Tag Archives: work

Some Sort of Broth with Pasta and Ingredients for the Sense of Self

I haven’t felt entirely well for months, though these past couple of weeks have been particularly trying. What with the constant call-outs at work, and my baseline level of stress, between matters domestic, financial, and existential, it’s a wonder that I haven’t collapsed well before. Last week I suffered from a bout of food poisoning, but it was only a matter of time before I fell before something a little more substantial.

Last month, following the factory fire in Richmond, I came down with a mild case of pneumonia, but I got over that fairly quickly, though I returned to work well before I should have.

This time, having been exposed to various illnesses from my employees, themselves suffering from the worst cold and flu season in recent memory, my body finally bowed to the inevitability of major illness. Even now, I feel that, instead of getting better, as my doctor assured me that I would, I am actually getting worse. But I know that one more day outside of work won’t actually do much more than cost me another eight hours of pay, and now that I’ve actually seen my primary care physician, I can communicate with her via the interwebz, and cut out the whole having to go to the doctor thing (which I hate).

All I have to do is make it through the end of the day on Monday without dying, and I’ll be okay.

I will say that the one advantage to a proper, physical illness is that it removes some of the oppressive strain of my bipolar disorder (diagnosed and verified) and anxiety (assumed, but I mean, come on). And, if you will mark this on your calendars, today marks the first day that my darling Wildflower has eschewed her traditional role of Master of mockery and insult and assumed a more loving and tolerant position.

Oh my god. Maybe she thinks I’m dying. This must mean that I actually look as terrible as I feel.

I was hoping to actually have something to say, but really this was just an exercise to gauge my mental faculties. It has been educational to say the least.

I now await my chicken soup with vegetables and (hopefully) twirly pasta, after the consumption of which, I can dose myself again with NyQuil and pass out into dreamless sleep.

Wandering In The Desert

The words are hovering about me this morning, whispering promises of eloquence into my ears. I rather tend to disbelieve them, however, as it’s taken me twenty minutes to get this far, and it only looks to go downward from here. This is what I get for only sitting down to write every few months or so, waiting on a free moment, or a special occasion, such as my birthday. I didn’t even manage to write a Second Annual Thanksgiving post, so now, should I have time in future years to remedy that, I am uncertain of the numbering system which I will be forced to devise. I guess I could pound one out after this, and preface it by saying that it took extra consideration to prepare, as this was a completely shit year, and I wanted to include at least some levity. That is, of course, if I ever manage to finish writing this one.

I always get a bit melancholy on my birthday. My wife thinks that it’s because I have convinced myself that everything will be terrible, while I know it’s because there is a fifty-fifty chance that this day will bring some sort of misery or disappointment. I wound up in the hospital on my birthday once, and, on another occasion, was giving the gift of compulsory freedom from my newly ex-girlfriend. It’s not that I believe that things will be horrible, and so endeavor, subconsciously, to make them so, but rather that I have been paying attention, and would prefer not to be blindsided by misfortune. Then again, this could be a really awesome year for celebrating another successful campaign against mortality, and it’s only the early waking hours of the day which are tinged with sadness and physical discomfort. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Since leaving Blondie’s two years ago, I have had four jobs, not including the time I spent writing (and grossing a grand total of $19 (net was -$60, as I had to purchase TurboTax Business for that year)). All, aside from my current gig were somewhat disappointing. Big Lots (insert ridiculous exclamation points wherever) reminded me that the hardest jobs are done for the least amount of respect and pay, and that even after years and years in management, I still believed in unions. Bear’s Lair introduced me to several cool people while reinforcing the notion that large corporations frequently lack a delicate touch. Jupiter was where I saw the sausage being made, and very nearly became a vegetarian (metaphorically speaking, obviously, as I cannot abide by vegetables in real life). It’s like I am forcing myself to remember what I swore that I would stand for, and begging myself to get started on changing the world already.

All of that, of course, led me to Canyon Market. A friend of mine from back in the Blondie’s days had been working there for nearly a year, and had only great things to say about it. I took a chance (and an hour-long BART ride) and applied for a job making sandwiches in the Deli. Now, I’ve worked in several restaurants (most of them in the Quick Service Arena), but I’d never actually gotten a chance to be paid for making sandwiches. As it turns out, I kind of love it. I mean, I’ve been rocking the amateur scene for decades now, but the chance to go pro has fundamentally fulfilled me. Sure, it’s not a desk job involving the pitter-patter of tiny keystrokes, but it’s strangely satisfying, all the same. And, of course, I was just recently made Acting Supervisor of the Deli, which came not so much as a shock to me, but as an inevitable consequence of my work history.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So where do I go from here? Obviously, I need to be writing more, especially since it’s almost time to renew my WordPress hosting, and this year has essentially been a gym membership for me (not to mention last year after May. I need to find a balance between work and home (and a balance at home between family, writing, play, and sleep). It looks like I may need to invest in a slightly less awkward laptop (of the non-Chromebook variety) so that I can use the 3+ hours I spend commuting everyday on something more productive than naptime. I need the person who I am to become to step the hell up and give me a hand. But, as we all know, Future Batmart is kind of an asshole. I don’t blame him too much, though, as Present Batmart (with the aid of Past Batmart) is constantly screwing Future Batmart over.

I’m not going to make a resolution, as those seem only to exist for the express purpose of breaking into tiny, bite-sized shards of shame. Nor shall I make a covert plan of action, for those also seem to good for tracking just how quickly things go off the rails, and by how far they’ve missed their destination. What, then? Perhaps just one step at a time. Every day from now until, oh, I don’t know… success… I will try to find the willingness to do something positive with my time. One day that might mean being a little more romantic with my wife, while another might include a little less paternal judgement toward my son.

I feel like my life is getting chopped up into increasingly tinier pieces, which are harder and harder to fill constructively. The older I get, the faster that time seems to pass. I have postulated that this occurs because each second is an increasingly smaller unit of measure compared to the total amount of time which I have lived. Think back in your own life: when you were a kid, five minutes took forever to finally pass, whereas five minutes now are gone before you realize that you’d been counting. As a child of five, one year was twenty percent of your existence. At 37, it’s (let me pull out my calculator) it’s just under 3% (and diminishing). Much as a quarter was a magical unit of currency when I was small (you could mail a letter, make a phone call from a pay phone, or buy a can of soda from a vending machine (wow, I just realized how truly old I am)), now it seems only good for 15 minutes in a laundromat’s dryer. Hell, I won’t even (can’t even) sell a smoke to someone for a quarter anymore.

So what’s the answer?

No, seriously. What’s the answer? Because I haven’t got the slightest clue.

The Will To Be

I am not alone in feeling that 2016 cannot come to an end soon enough. Perhaps I’ve just let the various superstitions get into my head, but right now, at this very moment, I’m struggling to find the will to be. Not that last year was a whole lot better, but at least I managed to write for a decent stretch of time, and put some much needed distance between myself and the ever-quickening rat race. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and I managed to get myself fairly established within the world of debt. Do I regret it? Not really, because it set me up to actually start a novel (of which I’ve written 27,000 words), and I self-published a couple of things on Amazon (earning me a whopping $19!). But, in the end, I found myself drawn back to the industry which had threatened to unmake me in the first place. I feel like I just need some breathing room, some time to dedicate myself entirely to this endeavor, so that I can really focus on finishing Hiraeth, and see what kind of luck I’ll have with a proper novel. I’ve gotten decent feedback from my beta readers, and I think that I may have stumbled upon something here.

So what do I do? Obviously, I can’t take another six months off, as I’m still paying off The Great Sabbatical of 2015. And there’s a minimum dollar amount which I need to make progress of climbing out of debt, which limits what sort of employment I can consider. Unfortunately, those types of jobs also seem to be more time-intensive, which kind of defeats the purpose. What I really need to pull is this off is a work schedule which features two days off which aren’t separated by anything more than the changing of the day, and the ability to stay at home (or do whatever) on said days off, and not be required to go in for any reason whatsoever. The only thing that does is burn someone out like a candle within a sphere of blowtorches. Throw a little personal tragedy into the mix, and top it off with a dash (results may vary) of mental illness, and the sky’s the limit for a risk of a complete meltdown. All I know is that whatever the solution, I need to find it quickly. I’m tired of not doing what I love. It’s been over thirty years since I discovered my place within the universe, and aside from a handful of baby steps, I haven’t done anything to get there.

Realistically, I think that I could get everything accomplished that I need to for the low, low price of $30,000. Check out the Benefactors page if you’re interested in contributing… The only thing that I can do is lower my head and hope that this time I can pull it off. I’ve happened to work miracles on countless occasions before, extricating myself from the fires in which I’d put myself, but I’d love to somehow get ahead of the curve, and not have to wait until the final moment to manage some kind of magic. Number One: I can’t count on my unblemished record of victories snatched from the jaws of defeat, and Number Two: that kind of strategy is, honestly, exhausting. I know that I can do it. I know that I have the skills to make it happen. All I need now is the time to try. If I can only pull myself up from within the grips of my depression, and find within myself the will to be, I think that everything will be okay.

Eleven Month Year

As it turns out, I’m no good in December. Even if I were to abstain from sneaking glances at a calendar, I think that I would still know when the clock ticked over to December 1st. This month seems even worse than other recent Decembers. Like last year, I left a job. Of course, I left due to some family reasons (a similarity with 2014), but also because I’d thought that I’d locked up a new job. Knowing me, however, it comes as no surprise that it seems that I somehow managed to blow the final interview (as I am amazing at speaking to other people), thereby leaving me to face another January in which I am unemployed. Sure, I wouldn’t have been working anyway, as the Bear’s Lair is shut down until mid-January, but if I’d played things a little more conservatively, and if I hadn’t felt the need to stay at home to make sure that my wife could get some rest, I could have stuck it out for one more week, and been eligible for seasonal unemployment, thereby freeing me up to sit at home and write without feeling guilty about it. In all fairness, I have been writing (just not on the website that I own), but I find it difficult to free myself from the sinking feeling that I’ve screwed everything up again. Go figure.

There are just a few days left in 2015, and I cannot help but think that it didn’t really go according to my plan. I took six months off to try my hand at writing once again, and for my effort was rewarded with literally tens of dollars. I’m not complaining, mind you, as those were tens of dollars earned doing something which I’d always dreamed of doing, but it’s hard to feed your family or even pay the smallest bills with that kind of money. Even the thing I’m writing now is basically for practice only, as it’s been over twenty years since I’ve written anything cohesive which lasted more than 5,000 words. As of now, I’m at 14,000, and, assuming that I don’t find some excuse to keep myself from writing, I’ll probably add another couple of thousand words before I go to bed. Mind you, this is the most positive interpretation of how things have gone since I quit my job at Blondie’s.

I found myself working at Big Lots for minimum wage and a schedule of less than thirty weekly hours. Of course, as the work was physically demanding, and I have dedicated my existence to the pursuit of a sedentary lifestyle, I wound up spending almost the entirety of every other paycheck on visits to the Doctor and prescription medication. Just when I thought that I could take it no longer, I was offered a promotion (which would have meant full-time and a raise of a couple of dollars). I wasn’t thrilled about the money, but that, combined with nearly double my regular hours, would have given me enough spare cash to consider paying off some of my growing bills. But, because my life is rarely bound by just one single narrative, I was contacted around that time by someone whom I had known through my previous employer. And, because my life seems to run off of some sort of omnipresent snark, the day I interviewed for the promotion at Big Lots (wherein I had to reassure the higher-ups that I had no intention of leaving), I had another interview in Berkeley for a management gig back in restaurants.

I’ve got an interesting relationship with restaurants, and I’d honestly believed that I was done with them, but my experience demands a certain wage, one which I realistically cannot demand in any other field. That interview went wonderfully, and the guy who interviewed me really sold me on the idea. They were resurrecting the Bear’s Lair after a four-year absence, and I would have a part in it. My experience in Food Service Management, not to mention having helped to open a restaurant from Day One, would be of enormous help in this endeavor. It was the chosen job. And the best part was that I was to attend a Management Retreat in just a couple of days, with my time there being paid. I said at the end of my interview that I would need to give my notice, and it seemed that I would be able to balance the handful of hours that I was pulling down at Big Lots with the full-time prep work I would be doing for the Bear’s Lair. But, after the Retreat, I realized that we had a lot of work to do, and I didn’t want to be hamstrung by a job that would only, at that point, serve to distract me from the job which would finally allow me to pay the bills. When I got home, I wrote up a letter of resignation, and delivered it to work.

Having worked in the industry for as many years as I have, I should have paid more heed to the red flags which I noticed almost immediately. I don’t want to get into a lot of detail, as it really was a wonderful opportunity for me, one which allowed me to pay off my credit card debt which had amassed during my sabbatical. But, ultimately, it was a difference in philosophy which caused us to part ways, which is a shame, because I almost believe that there has been some progress of late, and that the future for the Bear’s Lair may be brighter than its past. Of course, no matter how things wound up turning out, if I hadn’t felt that my dream job (in that industry, at least) was a total lock, I would have stuck it out, and gotten on unemployment. I know that this will merely be an opportunity for me to take another path which I might not have otherwise seen, but there are times when I get tired of the constant tension within my shoulders which always leads me to land upon my feet.

But, hey, at least I’m writing!

Also, sometime over the next couple of days, I will be reviewing “Not What I Meant” by Leah Pape. And there is a small possibility that I will give away a copy of this album to a lucky reader of that post. Just leave a comment, and you will be entered to win!


Things have begun moving at a slightly uncomfortable pace, so I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and slow them down again. I’m still hoping to hear back from Jupiter within the next few days, but, that being said, I’ve come to the end of the line at the Bear’s Lair. I had several reasons ready for walking away, but then something actually important came along and made the decision practically automatic. I may have been dealing with some things deep within my head these past couple of weeks, but all of that soul-searching came abruptly to an end when I spoke to my Wildflower this morning (though really, at that hour, it’s should still be considered night). She’d left work early because she’d been nearly crippled by a headache and an unending bout of dizziness (for those of you who knew me a few years ago, these were the same symptoms she was exhibiting when she had to go to the hospital (the end result of that visit was a night spent uncomfortably in the world’s most expensive hotel room (you try going to a hospital without insurance), absolutely no idea what was causing her discomfort, and a bill larger than my wife’s annual salary after taxes), and which have been reappearing at random intervals since then), but didn’t manage to actually get in to see a doctor at Urgent Care until a little after noon. And by that, I mean that she actually got to see a doctor sometime around two. Sadly, but not at all unexpected, the longest part of her medical journey (in terms of time, at least), was the part where she had to wait almost five hours to get her prescriptions from Walgreen’s (despite having been told that they would be ready in two hours, and then when we arrived two hours after that, being told that nothing had been done for either because her insurance wouldn’t cover one of the prescriptions (which was only $19.99). After I said that money (in that range, anyway) was no object, we were then told that it would be just a few minutes, and her name would be called. An hour later the actual pharmacist (not the register monkey) chided us for not picking up the prescriptions sooner…).

All of that, and the best that this doctor could tell her was that she was suffering from “stress” and that she needed to take a few days and relax. She was told not to return to work until the fifteenth of December, and to try to take it easy at home. Now, to tie this in with the swirling pageant of self-loathing to which I’ve been subjected recently, it did occur to me that it could, in fact, actually be stress, and that, as I wasn’t the lowest maintenance chulo on the block, perhaps I should test the maxim about setting someone free (for the record, when presented this idea, Wildflower informed me in no uncertain terms that she just couldn’t deal with my dramatic bullshit today, and to put a lid on it). Of course, I don’t entirely believe that mere stress is entirely to blame, but I’m no doctor, or at least that’s what they keep screaming at me every time I try to go behind the counter at the Clinic in an attempt to actually provide healthcare for people. Whatever. Of course, none of this explains why I began this post with talk of jobs in both the past and future tense, subtly, yet ubiquitously leaving out the present tense. Not being one for half-measures (the only things I halve are asses (and then, only in regards to determination and/or dedication), sandwiches), I cobbled together a plan in the time between conversations with my wife. If she is to rest, and I mean that she take an actual proper rest, then she cannot be burdened with a duty of care for the Monkey Man. Combine that with the news that my adult children will be house sitting for the next few weeks, and I really had no alternative: I will be looking after David (and subjecting him to Quality Time with Dad) until Flor either feels better, or cannot bear to listen to his whining any longer, and can stand up long enough to actually do something about it.

With only seven more days until the Lair is shut down for nearly one month, its employees subject to Seasonal Layoffs (a whole different column, I promise), I felt that it was unfair of me to have to ditch out for five of them (in the interest of fairness, I would have only been missing three days of work), and even then, not be able to guarantee my return, should my wife’s condition worsen. Couple that with the probability that someone from Jupiter will be calling back within the next three to eleven days (though, as always with my life, the job isn’t a complete lock), and I felt that I’d no choice but to make a clean break. Sure, I could have found some sort of corporate loophole through which to squeeze myself, and stuck it out until we closed, and then, per their instructions, register with the EDD for seasonal unemployment, just in case things didn’t pan out with Jupiter, but that just seems… I don’t know… petty. That, and my boss has been on me since Wednesday in an attempt to secure my commitment to return after the break. No, as much as the thought of repeating the Big! Lots! Boogie sends shivers down my spine (and not the good kind), I think that it was the right time to pull away. There are some good ideas coming to the forefront now, and I think that, after having exhausted almost all possible avenues of failure, there is a decent chance for at least some modest form of success. I do not know how many people will be returning in Mid-January, but I do know that there won’t be many, as most of them (of us) have quit. Again, that is probably for the best, as we have been burnt out, and if there is to be a new chance at success, with a new Captain at the helm, it must necessarily come to pass without us. What the Lair needs now is a Belief In The Ideal, and having seen the sausage made, not that many True Believers still remain. I do, however, wish them the best of luck.

Now, however, I am moving on to bigger and better things. I know that I was saying much the same one year ago, but nothing about my dream has changed, save, perhaps, for the geography. I don’t know how much time I will have before I must return to the daily grind of full-time employment, but I know that I must take advantage of this downtime, and write for all that I am worth. I am inspired once again (well, not at this exact moment, but that may have more to do with a perpetual sense of exhaustion which I have been carrying for the past few days), and there are some things that I know that I must get out while I can. And, as with most things of artistic merit, I really just want to show off a little. There’s nothing like trying to impress new friends to get the creative juices going. Time will tell if I have made the right decision, or if I somehow managed to bollocks it all up again. But since everything this past year happened at exactly the moment in which I needed it to happen, I’m going to keep on rolling with the punches. So here’s to the coming year, and here’s to the once which is coming to an end.

… The More I Stay The Same

You would think that on a day in which the number of my paid hours didn’t exceed a half-dozen, I wouldn’t find myself so exhausted, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve been doing work stuff since I got home, as we’re looking down the barrel of another seismic shift in staffing levels at the restaurant. I don’t disagree with the move, as sales haven’t been what we would have liked them to be, and we’ve cut down the Front of House staff to be able to pull this off without losing too many people to frustrated attrition, but the Back of House has been generally protected up until now, with full staffing and full-time hours even during the fortnight of belt-tightening, and I worry that this move might cost us people will we need going into Halloween. It seems that I have become more conservative in staffing levels as I have gotten older. I used to be the bloody hatchet man, chopping away at “warm bodies” and never giving it a second thought, but perhaps I’ve just felt the effects of too many unexpected rushes to be willing to get caught again with my pants around my ankles (metaphorically speaking, obviously). The restaurant industry is a dangerous game, and even when you manage to get everything spot-on, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll still be open in a year. Statistically speaking, it’s almost certain that you won’t. Part of me would like to run and hide, get out of this and try to salvage what I can out of my career and unpaid writing.

There are only two problems with this: I still have to pay off my credit cards which supported me while I was on sabbatical earlier this year, and, sadly, I still kind of enjoy this work, and the logic puzzles which it provides. I’m finally getting enough data in that I can start running scenarios for failure in my head, and the more problems which I can troubleshoot now, the less likely I am to be blindsided by them in the future. There are countless ways in which this can end in failure, and only a handful which could be considered some variety of success. It’s my job to find the best path to the most attractive outcome, and find a way to get us there, whether or not that’s actually in my job description. All that time I spent as General Manager has forced me into this mindset, and even it means that someone else will get the glory, I will know what I have done, and that will have to do. It’s not like I am ever going to mention my successes in this industry when I get around to pounding out my bio for the jacket blurb. More than ever, my time away from Food Service has made me realize that I do not want this to become my career (never mind that I have been in this industry for nearly half my life, whereas I haven’t (to date) made more than $100 in writing sales). I mean, while I’m here, I’m going to keep giving it my all, but at the end of the day, I’m in it for the challenge, and, more importantly, the money to pay off my debt.

There is a possibility that I will wind up only working four days a week, which is actually okay with me. I know that it will push back my credit card payments, but it may also afford me the opportunity to keep working on my writing. If only I could somehow stumble into about $10,000 (to pay off the cards and medical bills which Flor and I have accumulated), then I wouldn’t have to worry about some sort of reduced schedule. I could be one of those part-timers whom I despise. I’m hoping that by March, I will have managed to pay off the majority of my debt, allowing me to consider taking steps to find some sort of balance between what pays the bills and what renews my soul. I suppose that there is still a chance that someone will read this blog (which I have just remembered that I will have to pay some fees towards in the beginning of December) and offer me a job writing things for them. I’m not going to hold my breath, but it never hurts to dream. As I may have mentioned a time or two before, I am bad at this whole “balance” thing. I wish it wasn’t so, but the fact is that I have kind of always been an “all-or-nothing” sort of fellow (from falling in love at the drop of a hat (rich, romantic aching, and drunken butterflies, etc.), to all of the other self-destructive behavior in which I have all too readily engaged), and it’s kind of ridiculous to imagine that I might start “adulting” right now. The more things change, the more I stay the same.

Maybe there’s still hope, though: I have started writing again, now that things have started falling into a rhythm (though not nearly as frequently as I might desire), and I’ve even managed to get some strings for my guitar (which I unearthed from deep within the pile of crap which resides before my closet), and started to play again. I’m still not any good, but at least I seem to have gotten a little better (from my years of not actually playing or anything), and I’ve even begun working on a “new” song, which is only 40% directly lifted from another song which I had written. I even use different chords and everything! There’s even a time change! That may not sound like much, but it’s pretty amazing for me. Death Trudge is making a comeback! Within the narrative which I’ve constructed that I might find meaning in my life, everything I’ve done has been for some sort of reason. I’m hoping that this time around, I get the chance to make some connection which allow me to pursue my dream of writing. It could be that I’m doing this so that when my brother-in-law finally gets around to opening his place, I’ll have the nuts and bolts of restaurant launching down to an art, but I really hope that it’s the writing thing.

Also, in other news: A good friend of mine unearthed some photography of mine from half a lifetime ago. She will be sending me the copies, and once I have them, I will share them with all of you. In the meantime, here is a photo of a photo which I took eighteen years ago:

Actually, this was one of my favorite photos from that era.
Actually, this was one of my favorite photos from that era.

Anyway, it’s very nearly my bedtime, and I have an exciting day at work tomorrow. Have a good evening, everyone!

The More Things Change…

I should probably go back a few of months (or a half-dozen posts), and verify this before I say it, but I hate what this industry does to me, and I’m not talking about writing. It’s not job-specific, as I would have to be a complete moron to speak ill of my current place of employment in anything other than plausibly deniable code, but rather my indictment of the restaurant industry. In many ways, it’s like a drug, something that I desperately want to give up, but seem inexorably drawn back towards. I know that it’s not good for me to work in a place like that, as the constant shifting between dead and slammed is a microcosm of the swirling madness within me. But, again, this isn’t what I’m actually getting at. I could probably find studies to back me up on my belief that this industry tends to draw the intelligent dropouts, drug addicts, and the mentally unstable, but, at the risk of repetition, not really what I’m getting at. I guess what makes this so hard for me is just how much of a damn I give. I’m always stressing out about things I need to do, and the little voice inside my head that’s freakishly insistent upon screaming out my flaws within the echo chamber of my skull spends every bus ride out to work making me feel like today will be the day that I will be let go. It’s not that I am negligent, or that I actually believe that I will be let go for anything approaching a valid reason. Of course, I’m still in my first 90 days, and employed in a “right-to-work” state, so there doesn’t have to be a reason. Maybe Bad Leon is right: perhaps I am a bad person.

Or it could be that I simply need to start back up on my medication. I keep saying that as long as I am not doing anything that requires creativity or inspiration, I might as well get my noggin back under control. Of course, my ability to think on my feet, and troubleshoot the worst catastrophes is a direct result of the way I’m drawn to harming myself psychologically. Anyone who’s capable of spending hours a day thinking up all the ways that he could irrevocably screw things up, is also capable of seeing the early warning signs of something which is about to hit the fan, and take action to prevent it, or at least ride the tsunami of excrement and minimize the damage along the way. Now that we’re a month into full operations, the plethora of variables have been winnowed away, and I’m starting to get a better handle on preventative worrying. I’ve seen how shifts run, and I’ve begun to identify the [I cannot use this word, for fear of its misinterpretation] in our armor. It’s a process. And of course, all this last paragraph has done has undermine the point I’d been trying to make about the benefits of being healthy.

I suppose that I could probably be fine if I took measures to ensure my health. I mean, it’s not like other people haven’t taken care of themselves before. And now we’re back to the major point, the reason why those suffering from mental illness almost pathologically refuse to take their medication: the feeling that, for all the reasonable benefits of getting one’s head on straight, the nagging doubt about that action’s worth. I know that I could probably do the normal stuff in my life much, much better if I got back on the Lithium. Hell, I’d probably even start to be a better dad: calmer, less likely to fly off the handle, more… stable. They say that kids need… crave… stability, right? I’d probably even be a better husband, without random days and weeks of inspiration sending me off to battle windmills instead of just buckling down and dedicating myself to the team that my wife and I have legally signed off upon. I mean, there are literally so many reasons to do it, and there are only two reasons not to. The first, and most practical, is that there seem to be ridiculously difficult-to-navigate hoops between myself and my medication. I could understand if there was a possibility that I might get high, or something similar, but I’m only looking to get back on Lithium, which is a damned element. Maybe I should just start sucking on a battery.

The second has no bearing on reality, and seems unbelievably petty and selfish: It makes me so damned boring that I cannot, even now, bear to contemplate it. Sure, I might not be a barrel of laughs, but at least I’m interesting. I’d like to imagine that whether they love or hate me, that people will at least remember me. Maybe that’s why I write. I know that my time drawing breath is, by necessity, limited (though it does tend to drag on a bit), but my words have the potential to preserve the most perfect aspects of myself for as long as they can be read. They will not feel pain, nor the weight of weariness, but will stand in steady testament to those times when I was able to surpass myself, and contribute something of beauty to the world. And then there’s the ego, which insists that I am worth remembering. And the hole in the shape of my self-esteem which assures me that I’m not. I should probably talk to a professional. I think that I am finally ready to seek a professional opinion without harboring the fear (or desire) to rip that person down over a perceived slight, or to simply show off how much more clever I am than the person who I am paying to wade through my issues. It almost feels that I am gradually approaching adulthood, but I know better. I know the steps I need to take, but I refuse to do anything about it because I don’t want to. As bad as it may ever get, I am terrified of losing who I am, and what that means for the tale I’ve told myself regarding the meaning of my life.

Has It Really Been So Long?

So it’s been well over a month, with nary a word sent out. I want thank those of you who have kept checking back in the hope that I might have had something to say, or an opportunity to say it. As it turns out, opening up a restaurant is a time-consuming venture. That, and we just got connected back up to the internet a few days ago. I suppose I could have brought my laptop with me to work, and taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi, but I really didn’t want to have to wake up any earlier, and by the end of my day, I really didn’t want to stick around, and postpone my pilgrimage back home. We’ll see how well I can stick to a regular writing schedule moving forward, but it will probably be a while more before I can set aside some regular time for me to start writing every day. For now, it’s my goal to write on my days off (which happen to be today (kind of- more later on that) and tomorrow), and I suppose that two days a week are better than one day every six weeks. I’m also hoping to get back to working on that story I’d started around when I got hired for my current job, as there’s still a chance that I might be able to break $50 in sales for 2015. All of this unimportant, however. The future will bring what it will bring, and only time will tell if I will see success. The past, however, is ripe for repetition, so let’s go back a couple of months and see what brought me to this place.

I’d been working at Big Lots, destroying my body and whittling away my sanity, only to fall further into debt, looking toward an imminent promotion as the only light, however dim, at the end of my tunnel of penitence. Then, out of the blue, someone I’d known when I was working at Blondie’s Pizza got a hold of me, and informed me of an employment opportunity. Of course, I wound up having my interview for this new job on the same day as I had my final interview for my promotion at Big Lots. I knew going into the first interview, that I would take the new job in a heartbeat, assuming the money was okay, but decided to go through the motions anyway, as I have learned to hedge my bets, and that I am not the best person to be involved in interviews, either asking or answering the questions. As it turned out, I needn’t have been so worried. It was the single most painless interview I have ever had. The gentleman with whom I sat seemed eager to hire to me from the moment I sat I down, and based upon his sales pitch (and mostly that he offered me twenty percent more than I had been seeking (only two dollars less than I’d been making at Blondie’s, but with a significantly shorter and cheaper commute), and a benefits package that was better than I’d had before), I was just as eager to accept his offer. I filled out paperwork, and made plans to attend the company’s leadership retreat in just a couple days.

At that point, I was still planning on giving nearly two weeks’ notice to Big Lots, but by the end of the retreat, which featured a layout of the coming game plan, and conversations about just how much we had left to accomplish, I made my decision to to resign immediately. I feel somewhat bad that I left them in the lurch, but on the other hand, it’s simply not too realistic to expect loyalty when you aren’t willing to pay more than the minimum wage and refuse to have more than one full-time employee per department. Combine that with their anti-union rhetoric, and subversively anti-employee culture (something which I’ve noticed has become the norm over the past decade), and I came to regard to the entire situation as something more akin to a prison break. I’m not sure why, exactly, that so many employers have decided to regard their employees as some sort of necessary evil, like interchangeable equipment that should be tossed away instead of even minimally maintained. I’ve written about this before, so I’m not going to go into it again, but it just disappoints me to see people treated this way, and feeling like it’s the best thing they can get (whether or not it’s true).

Since the middle of August, I have been working toward the reopening of a Berkeley institution. We’ve gone through some personnel changes, and faced some common hiccups that all new restaurants must face, but with the added pressure of both retaining the link with our namesake from before, while trying to establish an entirely new identity. We opened our doors on the eighth of September, surrounded by construction, and it’s taken a little longer than to find our footing, than if we had opened free and clear. I don’t mind going on about the past, but it’s good to keep in mind that there’s nothing you can do to change it. Should I ever be in the position to open another restaurant, I have learned some valuable lessons which will hopefully spare me from some of the growing pains I’ve been feeling this time around.

I was talking to one of my employees last night, commenting on the fact that it felt like I was finally starting to get a handle on how it was to work at this place. To my surprise, she echoed the sentiment.

I’ve just looked down at the time, and realized that I have to take off and pick up David, and then run off to Berkeley for a management meeting (I’m the only one of us who’s off today) at 4. I’ll keep on with this when I get home, and then try to think of something interesting to share with all of you tomorrow.


Back (Somewhat) From The Wilderness

We’re in the process of finding a worthy successor to Comcast for our home internet service, so I’ve pretty much been stuck on my phone when I’ve been online this past while, and I’m not going to attempt to write anything sizable on tiny screen without physical keys. A lot has happened since I last posted something, and even as I’m typing these words, I’m trying to sort it all out in my head, so that I don’t tell a rambling, disjointed anecdote (not that that has stopped me before!). For the handful of you that have been checking back daily to see if I’ve actually written anything: thank you. I’m hoping that, by the end of today’s column, you will have reason to look forward to the coming months. Well, that is, if I can get the interwebz at home again. As much fun as it is trying to write at Cafe Milano in Berkeley, I believe that I’ll most likely want to mosey on home when my days are done, and the fact is that there are sometimes bloodsports involved in gaining access to an outlet (which I need because my laptop is a 4-year-old Acer, and hates being without a source of energy).

So, big news first: I am no longer working at Big Lots, which I do not believe I actually mentioned by name during my time there. It was an… interesting experience, and the tens of dollars that I made while working there enlightened me further to the plight of the working poor. What surprised me the most (viscerally, as I’d known it intellectually), was just how hard the job was, and just how little we were valued. Even as I was pushing for a promotion (because dozens of dollars are better than tens), I could almost not believe just how little they were willing to pay us. In the department where I’d been working, there was only one employee allowed to have Full Time (not me), and everyone else had to try to live off of minimum wage rates at less than thirty hours per week. Now, it wasn’t as bad as that winter I had to work for Labor Ready in Seattle, excavating frozen earth, but it was a close second. And to add insult to injury, after the good manager left (I wrote a piece about him), not a single other manager really wanted to take his place. They were pushing for me to advance to a supervisory position (a position which lay vacant long before I’d been hired- one of the sticking points of my former boss), not as way of recognizing my skill set, but as a means of avoiding physical labor, and the warehouse entirely.

So,when I got an email, out of the blue, from someone with whom I’d worked during my time at the Kenpire, informing me of an opportunity, I responded immediately. As it turns out, it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The morning of my interview for this new job, I had another interview at Big Lots, this time with someone higher up the food chain. It was a good conversation, and perhaps if I had been dealing with him instead of the GM I was under, things may have been different. But no matter how well it went, they weren’t going to offer me more than $12/hr, and considering all that they wanted me to do, I kept my fingers crossed that the afternoon offer would be better. I have not always had the best of luck with interviews, and knew better than to throw away a pittance, if I pittance was all I’d got. It turns out that my fears were unfounded. The interview went swimmingly, and I was offered $3 more per hour than the level at which I’d set my minimum. Taking into account the fact that I no longer have to commute to San Francisco, and was also offered real benefits, I’m actually making more now than I was when I was GM of Blondie’s in San Francisco.

Of course, I’m terrified with every passing day that I will screw everything up, and come face to face with indisputable proof that I should never have quit Big Lots, but I also know that this is normal (for me) and that I do actually know how to ride upon the sword’s edge of despair, sliding along the sharpened blade in cut-resistant slippers, down to the sweet spot of my neuroses, where I am invincible. Part of it is that we’re still in that time before the restaurant is even open (it’s still under construction), and there are too many variables for me to properly calculate the outcome using my superhuman pessimistic powers. It is coming together, though.

I’d planned on giving nearly two final weeks to Big Lots, but when faced with the enormity of the task, and the time frame in which it needed to be accomplished, I cut my losses, and dedicated myself to the job which paid me twice the rate of the other (with more hours, to boot). I felt bad as I was penning my letter of resignation, especially as I could do no more than say say, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” I’m glad I had the opportunity to see just how bad people have it, so that I can do my best to make sure that no one working for me ever feels that way again. And I’m grateful that I got so see the inner workings of a corporation that couldn’t give less than rabbit turd about its employees. I’ve spoken out against them, but now I know just how bad they are (and I’m sure I didn’t even come close to working for the worst). It isn’t done with terror, at least not overtly. They get you by whispering lies into your ear, and pretending that they’re looking out for you. And then when they finally crank the heat up, they remind you that there are people out there who somehow make even less than you, and that they’ll replace you if you get out of line.

I’m in a better place now. I’m also out of time, as I have to start getting ready for my workday. I’ll do my best to stay in touch.

Thanks again,


Sighs of Regret

It’s a good thing that I’ve pretty much given up on trying to meet my goal of 365,000 words this year, or I’d be feeling fairly down on myself for having fallen so far behind. And it’s a good thing that I haven’t been spending a lot of time pondering my decision to leave a job which (though I was being underpaid) covered my expenses so that I could get myself into debt and wind up working a $9/hr job with less than 30 hours a week, because I might start to get really worried about how I was going to make it this time around. But the fact is that I needed the break which I allowed myself to take, and it was nice to get back to doing something that I actually wanted to do, for a change. I knew that it would be nearly impossible to try to write while working a full-time gig, but it turns out that even trying to steal away a few moments throughout the week is proving hard enough. I’d been thinking that at least I’ll have a little more time to be by myself when David goes back to school, but by then, I’ll either have a different job (one which will most likely not afford me the opportunity to work in the wee hours), or have been promoted (which means a switch to full-time in addition to a raise in my hourly wage), which means that the time I have right now, when David would otherwise have been at school, will still be unavailable to me.

As for my source of employment, there’s not a whole lot to report upon right now. I am still being groomed for that promotion, which basically involves throwing more work and responsibility at me without any change in my rate of pay or the number of hours for which I am scheduled on a weekly basis. I’m convinced that the guy in charge is completely useless, and that it probably wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world for me to try to find something else sooner rather than later. My department is slowly flying apart, as more and more people are growing increasingly frustrated with the current state of management, which includes an increased workload as more and more people leave, and the general manager refuses to get hands-on as would normally be recommended. I’ve even had some of my coworkers ask me to remember them if I manage to land a restaurant management gig somewhere nearby. Even if it weren’t turning into a complete shit show, the very fact that everyone is nurturing escape plans makes me unwilling to face the possibility of having to do the work of at least twelve people (of which we currently have seven) all by my very lonesome. I’ve even started romanticizing the last place where I worked, but luckily, my son-in-law still works there, and it is through his stories that I am able to remind myself of all the reasons why I left.

On the Minkey Front, it turns out that, in addition to his nose, he has also inherited his mother’s eyes, both in form and function. I mean, I’m not saying that my eyesight is perfect, but it turns out that my son is, for all intents and purposes, blind as a bat. I think Flor said that his glasses should be ready in a couple of weeks, at which point it is my sincere hope that he actually will begin to want to read. Well, that and that he might not need to drape himself over my desk so that he can watch his cartoons. It is also my hope that clarity of vision will lead to better penmanship. At least if he can see, his vacation will not have been for nothing. I know that he is bored out of his mind this summer, but I wish he knew (in a way that wouldn’t scar him for life) just how trying his constant presence is for the rest of us. It’s not that we don’t love him, it’s just that he’s a very… intense person, and should only be taken in small doses. In that regard, as well as normally wearing his heart upon his sleeve, he is very much my son. I know it’s wrong to say, but I feel rather  like Ford Prefect in the company of Arthur Dent when spending time with David. And you better believe that I know where my towel is!

As for the writing, well, I’m trying to figure out how to budget some time for myself more that once a week so that I can, at the very least, keep up with the blog. It’s hard because my normal solution would be to go to bed an hour earlier, and make with the clickety-clackety before I go to work. But it’s hard enough to get a proper amount of sleep anyway, and if I tried to put David to bed that early, I’m pretty sure that I’d be facing a full revolt before the end of summer. But the real news is that I’ve been running bits and pieces of {Book #4} around in my head while trying to figure it out (Books #1 and #2 are “Parade”, which I know I have to start before I have forgotten everything, but whose events are so traumatic as to make me nervous about reliving them again, no matter how “noble” the cause may be; Book #3 is The Wild West Fantasy, which I’ve been playing with for a while, but haven’t really decided what I want to do with it). But I think that I finally figured out {Book 4}. It was going to be a fictional account (based on true stories) and told from a female point of view, but I then decided that I could structure it more like a series of interviews. Now, of course, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably just write out each interview, and then integrate those all together into an overarching narrative. Or not. It’s still early.

And it’s not like I’m suffering from an overwhelming sense of regret.