Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Bottle of Red, A Bottle of White

It all depends on your appetite,
I'll meet you any time you want,
In our Italian Restaurant!

Billy Joel, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant

Long time, I know. Here is the deal. Opening a new restaurant is pretty hard. Most of my summer prime money-making time was spent in competition with other bartenders and servers. Now it is officially "fall" season and our little corner of the world has slowed considerably. I will officially have plenty of time off! That is a good and a bad thing. Our bar staff is now narrowed to the core, and I am right there. The four of us that are left are now going to fill every shift from here til spring break! Oh, and this place is beautiful. People walk around in wonder sometimes. Others pretend like they could care less. It is kind of funny. We have LOADS of rich people who don't care a thing about prices. Obviously freaking great to have. I have thought of writing about them many times, because they are very interesting and often funny. That is part of the problem, too. I love most of them, and would never want to violate their trust and in most cases extreme generosity. One day I will tell some of their stories as I have told some others.

Here is a couple that I feel like I can tell:

I am waiting tables one day, and am given my little computerized chit with the guests name, number in his party and any notes, such as anniversary or birthday. In the note section it says VIP party of six, Mr (so-and-so) wants to sit in the wine room (which had not opened yet, this was the second day that we were open.) and that Mr (so-and-so) was disappointed. A waiter peeks over my shoulder and says "Oh, great, Mr (so-and-so.)" I am a bit paranoid and it is only day two, so I inquire what does he mean. He tells me that Mr (so-and-so) is a big spender and a great tipper, but so fucking fussy as to almost not be worth it. As I approach the table, I see three 30/40-something couples, all seemingly nice looking and fit, etc. I'll make it quick: 4 pound lobster as a group appetizer ($130) 3 bottles of Cakebread Chardonnay ($330) 4 bottles of Silver Oak Cabernet ($520 Alexander, not Napa) and all have food that would make any king satisfied. Mr (so-and-so) is upset because every thing took too long. It is our second night open, and the kitchen was very slow. It has done nothing but improve since then, but hey, this was day two! He had a number of special requests, all of which we complied with. Like I said not majorly upset, but upset enough that when he finds out that we have no more cold Cakebread Chard, he starts spouting off. He waves me away imperiously and tells me to bring him the best that we have by the glass. I bring him a glass of Rosenblum Chardonnay, which we get $14 a glass for. He tastes it and waves it away. "Get me a manager!" I go find the boss, he comes over and he and Mr (so-and-so) go over the litany of mistakes that have occurred. The most serious of course is not having ample amounts of cold Cakebread. Boss simply and calmly states, "Can I buy you some desserts and a bottle of the Far Niente Chardonnay to smoothe things over?" Fine! I go and get the wine, which of course goes over well, they order desserts but he wants his creme brulee to go. I go into the schpeel of how the we can get him the creme brulee to go, but it will lose all of it presentational value, and will not look anything like creme brulee, etc. He looks at his wife, and I shit you not says "I ain't gettin' it for the presentation, I'm gettin' it to lick off of her!" They then begin kissing like they were in a porno, falling over into the plush booth. I have to walk away or else a "vomit in the back of my mouth" would have occurred. They down the last bottles of wine, some have dessert, Mr (so-and-so) gets the check, doesn't even look at it and tips 25%, over a $200 tip. A few minutes later they are kind of chilling near the entrance and chatting, waiting for the valet parking, and something gets said. What it was I will likely never know, but I wish I did for the funny value. The woman who was to have the creme brulee licked off of her storms off. Mr (so-and-so) is lost at this point. He pretends to play it cool, says goodbye to friends, and then sets out to look for her. We close down, noone is left, it is all just a matter of resetting the tables, cashing out, and then time to go home. When all is nearly done, 45 minutes later, in comes Mr (so-and-so) and he asks "Have you seen an angry blonde woman anywhere?" Nope. A couple of weeks later I am behind the bar chatting with another wealthy, self-employed, semi-retired regular who knows Mr (so-and-so) through another way, and also works for him sometimes in his business. Mr (so-and-so) and this dude spy each other in the restaurant and greet each other all friendly-like, chit-chat a few minutes and then Mr (so-and-so) and his wife(who is at his side despite whatever happened that night) leave. As soon as the valet gets their car, the bar guest begins to go on and on about what an asshole he is, and how "much I hate that fucker!"

Another time, I am bartending and in comes a 30-40's blonde woman. Nicely dressed and groomed, nice looking as well. She orders some nice wine, asks me what I think about Duckhorn merlot. I tell her that I am not much of a merlot drinker, but if I would make an exception, it would certainly be for some Duckhorn, and we carry three really good Duckhorn merlots by the bottle. Others arrive, and soon the party grew to six, all drinking premium stuff. I soon realize that she is waiting for a Dr, and he too soon arrives. Then she asks for their bill which is over $100. She hands me a corporate credit card (confirming my suspitions) for a major pharmaceutical company, doesn't blink once at the prices and tips 25%, thanking me. About two hours later they are all leaving, obviously tipsy, they are thanking her profusely as she walks them out. Their server was Dave, a hilarious server who won't stop cracking jokes. It is kind of in his nature to be funny. Dave is probably 40, salt-and-pepper hair, and is known for having a "car-bar" in the back of his truck. He and anyone around go after the shift is over and sneak a quick one in before heading home. I ask Dave if they had hooked him up at all, an he confirmed it with a "hell yeah! Duckhorn Napa Valley ($99 a bottle) is sold out!" A few minutes later the woman is back at the bar digging through her purse. In an attempt to appear attentive, I approach and ask her if she has stopped for an after dinner drink. She says no, and continues looking in her purse. After a few seconds she looks around for me and I make eye contact and re-approach her. She is pretty loaded and almost appears to be struggling with her words.

Do you...uhm
Do you...have...
do you have....any....any....uhm
ME: "What?" Shocked look on my face
HER: "You know...some coke" she says the final word out the side of her mouth
ME: "Do I look like I could afford habits like that?"
HER: "You could probably get some, right?"
ME: "I don't know how!"
HER: "Can you ask someone?"
Just what I wanted to do! Geez, it's like she could read my mind. Lemme just get George Jung from my speed dial! So luckily it was late at night and there wasn't anyone else left at the bar, and only a few left at all in the restaurant. I can pretty much avoid her until she gets the point. I leave the bar entirely and head for a different section of the restaurant. I run into Dave her server and he is jovial as always.
ME: "Hey Dave, your girl needs some coke..why don't you hook her up!?"
Dave: a little bit nervously "What...What do you mean?!"
ME: "The pharmaceutical rep chick. She came back to the bar and is looking to score some coke. You wanna hook her up?"
Dave leans around the corner, looks her up and down, big smirk arching accross his face. Without missing a beat quips "Great. Just what I need in my life...another coke whore." He walks away shaking his head and laughing. "Lemme' make a call" he says laughingly when he is almost out of range. I can't tell if he was for real, or just being Dave.

And that brings up my final thing. I am not a druggie. I am not inncoent, and don't judge people who are or are not. I have tried enough drugs in my 36 years to ultimately find them pretty lacking. I last got high when I smoked some weed before a big football game with some friends in 2001. I can't see doing it all the time. I know people who do the "wake-and-bake." For anyone who doesn't know, that is a peron who lights a joint or does a bong hit as they wake up. I have had a few opportunities to do some of the really hard drugs, but have never done them. No coke, heroin, crack, crystal-meth. Some pot, some acid, some mushrooms. Call it immaturity, call it experimental or whatever. These people are people with money, serious money as well as some problems. We have had people that drank three bottles of Chatuea Laffite Rothschild at $375 per bottle, and then soon after caught them in the bathroom doing coke. Or the ones that ordered some Opus One and then grabbed it from the server so that the host could pour it and spilled it all over the place. Did he get upset? No, he said "Fuck it, I'm rich, get me another one!" High. More than one of these people are local/regulars.
It makes me wonder how did they get their money? Our ends meet, but we live modestly. I feel like we make pretty decent money and all. How the hell do they have so much and are able to do so much drugs, booze and fine food. It almost makes me feel like for the first time like I work in a place that I can't afford. Is that right?
Alli and I went out to eat there, and even with my 50% discount, it was still about the third or fourth most expensive meal that I had ever eaten. It was a really great time, but one thing that I have learned that it isn't about the food for most people. It's is about the company. The service. The experience as a whole. I have had some really great meals for less than half the money because the company was so great. This meal was the best one though. A bottle of wonderful wine, some awesome food. A great atmosphere, and service enough to spoil anyone. Best of all, I had my best friend, Alli, and the daughter who shares my birthday with me (who behaved/endured through a two-hour fine dining meal on her [and mine] fifth birthday.) I couldn't have asked for more on a birthday. Thank you Alli and June Bug!

If you ever have any doubts what a fine meal can mean, please, I urge all of you to rent Babbette's Feast. It is slow at first, and a "gasp, shock and horror" a Foreign movie with subtitles! Any food lover will love it, and I often blame this movie and a place called Jaleo's in Washington DC for the marriage to my wife. These were things that I showed to her that she had never heard of before, and damn, but we had a fine time at each of them. I think that it would be difficult to have gotten Alli to marry me had I not known a lot about food and wine. I will always remember going to Jaleo's with Alli, and how we spent hours there drinking sangria and stuffing ourselves. Possibly the only better meal than the one we had at my new place. There was no June Bug back then, there was only two people realizing how much they knew about life without knowing each other. And it was a match. A real one. When I first watched Babbettes Feast, I really liked it. Alli insisted that I tell her nothing about the movie. NOTHING!! I tried to give her a little warning, about how incredibly happy , AND sad that this movie was. I almost insisted, but her will was stronger. About half way through, she began to sob...2/3 of the way it was almost blubbering. By the time the movie was over, she was so sad and happy at the same time that she was MAD AT ME, for not telling her how emotional it was. Her eyes were swollen from the crying for two days. We have watched it a few times since, always pushing it on som unseuspecting person. Alli's Dad, when the movie first came out (1988) actually went to a restaurant that duplicated Babbette's Feast! Anyways, more blubbering. When Alli's Dad came to DC, we took him to Jaleo's. He stared, mouth watering openly at the menu of TAPAS. He asked the server if he could bring us "THE ENTIRE SECOND PAGE." The server happily complied, and spaced it so that we never had more than three tapas on the table and they were always recharged when we were done. It was the perfect mixture of food and service, and if you ever go to DC and have the chance to go, please go! They are the best TAPAS this side of Barcelona. Anyhow, all that I know is that when we went to my place we spent $300 even with my 50% discount. We could have bought some stock? Put it away for a rainy day? Provided some school clothes for our daughter? Given it to Charity? No. We had a fine dining meal. We had USDA Prime, Bone-in-ribeye and some wonderful lamb-chops. We had some amazing potatoes, some uber premium veggies, fall of the face of the earth they were so great appetizers, and some of the most delicately prepared desserts ever. Not to mention, an exquisite bottle of wine. I have since asked my local wine retailers if they could get us some of this wine, and all agreed that the best way was to get it through the vintner, "if it was available." My restaurant had it. We loved it, and drank it as it slowly changed flavors over the course of an hour and a half...I have since had it a couple of more times. It was best when I drank it with Alli. She, and our daughter are the ones that I live for.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I ran down to the levee,

But the devil caught me there.
He took my twenty dollar bill
And he vanished in the air!

"Friend of the Devil" The Grateful Dead

So in leaving one job and heading to the other, I have been slowly saying goodbye to all the friends who have made that old place bearable. That means (especially in the restaurant business) many beers. In having these many beers I have managed to piss off Alli quite a bit, for which I am sorry. The old place was OK, but since they often hired with only a marginal amount of experience, the caliber of employee has usually been lacking. Often times very young, often their first time in a restaurant job (going from hostess/busser into the server jobs after a few months.) In the new place, the servers and bartenders ALL have at LEAST 3 years experience, usually MUCH more, and with much of that experience at a fine or upscale level. I was there today stocking the bar with some of the bar staff, and we were noticably all pros. It will be fun to work in a place with a cast of characters like this. That wasn't to say that in my last job there weren't some really great people, there were many, in fact. Just more of the crappy type than I like to deal with. I will miss lots of the old crew, and I hope to see them all out there on the town somewhere or else even dining in each others restauarants. Now if only I can find a way to go hang out without making Alli so mad!!
I try and explain that it is just like Happy Hour for her, but all she sees is the hour at which I arrive home! Getting home at 1am is like getting home at 6pm in her 8-4 world! That of course is followed by the usual questions of "who was there?" and "how much did you sepnd?" Anyone female I guess would have to represent the devil, especially any single females. My twenty dollar bill just vanished in the air! Well I guess that 1am does not mean stumbling in at 4am after playing cards all night. It also probably doesn't mean going with all the gang to "The Block" (a night club, not a notorious portion of the area.) where all those sordid types go (even if it was for only an hour.) Sorry, Alli!

The new place looks to be very swank. Really quite beautiful so far. It isn't near finished, and already we are a week behind. Since we have no work for a week, and I (along with most others) have quit my old job, the new place is going to pay us all $500 for this delay. To vacation, basically. Nice, I guess, but I should really be working making a lot more than that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Like Food! Food Tastes Good!

"Juicy burgers, greasy fries
Turkey legs and raw fish eyes
Teenage girls, with ketchup too!
Get out of my way, or Ill eat you
I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!
Im going to turn dining back into eating."

"I Like Food" The Descendants

An old 16 second long hard-core punk song from back in the day! Just a little something to get back into the swing of things. I guess that I have never been much of a diarist, but always wanted to write something. Every time that I would write a paper in school or for anything, I would always get comments from the teacher or professor. They would always give me an "A" (even though many times I had only written it the night before) and question me on the way that I wrote. I remember writing many weird things in college. There was the time that I wrote why the Clash song "Rudy Can't Fail" was really the best way to go through life. I got an "A," and had my 60 year old prof. listening to the Clash soon after. I also once got a "C-" on a paper, but that was a difference of "opinion." A geology professor of mine asked our class to write an "opinion" piece about "Earth Day." I told her (in 750 words) that it was nothing but a bunch of tree-hugging ex-6o's radicals trying to "foster awareness" and then raping the government for billions and trying to hurt capitalism. I used evidence to point out my case, and included articles I had clipped about Earth Day from the Washington Post. I wish that I still had that paper. I saved it for many years after I wrote it. Everyone else in the class toed the line and handed in gobbledy-gook, many of them hand-written. I am sure that there were some "B's," but I didn't see any of them, only "A's." I had the C-minus, and scribbled into the paper in green felt pen were dozens of comments to each of my statements, many of them quite nasty in nature. The double spacing, the margins, the indices, headers and footers were filled with green ink. The back of the paper, too. There was also a giant green "SEE ME AFTER CLASS" at the top. When I saw her after class she got all flustered, and could barely speak. I had touched a nerve with my writing, and then simply rubbed her nose in the assignement: "Professor, you wanted an "OPINION" on Earth Day and I gave you mine, backed it up wth evidence, and for THAT I got a C-minus?" I ended up with an "A" in the course, and always kept that paper as a source of pride. In my nomadic mid 20's it was somehow placed in a pile of old shit that got thrown away.

Anyhow, I have been working in the restaurant industry now for going on near a decade. I have worked at some upscale places, some middle of the road places and some REALLY cserappy ones. I have bartended, waited tables and managed in these places. As of late, I have been working again in casual dining. Not low end, actually kind of high end casual dining, but casual nonetheless. So there is this fine dining restaurant opening up here real soon and a few of the people I work with got it in their heads that they should go and apply. They asked me to go with them, and to my surprise wanted me to go with them "because we know that you (me) will be a slam-dunk/no brainer!" I was a bit surprised at that comment, and almost wondered aloud why they thought that. They figured that with "me" there, that they could ride my coat-tails into a fine-dining job without any experience in the fine-dining area of the industry. Well I got the job, and they didn't. I will now leave the casual dining scene behind me, and go into fine-dining. My friends were offered the job of "food-runners" which is a step below server, and a direct and natural step before serving. They passed. Since I had experience in upscale places, and lots of bartending experience, I will now take over a fine dining bar! 150-soon to be 250 different bottles of wine(we will be adding regularly until we get to 250, non-pedestrian wines,) every damn liqour-liqueur there is known to man, all served along with the freshest prime seafood, steaks and produce (and expensive) that the world can produce. Yup, this is the world of the $12 cocktail, the $18 appetizer, $30 glass of wine and $80 steaks. Don't get me started on the live Maine lobsters. Fucking fries will be $7.25! There are no sandwiches on the menu here! I am a bit stressed and nervous and happy all at the same time. I am stressed because my bartending knowledge is very rusty/pedestrian at this point. I went and bought a New York Baretnders Guide and it looks painful. There is so much to know, and as a fine dining bartender, it will be my job to know and tell it. There is also wine. Now Alli and I can drink some wine. We love to find good wine and match it to food. We nearly always buy a bottle when we go out and eat. Now I am expected to sell a $200 bottle of Meritage to the customers to "properly enjoy their rack of lamb." Well when you sell that bottle of wine, they practically expect you to know the vintner personally! Either that or at the very least know the rainfall for that area of the Sonoma Valley that year! That is simply out of my league! Now we will have a sommelier, and the owner is also a long-time sommelier, so that is all cool, but do you want to open a $200 bottle of wine and make a mistake in the Emily Post ettiquette of the situation? Me niether. I am excited about the learning aspect of it all as well. Once I have worked in a place of this caliber, it is unlikely that I will ever be turned away snootily at any other restaurant in the country. I could apply as manager, bartender, server or whatever. Two years at a place like this on my resume and I am in anywhere. I plan on taking this very seriously, and will be studying like mad for the next month or so to get my knowledge "up to speed." I will take the time on this blog to update when I can, but who the hell knows.

Well I know one thing:


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Acid casualty with a reposessed car

Vietnam Vet playin air guitar!
It's just the shit-kickin' speed-takin', truck-drivin' neighbors downstairs.
Truck-drivin' neighbors downstairs (Yellow Sweat) by Beck

No kidding, I think that I have waited on this guy at least twice in the past month. Here is the thing: We are a tourist-based economy. No surprise. Destin, Florida. Awesome fishing, the most beautiful emearald green beaches with sand that looks and feels like granulated sugar. Golf courses galore, things for the kids, the parents, even a nice Outlet Mall, with all of last-years latest from Gucci, Coach and Brooks Brothers. Lots and lots and lots of restaurants. Pretty much every chain has a location in Destin (except for the real upscale ones, i.e. Ruth's Chris or McCormick and Schmick's) and there are many, many more privately held ones. Starting mid-spring and continuing straight through the summer is boom time around here. Boom time. People with crazy amounts of money, looking to spend it in exchange for services and a good time. Now is the time however for the "locals" of which the picture presents a perfect snap-shot of the ideal specimen. Who are the typical people that come to the Panhandle of Florida to vacation? Here are my prime examples with a little commentary on what it is like to wait on them working in a restaurant where the food is fresh, good and fairly expensive.

The Redneck Local (pictured above)

Drinks: Light beer or Bud bottle. Could care less if there is a happy hour on draft beer, drinks bottled beer, no exceptions. His woman may join him for one drink, something fruity and frozen, but more often than not will just have diet-coke. Someone has to take care of her man when he gets too intoxicated to function later in the evening.

Eats: Steaks, usually a porterhouse, though sometimes a ribeye. In any case, the steaks are usually the largest on the menu and are cooked well-done. If he gets the Ribeye, he will complain that it is fatty, even though most of the normal marbling has been cooked away.
She will get the small filet (pronouncing it feelett-miniown attempting to act like she knows it isn't pronounced like it is spelled and tries some sort of a southern-french type accent) and it is cooked well done. Since we are in the south, we have their prefferred sweet-potatos. Good thing, too.

Tips: $2 unless the chick has ever worked in a restaurant (he hasn't, that is certain) in which case the tip is 15%, but she will utterly piss off her dude as he attempts to convince her that it is way too much to leave.

Why they are in the pan-handle: Someone needs to build fences, roofs, and roads down here.

Uniforms/Habits: These days it is long-sleeve flannel shirts and jeans, but see above picture for the summer uniform. Often wears a hat for a Big Time Southern football school, but has about as much chance of NOT having attended said college as your chance to find some brand of smokes on them. Many times (if they are from out of state) they come in cigarette dangling from their mouths asking for the smoking section. In the summer time, be thankful you got the tank top on them. If you are a dude, then you are "Buddy" and a female is "Sugar."

The Snow Birds!

Drinks: Happy-Hour drinks! They come and though they have never been there before KNOW through word of mouth that our Happy Hour has many premium liqours, including their favorite, Beefeater Gin Martinis! At $2.69 a pop, you aren't making very much, but what the fuck, let them have fun!

Eats: Your cheapest steak, split, cooked medium. "Bring an extra bowl with the salad but we'll pay for an additional side." You're fucking-a-right you will! These people also have the annoying habit of not telling you what they want until they have finished their first round. They will converse happily with each other, just the two of them at your four or six-top, drinking $5 worth of good hootch. When they are good and ready, they will tell you what they want to order, though any of us could have guessed already. They will also stress to you several times that they aren't in any rush, and that they will be upset if things come out too fast. Great. So all in all, they will sit at your table for more than an hour and a half, and have a $35 bill. As long as they don't get dessert and coffee, you will survive. If that happens, write off that table for the night and concentrate your services elsewhere.

Tips: 15%. Almost no exceptions, although it will sometimes be 20%. Not because you were so great, or went our of your way, just because they always leave 20% at a restauarant. "Oprah told the woman 'that was what you leave these days'."

Why they are in the Panhandle: Because it is cheap to come off-season (they are normally here October to February only) and it is freaking cold in Cincinatti right now.

Uniforms/Habits: Absolute musts are the trucker-caps with their military affiliation or else a touristy one that may simply say "Destin" or where ever they may hail from. Females will always come equipped with a coat, since the AC is always on here in Florida. Habits are luring you into a conversation about yourself, which will then be followed by them telling you all about themsleves. CAUTION: If two Snow Bird couples sit near each other, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER expose them to one another. Life stories will ensue, followed by golf dates, shopping sprees and who the hell knows, maybe wife-swapping. Putting two sets of Snow Birds near each other is like sparks and gasoline. Your section goes UP IN FLAMES!! Two 15-20% tips on miniscule checks from two of your three table station, for HOURS worth of work. I have seen them dominate a section sitting at a table like love-struck teens AFTER they have eaten and paid their bills for two hours at a time. That means no turning that table, no new guests, no new tips. Do they realize what they just did to ruin your night? Uhm, the answer is no.

The Post Golf dinner.

Drinks: Note all the water on the table. They are dehydrated from playing golf, and may have had a beer or scotch already at the 19th hole. They will drink water and lots of it. One guy may be drinking beers, but he is an alcoholic and tolerated by these guys because he can drive the ball 300 yards every time.

Eats: Could run the gamut. Steaks, pastas, rack of ribs. They will usually add lobster tails, though.

Tips: A guy who golfs can score a brownie point or two by asking where they played, comment on the course, and chat golf for 30 seconds. This will get you exactly zero extra tip, since they are already tipping 15-20% judging you solely on keeping their ever-empty water glasses full and get their orders right. If an attractive female waits on these guys, she is going to act ditzy, get treated in a sexist manner, and tipped very well. They will often ask a male server about titty bars. Their wives are shopping.

Why they are in the Panhandle: Duh. Good for the local escort services, golf courses, and yes often restaurants. Usually loaded with cash.

Uniforms/Habits: Greg Norman gear, Nike Golf gear, khaki pants, stupid hats, and golfers tans. Habits are to act like they are going to hook you up with a fat tip, often boasting that "We'll be one of your best tables of the night" then leave, giving the "verbal tip;" "Hey, great job, every thing was FANTASTIC, tonight. Really super." $23 on $150 unless you are C-cup or larger in which case you had to endure 90 minutes of them hitting on you, bragging and showing off for $30 on $150.

The newly married Baptist Couple.

Drinks: Water or sweet tea.

Eats: Usually a modified version of one of your dishes, something tasty, until you take out the shitake mushrooms, sundried tomoates and red pepper. They may let you keep the Gouda cheese on there after a detailed explanation of what Gouda cheese is, but most often just want pasta, chicken and cream sauce.

Tips: Random. They are usually very young, therefore it isn't their fault, noone has told them how to tip yet. Daddy or Mommy has taken care of everything up to this point in their lives, and they are down here alone often for the first time. They have money, and if they knew how to tip would likely do so. Unfortunately they usually just leave a couple of bucks on a $45 check. Bonus Tip: This couple is most likely to leave you a "pass-it-on-card" as part of your tip.

Why they are in the Panhandle: Often times they are sent there on some sort of religious activity and come during off-peak season for the reduced prices. Sometimes they are honeymooning, but the only thing that is certain is the titty bars aren't getting richer with these kids around. Not that that is a bad thing, of course!

Uniforms/Habits: Uniform is a pinpoint cotton oxford and khakis on him, and frumpy dresses (even if she is hot) on her. Their habits are to act clueless and barely speak to one another, nor to you. They will be going to the movies after dinner, and even after that will barely speak.

There are many more types out there, and I will get to all of them in due course. Destin is nothing, if not predictable. People crazy from the heat! Please take no offense by any of these "stereotypes" if you recognize some of this in yourselves, just change what it is that you are doing and prove me wrong! I love exceptions to these rules.

I'm just gettin' back, but you knew I would,

War is hell, when will it end? "What's happenin' Brother," by Marvin Gaye

Dedicated to the baby-bro, QuestingCat who is headed back to the "sandbox" at some still classified time in the near future. I also have to stress out when I hear crap like "Now that my airmen are returning from Iraq, there is a chance that I may be going there pretty soon" from Alli.
Not the best of news, but as a military family it is what we are forced to deal with in times like these. Obviously no dis to the GWOT, just a lowly military spouse/brother bitching about people so close having to suck up time away from all that they love, even if it is for a critical thing as a war against Islamo-fascists who could care less that you are a socialist or a capitalist. Off with your head, Infidel!

I guess that I am just extremely proud of them both.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Roam if you want to, Roam around the world

Roam if you want to.... Roam, The B-52's

Well consider it official, for the most part. Hanging out with the baby Bro tonight, and he informs me that it is all but official. He is headed out AGAIN, for the desert. Couple of months left in the civilized world, and then back to the "Sandbox" for he and his unit. This time he will likely head out as an E-5 Sergeant. He is headed for the promotion board, and then to class. Expected to rejoin his unit in a "leadership" position, especially since there has been a literal "75-80%" turnover since their return in all positions. Literally, 4 in 5 guys, leader or private are gone since the units return from Iraq. What do they face?

Though it is nearly impossible to find it anymore, (I will have to find out how from the baby-bro) there are many excerpts from his worst day in Iraq last year still out there on the Internet.) Maybe he may one day let me mirror all of his crap that the Army has had him take down.

A tiny excerpt:

The army started a training system, a system to try and back up the combat medic. They call it the Combat Life Saver, or CLS. A line soldier given just that extra bit of first aid training, so that if the situation calls, and there is no medic handy they can leap into action, and administer the most desperately needed care. ...
My day started off so normal. ...
Very rarely does any shit go down in this town. It is quiet and we like it that way. ...
You want to know the most terrible moment of a disaster? It is that split second when it begins. When all of a sudden there is a bright flash, that is nothing special except that it is the big break with reality to the fucked up world you are about to begin. A split second of bright light, and for the briefest second, there is no thought in your head, everything in you braces for....for what?
Glass and sound rain down on me...I know it was bad, I have NEVER heard anything so loud and light debris is falling all around me. I get off the stairs, and get my fucking helmet on. wouldn't it fucking figure, walk around ALL THE FUCKING TIME WITH THAT THING ON AND THE ONE TIME I MIGHT REALLY HAVE NEEDED IT, I WAS RELAXING.
What happened?
IED? VBED? Mortar? Rocket?
The local leaders are in a rush to get out that door. Everyone is trying to run for safety. Above it all, I hear my CO say, "It is safer inside than out".
"GET INSIDE" I scream, I am shocked to see everyone pause at this...look at me...the CA chief takes up the call and begins shouting directions and we get everyone directed to a safe spot under the we have to move out.
What the fuck happened?
We begin to move out, doing the infantry thing, moving betweens buildings and along walls to get back to our vehicles...everyone falls into sync as we try to get back to our vehicles, roll out and react. I make the dash for the humvee I am gunning one is firing all the vehicles look to be where we left one is rushing to attack.
What the FUCK happened?
VBED goes around in shouts around our perimeter, Casualties go around. Then MY name goes around. Our convoy has no medics and 3 CLS. 2 of those CLS are on the CO's Bradley crew. I'm the third. FUCK. My name is being screamed. Someone is hurt. You're on kiddo. FUUUUUCK.
I'm running...I'm trying to remember my training...and even as I move, some piece of me is awake and thinking without me. Some piece of me sees that I am going to a Bradley's drivers hatch. Some piece of me knows that Cowboy was driving one of these Bradleys. FUCK. My mind feels like it can't grasp anything. This is a very shitty day.
What the FUCK happened?VBED goes around in shouts around our perimeter, Casualties go around. Then MY name goes around.
I ride the gun, because I want some time to think. I ride the gun so no one can look directly at me if I break. I ride the gun, so if the opportunity presents itself, if there is call, then I can cause the absolute maximum damage possible. I want to cleanse myself in fire. ...
UPDATE: Well, my buddy is still under serious observation. The swelling is too bad to accurately assess damage, but he can see apparently. They can't move him until they are sure. ...Also, he had a bruise on his chest. I didn't notice it at the time, but apparently a large chunk of metal from the VBED nailed him in the chest as well. But thank God I didn't have to treat a sucking chest wound. He like all of us out here has the trauma plate to our IBAs.What happened to him puts into perspective something I've been seeing all along. That fucking vest we wear has proved it's fucking worth. The damn thing adds like 10 degrees to every hot day, the plates limit your range of motion and add like 20 fucking pounds to your regular load. Those things are horrid, and they are killing my back, giving me pains I never had before. All sorts of soreness in our lower backs. If you watch the movie Black Hawk Down, you see a Ranger pull the plate out of his back saying he didn't want the extra weight. All I can say is that I am keeping mine in.
The only parts hurt on this kid were parts not covered by his IBA. That shit works, I'd buy stock in it. I will gladly continue to wear my plates and stop complaining.This shit has me so freaked out. I'm not scared for me; I'm scared of what could have happened. I am so glad this kid had his plates. Long before any of us got there, those things saved his ass. They save lives all over Iraq.

My Baby-bro and I have "roamed" all over many countries in the infantry/Army fashion. Luckily, most of my roaming has been sans live ammo. Baby Bros...not so much...Headed back there, I think! I will keep everyone updated as I can.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I hate to look into those eyes

And see an ounce of pain "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns n Roses

So my little girl has been pretty sick lately. She picked up a nasty cold in pre-school, promptly gave it to me, (I then passed it around the restaurant, including to the owner and her husband, which they really loved) and she has not been able to shake it. Last week we did what parents do, and took her to the Dr. No problem, she has an upper respiratory infection, here is some amoxicillin, keep her on the 'tussin. Yesterday she woke up and was COVERED in hives. She is cheery, even playful, but just covered in hives. Face, neck, trunk, legs and arms. Scary. As two people who have never had an allergy, neither Alli or I have ever been affected by such things. So we go to the emergency room, and the Dr took one look at her, another at her admittance record, and simply said "Hey, this little girl is allergic to pennicillin!" Looked her over, prescribed her some stuff, and off we went. Hopefully things will get better for the kid. She has been sick the entire month of December. Poor thing.

So the sweet tea and Dr. Pepper have been flowin' freely in my section lately! Lots of steak well dones. If it isn't that, it's the old fossils. Who in the hell drinks Grey Goose Gibsons and tips 10%? Old ass people, that's who! Then again, it has been pretty hit or miss. Monday, I could do no wrong. 20-30% from every table. Add to it I was training a new server, who I let greet and (kind of) carry most of my tables. She thinks that this place is a gold mine after that shift. Tuesday, was a completely different story. In fact, it was difficult not to take it personally it was so bad. I got at one point, a $5 tip on a $125 check. That's right, it was the ole' "Buck a head" rednecks theory in action. There were five of them. $2 on $60. I should have known when I saw the Marlboro 100's and flannel shirt. Last night I even waited on people who commented how great everything was going, and how perfectly I was serving them. She even confidently told me after I had bussed their salad dishes that she knew I was doing great because "I'm a Mom, my daughter here is a waitress, and her boyfriend there is a cook!" What did they tip? A calculated 15%. Jeez, thanks...I politely asked the the host staff for no more mullets in my section.

So a while back I was tagged for five random facts about me that not a lot of people know.

1. I met Alli online. which is now defunct. It was free, and I had put my ad up and she saw it. We were matched from the start. Same interests, same opinions, same attitudes. The only problem was sorting through the CD collections and all the doubles we had. It was kind of a trip to find someone so similiar so quickly, but hey! Whatever works.
2. Alli is the only person I ever met online. I had tried previously, and have tried many times since. (not to get laid, but for frineds!) I consider it likely that I will meet one once things start to slow down a bit, as I have been in touch with a fellow Bostonian now down here on the Emerald Coast. He and I will likely tip a few, but I just need to get a day off that isn't Christmas for this to happen. I have tried to join online groups, offered to hang out, but was ultimately stood up or rebuffed numerous times.
3. I was suspended from high school for fighting after the Red Sox lost the 1986 World Series to the Mets. We lived in rural Connecticut, halfway between the two towns and I was constantly teased about being a Sox fan by one idiot in particular who even went so far as to come to my cross-country practice in order to tease me some more, throwing rocks in the proccess. I saw him in the hallway the next day, and I punched him once in the solar-plexus. He immediately passed out and sustained a concussion when he hit his head on the ground. These days I probably would have been thrown in jail for assault and battery...As an ardent Boston fan, I can safely say that most of us are idiots.
4. I was never "pinned" as a Sergeant in the Army. My orders were printed for me when I PCS'd to Fort Bragg. In the Army they like to have a little ceremony, read the NCO's creed, and then the senior Sergeants tag you, or smash your new rank into your shoulder blades. Well in leaving the Old Guard I was literally a CPL E-4 one day, and then upon sigining in to the 82nd an E-5/SGT. They had (back then, I have no idea if this still applies) a 100 point drop in the points that you needed to make rank, E4 to E-5 since I was leaving a "leg" unit and joining an "airborne" one. Instant E-5! I was handed orders that gave me my E-5, and told to wear the rank by the clerk "if you want to avoid a beating." I went down to a little sewing shop on Yadkin Rd and had the new ranks sewn on for 50 cents. As for my airborne, air assault, and EIB...well I took the beatings for all of those.
5. I was reduced in rank to E-4! Actually, I never even knew it! I was out of the Army in October of 1995, right in the heart of the Clinton Administration, major cutbacks all around for the Pentagon. I joined the Army National Guard and was given a team (while in the 82nd I had a squad) and was told my duties. No problem. I start school and bartending/waiting. Drills are all weekend long, once a month, usually starting on Friday night for infantry guys like us. So I basically miss out on the three best days of the week to work for what was back then like $125. Ends are meeting, no problem. I had the GI Bill and the Army College Fund. Making decent money...problem! The unit is totally tapped for funds, and every drill is more of a sleeper than the last. Most people consider it "free money" if they don't have to work. I consider it a waste of my time. ESPECIALLY when we go out to a tiny Fort in the backs of 2 1/2ton trucks in the dead of winter to practice "Squad attack" every single weekend. At one point we are having an AAR and our company commander had asked for any input. Little did he know that there was LOTS of input about the drill. All of the lower ranked people began complaining to me about many real issues. I become their de-facto spokesman. At the AAR, I bring up many issues that we all noticed, but everyone was afraid to say anything about. After like the sixth issue I bring up, the CO tells me to sit down and shut the fuck up. I never went to drill again. They administratively reduced me to E-4 for being AWOL...another year goes by and I get some official looking paperwork and it turns out to be my DD 214, giving me my honorable discharge for time served, 8 years total, at the rank of E-4. In the paperwork is the administrative reduction to E-4. Que sera sera.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What else could I write, I don't have the right...

What else should I be, All apologies? All Apologies, Nirvana

We have been extremely busy lately. That is the good part. The bad part is everyone still tips like they just got back from fighting for the $300 lap-top at Wal-Mart. Crappy Tips. Amzingly difficult to get anyone to crack a smile. Super busy at home lately to boot. I have had two days off in the past two weeks, and one of them I called in sick, something that I never do. More than anything I called in sick to take care of the wife and daughter, the younger of which paid me back by vomiting all over the kitchen floor. Add to that not only did I not get to watch the game, but I never got a chance to give Tammi any shit about the Pats absolutely spanking her Bucs.

All apologies to anyone who has followed my rants and consequent lack thereof.

By the way, did you know that Kurt Cobain was murdered? Am I a total sucker for even wasting time reading Urban Legend rumors like this? For some reason I can't get over crap like that. Only one thing is certain. The guy was an amazing musican/writer who abused tons of drugs. Whether he was murdered or committed suicide seems a moot point, as he was clocking out anyways...