Friday, November 10, 2017

Hurricane 2017


Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Nate the Great
Or
Missed by That Much
            Fred: (to the porch) “Hey guys, y’all ready for the storm?”
            Ned: “We got cigarettes and beer. We okay”
            Ted: “I’m just gonna get drunk, pass out, wake up tomorrow and it’ll be over.”
            Ned: (to Ted) “Kinda like your first marriage, huh?”
            What can you say about a hurricane to hit New Orleans that simply didn’t? You can’t say that we weren’t adequately alarmed or under prepared as a city; Jeez, we did everything but erect a dome over our heads and lay in the MREs. A state of emergency was declared; National Guard were stationed; shelters were opened for the homeless; it was a full moon on Thursday and the tides were rising, time to break out the staple gun and trash bags!
            The rumors of impending doom started around Wednesday and by Friday we were all in a tizzy. I got caught up in the spirit and shopped on Thursday and Friday as if for a siege; Rouse’s, Winn Dixie and Whole Foods parking looked like used car lots and the stores were crowded as they are at Thanksgiving time.
            The folk shopping at Rouse’s had big bags of dog food, bottled water, Abita Amber, diapers, Jameson and an army of deli prepared foods. The lady in front of me had pre-baked bread, sliced turkey, cheese, Styrofoam plates, gallons of Arizona and a family size jar of Blue Plate Mayonnaise. Pandemonium reigned with cash registers ringing in the buckaroos, two liter cold drinks, ice, charcoal briquettes, movies renting at the kiosk.
At Winn Dixie, Budweiser was the king of beers, batteries, sliced bread, canned Dinty Moore, Kraft Mac n Cheese, cigarettes, and chips, with checkers checking I.D.s for booze sales; cases of water, cat litter and soft drinks jammed into overflowing carts. One man’s cart had dozens and dozens of canned vegetables, spaghetti, sauce and canned imitation parmesan cheese (plus two half gallons of cheap bourbon). Cars circled the parking area like buzzards looking for spaces and places, shopping carts littered the lot like abandoned life jackets and there was the smell of fear in the air; men gunned their motors, women looked apprehensive and kids cried out for attention.
Whole Foods had a run on Kombucha, soy products and La Croix flavored sparkling water. Spring water by the cases were stocked and sold, pizza dough, ciabatta bread, rennet free cheese, mock chicken and black bean burgers quickly evaporated. The Millennials stripped shelves and stood in line as if waiting for lifeboats. The entire hot bar was packaged and taken out, sushi swam into kids shopping baskets, IPAs shouldered by man buns and tattooed ladies bagged trail mix from the bulk section. I saw a man getting two cases of their $2.99 Merlot; it was a non GMO donnybrook of epic proportions.
We closed the shop early; there hadn’t been a customer in two days; Jonestown in the retail arena. We moved plants inside, stacked sandbags, left extra food for the feral cats and set the alarm on ‘prison break’ mode. We charged our cell phones, took down wind chimes, duct taped trash cans, froze odd containers of water and filled buckets for cooking and flushing; caught up unprepared, we improvised flash and candle lights, cooked enough for an army, parked the car on higher ground and watched the weather channel like storm ghouls; it looks like it’s headed right up our assets, to hell with the rent, let’s just hope we all get out of this alive.
The mayor comes on the Teevee and tells everyone to get off the streets, in turn twelve city officials, from levee board, Corps of Engineers, police and State troopers assure us that we are prepared, as a city, to ride this one out, “been prepared since before this thing had a name”. Sewerage and Water board officials boast of our repaired pumps and drainage. I’m mesmerized by a woman mirroring the dialog in sign language and wonder if she’s really signing or faking. All channels are riveted on the catastrophe to come which will turn out to be a hurrah that never came. Schools were let out early, festivals were cancelled, dinner reservations were revoked and the Treme Center closed the swimming pool. Hizzonah imposes a curfew that is almost immediately rescinded due to the public’s lack of interest and participation.
We wait on the porch with our neighbor Judy; we’re prepared, we have liquids, solids, hammer, nails and the Sunday newspapers that were printed early because of the impending storm. Nothing happens. Seven, eight, nine o’clock; not a breeze in the eaves; that early afternoon squall was not a harbinger of things to come. The streets are quiet with my neighbor Gallivan (and his dogs) over at his girlfriend’s house to ride it out and others on our street hunkered down. There’s a quiet hurricane party across the street and hardly any traffic to speak of.
By this time, I’m half lit, and back in television land even Margaret Orr has left the building, leaving the second string to mop up. I pop another PBR and switch to the Great British Baking Show. I feel incomplete, left at the altar; I understand the anguish of the deflated soufflé at the competition, my glace has lost its shine, and my mille-feuille has mostly fallen.
In the morning, naturally, it’s a beautiful day and life goes on as if nothing happened, which is exactly the case. Except, I take myself aside and remind myself in no uncertain terms that I need to be grateful that we dodged that bullet while others have not been so lucky; there’s fires out west and earthquakes and other hurricanes that have really f**ked with people’s lives and here I am getting out of bed looking forward to my coffee and New York Times. Blessed be that we were spared; now let’s see how we can help others less fortunate.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Restaurant Lingo

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
A la Mode
Or
Café Quips
             I weave into The Hummingbird at dawn’s crack—the cashier-- yells to the cook/server: “burn one with whiskey, cuppa Joe!” and I sit, knowing a well done burger on rye toast and a cup of coffee is on the way. Mama, I’m home.
Pair of drawers; Adam and Eve on a raft; wreck two with frog sticks; gimme a Pittsburg with wheels; one Blue Plate, 86 Eve with a lid and fire table twelve; hubba hubba!”  All restaurant lingo; ask any waitress that’s spent time slingin’ hash front of the house or a shoemaker that’s worked a left handed spatula on a turn and burn hot line.
            “Comin’ through; make a hole; on your ass; I’ll burn you!” is food service speak for ‘get the fork out of the way (!)’ and anyone who has done time behind an apron (and who hasn’t?) is familiar with words strung together like short-hand- commands barked in kitchens  indicating instructions to avoid mayhem or confusion. Unless I’m totally ignorant of the way kitchens around the globe will work efficiently, there are probably the same types of phrases used in Brighton, Brittany, Bangkok, Bombay, Bangladesh and Beijing; equivalent to verbal skeet shooting, they are power punches to your cerebral cortex signaling immediate action on your part in a cacophonic madhouse. There may be such thing as a quiet kitchen-- I think-- perhaps in a monastery.   
Pearl divers in the pit (dishwashers) are rattling racks of utensils, computer terminals are spitting out tickets, the wheelman barking “all day”s or “dragging kitten fish for my four top!”, pots and pans beating like timpani on fiery stovetops, oven doors being slammed open and kicked shut, the hiss of steam, the smell of sweat and the prospect of bloodshed and temper flare ups are all part of the job, and when someone yells “HOT STUFF!” they ain’t talking about your mama. The dash and dare of demented dervishes; timing food orders, getting food ‘right’, in line, on time and everyone at the table being served in the same minute is an art unapparent to customers. In the dining room it’s all a Vienna waltz; in the kitchen it’s like a prison riot. I’ve been part of both sides and I kid you not.
            “I need this on the rail, put a wiggle on it, rush me an order of fries, where’s that steak, fire the salad, goddammit, who’s got table three? Soup’s low! ORDERING!” is part and parcel of communications between gourmet gladiators and hash slinging heroes alike. 
            To work the front of the house in the home of the brave you have to know the difference between a deuce and a dumpster, a four top from a fork lift, a banquette from a biscuit. You have to know that when a cook slides a plate at you and says—no matter how softly—“hot plate” that they are very seldom joking; that when a bartender says – loudly—to the world: “PICK UP!” you turn to make sure that they’re not talking about you; when someone at your back yells “behind you!” they’re not getting fresh. You dread the triple seating that can occur during the rush; shift double backs; you grow to hate campers; you’re constantly on the lookout for dine and dashers and roll your eyes at that verbal tip.
.           Approaching the kitchen is as demeaning as asking for alms: “Chef, do we fry in peanut oil; is there any dairy in the soup; can we make that gluten free, can we split the main course, can we heat up this baby bottle?”
“The customer says that this is not medium rare; they say they found a hair; they said that they didn’t like it (but they ate most of it); here’s that ice water you wanted”.        No matter what capacity you work in a place of eating it’s an exercise in humility and in training running the gamut of a sadomasochistic pecking order survival course. “Tenderfoot is in the weeds; her food’s dying in the window; she’s buried, slammed, in the sh*t”. “PANS DOWN!! ORDERING!!”
            The more experienced staff members can be cruel to newbies; in many cases it’s a get tough or die sandbox mentality with managers looking on to see where/who the weak links are. Schedules are arbitrary and nebulous in logic; you work when you’re needed and ‘cut’ when you’re not. It’s easy to cop an attitude and become cynical about the whole dining experience; I believe “kiss my grits” is an apt way of putting thoughts into feelings.
            The examples that the media and motion pictures have portrayed gives us pause to consider the workings of food service as anything but cheap theatrics; Mel’s Diner; Franks Place; Frankie and Johnny, Chef, Feeding the Beast, Julie and Julia, Burnt. The Cook The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Babette’s Feast; Chocolat; A Chef in Love; Like Water for Chocolate; to name a few, showing romance, adventure, mystery and buffoonery.
 Books like Kitchen Confidential; Roasting in Hell’s Kitchen; Heat; The Soul of a Chef; How I Learned to Cook. Kitchens, White Heat, The Perfectionist, The Apprentice and Iron Chef all show how being a chef is a man’s job. A job that goes by title and demands no disrespect; as usual, a woman in the same position has to work twice as hard for less money (and be capable of being twice as malevolent) to accomplish the job and will still be excluded from ‘celebrity’ status. Waiters must use guile, charm, dexterity, intuition, resourcefulness and bladder control to survive.
From a long and exhaustive tenure in food service I can look back and say that it is theater, an ad lib performance that happens every shift of every day;  the cast assembles, the curtain rises and the person in charge looks knowingly and announces “Show Time!”


            

Free People of Color

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Free People of Color
Or
New Orleans’ Third Society
            It might be important to note, as we reach our three hundredth birthday, that New Orleans is not, what can be considered, an old settlement/colony and that for over two hundred years before us the societies that fashioned our world here were in full swing; long before Sieur de Bienville brought the first two slaves (George and Mary) into the French outpost that was in the crescent of the river that the Ojibwa Indians called misi zibi or Father of Waters.
            The period of exploration and land grabbing was pretty much a white man’s undertaking and the subjugation of ‘primitive’ peoples (indigenous American, African) for pleasure and profit was part of the modus operandi of the male Anglo explorers and exploiters. It goes without saying also, that a shortage of European women did not deter the conquering heroes from exercising their sexual impulses with whatever female happened to be on hand; Indigenous Americans were harder to handle and soon were either displaced or destroyed, however, the slave trade was well established and provided ample opportunity and supply of feminine companionship. As a result, Africans, as time went on, were subjected to a genetic melding with Europeans, these mixed blooded Africans multiplied in numbers and became a new culture and class of citizenry; and they needed to be reckoned with, much for very practical purposes.
            Exploring and evidencing was part and parcel for this third race of peoples to fit into Anglo/Afro society, and the complexities of this racial bridge had astounding consequences. From the beginning of our French and Spanish occupation-- with the occurrence of manumission and the outright ability of an enslaved person to purchase their freedom-- a class of peoples did arise throughout our colonies and was labeled Les Gens de Couleur Libres--- Free People of Color (FPC). As time went on, classes within this class gave rise to definitions and labeling concerning the degree of proportion of blood—Black compared with White--that these Creoles of Color had running through their veins. Mulatto (50% African); Quadroon (25% African); Octoroon (1/8 or less); “not all Free People of Color were Creole and not all Creoles were free people of color but over time there has been some tendency to conflate the two, or use the word to refer to people of mixed race, which many but not all free people of color were” (LSU libraries).
Generation after generation, through the systems of outright taking of concubines and the more formal Placage arrangement, placed women of color into the arms of European men--perpetuating the systems themselves.  And, with the rearing and educating of the resulting offspring and subsequent societal mobility as a side effect, not only was eventual freedom a likelihood but, the ensuing possibility of economic security and solidarity from this closely knit society (FPC), as well, was practically guaranteed.  Against all odds the FPC actually thrived and prospered. ‘On the eve of the Civil War (1862), in New Orleans alone, there were 18,000 FPC owning and paying taxes on $15,000,000.00 worth of property.’ (Le Musee de f.p.c.) That’s literally between ten and fifteen percent of the population working in professional capacities, as artists and artisans, opening businesses, owning land and in some cases purchasing slaves for personal use.
            As first generation American and a northerner to boot, the scope and importance that FPC had that influenced not just the United States in general, but New Orleans in particular is somewhat beyond my ken (and possibly yours); however, I can tell you from what I have read and can understand, if you are going to understand this city to any degree, you need to know how FPC formed the foundation of our world here; the very fabric of our Joie de Vive.
            That being said, me expounding what I know about the FPC would be like you listening to a child trying to explain what’s inside a book by looking at the cover; however, I can tell you how to find out the whole story of the FPC from the people who study and live this historical American phenomenon; they are here in New Orleans and hold the pieces of the puzzle that make up who we are, where we came from and where we’re going.
            For sure you could just go to Professor Google and that would end up with inaccuracies, confusion and besides it would keep you from discovering the real deal. There’s a place that you can physically go to and have an immersion that will leave you wiser in spirit and intelligence while opening up your heart and your mind. It’s Le Musee de f. p. c. at 2336 Esplanade Ave. New Orleans, La. www.lemuseedefpc.com open Wednesday through Sunday; call for times and to book a tour 504-323-5074
            Book a tour? Yes. Situated in a wonderful Greek revival (I call it a) mansion are documents and photographs and art work and a knowledgeable staff that gave me more information in forty-five minutes than I could digest in weeks. From the French Quarter it’s about a twenty minute walk or bus ride or whatever, past stately large homes and shading oak trees where at one time many FPC had homes. The neighborhood is called upper Treme, where also, FYI was an enclave of Greek, Lebanese and Syrian peoples; but that’s another story. Heck there are more stories here than you can shake a stick at.
            So, there you have it (or as much as I have room to spill out to you) for those of you that want to know more about this city than red beans and rice on Monday and where to find a decent happy hour; know this: unless you learn about our heritage (s) here, you will never fully understand New Orleans.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Unnecessary Rudeness in New Orleans

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
City News
Or
Unnecessary Rudeness
            Headline: “Piglets That Are Saved from Burning Barn are Served as Sausages to Firefighters”. Think about it. You might say that that’s rude on so many levels; but, that’s who we are; we live in a very disparaging and insensitive world, it’s self preservation, self meditation and self medication.        
Should we be ashamed? Not at all; it’s part of our DNA, it’s in our blood. We make fun of the ridiculousness of life. By overtly and/or covertly disregarding the feelings, interests and well being of others-- concentrating our attention on our own well being-- we keep the: “I’m alright, so I don’t care; I don’t care, so I’m alright” machine well oiled. It’s so Jake Paul (and his 10.5 Million subscribers), it’s so… us. For example:
            Alrighty, you’ve read the article explaining that the Millennials vote could make political policy here? Yes/no? The Millennial population in New Orleans is approaching six figures and if they all voted for the same agendas, the city government would be run the way that suited them best, they could accomplish policy like legalizing marijuana or raising the minimum wage. Survey says; Millennials don’t vote. The same people, who do vote unfailingly, unfailingly vote for the same candidates; it’s like the winners of reader’s choice votes in publications that always go to the same faithful ‘favorites’. We need to raise the voter turnout to more than 40% to be able to move forward.
Onward.  It’s positively a rumor that a great American highfalutin grocery store with the bins for trash, recycle and compost throws everything in the same dumpster (except cardboard boxes) and continues to wear the green halo with their higher prices, non GMO stickers and a social scene reminiscent of that Safeway Grocery Store in the marina section of San Francisco.
            Stop me if you’ve heard this: You live in a nice neighborhood; you have great neighbors; your rent is reasonable; you have a decent landlord; the place isn’t in great shape; but all things considered, you count your living space a blessing. If something minor needs repaired, you fix it yourself and call upon the landlord as seldom as possible; you pay your rent on time and there’s been no significant raise for the number of years that you’ve lived there. In short you’re happy; been happy, want to stay happy. A property down the street goes on the market and is snatched up. The construction, destruction, demolition and rebuilding of the structure goes on for months complete with dumpsters, port-o-lets and worker’s double parked trucks. Granite counters are loaded in, lawn service, security systems, paint, pavement and minimalist foliage are appointed; there’s an apartment in the back that’s worked on and gussied up.
            Dust finally settles and an ‘Apartment For Rent’ sign goes up. The price-- on the sign-- is asking for three times the rent that you’re paying! It’s the ultimate ‘bend over and grab your ankles’ kick in the rear for you and your neighbors; you fanaticize that when your landlords see a sign like that they might wonder why they’re being so lenient on you. It’s evident that the new owners are either going to use the rent to pay off their note and contractors or they’re gonna flip the place. Kiss your mule goodbye; your hood has been infected with the germs of ‘repurposing’
Cold business: A streetcar stops at N. Carrolton and Orleans Ave, disgorging six passengers, four of whom spot their bus on the opposite corner; it happens that these four are of a certain age and cannot move as spritely as they once did. They wave, they yell, they cross against traffic and without any concern for personal safety. The light changes. The bus pulls off leaving them breathless and frustrated by life. Probably the bus driver didn’t see them and everyone else on the street did? Unlikely.
Questions:  Besides being razor close to no basis at all illegal; how about a street camera citation sent from the City of New Orleans from Tempe, AZ. whose penalty needs posted to Cincinnati, OH? This benefits our city… how? And, how does raising our sales tax help the working poor?
            Winner, winner, chicken dinner: A car pulls up in the parking lot. The motor continues to run. The car door opens and closes and no one gets out. The car pulls out. You look over and see that they merely wanted to deposit on the asphalt: a. the contents of their ashtray; b. drop off their fast food Styrofoam cups and containers; c. dispose of their kid’s dirty diaper or d. all three. Or, how about that mystery canine (hopefully) pooper that was not followed by a human scooper that leaves the droppings of the animal in path’s way? Where’s a Block Captain when you need one?

            What about the personal insults that we take every time we take our automobiles for a spin? Being cut off, boxed in, blown at, stink eyed and tail ridden. Try getting from here to there without talking to yourself. That oversized load in front of you that slides in and out of its lane and when you speed up, pass and get out of its way (because they might be inebriated), find out that they’re on their phone, yelling at the kids in the back seat and/or putting on eye shadow.
            And on and on and on; you’ve probably got hundreds like these and I’d like to hear about them; either for commiseration or just to let me know that I’m not nuckin’ futs.  Seems to me, empathy and compassion are rationed and rationalized; and the world, by and large, is ready to put egocentricity first at the expense of other’s feelings; we’re all ready to laugh at the pie in the face, the slip on the banana peel or eat sausages made from rescued piglets.
            Write me.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hosting your own New Orleans Parade

How to Host Your Own New Orleans Second Line
By
Phil LaMancusa
            You’ve seen them in the streets of the French Quarter; anywhere from two to two hundred; they’ve got a band, stilt walkers, jugglers, clowns, drinks, smiles, they’re dancing, throwing beads and waving handkerchiefs to the astonished onlookers who wonder at the banner that reads “Welcome Home Sonny!” or whatever you can imagine as something that a person would want to have a parade for: birth, graduation, Patsy’s divorce or (in many cases) just for the hell of it. Did you know that you can DIY? You can, and I’m going to walk you through the process of giving/having your very own customized Second Line procession, or as we commonly call it: ‘Takin’ It To The Streets!’
            First of all, you could call a service that can provide you with all the bells and whistles including a restaurant destination for an après marche celebratory banquet, they will handle any permits, escorts and accoutrements for your event. Or you can continue to plow ahead on your own; and, by now we’ve all seen the Hannibal Buress stand up routine about having a parade in the streets of the French Quarter and how easy it is to organize and pull off. Well, surprise, it’s a little more complicated than the three minutes or so of humor that he uses and although it isn’t rocket surgery, it’s not like me, cheap and easy; more like a full time job for whoever chooses to take on this challenge.  I did try to follow his directions: “First you go down to the police station and get a permit” he said; to which the answer is: no, you need to get a permit from City Hall (1300 Perdido St. 7th floor) in person or online at nola.gov/onestop. The permit is $100.25 for non profits and $200.25 for everyone else (why the .25? Who knows?).
            Next you’ll need to choose the date, time and route for your procession (at least 15 days in advance of the occasion) because you’ll, obviously, need a police escort to assist you in impeding traffic while you parade worry free (drinks and all). The cost for the police starts at $384.97 for the first (minimum) two and a half hours and goes up; you pay that $384.97 whether you use them 2 ½ hours or not. Your route and size determines the amount of police necessary and for this you will consult with a Special Event Commander. They will have you fill out two forms with your intentions including who you have hired to clean up after you. You can find out more about police pricing at: nola.gov-secondary-employment/pricing.
About that marching band (remember them?); if you go to gigsalad.com/music you will find that there is a plethora of street savvy brass bands ready to take on your group’s event. They will range from $400.00 to $1,200.00 (and up) for an hour and a half (plus tip) depending on size, experience and date of the adventure; again, more time means higher fees.
            Okay, so here’s the scene: say you and your entourage of twenty want to meet at Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter St. (for drinks) and dance down Royal St. to Toulouse St. over to Chartres and across Jackson Square and end up at Muriel’s for burgers and more booze or a little further to Harry’s Corner for just a throwdown. Swell, that’s a twenty minute walk at most. Figure it will take at least an hour and a half. It’s gonna be like herding cats to get from there to there; alcohol, which many people want for this occasion ( while making most of y’all more jovial) will slow things down more than a tad.             You also need to consider whether you want to have all those accoutrements mentioned above, where and how to get them; did I mention that this will be a full time gig to get your ship off the ground? It will be. You’ll need two people, one who does all the running around grunt work (get Cousin Vinnie) and the other who will hand over their AmEx card and look the other way (Uncle Vito).
            So now, face it, this is not something you want to subject yourself to; I mean, yeah, get Vinnie to do it and Vinnie will have a great story to tell and you’ll have someone that you know that you can blame for any of the components that go awry, of which there will be many possibilities.  Orrrrr… call a company that handles these, and other functions, on an everyday basis. There are a few and I randomly picked MustDoNola.com (855-353-6634) from the Destination Kitchen site and queried them.
            I was told that because of the myriad of details that need the attention that will avoid mishaps, and the need to eliminate any level of stress, inconvenience or confusion that may occur, PLUS the absolute necessity to have this occasion not only go off without a hitch BUT keep things as light hearted and above all FUN for all involved, you NEED professionals who have knowledge and understanding of what it takes, how to do it and how to be virtually invisible to all but the hosts of any event that they’re involved in.  These people offer to take care of every detail of any celebration from greeting your people at the airport (with a band) to sending your guests out to the swamps on tours or to dump a body (just kidding) and in our case, organizing a second line parade through the streets of the French Quarter. They advise me that not only do they know how to spend a person’s hard earned, but also where they can save money and/or get the most bang for the buck.
So, my advice is: get the AmEx from Uncle Vito, give it to Cousin Vinnie and have Vinnie decide to either schlep it himself or “call some people”; relax, come on down to The Big easy, have a few drinks at Pat O’s, and act surprised and thrilled when all of a sudden twenty of your closest friends show up with a band to take you to lunch, ya know what I mean? Who doesn’t love a parade?
           
           
           
           


Restauran Tissue

Po Boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Restauran Tissue
Or
Chez Wha?
            Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends; 1500 restaurants and counting in New Orleans, and not counting filling stations, bars, convenience, Mom and Pop and grocery stores that sell food. Restaurants come and go here, sixty-two new ones in the last twelve months; and they go out of business just as fast. And as one goes down in flames, a new one rises from the ashes; the Phoenix Factor. A New Orleanian would have to dine out every night to support them, lucky for us that we have visitors; if the visitors stopped, the restaurant industry would be in the creek, not just up it.
There’s no end to the uninitiated that believe that they can buck the odds and open a successful restaurant that will stand the test of time; also there seems to be no end to the successful owners of places like the Petite Elite Sweet-treatery, Tiny Toney’s Taco Takeouteria or Nunzio’s Newfoundland Noshemporium to try their hand at opening locations two, three or four. Been there, done that. When a person(s) decides to try their hand at making a living feeding people they are in, basically, for a life without a life. Restaurant work doesn’t end at the closing of the day; it’s a twenty-four seven occupation on the scale of walking up to your neck into oncoming surf in Murphy’s ocean. Whatever can go wrong… will. I happen to love the business.
Many establishments host run-of-the mill self-aggrandizing owner/operators with authority issues and indecorous countenances who act like sandbox intimidators when things go awry and effectually unsettle everyone around them when things don’t go their way. They place ‘managers’ in charge and motivate them using a self perpetuating corporate inspiration/submission system, wondering why good people leave and rationalizing that ‘quitters’ cannot take the pressure (that they have created), this is the best way to success: spend your time perfecting surreptitiousness, stay alert to discrepancies in productivity and rationalize that if one site is working up to expectations, two or more would be better for you financially, if not spiritually. Make sure that your staff never work unprofitable schedules, avoid offering benefits and never shy away from terminating the weaker links. To some this is de rigueur.
            Sometimes a person will ask me if I ever miss the work of owning or Cheffing in a joint, Bistro, low brow or high end Gourmangerie, and I tell them yes; that’s because the work is the easy part, it’s all the rest of the stuff that goes along with being a conductor in this field of dysfunctional cacophonic Merry Melody orchestras that tests.
Basically--at the beginning-- passion is its own reward until the challenges start to fly at you like an octopus pitching bedlam fastball in an asylum world series.
            Numero uno, though, is that to be successful you have to be able to pay the bills, the twenty-seven different baseballs that you have to knock out of the park each month to stay in the game. This of course is relative to the dollars you take in and how creative you are at spending them; if you want a pretzel logic, Chutes and Ladders exercise, try conceiving how a sixteen dollar pizza cut twenty ways is divided financially for any culinary entrepreneur.   Slice one goes to the rent; slices two thru five pays the waiters, dishwashers, busboys, bartender; six thru eleven pay for the cost of the pie (averaged out over the whole menu); so now you have nine slices left. Telephone, electricity, gas, water, trash, insurance, linen, alarm system, computer, booze, office supplies, paper goods, taxes and workman’s compensation: munchers in a Pac-Man game eating into your cash flow--- and then the ice machine breaks; the drains back up; a rain storm floods your business closing you down for two weeks.
            The work is the easy part: you get up, suit up, show up and never give up; you become defined by your work and you try to balance empathy and discipline with your staff, knowing that you can never pay them a decent wage and realizing that few of them will ever reach their potential. You try to lead by example, admitting when you’re wrong and having that ‘Come to Jesus’ talk when you have to; you fight your demons on your own time and leave your other life (if you’re lucky enough to have one) at the door, you have a job to do. And you mistakenly expect everyone around you to live up to your standards.
            And then there’s the food and that’s what it’s really about; that’s why you’re here; working ‘the product’ so that your customers are whelmed, the critics approve of you and some crumbs hit the bottom line. And then the dishwasher shows up drunk on Saturday night and passes out in time for the seven-thirty rush; you find out that the cleaning crew is having surf and turf while working; the bartender is giving free drinks to his friends and big tippers. 
            The best thing about working in a restaurant is that you can take your craft with you anywhere in the world; the worst thing about running a restaurant is knowing that this is going to happen with your most talented staff and while the worst of your people will fade away (hopefully before damage occurs) what you’ll be left with will be mules that you can rely upon to do their job but not much more and all the hopes that you have for making a mark on the world will be forgotten as you row, row, row, that boat.
                        Having been around this block more times than I can count, I’ve seen it all from the inside; now, instead, I cook at home every night and leave you with the last line --which is also the first line-- welcome, my friend to the show that never ends.