Monday, October 11, 2010

Old Colleagues and Coincidence

I hadn't heard from my good friend Jerry in months. He had a job lead a few months ago for a Head Chef job here in Pensacola and asked me for my appraisal of the restaurant in question. I put out feelers and gave him my opinion: a juggernaut on the Gulf Coast that had a rotating door policy for Head Chefs in addition to the kitchen door type. As much as I would have loved having him down here, I couldn't recommend him taking the job. As it turns out, he's doing well, as he told me tonight. A new concept that he nurtured from inception that is receiving raves.

We first met at a Macaroni Grill in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I moved down from Massachusetts on my way to eventually Florida (or so I thought). He was from North Georgia and had just started with Mac after much experience with smaller companies.

He was extremely strong, back-of-the-house-wise. I was more comfortable in front, but could jump back in a pinch. When we worked together, which wasn't as frequently as we'd like, it was magic. Constant communication and teamwork proved to make the evening go smoothly. That we both had a similar sense of humor only made the nights go faster. We spent more time laughing than we did yelling at the employees. Work was fun, and how often does that happen in this business. I'll tell you, ALMOST NEVER.

My temporary assignment there lasted 7 months, and it went way too fast. I enjoyed the staff, we increased our profits and the customer satisfaction index, and our bonuses were off the charts. I almost didn't want to leave. I had a nice apartment minutes from work and I liked Chattanooga. But, my future led to Florida.

Leaving a good situation is difficult. Many people end up staying in a job like that and calling off their dreams to stay in a (relatively, temporary) stressless job. When you have a co-worker that you look forward to working with every day makes the job easier. The employees feel that, too. It makes for a relaxed work atmosphere that is almost unheard of in the restaurant industry. Too many Assistant Manager peers are only looking to make themselves look good, and if they have a chance to make you look bad, look out. That ladder to success is littered with bodies at the bottom after being kicked in the back.

I knew I would miss working with Jerry, but I knew we would see each other in the future. A year later, he would come to figure in a major career change for me. Funny how things turn out that way......

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sad. Just Really, Really Sad

This was taken mere feet from where my vacation feet were photographed 10 days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Thank you, Mr. Cheney. If you have the stomach, look on, our local newspaper site for more. And be sure to check out the opinion page and comments from the local rednecks who blame it all on President Obama.
While I'm becoming less a fan of our President, I realize who the real culprit is in this catastrophe. It's the corporate machine that Eisenhower warned us about decades ago. Can you say Judge Feldman? The man who overturned the six month moratorium on deep-water exploration. Who happens to own significant stock in BP.
That's just crazy-scary, yall.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Welcome Wagon Really Sucks....

When first seeing the neighborhood and house that I decided to move to, I fell in "heavy like". Not love, but much more than a casual fling kinda thing. It had much to recommend it. Three blocks to the water, with a 2-mile park skirting the entire waterfront. Small, quaint homes with decent sized yards and mature trees. Original hardwood floors throughout. 5 minutes to work. And affordable.

The drawbacks? Not terribly far from the not-so-nice neighborhoods. A lot of rental homes mixed in with retirees and absent homeowners. A neighbor who ran a daily yard sale. A lawn I had to maintain.

The first two weeks were fairly ideal. Arranging the furniture to fit into the small rooms. Unpacking collectibles to finally display. Buying my first lawn-mower to groom my first lawn. A lot of firsts that had me feeling grown-up.

Until my lawn-mower was stolen the second week. Now, I was grown-up and feeling awfully naive and trusting. And feeling mad. And ashamed. Add vulnerable and out $160 for said lawn-mower. A slight depression ensued for a few days and then I got pissed and was determined not to let some crack-head ruin my buzz.

So, I dusted off the credit card and bought another lawn-mower. Which resides in my utility room next to the washer and dryer, safe and sound. If not giving off the slight wiff of Eau de Exxon. I could live with the odor more than waist high weeds. And I grew up a little more, and went on with my flirtation with my house and neighborhood.

Until last week. Last Wednesday I came home for lunch (another benefit of living 5 minutes from work). I turned on the T.V. and went into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and grabbed the ham, mayo, and bread. I sat them on the counter and my eyes wandered 3 feet to the right where my back door was standing open about 2 inches. WTF!

I went to my bedroom and saw immediately the contents of my valet box spread across my bed. All my bling, gone like that. My grandfather's initial ring. The Turkish Puzzle ring I brought back from -where else- Turkey. My dad's Air Force ring. The gold nugget bracelet that my grandmother gave me that was already out of fashion when she bought it for me on QVC. And more. But it was my grandfather's ring that upset me the most. He didn't have much in life, and that was all I had of him after his death many years ago.

So, of course I called the police. And found out just how little they really care. He must have said three words the entire time I'm telling my story. No empathy whatsoever. He seemed bored. Like maybe he'd rather be ticketing speeders than standing there in silence writing in his little notebook.

So, I've taken it upon myself to learn about pawn shops. Interesting business, that. When they buy jewelry, they have to write a description and send it in to the Sheriff's Office. Where I'm sure **rolls eyes** my deputy is poring over the list looking for my stuff. Only after 30 days pass can the pawn shop put them on display for sale, or 90 days if it's a pawn-loan. The pawn store operator I talked to smirked knowingly when I described the deputy's demeanor. And I will be visiting every pawn shop in three weeks looking for my grandfather's ring.

And I have a shiny new dead-bolt on my rear door. I'm thinking of electrifying it. And stringing barbed wire on top of my fence. Maybe a tiger trap with sharpened bamboo sticks in the bottom.

So, I will not be a victim, and I will not be driven from a house I really, really like. But, not love. I don't know if love is possible yet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Where I've Been

Stories to come....

I'm Back. Kinda.

Well, sports fans, I'm back from the big 5-0 blow-out. Biloxi, New Orleans, High School city, and then back to the white sands of Pensacola (white, for now).

My aunt/sister had a great time. Me, a good time.

More to come later. With pictures!

Right now, I'm just pooped-out. Make that exhausted.

But, ready to start a new chapter in my life.

And with AARP privileges!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Last Word on DADT

While I, myself, was never tossed from the military, I was in continuous fear of being found out. This was before the Clinton Era and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Although, it seems that those limitations don't limit the local police force from outing military to their bosses on base.

I've always been what may be considered "straight-acting". I don't consider it "straight-acting". I consider it normal for my up-bringing. I'm just me. I played tennis, basketball, and other sports, so I was spared from the ribbing and out-right abuse other gay teens had to endure during High School. Not to mention that I had a "high-school sweetheart" through-out high school.

Being in the military was not so much different from high school. When we had dinners or get-togethers with the "brass", I had a "beard". Unfortunately, Renee, another closeted gay, was outed by her softball pal, who was caught in a piss-test. And, Renee, was a decorated service-member, winning Airman of the Year on our base in Germany. The year before I did.

I could have gone on "under the radar" for who knows how long. Unfortunately, they don't let you know if you're under the microscope until you're actually being questioned. I was never brought in, but the "Sword of Damocles" was hovering closer and closer.

I was up for re-enlistment, and my specialty had a high re-enlistment bonus. I had a hard decision to make. Re-enlist and pop a nice $5k in my bank account and live in fear of being found out, or just get out and move on.

I chose to get out. And grow my beard and hair. And moved on. But, in the end, if I could have stayed in without worrying about getting a 'Dis-honorable' or 'General' discharge, I would have stayed. I definately would have stayed in. I loved my job, and I loved serving my country. My military days were the best of my life, excluding the drama of worrying about being outed.

I would have passed my 20-year retirement 9 years ago with a 50% pay-out. Instead, I got out after 5 years. I did not go in the military knowing that I was gay. I was a sexually-confused, 21-year-old who was ready to serve my country. And was forced out by the fear of being labelled with a big pink triangle, like the Nazis did in WW2.

Which is why I think the current deliberations on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell hearings are so important. Right-wing conservatives and some (but, not all) military leaders don't want to change things, because they think things are peachy-keen as they are. Those same people have the same mind-think as those who thought African-Americans would disrupt morale and unit-cohesiveness. They also thought women could not fight with men. They obviously live in a bubble.

I loved every day I served in the United States Air Force and wish I could have stayed in. Unfortunately, closed-minded people forced me out. To the detriment of the Air Force. Because, I rocked at my job.

And, 24 years later, I still miss it. E-mail or call your local Senator or Representative to let them know how you feel about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Quality people are being forced out because of prejudice, just when quality people are needed in the military. And, a lot of tax-payer money is being spent to kick them out. Just when standards are being lowered to include felons and non-high-school graduates.

Who would you rather serve with you, or for you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Favorites (Change of Pace Edition)

Favorite snack: Unsalted Dry Roasted Peanuts (Does not raise the guilt flag for me).

Favorite singer: K. D. Lang. (Such a glorious voice that sounds as good live, if not better, than on her CDs).

Favorite guilty pleasure: I allow myself 1 pint of ice cream every two months or so (usually Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche).

Favorite "Library reading material": Car and Driver.

Favorite soft drink: Diet Pepsi.

Favorite bread: Sara Lee Honey Whole Wheat (For BLTs, though, any squishy white bread, toasted).

Favorite Soap Opera: The Young and the Restless (I remember seeing the first episodes one summer when I was a young lad of 10 or 11. My new cable provider does not have SoapNet, so I am currently going through withdrawl).

Favorite Reality Show: Duh, Project Runway.

Favorite Dream Car: Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 convertible.

Favorite Candy: M&M Peanut (I used to be able to eat a 1 pound bag in one sitting).

Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music (followed closely by Cabaret. What is it with gays and musicals?).

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep, 'nuff said.

Favorite Writer: David Sedaris (I get him like no other, and many do not get him).

Favorite Game Show: Password (The old one, not the new one).

I know, I know, another throw-away post. But, my brain does not need any more stress right now than this. When I'm fully moved in, and Spring break is over, I will devote more time to the blog. Plus, my favorite aunt-sister is visiting next month for my birthday. And it's a monumental birthday. The big 5-ohhhh. New Orleans is calling.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Parents Visit the New Abode

My dad and stepmother visited to drop off some stuff to my new place. I think the curiosity was killing them. My only scary moment was when my dad went in the 2nd bedroom/computer room and there was a stack of dirty VCR tapes and a boxed set of Queer as Folk sitting in view. No need to get his homophobia in an uproar, so I swept them off to an out-of-view hidey place. Silly explanations avoided. Most comments included "cozy", "cute", and "old".

Kitchen stuff has been unpacked and I started on the oven. Ugh, gross. The racks were solid black, sticky with a tar-like texture. One treatment of Easy-Off will lead to another, although chrome is showing up on about 50% of them. What did the prior tenant cook in the oven, I wonder? My only clue is the dried beans and Adobo left in the cabinets.

Still many boxes unpacked. I fear the 2nd bedroom will never house a bed. One, because it's seriously small. And, two, because it will house containers that will never be unpacked, because there is no room. Down-sizing has it's risks, afterall.

I still have no regrets. I will make it work. Even if the washing machine drain does not drain as fast as the washing machine evacuates water. Small steps, I say to myself. The next step is buying a real, adult bed. For the last 6 years or so, I've slept on blow-up beds. In the last 6 months or so, my back has been screaming for another solution. Even on week-ends, I have to get up at 7am or so, my internal, spinal alarm sounding before I want to get up.

More to come.........

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yeah, Yeah, So Sue Me

I'm now sitting amongst a mountain range of boxes. Figuratively, the Andes of box mountains. I have moved from my suburban-sprawl apartment to a tiny home that's literally 5 minutes from work. I've been wanting to do this for at least a year, but circumstances had conspired to prevent that until now. Having moved so many times over the years, I had become reluctant to box everything up and moving again, but enough was enough.

I have lived in major metropolitan areas before, where commutes were the norm. Living now in the panhandle of Florida, where the congestion is smaller in comparison, did not diminish my disdain for the wasted time in transit. Driving from Gulf Breeze into Pensacola every day drained the everlasting life out of me. Three years of crossing the Three-Mile Bridge will do that to you. The smallest fender bender will increase the commute 2-fold, because that bridge has no pull-off area (traffic control in 1960 did not figure in for extra pull-off zones).

Now, I'm 5 minutes from work. I just have to deal with having only 671 square feet of living space and 800 square feet of stuff. But, it's a sweet old house. Built in the 40's or 50's, it has it's original hardwood floors (chilly on the feet during this cooler than normal winter), a nice deck out back, and a real yard (I haven't mowed grass since I was 16).

But, I'm only 2 blocks from the waterfront park that stretches all around Navy Point, and I don't have to hear any neighbors flushing their damn toilet.

Life is looking up, the rent is $150/month cheaper, and I'm within walking distance to a bar with the best Philly Steak sandwich in town.

The only downside is that the area has the highest per-capita rate of mullets-per-thousand around. My first foray to the local Wally-World had me shaking my head in dis-belief. From suburban yuppies to lower middle class blue-collar is a wake-up call.

And that wake-up call is asking me what demographic do I really fit in. As I meet my neighbors, I'll know more. I already met my neighbor, Linda, who has a perpetual Garage Sale going on. She is a font of info on all the neighbors.

This should be interesting.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yes, A New Post is Coming.....

A new post is coming. My last post brought up a lot of memories, good and bad. I kinda sat back and reviewed where I was in life. Which might......and I say might.....lead in a new direction for my blog.

If anyone still gives a shit.......................