Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'm a Nick and Tony's Server!

Today on my final day of training as a server at Nick and Tony's, I waited a few tables under supervision and took the “final exam.” The big test took me an hour and included questions I’d had on previous tests, plus new material, such as "Name our cognacs," and "Should someone with an allergy to nuts order our angel hair pomodoro?" It was a bit stressful, but I think I did pretty well: for instance, I couldn’t name all our pizzas but I could name 20 of the 25 wines we sell by the glass and all of our steaks, chicken dishes and veal dishes (yes, veal. I know, it's the only drawback to working there).

So unless I get a phone call tonight telling me I failed, tomorrow I wait tables (alone!) during the lunch hour and then Saturday I work a busy dinner shift (!). I’m nervous, but it’s time to jump in since I’m pretty desperate for cash right now.

So be sure to stop by Nick and Tony's for lunch next week and ask for Regina! I'll be working the lunch shifts next week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and the location is 1 East Wacker (the corner of Wacker and State). It's my glamorous new job (so much better than Carson's!)!

Monday, September 26, 2005

My New Job!

Ways my new restaurant job at Nick and Tony's is so much more exciting than my old restaurant job at Carson's:

1. Business - Customers! Lots of them. We opened at 11:30 a.m. and the lunch crowd started arriving immediately. Almost every table was full by 12:30 and I was told this was a slow day.

2. Lots of tables per station - the smallest station has six tables. At Carson's the biggest stations had four or maybe five. Here most of the stations have seven or eight and some have ten. I'm dazzled by how much money can be made with eight tables during a lunch rush like that.

3. Rules and procedures - I'm currently making my way through the employee manual which is full of two of my favorite things in a job: clear, consistent rules and established procedures that only change with all staff being told or even retrained.

4. Tastings - Every Monday and Thursday the chef presents his "specials" and the staff gets to taste them. Today we descended upon sauteed chicken breast with grilled shrimp in a roasted garlic butter sauce, a delicious bass with asparagus and balsamic butter sauce, and fettuccine pasta with grilled shrimp and oyster cream sauce. Mmmmmmm.

5. More tastings - As part of my training I have to sample items from our menu. Brilliantly, Nick and Tony's knows we can only "sell" dishes if we know exactly how they are prepared and cooked and how they taste. So I get free lunch this week! And I can already recommend the rigatoni giardinera, which has chopped vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes, green beans) that are cooked in a delicious broth served over fat rigatoni pasta with breaded chicken breast pieces. Oh, it was good. I also recommend the mozzarella bake, Italian salad, fettucine bolognese (fettucine with meat sauce) and the grilled asparagus, but the rigatoni giardinera was my favorite.

6. Neckties instead of bowties - it's minor and silly, but I hated wearing a black bowtie. My Carson's uniform - a men's tuxedo shirt, black bowtie and apron - was designed to make me look like a little man and I resented it. Here the uniform is a tailored white shirt, which can be a WOMAN'S shirt (thank you!) and a necktie of any color or design you like. Of course, you know what color my tie is: I bought a pink one today, and a cool red/black/gray one from the Jerry Garcia collection. I love how beautiful men's ties can be and in department stores I often walk by a rainbow-like, gleaming silk display of them, wishing I had some reason to wear one. And now I do!

7. Tying the necktie - I always wanted to learn how to tie a necktie, so tonight I went online, found instructions and practiced with my new Jerry Garcia tie. And I got it down. The instructions suggest tying the tie while in front of a mirror, but now I'm used to doing it in front of a glowing computer screen.

8. Tests - At Nick and Tony's they have what I was CRAVING at Carson's: rules and procedures. And they give you a test each day of training. Before we serve one table, we must know the entire menu, the wine list, the beer list, what appetizers/drinks/desserts go with what entrees, all rules and procedures, the sidework duties, general store information, etc. etc. It's so great. There's a right answer for every question I could possibly ask, there's a solid supervisory and training support structure, plus lots of servers who all learned THE SAME INFORMATION. Unlike at Carson's, I won't get a different answer on a procedure depending on who I ask. And I like tests. I like right answers and detailed information, I like memorizing stuff and parroting it back, I like mastering a subject and displaying my knowledge and I like tests. Today for my test, I quickly memorized our street address and corporate/local phone numbers, five wines that can be ordered by the glass, and the first and last names of our owners, the managers and the head chef. And I did great on the test! I love having a photographic memory.

9. Better hours - Nick and Tony's has shorter hours than Carson's, but obviously makes up for them with great customer flow. Carson's has worse business and longer hours, like a kid standing forever with his mouth open, hoping to catch a snowflake. Carson's is also open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving which is a real drag if you like to actually observe holidays. Nick and Tony's is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, Easter and sometimes other holidays, at the discretion of the general manager. So much more humane!

10. Marketing - Nick and Tony's actually promotes itself, for instance by building relationships with the concierge(s?) of the surrounding hotels. Et cetera!

Okay, gotta go to bed. Tomorrow I work a double shift. Today I worked with the hostess and tomorrow it's the food runner. Wednesday and Thursday I focus on the actual table serving and Friday I'm on! Scary. Exciting. Scary.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

New Job

I did it: I found a new job and it starts tomorrow. Carson's Ribs is now in my past and I'm moving on to a better opportunity. A way better opportunity. I'm also nervous. I want to say, why didn't I stay at Arthur Andersen, which was my favorite all-time job? But Arthur Andersen no longer exists, or I'd be there now. Onward.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Desperate No More

Oh my GOD it feels good to no longer be on the desperate manhunt. I had been on a self-hating manhunt for nine years, ever since I turned 30 and began to suspect there was something very wrong with me because I was "still" single. I don't know what has finally broken the belief, I really don't, but I am finally -- at the age of 39 -- able to reject the idea that I am unworthy of existing on the planet because I don't have a husband, because no one has ever bought me an engagement ring, because I've neither made nor inspired a long-term relationship commitment. I have completely and unarguably failed to make myself into a wife and WHO CARES? What does it matter?

It mattters NOTHING. I was living a nightmare, convinced that without a wedding ring on my finger I might as well be dead, I should be dead, it woud be so much better to be dead than to be unmarried. I was caught in a horrible conflict, absolutely certain of these two things: 1) Only marriage could establish my worthiness and loveability, and 2) Marriage is a fate worse than death that must be avoided at all costs, even the cost of my self-worth. I desperately wanted to be married more than anything, more than I wanted to live because only marriage could determine that I was worthy OF living, and I was absolutely terrified of marriage and knew that marriage was death in and of itself. These two beliefs were completely irreconcilable and I was constantly in a vice of conflict as I tried find the action that would resolve this pain. But there was no action that could possibly resolve it.

So I hated myself. I hated myself for failing to get married, hated myself for ruining so many relationships, hated myself for rejecting men who wanted to marry me. Self-preservation (defined as avoiding the "tomb" of the marriage contract) won out over the need to establish my loveability over and over and over and over and over and over and over again and I hated myself every time. I needed to believe that I was worthy, needed to believe that I had a right to live, needed to believe that I was a loveable, good person, and I hated myself every time I blew the chance to finally achieve that self-acceptance. I hated myself for breaking up with people and denying myself the peace of knowing that I am GOOD. I hated myself every time another relationship went down the tubes and I hated myself in the solitude in between. I hated myself all the time.

Truly I was fucked, but I am fucked no more.

I don't know what changed it, but somehow, silently, deep inside me, the mechanism that held those two festering beliefs in place has broken. Like chains falling away or a fever breaking, the belief that only marriage can determine my self-worth has finally released me. Or I have released it. Either way it's gone.

Is this a permanent change or will the rattling terror be back, perhaps with my 40th birthday or 50th? My two prison guards, the belief that marriage determines my worth and the belief that marriage is a fate worse than death, have let me go and I don't know why or how, but O my god I can finally stretch and turn and feel how truly great and gorgeous and incredible I am, and I don't need anything else to confirm it.

Is this how others feel? Is this how guys feel? Is this how all those "confirmed bachelors" feel, like George Clooney and Jack Nicholson, they feel like they are just fine and being married has NOTHING TO DO with their self-worth? And why the hell didn't I learn that? Why didn't anyone teach that to me?

I am 39 years old and I live alone and no one has ever bought me an engagement ring and maybe no one ever will and so goddamn be it. I find that without that vice of conflict, my "need" to find a life partner and marry him is gone. I don't care about getting married. I don't particularly want to be married. I like living alone, I prefer living alone, I'm fine with living alone. I don't want kids. I'm not a family person and maybe I'm not a relationship person either. So no wonder I've been dating all this time and never ended up married or pregnant. I didn't want to be!

I feel so lucky that I've reached the realization that I don't want to be a wife or mother, without being married or having children. I think a lot of people reach the realization that they don't want to be married or have kids after they've gotten married and had kids. And that prison sounds just as bad as the one my mind had created for me, except that the married-with-kids prison usually lasts a lot longer than nine years.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

This contains way too much information about me and not in a good way

O to be regular!!

On my box of Kellogg's All-Bran cereal, they challenge you to eat a bowl of the cereal every morning and see if you notice a difference after two weeks. Kellogg's All-Bran has 10 grams of fiber in half a cup. Well, I've been eating a bowl of Kellogg's All-Bran Bran Buds each morning and that cereal has 13 grams of fiber in one third of a cup (another wonderful thing about fiber is the more fiber there is in a food, the less calories). I'm getting almost half my daily fiber needs in just 70 calories!

I recommend all-bran cereal to everyone. With a bowl every day, it's easy to meet the 30 grams of fiber per day you need, plus it has so few calories you can have it with whatever else you like to have for breakfast (or mix it with whatever you'd like to give it better flavor). And the two-week difference is real: I'm regular for the first time in decades! O, fiber! I love fiber!

Hysterical Blackness

A friend of mine has started a blog called Hysterical Blackness that focuses on the racial dynamics of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and aftermath. She describes herself as "a black academic who lives, writes and teaches in the US northeast." From yesterday, I quote one entire post from Hysterical Blackness :

Steve Perry writes in the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Paper:

"What became of the 1927 refugees during and after the flood constitutes one of the more sordid and little-known episodes in the history of post-slavery America. It's recounted in John M. Barry's riveting book Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, and everyone who is even remotely interested in the fate of the present-day diaspora should read it.

"The Delta cotton bosses of 1927, notes Barry, had been watching the ranks of sharecroppers and tenant farmers shrink for nearly two decades as the Great Migration of southern blacks to the industrial cities of the North proceeded. The labor shortage had grown critical before the flood, and as the river rose that spring, the main preoccupation of plantation owners was keeping their serfs from fleeing the premises for good. To minimize that risk, many planters during and after the flood employed armed thugs to keep blacks herded up in the makeshift levee encampments where they'd fled to escape the water. So great were the fears of cotton growers that on one occasion, federal flood czar Herbert Hoover got a consortium of them to pony up $200,000 in just three hours by telling them that if he didn't receive their guarantees by 5:00 that day, 'I'll start sending your niggers north, starting tonight.' Hoover got his money." Read more Katrina and the lessons of the 1927 flood.

- from the blog Hysterical Blackness , Wednesday September 21, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I Volunteer

Some people really shouldn't reproduce and I wish more of us would realize it and act accordingly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Atheist Consituents, Unite!

Hey, now we atheists have a lobbyist in Washington D.C. too! From a USA Today article "Non-believers raising voice in capital": "Lori Lipman Brown starts Monday as executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. Her two goals: keep religion out of government and win respect for a stigmatized minority." Great, I'm part of another stigmatized minority.

Here's how Brown will act:

• As part of broad coalitions fighting policies rooted in religious beliefs, such as limits on stem cell research and access to emergency contraception.

• In alliances with groups opposed to policies they believe breach the wall between church and state, such as giving taxpayer money to "faith-based" service programs.

• On causes Brown concedes are hard for politicians and the public to swallow, such as eliminating references to God from the U.S. oath of citizenship. She plans to stay out of the Pledge of Allegiance controversy for now because "the courts are on our side." Last week, a federal judge reaffirmed an earlier ruling that teacher-led recitation of the Pledge's phrase "under God" in public schools is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.

The first of these goals sounds good to me, but not so much the last two since I'm unconventional even as an atheist. I'm not really against this "God" idea. I differ from many of my godless brethren because I don't think religious faith is intrinsically dangerous or limiting. I don't believe we'd be better off if we grounded ourselves in scientifically proven reality instead of ancient myths. I call my attitude towards religion the milk theory. I don't believe in a god similarly to how I don't drink milk. Drinking milk causes me stomach aches so I don't do it, but I'd never try to convince everyone else to stop drinking it. Similarly believing in a god has benefits, but the damage I suffer from such beliefs outweighs those benefits, so I choose not to do it. But if the "God" idea works for others, so be it.

I do think Brown's idea of atheists today being like gays in the 1970's, "people just coming out of the closet to fight for acceptance" is interesting. Yes - accept me! Actually, I was a very "out of the closet" atheist in the last Catholic church I attended and none of them seemed to mind. Well, one of them seemed to, but for the most part I found that since to be a Catholic is to be conflicted (some beliefs and traditions makes sense while others you want nothing to do with), it's not so strange to attend church but refuse to profess the faith. The Catholic church is full of people who aren't sure just where they stand on Catholic doctrine and I think it makes them more accepting of wacko atheists like me. At least that's how it seemed to me. And oh, there’s no bitterness like an atheist who used to be Catholic. I sometimes call myself an “atheist zealot” because I not just don’t believe, I passionately don’t believe. Who wants to argue with me? I've out-talked Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Hey, what if this begins the splintering and branching off of different atheist sects? It's what the Christian church was warned to avoid but failed to prevent. If that starts, I'll found the Organization of Atheists Who Sometimes Have Trouble Not Believing...

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reasons I Wish the Airline Had Not Lost My Luggage

1. Housekeys (I know, I know. I forgot to transfer them from the suitcase to my purse before I got on the plane).
2. $100 cash (I know, I know. I forgot).
3. Hard copy address book with addresses and phone numbers going back years.
4. Cell phone recharger (yeah).
5. All my good bras. Every one of them, except the one I'm wearing.
6. Metamucil.

Usually, I don't pack so much because I don't take trips that last more than five days, but because this was a family emergency, I had no idea when I'd be back. I packed a lot. Now it's all gone. Damn. My friends and readers, please send me stories of getting lost luggage back (the airline will call in the next five days) but please DO NOT send me anything about luggage that was never recovered. Thanks.

At least it feels good to sit at my own computer again.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Please Stand By

Have been derailed by family emergency. Will post when I have online access again. Typing this at a Kinko's). Internet withdrawal symptoms.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

that sucking sound isn't just the vacuum that's left

From a Yahoo news story that's less than an hour old: "Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening of cancer, ending a 33-year Supreme Court career during which he oversaw the court's conservative shift, presided over an impeachment trial and helped decide a presidential election. His death creates a rare second vacancy on the nation's highest court."

We are fucked now.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

For political debate and scrutiny

Really, go to Daily Kos for searing analysis of the situation and excellent debate and discussions. Here are some excerpts from one thread:

"...being from abroad (France) it's so hard to understand how the richest country in the world failed this badly." - williamreymond

"Right now I am ashamed of this administration for destroying what OUR country used to stand for. The rest of the world is shaking their head at us, they are realizing how far we have fallen, and it is in my opinion, the direct result of the GOP who will be held accountable for this disaster. The one thing I know is this: Give us a good democrat in the WH, and a good Democratic Senate/house and our good name will once again mean what it used to mean to Americans, and to the world." - SanJoseLady

"I hear FedEx is providing free shipping of donations to the Red Cross.  A (wingnut) friend of mine owns a small shipping business in Mount Vernon, OH, and he had three big boxes and a sign outside calling for donations.  Here was the list of things he printed out that people need:

Canned and/or non-perishable food
Baby food/formula/bottles/wipes/diapers
Bottled Water
Toiletries - toothpaste, deorderant, etc
First Aid Kits/Supplies
Sealed Over the counter meds
Feminine Products
Small Games/Toys/Coloring Books
Pre-paid phone cards
Pet Food
I put together a few boxes of stuff to take down tomorrow.  I post this here, because if people can volunteer or donate at one of these relief sites, these are some things you maybe could take.  Or, you may want to call around to shipping places near you and see if they'll ship this stuff to people who need it for free. Ironically, this list is very similar to what our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan need." - Lufah

And here's a link to an excellent list of ways people can help the thousands of displaced school children who will be flooding Houston's school district in just a few days: Houston Independent School District (HISD). It includes requests for school supplies and MORE TEACHERS. Anybody who ever wanted to teach schoolchildren, this would be the opportunity.

Like when you forget your wallet and have to lean on your broke brother

So the following countries have offered relief aid for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina: Canada, France, Germany, England, Australia, the usual U.S. supporters. Austria, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Greece have sent offers, too. But did you know that the great big rich United States is receiving offers of assistance from Mexico, Israel, Hungary, China, South Korea, Colombia and Venezuela? Now it's getting embarassing. Honduras, Colombia and Jamaica have also offered to send relief aid to help OUR U.S. citizens. We've even received pledges of relief funds from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka. And the Dominican Republic. And El Salvador.

I'm imagining Switzerland turning to the Netherlands and saying, "Hey, over in America thousands are suffering from having no drinking water. We'd better do something!" I'm imagining El Salvador turning to Honduras and saying, "Can you believe it's been four days since the hurricane passed and those people still have no food? We'd better get busy. I've got five dollars in my pocket, how much do you have?"

Jesus Christ on a stick...

..when you're the $%^-hole big brother, too.

I'm also struck by how many countries want to send us help when the United States has been the biggest asshole of the planet. Is it possible that we've succeeded in conveying to the people of France, Hungary, etc. that there's a huge disconnect between the American commoners and our presidential administration?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Red Cross Volunteer

A friend who lives in one of the small towns just west of Houston, Texas spent last night volunteering on a Red Cross phone line. She and six other volunteers coordinated with local police to find housing for people on buses that were being turned away from the Astrodome. Although Houston had promised shelter for 25,000 people at the Astrodome, they began turning buses away once they hit about 11,300 people. Suddenly part of a small town think tank, my friend also did some grassroots decision-making on press release statements intended to keep open a pipeline to non-Red Cross-sanctioned shelters that wanted to help. They also finally updated information that was being disbursed by the media so that people now have another Red Cross emergency phone number to call besides the Houston one which has been hopelessly busy.

I'm proud of her. She was there until 4 a.m. this morning, working one of the only phone lines that was open after hours. She's now in the path of the busloads of Katrina survivors who are on their way from Louisiana towards Houston, San Antonio and who knows how many towns and cities in between who are now preparing emergency, and probably long-term, housing. The Astrodome has cleared its schedule through December. December. They're expecting it to be at least that long and longer that thousands of people without homes, money, resources or even personal belongings will be living there. They've set up a 77230 zip code so that these people can receive mail. At the Astrodome. Indefinitely.


Go to another blog. I have little to say about our national shame that thousands are dying right now in New Orleans because of stupidity and prejudice, but there are plenty of bloggers who do, so read theirs. Here's an example I found on Daily Kos: State of the Nation:

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
- President Bush, September 1, 2005

"It was a broiling August afternoon in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Big Easy, the City That Care Forgot. Those who ventured outside moved as if they were swimming in tupelo honey. Those inside paid silent homage to the man who invented air-conditioning as they watched TV "storm teams" warn of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing surprising there: Hurricanes in August are as much a part of life in this town as hangovers on Ash Wednesday.

"But the next day the storm gathered steam and drew a bead on the city. As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however--the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

"The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level--more than eight feet below in places--so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

"When did this calamity happen? It hasn't--yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great."

- National Geographic, October 2004

Thursday, September 01, 2005

For now

(Response to Modigli's question about how things are going with my "beau.")

I’m afraid I spoke too soon when I wrote that I was seeing someone who might fit the description of “boyfriend.” Here’s why I dated him for six months:

1. Very funny: he made me laugh and that’s HUGE.

2. Heart of gold: generous, patient, loving, affectionate. Just a very, very good man.

3. Optimistic: believed the best of everyone, of me, of life. Had no fear of things I constantly worry about (what others are thinking, if I'll die alone, if the movie theater will be too cold, etc.). I felt safer when I was with him.

4. Emotionally available and geniunely interested in a long-term relationship.

5. Crazy about me.

6. A true gentleman who knew how to cherish and adore: let me know just how he felt about me, also generous with gifts and nice restaurants, never let me touch a door handle or carry a bag, etc.

7. Strong caretaking skills: helped me out when waitressing wasn’t bringing in enough money, fixed stuff in my apartment that had been broken for YEARS, said he just wanted to make my life easier. He said he just wanted to make my life easier! Oh, winning words.

Here’s why I finally realized that dating him, no matter for how long, wasn’t going to turn into a romance:

1. We rarely talked and I felt no intellectual compatibility with him.

2. We rarely talked and I felt little emotional connection with him.

3. We rarely talked and it made me feel lonely. Then bored. Then I knew it was time to move on.

4. Because he wasn’t a conversationalist and didn’t talk a lot, I had no way to really know him on the inside: his thoughts, his life philosophy, his dreams and fears, the depth of his experiences. When I would ask him about these things I would get brief answers that indicated that he just didn’t conceptualize things as I do. I would then feel frustrated and he’d feel confused by my questions and then he’d feel bad because he knew his answers disappointed me.


The bad news: I’m still a bad horse to bet on.

The good news: after this breakup, I don’t feel the gnawing need to go searching for another man. That horrible screaming certainty that I’m unloveable seems to be, at least temporarily, silenced. I’m at peace! This relationship seems to have somehow convinced the rattling insecurity inside me that I AM loveable, happiness IS possible for me, and I’m just fine as I am. I’m not one half looking for another half: I am whole just like this.

Sweet chocolate Jesus. I’m healed. For now.