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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


quote:

ChrisD1 wrote:

Zak, I'm glad to hear your tooth torture has been relieved.

Back later,

Chris



Chris,

I had the extraction done on Tuesday. A day or two ago I thought I could see daylight. Now the medication has me on my as#. Nauseated. The dentist put a plug in the part where the bone was exposed. Am going to try to go it alone with the oil of cloves you put directly on the wound. The other stuff is making me wretched. Never had this experience with a tooth before.

I look forward to being normal again. Maybe in a couple of days. Thanks, Zak

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Katlin Profile
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Oh, Zak, that sounds awful. Last month when I went to the dentist, they discovered an old cap I have is loose, which might mean the root canal beneath the cap has cracked. It doesn't bother me now, but they said if it does, they will have to pull it. Like you, I don't tolerate painkillers very well, so I dread the day it might start to give me trouble. Here's wishing you a swift return to normal!
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


First to Zak's questions.

A coon ass is another term for a Cajun. It is slightly disrespectful, and I hesitated to use it. The context seemed appropriate. And, no it wasn't a case of older men terrifying a younger fellow. In a way I've never understood about the behavior of groups, both men and women, the "rape" constituted an initiation into the group of the select. It amounted to saying, we accept you as one of us, and we respect you for doing the hard work we do, what many cannot. I suppose I could describe the rite, which is what it amounts to, but I would rather not. I am being self-contradictory here, as I once drew on the act in a poem expressing my rejection of so-called manly values. Somehow I was able to say in a poem what sometimes is best left unsaid otherwise. There you have it.

And, Zakman, get better soon. I don't know about you but there is nothing that gets me angrier and agitated at myself than pain. I am not a patient patient. Just get better.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/7/2010, 3:16 pm
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Chris and Kat, thank you for the nice words. I don't know if this is good writing. I am typing to the screen (didn't Capote put down Kerouac using similar words?), checking for typos, no edits, then depressing the send button. There will be time enough later on to amplify, edit, compress, and fine the stories. My job right now is to get the chronicle(s) down.

My friends let me be honest here. To say I am typing to the screen is not exactly accurate. I am writing to you. You are firmly in my head. As with the bee stories you encourage me enough to think, well, maybe there is some intrinsic interest in the histories. And, again, my theme is this: what is it artists do in order to both support the writing habit and plumb an experiential base from which the art draws? On one level we are no different than other workers, deserving of no special treatment. On another level we are. Put parenthetically, in my experience artists come home from work in order to get down to the real work.

Thank you sincerely for your time.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/7/2010, 3:36 pm
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One last word about the four months spent working off-shore. In February it could be bitter cold in the Gulf. By May it could be blistering hot and with no breezes. The hours were long, the work was hard, the danger of a blow out ever-present, and I was not a familiar to that kind of regimen. I proved something to myself. After I quit, and because he had gotten me the job and his name was kind of on the line, Mr. C. the top executive called my immediate supervisor, the crane operator. Billy Boy. He asked Billy how I had fared. Really what he meant was had I acquitted myself or had I compromised his standing in the off-shore oil fields. Billy Boy told the man that I was the best roustabout he had ever had. Mr. C., in one of those moments uncharacteristic between men, relayed to me the message. I think it was his way of thanking me.

Two more brief notes come to mind. The first involving a little bit of poetry. I was on the Gulf during the spring migration of birds coming north from Mexico, Central and South America. The sky could be thick with hundred of thousands of birds in flight. By the hundreds birds, mostly passerines, would fall onto the rig's deck dehydrated and exhausted. So close to shore and fresh water and they could not make it. Sometimes working late at night or in the pre-dawn darkness a small bird would fall immediately in front of me and there was not enough time to reconsider a foot step's fall. It was always a sad, sad sight. These little passerines dead and dieing in front of me, captive to, fated by, the biological imperative.

Second note. Eddie. Eddie was a cook. On shore he was a boozer, spent all his money every week in N.O.'s. He learned that the town of my childhood was Daytona Beach. Excitedly he said, "That's my town!" His exact words. I had grown up in a town prone to drugs, alcohol, and violence in the fifties and the sixties. He had grown up in a town prone to a greater degree of unrule in the thirties and the forties. He said that during one particular festival day called Mid-Summer day, everything was allowed, even murder. He said if a celebrant's behavior was bad enough he would get locked up for the duration of the festival, then set free. Anyway, Eddie took a liking to me. He tended to set aside and save for me the best steaks.

So many men, so many women, so many characters I would not have known but for the jobbing. You never really know just how closely your perceptions of things human get formed by the characters you meet.

Good bye for the last time, TW 54, the Marble Mountain. You were a damn hard teacher but you taught me survival. Not for the first or the last time I got taught an existential truth: sometimes this is this and that is that and there ain't no third way.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/7/2010, 6:06 pm
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Here is a quickie. Two months spent working on a rich man's hobby farm in the Pocono Mnts of PA.

I have observed wealth, real wealth. Not the corporate kind, the Hollywood kind, the entreprenurial kind. Real wealth. The kind of wealth producing off-spring who then become institutions in their own right. I've known a couple of children of the extended Dupont family. One was a real jerk: a sexist and a bigot. The other scion of the family was more human. He told me once, back in the seventies, that he paid something like 85% of his annual income, mostly from investments, in taxes. He said he didn't mind. He would not be able to spend the remaining 15% in a lifetime. He also told me that, when he was born, the board of the banking interest his family owned became his legal guardians. This in order to protect his inheritance. Until coming of age, when he wanted to date a girl, or buy a car, or choose a college, it was the board of directors who gave or denied permission, made the decision. Not his parents. In effect he as a human being was an institution. That kind of wealth.

Fitzgerald was right. The wealthy are different. But he didn't know how right he was. The Gatsby case, in my view, amounts to faux-wealth, a case of the nouveau riche. That is not real wealth, not the kind that fundamentally, categorically alters a child's perception of what is real.

Coming from off-shore, my then wife and I were moving to R.I. where she got a job teaching in a Quaker school. It seemed like a good idea at the time. To me just another adventure in America's demographics. In route we spent a couple of summer months in '76 working for a family she had known since her teen years on Long Island. (Long Islanders too are different in my experience. It having to do with their value system.) I'll not give the family's name. I can say it is associated with the early 20th C Rockefellers. Real wealth. The kind that cannot exhaust itself in a hundred years no matter the profligacy. How odd and strange I should have spent July 4th, 1976 picnic in such a setting and where I would have conversation with such people as the president and CEO of the old Ma Bell. I have to say I was singularly unimpressed by all these people. Carnegie is the only one of that milieu who had the right idea about the use and real value of wealth: use it to do permament and lasting good.

My then wife's job was to baby sit the many children. I was the hired hand. My job was to put a pretty much neglected farm back in order. Fences down and wires rusted to the breaking point. Trying to keep the sheep in. And the barn, an 18th C. barn in extreme disrepair, which was soon the focus of my work days. I painted that barn that, at its apex, was 40 feet tall. I remember its height because my ladder was 35 feet tall and to get to the last 5 feet I was standing on the top rung with paint bucket in hand. Paint was brick red and my tool was an 8 inch brush. Then the barn windows. Cracked, broken, and gone. I replaced them all. And the hardest task of all. Shovelling out years of sheep manure layered with straw and more manure and more straw. I couldn't get the stench out of my nostrils. Soon the lady of the farm wouldn't let me inside the farm house without first disrobing and washing outside. And the pile of manure building outside that soon started to smoke, was starting to combust. Metaphorically speaking, before and since, I've cleaned out my share of Augean stables. But that time I did it for real. And I didn't have the strength of Heracles and there was no river whose course I could divert into and through the barn. Then there were the days when the rich man pulled me off the job because his nursery business, another hobby, needed another hand. I was cheap labor, cheaper than any visiting laborer from south of the border could have been. I am trying to remember how much we, how much I, got paid for those two months. I do remember it was less than a thousand dollars plus room and board.

We were supposed to work on the farm for three months. After two I said no. The parents wanted to go off on a vacation without the children. I decided I would give them that. As soon as they got back home I said we were out of there. My then wife was not pleased with me. These were her wealthy friends. But I figured mine had been the sweat equity and the decision was mine to make. The decision was categorical and she would have to make her own choices. I was out of there.

Here is a reflection brought about by rubbing elbows with real wealth. I've decided I am not a populist by either election or choice, but by instinct. My Cracker heritage takes me back to the yeomans of the Scottish lowlands and Ireland. Crackers don't like the wealthy and the dislike is instinctive. Crackers don't like officaldom either, which too is instinctive. They like their independence and they are historically okay with homesteading and squawting, and living just this side of the outside of the law.

Man! This jobbing note really makes immediate my distaste for wealth, the wealthy, and for the fawners after wealth. In the main they tend to be a sorry bunch, a lousy specimen of the species, and with exceptions noted, which exceptions have tended to prove the rule. Not once since the summer of our bicentennial have I had close truck with the wealthy. Every time they've registered in me an implicit rejection of their values.

One good thing came out of that summer. My daughter's conception.

Tere
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Katlin,

I wonder if I would have had this extraction done if I had known. The pain is mostly gone now, and I've been eating ginger (like candy) for the nausea. I'm going in in one hour to see if I can get out of having another plug put in the "dry socket" (as they call it, where the bone was exposed). I told them over the phone I hardly have any pain at all, but they told me earlier it would start hurting again later tonight. I'm at the point where I may just risk it on tylonel alone, that and maybe the orabase which you smear on it.

If you do have to have something done, make sure you have the dentist's cell phone number in addition to his house number. If something goes wrong, as it did for me, you want to be able to call them even on Sundays. It's been an interesting journey. Your mind mercifully forgets the worst of it quickly.

If I had known the concept of "dry socket" I would have kept my mouth closed more often, as I suspect doing any type of exercise outside in the cold weather aggravated it, as would talking on the phone (to kill time & forget the pain).

Apologies to Terreson for hijacking this thread. I'll comment on his latest posting soon. Am beginning to feel better. Zak

quote:

Katlin wrote:

Oh, Zak, that sounds awful. Last month when I went to the dentist, they discovered an old cap I have is loose, which might mean the root canal beneath the cap has cracked. It doesn't bother me now, but they said if it does, they will have to pull it. Like you, I don't tolerate painkillers very well, so I dread the day it might start to give me trouble. Here's wishing you a swift return to normal!



Mar/8/2010, 2:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Digressions are good, Zak. They make for conversation, so not to worry.

I am going to consign the jobbing couple of years in Providence, R.I. to a passing note. I had made and saved enough money off-shore to be job free for a bunch of months. Almost a year, actually. And the time was put to good use. Old English poetry, the Goliards, Medieval English and French poetry, Scholastic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, the Greek Pre-Socratics, Camus in depth, Cocteau lightly, more Nietzsche, more Kant, more Hegel, still more Jung...this was something in the range of what I was chasing down. I even briefly enrolled in a college, very briefly. The idea did not have a good fit. When I first got a job in that sad, sad town, and I kid you not, it was in a porno drive-in theater repairing the electric wiring in speakers. L.D. who, with another friend, had followed me up, got the job first and made room for me. What a hoot of a job that was. Walking the moonscape of a drive-in with its waves and troughs of broken asphalt, testing speakers, taking them to the shop, repairing circuits. Then the manager learned I had restaurant experience. So he offered me a job working the concession stand on Saturday nights. What a sociological study that became. The same couples, the very same couples, who had sexually come of age in drive-ins some twenty years before were still there. Only then they were fat and not Saturday Night Fever looking on the eyes. They were desperate people and they were hard pressed and they were coming back to a drive-in setting that must have seemed romantic at a time. Only then they were coming to porno films with children in tow. I am not making this up. The film director Tarantino still hasn't scratched the surface of Americana Bizarre.

The other Providence, R.I. job involved a small restaurant on Thayer Street, the college business district street for both Brown U. and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I never got how I got the job managing the restaurant. It might have had to do with the previous manager who took a liking to me when I would come in as a customer, sit at a table, and write. The money was good, it gave me time to read and write, I took the offer.

I did okay mostly, maybe not entirely. I kept the books balanced, ensured customers would want to come back, we made good food and beverages, and I managed to keep on schedule twenty plus student workers working part-time. But that was when I first noted just how decadent the restaurant business can get.

I didn't just leave the job, I left the city when the Mafia shouldered in. That is the truth. I miss nothing about that job or that city except for one young artist, a student employee from the mid-west, who was the only real person I met in that state, the only person not on the take.

Tere
Mar/8/2010, 9:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Terreson,

You certainly have a gift for this kind of writing. It's an ability to quickly set the mood, somehow. Maybe the mood is a reflection of your personality. You know how generally speaking you know when you're reading a Hemingway, a Faulkner or even a Graham Greene. Maybe you've gotten to that point, maybe you got there a long time ago.

It might have to do with an attitude. The only time I felt it sliding out of your hand was when you were talking about the filthy rich, but I suspect that it was the case because you didn't have enough room or time to spell out their indiscretions, their abominations more fully. I may got back that piece separately: one point that stands out right now was Fitzgerald's comment about the rich being different. The main character was new rich, but I'm not sure about the other rich there. They may have been old rich; I would have to review. Generally, the piece read well, though as I say, a bigger piece would flesh out the actions of those miscreants.

In this piece, what I would like to see fleshed out is how the place was so bleak. I would also be interested in how the Mafia moved in, what the reactions of the management and/or owners was when that happened. Was it two guys with thick brows and pushed-in noses wearing old suits or was it more subtle, a guy looking kind of suburban like in the Sopranos? Or was it a phone call? When I was in college in Moscow, getting up close to the Canadian border, I would treat myself on Saturday by going to a local greasy spoon for a coffee and a piece of pie. Occasionally, I would make it a breakfast. It was just a good feeling to be among the locals, away from the college crowd. The college crowd wouldn't go there; they would eat at the fraternities or dorms or maybe at the fast food joints. It was like stepping back into the 40's or 50's. It was a slower pace, and the people who worked there were not going to go to college. I felt like it was a place a Hemingway or a Faulkner would have eaten before they made it to the big-time. I have a hard time visualizing them in college, though I think Faulkner did attend for a bit. Which jogs my memory about this piece you wrote: you said the restaurant industry was corrupt, or something to that effect: was it that they put the leftovers back into the pot? Not sure what you meant.

You hit it on the nose when you said that Tarantino hadn't scratched the surface about wierd America.

I don't know that the rest of us have any gift for this type of writing, which might explain the hesitancy about contributing. Zak

 
quote:

Terreson wrote:

Digressions are good, Zak. They make for conversation, so not to worry.

I am going to consign the jobbing couple of years in Providence, R.I. to a passing note. I had made and saved enough money off-shore to be job free for a bunch of months. Almost a year, actually. And the time was put to good use. Old English poetry, the Goliards, Medieval English and French poetry, Scholastic philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, the Greek Pre-Socratics, Camus in depth, Cocteau lightly, more Nietzsche, more Kant, more Hegel, still more Jung...this was something in the range of what I was chasing down. I even briefly enrolled in a college, very briefly. The idea did not have a good fit. When I first got a job in that sad, sad town, and I kid you not, it was in a porno drive-in theater repairing the electric wiring in speakers. L.D. who, with another friend, had followed me up, got the job first and made room for me. What a hoot of a job that was. Walking the moonscape of a drive-in with its waves and troughs of broken asphalt, testing speakers, taking them to the shop, repairing circuits. Then the manager learned I had restaurant experience. So he offered me a job working the concession stand on Saturday nights. What a sociological study that became. The same couples, the very same couples, who had sexually come of age in drive-ins some twenty years before were still there. Only then they were fat and not Saturday Night Fever looking on the eyes. They were desperate people and they were hard pressed and they were coming back to a drive-in setting that must have seemed romantic at a time. Only then they were coming to porno films with children in tow. I am not making this up. The film director Tarantino still hasn't scratched the surface of Americana Bizarre.

The other Providence, R.I. job involved a small restaurant on Thayer Street, the college business district street for both Brown U. and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I never got how I got the job managing the restaurant. It might have had to do with the previous manager who took a liking to me when I would come in as a customer, sit at a table, and write. The money was good, it gave me time to read and write, I took the offer.

I did okay mostly, maybe not entirely. I kept the books balanced, ensured customers would want to come back, we made good food and beverages, and I managed to keep on schedule twenty plus student workers working part-time. But that was when I first noted just how decadent the restaurant business can get.

I didn't just leave the job, I left the city when the Mafia shouldered in. That is the truth. I miss nothing about that job or that city except for one young artist, a student employee from the mid-west, who was the only real person I met in that state, the only person not on the take.

Tere



Mar/9/2010, 5:52 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Thanks, Zakman. Your objection to the rich man's hobby farm job is mine too. Even as I was writing I knew I wasn't demonstrating my point. The note was written mostly as a theatrical aside, so to speak, and for a reason I hope comes clear soon. Certainly I would need to develop it.

As for the Thayer Street restaurant note, this too was put up as a kind of segue. But to answer your question, I should have said that, back then at least, Providence, R.I. was the capitol of the New England Mafia and whose presence was felt through out all the social strata, from garbage collectors to city hall, to privately operated Quacker schools to the universities. Everybody went about their business in town in the same way I've walked mountainsides, with a heightened sense for the far-to-near cougar switch-backing the trail behind me. Or in the same way I am careful in a Louisiana bee yard when stepping through high grass or picking up equipment, aware of the local citizens, moccassins and black widow spiders. In all three cases it is a matter of a heightened sense of environment.

As for your specific question, the two soldiers who came in that late afternoon were impeccably dressed, impeccably coiffed, impeccably complimenting the volume of business and the quality of the food, and impeccably asking their impeccable questions. I can observe the same type today, walking down Bourbon Street, and i.d. him immediately. Just impeccable. I suppose I could have stuck around in Providence back in '77 to see how it all would play out. But I wasn't interested. Humanity's least common denominators, which is what organized crime amounts to, have never interested me. I am no Chandler, no Hammett. That day I knew I had seen enough. It was time to abscond.

As for your other specific question, I didn't use corrupt to describe the restaurant business. I used the word decadent. But that is a story soon coming up and involving 10 years of working in the restaurant and fine wine business. One more job to chronicle and we get to those years.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

Wanted to let you know I'm still here, reading along. I agree that many of these posts are a bit like notes in places and could be developed more fully in the future if you wanted. I can see that between your adventures and your reading you got yourself a college education without sitting in a classroom.
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Before entering into the restaurant years, ten in all, there is one jobbing adventure to note. Calling it an adventure might seem rather odd. There can't be anything more mundane than the job title of a gas and water meter reader. But let me back up.

In leaving Providence I returned to the same Virginia town in which I had spent the better part of the decade, the seventies. I also returned to the same bookstore where, half-jokingly I've said, I got a B.A. It was within a month of my return that the fire I mentioned above happened. In a way, and because of the insurance settlement, it benefited the store, giving it a much needed make over. And I persuaded the manager to expand the store's tradebook section, which was always my first love. All the world's classics I knew of and could fit into the section I did, from the ancients to the moderns. Lucky for me sales were good. It seems I filled a need, perhaps a desire, other book stores in town did not, the need, the desire, for great literature. Lucky for me, however, because the store's tradebook section was kind of like a personal library.

Another two year stint at the book store and yet again I am as restless as a half-wild coyote some fool has tried to domesticate. Great literature can do that to people. Maybe that is why it is still the greatest threat to any and all Plato-like Republics. I quit and get a job working for the city reading gas and water meters.

Instantly I was taken by the idea. When Joyce went into exile, eventually ending up in Paris, he kept with him maps of Dublin. And he studied them carefully. They helped him, grounded him, when he wrote both his Portrait novel and his Ulysses thing. I raised the ante on my master. I got a job that took me down, walking down, each and every city street, into each and every neighborhood, with their different complexions, from salt and pepper street poor, to mostly white street working class, to white street middle-class, to whiter street wealthy, to business districts, and into the colonial era basements that had not seen sunshine since Jefferson was alive. I also had access to domestic interiors police can only get to with court stamped warrant. Think of it. What a glorious opportunity for a writer bedeviled and fascinated by the private stuff of private lives. I guess I was something of a civically sanctioned voyuer.

There were five of us, six if I count the supervisor. I can't imagine he is alive anymore so I'll mention his name. Stan. I admired him tremendously. He had started out as a meter reader and rose to his then position. In his position he completely revamped and reorganized meter reading protocol. He invented codes for locating meters, which could be anywhere on the property or anywhere inside. He came up with a weekly schedule, strategically and logistically sound for keeping us on schedule. And he looked after us in the squabbles of city hall politics, in which food chain we were lower than plankton but producing revenue for the city. I seem to recall he was a long haul truck driver, before taking on the job. In all events, and in my view, he was the kind of strategist who plays chess and wins battles.

The other meter readers I quickly admired and soon came to love. They all came to work early in the morning ready to roll out in the trucks, each two man team assigned a sector of town. I am forever giving nicknames to people I like. So there was Goode, pronounced Gude, from the Bellmont neighborhood, solidly working class, across the tracks. Goode might have been my favorite. He was an artist. He was a mouth harpist who hand crafted turkey callers. On the weekends he was a caller in square dancing, which weekly presented him problems. He was a married man, devoted to his wife, but calling square dances can bring too much country girl attention to a guy. Then there was Buddy Rowe from further down in the county. A real rural boy. I think he didn't like city stuff. But if I ever met a Virginian it would be him. Tall and lanky, gentle in demeanor, quiet in his humor, measured in his talk, and a thinker. There was also the hockey man. He had risen as far as the semi-pros in hockey but then he quit. He had been playing for Philedelphia and had checked a French Canadian on the rink. Afterwards he had stepped out of his locker room and the Canadian was laying in wait right outside the door. Pummelled him badly. That night, the hokey man said, the sport was no longer fun. Finally there was the Nam man. Try as I might I could never engage him in conversation. He was damn near monosyllabic. He was a good man, a good worker, good co-worker. He actually trained me. But he never could get conversational. The year was '79. Unlike the rest of us he was single. Stan took an especial interest in the Nam man. We all respected the Nam man's need of space.

This job will need a second entry.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

I heard this report today on NPR today and thought of you:

quote:

A new documentary will make you think differently. It's called — get ready — The Parking Lot Movie. But its subject is far more compelling than its title. The Corner Parking Lot in Charlottesville, Va., is populated by a cast of characters Terry Gilliam couldn't dream up.

As former lot attendant James McNew puts it in the film, "It was like a refuge from the rest of Charlottesville — like a wildlife refuge."

Poets, Philosophers ... Anthropologists?

The "refuge" is certainly nothing to look at: 2 acres of concrete behind a strip of bars and restaurants, not far from the staid grounds of the University of Virginia.



If you want to take a look/listen:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124612211
Mar/12/2010, 6:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Serendipty, anyone? Katfriend I know the parking lot well. The bookstore's back door let out onto it. It was where we received and shipped out books. It was where I parked my motorcycle without having to pay. The "corner" was the name for the university business district which is adjacent to U Va grounds. It is where L.D. and I met in '73. It was my haunt for most of the decade. The last time I visited the corner, in '97, the district had been gentrified. Back in the 70's it was several blocks of older, red brick store fronts. Restaurants, an old southern style cafeteria patronized by the town's older generation (and me), a pipe store, bookstores, a men's clothing store, a nursery...it was a town onto itself, maybe four blocks long with side streets that also had businesses.

Thanks for the info. And how the hell do you find this stuff anyway?

Tere


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I made a second meter reading entry last night and somehow lost it. Trying again.

C'ville is an old town, at least in the American context, dating to the 18th C. Many and diverse neighborhoods. It is a small city, but for a small city and because of the university, it is densely populated. It is a city where people like to live, both because of its heritage and because of its quality of life.

I don't know when natural gas service would have been installed, sometime in the early 20th C I suppose. And I guess back then there was not technology adequate to protecting gas meters from temperature extremes. Water meters were always easy to find, somewhere between sidewalk and road. But a gas meter could be in a closet, in a basement, in a sub-basement, or in a crawlway. Crawlways presented me with some challenges. I would not be a good spelunker. Or maybe I share Poe's fear of getting buried alive. And it isn't just the closed in space. Snakes don't bother me. Spiders are fine, even if I am a bit more respectful of them having been bitten by a brown recluse on the temple while sleeping once, and with the divet of destroyed skin tissue to prove it. But rats bother me and I do not like meeting them nose to nose. And I am here to say that, if cornered, your vector becomes their escape route.

What fascinated me second-most about the job was the discovery of and walking all those streets, side streets, and alleys. Mostly shaded. Oak, maple, and American sycamore are what I remember. I never got hassled in the poorer parts of town, mostly black, or in the working-class parts of town. I do remember getting hassled in upper-middle-class parts of town by men (at home in the middle of the day) angry over the rising cost of energy. But it was always a treat walking the streets, and we had to walk at a pretty steady clip in order to keep on schedule. I was finding the lay out of a town that people having lived there all their lives could not know about. And I was finding it with my working body.

The greatest fascination was in discovering how artfully, and maybe not so artfully, people will flesh out their personal space, their domestic settings. That was truly fascinating. And I felt like an anthropologist doing field work.

There was the small collie who ran like a fawn and who was so happy to see a person he would run in front as if to show the way to the meter. There was the house on the other side of the tracks painted cobalt blue, its yard filled with statuary, the front of the house lined with hummingbird feeders. There was the retired woman, a master gardener, who had a pond in her backyard. She said she had purchased the vacant lot behind her house in order to have a larger pond. And it was larger, maybe a half-acre in size. In the middle of the pond was an island with a bench and colorful springtime flowers. I was married again by then. I said something about how my new wife would love what she had made of her space. And she said something like, 'well why don't you bring her to see?'

Then there were the domestic interiors. Two stand out in memory. One belonged to a retired couple who may have been descendants of Noah. One or the other spouse needed books and periodicals. One or the other must have established certain boundaries for the use of floor space. And so the living room was peopled with stacks of reading material standing in waist high stacks. A few pathways had been established. One from front door to kitchen, and several radiating out to reach the windows. And I must not forget to mention Anastasia.

Some will remember Anastasia, the pretender to the Romanov family, last ruling Czarist family of Russia that had been murdered en masse by the Bolsheviks in, I think, 1918. Some years later a little girl was found in an insane asylum in, again I think, Berlin. Somehow someone decided she was the youngest child of the family and who had survived the murders. Anastasia died in '84. Subsequently DNA has proven she was not a Romanov. But back in the seventies she was still alive. She may not have been of Czarist bloodline, but she was certifiably crazy. A professor emeritus at U Va had married her and brought her to C'ville. His name was Dr. John and I think he too was a bit daft. He had a house in town, close to the university, and a farm in the county, south of town.

Anastasia had a thing about cats. The town house had scores of cats. And the stench of cat !@#$ would meet me several properties away. Entering the house, walking through, cats were everywhere. Finally getting to the closet with the gas meter, dead fetuses were piled up on each other. C'ville loves its history, perhaps too much. It also loves its famous ones, even its eccentrics, again perhaps too much. The same is true of the surrounding county, Albemarle. But even Dr. John's neighbors living in their colonial style houses, most of which were occupied by associates of the university and who liked to pride themselves on their tolerance and gentility, finally complained to the city about the stench. And the city, much to its reluctance, had no choice but to take an action. And so Dr. John and Anastasia, along with their cats, spent more and more time on their farm.

I did the work for five months or so. While working for city hall, I with friends made a literay magazine. We called it "Fools Journal." Poetry, short stories, essays, photography, illustrations. L.D. big time contributed too, eventhough he was by then living in NYC. While putting the mag together, I thought, '!@#$, man, you got a story right here, in your own front yard.' And so I wrote a thing about C'ville and about meter reading, and some about the nastiness of politics in city hall. How the hell could I know the essay would sell the mag? How could I know my piece would generate offers from established mags to write pieces for them, which offers I declined, knowing that the expose was a one time thing, a bit of nonce writing, and not something I would have wanted to repeat? But the journal made enough money so that we realized a profit, the really unusual thing.

With the money, a solid $500 profit, we treated ourselves to a five course dinner at a local French cuisine restaurant. The menu was specifically made for us. The dining was private. Each course had its own wine. I've long since lost all of those friends and close collaborators. One to death, maybe two, even if I hope he is still somewhere alive in Africa or France or Texas or somehwere, one to divorce, and several to shunning. But I remember that night. It was a good night. Nothing faux about it.

My friends all knew my essay on jobbing had generated the kind of local gossip interest to get people to buy the mag, which taught me a lesson about how to get readers to open a mag and get access to the better stuff. In lit, gossip speaking directly to readership is like the carnival barker.

I have no record of the essay or no copies of "Fools Journal." It was a matter of pride.

Tere
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Terreson,

I don't know how you do it but it reads well. A mixture of people, circumstances, local flavor, experiences. But smooth. I don't know anybody else doing this. Closest thing is Dave's series on driving truck. But have not seen prose pieces like this.

Several thoughts come to mind too: one, the idea of flash fiction, comes to mind. I mentioned it to a friend, & she said it had been around for a while; then I remembered reading about it in the '90's. It was when I was reading fiction by Thom Jones. He was an ex-boxer, ex-Marine who graduated from the writing program in Iowa & was successfully published for short fiction in the glossies. I say his style was similar to Hemingway-Carver, but there was much more of an urgency about it, it moved a lot faster; it was more suited to the times, to our short attention spans today. In a sense, his prose isn't Flash Fiction simply because it is short, but it literally is "flashier" than the other two gentlemen's prose. Then he disappeared. I think he's got medical problems. He seemed to be in the line of writing from Hemingway to Carver to himself, kind of like that; not in the line that goes from James Joyce to . . . .?? Does anyone write like Joyce?

Your pieces here are highly compressed; they are readable, more in the line of Hemingway, Carver. The closest to Hemingway is in the Moveable Feast. Vignettes, except yours are a single voice without dialogue, just a narration, and you don't worry about spending a lot of time on one subject. They are good. Very good. I'm left thinking: What would I like to see if these pieces were expanded. Immediately the thought comes to mind that they might be diluted if they were expanded. They would probably have to continue to be small pieces, otherwise they would have to be a different type of literature.
 Zak

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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Zakman, you give me much to think about. Big time thanks. I am aware of flash fiction, but barely. Yes, it has been around for awhile. And I am aware of Jones, but in name only. As for Raymond Carver, and you may find this interesting, for him the master was the Russian writer, Anton Chekhov. And Hemingway and I have something in common. For us both, when it comes to prose narrative, Flaubert is master. (Something little known, less appreciated, about Hemingway.)

Not sure what to call or how to characterize what I am doing here. It is not all that different from how I've always proceeded in narrative writing. There are specimens of prose poetry and vignettes from '82 in our Prose Spectrum forum I think prove the point. To me the principle of effective narrative is pretty simple: get in / slice the nerve(s) / get out. Only once have I gone against this rule. It was with my first novel where I was wanting to explore what it means to live a way of life centered on all the emotions Rock n Roll music raises to the surface. And so the novel was a bit more expository than I tend to be.

There is one difference between these tales of jobbing and what I've done in the past, and that is the medium of cyberspace and the parameters it sets. Greater compression, shorter sentences in which the objective is to make noun itself almost predicative, and the quick, almost cinemagraphic turn from event to event. These have been the terms of engagement so far.

Having said as much I am about to get expansive a little. The next set of jobbing adventures involves what I think of as the restaurant years, 10 in all, and through 6 different establishment, plus a gig selling fine wine.

By the way, I've always enjoyed Dave's handling of his long haul material too.

Thanks, Zak, for the comments, the reading, and for the reflections.

Tere
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Saturday afternoon and I get to play. My narrative of jobbing is going to take a turn. So far the tales have been more picaresque than anything else, adventures without connecting tissue. Except, of course, for the over-riding theme of jobbing in order to write. But now I come to the restaurant years, 10 years in all threading through six restaurants and a stint importing and selling fine wine. Maybe I'll include a couple of day labor jobs worked when between restaurants. 10 years and seven establishments. The stat. rather speaks to restlessness and to a certain disaffection with the restaurant business itself. I was always a front man, never working in the kitchen. And I almost always worked in fine dining establishments, two of which were nationally recognized, one of which was a top 500 restaurant. In the course of the decade I was a waiter, classically trained, a sommelier, a sometime maitre d'Hotel, and finally a bartender. Half-way through the decade I took to the notion that placing a solid barricade of wood between me and the public was a good way to go, even if not as profitable.

Before getting into the history there are two notes I need to draw:

~First note. I was raised by restaurant workers. Night workers. My father was a line cook, he called himself a chef, who worked the tourist circuit, coming to south Florida every winter. My step-father was a bartender all of his life. The afternoon, as an old man, when he had the stroke that did him in, he was getting ready to go to work. And my mother was a dinner house waitress. (Waitress, not server, is the right word for the time.) Other than raising six children, it was the only occupation she ever had, which was pretty typical of her generation of smart women who maybe had a tenth grade education. (Actually she did teach high school English during the man-shortage of WW2.) My earliest memories, I would have been three, include restaurants, bars, and night workers coming home sometime after midnight, often drunk and quarrelling over some cocktail lounge pass one or the other parent had responded to. Earliest memories also include waking up in the middle of the night and checking on my parents, making sure they were in bed and I was safe. Growing up I hated the restaurant business and swore I would never enter it. I hated the insecurities it causes, the irregularities it makes for family life, and, most of all, I hated what it does to night workers. Put parenthetically, and I don't expect most readers to get this, when your occupation involves serving up steaming platters of pleasure and goblets of wine and spirits, and when your customers finally quit the premises, you become desperate to enjoy in the late night hours a measure of pleasure too. I knew this from observations made as a child, sometimes while perched on a bar stool or sitting at the waitress's table, and my 10 year tenure in the business bore it out. Observation remains categorical.

~Second note. If you are a good server, half-way decent to look at, slim, trim, and attentive to your customers, the money you can make in restaurants of the right caliber is indecently good. 6 to 7 hours of work and you go home with $200 in your pocket and much of the income untaxed. Things have changed a little since my days. Restaurant owners, not wanting to pay kitchen workers a decent wage, require servers to share more and more of the gratuities. But it is still good money. I never had to work full time in order to see to expenses. Never more than 4 days a week. And so I had time for reading and writing and thinking. Then there is that night workers have the fresh, first, hours of the day to themselves for thinking and doing. It was something I quickly realized and put to good advantage. So far the 80's proved to be my most productive decade. Novels, short stories, vignettes, prose poetry, essays, three collections of poetry, volumnous reading. I had found the perfect means to support the writing habit, which is what it is. A habit, an addiction, or a vampire's bite on the neck. All the same. And so I had the best hours of the day for writing, reading, and thinking. And I was not beholding to any instituition, such as a college or an insurance company, for the kind of vocational time I enjoyed.

Quite a tension the two notes produce, yes? I didn't hate the work. I learned early on that a man can serve with self-respect and dignity. In fact, I observed that the more subservient or obsequious the server the less the respect and so the smaller the gratuity. It was what the business could do to individuals, always in the late night hours, I hated. Time and time again I observed a sort of decadence. Was subject to it myself a few times. On the other hand the occupation bought me time, good time, fresh time for thinking, reading, and writing. Other than poverty, dogma, religious or political, and ideology, there is no greater killer of the intellect or of the artistic spirit than the 40 hour work week mass society has imposed on the individual, turning us all into cyborgs.

I guess for a decade, and in order to secure my writing, reading, and thinking ends, I danced with the devil. In one visit home I said to my mother I couldn't believe I was in the restaurant business after what I saw it does to family. She didn't hesitate or miss a beat. Proudly, almost possessively, she retorted, 'it's in your blood, son.' That too felt like a vampire's bite.

Restaurant stories to follow.

Tere
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Terreson,
Well, you're not following any formal pattern, and this is good. What you have here are notes, preludes to what will follow. Read it quickly. I guess at some point you'll explain the comment about putting a wall between yourself and the public. That will probably be part of the story, how that came about.

You mention how this business, uneven as it is, was good for the creative life, that 8 to 5 jobs are stultifying. Generally speaking, I would agree, though I think it sort of depends. We all have the example of Wallace Stevens, who must have been dedicated to the insurance business, probably logging in long hours, in order to make it to VP. Between his insurance work and his poetry he didn't have much time for working out, which is why he ended up breaking Hemingway's hand with his jaw. When you're working long hours on both your job and your creative side, something's got to give; for Wallace Stevens it must have been an absence of pushups. Silliman, the poet sometimes talked about over at TCP, is apparently a marketing rep or something (which is probably where he got the idea for starting his blog in '96 or so). But generally speaking, I think you are right about the 8 to 5 experience.
On the other hand, irregular hours can lead the worker into an alternative life style that you alluded to. The late night eating and drinking. Funny, though, at one point I found myself remembering "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" -- and particularly the waiters waiting for the old man to leave so they could get on with their lives.

I look forward to reading your next pieces. Thanks for providing this for us. I'm sure the others are enjoying these pieces, as I am. Zak
 


quote:

Terreson wrote:

Saturday afternoon and I get to play. My narrative of jobbing is going to take a turn. So far the tales have been more picaresque than anything else, adventures without connecting tissue. Except, of course, for the over-riding theme of jobbing in order to write. But now I come to the restaurant years, 10 years in all threading through six restaurants and a stint importing and selling fine wine. Maybe I'll include a couple of day labor jobs worked when between restaurants. 10 years and seven establishments. The stat. rather speaks to restlessness and to a certain disaffection with the restaurant business itself. I was always a front man, never working in the kitchen. And I almost always worked in fine dining establishments, two of which were nationally recognized, one of which was a top 500 restaurant. In the course of the decade I was a waiter, classically trained, a sommelier, a sometime maitre d'Hotel, and finally a bartender. Half-way through the decade I took to the notion that placing a solid barricade of wood between me and the public was a good way to go, even if not as profitable.



Before getting into the history there are two notes I need to draw:

~First note. I was raised by restaurant workers. Night workers. My father was a line cook, he called himself a chef, who worked the tourist circuit, coming to south Florida every winter. My step-father was a bartender all of his life. The afternoon, as an old man, when he had the stroke that did him in, he was getting ready to go to work. And my mother was a dinner house waitress. (Waitress, not server, is the right word for the time.) Other than raising six children, it was the only occupation she ever had, which was pretty typical of her generation of smart women who maybe had a tenth grade education. (Actually she did teach high school English during the man-shortage of WW2.) My earliest memories, I would have been three, include restaurants, bars, and night workers coming home sometime after midnight, often drunk and quarrelling over some cocktail lounge pass one or the other parent had responded to. Earliest memories also include waking up in the middle of the night and checking on my parents, making sure they were in bed and I was safe. Growing up I hated the restaurant business and swore I would never enter it. I hated the insecurities it causes, the irregularities it makes for family life, and, most of all, I hated what it does to night workers. Put parenthetically, and I don't expect most readers to get this, when your occupation involves serving up steaming platters of pleasure and goblets of wine and spirits, and when your customers finally quit the premises, you become desperate to enjoy in the late night hours a measure of pleasure too. I knew this from observations made as a child, sometimes while perched on a bar stool or sitting at the waitress's table, and my 10 year tenure in the business bore it out. Observation remains categorical.

~Second note. If you are a good server, half-way decent to look at, slim, trim, and attentive to your customers, the money you can make in restaurants of the right caliber is indecently good. 6 to 7 hours of work and you go home with $200 in your pocket and much of the income untaxed. Things have changed a little since my days. Restaurant owners, not wanting to pay kitchen workers a decent wage, require servers to share more and more of the gratuities. But it is still good money. I never had to work full time in order to see to expenses. Never more than 4 days a week. And so I had time for reading and writing and thinking. Then there is that night workers have the fresh, first, hours of the day to themselves for thinking and doing. It was something I quickly realized and put to good advantage. So far the 80's proved to be my most productive decade. Novels, short stories, vignettes, prose poetry, essays, three collections of poetry, volumnous reading. I had found the perfect means to support the writing habit, which is what it is. A habit, an addiction, or a vampire's bite on the neck. All the same. And so I had the best hours of the day for writing, reading, and thinking. And I was not beholding to any instituition, such as a college or an insurance company, for the kind of vocational time I enjoyed.

Quite a tension the two notes produce, yes? I didn't hate the work. I learned early on that a man can serve with self-respect and dignity. In fact, I observed that the more subservient or obsequious the server the less the respect and so the smaller the gratuity. It was what the business could do to individuals, always in the late night hours, I hated. Time and time again I observed a sort of decadence. Was subject to it myself a few times. On the other hand the occupation bought me time, good time, fresh time for thinking, reading, and writing. Other than poverty, dogma, religious or political, and ideology, there is no greater killer of the intellect or of the artistic spirit than the 40 hour work week mass society has imposed on the individual, turning us all into cyborgs.

I guess for a decade, and in order to secure my writing, reading, and thinking ends, I danced with the devil. In one visit home I said to my mother I couldn't believe I was in the restaurant business after what I saw it does to family. She didn't hesitate or miss a beat. Proudly, almost possessively, she retorted, 'it's in your blood, son.' That too felt like a vampire's bite.

Restaurant stories to follow.

Tere





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hi Tere,

Just catching up since my computer crashed.
I'm thoroughly enjoying this thread and agree with Zak's comments. Will be reading along, computer willing and the crik don't rise.

Chris (ChrisD1)
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Again thanks, Zak and Chris. And, again, but for your reading the chronicle would not likely get made.

Tere
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Here goes. In the Prose Spectrum forum I've posted yet another vignette written in '82. It is called "Upstairs." It draws on the first restauarnt that started me out in the decade of restaurant work. I think it captures a certain ambience and maybe the ethos of a night worker's way of life.

It is reasonable to say I started out at the top. I had worked a few restaurants as a teenager, and as early as the age of 11. Dish washing, bussing tables, prep cooking. I had also worked as an assistant manager in a pizzeria. And too there is the small restaurant I managed and have written about earlier. But "Upstairs" is where I got my real start.

It was, still is, a famous restaurant dedicated to la cuisine. My second wife, by then we had been married some months, got me the job. She was a friend of the owner and she worked there too. I'll not say much about her. She is still well known and well respected in her town, and she has become a restaurant owner, a real restauranteur. But she not only got me the job, she also introduced me to fine wines. Our courtship had been a series of nights with some of the world's better wines, mostly Bourdeauxs as I recall. Eventually I would get the bug and become a scholastic of wine, with an emphasis on French, Italian, Spanish, and German wine. I read everything I could. I memorized the names of Bourgogne's wine producing communes, unquestionably the world's greatest wine producing region. I figured out Bourdeaux's hyper-rational classification of its wines into first, second, and third class chateaus. I remember once the lady getting a little mad at me for learning so much about the lore. She didn't need to. I was never as gifted on the palette the way she was, still is I imagine. But I am getting ahead of the story.

"Upstairs", the vignette, says better what I could say here about this first jobbing in the restaurant world. And it gives the right tone. But we worked hard at our gaming, so to speak, and we were insufferably good at what we did. We were all young and dedicated to the notion of la cuisine. I remember one server who had a customer with a complaint. She was a blue hair from the local country club milieu. She said to him, "Young man, the service here is terriblly slow." He stiffly bent over her table and retorted, "No, madam, the service we give is exquisite." This suggests just how snobbish we were. Food preparation was intricate and fresh. Food service was as formal, even ritualistic, as high mass.

Upstairs I learned the points of service: table settings, from which side of a customer to serve and from which side to remove plates, the sequence of courses, etc. The menu changed daily. Every afternoon we would be in consulation with the chef, learning both preparation and ingredients, and we would communicate as much to our diners. Dining, at least mostly, was by reservation only, and there were two seatings: one at 6 PM and a second at, as I recall, 9:30 PM. There were three of us serving and a maitre d' who was also the wine steward. The room was a small room with ten tables. Geographically the table positions were arranged and named after the wine producing regions of France. In other words, table Bourgogne was directly across from and to the west of table Bourdeaux. Champagne to the north. Beaujolais to the south, and so forth.

The kitchen had a chef, a sous chef, a pastry chef, and a dish washer. The kitchen was directly below the dining room. Food was delivered by hand by the dish washer and ladder runner who climbed a ladder leading up through a very narrow stairwell. And while the wine selection was small it too was exquisite. The chef for whom I worked himself was a gifted wine man. A former all star basketball player in high school, and the son of a diplomat. He had grown up accustomed to fine dining mostly in overseas' embassies. He would eventually go on to become a truly gifted importer of fine wines. By God he was good! Both a talented chef and a talented wine connoisseur. Before working at the restaurant he had made a pilgrimage to France's wine producing regions. We would play a game of blind tastings. I remember once, solely on the strength of the information supplied by his palette, he correctly identified not just the type of wine and grape varietal, not just the chateau from which it came, but on which side of the road the vinyard was located. He was that gifted.

I loved these people. Mostly the memory of them is good. To a person we were dedicated to what we did. Haute cuisine was invested for us with a real meaning. What the meaning was is not so easy to explain. What was the meaning? I think it centered around the notion that the pleasure of food and spirits can off set, can put into relief the gloom of the daily grind. That's what we offered. A few hours highlighted by what we gave. I remember one night serving a family of four. It was such a busy night. Maybe it was a graduation night for the university. It was diffucult in the extreme to make what we were doing look easy and effortless, and ensure our customers could enjoy themselves. We were all hard-pressed, kitchen and dining room. It was close to the end of the second seating. The wife of the party took her children to the hotel where they were staying while the man sat by himself with a cognac and to pay the bill. When he paid the bill he thanked me for giving his family a most memorable night, the best night, he said, they had enjoyed in a long time. After he left I opened the folder with his payment and he had tipped me a $100 bill. A C note as they say. I honestly don't remember having the time that night to spend on his party. With ten tables and three waiters, one of us had to cover four and that night was my turn. Four tables is not much unless the courses are intricate, elaborate, and involved. Did I deserve that tip? Probably not. But the story says something about what we strove to create: just a highlight in life.

I say I loved these people with whom I worked. One of the restaurant's two then owners I did not. Rather, I did not trust him. While there is one bad story I will here tell about those years, about him I'll not speak. Except to say my instinctive distrust of him was to be proved a sound reading of character. He knew I didn't trust him. We were always cordial to each other. That is all. But, as I said, he and my wife of those years were good friends, which gave me a degree of job security. And so I found myself, not for the last time during those years, dancing with the devil. I will say there was one Saturday night in late December, the last night before the restaurant took its traditional two week vacation, when seven of us, including the chef, spontaneously, independently of each other, quit. And it was because of him. It was not lost on me that he had grown up in the most amoral town I've ever known, the town of my childhood, Daytona Beach.

I am going to tell one story and I am forcing myself to go here. I've never told this story before. Not in fiction, not in essay, not even to friends or family. But it speaks to the dark underbelly of serving up too much pleasure and getting too immersed in the impossible fantasies involved. Besides, I owe it to Snaggle Puss to make the record. He was the sweetest man and maybe the second most tortured soul I've ever known. He was the restaurant's dish washer, pot and pan washer, and ladder runner.

The night he killed himself I was sitting at a table reading the Arthurian legend involving Percival. My wife of those years was still working in the downstairs bar and I was waiting for her. On his way out the door, Snaggle Puss stopped by my table, smiled in a way only he could, from ear to ear, his face as always unshaven, took my hand in his and said something like, 'Whatever you do, man, don't stop writing.' So engrossed in my reading I shrugged him off, thought nothing about him, a little annoyed by the interruption. (This is bloody hard.)

I'll tell you what we learned the next day and what a lawyer (a patron of the restaurant) and I learned from law enforcement over the next several days, not wanting to believe Snaggle Puss's death was from suicide.

He left the restaurant that night, went to a favorite pizza place, ordered and ate a large pizza, drove to an abandoned textile mill east of town and by the railroad tracks. There he waited for a train to come through. Likely with the engine's whistle in his ear he pulled the trigger of his shotgun, its barrel in his mouth. I'll not describe the scene the sherriff's deputies found the next morning. Nor will I relate what we discovered over the next few days. It is enough to say that both medical and law enforcement authorities were aware of just how troubled Snaggle Puss was. It turned out Snaggle Puss didn't know if he was a woman or a man, wanted to be both sexually, was more alone than I had been aware of, and desperate to the extreme in wanting to make real his desires. It also turned out his family who lived in town were fundamentalist Christians and they had shunned him. I met them that week. I was shocked by their indifference to his death. I can still see their polite, smiling faces.

Some days later my lawyer friend who had kept in touch with the law enforcement people told us Snaggle Puss's possessions, all his possessions, were still in his car out of which he had been living. Car was impounded in a yard. Somebody needed to empty the vehicle of his stuff and give it to his family. I remember friends and co-workers running out the door of the restaurant at the notice, one saying, 'I can't go there.' I said I would. So did another co-worker, a very strong woman. We were the only two volunteers. We went to the yard, were directed to his car, an old Ford Falcon, and we emptied the vehicle of his clothes, his guitar and amplifier, his books. Snaggle Puss's brain was hanging from the roof. We got his family's address and we took his things to them. They could have cared less.

Funeral services and the wake were organized by the restaurant. Afterwards we all gathered back at the restaurant. It was the day I stood up to the owner who was always something of an alpha male. To the gathered he said something like, 'I am sorry he is gone but we are not responsible for this.' I said, 'I can't speak for anyone else but I hold myself responsible. I failed a sweet friend.' The owner was shaking. That might have been the day he realized he would have to fire me.

Pleasure and the underbelly of its pursuit. I wonder if anyone has thought about how much great literature is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and to the underside it tends to expose. Proust, Wilde, Hemingway, Fitzgerald most famously, Stendhal, Balzac, Djuna Barnes, Dante, Sextus Propertius, Ovid, Catullus, Raymond Chandler, James M. Caine, Sophocles, Euripides, Bejamin Constant, Byron, Laclos... What is it about the pursuit so sweet and tasty, what can highlight the gloom like a sunburst, and what always ends up on the moon's dark side.

Snaggle Puss, I've told the story of your demise and I hope I've maintained your dignity. There was nothing wrong with you. I failed you. I should have raised my head out of a book that night.

Coda to my story. I beat the owner to the finish line by no more than a couple of hours. When he told the maitre d'hotel I needed to be fired, the maitre d' replied something like,'You're too late. He gave notice tonight.' Still, I thank that restaurant for all it showed me. La Cuisine is a dream worth serving.

Terreson

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/14/2010, 6:31 pm
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Tere,

What a moving, well-written piece. Thank you for sharing it with us.

"What is it about the pursuit so sweet and tasty, what can highlight the gloom like a sunburst, and what always ends up on the moon's dark side."

Wonderful insight, beautifully expressed.

Your jobbing posts are bringing back many memories for me. For example, my stepfather worked as a meter reader for the electric company when I was a kid. I had forgotten that meter readers had to go inside people's homes in those days to take the readings. What I remember about my stepdad and the job are the days he'd come limping home after having been bitten on the calf or ankle by someone's dog. He put himself through night school--it took him 8 years--and got a degree in economics. He then got an office job at the light company and stayed with the company until he retired.

My sister has had many waitressing jobs. She relocated to Myrtle Beach after high school and used to work in various seafood restaurants to pay the bills. Eventually she, too, went to college and got a computer science degree. In recent years she returned to waitress work and was annoyed to hear her soon to be ex-husband's lawyer repeatedly refer to her as being "underemployed" during a preliminary divorce proceeding. This despite the fact that she has two waitressing jobs and sometimes works a double shift--one at each establishment. Luckily, they had a female judge who was more sympathetic to her case, especially when she pointed out that computer related jobs are hard to come by in this economy.

I'm off to read your Upstairs prose piece.

Last edited by Katlin, Mar/16/2010, 6:17 pm
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Katfriend, I thought about mentioning the yard dogs. More than once I cleared a fence with a dog literally holding my seat pants in his teeth. More than once I returned to city hall, white underwear showing through.

About your sister's case. My mother bought a home, the only home she ever owned, on restaurant tips. I knew a woman once, her name was Dotty, who bought up real estate, became a landlady, on tips she earned in a restaurant.

Anyway, other nights from the "Upstairs" restaurant years come back to mind, such as serving politicos, talking heads, and literary types. I shouldn't blow their cover. I tended to find them disappointing. Rita Mae Brown maybe most of all.

Tere
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Tere, I'll tell my sister. It irked me, too, to hear about white-collar prejudice against blue-collar workers being promoted in a family courtroom.

I have a friend, an opera buff, who once had the opportunity to meet Luciano Pavarotti backstage. She was all excited at the prospect, only to be majorily letdown by the actual experience. The famous aren't necessarily interesting people. Too bad you can't "blow their cover."

Last edited by Katlin, Apr/11/2010, 9:42 pm
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Home today, having called in sick.

I've reread yesterday's entry about this restaurant I call the "Upstairs". All of a sudden memories come back I haven't thought about in years. The good stuff: learning la cuisine, learning wine, serving up pleasure, making a game out of the same. And the bad stuff: the decadent behavior that almost always seemed to start out late at night with a bottle of champagne. Of course it is bad story telling to trade in generalities, to tell without showing, as they say. But I have no choice. None of the people from those years are friends anymore. But some of them are still "Upstairs." I'll respect their reputations. Moving on.

Richard Farina, the 60s folk singer who died in a motorcycle accident, wrote one novel, and it was based on the same Virginia town in which I lived. I am trying to remember the name of the folklorist at U Va. But he was the draw that brought Farina, Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Farina, and I think Tom Rush to town. They would study under him, or at least pick his knowledge of things folk. So Farina used the town and the university as his mis en scene. His novel too was about decadence of the emotions and about betrayal, and about the kind of dishonor we can find ourselves involved in without actually aware of it at the time. The name of his novel was "Been Down So Long It Looks Up To Me." That is what it felt like when I quit the "Upstairs." I seriously needed to clear my head.

I travelled alone to Spain where I stayed for five weeks I think, mostly in Andalucia, and mostly seeking out gypsies and flamenco. Returning to America, and still smarting, I went home to Florida. In turn I stayed with a sister, my mother in the home where I grew up, and with my favorite criminal uncle who never once in his long life held a legitimate job. This was the summer of '82, the year my creative juices were damn near roiling. For awhile, this was in Sebring, I worked for a then brother-in-law. Tommy Weeks. The cruelest man I've ever met, gratuitously cruel, the kind of man who took pleasure in inflicting pain. He too was a criminal, just not your garden party variety. His specialty was to bilk old women and sun birds. He also ran drugs and was a sometime strong arm for hire. More than once I sat in the sheriff's office with him, getting interviewed. And I remember one local policeman who confessed that if and when the call came because of a stand-off at the Weeks's trailer, he intended to ignore it. No exaggeration. I think the only thing that saved my skinny butt was my older sister. She may have been the only person Weeks respected. He knew she would not take kindly to her little brother harmed. One day it finally happened. I spontaneously took exception with his lies and his cheating and his love of inflicting pain. Wait. I remember now. The night before I had spied him in a Denny's kind of restaurant with another woman. Sitting outside in the dark I watched the two of them get into her car. That pissed me off. Anyway, there were words. I walked away. He walked away. I knew he had his guns. After he left the trailer I packed up my books and clothing, caught a ride to the bus station, got the hell out of town. I figured I had pressed my luck enough. Tommy Weeks is dead now. And the planet is a better place for it. Some years after I worked for him I learned he had drunkenly fallen into the cage where he kept his pit bulls who he faught for money. He got mauled badly. I wasn't sad about that either.

Tommy Weeks Tree Service. The money was good enough I was able to send some home and see to child support. Plus there was room and board. I learned to climb trees the old way. With spurs strapped to my ankles. This was before bucket trucks. And I learned all about chain saws, which knowledge came in handy many years later when heating my Pacific Northwest homes with wood burning stoves. The work was physically hard and the summer heat could be brutal. Weeks was never good about avoiding the heat of a south Florida day. We never got out of the trailer until late in the morning. But I was grateful for the work. The harder the better. And there was nothing mechanized about his Cracker-ass operation.

Weeks was illiterate, but he had the talent for making money and he didn't care how it came in. Older women loved him. Like Granny. He once persuaded her that the wires in her truck could short and start a fire. I think he got $2000 for "replacing" the wires. Replacement amounted to purchasing cans of black spray paint and painting over the wires.

Towards the end of the summer I returned by bus to Virginia. Weeks didn't know it but it was his money that got me home. My sister had taken it from him without his knowledge. An act she enjoyed tremendously. I got a part-time job delivering wine around the state for a local distributor, from the mountain resorts in the west as far east as Richmond. Finally I got a full-time job managing a retail wine operation for a new corporation in town. It would become the second or third most enjoyable job I've yet had. And it would force me to make a clear cut vocational decision: wine or poetry. That is for the next installment.

Tere
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Terreson,

I read this and this begins to feel more like a novel here. It might be because the picture being drawn here seems larger, with bigger horizons. Here, more than in the other pieces, it wants development -- not that there isn't enough for the type of writing being done here -- but it begins to feel like a novel. Probably so because the relationships with the bad boss and with Snaggle Puss begin to be more complicated. Especially with the bad boss because, as you indicate (unless I got this wrong), you were with this guy for a while. If, in fact, you were with this guy for a while, then the relationship gets complicated. I don't know why, but relationships in professional settings (and I do think this is a professional job, as opposed to jobs we've done with our hands)get more complicated. It gets harder to keep the anecdotal material crisp. Explanation and setting keeps wanting to bubble to the top.

I started to do something to contribute here, and that is what happened to me. I guess the rest of us just aren't in that "place" where we feel at the right place for this type of writing, but you do, and that's good for the rest of us.

I had ideas cropping up when I was reading it, but would have to read it again more carefully. One thought came to mind: I'd hate to have to sit down and eat dinner with you at some upscale restaurant, fearing I would use the wrong fork or order the wrong wine, or spill soup on my shirt. No, this piece was good again, and again, this all wants to open up to something bigger. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Here goes. In the Prose Spectrum forum I've posted yet another vignette written in '82. It is called "Upstairs." It draws on the first restauarnt that started me out in the decade of restaurant work. I think it captures a certain ambience and maybe the ethos of a night worker's way of life.

It is reasonable to say I started out at the top. I had worked a few restaurants as a teenager, and as early as the age of 11. Dish washing, bussing tables, prep cooking. I had also worked as an assistant manager in a pizzeria. And too there is the small restaurant I managed and have written about earlier. But "Upstairs" is where I got my real start.

It was, still is, a famous restaurant dedicated to la cuisine. My second wife, by then we had been married some months, got me the job. She was a friend of the owner and she worked there too. I'll not say much about her. She is still well known and well respected in her town, and she has become a restaurant owner, a real restauranteur. But she not only got me the job, she also introduced me to fine wines. Our courtship had been a series of nights with some of the world's better wines, mostly Bourdeauxs as I recall. Eventually I would get the bug and become a scholastic of wine, with an emphasis on French, Italian, Spanish, and German wine. I read everything I could. I memorized the names of Bourgogne's wine producing communes, unquestionably the world's greatest wine producing region. I figured out Bourdeaux's hyper-rational classification of its wines into first, second, and third class chateaus. I remember once the lady getting a little mad at me for learning so much about the lore. She didn't need to. I was never as gifted on the palette the way she was, still is I imagine. But I am getting ahead of the story.

"Upstairs", the vignette, says better what I could say here about this first jobbing in the restaurant world. And it gives the right tone. But we worked hard at our gaming, so to speak, and we were insufferably good at what we did. We were all young and dedicated to the notion of la cuisine. I remember one server who had a customer with a complaint. She was a blue hair from the local country club milieu. She said to him, "Young man, the service here is terriblly slow." He stiffly bent over her table and retorted, "No, madam, the service we give is exquisite." This suggests just how snobbish we were. Food preparation was intricate and fresh. Food service was as formal, even ritualistic, as high mass.

Upstairs I learned the points of service: table settings, from which side of a customer to serve and from which side to remove plates, the sequence of courses, etc. The menu changed daily. Every afternoon we would be in consulation with the chef, learning both preparation and ingredients, and we would communicate as much to our diners. Dining, at least mostly, was by reservation only, and there were two seatings: one at 6 PM and a second at, as I recall, 9:30 PM. There were three of us serving and a maitre d' who was also the wine steward. The room was a small room with ten tables. Geographically the table positions were arranged and named after the wine producing regions of France. In other words, table Bourgogne was directly across from and to the west of table Bourdeaux. Champagne to the north. Beaujolais to the south, and so forth.

The kitchen had a chef, a sous chef, a pastry chef, and a dish washer. The kitchen was directly below the dining room. Food was delivered by hand by the dish washer and ladder runner who climbed a ladder leading up through a very narrow stairwell. And while the wine selection was small it too was exquisite. The chef for whom I worked himself was a gifted wine man. A former all star basketball player in high school, and the son of a diplomat. He had grown up accustomed to fine dining mostly in overseas' embassies. He would eventually go on to become a truly gifted importer of fine wines. By God he was good! Both a talented chef and a talented wine connoisseur. Before working at the restaurant he had made a pilgrimage to France's wine producing regions. We would play a game of blind tastings. I remember once, solely on the strength of the information supplied by his palette, he correctly identified not just the type of wine and grape varietal, not just the chateau from which it came, but on which side of the road the vinyard was located. He was that gifted.

I loved these people. Mostly the memory of them is good. To a person we were dedicated to what we did. Haute cuisine was invested for us with a real meaning. What the meaning was is not so easy to explain. What was the meaning? I think it centered around the notion that the pleasure of food and spirits can off set, can put into relief the gloom of the daily grind. That's what we offered. A few hours highlighted by what we gave. I remember one night serving a family of four. It was such a busy night. Maybe it was a graduation night for the university. It was diffucult in the extreme to make what we were doing look easy and effortless, and ensure our customers could enjoy themselves. We were all hard-pressed, kitchen and dining room. It was close to the end of the second seating. The wife of the party took her children to the hotel where they were staying while the man sat by himself with a cognac and to pay the bill. When he paid the bill he thanked me for giving his family a most memorable night, the best night, he said, they had enjoyed in a long time. After he left I opened the folder with his payment and he had tipped me a $100 bill. A C note as they say. I honestly don't remember having the time that night to spend on his party. With ten tables and three waiters, one of us had to cover four and that night was my turn. Four tables is not much unless the courses are intricate, elaborate, and involved. Did I deserve that tip? Probably not. But the story says something about what we strove to create: just a highlight in life.

I say I loved these people with whom I worked. One of the restaurant's two then owners I did not. Rather, I did not trust him. While there is one bad story I will here tell about those years, about him I'll not speak. Except to say my instinctive distrust of him was to be proved a sound reading of character. He knew I didn't trust him. We were always cordial to each other. That is all. But, as I said, he and my wife of those years were good friends, which gave me a degree of job security. And so I found myself, not for the last time during those years, dancing with the devil. I will say there was one Saturday night in late December, the last night before the restaurant took its traditional two week vacation, when seven of us, including the chef, spontaneously, independently of each other, quit. And it was because of him. It was not lost on me that he had grown up in the most amoral town I've ever known, the town of my childhood, Daytona Beach.

I am going to tell one story and I am forcing myself to go here. I've never told this story before. Not in fiction, not in essay, not even to friends or family. But it speaks to the dark underbelly of serving up too much pleasure and getting too immersed in the impossible fantasies involved. Besides, I owe it to Snaggle Puss to make the record. He was the sweetest man and maybe the second most tortured soul I've ever known. He was the restaurant's dish washer, pot and pan washer, and ladder runner.

The night he killed himself I was sitting at a table reading the Arthurian legend involving Percival. My wife of those years was still working in the downstairs bar and I was waiting for her. On his way out the door, Snaggle Puss stopped by my table, smiled in a way only he could, from ear to ear, his face as always unshaven, took my hand in his and said something like, 'Whatever you do, man, don't stop writing.' So engrossed in my reading I shrugged him off, thought nothing about him, a little annoyed by the interruption. (This is bloody hard.)

I'll tell you what we learned the next day and what a lawyer (a patron of the restaurant) and I learned from law enforcement over the next several days, not wanting to believe Snaggle Puss's death was from suicide.

He left the restaurant that night, went to a favorite pizza place, ordered and ate a large pizza, drove to an abandoned textile mill east of town and by the railroad tracks. There he waited for a train to come through. Likely with the engine's whistle in his ear he pulled the trigger of his shotgun, its barrel in his mouth. I'll not describe the scene the sherriff's deputies found the next morning. Nor will I relate what we discovered over the next few days. It is enough to say that both medical and law enforcement authorities were aware of just how troubled Snaggle Puss was. It turned out Snaggle Puss didn't know if he was a woman or a man, wanted to be both sexually, was more alone than I had been aware of, and desperate to the extreme in wanting to make real his desires. It also turned out his family who lived in town were fundamentalist Christians and they had shunned him. I met them that week. I was shocked by their indifference to his death. I can still see their polite, smiling faces.

Some days later my lawyer friend who had kept in touch with the law enforcement people told us Snaggle Puss's possessions, all his possessions, were still in his car out of which he had been living. Car was impounded in a yard. Somebody needed to empty the vehicle of his stuff and give it to his family. I remember friends and co-workers running out the door of the restaurant at the notice, one saying, 'I can't go there.' I said I would. So did another co-worker, a very strong woman. We were the only two volunteers. We went to the yard, were directed to his car, an old Ford Falcon, and we emptied the vehicle of his clothes, his guitar and amplifier, his books. Snaggle Puss's brain was hanging from the roof. We got his family's address and we took his things to them. They could have cared less.

Funeral services and the wake were organized by the restaurant. Afterwards we all gathered back at the restaurant. It was the day I stood up to the owner who was always something of an alpha male. To the gathered he said something like, 'I am sorry he is gone but we are not responsible for this.' I said, 'I can't speak for anyone else but I hold myself responsible. I failed a sweet friend.' The owner was shaking. That might have been the day he realized he would have to fire me.

Pleasure and the underbelly of its pursuit. I wonder if anyone has thought about how much great literature is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and to the underside it tends to expose. Proust, Wilde, Hemingway, Fitzgerald most famously, Stendhal, Balzac, Djuna Barnes, Dante, Sextus Propertius, Ovid, Catullus, Raymond Chandler, James M. Caine, Sophocles, Euripides, Bejamin Constant, Byron, Laclos... What is it about the pursuit so sweet and tasty, what can highlight the gloom like a sunburst, and what always ends up on the moon's dark side.

Snaggle Puss, I've told the story of your demise and I hope I've maintained your dignity. There was nothing wrong with you. I failed you. I should have raised my head out of a book that night.

Coda to my story. I beat the owner to the finish line by no more than a couple of hours. When he told the maitre d'hotel I needed to be fired, the maitre d' replied something like,'You're too late. He gave notice tonight.' Still, I thank that restaurant for all it showed me. La Cuisine is a dream worth serving.

Terreson



Mar/15/2010, 7:57 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Good points, Zakman. And, yes, this entry does have more of a novel feeling to it and pretty much because of what you say. But then, when you think about it, novel plots almost always feed on, if not revolve around, relationships, professional or otherwise.

I do hope that you and others will try your hand at the theme of jobbing. I have found a way that works for me, but it can't be the only way.

And not to worry. These days I am far more likely to get a boudin ball, a bag of cracklings, or a pistolette pastry in route to a beeyard than I am to sit down to five courses a la haute cusine.

Tere
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Let me set a scene. This tale of jobbing will prove much more relaxing to tell than was the case with the "Upstairs." I have no mixed feelings about the job, no regrets, no dark underside to have to face again. And, most of all, and as a wine manager of my own department, I was out from under the dominion of the many masters, including my then wife, who had inducted me into the trade.

I'll start here. The corporation for which I worked was new to town. It had successfully proven its business model in two other, somewhat smaller, college towns. The idea was simple. Lease a space. In it put a restaurant that will attract a collegiate crowd inclusive of students, faculty types and professionals. Then add a deli serving for take out specialty meats. Add to that a small grocery section selling international items, and pricey. Don't forget the coffee aisle in which better coffees are made available, coffee beans such as the world's most expensive, Jamaican Blue Mountain. Also don't forget the refrigerated cheese section. Gruyere, Brie, Camambert, Lancishire, Hunstman, that kind of cheese. And as an after-thought, there might as well be a wine department. So my department was the after-thought. And I knew it really had been an after-thought when someone from the corporate office visited me once to tell me I had forced them to reconsider their business model. I asked how. He said in their other stores wine sales amount to 5% of gross sales. In the store I worked wine sales accounted for 20%. This, with a very popular, always busy restaurant area. I got that.

For a bit of poetry, let me locate the store. It was on the Corner, U Va's business district. Not only that, it was immediately adjacent to the bookstore where I had worked, off and on, for ten years. I was back on the Corner.

I had several business coups during my tenure. But first get that not only was I a new kid on the block, or in town, so was the store. I am remembering three other well established in town, stores that had been around for years, two for decades, and that had loyal, well-healed customers. Stores that catered to the so-called carriage crowd: wealthy land owners in the county who would come in and buy wine by the case. Not only did this operation shake up an entrenched, genteel scene. I shook up an entrenched wine scene in this town all too comfortable in its ways. I didn't mean to. It is only in retrospect I realize I did. All I had in mind was to offer the best possible wines. I had learned the trick from another mentor, a man who had a wine store and for whom I had worked part-time and in tandem while working "Upstairs." To his credit, and even as we were now working in competition, he never begrudged the challenge. I think he knew I had learned strategy from a master.

I had three particular business coups working with wine distrubutors. Two of which were strokes of genius. Back at the "Upstairs" there was the gifted chef I mentioned who would start his own wine distributing company, and, a big and, he was licensed to import wines. The day he visited my store I am not sure he knew I worked there or that I was the store's wine buyer. Maybe he did. I well knew his talents, and his integrity, and his ability to find good wine maybe not so popular by name and so not as price inflated. The decision was immediate and intuitive: cultivate this man. I persuaded my manager of the decision who, by then, got I knew what I was talking about and got I wanted to bring the best wines to town and got a kick out of making money at the trade. And so I became one of the distributor's earliest buyers. I also became his biggest. Hell, he could get me upscale chamagnes equally as good as Dom Perignon, in a few instances better, and at half the cost. And he could get me cases of a vin de pays, just a common wine, far superior than the wines whose labels commanded a higher price. And I was smart enough to pass on the savings to my customers, one bottle at a time, one case at a time. One fun story. It would have been Nov., '83. Everyone knows that the 15th of Nov. is the traditional release date for Beaujolais Neauveu, the new year's beaujolais. At midnight trucks are rolling out of the commune for the Paris bars and for the Paris airports with cases of the wine. My man had put in an order. From reports he knew it was going to be a good year. He picked up enough cases at Dulles Airport to fill his station wagon, including the front seat, and he had the cases to my store in northern Virginia, some four hours away, by 2 PM...of the 15th of Nov. By golly it proved to be a good vintage. I think I ordered two more station wagon loads. This was the sort of thing we did. We covered the upscale. We covered the vin de pays too. He made money. The store made money. My customers got good wine affordably.

Second coup. I still don't know how I pulled this one off. There was an out of town distributor really looking to break into the town's lucrative market. The barrier they encountered amounted to the good old boy system. Local distributors, one in particular, had gentleman's agreements with retailers and restaurants. They supplied the wines at inflated prices. They were happy. The retailer was happy. The customer was forced, often enough, to buy a sorry example of a wine at an inflated price. So the proposition was this: give me all of your catalogues of what is available; I will order by the case; the inventory will keep in your warehouse and not at my store's expense; you carry the overhead; I will sell each and every bottle, bottle by bottle, case by case; you will realize a profit and get a name; I will realize a profit and get a name. They said yes. And it worked. Distributor made money. The store made money. And customers got to enjoy good wine affordably.

One last coup, not so much a matter of genius, more a matter of guts. One of the good ole boy distributors took a hatred towards me. My way of wine buying had disturbed their way of doing business. They were accustomed to flooding a retailer with stupid wine, wine generic, labelled, and expensive. They knew nothing about wine. They didn't care about the sensual stuff of wine on the tongue. I knew this because I had delivered wine for them. They didn't care about wine. They asked for and got a meeting with my store's corporate management. Specifically I was excluded. They wanted me fired. They got what I was doing. I was bringing people to good and affordable wine, wine better than they had, had the imagination for, and they couldn't make the paradigm shift.

I didn't get fired, which is kind of surprising. The distributor, Roberts & Sons, was pretty powerful in C'Ville in those years. I figure the corporation could have cared less about my passion for wine in those years. But my decisions were making it money. That they would have noted.

I'll continue.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/17/2010, 6:50 pm
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


I am having entirely too much fun with this tale of jobbing. But I know I was good. It wasn't just a matter of the business relationships with distributors and making money. It was really a matter of getting the best wines into town, at both ends of the scale, and getting it on to dinner tables. That was the grail. And I was dealing in imports, my first love.

This was one job where my scholastic penchant for studing absolutely paid off. I knew the lore specific to regions. I knew the technical stuff. I knew the taste of individual grape varietals. I knew the traditions particular to a wine's region. Something else worked in my favor. I knew that wine is integral to civilization itself, organically sewn into civilization. And so the cultivation of wine for me amounted to poetry. Something else worked to my benefit. How many salesmen can say they are in the business of selling pleasure, and a pleasure that is going to produce a sweet memory? Name me any other commodity that does the same.

I could spend 5 minutes with a customer and I could spend a half-hour with her or him. I could also crack open a bottle of wine and say, 'well, this is kind of illegal, but see what your taste buds have to think.' No hard sale was involved. Always a matter of figuring out the customer's proclevities. 'So what are you wanting in wine?'

I also conducted wine tastings. This was in the store's restaurant area up on the third floor. This soon became a draw for more restaurant business. Only, I didn't actually conduct tastings. I didn't make the mistake so many wine masters make by telling attendees what they SHOULD taste. The round table discussions were always open. Pretty much the wine tastings came down to palette education: here on the tongue you will touch the sweet, here you will touch the acidic, here on your nose you will get the aromatic, what kind of balance do you get and is it pleasing to you. And I would play games. I would put a cheaper wine from a region against a more expensive wine from the same region and let everyone decide for themselves which was the better made, better knitted wine. From time to time the tastings involved drops of wine aspects in glasses of water: sweetness, tartaric acid, the floral bouquet, even that sourness that comes from secondary fermentation which tells you the wine is going bad. (Anybody can get the kits.) I so loved those evenings. So much fun watching people come to terms with their own taste buds.

Then the badness set in. First the corporation wanted me to visit their other stores, to revampt, re-evaluate, re-stock. I got the grooming. It forced me to a decision I needed to make. Wine or poetry. While a man can have more than one part-time mistress, he cannot have two full-time mistresses. Wine or poetry.

I quit. I got the decision I had to make. I left both the job and I left C'ville for the last time. My then wife came with me and two of her daughters. We made for St. Augustine.

One last note. I was a wine seller, wheeling and dealing, for all of 12 months.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/17/2010, 10:04 pm
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