Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I think I've got an admirer. He's my neighbor. He showed up at my door tonight with a small baggie of Halloween candy and a mini-pumpkin. It was sweet...and a little creepy. Totally not my type, since I seem to favor men with more than 2 teeth. Not so much the ones with mullets and wife-beaters. He's sweet really, and one of the few at this apartment complex who actually speaks. But, still.

We're handing out candy tomorrow night while drinking beer. I must remain lucid.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Leaps of Faith

Every once in a while, when things aren't going as planned, change seems the only viable answer. Any change, any path other than the one you're stumbling down. If X doesn't work, try Z. If beating your head against a wall won't produce the results you're searching for, you stop. You reflect. You ask yourself, "Self, what do you really want to do with your life?". But what if you don't really know what you want to do? Or what you can do.

Reaching this non-conclusion only brings more uncertainty. It's akin to reaching a fork in the road with no tines. It's not a dead-end, but it's like the way out is shrouded in fog. And you've got a flat tire. And you're out of gas.

While waiting for that ray of sunshine to guide me in the right direction, I plod along the bumpy path I chose this time. I don't regret this choice, but I know there are smoother ones. I'm keeping my eyes wide open, along with my mind.

I only know that this path I'm on is temporary. Thank goodness, I can't walk this one the rest of my life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Excuse Me, Have You Seen Noah? It's Important!

It's always interesting to see the burg you live in splashed on the national news. And, although it's not the best of news, at least it's not for a child-molester, corrupt elected politician, or a hurricane. True, a tornado is never a good thing, as I feel for those poor folks who had their houses torn asunder, cars tossed about like Scrabble tiles, and lives disrupted. But it could have been so, so much worse. Not one single fatality, not even a serious injury.

We had witnessed torrential rains inundate our area since very early Thursday morning. Solid walls of precipitation had been falling non-stop. Sleep was hard to give up, no matter how many times the snooze button blared it's warning. The best slumber occurs during rain, with a few boom-booms thrown in for good measure. Driving to work was more of the same, only more so. There's one section of 98 near Gulf Breeze High School that floods with two inches of precipitation, and we'd already had five (sometimes it's good to drive a truck). Later in Pensacola, a section of Main Street near the Waste Water Plant (hold your nose), always floods, and again, doesn't disappoint.

We're all at work talking about the torrential rains, the near-dark skies, and blah, blah, blah, when one of the salespersons gets a call from a friend at the Naval Air Station. There's a report of a tornado touching down there! Only a couple of miles away. Everyone heads to their computers, since there's no TV or radio at work. Reports start coming in about funnel sightings just down the road. Our delivery people charge into the store reporting seeing chaos while crossing the Bayou Chico bridge, cops scrambling all over, all the while talking with that giddy, hyper chatter of people who have witnessed something remarkable.

The tornado bopped around, hitting here and there and heading north, toppling cars in a Target parking lot, and peeling roofs off of taco joints. All exciting stuff, reminiscent of hurricane stories I've lived through, only smaller in scale. And the rain continued unabated. And on, and on, etc.

Waking up Friday morning, things were as usual. Rain pitter-pats conspired to make me hit the snooze button way too many times. Tap, roll over, luxuriate. First, to the "bladder evacuation facility", to the kitchen to hit the coffee ON button, then back to the bedroom to see what I could wear on "casual Friday". Stroll around, set up the ironing board, smell the sweet aroma of coffee. Pour a cup, savor that first sip, let loose that sigh of "Oh my God, coffee! Sweet!" Then, a sound interrupted my reverie: drip.....drip.....drip. Within 5 seconds I spot the cause of my interrupted bliss. There is plaster hanging from my living room ceiling. Fuck. Fuckity-Fuck.

It's not too bad. Only a wet rug, but damn. Now I have to contact the office. There will be people coming into my sanctuary to look around and judge (just like we all would) while I'm not there. I can't just take the day off for a one-foot-square of ceiling hanging there.

But I can postpone going in to work a little while. And now, I have to straighten up. That cereal bowl has to go in the dishwasher. Those clothes tossed casually next to the linen basket have to be actually inserted inside. Back to savoring that cup of coffee. No rush to iron that shirt now. Better take some pics with the cell phone for proof. Stroll into work an hour late, no biggee. God, I love my job sometimes.

Anyway, 26+ inches of rain later (yes, 26+ inches of rain in 2 days) and things are back to normal. Kind of. Except for those unlucky enough to be in the path of a tornado.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are You a Leader or a Manager?

I've met and worked with many chefs and managers throughout the years. With a few exceptions, they can be divided into just two categories that I was taught many years ago by a wise sage. Those two categories are: leader or manager.

What's the difference, you may ask? The difference between happy and motivated employees, or grumpy, mindless zombies. Here's how you can tell the difference:

A leader motivates, a manager threatens.

A leader raises up the weakest links, a manager weeds them out.

A leader focuses on problem-solving, a manager assigns blame.

A leader praises hard work, a manager demands it.

A leader accepts praise for the team, a manager grabs it for himself.

A leader works more hours than their charges, a manager scoots at the first sign of a break.

A leader spends 99% of their time on the floor, a manager spends 50% in the office getting the paperwork done early.

A leader gives praise in public and condemnation in private. A manager the opposite.

A leader leaves his private life at home, a manager lives it at work.

Which was I? I fought hard to be a leader. Leaders are looked at with fear by chain restaurants. They are thought to be Mavericks, totally unpromotable and unpredictable. Managers are rewarded with many opportunities. Am I bitter? Yes. Do I have regrets? No. Ummmmm....yes. I wish I had never wasted my time with chain restaurants.

Now, this may seem like sour grapes to some readers, but it's really not. If I can help someone avoid the mistakes I made, it will be worth it. If it makes a manager or two look at themselves in the mirror differently, it will be worth it. If I make a server's ( or dishwasher's, or hostess's, or busser's, or line cook's, etc.) day a little lighter....you get the idea.

Are you a leader or a manager?

Just remember to treat your friendly, neighborhood salesman nicely. He might have been in your shoes once. And he (or she) might be more help than you ever imagined.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

There But for the Grace of God........

Anyone happening upon the city of Pensacola, Florida for the first time will discover many things. First, an inordinate amount of garbage, detritus, and litter lining many roadways (future blog-post, for sure). Second, what many possibilities there are for a true destination-type city: beautiful bays and vistas, historical architecture that has stood the test of time (and hurricanes), and amazingly friendly, truly hospitable people. Third, with many miles of city streets navigated, a preponderance of pan-handlers.

Now, when I lived in South Florida, there were many pan-handlers, true. The intersection of Biscayne Blvd. and 163rd, close to where I worked, had one on duty from dusk till dawn. The difference was, down there, they were selling a little newspaper (the name escapes me), or flowers, or sunglasses, or something. Up here in the "panhandle", they sit on the corner with a little cardboard sign, cigarette dangling from their lips, with phrases to cough up sympathy. Except for a few who have no pride anymore. One sign the other day said, "Why lie, I just want a beer!". And people were giving him money!

I understand that this area of Florida is having a rough time. Hell, all of Florida is experiencing what may be a recession, or what some pundits may say is a "hiccup" right now. Insurance has gone through the roof (even with Insurance companies reaping huge "Exxon/Mobil" type profits), cost of living is ever rising while salaries are stagnant, and companies are still going the ex-pat route to foreign lands.

I talk to many, many restaurateurs and managers on a daily basis, and the consensus is that they can not get enough people. Anyone in the business (and that's probably all of you reading this), knows that there are never enough dishwashers or bussers applying to keep up with business. From past experience, I could never have enough dishwashers, especially. As for bussers, that was usually me during lunch, or the whiny, spoiled waiters (I know I'll get some comments on this!). And I can guarantee there are no dishwashers I've been associated with who make minimum wage. I would say dishwashers make more than check-out people at Wal-mart, or the customer service person at Borders.

I could never figure myself as one who would rather prostate myself before strangers for the money to buy a hamburger. Or a place to lay my head at night. Or whatever. That's the way I was raised. I've been working legally since I was 14. I did other things before the legal age for spending money. When I left the Air Force after five years, I accepted unemployment for 7 weeks before taking a job for less money, just because I was too proud to keep taking from the government dole.

I guess that I was raised different from those poor guys sitting beside the road with their little signs, smoking their generic cigarettes, buying the pints of cheap vodka, never looking you in the eyes as you avoided theirs. Or maybe I've never been in their shoes. I had family who told me how smart I was. How I was destined for great things. How proud they were of my accomplishments.

Could I really judge these guys by my standards? If it was me sitting there with the little cardboard sign, that would truly be a shame. True, my life was not the easiest by a LONG SHOT, but I don't know their history. I may resent them being there, bringing down the area, making me feel guilty, but I now don't feel the anger I once did. If only we could make them productive, contributing something besides blight, increasing their self-esteem.

I have no answers, that's for the professionals. But I know many restaurants that could use these guys in the dish-tank every night.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bloggal Constipation

Sorry for the absence of posts lately. It's only a short lapse, I promise. Believe me, there are plenty of drafts saved, but aborted when I was not happy with what I wrote. I'm either getting pickier with what I produce, or I've hit the creative wall. I just know that I don't want to put forth words that I'm not proud of, just for the sake of posting another post. I will post something soon, something good, something worthy of your time.

Some bloggers make it all seem so easy. Others have much more interesting lives. The chosen few can make the mundane seem fantastical (Is that a word?). I'll be one of those...soon. Hang in there.