"All That And A FREE Bag of Chips…"

April 25, 2011

We had a large group (20 people, on two tables of 10) the other night, and their servers did an admirable job of taking care of all their demands.  And they were demanding, rearranging every dish on the menu with more substitutions than a hockey game.

When it came time for entrees to be served (we were all shocked they actually ordered some, and didn’t make a meal out of salads and appetizers) the server at one of the tables made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting to order the Veal Chop for one particularly pretentious woman (we had already nicknamed her “Divalicious”);  and of course it was ordered Medium Well.  You got it: 15 minute fire time, at a minimum, to get her another one.  She has refused to accept my server’s apology and her offer of anything else on the menu.  She is now in full-on Righteous Indignation Mode, and basking in the attention she is getting from her table-mates.  She waves her server away, refusing to even speak to her.  So, my number is called, and I had to go over and try to make things right.

I apologized profusely for her server’s honest mistake, and gave her the bad news about how long her Chop would take.  Miss Thang rolls her eyes, big time, and asks to see the menu.  She orders the Trout.  I thank her for her “patience”, tell her it will be on the house, and we get it out and on the table in under 3 minutes.  I go back after a bit, apologize again, and make sure she is happy with her dish.  She is wolfing it down and nods her approval, without even looking up.   She is nowhere near the last person eating when the table is cleared, and her plate is literally licked clean.

When it comes time for the bill (separate checks, of course) my waitress comes over and says that the woman is now refusing to pay for her one drink (which she nursed for the entire 90 minutes they were at the table after sending back her first choice because it “wasn’t pretty enough”) AND she’s refusing to pay the service charge, saying “The Manager said it was on him…”  So, a free entreé wasn’t enough?  Whatever.  I comp out the rest of her check, and my server is just laughing because this woman is being such a ridiculous caricature.

So, as they are leaving, Chef and I are at the podium chatting; and as the group is heading out the door,  I start doing my “Thank yous and Good Nights” to the rest of the party who, truthfully, weren’t all that much trouble after we got past the ordering phase.  Miss Thang stops by, and I was so irritated with her I didn’t even make eye contact.  She reaches into the dish of Jolly Ranchers we have at the podium, and starts fishing through them, searching for the Sour Cherry ones that were apparently the only ones “pretty” enough for her.  She drops one, two, three, four, five of them into her knockoff Louis Vitton bag.  She finally notices me standing there and looks up.  I look her dead in the eyes and say “Haven’t you had enough free stuff for one night?”  Chef bursts out laughing so hard he almost choked.  I spin on my heels and leave her standing there, in mid jaw-drop.

At what point in their lives do these women suddenly become such self-absorbed pains in the ass?  You know that quite possibly they were once very sweet little girls, with pigtails and all that crap.  So, do they just wake up one morning and say to themselves, “Okay.  Time to start acting like a bitch”?  Or is it a long apprenticeship, watching Mom and aunts and sisters put on the Bitch Coat and wear it?  “Don’t worry baby, some day you’ll get to be a bitch too…”  Reality shows on MTV and E Network serve as their training videos; and then they test out their skills on Dad and probably their teachers.  Building on these minor successes, they soon become the full-fledged real deal; and now no one is safe, from cab drivers to store clerks to the counter guy at BK.  Well, check that shit at the door, girlfriend.  I ain’t playin’…

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"Sunday, Bloody Sunday…"

January 26, 2011

Well, hello.  It’s been a while; how’ve y’all been?  Me?  Oh, fine, just fine.  Why yes, I have been working a lot…

After coming to the realization (duh!) that I make my own schedule, and that I really need to take two entire days off each week, my work routine has settled down a bit.  I still have split days off as the restaurant is closed on Mondays, and the other manager has a commitment that makes Tuesdays off impossible for me; but I’ve kind of gotten used to it.  It’s almost like a 3-day weekend every week, if you don’t count the 10 hours of work right smack in the middle of it.  Such a rude interruption…

Really, though, the only aspect of my job that I even mildly dislike is the schedule;  and that only because it involves working Sundays.  No, not the dreaded brunch as I would have opened an artery long ago if Sunday Brunch were required.  Just like Jeff Golblum’s line in Jurassic Park, that “life finds a way…”, brunch also finds a way, every week, to suck.  We are open for brunch and dinner on Sundays, the only day we open the doors during daylight hours; but my “keyholder” manager is there on Sunday mornings, and God bless her for it.   That, and HBO On Demand are the only things that make working on Sundays tolerable, barely.   I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the bosses at my two previous jobs for giving me almost four years of Sunday-free work schedules.  As Joni Mitchell sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

Sundays, and the people who dine out on the 7th Day, are a different breed of cat altogether.  You see people out to dinner on Sunday nights that you never, ever see any other night of the week.  They say in the Bible that God rested on the 7th day, and the leper colony we get in each Sunday is your proof.  My theory is that all the people who dine on Sunday nights crawled out of the primordial ooze when God took His one day off because He, too, just couldn’t deal.  God was at home, in His sweats and wife-beater with His feet up and Sports Center on the tube when these people snuck their way into the evolutionary cycle.

And just to add salt to the gaping wound of working Sunday nights, and simultaneously drive a dagger into the heart of our check average, we offer a three-course “supper” for $20.  This is just to make sure that we not only get the weirdos, but also the cheap weirdos.  We have people who ask if they can split the $20 meal.  Really?  Look, if you don’t have enough money to eat out, just stay home…

Last Sunday night was a classic.  Knowing the check average is always down, and often cover counts as well, I was sympathetic to my staff’s need to make a little coin even on Sundays; so I went with a lean crew.  Three waiters, one bartender, one food runner, one hostess and I did over 120 people; and all of them came in at once.  The parties of 8 and 9 started coming in around 7:15, so we were all sufficiently lulled into complacency by then.  And they kept coming through the door, like extras from The Walking Dead.  We have an alarm system that makes a “beep-beep” in the back kitchen when the front door opens and, as I am back there madly buffing glassware and silver to keep us afloat, it was going off to the beat of Funkytown.  Let me take you down, beep-buh-beep, to Funkytown, beep-buh-beep… as more and more piled in.

In the midst of all this fun and good times, my bartender decided now would be a grand time to cut his hand, taking me off the floor and him out of a very busy bar while I triaged his wound.  I found our sparsely stocked First Aid Kit, (and someone please tell me why it is that restaurant First Aid Kits are either stocked to the hilt with eye cups, defibrillators, and enough stuff to treat the victims of the Haiti earthquake, or they have just three band-aids and some dull scissors?) and got his hand wrapped; but the bleeding just wouldn’t stop and the kitchen had run out of latex gloves.  Perfect.  Now wouldn’t this be an excellent time for the Health Department to stop in?  I got on my cell, called in a “Stunt Bartender” who, thankfully, was both nearby and willing to come in: go figure.  She arrived about 20 minutes later and jumped into the fray.

I had just barely hung up the phone when my hostess, who was still doing restroom checks despite being drafted into service running food and bussing tables, informed me that the toilet in the Men’s Room had backed up.  Dealing with the shitty situation in the bathroom brought new meaning to the term “Manager’s Log”.

As I was pushing the mop bucket from the restroom back into the scullery, I noticed that there was no one on the Sautee Station in the kitchen.  The sous-chef informed me that he’d had to send one of the cooks home because he had been caught drinking the cooking wine in the back, and was drunk.  Perfect.  He told me this as I was helping one of my weeded servers process the nine separate checks from a party of really snotty Nelly Queens who had decided they needed to leave, now.  All I needed was a good, old-fashioned computer crash to really make my night complete.

So then, another server comes up to tell me that the four-top on 72 wants to “speak to The Manager.”  All restaurant mangers know that these are words that are generally never followed by anything good; and a big Shit Sandwich is most likely coming your way.  As a manager, I like to remain in the background, offering support to the staff.  I am like an Offensive Lineman in the NFL.  The only time my number is called out over the PA system is when something bad has happened; but instead of “Holding, number 72, offense…” and the touchdown is called back, it’s “Overcooked Veal Chop, table 72…”

The tidal wave of business is beginning to withdraw from the beach, and the crew is starting to pick through the rubble, straightening out the beach chairs and umbrellas; so I cinch up my tie, shoot my cuffs, and head on over to 72.  The gent at Position 3 who, as I was seating them, had made an off-color joke about the “diverse” crew and the “war zone” of the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant, had appointed himself spokesperson. They are four very old, very Jewish people.  Oy.

“Lizzen, I just vant to tell you some-zing, here…”

Okay, here we go.  Open wide for the Shitburger, and make it a double.

“Our soiver, fen-tehs-tic!  And the Duck, to die for.  We loved it all.  Job vell done…”

I was speechless, as an ear-to-ear, decidedly non-shit eating grin had commandeered my face.  A perfectly mashugana end to Sunday, Bloody Sunday…


"Tis The Season…"

December 2, 2010

It’s that time of year again, when houses are getting decorated, trees put up, and shoppers are giving each other the finger for stealing their parking space at malls all over this great country of ours. It’s also the time when The Have’s will occasionally donate some of their stuff to The Havenot’s, so they can be Have’s for a while.

Some of The Havenot’s will lose patience while waiting for Toys For Tots to deliver however, and take matters into their own hands. So it’s also the time of year when we get a nice spike in the crime rate. It’s not just the lack of stuff, or the lack of ability to buy stuff, but the pressure folks feel this time of year to have and to hold stuff. Domestic violence, burglaries, armed robberies, road rage incidents, all go up this time of year. Most restaurants will have an annual “Safety Meeting” with their staff, which is all about how not to get robbed; and how not to get shot if you do.

Our next-door neighbors have decided this would be a good time of year to beef up their own home security, and have installed spotlights trained on their side and back yards. Nice idea, but two of them are beaming directly into our bedroom window and have the candlepower of a small sun. Sleeping in our bedroom now is kind of like living a summer in Iceland, with the sun setting, well, never. Is it too late to ask Santa for that “Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle”, so I can pop out one or two of these tanning-machine-wattage bulbs?

Domestic violence goes up this time of year, with divorced couples arguing over who gets the kid on Eve vs. Day, and where the hell is the spousal support, you deadbeat, so I can go shopping, etc. It’s also the time of year when one small tradition can put undue stain on an otherwise healthy relationship, with results ranging from simple shouting matches to divorce to gunshot wounds. I’m talking, of course, about The Tree.

It always starts out as a nice idea, “Hey, let’s go get The Tree after work tonight…” and visions of brightly lit Christmas Tree lots, the steam from frosty breath, and aromas of pine needles and hot chocolate go dancing through our heads. But somewhere out there, a 10-hour work day and a 45-minute commute are lurking, waiting to crash your party and curdle your eggnog, sucking your enthusiasm for the idea as dry as the week-old Thanksgiving stuffing in the back of your fridge. You finally get home, have that cocktail, and start thinking about dinner; it’s 7:15 already, after all. No one is saying it, but everyone is thinking it: “Aren’t we going to go and get The Tree?” So you Himmm and Hawww and, maybe argue lightly (“Can’t we just do it on Saturday morning? I’d be more into it then…”) Bucking up, coats and gloves on, and out into the car, we have gone from “Let’s go get the tree tonight!” to “Can we please just go and get this shit over with?”

Spirits rise markedly, however when we get to The Brightly Lit Christmas Tree Lot, and begin to make our selection. I use the term “we” very loosely here. I have learned, through years of marital and parental experience, that this is one of those times where I am to just nod my head in agreement, and say only things like, “Oh, I agree” or “Yes, that’s a beauty” and “Whichever one you like, baby”. I am not to grimace or argue when asked to fork over the Mastercard to pay $85 for something I will strap to the top of my car, drag into our home, mount on a spike in our front room, vacuum up behind several times, and water daily (“Did you water the tree today??” Yes, I watered the effing tree today…) in order to keep it alive long enough to finally pay the Boy Scouts $15 to haul it away again, three weeks from now.

The other thing I have learned in over 15 Christmases worth of marriage is to let Her do the lights. At first. Even though I am tasked every year with the disassembly, storage of said lights, and the dispatching of the dead tree to the curb, I must subvert my natural Manstincts of not knowing how to do shit, but insisting on doing it anyway, and sit quietly. Pretending not to be watching, I make only the occasional commentary grunt at her technique.

Here is where couples with any kind of chinks in their relationship armor will get into trouble, and you will end up with Police Activity. But I’m confident that the “Here, why don’t you give it a try?” will come soon enough. I know that she will try, in vain, to remove the strings of lights from the box. Lights, that when put away last year, were all neatly bundled to help expedite their re-installation the following December, but have somehow come alive during their storage in the attic and spontaneously contorted themselves into a tangled mass resembling a bucket of Night Crawlers. Knowing this, I am confident I will eventually be drafted into service; and my manly yet gentle and fake-patient demeanor in the face of all this frustration will firmly secure the bonds of marriage for another year. “Here baby, let me help you…”

Now, working together, we dutifully test our strings of festive Holiday lights, which will work fine at first plug-in; but as soon as they are installed on our tree, or way the hell up on our roof and gutters, every third bulb will fail, or half of a strand won’t light, no matter how many of those frustratingly small fuses we change. It’s my Conspiracy Theory that, as a driving force of the Chinese economy, these things are assembled (in a country which doesn’t even celebrate Christmas by the way), and designed with tiny timers that allow them to function fully for one year only, then go on the blink (pun intended) the next; but not until they are fully installed, driving a spike through your brain, and leading to the eventual purchase of more. It’s enough to make a Christmas-Only Catholic like me seriously consider converting to Judaism. Can’t we just put up a Menorah, light some friggin’ candles and be done with it. Oy.


"Night of The Living Applicants…"

November 17, 2010

I have noticed a tendency for my personal financial situation to closely parallel that of the rest of the country.  Whenever those “leading economists” make their statements about job loss or stock markets dropping, my income tends to fluctuate in kind.  Could be that, like many people, I tend to be frugal when times are tight, and then spend like a sailor when they get better.  Maybe I’m just more average than I like to admit and get easily swept up in economic waves.

But most of the time, I am slightly ahead of the curve and my personal finances tend to improve, with the rest of the country following shortly thereafter.  However, I am rarely, if ever, mentioned by those “leading economists” as one of their  “leading economic indicators”; but they’d have a much better grasp on the situation if I were.  “Leading economists are pointing to an increase in the GNP, a rise in housing starts, and Naptive Napkin’s newly-fattened checking account as signs of the beginning of a turnaround…”

And so it is that this month will truly be the beginning of the end for any recession, depression, or other blips on the radar of the country’s financial woes, as I finally have a job.  One hundred forty seven days of job searching, with almost as many interviews, has yielded results.  I found The One I’d been looking for and am planning to hold onto it like Grim Death.

Life is not without its little ironies, and my new position is certainly not lacking in that department:  after ending my longest stint on the unemployment role in my 40-plus years of working life, I am now in a hiring role. I inherited a somewhat understaffed restaurant crew, so I am now on the flip side of Craig’s List.  The downturn in the economy has produced a “seller’s market” for employers.  That, coupled with a somewhat poorly worded ad has flooded the Inbox on our Craig’s List account with an alarmingly large volume of applicants.  Every time I log on to see what the chum in the water has stirred up, there are two dozen or so more emails.  It’s like I’m the guy barricaded inside his house in Night of The Living Dead, with hordes of applicants scratching and clawing at my doors and windows. The Zombies have put on a tie, shuffled over to their computers and hit the Send button.

The unintentional humor in resumes is inescapable.  You’ve really got to wonder if these people seriously read these things before sending them.   Here’s a bit of advice from a guy who, until recently, was out there gnawing on the flesh of prospective employers with the rest of you: spell check, use the Shift button at the beginning of a sentence, and use the punctuation keys for something more than making a Smiley Face.

Here is an actual response I got.  Really.  This came in an email, with the caption:  “Where do I send my resume?”

She could've at least listed her relevant experience in the form of a Tramp Stamp...

A piece of another one, where using the pre-formatted Resume Wizard was a good start, but follow through and proof reading was a little lacking:

“Walter’s Clothing    01/2006 – 05/2006
Store Clerk   address 66 Decatur St.
Stock and inventory
Customer service
Cleaning and closing the store

Aramark    08/2006 – 09/2006
Cleaner
Trash detail
Cleaning  Aircrafts
Assisting the Supervisor

Company Name    Dates of Employment
Job Title
Responsibilities
Responsiblities
Responsibilities

After several days of sneaking silently out to look at the messages in our Inbox, being careful not to stir up the Geeks and Freaks lurking there, I now have a new clarity on why it took me so long to get hired.  I was literally lost in the shuffle. I should’ve been sending pictures of me in my Tidy Whiteys.

Now on the receiving end, I am buried in the corpses of the under-qualified and the just plain silly, trying to find the living amongst the living-dead, and I need to cut to the chase.  Skimming quickly through the cover letter, I open these people’s attachments, scroll down to the “Experience” section of the resume, and if they have misspelled “restaurant” or have listed five jobs with four month’s tenure each, they are toast.   Next!

So, a lesson for all of you still out there in Job-Seeker Zombieland:  there’s about a 30-second window of opportunity for you to make an impression with a resume.  At least try to make is a good one.

"We-are-self-start-ing-people-per-sons-who-think-out-side-the-box..."


"Is There Anyone Hiding Down There In The Dark?"

November 3, 2010

When I first started writing this blog, I went all over the web looking for advice on how to make it successful (honestly, how to make some money off it…).  One of the many sites I researched advised against making the blog too much about current events, as once the event is no longer current, the entries become dated; and outside of high school kids trolling the internet for a paper to plagiarize, those entries would ultimately go the way of the Dodo.  So I’ve always tried to put up posts that were timeless, stuff that would have some validity and meaning when read by people 200 years from now.  Posts that would continue to ring up that 37¢ per week in Google Adsense cash for years to come.  Yeah, right. My blog is about as “timeless” as Flava-Flav.

Timeless. But with a clock, just in case you forget...

That being said, there was a current event this past month that I feel bears mentioning, as it could almost be considered timeless.  I’m talking, of course, about the Giants winning their first World Series in 58 years.

I spent many summers of my youth listening to games on my Dad’s little Motorola transistor radio in the backyard; and then listening to him curse at it when the voices of Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges relayed the bad news of yet another Giants’ disappointment.  Sometimes those curses and disappointments came as early as the last day of school, with the annual occurrence of the “June Swoon” wherein the Giants would drop precipitously in the standings for no apparent reason.  Some years the euphoria would last until late August; or in the very rare year, into a late-September first-round playoff loss.  After 40-plus years of this I think it’s safe to say that my Dad and I have more than paid our dues as loyal fans.   Many people would jump ship over to the A’s during those years, as they were the closest thing to a winner that could be found.  But for me, it was always the Giants.  They were like your family dog:  maybe he has gotten old, and a little fat; maybe he’s a flea-scratching, bag-o-bones that doesn’t see so good or fetch so good, and at times smells pretty bad.  But he’s YOUR dog, no matter what.  This year October brought the good times, finally, for we Orange and Black Faithful; and it was somewhat spooky that on the Orange and Black Holiday, the Orange and Black Team was still alive and kicking.

Halloween is my second favorite Holiday, after Thanksgiving.  Both have less societal pressure to consume (shop) attached, so you can enjoy yourself without going into debt for the first eight months of the coming year; and both have their observances centered around eating and partying.  Thanksgiving gets the 1st Place nod (tryptophan pun intended) in the Holiday Standings because of two things:  more food choices than just candy, and football.  Having the Giants still alive added a welcome, if somewhat disorienting and distracting, sports component to Halloween this year.

One other thing puts Halloween high on the list: spooky movies on TV, in abundance.  When I was a kid I was the first in line for the new Dr. Fibes movie, or any cheesy vampire flick with Christopher Lee; but these days, I’m not so big on the slasher-movies until Halloween.   Plus, I am a choosey about my gore. I am all about the Classics.

Scary cheese for a 10-year-old...

But this year, whenever I saw Halloween, Night of The Living Dead, or Psycho was on, I’d tune in, only to find the more recent, CGI-enhanced re-makes being shown instead of the originals.  It seems that about 20 years ago, Hollywood ran out of original ways to kill busty Co-Eds in cut-off jeans, so they just started making the old movies over again.  Technically perfect special-effects gore is just not the same as the terror that builds up while Mike Myers slowly shuffles toward Jamie Lee Curtis, hiding in the closet with that coat hanger, ready to skewer his eye like a Stay-Puft at a campfire.

Fortunately for me, this year Halloween was the premiere of “The Walking Dead” on AMC.  I am a huge fan of AMC:  Madmen, Breaking Bad, Rubicon, etc., all get Tivo-ed at our house.  The Walking Dead looked quite promising in its promos, and had the added interest of being filmed here in Atlanta (the running joke is that they didn’t need any Extras for the scenes of Zombies shuffling around Centennial Park downtown, they just used the crackheads already in residence); but due to the scheduling conflict presented by the once-in-a-lifetime World Series featuring Your San Francisco Giants, I would have to wait until Monday morning to see it.

So the next morning, after the wife and daughter head off for work and school at 7:30am, I grab my coffee and fire up the DVR.  Once again, AMC did not disappoint.  The excellent production values, acting, directing, and script made the first episode truly frightening.   If it hadn’t been for the full light of day outside, I would have been going through the house turning on every available light.  It was that good.

Trying to compose myself, I tuned off the TV and started going about my house-husband duties, when suddenly our dog starts barking at the front door.  This is a regular occurrence that usually solicits no more severe a response from me than a “Shut up”, as there is never anything to really be barking at.   Unless you count blowing leaves or the mailman arriving at the curb.  But Maya was insistent, standing by the door barking and snarling, so I started to get nervous. H-m-m-m…  I sidle silently up to our front door to investigate, halfway laughing at myself for being so spooked and halfway worried that the lack of lights on and no car in the driveway had someone seriously contemplating a daytime burglary.  As I neared the door, some motion near the front room windows caught my attention.  Someone was OUT THERE!!  Now I truly am frightened as nobody had knocked or rung the bell, and I can barely summon up the nerve to look out the small window in our door (cue the  music from Psycho:  “REE-REE-REE-REE!!”).  I look out, and nearly jump out of my skin when I see two people standing on the porch, looking back:  Jehovah’s Witnesses.  With copies of The Watchtower in hand, these two 70-something ladies had been waiting, contemplating a knock at a silent, apparently unoccupied house.  They took a last look, decided there was no one home, and shuffled off; and I collapsed onto the couch, trembling with the adrenalin rush of surviving a Zombie attack of a different sort.

Gotta wrap up this tale of abject terror as the Giants Victory Parade is coming on TV, and I think I hear some Mormon Missionaries shuffling around in my basement.  REE-REE-REE-REE!!!


"The Accidental Tourist…"

October 25, 2010

Here’s a post I found, hiding out in my Drafts Folder.  It was trying to keep its head down, hoping I wouldn’t notice; but like that one big lobster hiding under the rock in the back of the tank, I spotted it. Still fresh, too…

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport here in Atlanta is, depending on what’s going on at Chicago’s O’Hare,  either the busiest or second busiest airport in the country.  It’s a hub for Delta, of course, but also a jumping off point for hundreds of flights from other airlines to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America.   Its massive amount of connecting flights has allowed millions of people to be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve been to Atlanta…” even though they’ve never left the concourse; and with all that was going on here this past Holiday Weekend, it was surely at or near capacity.

Memorial Day Weekend is literally the kickoff of the College Football season, and here in The ATL we had Georgia State winning their inaugural game last Thursday, and Georgia Tech playing at home on Saturday.  LSU was meeting North Carolina in the annual Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome, while  The Dawgs were hosting their first drunk-fest of the season for sixty thousand up in Athens.  Add to all of that a NASCAR Race at Atlanta Motor Speedway half an hour south of here; Dragon-Con, the geek-fest Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention (that’s not just for nerds anymore by the way), The Black Gay Pride Festival at Piedmont Park, plus various and sundry other neighborhood festivals, and you wind up with upwards of a couple hundred thousand people rolling through the airport over the weekend.  At least the Braves did the highway traffic the favor of leaving town for a series against the Marlins.  Amongst the throngs wandering the vast terminals at ATL this weekend, trying to make the best of things during a 20-hour layover on his way to a business/vacation excursion in Buenos Aires, was a great friend of ours from New Orleans, now living in exile in Indianapolis.

Glenn was one of those in attendance at “The Last Supper” at our house the Saturday before Katrina.  In true NOLA fashion, we decided to have a dinner party rather than do the sensible thing and prepare for evacuation the next day.  We cooked a grand Asian dinner with homemade potstickers, dumplings, and several other dishes, for a dozen guests.  Earlier that day, when we had ventured over to the West Bank to shop at a great Asian market in Algiers for supplies, was when we first noticed the lines of cars at all the gas stations, people preparing to evacuate.  I had seen the hurricane news on Thursday night after I’d gotten home from work (when I lived in California, I could never conceive of watching the Weather Channel for any reason; but down in the Gulf, people literally live by it during hurricane season).  That Thursday night, Katrina was beginning her march across south Florida and I figured it was hitting land and would lose steam and that would be that.  After our trip across the river on Saturday, we turned on the Weather Channel and saw Katrina filling the entire Gulf of Mexico; so we decided we would go ahead and fiddle while Rome burned, have our party, but pack the car and skee-daddle on Sunday morning, along with everyone else and their brother.  Glenn had left the next day, too, along with all the other party guests. So, long story not-so-short, we hadn’t seen him except during a brief visit he made to Napa over two years ago.  We just had to get together, airport crowds and traffic be damned.

So, after a quick excursion downtown to watch the Dragon-Con parade Saturday morning, it was off to the airport to pick up him and his new girlfriend.   We began making our list:  lunch at JCT on the Westside, then maybe on to King of Pops or Morelli’s for sweets.  Or should we hit Murphy’s in Virginia-Highland for brunch and then a visit to Green’s for some wine browsing?  We settled on JCT and two bottles of wine to go with lunch.  We had to pass on the frozen treats in favor of JCT’s irresistible Rum-Soaked Coconut Cake, followed by some lounging at home.

Except we didn’t have time for lounging, as my wife and daughter had pending appointments to get their hair done at a salon, half an hour north in Buckhead.  So, being a one-car family for now, the plan was for me to ferry the two of them North, then return to pick them up after I had gone back home, picked up Glenn and dropped him back at the airport, another fifteen minutes past our house to the South.

On the way to the salon, we get a phone call from another of the thousands landing at Hartsfield-Jackson over the weekend; our friend Jimmy from California had just arrived in town for a wedding.  We hadn’t seen Jim since we drove off from Napa last June, so we decided to try to work him into the schedule for a cocktail.  We arrive at the salon to find out that the hair appointments were two hours earlier and had been missed.  So, it was back into the car, back South for twenty minutes to pick up Glen; then another 15 minutes back down The 85 to the airport to drop them; and then back up to Buckhead to meet Jim.  Jimmy lived in Atlanta for about 8 years, so touring him around was not an issue.  We met him for drinks and appetizers on the patio at Nava, a Tex-Mex place that we discovered, on this visit, is decidedly a few years past its prime.  We had a great visit with Uncle Jimmy, though, and he went off to follow the rest of his agenda for the weekend, and we headed home.

It was on the final drive South and home that we began to realize our priorities as tour-guides are a little skewed.

My wife’s cousin and his wife have recently re-located to Atlanta for her internship at a local hospital; and when his mother-in-law visited from Mexico he took her, all in a single day, to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Stone Mountain, the Zoo and practically every other attraction known to man.  Now it’s not to say that we haven’t been to, and mostly enjoyed, many such places that are on the top of most tourists’ lists.  But Glenn and his new girlfriend are dedicated food and wine nuts like us; so our itinerary for  today had excluded the traditional spots in favor of those of a more culinary nature.  Asking us to show you around town is a little like asking the guy emerging from an AA meeting for directions:  “Go two blocks down, take a left at Joe’s Bar, head south until you pass two Package Stores, and turn right at the Irish Pub on the corner…”   We’ll take a pass on World of Coke in a hot second if it means we get some of that Coconut Cake.


"Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt…"

October 23, 2010

A few weeks back, I was able to cross another item off my “Living in The South Bucket List”.   Along with eating (and liking) grits, pimento cheese, and fried pickles, and attending (liking is not required) a NASCAR race, going to a bona-fide College Football Game was pretty high up there, so this was a biggie.

Some observations on College Football here in The South:

  • I come from California, where we don’t give a Rat’s Ass about College Football, unless Cal is playing Stanford, or USC is playing UCLA.  Nobody, graduate or not, flies a college flag from their front porch or the back of the pick-up truck on Saturdays, even when the aforementioned Big Game match-ups are imminent.  Not so, down here.  Any day of the year you can open up the Sports section of the AJC and find no fewer than three articles about UGA Football, maybe one or two about Georgia Tech and at least one about the SEC in general; and this includes months when school is not even in session.  During the season, check the front page masthead for coverage.
  • Why do the stadium music programmers at College Football games (or any sporting event, for that matter) think the only music white people like is Country-Western or AC/DC?
  • Do they ever play music (above genres excepted) that doesn’t involve Auto-Tune vocals?  I swear to God, if I hear “OMG” by Usher one more time, I’m going to open an artery.  The only non-Country, non-AC/DC song that didn’t have the Auto-Tune was the Star Spangled Banner; and I might even be wrong there as we were late and missed the Anthem.
  • Bud Light and Miller Lite, for $7 a pop as the only beer choices?  Really?
  • How hard is it to get face paint off?  Are there thousands of  kids attending classes on Monday morning in Athens with bright-pink skin after trying to scour off the red?
  • And why is it that only white folks paint themselves for sporting events?  Never mind.  I know.  We’re huge dorks.  That, and the alcohol.
  • Tailgating for six hours on a Thursday night?  And how much tuition did your parents fork out so you could blow off class?  Higher education, indeed.

And this is just for the pre-season...