Runboard.com
You're welcome.
Community logo






runboard.com       Sign up (learn about it) | Sign in (lost password?)

Page:  1  2  3  4 

 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Tere,

Last night on some of the political talk shows I was watching, they were saying what you have said here: that the Republicans agenda is to bust up the unions, destroy the middle-class (a lot of folks these days can't even bring themselves to talk about the working poor) and undo the New Deal. Some newbie Republican Tea Patry Congressman was spouting off about the role of the federal government, i.e., to keep us safe (from foreign and domestic enemies). He went on to talk about 9/11 and terrorism. I couldn't help but think: How about safe from poverty, safe from corporate swindlers, safe from pollution, safe from unscrupulous business practices, etc. How about safe from wealthy lobbyists and the politicians they are in bed with? Whose gonna keep us safe from them? At what point do these people become domestic terrorists?

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/6/2011, 5:11 pm
Jan/6/2011, 5:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Terreson,
This site provides something the other site doesn't. It locks us in to a very private life being lived right now, today. Or I should say, "private lives" since we all contribute (in our little ways, the rest of us).

Three times now at Wal-Mart and Kroger, I've been approached. Is it the recession? Once it was a man in a pickup with an offer to buy discounted frozen food. Another time, it was a man needing money because he realized he didn't have enough money for gas. He was extremely apologetic and offered to give me his address to send me the money when he got home. He was well-dressed and looked middle-class. Yesterday it was a a working class guy about 32 wearing a badge around his neck signifying a pass onto a classified government area. I'm familiar with that area and it looked legitimate. He wanted money because he left his wallet at home and didn't realize it until he got into Wal-Mart to buy groceries. He lived 1 1/2 hours away. I only had a twenty on me and didn't want to give him that. My wife came out of Wal-Mart and had two dollars. We gave him that. He went on to approach someone else. I felt that some of these may have been legitimate situations, but they are becoming more frequent. Potentially, the guy could run off with your cell phone. It's unlikely, but it could happen. Or he could be a nut, and refuse to give it back and create a confrontation. These things all go through your mind, even as you're raking your own sense of guilt over the coals. Yes, I've been there, too. My brother-in-law who lives in the Northwest says it's happening to him, too. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Haven't spoken to the theme in a while.

Last weekend I stopped by a nearby convenience store for smokes. It was a bitterly cold day in south LA. Pulling in, I noticed a young woman. She was walking between an aisle of gas pumps and the store. Of course I noticed her. She was wearing a summer-like sleeveless blouse, tight fitting jeans, boots, and she was sweet on the eyes. But I noticed her also for being so unseasonably dressed. In retrospect she noticed me too. My car would have told the lie that I have means, which is what she would registered.

When I stepped out of the car she approached me. She asked if there is a pay phone nearby. Everybody knows "Ma Bell" no longer supports corner-side pay phones. Only found now in bus stations and other transportation hubs, if at all. She was trying to get someone to pick her up and I guess take her home. So I pulled out my cell phone. I remember now. It wasn't last weekend. It was Monday, three days ago. I had just gotten a new Mini and somewhere I had left a pair of cheap reading glasses, without which the close up is a blur. So I said I don't have my glasses and you are on your own working the phone.

She made her call. Her tone was kitten like, submissive, almost ingratiating. Judging from her side of the conversation she was tapping for a favor a mother, sibling, friend, or old boy friend for one time too many. She said: tomorrow I have a ride. She said: this is the last time. She said: I love you. She handed back the phone. I said: aren't you cold? She said she was freezing. I should have given her my coat but didn't because I have one winter coat for the south and I was damn cold that day. Bloody selfish. I should have offered her a ride but did not want to get involved. I thought: !@#$, man, you can give this girl a ride home and get embroiled in some crazy stuff.

When I stepped inside to make a purchase, the teller, a young clerk with whom I've become store-front friends, asked if the woman was begging from me. I said she hadn't, that she just needed to make a phone call. Then I got it, remembering what I once saw working in a convenience store. Poor folk on the streets gravitate to convenience stores. For the light, for the panhandling, and for the kindness of strangers.

Two more reflections. 30 years ago I wouldn't have thought a second time about giving a stranger a ride home. Caution can sometimes bring on a person bad karma, which I think I earned that night. And this. Technology, profit margin driven, is leaving behind, shutting out, people without the means to pay.

Tere



Jan/7/2011, 9:57 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Kat, last night I replied at length to your most recent post and lost it in transmission. Don't know what happend. I hit the submit reply button, got the reply added message, then it was gone.

What you say right here is the thing for me:

"How about safe from poverty, safe from corporate swindlers, safe from pollution, safe from unscrupulous business practices, etc. How about safe from wealthy lobbyists and the politicians they are in bed with? Whose gonna keep us safe from them? At what point do these people become domestic terrorists?"

Yesterday morning I woke to an investor on the radio saying that, on Wall Street, 2010 was the best year since something like 1998. Hard to wrap my brain around this. He also called the present stock market climate a bull market. It is clear to me investors and bankers have been the real beneficiaries of the federal bail out. I've not wanted to get too political with this thread. But it becomes increasingly hard to steer clear. As for my politics, I've said before, here or elsewhere, I am so left of left voting Democratic has always been a pragmatic compromise. It is clear to me that conservative Republicans want nothing less than a return to Hoover style government in which the sweetheart contract between govt. and business prevails. It is not clear to me they will not succeed. Many Democrats too seem to buy into the mantra. I read an analyst to call the present governing climate a plutocracy, again a marriage between govt and business. And, frankly, which party is in power, save for the likes of Pelosi of CA, doesn't much seem to matter anymore.

Anyway, mostly I am going to stick to little tales of little people met by accident and let their cases reflect my politics, and with Saint John Steinbeck at my back.

Zak. Good to read your accounts. It is happening more frequently, the pan handling. It's like it was during the 80s recession, only worse because it is affecting the nominal middle class. Whether or not the stories you get are true doesn't much matter I think. The need is there. So much of America turned, overnight, into a Third World nation. It occurs to me that a parking lot is now the setting for such meetings when it used to be street corners. Times have changed. The needy have adapted.

Item. Ya'll remember E., the janitor. I don't think I've mentioned this before. I recently learned that the org I work for, which contracts out janitorial services, is twice removed from E. The org contracts out to a janitorial service which, in turn, contracts out to a temp service that has E. on its rolls. Get it? The org pays the janitorial service who then pays the temp service, after which the man doing the work gets what is left. Two tiers of management make money on E's sweat equity. America and its working poor.

Tere
Jan/7/2011, 8:06 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Terreson,
You'll get no argument from me about the economy being in the dumps. I guess what I was alluding to was the drug problem. If a working man approaches me for gas money, that's different from a meth addict approaching me for drug money. And it's not always that easy to tell. I worked a construction job in Puerto Rico as an ex-pat one year & used to always give the panhandlers money at the freeway off-ramps or at the gas stations. Other people there would tell me I was just supporting their habit. That's what I meant. But no argument on the general story. Zak

Zak. Whether or not the stories you get are true doesn't much matter I think. The need is there.
Tere
 
Jan/8/2011, 4:58 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Okay. Looking to get out from under yet another national tragedy, the Tucson massacre.

Last night, Saturday night, I visited the Waffle House. I hadn't been there in several weeks. Dinner was the same. A fluffiest omelet grilled without spatula pressing down, inside goodies hot and tasty, side order of hash brown, side order of two sausage patties. As predictable and comforting for a good ole boy as it gets.

I tend to sit across from the short order cook's working station. I like watching her. The way she carries herself. Self-possessed and a bit defiant. Certainly proud and not inclined to suffer fools, especially if he is a man. My server, another African-American woman, tends to smile. And she has an easy light in her eyes. Business is slow. So we get to talking. Not only have they figured my predictable order out, they have figured out my intentions as well. I am wanting them to talk to me, tell me about themselves. I think they enjoy the inqueries. Only once have any of my muses inquired about me. Of course, it was the short order cook. She is a thinker. A bit restless too, judging from how she keeps in constant motion, from grill to the end of the counter, to through the door leading into the diner's pantry.

There it is. She is the panther in a Parisian cage Rilke wrote about.

The three of us get to chatting. What amounts to my questions and their answers. My server is relaxed. She rests in motion. She has four children, ages 3 to 9 as I recall. Such love in how she mentions them. She also has a husband. And when she mentions him there is clerestory light in her eyes and a kind of thankful reverence in her voice. Four children later and she is in love with her man. The trust too. And I think a bit of pride. Next time I need to ask what he does occupationally.

My cook, my restless muse, also has four children. But she has no man around. I've mentioned before she works the evening shift so she can be home in the morning to see her children off to school. It is clear to me she is her only resource and that she knows it. Also clear that she worries. It's in her brows. In the way she looks over her shoulders. Constantly as if she keeps an eye on what or who is coming up from behind. Also in the way she is aware of conversations going on behind her back. She is a thinker. She is a panther.

Maybe I've said this before. Maybe I'll say it again. My town, Baton Rouge, has a pop of about 400,000 souls. Just under 25% live below the poverty line. Town also has a pop of African-Americans of about 48%. White people long since absconded to the outlying areas while still taking advantage of city proper. A fact in the stats, not open to debate.

So how do these women do it? How do they keep their pride, one a slight more fortunate than the other. They keep working, they keep to the paycheck, they keep worrying and fostering and nurturing. When an old man comes in asking questions they somehow have enough of a dream alive inside they are okay talking about themselves.

Rilke's Panther poem:

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-panther/

Tere
Jan/9/2011, 6:48 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Gorgeous poem Tere, thanks for the link...the association with your short-order cook is inspired, I think. Really enjoying these recorded observations and associations.

The shooting does take some 'getting-out-from-under.' Actually not, more silence and sobriety; far from the madding media...

Chris
Jan/10/2011, 9:54 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Thanks, Chrisfriend. I am glad you like the poem. One of my favorite Rilke poems and one of his most famous. And, yeah, the association took me by surprise, completely without forethought.

Tere
Jan/10/2011, 7:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Saturday night. Dynamics were different tonight. My short order cook not on the premises. Cooks always set the tone. In her stead was a young man, at least younger than me, whose nervous energy kind of put me at unease. I noticed, couldn't help but, his shirt was wrinkled badly, which is never a good sign. Then I listened to him speaking on the main phone at the cashier's station at length. Turns out it was an ex girl friend or wife calling. I said: Man, when the girl cuts you loose it is time to move on. I should have said: When the girl cuts you loose learn to celebrate yourself alone. But it takes years to learn that trick.

His omelet was industrial, without tendance. Not like what my Muse can make. And everyone behind the counter was nervous. On my side of the counter too. An old man with a white beard soon in and soon out the door. His wife with a mustache right behind him. Young black folk in a corner booth louder than they needed to be in order to hear each other. The hooker to my left, a seat over, knowing how to go automatically sweet in the eyes when a stranger looks on her. But then who gets pissed when her waitress, my waitress, cannot make change out of the register for a $100 spot bill. Then the privately paid security man sitting down. Flacid belly not inspiring confidence. 9 millimeter pistol in his holster. And all he wants to do to while away the time is put coins in the juke box.

I got a bad sense tonight at the Waffle House on College St. I don't want my Muse to be there when it happens.

Tere
Jan/16/2011, 12:53 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


That bad sense you got the other night at the Waffle House, Tere, did it speak to underlying sense of violence? That's what comes through to me. The nervousness, the uneasiness, all pointing to the fact that it might not take much to tear the veneer of cvility away and some small (no)thing result in an act of violence, the equivalent, say, of road rage? Maybe not out and out physical violence, but emotional violence. Shouts and curses, the raising of a middle finger, literally or symbolically. Or am I reading too much into things?
Jan/19/2011, 3:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


No. Kat. You are not reading too much into my impression of the scene. There indeed was an air of dis-ease.

Tere
Jan/19/2011, 7:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Hey Tere,

I came across this poem today and thought of you and your Waffle House Muse:

The Partial Explanation by Charles Simic

Seems like a long time
Since the waiter took my order.
Grimy little luncheonette,
The snow falling outside.

Seems like it has grown darker
Since I last heard the kitchen door
Behind my back
Since I last noticed
Anyone pass on the street.

A glass of ice-water
Keeps me company
At this table I chose myself
Upon entering.

And a longing,
Incredible longing
To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks.

from Selected Early Poems, 1999
George Braziller Publishers

http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/019.html

It was the ending, of course, that made me think of your Saturday night jaunts:

"To eavesdrop
On the conversation
Of cooks."

You are a people-watcher at heart, Tere, and a student of the human condition. That's part of what makes you a good writer.
Feb/5/2011, 9:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Thanks for sharing the poem, Kat. I've always figured Simic to be a poet of the interstice(s), the in-between places. Perhaps it has something to do with his east European beginnings. And thanks for the compliment. Likely I'll never know if I am a good writer, but I am an inveterate people watcher, for sure, student of human behavior most often left shaking my head, and an unabashed gossip.

As it happens I decided on a visit to the Waffle House tonight. Sometime after 9 PM. Maybe five booths occupied. Maybe two chairs at the counter occupied. I counted ten workers behind the counter, two of whom were cooks, and a manager type who, judging from his behavior, is either a nervous kid or an ADD sort. Five white folk and five black, which pretty much represents the town's demographic parity. But for two women I'ld say the staff was under forty. The two older workers, both women, clearly pushing their strength, or what is left of it, to its limit. One woman constantly leaning with her arm against a counter, keeping herself up. The other woman clearly emphysemic. Short of and pulling in each mouthful of breath. I can't be sure but I think both women are my juniors, which puts them in their mid-fifties. Think on it.

Seven servers. Wage is minimum. Tips are all they have to work for. From the conversations I gleaned the servers get their customers in succession. Server one for the night gets the first party, server two the second, and so forth. I worked in a restaurant once where a similar system was in place. Only, there, waiter One got the best station, waiter Ten got the worst. And the next week waiter Ten got the best. All in rotation. Tonight I noticed politics, personnel politics, with head server deciding on her own who might be server four, five, and six. Another customer at the counter noticed it too. He was as fascinated as I was. It was like watching that old movie about longshoremen on the waterfront and who gets picked out of the line of union members to work.

I ordered an omelet, three eggs please, hashbrown, toast, and this time a slice of salty, country ham. And a cup of coffee.

My muse was in tonight. Only, something has changed. She wasn't behind the grill. She was down the line of the counter. I noticed her, took in the velvet way she has for carrying herself without her noticing my look. Then when she asked me how I was doing I pretended as if I was just seeing her. I smiled and said I was fine. I asked after her. She smiled. I asked why she wasn't behind the line, asked if this was a move up or a move to the side. She smiled again, lordy what a pretty smile a man would want to wake up to, and said it was to the side. But I think I know better. I've watched her too long by now. She is going for management. I am pretty sure she has the wherewithall for it. I predict one day she will have her own establishment.

Right now I feel sad and more than a little disappointed in myself. I still don't know my muse's name.

In a diner, sitting at the counter, I have a trick. I keep with me a side pack. A friend calls it a murse. It has everything from a camera, to a cell phone, to a notebook, to books, to a compass, to maps, to tools essential to getting myself out of prison. In a diner I set the bag on the stool next to me, usually to my left. It often makes a little space. Two stools over tonight and a man sits. Server asks him for his order. I'm not sure of the exact words exchanged. But soon the manager or owner, a young man, is talking with the fellow. The guy says something about riding his bicycle, shows the manager or owner an I.D. card, and the manager or owner says he can serve the man two waffles. I gather it is for free.

To be brief, I engage the man in conversation. Not sure why. He has that lost look. Maybe that is why. In no particular sequence I learn he is a disabled vet, he produces his I.D. card again, that he is ten miles from shelter, that waffles are good but he needs some protein. I motion to my server and order a T Bone steak for the man. The gentleman corrects my order, says he wants saugage and eggs. I pay my bill, pay for his protein, then leave.

Just now I get why he corrected my order for him. His teeth are bad. Likely they are loose. He couldn't handle a steak and he knew it.

Walking out the door and a sweet moment involving my muse. There she is. I say to her I enjoyed my omelet tonight but... And before I could finish the sentence she says: not as good as mine, right? I said: you make the best omelet. She smiled. Seeing her in the parking lot I think my muse has a new lover.

Tere
Feb/6/2011, 2:04 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Katlin,

Yep, this is a good poem by Simic. I've heard this poet mentioned before but never read any of his material. Yes, this fits in with what Mr. T works here.

I posted this and then came back to edit because I realized that what Terreson does is give us precisely what the character in the poem wishes he could be a party to. In other words, Terreson fills out the page. It's wonderful. We are really lucky. We don't any one of us know how many years we have left on this earth, whether due to heart attack, car accident, natural cataclysm like a tornado, storm or earthquate -- so it's good to fully experience life. And I think that your poem that you've posted here, and Terreson's vignettes (do we call them that?) enrich us. Zak

Last edited by Zakzzz5, Feb/6/2011, 11:00 am
Feb/6/2011, 10:56 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Terreson,

Good writing, as usual. This has a feel of an unfinished poem, or piece of writing. As writing, it is fine and good. I'm just saying that it's a bit like Simic's poem, in that there are allusions in reference to the waitress that are left unfinished. We will know later how all of that turns out -- or not. It doesn't matter, because like itself is like that. Many things are left unresolved, or are simply pushed out of the way, superseded by other events that come at us like an ocean. The thing with the vet is interesting, too. He showed his card to the manager to get food? I'm a vet, not as economically pressed as the vet you mention, but it makes me curious that he would show his card for a handout, or did I misread your piece? Every war results in the minds and spirits of a lot of veterans being shaken, and so I have no problem with the manager, and yourself, helping him out. I'm only curious as to his approach. That's all. What was his manner? Non-committal, distant, or friendly, gregarious? Reticent? Maybe you already touched on that, and I should go back up and reread your piece. Zak
Feb/6/2011, 11:12 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


I get your point, Zak. Everything in this thread would benefit from further development. More depth, more characterization. I am writing these notes as they happen, within an hour at the most of returning home from the Waffle House. And so it all amounts to surface play involving chance encvounters. I do mention that the manager type struck me as suffering from ADD. Perhaps I should have said I didn't see him stand still, stand in place, once for more than thirty seconds. And I introduce the vet by pointing out the lost look in his eyes, which, to me, kind of says it all. Given your experiences I'm sure you know what I mean. I too was struck by how he produced I.D. to show he is a disabled vet. Maybe the city has a program in place with participating restaurants giving meals to vets in need. Or maybe for such a man the card serves as a badge of sorts. Funny thing is, but for the staff, many of the people encountered I am not likely to see again. Not sure what that says or means. Am sure it says something about people and towns and communities.

One thing I forgot to mention last night that occurred to me when the vet said he needed protein. Accounts of the early days of logging the Pacific Northwest forests are hard to read. Conditions were horrific. So bad that in the camps loggers were awakened with the foreman yelling "Daylight in the swamps!" Companies fed the loggers but they cheated. They fed them mostly biscuits and pancakes, looking to fill up the stomach only. Meat, being more expensive, was in short supply. When loggers first unionized one of their main complaints was that they needed more protein in their diet. I thought of this immediately when the vet said he needed protein. And I thought of how the manager kind of cheated by offering the man only waffles. I should have included that.

And thanks again, Zak, for your compliment. Possibly you are being too generous. Still, it is fun making these field notes. When you think on it we are all surrounded by one hell of a show.

Tere
Feb/6/2011, 3:51 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Terreson,
I meant "It doesn't matter, because life itself is like that" but hit a wrong key and said like is like that. You probably caught that, anyway.

Actually, if we back away from the classroom style of writing, being incomplete might be okay. I'm wondering if writing isn't changing anyway, due to the internet. On the fly, if you will. Someone here, was it you? wrote that we might actually be going back to the verbal, the oral, like it was originally. Before we started putting it all down on paper.

Yes, what you said about the manager (hyperactive) and the vet (lost eyes) is there in the piece. But like the piece itself (sort of unfinished), you yourself didn't know exactly what the situation was -- did the vet have a card for the benefit or was he simply using the card and persuasion. Not sure, but if you had tried to find out before you wrote the piece, then you would be more like a reporter than you would a writer. A writer writes by impressions about impressions. He doesn't have to get all the details down. In some ways, writing impressions, sometimes fiction, is better than reporting. We can never get down to the bottom of it anyway. The more we would ask about the vet, the deeper the mystery would probably get anyway. Thanks for writing your impressions here. Zak
Feb/6/2011, 10:33 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Thanks back at you, Zak, for the input. You nicely took me to task once before for a lack of attention to detail. I think it was with trhe jobbing chronicles. Maybe I should start asking questions when at the Waffle House in the manner you suggest. Reporter like even.

Tere
Feb/6/2011, 10:42 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Hi Tere and Zak,

I came across the Simic poem while reading "Poetic Memory, Poetic Design" by Ira Sadoff:

http://poems.com/special_features/prose/essay_sadoff.php

I think I get what you are saying, Zak, about Tere's vignettes and the Simic poem enriching us. It's hard to articulate, but for me this kind of writing is fills a need and is grounding in some way.

Not sure, but if you had tried to find out before you wrote the piece, then you would be more like a reporter than you would a writer. A writer writes by impressions about impressions. He doesn't have to get all the details down. In some ways, writing impressions, sometimes fiction, is better than reporting. We can never get down to the bottom of it anyway. The more we would ask about the vet, the deeper the mystery would probably get anyway.

I think you are right that this style of writing leaves more mystery and the sense of unfinished business than a more journalistic style would.
Feb/7/2011, 2:33 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Interesting points raised, Zak and Kat. So what is this particular field note after anyway? And what are its means?

There is always a book in the back of my head, been there since reading it about 35 years ago. Not entirely with flippancy I sometimes call it the much sought after great American novel. James Agee's "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men." I know of only one other person about my age who has read it. Chances are slim any younger has.

Agee, working for the WWP writers of the Depression was sent on assignment. He was sent to southern Alabama where he reported in excrutiating detail, leaving nothing to the imagination, on a couple of white sharecropping families and their environment. Out of the journalistic report came a theme. Agee the son of the middle class from Knoxville, and either Harvard or Oxford educated, did a remarkable job on reporting exactly what he saw. With respect and tenderness shown to his models. But, again, he was well educated. Heir to all the products of high culture. Art, literature, philosophy, music. He could not reconcile expressions of high culture with the abject poverty around him. And he got that these share croppers had almost no way out of a system designed to keep them prisoners of their environment, mostly for reasons involving profit.

This is my sense too, in the year of someone's Lord, 2011, of the working poor, the underpriveleged, the homeless. It is not lost on me that Wall Street is up and running and open for business, even in such a cusp of time, while Main Street and all its side streets, are hard pressed to pay rent, fund schools, repair highways.

I searched out a stat. concerning my town, a mid-size deep south city. Let's say pop. is about 600,000 plus or minus. Poverty rate
is less than one full percentage point under 25%. That makes for a quarter of the population. (A further break down of the figures ahows that single parents, mostly mothers, men between the ages of 18 and 25, mostly black men, and young children are the poorest.) Nor does the line demarking poverty include the working poor. The working poor can make $1,000 above the line, and statistically, magically they are not poor.

On a late or not so late Saturday night the Waffle House becomes like a window view. Think of it this way. Lights are bright. Inside there is warmth in the winter and cool air in the summer. Cheap food is served. Customers come in like moths to the lamp light.

Anyway, I can't see how I can get more intrusive in my interrogations with out becoming intrusive. For the stories I got to be patient, hope I encounter the same customer or worker again, and build the trust. Got to keep to surface play I suppose.

Tere
Feb/7/2011, 6:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Zakzzz5 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Katlin,
Thanks for the observation. I think you got it right. My point at the end of my comment, if I remember right, was that Terreson's lack of certain detail (this time) was as it should be. If I didn't spell it out, that was what I meant. That's why I said if he had probed the veteran, the answers from the veteran probably would have only served to deepen the mystery. I'll have to look at your link about your source. Zak

Terreson,
I guess only you would know what your final search is all about. Yeah, you don't want to press too hard too soon. It depends on the type of book you're after, if it is a book. What you're doing now enriches us right now, without a book. There's a magic to what you're doing. The magic is there, regardless. Zak
Feb/8/2011, 11:58 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Hi Tere,

I came across this blog post today and thought of this thread as well as your Jobbing thread:

"New Labor Journalism and the Poets" By Mark Nowak

"With the drastic growth of the creative writing/MFA industry in the past 50 years, do I know more or less about people, about wealth and poverty, about the true costs of the current economic collapse, about the lives of Dollar General workers, about what it’s like to live at the minimum wage, about what it’s like to be a 45 year old gas station cashier down the road from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, to be a 37 year old mother of two working in the kitchen where the guests of the creative writing program at my alma mater (Bowling Green State University) eat lunch with faculty and grad students before their class visits, to be the maybe 55 year old Philadelphia man who emptied out the trash cans in the room before my reading last night at Temple University…"

To read the rest of the post, go here:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2011/04/new-labor-journalism-and-the-poets/
Apr/15/2011, 7:05 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Christine98 Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Great post, Kat, and challenging.

Chris
Apr/16/2011, 9:16 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Katlin Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Hi Chris,

I started to reply to your post but decided to start a thread on the topic in Discussion I. Check it out if you haven't already and weigh in if you'd like. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. emoticon
Apr/18/2011, 3:33 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


The Waffle House on the day of The Rapture, 21 May, 2011. All my beauties were in tonight. The short order cook who swings her full moon bottom while holding her arms in such a way to part waters. My favorite server with her Cherokee smile. The small man who sees to detail. And someone new to me. He kept bending over, resting his head on the counter. I finally asked: Man, are you tired or depressed? Depressed, he said. And the security guard at least my age, three times more out of shape, 9mm holstered on his belt.

I am looking around, taking in things, while reading the prose poetry of someone new to me. Thomas McGrath. Omelet tasty. Sausage patties a treat. Hashbrown covered in cheese. And I'm thinking in the back of my head all the while. If they feel themselves saved, my Waffle House beauties, could they wake up in the morning, the 22nd of May, 2011, disappointed? If they feel themselves damned what exactly is the difference between being left behind, eschatologically, and being left behind economically? I argue there is no difference.

Bill paid. Stepping out into the parking lot. There are my beauties. They seem to like it when I come around. If I was a younger man I would have a hard choice to make between my favorite short order cook and my favorite server. Acquiring age, I figure, has the advantage of statesmanship. But there is something else.

What the f**k can The Rapture mean to a single parent, a working mom say, who works and arranges her shift duty so that she is there at home to get her children off to school? And what can any ideological divide matter when the working poor are so hard pressed a shared moment between confreres in a Waffle House parking lot is a moment of relief?

I've decided mine is a love/hate relationship with America.

Terreson
May/21/2011, 11:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


This weekend I broke with routine. Last night, Friday, I drove to the P.O. to check my box, then stopped in at The Waffle House. My favorite short order cook and server have both been after me for several weeks. I've been coming in after 9P, which is when they go off shift. Last night I was sure to be on time. Goodness but I was served an exquisite omelet. Grilled carefully, non-industrially, and piled in with tomatoes, onions, and chunks of ham. I love watching my short order cook too while reading. She has this way of carrying herself like that fabled queen of Ethiopia. Not Sheba. That other queen: Ayesha whose name means She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. What a calm face she has and what a sweet smile when she elects to smile. Remember she is a single parent with several children. Remember also that when she walks, with the way her feet possess each step, she reminds me of Rilke's Panther poem. She makes me wish for the first time in I don't know how long I was a younger man and still desirable. But as L. Cohen rightly pointed out, a man gets to a certain age when he is automatically evicted from the garden of delight. Anyway, who needs haute cuisine, or any of the other hautes for that matter, when there is Ayesha at the grill who sometimes turns around, meets your eyes?

Ayesha had to also serve me last night. My favorite server was so preoccupied she gave me cold coffee. A week or so ago I had conversation with my favorite server. I had come in with a book of poetry. She asked me what I was reading. By way of response I told her I am a poet. She said she too is a poet. Then she demured and said she only writes song lyrics. I said in which case she is a lyric poet. When she said goodnight she put her hand on my shoulder. What a huge sign of acceptance that gesture can be. But last night she was preoccupied. She didn't check on my once. She didn't much interact with any of her all too few customers. When I walked over to the register to pay my bill I asked her what was bothering her. Clearly something was. Still not making eye contact, still looking down, she said she needs more money, needs a busier shift. I asked if she wanted the late night shift. She said, no, that she wanted the daytime shift. In route to work in the morning I pass by The Waffle House. Parking lot is as full as it is late night after the bars close. So I get it and know she too is a single parent determined to be at home for her children. I asked if she has talked to the manager. There is resignation in her voice when she says "several times." Who knows? Maybe she doesn't have sufficent senority. Or maybe he is dicking her around. Maybe if she went down for him she could get her wish. And maybe, just maybe, she is too proud to stoop that low. I think so. Restaurant politics not only can be but often are brutal, and with the needs so great while the stakes are low. All for chunk change.

Here is something I don't get. Upthread I said my mother was a waitress. Bought a house on tips. Fed and clothed as many as 4 children on tips. Paid bills on tips. Clothed herself quite well, such a sense of style she had, all on tips. Restaurant people are some of the smartest people I know. They have to be. Timing, a good memory, exquisite attention to detail are prerequisites. Often, not always, they lack education. But by God they are smart. And something else. They have, at least servers have, fine tuned social skills. They have to or not earn any money. If I was a job recruiter looking for someone with any of the skills listed I would eschew campus job fairs. I would haunt the restaurant circuit. And stamina? My mother, a handsome women even into old age in that Joan Crawford way, was vain enough to be embarrassed about her feets' vericose veins. Just looked down. Seems I have them too, likely from the 10 years spent in restaurants. Anyway, not sure what I don't get. I am sure I don't get it.

Last night I got bold. I called out to Ayesha as I was leaving and called her 'my sweet.' She registered no response. The good news is that this means she didn't scowl. And I upped my tip for both my favorites from 20 to 30%. I bet I know them well enough to know I can't give any more than that for fear they might become suspicious of my motives.

Maybe that is what I don't get. Who thinks twice about the price of a car, a new dress, a pair of shoes, a set of golf clubs, or a stupid ass Superbowl ticket. All of which frequently amount to vanity purchases. But who thinks even once about the value of servers? Short order cooks, waitresses, teachers, nurses, garbage collectors, all are servers. Stiffing a waitress doesn't speak to stinginess. It speaks to character. A poetry critic once taught me a huge lesson. When she comes to a poem, she said, her first question is: What does it speak to motive?

Tere
Jun/11/2011, 2:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
elizabeth anne Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Well, Tere, I've been sitting here all afternoon into evening reading this whole thread from the very beginning. Two things I know are true: I put myself through college early 80s waiting tables and tending bar and that cannot be done anymore, and, this is powerful, engrossing writing. I believe I started this thread 3 hours ago. And, at the risk of further depressing you, folk who work for tips don't even make minimum wage. They make approximately 60% of minimum wage because they earn tips. Anyone who ever pays for a dine-out meal on a credit card needs to try to pay the tip in cash--anything on a credit card is automatically reported to the IRS and that data are used to approximate the server's total tip earnings for tax purposes--just to screw the working poor yet again.

On a lighter note I know from personal experience that L. Cohen is a fool. (Well, no, I don't know L. Cohen personally, just the quote. emoticon ) Re-post "American Smooth" if you still have it. Ahem. As you were.

--EA
Jun/11/2011, 6:26 pm Link to this post Send Email to elizabeth anne   Send PM to elizabeth anne Blog
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


EA, you just made my day. Thank you for letting me know you read the whole of the thread. That you read it in one sitting speaks well of the piece(s) and says something about your capacity for attending on something. I am humbled and I thank you.

And, yes. As I hope the thread shows I too know about restaurant work. Mother a waitress, father a cook, step-father a bartender. In my late twenties I also turned to restaurants. It was an excellent way to support this obsessive writing habit of mine. Only, I cheated a little. I took from my mother's example and worked high end restaurants and dinner houses, even got classically trained in haute cuisine and, for awhile, knew practically everything there was to know then about wine. Specialty was French wine. Anyway, making anywhere from $60 to $200 a night I was able to live on working 3 to 4 nights a week. But I figure those days are gone for everyone. And who today, like my mother in the 50s, could ever buy a house on tips?

As said way upthread, I think, I started out wanting to focus on the working poor in America. Restaurants are something I know about. Its people people I have an abiding feeling for. So there it is. Again, thanks.

Tere
Jun/12/2011, 4:04 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
elizabeth anne Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Tipping my hat to you, Tere, (pun not entirely unintended)...most welcome...

--Liz
Jun/19/2011, 6:31 am Link to this post Send Email to elizabeth anne   Send PM to elizabeth anne Blog
 
elizabeth anne Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Ahem, Tere! Waiting for new material! Did the Waffle House go out of business?
Jun/22/2011, 12:07 am Link to this post Send Email to elizabeth anne   Send PM to elizabeth anne Blog
 
Terreson Profile
Live feed
Blog
Friends
Miscellaneous info



Reply | Quote
Re: The Waffle House and America


Oh no. I go there once a week. Not always incited.

Tere
Jun/22/2011, 12:17 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


Add a reply

Page:  1  2  3  4 





You are not logged in (login)