"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’…


"Happy Uh-Easter…"

April 24, 2011

My favorite and, possibly only, Easter joke, with the exception of the one about why Jesus can’t eat M&M’s (because they keep falling through the holes…):

There are these three Italian guys, discussing the meaning of Easter.

Pasquale says: ” Okay, Easter issa when you gettah this biggah Easter Tree, and you puttah alla you Easter presents under it.  Then, onnah Easter Morning, you open alla da presents…”

Giuseppe interrupts and says:  “No, no, Pasquale.  Thatsa  Crissmus.  Easter issa when you getta bigga Easter turkey, and have the bigga Easter dinner…”

Giovanni says:  “No, no, no, Giusep, you dummy.  Thatsa Thanksagibbin’.  Letta me tella you about Easter.  Easter is about whenna there was thissa guy, Jesus-uh Christ.  He wassa crucified, he died, and they bury him inna tomb covered with thissa bigga rock.  Anna after three days, he rolla the rock back, comes out anna sees his shadow, anna we have six-uh more weeksah winter…”

"For Once In My Lifetime…"

April 17, 2011

An entry in the “For Once, Everything Goes According To The Plan” category: we close at 10pm on Sunday nights (one half hour earlier), and tonight we got no 9:50 table of two star-crossed lovers that wanted to order one $8 appetizer and gaze into each others eyes for two and a half hours, until I wanted to stab them in said eyes with a salad fork. We got no solitary, scary dude sitting at the bar, staring at the TV until Sports Center was over. Our last table sat at 8:15pm, the bar emptied out at 10pm when the NBA game ended; and I beat the kitchen out the back door for the first time in over 3 months. George Peppard would’ve been proud..

"I love it when a plan falls together..."

"Night Sweats In Broad Daylight…"

April 4, 2011

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been contemplating making yet another career change, or if it was the spicy BBQ pork sammy for lunch today, but I have just woken from the Mother of All Waiter Nightmares.  Those of you that have had them will know what I’m talking about when I say they come from out of nowhere.  I know I’m still in the restaurant business and, granted, I have some waiters at work who ARE nightmares; but I haven’t worked a shift as a waiter in almost five years.  Waiter Nightmares?  After five years?

I’ve written about Waiter Nightmares before (click and read), and about how I had learned a kind of “Directed Dreaming” technique, ala “Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors”; so I can usually pretty much just sit back and enjoy the comic relief that comes with the absolute futility in most Waiter Nightmares, somehow knowing that this stuff could never really happen. But today’s was scarily different.

This one started at Chops in Atlanta, except that it wasn’t Chops.  In my dream I knew it was Chops, but the dining room had absolutely no resemblance.  Some of the waiters were guys that I worked with at Chops, as was the Manager, and the room was that kind of Boys Club Steak Housey kind of place with button-tuck booths, men in suits, cocktails clinking, etc.  I am back to work there, and it’s my first night back.  I don’t think I’d gone through any re-training, I think they just threw me out there.  I do remember being strangely happy to be back to work there.  Most therapists at this point would say, “Maybe you should look at that…”

I had just arrived at work, and was saying hello to some of “the guys”.  Everyone is shaking my hand and welcoming me back when The Manager tells me I’m working solo (Chops was team service with a partner, although I had some living Nightmare nights there when somebody no-showed and I DID work solo) but I will have a smaller station, over by the bar.  No prob, it’s my first night back and I’m feeling pretty bulletproof.

So, I’ve got my waiter jacket on, and my little metal badge with a number on it; I’ve got my notepad, my Cross Pens, corkscrew, crumber and all that crap.  I’m feeling good, cocky, ready to take some tables.  I had found my station in the gigantic restaurant (they’re usually gigantic in my nightmares), four deuces and one four top all in a neat little cluster near the end of this horseshoe shaped bar, and it all seems pretty manageable; after all, I’ve worked here before and know the drill.   Then I notice that the Host is walking away from seating a single diner at one of my tables, a professional looking woman in a business suit with briefcase.  I know what you’re thinking:  what kind of useless Shoe Clerk am I, to be having a Waiter Nightmare over a SINGLE!!??

Anyway, I greet madame, and get her a cocktail, a Manhattan or something I think.  She orders:  Spinach Salad to be followed by an 8oz. Filet, medium.  I don’t remeber ordering the salad, but after a couple of minutes I notice it’s on the table and, yikes, she’s almost done with it and I haven’t fired her steak yet.

I’m mildly panicked about the fire time on her Filet but, hey, it’s Chops.  They have about a billion 8oz. filets in the broiler at any one time on busy nights, and maybe I can use my one “New Guy Get Out Of Jail Free Card” to get them to rob another table so Milady won’t have too long of a wait.  But first I have to get to the POS and fire her order before I can go throw myself on the mercy (Ha!) of the Sous Chef.  And, as they say in the Circus, this is where the fun begins…

My cockiness and confidence is beginning to waver a little as I realize I don’t know where the POS is.  I walk out of the bar, into another gigantic dining room that is almost completely empty, and over against one wall is a POS touchscreen about the size of a 52″ plasma TV.  I make my way over to it and, of course, it’s a system I’ve never seen or used before.  I manage to log in, find a screen that looks like a table map, and double tap the icon for my single diner’s table (#63).  But instead of neat rows of buttons, or screens that have actual menu items, the screen looks more like a website; one of those really hard to read websites that was designed by some genius who thought red letters on a black background would be a good idea.  Almost all of the screen is taken up by pictures and advertisements for cars and other stuff.  Way down at the bottom are lines of uber-tiny type, hyperlinks to click on for menu stuff; but the type is the REALLY tiny stuff you get at the bottom of a company’s website where they put stuff like “Privacy Notice.  Site Map.  Contact Us.  Careers.”  And it’s a touchscreen, so every time I try to double tap a tiny link I get the wrong one, and some other gigantic window opens with more pictures and ads.

Now I’m really starting to freak because I know that spinach salad has been cleared and my single is sitting there, tapping her fingers, waiting for that Filet, and wondering where the hell her idiot waiter has gotten to.  In my panic state, and willing to try anything I can think of to navigate this behemoth screen, I decide that there’s not enough light in the room to see it properly, so I take it down off the wall and carry it over to another corner where some sconces are beaming spotlights down on the carpet, creating circles of light in the murky room.  Strangely, there are no wires; and, strangely, this doesn’t even factor into my thinking as I pick up this unusually light, strangely wireless, and utterly useless Piece Of Shit.  Under the glow of the spotlights on the other side of the room the screen is no more readable than it had been on the wall.  And I still haven’t fired her steak.  And, even with the panic really starting to set in, I’m thinking, “Shit, all these steaks are ala carte.  I didn’t ask her about sides!”  I figure I’ll deal with that after I get this DAMN STEAK FIRED!

Still tapping at links, still getting the wrong screens, I try turning the screen around, rotating it, thinking if I can get a closer look at these damn tiny hyperlinks, I would actually be able to read them.  I’m trying to hold it out in front of me, like some massive artist’s sketch pad, and the screen is rotating with the movements, like on my wife’s Droid; so every time I turn it to make the links closer, the screen changes and they move back to where they were before.  Now I’m totally sweating, full blown dread is setting, yet all Mr. Sensitve To The Needs Of Others here, can think about is “I wonder if someone else needs to use this terminal…”  This turns out to be an non-issue, as I look back across the room to see that the screen I have taken down has been replaced by an even LARGER one, about the size of a small billboard, a veritable  JumboTron of a POS.  In my panic I’m willing to try just about anything to get this one stupid, stinking steak fired, and I consider going over to the giant screen, thinking the type must surely be larger on that one, right?  Just as I’m putting my screen down I see the link for “Fire” at the bottom and hit it.  I set the screen down on the floor, and start sprinting back to my station.

As I approach my tables, I am mildly relieved to see that no one else has been seated in my section during my adventure in the Gigantic Room with the Gigantic POS Screen.  The only catch is that my station is now somehow outside, and it’s starting to rain.  Guests at other tables are being moved inside by their waiters, but my single is standing up and looking around.  She starts picking up all her stuff, briefcase, purse, and is grabbing the silverware and napkin off the table and walking off toward the inside area.  I catch her and relieve her of her burdens, and tell her I will usher her into one of my “Inside Tables”.  I don’t know why or how I knew I actually had inside tables, but I did.  Except I don’t know the table numbers, so I don’t know if I’m seating her at one of my tables or someone else’s.  It doesn’t seem to matter, and I’ve still got to get to the kitchen to tell them to hurry that 8oz. Filet which, despite my being out of my station for what seemed like an eternity, has not arrived.  And shit!  What about those side dishes?  I forgot to ask her.

I get my single diner situated at an inside table in a dining room that is now a gigantic white event tent, like they set up at wine auctions.  I know I still have to get to the kitchen, but I can’t stop myself from helping the Manager.  He’s trying desperately to get tables set up for all the people coming in from the rain.  The tables are all 72″ banquet rounds, with one flipped upside down on top of another, so I take my place on one side of the two tables to help him flip the inverted one off.  I’m waiting for him to flip the legs up and lock them into place when I notice a stack of 6 B&B plates sitting on table we are about to flip over.  The Manager has not seen the plates, has locked the legs on his side into place and flips the unusually light table off the other one, sending the stack of B&B’s flying.  Oddly, they all stay together in one stack and fly out onto a road that is outside an open flap of this massive circus tent of a dining room.  I’m waiting for the sickening crash of shattering china, but instead hear a metallic clang; and I realize the plates must have been sitting inside of one of those metal plate covers.  Huh.  Didn’t see that one coming.

Anyway, I still need to get to the kitchen, get that Filet on the fly, and then get back to my section where I still didn’t know what the fuck the table numbers are.  Shit!  And I need to ask her about those sides!  I contemplate just ordering her a baked potato.  I mean everybody likes those, right?  But that would entail a return to the JumboTron POS again.  It’s at this point I see a guy that I used to work with about 10 years ago at another restaurant, who is apparently now working here.  Nothing about this strikes me as the least bit strange, and I stop him to say hi; but he doesn’t know me from Adam.  He does know enough to remind me I’m covering his lunch shift tomorrow, though.   Even though I haven’t been back to check on my one and only guest, I somehow know with all certainty that 8oz. Filet is NOT on the table yet, and I am a total loser.  This is when I wake up to my cell phone buzzing on the nightstand and thank God for text messages!

Redux: "Fishing Off The Company Pier (or Dipping One's Pen In The Company Ink)…

December 23, 2010

Live from the archives, here is an old post that I thought I had lost to “an intenal server error”.  I’ll be back on Christmas with a stocking stuffer for y’all…

In one my earlier posts I mentioned that one of the basic facts of running a restaurant is that people eventually move on. One of my best servers and her line-cook boyfriend are leaving to go back home to Louisiana. I am saddened by their departure not only because Chef and I are losing two of the best workers either of us has seen, but I am also really jealous that they are moving to New Orleans. Ah, the South…

The fact that they were a couple was known when they were hired. Unlike some, our company has no strict policy against hiring people in relationships but perhaps one should be considered; because when you have two staff members involved in a relationship and one decides to move on, so does the other. Conversely, when you have to fire one, the other one usually goes soon after. Actually, first their good attitude goes; they don’t physically leave until after what he/she has deemed an appropriate period of making everyone’s life miserable.

The good news is that when couples work together and they are getting along, they can work with a great synergy. My wife and I did it in Atlanta and it was amazing. But when the personal relationship becomes strained, it can play havoc on the one at work. Fortunately for me, my two are Rock Stars and always did a great job. They left their personal relationship in the car with a window rolled down to wait for their return.

I was never much of a ladies man in my youth. I’ve already told you what a big dork I am, and that’s pretty much a fail-safe method of birth control until you find The One who appreciates the trait. And I am certainly not one now as I am happily married to The One (no, not Keanu Reeves, you wake-and-bake stoners).

Even during my younger days when I commanded “The Position of Power” I didn’t do too much Hound-Doggin’ (play-yuhs is what they call them now, I believe). Working in the day and age of the Tom Cruise-generated perception of bartenders as demi-gods, I was a young, semi-good looking, semi-eligible bachelor; but I was just too big of a nerdy romantic to play a lot of capture the flag games. I was determined to fall in love and that was a four-letter word for women in the early 80’s. Plus, chicks were a lot of work and I am lazy.

Oh, sure, I had my share of go-to, sure things to get me through dry patches (pun intended) between bad relationships, but I was never a big One Night Stand kind of guy. Add to that the hours that I kept, working from 6 till 2am, partying until dawn, sleeping until noon and then doing it all again, and my only pond to fish was the one at work. So that narrowed it down to two groups: barflies and co-workers. Barflies don’t want to fall in love, and falling in love with co-workers is almost always a recipe for trouble.

Over the years I have found these Postulates on Personal Relationships at Work to be mostly true:
• Rarely, if ever, do two great employees get together. It’s always one really good worker, and the one that you most want to quit and get hit by a bus.
o Corollary: When the relationship goes South, it’s always the good one who quits and the irritating one who stays. Kind of like if your neighbors, who have a pool and throw great parties, move out but leave their yapping Chihuahua behind.
• The relationship is most always between people in different departments so maximum damage can be realized when arguments occur.
• And most often the relationship is one of those “He’s dating HER?!” shockers.
o Corollary: Sometimes you get lucky and the two people involved are deserving of each other; and you can be grateful that they are not out there ruining two other lives.

I had a relationship with a waitress once when I was a Sous Chef (I was really the only cook besides the Chef, so I felt I was Sous Chef by default). We had a fairly hot and steamy start, then it cooled; and because we worked together and practically lived together, we got tired of each other real fast. Actually, I got real tired of her but she was still really into the whole idea. And did I mention we worked together? I cherished the two hours of prep time I had at work before she arrived at 4:30 or 5:00 for the start of her shift. Outside of using the toilet, it was literally the only time we were apart. “Did you hear about what so-and-so did on table 32?” Oh, yeah, you were there. “Did you hear that joke that so-and-so told?” Oh, yeah, you were there then, too. And did I mention we lived together? Thankfully, she eventually quit and moved away. I faked the heartfelt goodbye, and did my best to remind my penis that dating co-workers is not how we roll.

I used to work with this guy named Biff. No shit, that was really his name. Biff. And the guy was a machine when it came to getting laid by women at work. He became known as the “Hose-tess Monster” due to his penchant for conquest of the young, vapid ones at the door. Now, if ever there was a valid argument for not fishing off the company pier, dipping your pen in the company ink, whatever, you’d think screwing, and then screwing over, a person who can control your financial destiny would be it. With the spurned hostesses conspiring, Biff’s station would often be empty on many a night, except for old ladies and people with kids, until 15 minutes before closing when he would be triple sat as all the other servers were doing side-work and mentally chilling their after-work Heinekens. Hell hath no fury indeed.

"Be All You Can Be, Even If You're Not…"

September 9, 2010

I’ve been using “Writer’s Block” as an excuse for not posting anything these past few days, but I just haven’t felt like I’ve had any material.  My blog topics always hover in or around food, wine and the restaurant business; and while I have certainly had no shortage of food (as my scale can attest) or drink, I haven’t been “in” the restaurant business for over three months now.  Ninety-eighty days and counting, that I’ve been an unwilling part of our country’s unemployment statistics.  I guess I’d have to reduce that total by 6 if I was to count the week-long tryout up in New England with a restaurant group looking to open an outpost here in Atlanta.  I mean, they did pay me, as well as cover all my expenses.

It’s not that I haven’t been looking, or even had an offer or two.  If you counted them all up (which I have, since I’ve had the time) I’ve been on 22 interviews for 11 different positions.   I hope I’m not putting the curse on things by saying so (like I do by washing the car to make it rain), but I may be nearing the end of my long drought.  I have had five interviews now with a very high-quality company that’s in an expansion mode, even in this economy.   It is run by real pros that have their act together, and they can actually afford me.  This could be The One that could actually turns into a bona fide career move.  I’ll know more after an excursion up North again (different state this time) to meet the big bosses.  My fingers are almost disjointed, they are crossed so tight.

This last one has so far included three hour-long phone conversations, as well as two in-person meetings.  They also had me go undercover to their place here in town and have dinner.  All they asked was that I write up a synopsis of my experience and submit it, along with a receipt, and they’d take care of everything.  Well, the dining experience was less than stellar, which is good news for me as they obviously need some help there; but bad news for them as things are a tad bit worse than they had thought.

After over 25 years in “the biz”, no matter where I dine I can’t help but notice service faux pas and over analyze the food and beverage.   I always notice the busboy that puts his elbow in my face when clearing, or the server that needs to stand closer to his razor and maybe go out and buy a steam iron.  Friends that dine with me know that if I suddenly drop out of the dinner table conversation and start looking around, I’m “seeing” the place through the restaurant version of what John Madden called “Linebacker Eyes”:  always on the lookout for a problem, taking everything in, always seeing the big picture.  My wife or our friends will stop in mid-sentence, and say stuff like “Uh-oh, what’s wrong?” or “Oh no, he’s not happy…” I can’t help myself. I turn into Dexter, and my Dark Passenger just takes over, until all I can see are the cobwebs in the corners and the complete lack of ice in that Iced Tea refill; and it’s not even my Iced Tea!  It can be truly maddening.

So, it was no real struggle to commit my insights on this covert dinner to paper (keyboard), and my review was no less than five pages and 2500 words.  I told the whole truth and nothing but, God help me, hoping that doing so wouldn’t kick me out of the running.  I mean, don’t ask if you don’t want to know, right?  Well, shit-howdy if the exact opposite didn’t happen.   I submitted the receipt and my laundry list of their defects and screw-ups, along with just enough insights and suggestions on how to correct some of them.  I held back on the rest.  You don’t get to drink this milk until you buy the cow, baby.  The next day, I got a call back to meet with the Director of Operations, in person this time.  When he arrived for the interview, he pulled out a hard copy of my review notes and went through it point by point.  He had shared it with the other Mucky-Mucks, and they loved it.  He even commented very favorably on my writing skills.

I’ve always had a nagging bit of a self-esteem problem when it comes to job hunting, especially when it involves a step up the ladder.  No matter how many successes I can count in my professional life, and there have been many, whenever I am interviewing and trying to sell myself to prospective employers, I always seem to mentally fall back to the Groucho Marx philosophy of “I will belong to no club that would have me as a member.” Even though I’ve always gotten every job I’ve ever really wanted, I find myself wondering why the hell would someone hire me to run a business.  Then I look at people who have positions and careers I want to have (and could easily do), compare their skills and experience to mine, and wonder who in the hell it was that they had to blow to get their jobs.

I can’t speak to “real job” situations (outside of the hospitality and restaurant industry), but looking for work and interviewing in my business is all smoke and mirrors.  You are never closer to perfection than when you are filling out a job application.  Most restaurant mangers know that, with all the drunks, dope fiends, and sex addicts in line for a job in our industry, going strictly by the resume can get you in a heap of trouble.  Anyone can write, or pay someone else to write, a resume that will make them look like Mother Theresa. No matter how many times they got drunk, stole, or sexually harassed an employee, and got their ass fired, they can still manage to look good on paper.  And I can’t believe that HR people are surprised when they call references and get nothing but glowing reviews; you’d have to be a moron to put anyone on your references that wouldn’t recommend you as Citizen of The Year or want you to marry their daughter.  The best and surest method in our business is to bring someone in for a tryout.

Since most tryouts are not paid, and prospective employees are not covered by Worker’s Comp if they get injured, having people tryout is not in the strictest sense, legal. For that reason, and the fact that they’ve probably had a labor lawsuit or two to lighten their pockets, corporations mostly eschew the tryout.  Not being able to take advantage of this much more accurate barometer of someone’s abilities, corporate restaurant companies rely heavily on their resumes, interviews, pumped-up references, and the recommendations of their favorite Resume Pimp, the recruiter.  And so they may end up hiring someone who looked good on paper; but then they wake up the next day with their picture-perfect first date lying next to them under the covers, Prom Dress thrown over the nightstand, with hair looking like Albert Einstein and make-up that looks like a tropical fish with a hangover.

This is where my crisis of confidence can get a little confusing, and starts to do a sort of “Studio Fade”.  At first glance, seeing the title of Chief Operating Officer after a name on a business card can be intimidating.   But I buoy my confidence with the idea that this person may have ever only done one or two impressive things in their entire professional lives to get that acronym of C.O.O.; and one of them may have been writing a resume.  I can tell myself that, in all probability, the only real difference between them and me is the fact that they have the job and I don’t.

So my ability with words to clean and gut a restaurant like it was a large trout, may end up separating the wool (me) from the chaff (the rest of the field), and actually land me the job.  That, and the fact that I’ve got more semi-colons and animal analogies at my disposal.  Shit, John Starks made an NBA career off of one dunk over Jordan and Scottie Pippen, a feat he never came close to repeating; so I am really OK with getting a job I really want, just because I wrote an essay.

"Shake It Up Baby Now…"

August 11, 2010

We hit the road last weekend, heading for the beach (or is it The Shore down here?) as this was the last weekend we would have before school, and possibly a new job for me, started up.  If I get this gig I will be heading to Connecticut for several weeks of working/training before the new restaurant opens here in town; and The Girl starts High School this week, so this weekend would truly be the last call, y’all.

We looked at the available options that didn’t involve an airport:  Hilton Head, which is a monochromatic little beach community, much like the domed city in The Truman Show, where all the buildings are built in similar architectural style, and all painted white.  I had seen The Prisoner on PBS years ago, and the pictures of Hilton Head gave me the heebie-jeebies;  so our other options were the Redneck Riviera down on the Florida Panhandle, or Savannah and the beach on Tybee Island.  Too much reading of online hotel reviews put us in “analysis paralysis” and we couldn’t decide where the hell to go.  We (I) settled on Savannah as it is the prototypical “Southern” town, with its historic buildings, Forrest Gump’s bench and all that crap.  I booked a room at a hotel in the Historic District so we could do some walkabouts in all their little squares and parks, yet still be close enough to head to Savannah Beach on The Island and fry.

Last time we went to Savannah we had fallen into one of the “Tourist Trap” restaurants where the service and food were so bad that a manager finally had to wait on us.  They were so weeded that someone had, in a panic, set the Iced Tea re-fill pitcher on the floor in the middle of the dining room.  I kid you not.  So, needless to say, once was more than enough for us with regards to that particular genre of restaurant.   We were certain that a town with hundreds of two hundred-year-old buildings must surely have more to offer in the way of authentic Southern cuisine, so we turned to the wife’s Droid and, after a little more research, decided to seek out The Two Bubba’s BBQ.

The Two Bubbas were (are?) located in a neighborhood well north of the touristy section of town so, on a wing, a prayer and the good graces of the Droid’s Navigator application, we were off.  I guess we should have made use of one of the Droid’s lower functions as an actual telephone and called the Two Bubbas first, because as the irritating voice on the Nav program informed us our “des-tin-AY-shun is on the left” we were pulling into the parking lot of a most decidedly closed Two Bubbas BBQ.  And not just closed for the night kind of closed, but closed in a Charlton Heston “Omega Man” kind of way.  The deck in front was covered with a month’s worth of pine needles, and there wasn’t so much a single Bubba to be found.  All that was missing was the tumbleweeds.  Only two stray cats were there to greet us, neither of which was wearing overalls, so they were obviously not the Bubbas.   As our original quest had been for some great fried chicken, we turned once again to the all knowing Droid, using the Urban Spoon “slot machine” to find a place called Sweet Potatoes, which turned out to be blessedly close by.

Sweet Potatoes is in an unassuming little strip mall near a Food Lion (yes, that’s actually the name of a grocery store down here, one obviously higher up the food chain than the Piggly Wiggly).  A few jokes about your “Mane Place” for groceries, and them being “the Pride” of grocery stores were flung about; and we realized that the quality of the humor in relation to the uproarious laughter it incited was indicative of just how low our blood sugars really were.  We needed to eat, and Sweet Potatoes was quite the find.  A cute, brightly painted dining room, great fried chicken, pot roast, and a huge Catfish Po-Boy for Alex, all of which were priced ridiculously low.   The Fried Chicken entrée was $8.50, including a one-dollar upcharge for all dark meat.  I’m sorry, I must have missed the Time Portal at the entrance that took us back to 1975.   Here is a link to their website if you don’t believe me.  Portions were huge, the food great and we had the sweetest Meadow Soprano look-alike for a waitress.  It seemed unfair that a 25% tip on our check came out to only eight bucks, so we left her a ten.

Before we had embarked on this culinary pilgrimage we had been watching TV in our room, and a commercial had come on for the “Shake Weight”.  For those of you who’ve seen this thing, I don’t need to go any further.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, suffice it to say that the “Shake Weight Workout” is the Gay Man’s equivalent of the pole-dancing regimen in the “Flirty Girls” exercise tapes.  Demonstrated by several smiling, waxed-chest guys in short-shorts, The Shake Weight Workout targets a specific muscle group with a certain repetitive motion that most guys would need to work on only if they wanted to be truly ambidextrous in their practice and administration of self-abuse.  You Tube has several hilarious parodies of The Shake Weight, but they cant’ compare to the unintentional humor of the original.

"Makes your arm more tired than...raquetball."

After our Back To The Future dinner at Sweet Potatoes, and a nice day of baking on the sand at Tybee Island, we returned home to find a large branch from an oak in our front yard had chosen to let go, almost snapping the power line to our house.  Our neighbors had called Georgia Power, and they had come out to deal with the power line threat.  With the chainsaw they’d obviously had with them, they could have cut the branches into manageable pieces in about three minutes.  But, being true to the work ethic shared by most utility companies and Public Servants, they had done only the bare minimum amount of work possible:  taking the branches down, cutting them just enough to move them out of the way, and leaving a six-foot high pile of limbs and brush in our neighbor’s front yard.

Fortunately we have some very cool, if slightly confused, neighbors (they fly the Rainbow Flag, but park their pick-up truck on the lawn.  Gay Rednecks?), and no property damage had been done by the fallen branches, so everything was coolio for the present.  We thanked them for calling the power company out to do what they did, which was the apparently the bare minimum, and called it a night.

Trying my best to be The Good Neighbor, the next day I attempted to cut and hack at the jungle of oak branches using the somewhat pathetic tool choices available to me: an electric saws-all with a four inch blade, an electric hedge trimmer, and a pair of garden snips were all I had to cut through limbs, some as thick as 12 inches.  After a couple of hour’s effort that yielded an embarrassingly small amount of result, I gave in and hit the local Big Box for an electric chainsaw. My new Man-Tool went through the old oak like buttah, and I spent the better part of that day cutting, hacking and bagging up the debris.

The saws-all had been mildly effective; but due to the springy nature of the thinner branches and the reciprocating motion of the saw, I had to operate the thing one-handed.  I used the saw until the blade was literally turning blue from the friction and my arm ached to the point that amputation was becoming a viable alternative.  I now know why they call it a “Reciprocating Saw”, as for every unit of work it does, it reciprocates with a commensurate amount of aches and pains for the forearms and wrists of the users.

If only I had made note of that 800 number for The Shake Weight I would’ve at least been able to change hands.