50 MILLION ELVIS FANS CAN’T BE WRONG

Filed under:food,insight — posted by Showy on August 31, 2012 @ 10:07 am


According to Wikipedia, Homo sapiens first arrived in Eurasia 125,000 – 60,000 years ago.  Eurasia, for those who missed fourth grade science, is the name of the land mass now known as Europe and Asia.  Asia currently has a population of 3.9 billion people, which is SIXTY percent of the the world’s population. (China is the highest populated country in the world, Japan is number ten). It is the world’s fastest growing economic region and has half the world’s foreign exchange reserves.  East Asians–Chinese, Japanese,Korean, Taiwanese, Mongolian, Vietnamese–have the highest I.Q. ‘s in the world and most of the wealth of Asia is concentrated in this  area. According to dietsinreveiw.com, Asian people are some of the healthiest in the world.  They have the lowest incident of heart disease, diabetes, and cancers related to obesity.  Japanese women have the longest life span in the world. Thus it can be inferred from this data that  in the last 100, ooo years Asian women have been having many healthy  babies who are not mentally or physically deficient.  Darwinism says they are in fact building stronger humans, as their population could neither be maintained nor grow with high infant mortality rates or short lifespans or fragile women.  These are countries where (pregnant or not) raw fish and meat are consumed on a daily basis, where rotten fish sauce and all manner of offal are eaten without the blink of an eye,where cooking utensils are not scrubbed and washed to surgical precision, where two-thirds of the world’s fish are consumed.  Could it be that the majority of pre-natal books, websites, television celebrities and, dare I say it, DOCTORS in the United States are full of shit?  Shall I be more eloquent?  I know my language offends my mother, and this is a piece about being a mother in the US, so I shall attempt to bring my writing to a “higher” level.  How about this–this nation and its population is driven by fear and it infuriates me.

When a woman gets pregnant in this country she is given lists of things to eat and not to eat.  Raw fish, smoked fish, raw meat, raw eggs, soft cheese and unwashed vegetables are verboten because of mercury and bacteria.  The www.epa.gov states

“For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development.  Methylmercury exposure in the womb, which can result from a mother’s consumption of fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury, can adversely affect a baby’s growing brain and nervous system. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So let us talk about mercury.  Everyone and their brother seems to have the little fold-up chart created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services but do they know how the fish are tested or that all fish have mercury?  Are they aware that almost

 everyone in the United States has some level of mercury in their system? It boils down to this–all fish have mercury, big fish eat little fish,  large fish have more mercury than little fish.  Mercury levels are tested on dead fish and living fish, but are these fish living in areas where industrial activity, chemical manufacturing and wastewater treatment plants are poorly regulated ?  Environmentalchemistry.com says that “certain species of large tuna sometimes have levels” (italics mine) of more than one part per million, yet we are told NO RAW TUNA.   I am not a fan of absolutes.  Pregnant or not, you should know the source of your food.  How much raw tuna and what kind of tuna are you eating?  Yes, there are many different types of tuna, not just our bespectacled Charlie. You would have to consume POUNDS of tuna a month to show any ill effects. Cooking fish doesn’t alter the mercury content so avoid the kings–swordfish, shark and tilefish (swordfish is pretty nasty with its tumors, mercury or not).    Albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna so ease up on that–not to mention the dolphin and birds that are trapped and suffocated by the nets used to gather albacore.  What about freshwater fish?  Well, look out for industrial pollutants in bluefish, striped bass, salmon, pike, and walleye.    You can eat shrimp and catfish–although shrimp eats phytoplankton so anything floating in the sea will go right into it, which includes the disgusting BP oil spill of 2010.  Catfish are bottom feeders.  If you read all of this without doing any research on your own  you won’t eat fish again.  Which is a bad decision–a decision created out of fear and ignorance.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine states the low consumption of seafood in early pregnancy is a risk factor for pre-term delivery and low birth weight. “Seafood is the predominant source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for optimum neural development…raw fish should be avoided because of parasite but freezing and cooking are the most effective way to kill parasite larvae.” The FDA requires sushi/sashimi flash frozen to destroy parasites .  I feel a strong urge to repeat that:  the FDA requires sushi/sashimi flash frozen to destroy parasites.  Steven Shaw of the New York Times says, “In Japan, eating raw fish is considered part of good neonatal health” and that the fatty acids in fish are ideal nourishment for your growing baby.Wikipedia tells us “it is particulary important for pregnant women to get enough choline, since low choline intake may raise the rate of neural tube defects in infants and may affect memory”.   Choline is a building block for the neurotransmitter acetycholine which is crucial for memory, intelligence and mood regulations.  Raw tuna has 363 mg / oz of omega-3 and 18.2 choline but when it is cooked the choline is gone.  Raw sockeye has 365 mg omega-3/oz and 26.5 choline–when cooked the choline is reduced to 18.3 mg/oz.  Raw fish roe has 335mg choline per tablespoon.   And the number one source of choline is the raw egg yolk–1388 mg.  Tobiko with quail egg anyone? It seems to me that eating your favorite roll or sashimi platter is right in line with nourishing your baby and yourself.  Even the American Pregnancy Organization is with me–eat no more than three 6 ounce portions a month of ahi, hamachi, katsuo, maguro and toro.  Unless you are dating the sushi chef, you are not going to see portions to top those numbers as the average roll contains two ounces of fish–that is nine rolls a month my pregnant friends.  

How about those terrible bacteria we are supposed to avoid in raw meat and soft cheese and unwashed vegetables?  I must segue here–unwashed vegetables?  All I can picture is a woman calmly putting pieces of dirt covered greens in her mouth, smiling as the grit gathers in her teeth.  We learned in California, washed or not, that something as innocent as spinach and cantaloupe can carry the bacteria Listeria .  How do you wash a cantaloupe?  Doesn’t the skin of the melon protect us?  Nope, listeria multiply at refrigerator temperatures and that silly old skin ain’t stopping none of it.  How about this one–the third leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in this country is from Toxoplasma gondii.  It isn’t just litter boxes and feral cats pooping in your garden.  It can be consumed from undercooked lamb, pork and venison.  However, 60 million people in the U.S. carry this parasite but their immune system stops illness.  If you are not healthy anything can get you.  Bacteria are good.  The yogurt industry sold 50 billion gallons of yogurt with its probiotics hoo-ha.  Those are beneficial bacteria.  Babies who are exposed to animals and farming develop much stronger immune systems than those who are shuttled around in mommy’s little antiseptic grocery go-getter.  The unbelievable increase in child food allergies only emphasizes my point–stop raising your child in fear.  How can so many kids be suddenly allergic to lactose, to peanuts, to gluten?  But I digress from my point–pregnant women have been birthing babies for a long, long time without Jenny McCarthy and the internet telling us what to eat and how to act and what to do.  I cite statistics of East Asia to show that this country needs to stop  listening to “experts”. Humans have been procreating for a loooong time and they aren’t doing too bad.   I ate red meat for weeks straight, because that is what my body was craving.  I ate sushi most of my pregnancy, and my son apparently had the thickest placental cord my doctor had ever seen.  I practiced yoga until I gave birth, including “bad” moves for knocked up ladies, and my son is and was the most chill child ever.  It seems to me that a continent that produces bilingual economic geniuses may be looked at as a reference point for fetal nutrition.  I don’t care what the books say or what a sixty year old male doctor says.  Women need to believe what their body tells them.  They also need to research what and why–if the doctor said to start smoking because studies say the nicotine relaxes the fetus people would laugh in his face.  So why automatically assume his dietary rules are correct and absolute?  I believe people use rules to prove to themselves and others that they are following a regimine rather than doing whatever they want, which shows no discipline.  They can cite a book or a website to support their behaviors, or  claim “my doctor said” to do X, Y, or Z.  However, blindly accepting “authority” or other opinion simply means you are lazy.  Please, educate yourselves and EAT MORE SUSHI!!

 

IF LOVE IS THE DRUG BABIES ARE CRACK

Filed under:insight — posted by Showy on August 8, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

I never wanted kids.  I thought children were a pain in the ass. I never had a moment where I wanted to hold anyone’s baby or look at pictures or listen to baby stories.  I would nod and smile and utilize all my waiter acting abilities but I was bored, bored, bored.   A baby?  ACK!  Maternal instinct was not in my genetic code.  If I got pregnant, I could not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. I could not  wear tight clothes and dance my ass off until the wee hours of the morning.  I could not take drugs and hook up with young hotties.  If I had a baby I would be forced to have a schedule and to take care of someone beside myself–someone wholly and completely dependent on me.   I was happy with my low maintenance, non-judgemental cats.  All through my thirties I focused on me, even when in serious relationships.  I was a manipulative, selfish bitch and pretty proud of it.  ”I am woman” and all that drivel.  Then I meet someone who recognizes my machinations and falls in love with me anyway.  He does not lie and can smell one from forty feet.  He can’t be manipulated so I am forced to stop my games and have a real relationship where the other person comes first.  Honesty. Adulthood.  Ouch. After we establish ourselves as a serious couple he tells me he wants babies.  BABIES.  Well ……why not? (ohmygodohmygodohmygod).  Holly Golightly covered her fears with the mantra “I’ve never (fill in the blank) before” and that is how I approach getting pregnant.  I quit taking the pill and think what the hell, let’s see what happens.  Four months later and I’m buying a midnight pregnancy test at Safeway.  I pee on it in the parking lot and sit in my truck waiting for the plus or minus…..and…. (see Kill Bill for the best rendition of a woman waiting on her stick results).  I don’t tell baby daddy for a couple days–I have heard so many clever ways women reveal their pregnancies and I want mine to be memorable.  However I still have not quite wrapped my mind around the fact that I am pregnant and my creative powers seem to have left the building.  So I just walk into his office while he is studying with the stick in my hand and say “I’m pregnant.”  I would love to describe some amazing dialogue that occurred post announcement, but I swear he just smiled and said “cool”.  . .

We don’t tell anyone except our respective parents.  I am forty years old and the wait three month rule seems applicable here, if my vanity can take it.  My mother once misinterpreted a comment about our new puppy as a pregnancy and she seems unwilling to believe me.  ”Mom, I swear to GOD I am pregnant.  Why would I call you across the country to pull a prank on you?  YOU ARE A GRANDMOTHER.”  My mother-in-law goes apeshit and I have to talk her out of posting an announcement on the CNN ticker.  After two months I tell my friend, as she has two young kids and can answer my random questions about breastfeeding and labor and…everything (thank you Carrie).  I go to Kaiser on my 40th birthday to have the official test and during my exam a nurse whips the door open and talks to my doctor.  Pardon me?  The doctor doesn’t listen to anything I have to say and I leave feeling dehumanized.  Fortunately I go to another facility for the majority of my pregnancy and I have a great nurse practioner for my check-ups who admits that weed is a great medicinal aid and that the bureaucracy of Kaiser is horrible.  Yet I still feel disconnected and experience my pregnancy like one would observe an experiment.    Hmmm, I’m craving red meat.  Huh, I don’t have any morning sickness.  Wow there is a lot to learn about cloth diapers.  It is not until I am six months pregnant that I start to talk to the baby. We chose his name as soon as we knew “it” was a boy, but I never felt that connection.  He was just there.  The entire time I was pregnant I kept thinking “What am I doing?  Why aren’t I oozing emotion and maternal-ness out of every pore?”  Fast forward to birth.  WOW.  Really, everyone, take the fentanyl.  The excruciating pain of labor requires that you take a little rest and the fentanyl allows you to do that, unless, of course, you wait too late as I did.  We all want to be NATURAL mothers but have no problem medicating ourselves in every other aspect of our life.  It is another bizarre aspect of pregnancy–labor choices are to be completely numb from the waist down, which makes absolutely no sense, use a little mother’s helper that is only effective in the first part of labor or just go commando and fight through the worst pain of your life. (My feelings on how doctors and Americans treat pregnant women will not be approached here as I have a thousand words on said subject.  Look for it in a later post.) Several hours later and we have a son and  just maybe Showy is starting to feel a little more like Showmama.  My BABY.  Holy shit.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In a few days I learn what all the hubbub is about–I worship this little child.  He is the coolest and everyday with him just gets better.  I love watching his facial expressions, his physical changes, his ever growing vocabulary.  I find it confounding that everyone tells you that raising children is so hard, so impossible.  I would rather hang out with my two and half year old than with most adults I meet.  For many months I worried–no, more than worried, more like severe emotional trama– about his innocence and how I would help him when he gets his feelings hurt the first time.  Grown ups are mean, little boys are mean, the fucking world is mean.  But I decided that we would figure it out, just like we figured out potty training and discipline and proper behaviour.  I am not one of those hovercraft mothers.  When he decides to jump off the top of the playhouse I hope I will be there and I hope that he will be smart enough to realize it is not a great idea, but really, you only learn through trial and error.  My parents let my brother and I go off on many adventures in the woods alone and we are both still standing.  My parenting decisions are fodder for another piece, but you have to deduce that your child is a little cognitive sponge that needs guidance and respect.  You have to understand that your baby will forgive you for your first hundred mistakes and still love you.  Having a child is the greatest decision I ever made, and I hope that through word of mouth I can convince my childless friends to join the fun.  Now we just need to get another one before I turn to dust.

 

THINK DAVID BOWIE AND FREDDY MERCURY

Filed under:insight — posted by Showy on June 7, 2012 @ 3:50 pm

 

 Failure.  Success.  These are stultifying concepts when applied to writing.  Part of me believes that if I want to have a successful blog, I must write on it weekly, or at the very least monthly. Merriam Webster defines a blog as something “usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary” and I do not think my sporadic postings are anywhere near “regular”.  Therefore I do not have a successful blog, as my last piece was posted nine months ago.  Google tells me a blog is “a personal website on which an individual records opinions”  which I interpret as a computer journal.  I do not want to supply the internet with my innermost scrambled ideas, so perhaps I want to “fail” at my blog.   Why bog myself down with these definitions?  I don’t get paid for my writing, and few people read it.   However, this is what I want to do with my life and my time.  I want to succeed and to succeed I need to practice.  I could rattle off many reasons why I cannot post consistently but, in actuality,  it is my intrinsic fear of failure that stops me every time. If I haven’t posted something for a while I either rush something out or I find a reason not to–either way I feel as if I have failed.  I hate the feeling of defeat so I avoid putting myself in said situation.  This is circular,cowardly logic.  If I don’t try, I can’t fail.  Paralyzing.

I never had to try at anything for my first 18 years and I believe that set up some neural pattern that causes alarm bells to sound when I face something I may not conquer outright.  I went to college on a full academic scholarship and was amazed and terrified when I realized that I did not know how to study.  I went to a tiny public school in a tiny little town and when I sat in Calculus my freshman year I had NO IDEA what was going on. Math was never my strong point, and when combined with the debauchery of college and a 9am class I was lost within the first week.   My professor was nicknamed Daily Staley as he gave quizzes every class, which he believed beneficial to our understanding.  But in my mind, I had to face Daily Staley and fail three mornings a week.   He may have been a decent teacher, but he had no idea how to help me.  Instead he sent me to the tutor, a Pakistani kid with an indecipherable accent.  I was panicking–I had to keep a 3.5 to keep my money and failing a class would make that impossible.  A few hours before my midterm, one of my sorority sisters explained eights weeks of calculus to me.  She was also a freshman, a blonde pretty girl whose name escapes me.  But with her guidance I got a B+ on that test, and Staley was so proud of himself when he handed me my test.  I didn’t tell him I had to call in Tri Delt reinforcements.  My point?  I absolutely had to take that class.I don’t absolutely have to continue with my blog.  However, one of my inner chatty Cathys tells me I need to write, that I have things to say and talent for saying them and that if I don’t just sit down and write I will be unhappy and restless and sad.  That my fear of failure will be overcome  and that anything gets better with practice. Fuck all the pressure I feel to write perfect, snappy, witty posts every time.   So here we are.

I listened to two old interviews with Maurice Sendak the other day.  He was delightful and introspective and brilliant.  He and I have little in common.  At the time of the interview, he was in his fifties and successful and secure.  I am not male or Jewish or gay or a child of the first world war.  But I connected with his ideas –he said his process cannot be rushed, something it took him years to understand.  He had the same schedule every day and as he described his day to the interviewer I felt jealous.   I know I need to create a schedule but I find it so difficult.  Mr. Sendak did not have a two and a half year old son, a husband, two hound dogs, five cats, ten bunnies and a dozen chickens–ah, there I go.  Listing the reasons I am so busy, too busy to write or read or any of the things I think I need to do for myself but  just cannot because I am so damn busy.  That is bullshit.  My son is very independent and the rest of the” farm” is pretty self-sufficient.  I realized under my jealousy I just felt fear–I can easily create a pattern to my days that permits me personal time but what if I still fail?  Sendak’s critics told him he couldn’t draw for fuck’s sake.  I cannot get over little voices in my own head?  I may not have the wherewithal to have hours of private time, but I need breaks when I write.  My husband respects my writing time and is thrilled when I sit down to compose.   I look at my last entry and wish I had not been so desperate to post something.  I was mad one day and wrote a petty little bitchy post that is a poor representation of my writing and my mindset.  It reads like every other waiter blog out there and one of my “fans” sent me a message telling me as much.  Thank you whoever you are.  You are correct.  I just felt so much internal pressure to post anything that I wrote a decent first paragraph and thought that would cover the rest of the mediocrity.   I knew I needed time to mull and stew and EDIT, but I pushed that away and thought that something was better than nothing.  Sendak took years with his ideas and his books.  Listening to his interview lit a fire under me to write, to accept that creativity of any sort is a process, and that everyone benefits from a schedule.  Thank you creator of Max, and the Night Kitchen and the striking Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker.

I approach my ideas the same way I have since I was in fourth grade–with research.  I wrote my first paper (on Margaret Mead) when I was nine.  My library books  and my note-covered index cards were strewn across the dining room table  and I loved it.  I now use a yellow legal pad for my ideas, and use the internet instead of a card catalog.  I cut out newspaper articles, rip pages from magazines, jot notes on scrap bank statements when I am driving.  My husband is a modern fellow–he is perfectly happy to have everything on his iPad and finds my folders of garden notes and blog ideas amusing.  But he is a scientist and he thinks in black and white.  I like chaos and mess.  I need to lay all my papers out and touch them and rip them up and immerse myself in my ideas. Many bloggers follow Daily Staley’s example and post tiny blurbs every other day.  These blogs are pure emotion and idea and I would venture to say that they think they are “successful” bloggers because they have “regular” entries.  This is not my style.  My opening paragraphs are typically longer than many entire blogs.   Perhaps if I open a journal-style blog with a disclaimer I can release some of my self-imposed pressure to write flowing articles and post on a more frequent basis.   It would allow me to exercise in stream of consciousness mode and force me to just write.  Even though this piece is opinion, I still used research to double check my facts on Maurice Sendak and to find background on blogs.  I let it rest as a proper conclusion formed in my mind.  I walked away when I felt myself just rattling on, which gave me time to re-shape my opening paragraph.  I must accept that I may never be a blogger but that is not failure.  I just need to change my framing techniques–all writing is not the same and all of my writing is not the same.  I can practice more than one mode and it is beneficial to do so.  I am grateful I discovered Maurice Sendak’s posthumous interviews and the epiphany he inspired.  Now let’s see if I can incorporate it into my life.

Herman Melville’s great great great grandnephew is right

Filed under:insight,living the life — posted by Showy on August 18, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

In 1995 I went to Lollapalooza and saw several mangy looking kids running around wearing tee shirts that said “Everything Is Wrong.”  I had no idea what this strong sentiment was in reference to, and I put it in the back of my mind, in the sort-through-later bin.  If I puzzled over every shirt I saw at an outdoor summer concert I would be unable to function–why is that fat woman wearing a tee shirt painted to look as if she is topless?  What does B O B refer to and why is it on the back of a shirt? Why is that idiot wearing a black turtleneck in 85 degree, 90 percent humidity Ohio summer heat?  I digress.  I later watched Moby perform on this tiny little bandstand and was entranced.  Who the fuck was this guy and where did he come from?  And, HEY–Everything Is Wrong is his album.  Right on.  I listened to that cassette until it snapped (yes cassette you fuckers, on my Walkman).  And now, sixteen years later, I am here to tell you Moby is right.  Everything is Wrong and I hate everyone.

I know, you think this is just another waiter whining and bitching about their chosen profession, how all diners suck and blah blah blah.  No no my friends, I do not just hate my guests. I hate everyone.  I hate my family and my animals and perfect strangers.  I hate the police and the librarians and the people who invented human rights.  I hate customer service and automated voices and fucking phone trees.  I hate flies and bugs and ….. ok, I don’t hate dragonflies.  And I don’t hate my cats.  Or my son.  BUUUUUT, I hate everyone else because they are either the reason I know everything is wrong or they are the cause of everything is wrong.

My parents raised me in a strict household, where we did not watch mindless television or eat worthless fast food.  When I did not know what a word or idea meant I was taught to LOOK IT UP, in a dictionary or encyclopedia.  My brother and I played outside in the woods and built forts and caught insects and chased snakes and fell out of trees and rode our bikes HELMETLESS for god’s sake.  We grew up on a farm, working in the field or milking twice a day or weeding the garden.  We hauled wood in the snow.  We chased cows in the mud.  Are you getting it?  We learned a work ethic and a sense of responsibility.  If you fall out of the tree no one pushed you, unless it was your cousin and then that shit just happens so get used to it.   If you worship models in Seventeen then you better do your chores to earn your allowance to spend on said “fashion”–not pout in your room because no one else in your class has to get up at 4am on the weekend.  I went to undergrad on a full scholarship, where I had to maintain a 3.5 to keep my tuition.    I used to work at least two jobs when I was single, for money and to keep myself busy.  I also discovered that the world was packed full of idiots, which I would not have known if my parents were lousy parents, so I hate them.  Women who couldn’t change a tire, or fry an egg or clean a toilet.  Men who couldn’t wash their own shirts, or make coffee, or bait a hook.   Customer service meant stopping in the conversation long enough to reach for your money–no eye contact, no smile, and do not get me started about the inability of most cashiers to make change.  So I chose booze.  Wait, what?  See I could either go crazy in my new world of adulthood with the never ending stupidity of life or I could numb myself to it, or at least that is what I thought.  And really, it is aMAZing the things that do not bother me when I am drunk.  The person in the Home Depot vest doesn’t know where paint is at the Home Depot, oh well.  My guest wants a salad with everything on the side,including the salt and pepper, no problem.  I forgot to make my car payment, oopsie.  See I do stupid, stupid shit too and I hate myself, and it is always related to alcohol.  I take responsibility–my choice of numbing my brain down to idiot level is NOT, and never will be,  a good choice.  I clearly need another method, but currently I am consumed with hate for all of mankind to think rationally and this post is not about my alcoholism (although it is wrong and therefore on topic).

My latest stupid shit is getting a DUI and having to spend the next 18 months in a Safety Center hell, a DMV delight contrived to make you suffer so much you think twice before drinking and driving again.  These Monday night meetings have sent me over the edge.  I was holding on to a slim cord of hope but no more.  I hear stories of police idiocy  and courtroom horseshit and I am incensed….but no one seems to care.  Everyone in my group is a multiple offender and only one guy even seems upset that his rights were violated.  THIS is why I, guess the word, HATE, the expression “it is what it is.”  No no o onono oo.  You have a felony for spray painting graffiti on a wall when you were 18?  Fifteen years ago?  That does NOT give anyone probable cause to search your vehicle.  A DUI while in a wheelchair?  ”Hey, oh well, whatever.”  I just want to shake these people or stick an icepick in my ear or maybe both.  And I hate my husband, because he has been telling me this for years and I just skipped along in the misty belief that he couldn’t be right.

Oh, to quote The Matrix seems so….expected but those Wachowski boys hit the nail on the head in so many ways with this film.  I would love to put a piece of video here, but writing is my prowess, not embedding video.  Let me just say that my Morpheus has slowly fed me the red pill for years, and it finally took hold this week.  Morpheus describes “a splinter in your mind, driving you mad” and that is how I feel.  I  cannot stop seeing all the lackadaisical, non-logical, ambivalent shit everyone seems to do.  Everyone means 95% of my world, so if you believe you are in the five percent then you probably are.  I mean you were smart enough to find my blog weren’t you?  Anyway, here is a short list of things splintering my brain today:

Why did I just see two people cross the street two feet from the crosswalk?  You are jaywalking, you are potentially causing an accident and you are TWO FEET from a crosswalk that lights up and everything.  What, what are you discussing?  Dancing with the Stars?

Why did I have to stop for a woman with a baby stroller stopped in the middle of the street on her phone?  Was God on the phone, or Ed McMann?  In all honesty I would stop for Ed too, but I would get my damn baby off the street.  Not only is Ed dead, so wow what a phone call, but also what good is the Publishers Clearing House money if you and baby are dead?

Why is everyone so fucking defensive?  Is simple eye contact too much for you to handle?  All I asked was if you were interested in non-alcoholic drinks aside from soda.  I don’t drink either bitch.  Please, change your meds or just stay in your house.

When did the simple art of listening become such a task?  Here’s a lesson…..I ask you a question and you listen to  my question, then respond.  My 21 month old baby can do this.  My chicken can do this.  I cannot get my mind around this.

Why does my dog not understand no?  Anyone?

Finally, why do I have so many fucking flies in my house?  Although this week, these flies may distract me from the idiots of the world long enough to make it through another day.  So, similar to  my parents and my husband, Flies, I hate you but maybe I really love you.

No I hate you.

pssst…part two

Filed under:service — posted by Showy on May 20, 2011 @ 10:44 am

“If you build it, they will come.”  I request media on tipping, and the universe provides.  How cool is that.  A week after I wrote my original article, a local radio station queried “On what do Americans spend 40 billion dollars a year?”  Answer:  tips in restaurants.  If we go back to the Department of Labor numbers, one percent of Americans are waiters.  The 2008 Census tells us there were 303 million people in this country–2010 census numbers say we are at 310 million (seven million in two years?! ye gods). Let’s go down the middle with 306,500,000 and divide one percent of that by 40 billion dollars (radio source unknown) which gives servers an average tip income of, wait for it, $13,050 a year.  Hello poverty level.  I used to make $50,000 a year in tips; I know many people who still make that money.  I’m going to say someone’s numbers somewhere are incorrect.  The DJ did say that tips are the way waiters pay their bills but only after he repeated “40 billion! Wow!” Unfortunately, the average radio listener hears FORTY BILLION DOLLARS and thinks we are taking home bank.  Not the best media.

Last Sunday, American Public Media’s program Marketplace Money did a piece on, you guessed it, tipping.  Tess Vigeland lead with this:

“How much do you tip? 15 percent? 20? 25? What started out as a way to reward good service is now pretty much a given.  You tip even if the wait staff pours an entire bottle of wine on your head. So if your gonna (sic) tip no matter what, at least you’ve got all kinds of gadgets to help you do the math these days.”

The piece then went on to discuss the confusing tip charts found on credit card receipts, tipping out of guilt, and whether to tip before or after sales tax.  An interesting piece, and I was thrilled to hear it on NPR, but Ms. Vigeland’s opening did not sit well.  ”Even if the wait staff pours an entire bottle of wine on your head.”  I believe she was trying to make the point that one tips regardless, and used an extreme visual to emphasize that point but it came across as a bit disrespectful of the profession to me. Perhaps I am oversensitive.  My partner says “However she said it, she’s right–you tip fifteen percent when you walk in the door, no matter what happens.  If service is exemplary, you tip 20 or 25 percent.  That is PART OF THE EXPERIENCE.  You do not go out to dinner to create your own drinks, alter the chef’s preparation or stiff the service staff.  If you want to do that, stay home, pop a Natty Light, over salt your mac and cheese and kick the dog.”  Tipping is part of the experience of dining out.  It is not part of the experience of a salad bar, walk-through cafeteria, or Starbucks.  Tip jars enrage me.  The definition of a waiter is “a man whose occupation is to serve at table, as in a restaurant” (freedictionary.com).  Can you imagine the horror on people’s faces if you walked up to a table, slammed your jar down and said “Hi, how ya doin’?”  Yes, a jar is needed at a bar because the barman is running up and down the wood and needs one location to place his tip money.  But I digress.  The who, what, where, when, why and how of tipping is murky and mysterious.  I hope that through word of mouth, print articles, radio and internet that we (professional servers) can teach the dining public how it is done.  Perhaps we should start our own rubber bracelet campaign–ours will be white with wine stains, stamped with dollar signs and 86s.  Who’s with me?

psst….ask for animal style

Filed under:service — posted by Showy on April 7, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

When I moved to California over a decade ago I was taken to In and Out, and told to order my burger “animal style.”  This “style” is not listed on the tiny In and Out menu but there are many surreptitious ways to order, all spread solely by word of mouth.  Why can’t we utilize this method in the world of service?  A waiter’s number one complaint is ignorant diners–why can’t we educate the public in a similar fashion?  Why can’t we spread the good word of TIPPING to any and all that will listen?  According to the Department of Labor, in 2008 only ONE percent of Americans were waiters.  We do talk for a living, but even if that one percent told 50% how to tip properly it would not disperse like burger secrets, because the information stops with the “teller.”

When you say In and Out to anyone, they say oooh, animal style, protein style, 2×4, 4×4….telling covert tales to all that will listen, in every arena.  At work, at the doctor’s office, at the gas station.  When I discover my in-laws tip by doubling the tax, I teach them the proper way to tip.  But they do not go to their next golf outing and say hey, how do you guys tip?  Guess what insider tip secrets I learned.  I’ve overheard women in the movie theater sharing personal hygiene details that NO ONE should share (much less overhear)  but never have I heard one say to the other “You know my daughter’s a server and she says that no one knows how to tip properly.  How do you tip?”  I listen to NPR daily, and hear stories about every little interest group in the world.  I have never heard, in over ten years of listening, a story about leaving a gratuity.  Several years ago waiters country-wide frothed and spat when Oprah said she did not tip on wine–she later apologized.  Last year she was accused of telling her audience it was “OK to tip 10% during the recession” but that was just hub bub.  Oprah.com says she never said that and that she “believes in generously compensating waiters and waitresses.”  I’ll bet she gets grrrrreat service in Chicago.

I looked on the internet for guides on proper tipping in the United States and found very little.  The great and powerful Wikipedia says to tip 15 to 20 percent before tax, as does EmilyPost.com.  Before tax, my electric friends?  I pay income tax on my total sales, so I should get tipped on my total sales, which includes sales tax.  Mr. Peter Post says 90% of his audiences claim to tip 20%–simply because it is easier.  We have the degrading arithmetic skills of the US working in our favor, so there’s that.  Ultimately it is rather difficult, really, to be upset with guests who do not know how to tip.  No one talks about it and the entire business of service and gratuity floats in a grey mist of shame.  I would never ask my vet or my mechanic or my hairdresser what their “day job” is, but I have been asked that  many times.  I have friends who put their kids through college with their server incomes, yet our profession is not seen as a career.  Americans seem embarrassed to be “served” and cover that embarrassment with anger or condescension or indifference.  People frequently are unaware that the federal minimun wage for tipped employees is $2.13 an hour.  In California we make minimum wage, but tips are how we pay the bills.  I cannot call PGE, tell them that I loved the electricity they sent me this month, and think my statement is settled.  Many guests will tell me how wonderful I made their experience, and leave a tiny  tip.  The bill is not paid and my hands are tied.  In the PGE case, my customer service representative will still ask …”and do you have a credit card on file?” but I cannot ask a guest why they left me ten percent after raving about my service.  It is considered poor form to tell someone they left the wrong amount of money.  I had a table that I loved leave me NOTHING and I knew it was an addition error and I did not know what to do.  Fortunately one woman came up to me and said “Did we leave you anything?”  and I told her no.  However, if they come up and say “Did we leave you enough?” do you answer that honestly?  Enough, as in the grand scheme of the world enough?  As in I need a root canal enough?  Or enough in the twenty percent enough?  I’ve used that response before to great effect–humour is always the ultimate agent of ease.  But does that person go to the gym and share that tale with the person on the next stepper?  ”Hey we went to X Bistro and our super waitress told us that twenty percent is the new black?”  Sadly no.

TO BE CONTINUED…….

whiskey whiskey, nancy whiskey

Filed under:living the life,service — posted by Showy on November 26, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

Why are alcoholics, drug addicts and miscreants of all shape and size drawn to the restaurant business?  As a member of this comprehensive collection I know why I got into it — great money, good times and a pro-drinking environment. It is a non-traditional job–no getting up at 6am to battle through commuter traffic to sit in a cubicle and slowly fade away into retirement. It is a night job–all day to fight off the hangover and all night post-service to drink.  You always find at least one other person to drink with every night so you can see your drinking as social.  Drinking is encouraged for knowledge sake so one could  (and one does) go to work with alcohol on your breath as well as drink at work and no one would care.  In fact, drinking at work has the potential of increasing your income.  Alcohol gives one a neural buffer, so stupid questions or demeaning attitudes are less annoying.  Lazy co-workers less irritating.  Guests often want uber-personality tableside, and alcohol definitely greases the entertainment wheels.  Servers make a minimum of twenty dollars an hour and really, we only work hard in spurts.  Alcoholics and addicts are statistically smarter than the average bear, and serving is a challenging occupation.  I get paid to eat, drink and charm and I enjoy it.

In the Napa Valley, restaurant staff  frequently have field trips to wineries and distilleries where we drink together in a “learning” environment with our managers and co-workers.  These outings are the height of hypocrisy.  In Cleveland, for example, we would rent a bus, go to a Cavs game, and hope to stay coherent until the final buzzer.  Everyone got hammered, hooked up, went out afterward, etc.  No pretenses.  In the NAPA VALLEY however, we are going to learn about wine and wine making, NOT to get wasted.  Riiiiiiight.  These field trips reveal the highly functional alcoholics of the herd (although if you are Hi-Fi, you already know your clansmen) from the amateurs.  I love watching the amateurs.  At the winery excursion everyone has their guard down and drinks more than they realize.  All restaurant people are devious, but most are only first level bullshitters (alcoholics have levels of deception that challenge KGB Cold War operations).  They talk big talk about their gardening and their families and their wine knowledge and no one at their table will ever know the difference.  But I work with them every day and I hear one or two things that make me wonder about these “perfect” lives.   Add a bottle of wine and a convivial atmosphere and SHAZAM:  I discover my general manager has no restaurant experience, NONE.  His parents bought the restaurant for him after his married failed.  I knew he was an idiot who tried to machismo his way though his blunders.  I did NOT know that he knew nothing about service or food or business, until he sipped and didn’t spit.  KAPOW: I see Linda, perfect wife and mother of three, “accidently” sitting next to the new manager, both over involved with the tour guide’s every word, swirling and sipping.  At the end of our winery excursion she tells her ride to go, and gets in his car.  TADAH:  Peace love hippy Tom brings his wife, who tells everyone she thought he was gay when they met and that if they didn’t have a second child soon she was divorcing him, oh hahaha.  They leave two bottles later and I can see them viciously fighting in the car.  In vino veritas.

The “learning” aspect of these trips encourage attendance, even if you have to work later that night.  This is where even experienced members of the tribe fall.  Once I start drinking I find it very hard to stop.  Tennessee Williams refers to a switch being flipped and it is true:  those pleasure centers are activated and all sense of reality fades.  If I am going to a wine tasting that includes a wine soaked lunch I cannot go to work:  I know I will continue to drink until I can’t stand and that will be my night.  I have pulled it off–I am not the super fucking hero of alcoholics, making great plans and following through.  But I did quit long enough to shower and drive to work, where I continued gulping secret drinks to get me though the shift.  I, however, am a server.  My manager tried this technique and lost her job.  She went to said outing dressed for work (clearly planning to drink through the”get ready” time), drank post lunch until she passed out (at an employee’s house) and when shaken awake–”you have to go to work”–she vomited for a good ten minutes.  She finally pulled herself together to go to the job, where the GM looked at her and said “You smell like shit.  Go home.”  Her job was posted on Craig’s List by the end of the night.  The entertaining coda to this story is that while she was a lush, she was a good manager.  She knew food, wine and people.  The staff liked her.  The GM who fired her was aloof, judgmental and hated by many servers.  He embezzled thousands of dollars from the company and disappeared.  He and his boyfriend were professional cons.  The owners were shocked.  I think it justice:  they should have, by California law,  offered the good manager help, not kicked her to the curb.  She should have sued them for it, but she was too ashamed to even return for her coat.  I think it perfect that they get embarrassed and defensive about THEIR choice when he fucks them over.  Anyone want to drink to hypocrisy?

it’s hard out here for a pimp

Filed under:insight,service — posted by Showy on November 20, 2010 @ 2:18 am

I love the English language.  I have studied French, Italian and German and while they all have beautiful sounds they cannot compare to my native tongue.  English is the hardest language to learn because it has no real rules.  The Romance languages have tenets based on time, place, speaker, “speakee”, gender and, I think, phases of the moon.  English laughs at such constrictions.  English is so mutable that the same sentence; even the same word; has different meaning based on who says it and how it is said.  English is all about time, tone and tonsils.  Example: President Obama says he is black and that is quickly determined to be the acceptable word to refer to people of color darker than the umber crayon in the Crayola box.  President Bush (either one) says Obama is black and he has a public relations nightmare.  I am an expert on the politics of presentation, as I have been paid to speak to everyone and their brother for the past, oh, twenty years.

I believe that English is all about tone and time–I mean time of response as well as Greenwich Mean Time.  If someone asks you a question and you answer too rapidly you sound rote.  If you answer too slowly you sound deceitful.  If you and Goldilocks answer JUST RIGHT you win the perfect bowl of porridge as well as the listener’s trust.  If you whine you sound manipulative.  If you command you get twenty sit ups as well as the listener’s attention–but not too commanding or you are “telling” the person what they want.  I am fortunate because I can mimic any accent or style I hear.  As Dale Carnegie wrote and said show interest in the listener–which I believe can be done through your voice.  This includes the GMT–an aged matriarch requests a martini.  She wants gin, splash of vermouth up with an olive and she doesn’t want to hear any questions about how she’d like her drink presented to her.  She doesn’t care or even know about all the ridiculous “tinis” we now have in the drink world.  A man with a heavy Southern accent asks about your iced tea.  Tell him–”oh honey,  you know you’re in California where they don’t know about sweet tea”  with a slight lilt in your voice.  Then laugh and tell him you have sweetener that will fix that right up.  Your guest is forty-something, female, covered in gold, manicures and expensive clothes and already hates you because you are younger and thinner–she asks to see your “martini list”.   Just wink and tell her about the secret “martini” everyone loves (its a cosmopolitan).  Then flirt with her and give her overweight condescending husband short shrift.  He’ll be excited because you aren’t impressed with his money and she’ll love the attention.  Unfortunately many people believe a whining tone in their immediate response will get them power over the situation.  I had a couple come in and they looked young.  She wouldn’t look at me when I asked about their choice of beverage but he asked if I knew the percentages in the Bordeaux blend we had by the glass.  If this means nothing to you, imagine I walked into your house and asked “What percentage of allergens does your filter remove from the air?”  Your response, unless you are a total dork and then I wouldn’t be in your house, would be “I don’t know.”  It would also cause you to do one of two things:  think about those allergens and why you don’t know OR wonder why in the name of god I asked that question.  I did the latter–and asked for his ID.  He was 23.  His age and his question made me wonder who the fuck he told his date he was.  We were sold out of one item on our menu.  It was about 40 minutes before close on a busy Friday and it’s a rare night that we don’t sell out of something.  He and his date took a long time mulling the (short) menu and then he said “Every time we come here you are sold out of something we want.”  I could have apologized.  I didn’t.  I said “We’re only out of one salad”  in a calm voice.  He turned red and ordered some bread.  I told the manager what happened, because I thought he would ask for the check and complain.  But no–he attempted tone and time and failed.  His choice was to make a scene–the waitress was a bitch–or accept his failure.  They ordered dinner, had a nice time, and left a decent tip.  I hope he/they come to the restaurant earlier next time, smile at the server and order a glass of cabernet.

waiters back, back again, had a kid, learned some zen

Filed under:insight — posted by Showy on September 28, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

Me and Marshall go way back (that would be Eminem to the masses).  He is from Detroit, I am from Cleveland.  Well, neither of us are ACTUALLY from those two cities, we both just claim them as the largest known metropolises (metropol-i?) to the po-dunk small towns where we suffered through adolescence.  I grew up in Windham, Ohio and he in Warren, Michigan.  We are both members of the infamous GenerationX.  He and I are both older than our peers.  We both enjoyed sex, drugs and rock and roll to excess, both went to rehab and now we both use our vast experience in “the life” in our creative work.  We both have adorable little blond children, and we both enjoy the short bleached hair look from time to time.  I told you we went way back.  So when I feel guilty for posting so infrequently, I think of my friend M & M.  He took a three year hiatus, and why not?  He has a nice pile of work to recline on, giving him time to kick up his heels, pop some Vicodin and play with Haley.  Those three years gave him material and my past year and a half has been packed full of adventure as well.  I turned 40, moved to the ghetto, gave birth to a brilliant son and earned my yoga certification.  I turned 41, moved in with the in laws to escape Black Mold invasion, moved again to the hot, hot central valley, got fired, got hired and lost ALL the baby weight (stress diet anyone?  fuck Weight Watchers).  What to relate first?  How about PREGNANCY:  What the fuck am I doing?

!!!??13467582461975824615798510.3525794258013???!!!

One thing no one, I mean not one person, not your best friend or some random chatty idiot,no one tells you when you get pregnant is that you lose your mind.  Not all of your mind and not every minute of every day, but enough that you start praying to whatever supreme being or Nordic god or voodoo mother fucker that you can think of to PLEASE let you remember your new zip code.  Really.  Just that.  We moved during my second trimester from 95608 to 96507–wow, just flip the numbers and add one.  Unfortunately I could never get it straight in my head if the 956 was the new or the old, which slows down and fucks up more things than you think possible.    I tried to pay for gas at a pump with our debit card and it rejected me because I invariably put in the old code or some merging of old and new.  However being clearly pregnant (rather than maybe she’s fat or maybe she’s pregnant months 3 through 5) helps because almost all gas station attendants are men who see the pregnant lady and (rightly) assume she’s nuts and they just turn the pump on.  New zip code + driving= use cash.  I went to drop off a tire and couldn’t tell the nice man where I lived.  I call my pals at Progressive and have to hang up because clearly they need my zip code to recalculate my car insurance.   I am fairly certain I asked my baby daddy seven thousand times “what’s our zip code?”  Finally I had to accept that I was either beginning a slow slide into Alzheimer’s or that I was full of baby and hormones and fuck knows what else. and was not going to remember all sorts of shit.  My solution?   I wrote the zip code on my arm a la Memento.  Sharpies rule……….

do you have a kids menu?

Filed under:food — posted by Showy on August 2, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

I was restless last night and the baby was on one so I threw “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in the player.  I love this movie and can still keep an eye on Crawly McCrawler–listening to the dialogue rather than watching the flashing pictures.  Kirsten Dunst’s character was stoned and reveling in the memory cleansing process, how it allows messy adult brains to return to baby-like status, all fresh and clean.  This pure, unsullied state of a baby applies to his palate as well.  Babies are taught what to like and dislike as much as they have natural preferences.  They are curious about everything in the world as each minute something new happens in their brain.  I watch my son’s face and it is in constant motion, reacting to and absorbing EVERYTHING. I remember the first time I tried coffee as a kid–my parents drank it every morning and it smelled pretty good.  WOW was it nasty. My parents did NOT say “you won’t like this” but they did laugh at the face I pulled.  One Saturday morning I dug through the pantry looking for alum because Bugs Bunny gave some to Daffy and it made his head shrink (I ate the alum and was quite disappointed).  My mother simply asked how was it and left it at that.  When we went out to dinner I have cloudy memories of who ordered for who.  My little brother and I both sat still, shut up and ate what was served to us.  Is this style of parenting gone?  Now I see moms tell their children “No honey you don’t like beans / vanilla / chicken” fill in the blank all the time.  How does mom know?  I know I have some days when the thought of eating chicken turns my stomach, and others when all I want is a nice garlic-y hen roasting in the oven.  And I’m old enough to vote, drive and drink.  Maybe today little baby Joey wants to chew on some carrots, but tomorrow he only wants yogurt.  And maybe little baby Joey will eat what MOM TELLS him he is eating when they go out to dinner, rather than the other way around.  Yes children should be active participants in their diet–but when I told my mother I wanted to be a vegetarian she looked at me and looked at dinner and said “I’m not cooking just for you–eat what you want” and my vegetarianism lasted one meal.

Anyway, back to the virgin palate.  Who created the first “kid menu” and why is it packed with deep fried shit and nothing else?  We feed our baby tastes of everything–he has had shiitake, toro, oysters, ice cream, salmon, stinky cheese, olives and pickles.  And he has eaten it all with a look of fascination and wanted more.  I am a huge believer in the exclusive breast milk for at least a year, but that does not exclude allowing the baby to join in one of our favorite pasttimes.  Now of course he demands that he get a taste of whatever is being eaten–but demands it of Dad since he is the one who started the whole process.  He yells, which is not quite the response we want, but at least he understands what is going on and we all “eat” together. I will never tell him he doesn’t like something.  Nor will I order him some nasty kiddie meal (well except McDonalds because all kids should eat some Micky Dees in their lives).  Why do people think that the kiddie menu is the only way to go?  Why don’t they share the adult food or order sides or something?  And the faces you get when you DO NOT have a kid’s menu, as if your restaurant should be so ashamed at overlooking the poor defenseless children.  It boggles my mind.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace