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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


One after-thought on trading in wine before moving on to jobbing in St. Augustine. I wasn't just dealing with distributers, importers, and retail customers. I dealt also with sommeliers, wine professionals, connosseurs, wine judges, and even a couple of vintners and growers. In my experience motivation can be categorized. There were the amateurs like myself, devotees for whom wine was truly a devotional. There were the professionals for whom wine was a way of life, both its cultivation and its production. There were the people fascinated by viticulure itself and who wanted to learn everything about it. There were the people for whom matching a good wine to a good dinner, good picnic, good plate of cheeses and crackers was a pleasure with its own end. Then there were the snobs.

I hated the snobs. Collectively they were the grinch stealing Christmas. Name only mattered to them. Chateau Lafite. Chateau Margaux. Chateau Latour. Clos de Vougouet. Eschezaux. Chateau D'Yquim. Dom Pergnion. La Grande Dame. Name-label recognition was all that mattered to them. And I got at last that fine wine was an ego possession for them, a possession that projected their own egos. They weren't in it for the experience. They were in it for the ego dominance the status of a name-label gained for them.

I have a pointed reason for pointing to the wine snob. Time and time again, and over the years, I've found his cousin, her cousin too, in poetry circles. The poetry snob and for whom his or her take amounts to nothing more than an ego possession, always without comprehension.

On a different note here is the classic Bourdeaux wine classification of 1855, only once modified since in 1973; no longer affordable really, which is a shame:

 http://www.cellarnotes.net/medoc_classification.htm

Chateau Margaux was my favorite. Named a Siamese cat after her.

And here is something about Borgogne:

http://www.terroir-france.com/wine/bourgogne.htm

Tere
Mar/18/2010, 7:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Terreson,

This one is missing anecdotal material, which I suspect would be brought in on the revision. I'd like to know the reactions of the man you helped break past the good ol' boy network. I'd like to see the body language, or the smile, maybe the restraint, if that's what it was. Also, I would love to hear the comments, to see the body language of the man who grew to hate you. It's missing from the piece. Hatred can have its own personification, can become incarnate in the car the man drives, or in how his subordinates treat you. I'm missing that here. Other than that, it's fine writing & I'm still catching up. I'm working on my taxes. Zak

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Terreson wrote:

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



Mar/19/2010, 5:31 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Jobbing: a collective chronicle


Zakman, as always, your comments and time are appreciated. What you say about the post lacking in the anecdotal material is probably true of the whole series. Were I to develop the set I might consider adding personal stories. But my theme has little to do with adding flesh and fat to the bone. It is a chronicle of jobbing. I am looking to document the ways one poet has found to buy writing and reading time while having turned the jobbing necessity into a series of, more or less, picaresque adventures. That's what I am after.

Thanks again.

Tere
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Feb. '84. I finally and for the last time quit C'ville, some 12 years after first stepping foot into the town. The reasons were several. My mother had less than two years to live and I needed to be closer to the moment, back home in FL. I also thought a change in venues might save a marriage. And then there was something slightly queasy to reckon with. In less than 3 years the circle of artists, professionals, restauranteurs, and pleasure seekers in which I ran had seen three suicides. Snagglepuss I've mentioned. Then there was the lawyer, a friend of my wife's and who enjoyed the company of artists, who, one morning, got up, showered, shaved, dressed as impeccably as he always dressed, sat on the side of his bed and put a pistol to his head. Finally there was the restaurant owner, a darling of the carriage crowd, the county's landed gentry. One pre-dawn he drove his sports car up into the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the sunrise he drove his car into the sun and over a cliff. My wife of those years was kind of enamoured with death. Her favorite movie was "Elvira Madigan." I thought that maybe if we could get out of town she would want something different. It is the truth, E.

St. Augustine, FL. I've loved the town since I was three feet tall. The Inlet, the Matanzas river, the sea wall, the Bridge of Lions, the Castille, the Old Town, a smaller version of N.O.'s French Quarter.

It took me six months to land a job with a restaurant not only the best in town, but a top ten restaurant in the state. I wrote the owner a letter saying my desire to work for him. At first he and his family thought I was crazy. Gradually, and over many months time, my letter won me the job. But in the meantime there were people to feed, expenses to see to, and child support. I don't remember doing much reading or writing in those months.

I spent hours, sometimes 14 straight, fishing in the surf. Shark, red drum, black drum, catfish, flounder, skate. I taught myself how to castnet for mullet. I got a job down at the docks with a shrimper from South Carolina. His contract with the U.S. government was to drill out the concrete in shrimping boats used as ballast by marijuana smugglers and whose boats had been confiscated, then auctioned off. Using a pneumatic drill without putting holes in a shrimpboat was fun. What was not fun was walking chunks of concrete up the deck at low tide.

The job led to another job on the docks. I worked for a Greek family who dry docked and repaired shrimpboat hulls, which was mostly a matter of caulking the seems. The family's patriarch was a crazy man. He was known to throw bricks and blocks at his employees with whom he was displeased. I remember that boatyard. I remember cleaning it up, just another augean stable.

I did a job in those months. I did what I had to do to put food on the table.

Tere
Mar/19/2010, 8:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Mazybe Zak is right. Maybe it is time to put a little flesh on the bones.

In a novel written while working there I called the restaurant the Jacaranda. The name remains. It was housed in a Victorean era two storey home. Prior to getting purchased by a family of four from Britain it had been a restaurant whose specialty was southern cuisine. The family would serve up continental cuisine. They took the old building, completely refurbished it, planted a semi-formal garden covering the front yard and one side yard. The establishment was welcoming and comfortable. Dining was relaxed even if service was formal. Before settling in north Florida the family had sailed the Atlantic alone, starting from somewhere in the Mediteranean. My memories of the three years employed there are all good.

I became a friend of the family, the daughter and I became close friends. I'll call her L. The father respected me, mostly I think because I was good at what I did and perhaps because my world views were more than what I think of as American parochial. That is to say, not so insular. The day I announced I wanted to tend bar instead of waiting on tables the mother spontaneously said in front of the staff they were losing their best waiter. The son and I became friends as well, if not as closely.

I started in a July and I hadn't worked a restaurant in 2 1/2 years. I remember Labor Day of '84 perfectly. Service was by reservation mostly, but not entirely. Waiters, we were all men, mostly young men and college students, were assigned stations with no more than five tables. I was well in my thirties by then. That night, it might have been a Sunday, was extremely busy. I think we could serve two hundred diners, downstairs and up. But we also had service in the garden. I was the low man on the totem pole that week. In the rotation system we had for who got the best stations I was last. The number thirteen comes to mind. This meant I was in the garden. It also meant I got all the walk-ins, customers who hadn't made reservations. They were legion. I don't know how many tables I served simultaneously, maybe as many as ten. And I can't remember how many seatings there were, maybe three. There is a secret to table service I discovered that night. When you can no longer control the traffic flow, and when you can no longer keep sorted in your head the exact position of each party as you move them from the appetizer course to entree to the cheese course to desserts, you think like a shotgun and you're the pellets spreading out in all directions at the same time. You see to all parties simultaneously, you focus on one moment at a time, you absolutely do not think how overwhelming the whole of the picture is, and you hope like hell you are keeping up with the evening's progression. Mind you I was new to the restaurant, having been there less than two months. The family did not know me yet. At the end of the evening the father stopped me in the main hall, called me by my name, and in that perfectly British British accent of his, said, "We are very impressed with you." Without kmowing it or even aware of what I had done I had proved, as much to myself as to anyone else, I was in full possession of the server's skills.

Speaking of serving, a digression comes to mind. My restaurant years taught me how to be a professional server. The mechanics of which are easy to learn, as are the techniques. What is more, however, is the attitude. Courteousness, civility, punctuality, attention, and the big thing: dignity. You do not respond to the passes from the ladies. And you do not scrape and bow for a gratuity. At all costs you make sure you end out the night able to return home with your dignity. In a sense you become a man's man, just like Lord Peter Whimsy's Bunter. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you are 6' 2". One night comes to mind. Cocaine was big in north Florida in those years. Dealers were plentiful. I had one party of six or so. From how he constantly chewed the inside of his lip I knew the party's host was in to coke. When the dinner was finished, bill paid, he pointedly extended his hand with my tip. When I reached for it and was about to thank him, he opened his palm and let the C note drop to the floor. I wished the party a goodnight and returned to the kitchen. My only regret is that I couldn't have watched him pick the bill up off the floor. With dignity. That is the mark of a professional server. And it teaches you an even bigger lesson. There is dignity in serving people, men and women.

Remembering nights at random here. They say Mother's Day is a restaurant's busiest day. The day was never much fun to work. It wasn't because of the volume of business. It was because rarely were parties having fun. The mother was not impressed by the obligatory honor shown her. And the father tended to slouch in and out as if he had a guilty conscience. Nobody really wanted to be there. Everybody got the vacuity of the gesture. I remember one outstanding exception to the rule. It was a party of three women: grandmother, daughter, grand-daughter. They were damn near giddy for the entire meal. The chamagne didn't hurt. They were laughing, smiling, talking non-stop, and I like to think they were gossipping. 25 years later and I remember their faces, the table where they sat, and the window alcove. Best Mother's Day party I ever served. And I had to be careful not to hover.

Another Saturday night comes to mind. My station that night was upstairs. We were packed. I had a party of two, a woman and a one armed man. And I was hard pressed to see to the needs of all my parties. We had a standing joke. The upstairs didn't need a dumbwaiter. We were the dumb waiters. By stairs and by hand we brought food up from the kitchen. The couple orders steak. It was either filet mignon or tourandos (tenderloins). I served them their entree and, as I always did, said bon apetite. Then I ran off without running to my other parties. Passing by their table a few minutes later, the woman stops me and says I forgot to give them steak knives. I was so busy I had no choice but to BS my way through the moment. I leaned over and said, "Madam, if you need a steak knife our kitchen has not done its job." When they left that night they commended me to the owners standing at the front door. They said they had never had better service. They would ask for me with every subsequent visit. I didn't know the one armed man was a former rodeo star, a millionaire land developer, and some kind of advisor to the governor. But I had been right. They hadn't needed a serrated steak knife.

Now to satisfy Zak's earlier question. After a year I became a bartender. First, an alternate, then the head bartender who sometimes doubled as a sommalier, advising and suggesting wines to parties in the dining room. The waiters regularly asked me to help out. I said early on there came a time in those years when I needed to put a barricade between me and the public. A good and heavy mahogany or oak bar suited me just fine. Table service is exhausting. It is emotionally draining. Ask any server and see if they don't agree. You are always "on." You are always keyed. As tightly wound as a coiled spring. You are always attentive to the needs of your patrons. And then there is this. With every man you, and again, have to be the perfect servant. With every woman too. Nor are you allowed to ever register that, as often as not, the ladies are looking you up and down. The hunger in their eyes kind of gets to you after awhile. Especially that of middle-aged married women. Everything combined and you go home late at night exhausted, drained, and for reasons you can't account for at the moment. But there was another reason why I needed that barricade a year after starting at the Jacaranda.

The family was very good to me and they would in a way take me in. I mentioned that one reason I had for returning to FL is that my mother was dying. I also mentioned that I had thought to save a marriage. Aug of '85 a parent was dead from a brain tumor. Two weeks later the divorce was finalized following the separation in the spring. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Every poet, at least of a certain stamp, must periodically check in to Hotel Hell. There is no choice in the matter. Like St Ringo said: "You got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and you know it don't come easy." So far I've checked in three times. That year was my second stay. This family of four for whom I worked, for whom I was an employee, took me in. I never got around to thanking them at the time. The British can be so phlegmatic. It is a national trait. Or maybe it is genetic. But for the way they can have for showing kindness without bringing undue attention to the act(s) they are unmatched. The family treated me well, both on the job and in their homes. They saw me through a bad time. Jobbing. Funny what can come of jobbing.

I've said that L. and I became close friends. By the Goddess she was handsome on the eyes. Blonde, tallish, sturdy. She was almost like a Celtic throw-back, a warrior woman. On her right bicep, even, she wore a gold torque. It might have been a snake. I don't think she knew what I knew about the significance of that arm band. I think it was just instinctive. And what a sense of humor! The family decided to apply for citizenship. They were each very intelligent and knew the value of studying. L. was intelligent but couldn't be bothered with studying. When the examination was administered there came the question: who is the most famous American? They all, except for L., gave the right answer. George Washington. L. thought for a moment, didn't know the answer, and audaciously said, Lee Iacocca. The examiner later said he would grant them citizenship. And to L. because America needed her sense of humor.

Another night we were closing up and locking the doors. Then we had to set the alarm within a matter of seconds. L. had forgotten something and needed to run upstairs. Maybe it was the nightly deposit. Coming back downstairs she needed to reset the alarm before the signal went to the police department, telling them an intruder was present. But she couldn't remember the code. She yelled at me, "Give me a war! Give me a war!" I had to think like her father right then and quickly. And so I said, "1814." It was the right code, but maybe two seconds too late. The police were on the scene and she explained the moment away.

When she was upstairs in the office justifying the books and preparing the deposit I would be downstairs cleaning up the bar and lounge and guarding the doors. When she would come down I would pour her a snifter of Cognac and myself a glass of Irish whiskey. Sometimes I would break stride and go for Hemmingway's favorite brandy, Calvados, an apple brandy made in Normandy as I recall. We would talk and unwind for an hour or so. She was married by then and not happy. She would talk about stuff. Her marriage, her past, her legion of lovers. She was interested in me or maybe just curious. I was smitten with her. But she was my manager and, besides, I was in no position to get involved with anyone. And so we became good friends. She never pried or asked untoward questions. But when I was talking or telling a story, and for one of the few times in my life, I knew L. was listening. I swear to the screen there is nothing compares with a real friendship with a woman and for whom you as a man are not the potential enemy.

There is one L. story that has to be told. In the after-hours waiters would congregate in the lounge. They would have a beer on the house. They were waiting for the family to figure out the gratuities that were owed them and brought into them. Kitchen staff would come in as well after they had cleaned up. It could be a busy late night lounge serving employees while I was also cleaning the bar. For awhile we had a waiter. He was a thick set guy, burly, muscular, a deep sea fisherman, a follower of Hemingway, and like everyone else he knew I was a writer. He was always wanting to talk writer stuff. One night in the hall and close to the host station he passed by me and bumped me with his hip. Only it wasn't a bump. It was like getting kissed by an 18 wheeler. I knew the signal. I knew he was gay. And I knew he had taken a shining to me. So I had told L. what I figured. She didn't quite believe me. The man was just that masculine. After a brief while he quit. Then one night he comes in with friends. Later in the night, as we were closing up, he came into the lounge. He came behind the bar. He was drunk. He was pressing my personal space hard. By then the whole room of fellow employees and the family were watching. So I knew I had to be polite. After a few minutes I said: "Out of my space." He left the premises. The room is dead quiet. Then from the far corner I hear L.s voice. A manager, with all employees present, on a Saturday night, and one of the owners. In a voice that has the strength of an opera singer she says: "My God, T. He really does want your ass. Well I get it first." True story. My imagination is not rich enough to make this stuff up.

After three years I quit the Jacaranda. The reasons as always were complicated. Mother dead. The north FL of '87 was not my old Florida anymore. Ex-wife had taken to shadowing me. And the family was pressing me to become more involved in the business. They wanted me to become a manager. Twice in a year the patriarch offered me the position. The second time I knew I had to quit. Always the same choice. Poetry/experience or financial security. Besides, I was way too restless.

I miss that family, remember them fondly. I miss the Jacaranda, miss the streets of St. Augustine of those years. The month I left FL for the Pacific Northwest a bookstore owner who I said goobye to said something like, "You need to get out of here. This environment is not right for you anymore. You'll be happier where you are going." I had decided to move to the Pacific Northwest where I had family. Also, it was a way of putting 3,000 miles between me and a certain lady. But the book dealer was right. In the end St. Augustine was just another tourist town like Daytona.

Just a tale of jobbing.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/21/2010, 1:37 pm
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One more Jacaranda story. This one is about the saddest man I've ever known. Earlier I said Snagglepus was the second saddest. Sean would become L.'s lover and a manager of the Jacaranda restaurant. As I recall he would become party to the restaurant's dissing of my rep when I quit.

Sean was a New Yorker coming down to FL, looking for redemption, as so many Northeasterners do. He had been a prostitute working both genders. When I met him I couldn't make sense of his face. Not until he told me his story.

His wealthy lover's name had been something like Guido or maybe it was Juliani. Sean also has a girlfriend. He never told me her name. One night his male lover's strong men broke through his apartment's door, threw the girl out the window, cut the pretty man's face into ribbons. The girl would die of head injuries. Sean would survive and never be the same boy again.

I remember him telling me a Catholic bishop first f**ked him as a teenager. I remember him telling me of the horse set that thought him pretty. I remember L. telling me about the vomit she threw on the side of the road the day she learned her former lover had AIDS.

Sean and I worked the bar and lounge together for awhile. We tried to become friends. But I think he was jealous of my friendship with the family, consequently, competitive. And I remember he would go off for days at a time. Never knew why or where to. Such a haunted man he was.

Just jobbing, right?

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/21/2010, 1:16 pm
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Terreson,
I probably didn't explain myself well in my last posting. But here in this piece you included the type of material I felt was missing for a while. The coke dealer dropping the C note was excellent: it showed the price of dignity. The three women who enjoyed themselves - I wasn't sure if they were part of the moody party or not; but contrast worked. The Hemingway character who turned out to be gay, those are just a few of the anecdotal inclusions that make the piece work very well. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Mazybe Zak is right. Maybe it is time to put a little flesh on the bones.

In a novel written while working there I called the restaurant the Jacaranda. The name remains. It was housed in a Victorean era two storey home. Prior to getting purchased by a family of four from Britain it had been a restaurant whose specialty was southern cuisine. The family would serve up continental cuisine. They took the old building, completely refurbished, planted a semi-formal garden covering the front yard and one side yard. The establishment was welcoming and comfortable. Dining was relaxed even if service was formal. Before settling in north Florida the family had sailed the Atlantic alone, starting from somewhere in the Mediteranean. My memories of the three years employed there are all good.

I became a friend of the family, the daughter and I became close friends. I'll call her L. The father respected me, mostly I think because I was good at what I did and perhaps because my world views were more than what I think of as American parochial. That is to say, not so insular. The day I announced I wanted to tend bar instead of waiting on tables the mother spontaneously said in front of the staff they were losing their best waiter. The son and I became friends as well, if not as closely.

I started in a July and I hadn't worked a restaurant in 2 1/2 years. I remember Labor Day of '84 perfectly. Service was by reservation mostly, but not entirely. Waiters, we were all men, mostly young men and college students, were assigned stations with no more than five tables. I was well in my thirties by then. That night, it might have been a Sunday, was extremely busy. I think we could serve two hundred diners, downstairs and up. But we also had service in the garden. I was the low man on the totem pole that week. In the rotation system we had for who got the best stations I was last. The number thirteen comes to mind. This meant I was in the garden. It also meant I got all the walk-ins, customers who hadn't made reservations. They were legion. I don't know how many tables I served simultaneously, maybe as many as ten. And I can't remember how many seatings there were, maybe three. There is a secret to table service I discovered that night. When you can no longer control the traffic flow, and when you can no longer keep sorted in your head the exact position of each party as you move them from the appetizer course to entree to the cheese course to desserts, you think like a shotgun and you're the pellets spreading out in all directions at the same time. You see to all parties simultaneously, you focus on one moment at a time, you absolutely do not think how overwhelmed the whole of the picture is, and you hope like hell you are keeping up with the evening's progression. Mind you I was new to the restaurant, having been there less than two months. The family did not know me yet. At the end of the evening the father stopped me in the main hall, called me by my name, and in that perfectly British British accent of his, said, "We are very impressed with you." Without kmowing it or even aware of what I had done I had proved, as much to myself as anyone else, I was in full possession of the server's skills.

Speaking of serving, a digression comes to mind. My restaurant years taught me how to be a professional server. The mechanics of which are easy to learn, as are the techniques. What is more, however, is the attitude. Courteousness, civility, punctuality, attention, and the big thing: disgnity. You do not respond to the passes from the ladies. And you do not scrape and bow for a gratuity. At all costs you make sure you end out the night able to return home with your dignity. In a sense you become a man's man, just like Lord Peter Whimsy's Bunter. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you are 6' 2". One night comes to mind. Cocaine was big in north Florida in those years. Dealers were plentiful. I had one party of six or so. From how he constantly chewed the inside of his lip I knew the party's host was in to coke. When the dinner was finished, bill paid, he pointedly extended his hand with my tip. When I reached for it and was about to thank him, he opened his palm and let the C note drop to the floor. I wished the party a goodnight and returned to the kitchen. My only regret is that I couldn't have watched him pick the bill off the floor. With dignity. That is the mark of a professional server. And it teaches you an even bigger lesson. There is dignity in serving people, men and women.

Remembering nights at random here. They say Mother's Day is a restaurant's busiest day. The day was never much fun to work. It wasn't because of the volume of business. It was because rarely were parties having fun. The mother was not impressed by the obligatory honor shown her. And the father tended to slouch in and out as if he had a guilty conscience. Nobody really wanted to be there. Everybody got the vacuity of the gesture. I remember one outstanding exception to the rule. It was a party of three women: grandmother, daughter, grand-daughter. They were damn near giddy for the entire meal. The chamagne didn't hurt. They were laughing, smiling, talking non-stop, and I like to think they were gossipping. 25 years later and I remember their faces, the table where they sat, and the window alcove. Best Mother's Day party I ever served. And I had to be careful not to hover.

Another Saturday night comes to mind. My station that night was upstairs. We were packed. I had a party of two, a woman and a one armed man. And I was hard pressed to see to the needs of all my parties. We had a standing joke. The upstairs didn't need a dumbwaiter. We were the dumb waiters. By stairs and by hand we brought food up from the kitchen. The couple orders steak. It was either filet mignon or tourandos (tenderloins). I served them their entree and, as I always did, said bon apetite. Then I ran off without running to my other parties. Passing by their table a few minutes later, the woman stops me and says I forgot to give them steak knives. I was so busy I had no choice but to BS my way through the moment. I leaned over and said, "Madam, if you need a steak knife our kitchen has not done its job." When they left that night they commended me to the owners standing at the front door. They said they had never had better service. They would ask for me with every subsequent visit. I didn't know the one armed man was a former rodeo star, a millionaire land developer, and some kind of advisor to the governor. But I had been right. They hadn't needed a serrated steak knife.

Now to satisfy Zak's earlier question. After a year I became a bartender. First, an alternate, then the head bartender who sometimes doubled as a sommalier, advising and suggesting wines to parties in the dining room. The waiters regularly asked me to help out. I said early on there came a time in those years when I needed to put a barricade between me and the public. A good and heavy mahogany or oak bar suited me just fine. Table service is exhausting. It is emotionally draining. Ask any server and see if they don't agree. You are always "on." You are always keyed. As tightly wound as a coiled spring. You are always attentive to the needs of your patrons. And then there is this. With every man you, and again, have to be the perfect servant. With every woman too. Nor are you allowed to ever register that, as often as not, the ladies are looking you up and down. The hunger in their eyes kind of get to you after awhile. Especially that of middle-aged married women. Everything combined and you go home late at night exhausted, drained, and for reasons you can't account for at the moment. But there was another reason why I needed that barricade a year after starting at the Jacaranda.

The family was very good to me and they would in a way take me in. I mentioned that one reason I had for returning to FL is that my mother was dying. I also mentioned that I had thought to save a marriage. Aug of '85 a parent was dead from a brain tumor. Two weeks later the divorce was finalized following the separation in the spring. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Every poet, at least of a certain stamp, must periodically check in to Hotel Hell. There is no choice in the matter. Like St Ringo said: "You got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues and you know it don't come easy." So far I've checked in three times. That year was my second stay. This family of four for whom I worked, for whom I was an employee, took me in. I never got around to thanking them at the time. The British can be so phlegmatic. It is a national trait. Or maybe it is genetic. But for the way they can have for showing kindness without bringing undue attention to the act(s) they are unmatched. The family treated me well, both on the job and in their homes. They saw me through a bad time. Jobbing. Funny what can come of jobbing.

I've said that L. and I became close friends. By the Goddess she was handsome on the eyes. Blonde, tallish, sturdy. She was almost like a Celtic throw-back, a warrior woman. On her right bicep, even, she wore a gold torque. It might have been a snake. I don't think she knew what I knew about the significance of that arm band. I think it was just instinctive. And what a sense of humor! The family decided to apply for citizenship. They were each very intelligent and knew the value of studying. L. was intelligent but couldn't be bothered with studying. When the examination was administered there came the question: who is the most famous American? They all, except for L., gave the right answer. George Washington. L. thought for a moment, didn't know the answer, and audaciously said, Lee Iacocca. The examiner later said he would grant them citizenship. And to L. because America needed her sense of humor.

Another night we were closing up and locking the doors. Then we had to set the alarm within a matter of seconds. L. had forgotten something and needed to run upstairs. Maybe it was the nightly deposit. Coming back downstairs she needed to reset the alarm before the signal went to the police department, telling them an intruder was present. But she couldn't remember the code. She yelled at me, "Give me a war! Give me a war!" I had to think like her father right then and quickly. And so I said, "1814." It was the right code, but maybe two seconds too late. The police were on the scene and she explained the moment away.

When she was upstairs in the office justifying the books and preparing the deposit I would be downstairs cleaning up the bar and lounge and guarding the doors. When she would come down I would pour her a snifter of Cognac and myself a glass of Irish whiskey. Sometimes I would break stride and go for Hemmingway's favorite brandy, Calvados, an apple brandy made in Normandy as I recall. We would talk and unwind for an hour or so. She was married by then and not happy. She would talk about stuff. Her marriage, her past, her legion of lovers. She was interested in me or maybe just curious. I was smitten with her. But she was my manager and, besides, I was in no position to get involved with anyone. And so we became good friends. She never pried or asked untoward questions. But when I was talking or telling a story, and for one of the few times in my life, I knew L. was listening. I swear to the screen there is nothing compares with a real friendship with a woman and for whom you as a man are not the potential enemy.

There is one L. story that has to be told. In the after-hours waiters would congregate in the lounge. They would have a beer on the house. They were waiting for the family to figure out the gratuities that were owed them and brought into them. Kitchen staff would come in as well after they had cleaned up. It could be a busy late night lounge serving employees while I was also cleaning the bar. For awhile we had a waiter. He was a thick set guy, burly, muscular, a deep sea fisherman, a follower of Hemingway, and like everyone else he knew I was a writer. He was always wanting to talk writer stuff. One night in the hall and close to the host station he passed by me and bumped me with his hip. Only it wasn't a bump. It was like getting kissed by an 18 wheeler. I knew the signal. I knew he was gay. And I knew he had taken a shining to me. So I had told L. what I figured. She didn't quite believe me. The man was just that masculine. After a brief while he quit. Then one night he comes in with friends. Later in the night, as we were closing up, he came into the lounge. He came behind the bar. He was drunk. He was pressing my personal space hard. By then the whole room of fellow employees and the family were watching. So I knew I had to be polite. After a few minutes I said: "Out of my space." He left the premises. The room is dead quiet. Then from the far corner I hear L.s voice. A manager, with all employees present, on a Saturday night, and one of the owners. In a voice that has the strength of an opera singer she says: "My God, T. He really does want your ass. Well I get it first." True story. My imagination is not rich enough to make this stuff up.

After three years I quit the Jacaranda. The reasons as always were complicated. Mother dead. The north FL of '87 was not my old Florida anymore. Ex-wife had taken to shadowing me. And the family was pressing me to become more involved in the business. They wanted me to become a manager. Twice in a year the patriarch offered me the position. The second time I knew I had to quit. Always the same choice. Poetry/experience or financial security. Besides, I was way too restless.

I miss that family, remember them fondly. I miss the Jacaranda, miss the streets of St. Augustine of those years. The month I left FL for the Pacific Northwest a bookstore owner who I said goobye to said something like, "You need to get out of here. This environment is not right for you anymore."

Just a tale of jobbing.

Tere



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Zakman, I got what you meant. Point taken. I just need to strike the right balance between too much and too little.

Tere
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Okay. Here is a bit of a segue. I left FL in late Sep. '87. I was gainfully employed again by the middle of Nov., tending bar in Olympia WA. Greyhound had a sweet deal that year. Go anywhere in the U.S. for $50. So I bought two tickets. One for VA where I spent time with my daughter and paid several months child support in advance. And one for Pasco WA where another older sister lived with her family. (As an aside a man is a lucky man who is graced with two older sisters.)

It was three non-stop days from C'ville to Pasco. And I did something not knowing why. I made notes of the journey. It was the third time crossing the country on the road, from ocean to ocean almost. And this time I kept a record, mostly of impressions involving people observed in busses and in stations and of landscape. Almost exactly a year later the poem came. About 17 pages long. The notes proved essential for bringing back details. I posted it here for awhile. But a former member complained of the poem's length so I took it down. To date it is probably my most ambitious poem. And it tells a tale both in now time and deep time, drawing additionally on all the American places I had lived in up to then, from the Northeast to the Gulf. But that is a different story.

In Pasco WA. My port of entry. In eastern WA's Columbia Basin. My sister said after the month I stayed with her and her family she never saw a man stretch a $50 bill the way I could. It is true. But of course she helped. She was the director of a retirement home. She didn't last in the job long. The business was a for-profit operation. For my sister residents came before an accountant gets to the bottom line. But she gave me a job painting walls in the retirment home's halls and in the common rooms. Every night I would go in and paint for about six hours. Not much to report on really. Except maybe to say from time to time when between jobs I've painted walls and houses and businesses. Don't much care for the work. I had an uncle long since deceased. He too would sometimes work as a painter. But his specialty was marrying wealthy women. Three that I can remember. He was a good looking man, tall and slender and with a come-hither kind of face. I remember my sister's advise that month. She said: "Why don't you just follow Uncle Ward's example and marry a rich woman. You have the looks for it." I was mildly shocked that my older sister would suggest as much, she who I have always looked up to, adored, respected. But she has always been a practical woman.

There is one story I can tell about the senior citizen home. Many of the residents were bed-ridden. And I could see them through the open doors leading into their rooms. There was one scene particularly poignant and that I used in a later novel. The old woman on the bed rarely moved and she had tubes in her arms. I could barely see her lying on her bed. Old, gray haired, petite. On her door was pinned an old, old photograph of a young girl, a jeunne fille, sitting primly, back straight, and with a violin held upright in her lap. The photo had to have been 60 years old at least. And the girl was a pretty girl with long chestnut brown hair. And at the bottom of the photograph the caption read this: "Love, Elizabeth." Love, Elizabeth. Love, Elizabeth. It was enough to make me fall in love with the old woman inside the room with tubes in her arms. I so wanted to push back time for her to a time before I was born.

That month I discovered I don't do well in old folk homes. I had already discovered I don't do well in hospitals. Adding to the list I've discovered I don't do well in doctors' offices either. When I go in for a check up the nurse always has to take my blood pressure twice. It all speaks to a quarrel I have, have always had, with death. A quarrel I inherited from a parent. This isn't about jobbing, but it is about life. When my mother was on her death bed, and between brain tumor induced seizures, once in a lucid moment she said: "Anyone who says death is preferable to life is full of !@#$."

With cash in hand I travelled to Olympia, WA. where my oldest brother lived. We had been estranged for almost twent years but he offered me a room in his home. I took it because I took to Olympia immediately. The environment was right for what I wanted. I wanted a vast, really vast garden, which pretty much describes western WA. Funny thing about estrangements. Since that month the man has been my best friend.

One morning early on I asked him what is the best restaurant in town. He thought for a moment and said "Carnegie's." I walked down to the restaurant, applied for a bartending job, they took my application, got told that no job was available. A week later I got a phone call and was offered a part-time position working three nights a week. I took it. It was a foot in the door.

Next entry will flesh out the time worked at Carnegie's Restaurant. For now, has anyone else reading remarked to themselves upon the timing of these tales of jobbing? National unemployment is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. Subconsciously maybe that is what incites these stories of jobbing and sometimes scraping the bottom. Officially unemployment is somewhere in the neighborhood of 10%. Really it is somewhere in the neighborhood of 17%. For African-Americans the rate is something like 28%. For a poet who long ago decided on voluntary poverty in order to write I have been god damn lucky. In this year of somebody's Lord, 2010 A.D., I feel lucky enough to have a good paying job I feel guilty. The jobless rate is never far from my mind these days. I've seen enough to know how it can beat a man down on the streets, smash a woman's dreams for her children. It all weighs, heavy on the shoulders.

But if I think about it too much I get angry. At technocrats, politicians, and money managers who insist their profit margins are essential to national security, whatever the f**k for the jobless that is. Having a job right now isn't a matter of having a skill, or knowing anything about anything. It is a matter of dumb luck. And I challenge anyone conceited enough, self-satisfied enough, rich enough to prove otherwise. It is times like these when I disrespect the rich the most. They never give back enough and they never will. Their charities and their foundations have never impressed me and they never will. Do the math. What is 10% of a population of 300 million Americans? The man's a fool, the woman too self-involved, who think they've earned by their talents job security. Dumb luck is all it is.

Well, even Kenneth Rexroth started his career out standing on a soap box in the streets of Chicago. Now I'll go back being a teller of tales.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/22/2010, 6:43 pm
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Hi Tere,

I have finally caught up reading these jobbing tales. I'm glad you have decided to expand them a bit. I love the character sketches (and what a cast of characters they are), which you capture in a few brief but telling strokes. Love, too, the asides that reveal so much and the emotional range, from the humorous to the tragic, the entries speak to. I've been thinking these jobbing entries could be grouped under the heading: "Things I've done and people I've met along the way." You definitely have the storyteller's gift, my friend.

Last edited by Katlin, Mar/22/2010, 10:14 am
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Thanks much, Katfriend. I guess the big Zak gives good advise. Maybe I was too afraid of boring people. Or maybe, Oh My God!, I was trying to kill off the author.

You know? It comes to me late in the game that maybe I do have at least something of the knack for telling stories. Maybe things would have been different had I recognized as much some 25 years ago. I get the reaction of people to my stories, both here and, say, at someone's house who has asked me to sing for my dinner, and I am always surprised when someone wants more. (I have such a horror of being boring, never actually knowing if what I tell about is interesting to anyone other than me.) One Christmas dinner night with friends I read from a story. I figured I was pressing my luck as it was more than a few pages long. Delivery was kept crisp and punctuated. Afterwards I stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. The host was hot on my heels. Outside he spoke excitedly about the tale. And he wanted to know why it wasn't published? I said something like, 'getting past the gate keepers has proved difficult.' But that is not the whole truth. And I still don't understand my reluctance to submit material to publishers, even as I know I really despise the word, submit.

At work there is a standing joke about me and certainly deserved. When something happens it often brings to mind a story of something I've experienced or observed or witnessed. I'll tell the tale. By now, someone might say, 'So, T, are you reminded of a story?' Anyway, I've said before that, at their barest, all novelists are just gossips.

I think ya'll might enjoy the tale of the Carnegie Restaurant years.

Tere
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I am in to spring by 4 days. The season is upon me for making queens, making colonies, and running tests. The winter was unusually cold and wet, what has damped down on colony development. But now queens will be working over-time, 24 hours a day, looking to brood up. I'll have to be especially attentive for the next two months, making sure all colonies have space and right configurations of brood to space to honey stores. I now have to proceed more slowly, incrementally, with these jobbing tales, especially on work nights.

If the Wiki information is correct, between 1883 and 1929 Andrew Carnegie funded the building of 2,509 libraries. The article says he rarely denied a funding request. His money made possible libraries from Scotland to the U.S. to Jamaica to Australia and New Zealand. In Olympia WA a public library was funded by him and built in either 1914 or 1916. Here is a link showing the building as it stands today:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Olympia_Public_Library.jpg

Pretty imposing. It is on the National Register of historically important buildings. By the early eighties the county's library system had outgrown the space. And so Olympia got itself a new library with more space. A really drab building. Bauhaus drab. I rarely visited the new library. It was that depressing.

But an entrepeneur bought the old public library and turned it into a restaurant. A sub-basement turned into a kitchen and commisary for supplies and office space. A basement turned into banquet rooms. A main floor, to the left of which the photo points to the cocktail lounge and bar, to the right of which was the dining room. And a loft. A room above it all. In that room we could serve state legislators and special interest group lobbyists who did not want conversations overheard. Here I should say that Carnegie's Restuarant in the late eighties was at the foot of the state's capitol hill. It was the watering hole, so to speak, for lobbyists, state bureaucrats, and more than a few legislators.

I think I've set out parameters enough for tonight.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/23/2010, 10:13 pm
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Well you're holding my attention, Tere. Can't wait to read this next series.

Chris
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What Chris said. BTW, thanks for linking to the photo; seeing the space helps to set the scene.
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I not only started out part-time at Carnegie's, I got the least desirable, not so lucrative shifts. But you start where you start a job, and only once, managing the small restaurant in R.I., have I ever started out at the top. Always begun at the bottom of the food chain. In this, however, my skills and accumulated knowledge soon worked to my benefit. I knew haute cuisine, wine, spirits, and my service was impeccable, both in manner and timing. In no time I was lead bartender, a sometime manager, and was asked more than once to work in catering to the wealthy set.

Just as at the Jacaranda I always enjoyed walking through the front door. Space had been divided up invitingly, proportionately enough so that you could imagine library space. Windows were high, letting in what little light is ever avaliable in the Pacific Northwest's gray. The floors were the original wood floors, made out of old growth western red cedar, a tree which actually belongs to the cypress family. And the lighting was original too with hanging globes of frosted glass. You felt like you were in a library and there were ghosts of books hanging around. For a lover of books such as myself, going back to the bookstore days, it was a friendly feeling. I said above that the restaurant was a watering holes for state government types, lobbyists, state workers, legislators. What I didn't say is that in Olympia there were two such watering holes. One for Democrats and one for Republicans. I think there is poetry in this. The Republicans congregated in a lounge attached to a Best Western type motel, a perfectly generic looking motel I would stay in regularly some years later, working a different job. The Demos? Carnegie's Restaurant. I always wondered what the principal owner thought about that as I am pretty sure he was a Republican. Probably he thought: business is busines so long as money is changing hands.

How many servers did I serve? Two cocktail waitresses worked the lounge that, at capacity on a Firday night, could accomodate maybe 75 customers. I also had my own clientelle of people sitting at the bar. In the 80's people certainly knew how to hammer a drink down, the lobbyists especially. Main floor dining room could accomodate about the same number of people comfortably served by maybe 10 waiters and waitresses. Friday nights grew into much fun during legislative sessions especially, the spring months. So, starting in Nov. I had several months of easing into the job before the spring legislative session of '88 when my bartending skills got seriously tested.

Those months of late '87 and early '88 I remember clearly. Tend to your customers, get your tips, draw on your salary, walk the streets, hike the forests, get back to your one room studio apartment, sit at your desk, make poetry and revise the older stuff.

Then all hell broke loose. I've decided that no poet is or should be allowed the comfort of a comfortable lifeway.

Tere
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A damn hard bee keeping day. I may have broken left foot's big toe yesterday at the joint. But the day's work load was too great to stay home. Marking newly emerged bees, introducing them into an inoculation colony, the week's graft (queen making), and a miscellany of other tasks. I made it half way through the day before accepting my boss's offer to do the yard (grunt) work. I hated having to call "uncle." But I found other work not requiring standing and walking. It's all just jobbing, right?

I made friends at Carnegie's. For much of the staff, mostly ten to fifteen years my junior, I guess I was like the uncle we all want to have and to whom we can talk real talk. Time and time again I've observed among young people what I too had experienced in my tenties: you are an adult, you are supposed to know what you want to be when you grow up, you do not, you are scrambling, you feel guilty...and damn confused. I never gave advice. I listened and told them stories pertinent to what they were going through. It somehow seemed to give assurance. ( I am not being entirely honest here. If a staff member told me a story indicating a clear F**k up I pointed it out.) Regularly late in the night, when customers were gone, they would sit at the bar, have a few drinks, and gossip; guys and gals. I will later tell a story of one such late Sunday night's convocation of servers, cooks, and a secretary who shared the worst possible work-place story I would want to hear. My actions that night got me black listed by ownership, sealed my career with the corporation.

I remember one set of three servers who became close friends. It's maybe a witchy thing. But sometimes when a threesome of women become fast friends a certain dynamic gets created. They say that when women live together closely their menstural cycles get synchronized. That is pretty basically biological. Out of such biology comes a synergy sometimes bordering on giddiness, sometimes dipping into the blues, both synchronized. There was such a threesome at Carnegie's that year. One girl was blonde, inordinately proud of her mane of hair and I think she liked the spring in her step too - we would dare each other and go skinny dipping in a god damn cold lake one night; one was a redhead, inordinately proud of her intellect; and one was a raven-black-haired girl who was a biology student and who would go on to work with wolf restoration. Being in the space these three ladies created could be giddy, in deed. It could also be too much, too rich. I made a poem one Saturday night, while working the bar, about them.

Staff guys too come to mind, as do my customers who became friends. I'll get back to the thread.

Tere
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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


Carnegie friends. On two occassions I took in friends who needed a place to stay. I was living just out of town in a small cottage on Puget Sound's most southern inlet, Budd Inlet. Actually, at high tide I was living over the inlet. The cottage was built on pilings and high tide could sometimes lap the deck, reaching behind the cottage. The setting made for a refuge, both for me and the young men I took in. There was one young friend, a new bartender, who had just been discharged from the Marines. As a Marine he had trained as a sniper. It is accurate to say he was deprogramming himself, trying to recover from his training. He told me that one night he had slipped out of his parents' home, covered himself in dirt and mud for camoflage, and crouched and crawled his way through their suburban neighborhood. For how long he didn't know. He finally came to his senses in a backyard several blocks away and realized he had kind of gone catatonic. Another friend, a waiter, parked his small camper on the road leading down to the cottage. He stayed with me for a month or so. Very lost in the head. I don't know if anyone remembers a woman of the eighties named J.Z. Knight. She was a medium who maintained she was in touch with a 35,000 year old warrior spirit named Ramtha. Her compound was just out of Olympia and she had a cult following. I would lose my young friend to her cult. Like many other people he would give up all his possessions and money to follow her. The woman was so wealthy she built a large, palatial like stables for her husband's horses replete with chandeliers.

I also made friends with my customers, some of whom worked in high places in state government. They enjoyed having conversation with a poet/philosopher bartender. And they didn't look down on me because of my station in life. There were a couple of notable exceptions, but usually they were power hags, power groupies. I remember one night chatting with the then governor's press secretary. By vocation he was a writer, by profession a journalist. A woman walks up to the bar from her table, looks at me pointedly, turns to my friend and says something like 'Why do you want to talk to him? Come join us.' True story. But the press secretary and I got to be good friends, good enough so that we would go out drinking together and to rock concerts up in Seattle. I will tell one funny story on him.

The then governor was very popular. A Democrat Republicans simply could not touch or in any way besmirch his reputation. One late Saturday night D. takes a new girlfriend and gives her a private tour of the state capital. In the large conference room for the governor's cabinet meetings, and on the very large conference table they did the down and dirty. Unfortunately for them a state trouper whose job was to guard the capital happened through the hall, saw the light spilling out from the bottom of the door, looked in and caught them flagrante delicto. Dutifully he made his report. The word got out. Republicans had a field day with the scandal. There were political cartoons in the Seattle newspapers. I remember saying to D., "Well, at least you found a way to make love and not war." Finally the governor created a position for D. in some obscure agency. Still the scandal was in the news. So D. was bought out, given a sizable severance payment, which he and his girlfriend took to Mexico and ran through in about six months. The last I heard the couple had married and found Christ.

Here is another Carnegie friend story that ends poignantly. For a brief while I dated an advisor to the governor. We met at Carnegie's on St. Patrick's night. A very attractive woman, very smart, a real policy wonk completely dedicated to her work. She was also an artist. She broke off our relationship for an honest reason. She felt that if she fell in love she would become distracted, not able to completely focus on the work she did and which was important to her. Afterwards, and from time to time, she would come in to the lounge. I think it was clear to both of us we had given each other a sweet memory. Fast forward about four years. By then I was working for the state's agriculture dept. The work was seasonal. In the off-season I sometimes collected unemployment. Her boss, the governor, had by then retired from politics, leaving the lady out of work. One day I saw her in the unemployment office. She was applying for benefits. She was overweight and her face was the saddest face I have ever seen. It was clear to me her job had taken an extreme toll on her spirits and her body. I stopped to talk. But it was clear she didn't want to be seen by me. So I relieved her of the awkward moment.

I had other friends. Regularly people would come in on slow nights just to chat. I heard confessions too. Like the male nurse, a Nam vet, whose sisters had persuaded him to end the life of their old and failing father who was in much pain. Stuff like that.

I am saving the best Carnegie's account for last: Friday night happy hour when the legislature was in session. But I'll end this installment with a poem I wrote to my one time girlfriend soon after she made it clear she would not see me again. I never showed it to her.


Warrior Woman

She didn't mean to make as much,
her late night's confession coming when
two lovers rest and fold in.
She had already said as how
it was seeing her star
that made her want to walk to where
I still tend a bar,
and we had already shared a shot
of the Peruvian brandy
that can and always slightly craze her.
Green flashes, summer grasses
and the midnight music coming then,
the interlude whose tune is timeless.

So did she mean when she said
it was catching up with her?
Just the nameless gnaw, the low groan,
the knowing and not knowing where
she should be going.
The angst, the frozen flow.
And so quickly spoken,
so quietly said.
My sister, earth door's daughter
slenderly slipping out the door
too early in the morning.
My warrior woman who still just waits
to come true to her nature.

Terreson
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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


Time to dispatch the couple or so years spent at Carnegie's Restaurant.

As I said, the place was a watering hole for government workers, lobbyists, and the occassional legislative types, mostly Demos. Legislative sessions alternated from long to short, every other year. Friday night happy hour started around 4:30 and lasted until about 8 PM, making for one long hour. Two bartenders were scheduled to work the bar. But the second bartender was a single parent, not exactly young anymore, desperate to find a monied man. Every hour started out the same with her. She'd float around behind the bar for maybe thirty minutes or until I would say something like 'No problem. I can handle it.' Truth is I wanted her out of my way. She would then sit in the lounge drinking on one man's tab or another. I hated fielding the phone calls her son would make, at home alone, wanting to know when she would be coming home.

Lounge would be packed. Dining Room very busy. Me and the other servers were soon the only sober people on the floor. What's that Billy Joel song line when the piano man plays to a crowd slowly getting stoned? I remember one lobbyist especially. A big man whose drink was always the same. A brave bull: tequila and kahlua. And he was a very big fellow. He would sit and talk and wheel and deal until the end. He would then stand up and walk out the door to his car without the slightest misstep. One night I got curious and counted the number of brave bulls. I was astounded. I counted eleven. I've never seen a man hold his liquor the way he did.

This is when and where my skills got tested and got honed. I called it the well dance. My well was the ice tank, the flanking house liquors and mixers, the gun for more mixers, and the bar mat on which I made drinks. And within little time I knew precisely where everything was placed. Bottles behind me on the shelves, beers and mixers in the coolers. I could not afford a single wasted or extraneous body movement. Every motion had to count, had to produce a precise end. In addition to the lounge with its customers, the dining room with its own, I had my personal customers sitting at the bar that could accomodate maybe twenty drinkers. I got so good at what I did people would line up at the bar just to watch my dance. I would look up from the well, look down the line to make sure everyone was happy with the drink in front of them, and they were all staring at me, barely talking to each other. I got good. I got very good. I had no choice in the matter. I got better than my step-father had been in his prime in the whiskey a-go-go days back in the sixties. I confess to being a little vain about it all. I embellished my body movements, flaunted, strutted my stuff. I was good. I knew I was good. And I knew many of the people were there for the show.

Slowly getting stoned. All those legislative types getting stoned and horse trading over one bill or another. And all those state workers there to share in the atmosphere of power getting played out. And the men flirting with the cocktail waitresses, always easy on the eyes. And the single women looking across to one table or another, trying to figure the right manuever for bringing the right kind of attention to themselves. It was fun to observe. Either a tableau vivant, a vanity fair, or a ship of fools, depending upon my Friday night mood.

Another thing I was good at was getting strangers sitting at the bar to engage each other in conversation. Maybe that was when I discovered there really is an art to conversation. I had a number of parlor tricks I had found. Verbal and thought games people could play with each other to melt through the strangerness. Before long conversations between them were ongoing. Then the friendships made. Once accomplished I could leave them to each other and only see to their drinks. I was a gamemaker. And adults especially love games in which everyone gets to win. At least, some do.

Carnegie's is the only restaurant where I had to bounce a man out the door. I had a regular customer. He was a black man down from Seattle. He was in charge of the state's IRS enforcement division. Very powerful. One night a man came in who clearly was out of his element. And he was already drunk. He slung the N word at my friend. I saw the man's back straighten. In one continuous motion I was out from behind the bar and standing between the two men. Without once touching the stranger I got him out the door and down the steps. Told him never to return when I was on duty. Back inside my friend wrily smiled and said, "Thanks, man. I didn't want to have to go there."

I said above I kind of got blacklisted by the corporation. One late Sunday night a number of the young women servers and a secretary were gathered at the bar. They were talking in very serious undertones. I asked what was going on. Something was not right I could tell. It turned out the kitchen manager had been exposing himself to them in the sub-basement's kitchen, commisary, and office. He was overworked, way overworked. He didn't have a life. He wasn't a bad man. If anything he was a bit too quiet for my taste, the kind of quiet you sense in a person that speaks of interior trouble. So I did what I had to do. With the women sitting at the bar I went into the room where we had our barstock of liquor and I called the principal owner. Man, I was almost stuttering. But I told him what I had learned without mentioning names.

The next day, and to his credit, he addressed the situation, got the kitchen manager counseling, and effectively put an end to the problem. The one thing I didn't like about what then unfolded was how the women were treated. A staff meeting was called and they were in a way put on the defensive. It was almost as if they were held responsible for the events. And the rest of us too. I didn't like that. It put a bad taste in my mouth.

Soon afterward the owner started a new restaurant. It was located on the waterfront, surrounded by the city's marina of yachts and sailboats. We were told we could work there instead if we wanted to. I applied for the job, knowing it would be lucrative. I was clearly the best bartender on the premises. Application denied. I was told they needed me to stay behind and help oversee the place. I thought then the line amounted to BS and I still do.

The whole circumstance ate at me for about a year. No words were ever exchanged. No accusations made. Everything was polite. But I had believed in those owners. There were three. And I had believed in the working environment. I was disappointed with all of them. I finally, if to myself, said f**k it and quit in disgust. It was all very friendly. In retrospect I suspect they wanted me gone. I was a reminder of something they all wanted to forget about.

There it is. A library turned into a watering hole. I got one more bartending job rounding out the restaurant years, a decade, and then I go chasing gypsy moths.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/28/2010, 10:23 pm
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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


Terreson,
That encounter with the woman who chose her career, then fell on hard times, that was a good re-telling. Life does that to most of us at one time or another, and we play both roles at one time or another. The poem did its job too, though I would have preferred another title. Good stuff, as alwlays. Zak
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Terreson,

Now, with this one, I liked how you described how a person can get really really good at some repetitive work. This work required dexterity and some gray matter, too. You were in the zone. I'm thinking of people who start at something when they are very young, like Ali starting to box at 12 or 13, and by the time he's 21 he's in the zone. He was in the zone way before then, though. You were a natural here, and that counted for something. Some people can take to something, and others can't. Though you were working so you could write, it's good that along the way you found something that made you whole, in a way. Enjoyed the writing, as usual. Zak
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Good way of putting it, Zakman. Getting in a zone. Ten drink orders in your head, slicing one off when made and adding another, all the while in constant motion. I've watched short order cooks do much the same, in a diner say. Only, they have to time it all so that a plate, an ensemble, is ready to serve up in synchronistic time. Think about it. Think about the kind of intelligence on display in a busy diner, behind the counter, and a short order cook serving up breakfast after the bars have closed.

Tere
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I am going to break stride here for a moment. The theme is jobbing or what a writer does to literally buy time in order to write. But how to say what I want to say, how to draw out this meditation?

Homer, whether he was a single poet or it all amounted to a school of poets, was not the only ancient Greek poet working in epic narrative. There was also Hesiod, a Boiotian poet (a tribal land north of Athens). He was roughly a contemporary of Homer's, possible younger. And so he was writing in the 7th C B.C. While he worked in epic poetry he also worked in a tradition quite unlike Homer's. Essentially, Homer worked in stories about raids that had happened 400 years before he was alive; e.g., the Achean (Mycenean) attack on Troy. Hesiod tended to work in epic material not so old. And he worked in material relevant to the gods and goddesses on Olympus as he and his contemporaries would have worshipped them.

I think of Hesiod and I think of Robinson Jeffers. They both wrote hard and unforgiving poetry, the kind that gets chiselled in stone. Hesiod must have been an aristocrat, a member of the landed gentry. Certainly he was in spirit a yeoman, an independent man whose livelihood came from the land through his hands.

I've read his three surviving poems, all narrative. Truth is I've lived with them for something like 30 years. There is one poem of his that still manages to piss me off, raise my ire, get my goat, makes me want to raise him from the dead just so I can tell him he is full of s**t. The poem is called "Works and Days." The poem's message is simple and effectively said, without dogma or posturing:

the gods do not care about you, no woman will stick around long enough to see you through bad times, dreams lie, you either work for a living or you die, when you can no longer work for a living you still die.

"Works and Days." This is what the poem says to me, a poem something like 2,700 years old.

I think of Wallace Stevens, of Keats, of Mallarme, of Shelley, of Yeats, of Millay in her sonnetting, of Graves, of Cummings, I think of all the poets insisting on the transformative experience that somehow, alchemically, erases certain uncomfortable truths about the bareness of being alive, or I think about Gary Snyder's hallmark sentiments, or the preciousness of some online poets...

Then I remember Hesiod. By now he is in the lizard portion of my brain, somewhere back towards the stem, at the base of my neck.

He was right, some 2,700 years ago. Besides Jeffers I can think of two other poets who got this thing of jobbing, of works and days. Blake and Neruda.

Tere

Let me slightly revise what I wrote last night. When in a certain black mood I think of Hesiod and I get his truth. That's closer to the case.

Tere again.

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Okay. One more restaurant and lounge story and then I am done with that particular career. Tug's Restaurant, a fine dining establishment located in a marina on Budd Inlet. I've found a link to the marina. But the restaurant is not the same, neither by name or physically. The building is not the same building.

http://www.westbay-marina.com/

Either the building has been moved further up on land or the inlet is at low tide. The latter I think is the case. In all events when I was there in the late eighties the building was on pilings and stood out over the water. (Rode out an earthquake once there.) There was an interim lounge worked between Carnegie's and Tug's. The restaurant's chef was one of the town's most gifted and the most temperamental. I lasted with him for about two weeks. And I just remembered working a few months in a very small French cuisine restaurant, serving food again. But I was no good at serving tables anymore. Rather, I was still a good server, but I wanted back behind a bar. Jobbing.

In the months between Carnegie's and Tug's, and on money saved, I finished what would be my second collection of poetry. Rather I revised, wrote the last few poems, and, so I thought at the time, finalized the collection. Then, it included something like 70 to 80 poems. Two decades later I think it has 50 or so poems left, the rest consigned to the morgue file. At first I called the collection Tasty Tendrils. Now it goes by the title of Nisqually Blue. For a break in the narrative here is a writer's nightmare kind of story.

Fifteen years in the Pacific Northwest and I heated my several homes with a wood burning stove. That year of '89, as said before, I was living in a cottage on the Sound, very old and very drafty. Blizzards coming like a locomotive down the Sound iced the insides of my windows. I also burned paper trash in the wood stove. Summer of '89. As was the case every summer I brought my daughter to stay with me for several weeks. I was just finishing one of the collection's more ambitious poem. In those years I was steeped in natural history, which studies gave moment to the poem. I wanted a first draft done before I picked her up at the airport the next day. What I pieced together later, after she returned to Virginia, is that I must have burned the poem when burning the trash in the wood stove that night. I looked everywhere for it, a poem of something like 15 handwritten pages. I looked everywhere twice, three times, four times, finally resigning myself to what I had done. But I was determined to recover it.

I placed legal pads strategically around the cottage. On my desk, by the bed, in the kitchen, next to my reading chair, kept a notepad in my pocket. Day and night lines would come up, coming back to memory, I remembered the poem's narrative blocking and so on paper I placed the lines where I thought they should appear: beginning, middle, end, segues. I don't know how long the recovery needed. Some months. But I got the poem back. Only, and here is the funny part, it had then become a poem of about 8 pages. All the underbrush had been cleared out, as was once said about Pound's slash and burn work he performed on Eliot's Wasteland poem. There is an anecdote involving Hemingway's first or second wife. She lost a suitcase on a French train once. It held the completed MS of a recently completed novel. (Viewers not advised to conduct a similar road test at home.)

Before starting the Tug's narrative proper there is one fun story involving my commute to and from work. The aerial photo of the marina is taken slightly to the north. City and port are to the south. On the north side of the marina is a log boom. The cottage in which I lived was north of the marina by about a half mile. I didn't own a car in those days, never had. Twice I had a motorcycle. It was another three years before I finally went over to the dark side and got fully mechanized. Walking to work was circuitous and could take a good three quarters of an hour. So I put the word out in the lounge. Many of my customers were live-aboards, people living on their yachts and sailboats. I wanted a boat. I can almost remember his name. It might have been Chuck. He said he had found a derelict boat in the Sound while sailing and he would sell it to me. I gave him fifty bucks and stood him up to his favorite beer one night, all night long. For less than $100 I had a 22' aluminium boat. I didn't want to get motorized yet. I wanted the longest pair of oars that could be found. One night my girlfriend, commuting from town by bus, came home with oars I guess 8' maybe 10' long.

That became my commute route, on the water. Out in the afternoon, home after midnight, almost every working night of the couple of years I was there. The commute was all of 10 minutes. Inside the several log booms, out into the Sound, slipping between the marina's docks. Rainy days and night were not a problem. With the right kind of rain gear I could still arrive at work with the right kind of professional appearance. Coming home, say at 2 A.M., was favorite time. Oars kicking up phosphorescence, dripping off the oars even, harbor seals trailing, curious, wondering what kind of crazy person was slipping in front of them, the Pacific Northwest nightskies, not light polluted, startling themselves with the brilliance of their millions of heaty stars, and the timber hungry ships coming down the Sound, mostly from Japan in those years, big ships, motherload ships. Hell, I didn't need their bow light or their other lights to spot them. I could feel the blackness of the turgid mass just like I bet a harbor seal could. (When you think about it commerce amounts to a turgid black mass in which, on which, we all dance with one devil or another.) Some late nights I would sit still in the middle of Budd Inlet with a flask of Irish. The rising hills on two sides. The city's orange glow to the south. And with what can only be described as a night sky ocean above.

The best work commute I've found yet.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/29/2010, 8:13 pm
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A short post on a Tuesday night.

Tug's Restaurant. The whole marina was owned by a woman. She was a smart entrepreneur. It wasn't so much that I didn't like her. I didn't trust her when it came to accounting, balancing books. My lack of trust would eventually get validated. In the meantime she stayed out of my space and I did not invite myself into hers. She knew my name brought in townspeople, mostly professionals with money to spend. I think we did not have one comfortable, unoccupational conversation. She owned the whole show. The slips, moorings, and dry dock, all of which generated revenue. And the restaurant with its lounge.

The dinners we served were good. Our several chefs were classically trained and sensitive to a gas stove's points of heat. This is key in cusine. The chef not sensitive to the fire spot on his or her stove kills the dish. Too much or too little, just like in poetry, can kill the dish.

My lounge, within a year it became my lounge, became another watering hole. Lawyers, lobbyists, academicians, other professionals from town would cross the bridge, come to the lounge. Then there were the live-aboards, people who lived on their yachts, motor boats, and sailboats, and for whom, this is key, the lounge was their den, their living room, their parlor, their TV room.

It occurs to me there is something false about the sailor who says she or he wants the vastiness of water. In that cocktail lounge those sailors were wanting conversation and human contact.

Enough for tonight.

Tere
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Another short entry, it being hump day and all. Besides, I've been given a new responsibility at work involving queen propogation judgement calls. It's all process: grafting queens from select lines, getting them inseminated, then into nucs (starter) colonies, then making sure they are viable and laying eggs, then into full sized equipment. Up until now I've simply gone in the direction I've been pointed to. Feeling a little intimidated tonight by the rewsponsibility. Tug's tales will make for a good escape. There is an old reggae song, the burden of which is "jammin." Let's change one word. Jammin to jobbin.

Tug's was a busy restaurant. Dining room almost always full. Same was true of the cocktail lounge. And the mix of customers sometimes made for a bit of alchemy. Between live-aboards, folks from town who moored their boats in one slip or another, and the professional class, conversation was entertaining and, on more than a few occassions, smart. There was a book written in the nineties called something like 'Bo Bos' in Paradise. It was a study of a class of people the author called bourgeois bohemians: a class of bohemian types who, because of America's meritocratic system, had made good, become upper middle-class. The notion fits my clientelle. There were working class folk too, the kind of segment of the class who enjoy a good conversation over a few beers, micro-brew beers that is. And then there were the people looking for a way out, looking to, metaphorically and not so metaphorically speaking, sail away.

Politically speaking I suppose my customers ranged from the soft liberal, to the centerist, to the soft right. Everyone knew where I stood. A customer asked me one night what I saw as the solution to environmental degredation. I took a chance, did something I rarely did in the restaurant business, spoke my mind. I said that nothing less than a return to the human material culture of the paleolithic would save the planet. But mostly my business was in making a good drink and setting the right atmosphere for conversation. Think about it. Before the internet where in the American village could strangers occupying the same town, but never crossing paths, meet up, strike relaxed conversations, possibly strike a friendship, except in a bar?

There is one sweet story I must tell. Christmas time and my daughter is with me. She is in her teens and I figure she is old enough to sit at the bar under my eye, drink shirley temples and watch T.V. Nobody messes with a bartender's daughter, at least not this one's. Besides, it was a way of having her close while I worked. So she is watching T.V. A political conversation is swirling around her. Contrasting opinions getting politely expressed but with strength. That young lady never takes her eyes off the television and with the voice of Cassandra she says: "Isms, Isms. That's all I'm hearing." Her exact words. And the conversation suddenly finds a silent space.

I especially took to the live-aboards, not a few of whom wanted a sailboat or a motorboat, but could not afford both boat payments and a home. Besides, this way they could sail up the Sound on their homes come the weekend. When I first started working the lounge I noticed that everyone sitting at the bar was fixated on the T.V. I thought, oh, this will not do. Between parlor games, asking after each customer, and engaging two or more people in conversation, it soon got to where they all became chatty cathy types. More about the live-aboards later.

Being on Budd Inlet's west side, Tug's faced east. The building had large paned windows on three sides, to the east, south and north. Straight ahead there was the seriously rising hillside and over which I saw many a moonrise. To the south, and across the inlet, there was the industrial port and downtown. Would some scientist explain to me why the light cover of a city is always orange? And to the north in the night there was almost perfect blackness, but light dotted.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Mar/31/2010, 10:10 pm
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Terreson, this paragraph below is really something special. I guess there's no hurry in writing a lot, as the others have to catch up. Just take it at your own speed. It's probably right the way you're doing it, just writing a little when you have some time after work. Man, I'd like to see all of this in a novel, though I appreciate it in small pieces like this. Maybe this is how we are conditioned to read nowadays anyway.

I was thinking about what you are doing here, what we are doing here by posting our little poems and pieces of prose, and it occurred to me that we are doing it right. Most people striving for fame and fortune are not going to make it anyway. You know what I mean, bestsellers and grand speaking tours. So if one accepts that this is probably not going to happen, what is the next best thing? Maybe it's THE best thing, not the next best thing: self-realization. I know that's a coined word from psychology (pop psychology?), but it pretty much articulates an attitude. If you can't or won't play the fame game, how about doing something about expressing yourself? That seems to be what you are doing. (Not telling you to reject the fame if it comes; simply saying that articulating and self-realizing is more important anyway. Any number of the greats will agree with you.) Thanks for posting. I'm still enjoying it and looking forward to more. Zak

quote:


That became my commute route, on the water. Out in the afternoon, home after midnight, almost every working night of the couple of years I was there. The commute was all of 10 minutes. Inside the several log booms, out into the Sound, slipping between the marina's docks. Rainy days and night were not a problem. With the right kind of rain gear I could still arrive at work with the right kind of professional appearance. Coming home, say at 2 A.M., was favorite time. Oars kicking up phosphorescence, dripping off the oars even, harbor seals trailing, curious, wondering what kind of crazy person was slipping in front of them, the Pacific Northwest nightskies, not light polluted, startling themselves with the brilliance of their millions of heaty stars, and the timber hungry ships coming down the Sound, mostly from Japan in those years, big ships, motherload ships. Hell, I didn't need their bow light or their other lights to spot them. I could feel the blackness of the turgid mass just like I bet a harbor seal could. (When you think about it commerce amounts to a turgid black mass in which, on which, we all dance with one devil or another.) Some late nights I would sit still in the middle of Budd Inlet with a flask of Irish. The rising hills on two sides. The city's orange glow to the south. And with what can only be described as a night sky ocean above.

The best work commute I've found yet.

Tere



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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


Zakman, I couldn't have stated the case better. There is something about the medium that might just be new on the literary scene. Writing by installment is, of course, as old as the 19th C. novelists. I think of Charles Dickens especially. By newspaper installment writing is how he wrote his novels. But the medium of cyberspace, with its capacity for dialogue, also enables readers to tell their own stories or, as you and others have done, offer up their reflections. There is something democratizing about the medium and it allows for engagement.

As for the brevity of the entries, it suits me. The habit must have started with keeping a journal. From 1973 to about 1998 I maintained a journal, what also served as a workbook for thinking through things, and for copying out what were sometimes whole paragraphs and pages by the greats. Then I got into prose poetry. Then vignettes and essays. The prose metier suits me. The logic of which is simple: let the moment highlight itself. Come to think of it, a second novel was similarly constructed, built on vignette-like chapters focusing on single scenes.

And you are right too about the medium's opportunity for self-realization, as you call it. Makes sense to me.

Tere
Apr/1/2010, 6:44 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


I want to talk about my regular customers. Some were live-aboards. Some were townspeople who had a sailboat or motorboat docked at Tug's. Some were politicos and lobbyists who liked the place because it was a little out of town and they could relax. Aforementioned press secretary to a governor soon became a regular. His aforementioned girlfriend too. (They might have met at Tug's.) My own girlfriend of those years was also a regular. And it has always been in the back of my head that my main attraction for her was that I was a bartender. An extraordinary actress and an incredible artist, but she did like to drink. There was a teacher nearing retirement and about to sail to Australia. There was a linesman working for the telephone company and also looking to sail his sweet sailboat solo. There was a publicist for the Demo party who had lost his job because of an affair he had had with a powerful legislator's wife. And there were the college students from TESC, a small liberal arts college consistently voted the best such college west of the Mississippi river. There were boat builders. There was a convicted felon I had to stand down one Saturday night and who could have probably done me serious bodily damage. And then there was the most dangerous of my regular customers. Sue. It took some months but I finally figured out how to deflate her attentions politely. I managed the scene in such a way that she and my girlfriend would always be sitting at the bar together. They soon became friends. I was hoping in girlie gossip fashion my girlfriend would tell Sue what a jerk I can be. The gambit worked. Sue backed off. Dangerous liasons it all amounts to.

Here is what the story concerning my regulars comes to. Was it '89 or '90 when the Ken Burns' PBS documetary about the American Civil War was aired? The entire bar, night after night after night, wanted the story on the bar's screen. It wasn't my idea. It was what they wanted instead of some sports program. There was not a complaint about the T.V. fare. Not from the dining room, the lounge, or the bar. All of these Americans wanting to make sense out of America's most traumatic historical moment.

This kind of blew me away. Kind of huge. Americans still trying to figure out who they are. Even in a bar.

Tere
Apr/1/2010, 7:56 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Jobbing: a chronicle


With Tug's the restaurant years come to an end. I am not sure how deliberate was the decision to, so to speak, get out from under it all. Maybe I haven't adequately conveyed what a toll on the body and psyche comes from serving people night after night, making sure they are happy, feted. In my experience, and I think I said as much above, it is emotionally draining, leaving you coming home late at night with a weird kind of unspent emotional energy. Seeing to each customer's needs, each party's needs, doing a dance step leading from kitchen and table, bar to cocktail table, in perfectly timed cadence. Much like fashioning a perfectly timed poem it is and that works the hell out of your body

I was good at what I did. And I am grateful to the several restuarants. They bought me time, fresh-brain, day time, time before and not after job-time that tends to deaden the brain. In a decade I had three collections of poetry, a collection of prose poetry and vignettes, another collection of short (short) stories, a few critical essays on poetry, and two novels. Twenty years later and I can still stand by most of what I made in the eighties. If I have advise for writers starting out in a labor economy such as the present system amounts to, write in the fresh-brain hours, then go to work in order to pay the bills. Even better is to work seasonally, save the money made, then commit to writing, a writer's real job.

Fresh-brain hours, hours coming before, not after, work place and family and students. That is when poetry happens.

The last time I saw all of my Tug's friends, the regular customers, was after I quit. The owner was too dicey for my taste. My gut might have been proved right. There was a fire, clearly arson, she was suspected. I was coming up on my 40th year and my girlfriend arranged a party at our corttage on the Sound, on Budd Inlet. They all came in by land and water. It was kind of cool seeing so many sailboats and motorboats moored out in front of the cottage. I brought them to shore in my aluminum boat. That was the day I knew I was in for an occuptational change.

What is that old Jimmy Buffet song line again? "occupational hazard means / occupation still not around."

Tere
Apr/2/2010, 8:19 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Hi Tere,

Taking some time to follow up on this jobbing thread. When I read about your young friend getting lost in a cult and the governor's press secretary's conference room escapade, I can only think: Truth is stranger than ficiton. I liked your droll response to the latter's predicament: I remember saying to D., "Well, at least you found a way to make love and not war." I also like the way you included the pertinent poem in the narrative.

What a contrast between your artistic performance as bartender and the kitchen manager exposing himself to the female workers. You did the right thing by speaking up. Once you knew what was going on, you wouldn't have been able to continue working there as if everything was hunky-dory.
Apr/3/2010, 8:57 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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