelihood, and I’ll be damned if this person thinks they’re getting away with this.

What I gleaned is that most of these customers just want to get a reaction from you before they want an actual solution. The most important thing is to always provide professional service no matter what, but without being overtly nice. Without fail, be firm with your answers and never show that they’re getting to you in any way because they usually respond to that. Accept the situation and play along in their warped game---it can even be a little fun sometimes.

Working in a restaurant is honest work, and that’s something else I’ve always appreciated. In an office, it can be easy to fey busyness while secretly reading blogs or online shopping on your computer. In a restaurant, you’re either working or you’re not---there’s no bullshitting around it and everyone around you knows it. Downtime in any well-managed restaurant doesn’t exist because the side work that needs to get done never ceases. Once during a slow lunch shift, a fellow server of mine and I caught up on each other’s lives as we wiped down all the walls of the restaurant because we wouldn’t be caught dead doing that casually with our arms crossed.

Whether it’s handling four plates and glassware at once, or lugging bottle upon bottle of booze to be restocked, restaurant work is extremely physical. You’re running around on your feet the entire time, and there are nights when the floor is so busy and you’re getting your ass handed to you that it’s impossible to even go take a piss until 5 hours into your shift. I didn’t mind workdays like those, because it would all go by so fast. At the end of it, my fellow colleagues and I would also feel this sense of pride of getting through it with relatively no major problems, knowing that if we could get through that, we could get through anything.

One of the best things about working in a restaurant is the camaraderie and teamwork it involves, because there’s no position in any restaurant that can be done alone. Everyone needs to rely on and work with someone else. Every position is required to bust their ass and give it their all, and if management has done a good job in assembling a likeminded team, then the outcome results in both the customers having an awesome experience and the staff having a great time providing that. And for those times you majorly fuck up, it’s just a known fact that you will get screamed at until you might want to cry, especially if it has something to do with the food. The chef and the kitchen will have no problem reaming you out until they can’t speak or throw shit around anymore, but in the end you’ll learn the valuable lesson to never fuck up in the same way again. In restaurants, that’s how lessons are taught.

It’s not always just all stress and bullshit though. Most customers are great, and they let you know that not everything has to be so serious all the time. There are also always going to be those particular nights where something special that requires celebration is happening, and shots of booze will be furtively had by employees during the shift. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it always adds an extra layer of fun.

With eating and drinking being such a primal thing, any work that’s related to it will bring out the entire range of emotions people are capable of experiencing. From absolute euphoria and praise, to a drunken rage that the customer will most likely not remember the next day, anyone who’s worked in restaurants has seen everything.

And at that moment where I’m sitting at a restaurant, enjoying my meal during the zenith of controlled chaos in a busy dinner service, it makes me miss it all.
The Chicken Leg Over Rice at the Taiwan Pork Chop House in Chinatown is the absolute bomb. It's quite a meal for $5.25. I used to just order it to go and eat it at home since it isn't too far, but I recently tried having it at the restaurant by myself to dine-in. I was fortunate to be given table 12 of the restaurant, which is a tiny two-seater in the corner. Sitting there was especially great because one of the chairs faced the back wall, leaving me with no distractions except for sauces, plastic cutlery, the menu taped onto the wall, and my food. It was there that I realized how crispier and tastier the chicken leg tasted compared to eating it as take-out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Dust yourself off and try again."

From the song Try Again by Aaliyah.
The more I think about it, "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead" is really a great title.
"You used to call me on my cell phone."

From the song Hotline Bling by Drake.
It's pretty late and I can't sleep. That's when I suddenly remembered an interview or podcast I recently listened to, where the interviewee talked about always having insomnia. She mentioned how she one day made the decision to start staying busy by doing something until her body would literally want to go to sleep.

It's past 4am, and that's where I'm at now.
The past few weeks or so.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

The difference between being depressed as a kid and as an adult is as a grown up, I can drink as much as I want.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

"There is something evanescent, temporary and fragile about food. You make it, it goes, and what remains are memories."

From the December 8, 2015, New York Times article: Jacque Pépin's Food Memories. Written by Jacques Pépin.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

"Ally: You think I'm nuts?
Whipper: No. But I'm not sure you have two feet on the ground either.
Ally: You mean some people do?"

From the show Ally McBeal. Season 1, Episode 5.