Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Country Hardball"

It would stand to reason that anybody perusing this particular post would immediately assume that I am embarking on a piece about our national pastime.

There are at least two very good reasons for this including my unwavering devotion to a team that smells like cabbage cooking or perhaps that today happens to be the day of the "Mid-Summer Classic" or MLB All Star Game.

Not to disappoint the legions of fans and followers that I have (28 to date), but unfortunatly this post will take an unexpected turn.

This is an homage to phonetic word combinations.

While being directly related to the boys of summer, the term "country hardball", in my most humble of opinions, is an example of a well balanced, emotion provoking structure that serves as an example of my very lure to the art of the written word. So balanced in fact that one could deduce that the term itself might transcend the boundaries of the sport in which it refers to and lend it's influence as a great name for a rock band or a truck stop diner off of route 441 through the Smokey Mountains.

Point being that when a person is talented enough or just plain lucky enough to produce the perfect word combo, the power duo is free to explore possibilities outside of its initial intended use, and in my case, embed itself deep inside the pshycy and rolls around like a marble in an empty fishbowl only to be quieted when released by a concoction of written words to describe such a phenomenon.

There are few terms that provoke emotion and deserve such attention, and "county hardball" is one of them, now joining the ranks of "lung butter" or "draconian devil".

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why I Love Golf!

I love golf, and not for your typical reasons.

I didn't hit a hole-in-one my first time out, I didn't grow up on any praticular golfcourse, and my friends and I are not members of an elite country club where the bartender knows what I like to drink and has it waiting for me as I come off the 18th green.

True, there is more than a traceable amount of respect for the game that hovers around the fact that you really only compete with yourself, it is a game of integrity, and there is a moral fiber that intertwines itself throughout every aspect of the 18 hole challenge, but I love the game for one reason. For me golf allows me to vividly re-live memories that have nothing to do with the game.

When I see golf on television or drive up to the first tee, I am reminded of the sight of the outdoor lantern lights hung from tree to tree over a swimming pool at a summer party that my parents brought us too at the neighbors house when I was 8 or the relfection of the christmas tree lights in the shiny wheel base of a brand new bike with the front tire cocked at an angle that makes it appear as if it were waiting for me to see it for the first time.

I smell charcoal, burnt hot dogs and suntan lotion on a scorching hot summer day knowing that there will be no school for 2 more months and the scent of assorted chocolates and tart candies that smack me in the nose as I open my trick-or-treat bag for the first time in the safety of our living room.

I hear the unmistakable pop of the fireworks and the choked squeal from a paper horn that is being blown too hard from a few houses over on a chilly new years eve when I am supposed to lying down and going to sleep or the sounds of other kids playing Marco Polo in the nearby pool while I lay on my back drying as the sun penetrates my closed eyes making the world pink.

I feel the surprisingly strong flap of a fistful of slimy fish as I try as a 10 year old to get it off the hook without my dad helping, then the coolness of the lake as I lean over the boat and put him back in the waters or the last firm plastic buckle snapping shut on my ski boots as I look up the hill to the chairlift knowing that today is the day I try the double black diamond for the first time.

And I taste the thick frosting of the rollerskate cake with the licorice rope shoelaces that my mom made for my birthday party, or the root beer floats that my dad made for my brothers and I well after our usual bedtime on an evening that my mother was away with her friends.

And I feel it all in a momentary rush that happens in seconds.

You see, I love golf for reasons that have nothing to do with golf. The sight of a stretched open fairway, a flag dotting the horizon in the long shadows of the clubhouse on 18 as the moon and the sun struggle for ownership of the sky, brings me to a series of places and a times that is reserved for moments of unadulterated pleasure, comfort, and security.

A time that was never scripted to last this long and can only be found again under very specific conditions. Stored in a vault, deep within my memory, that for some reason has golf as its only key.

I don't understand it myself, but then again, I don't need to!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Free At Last, Free At Last...Thank God Almighty...

The transformation from Food and Beverage whipping post to creative earner is complete. I have kicked and pried myself out of the GI Joe kung fu grip that had become the restaurant biz. Mind you that I am very careful to point out that it was indeed (or haphazardly became so) the whole industry and not merely a single restaurant.
Do I have an "icky-er" taste in my mouth that is slightly fishy, from the last tank to captivate me? Yes, I do, but more than anything I am really very sorry for them, that their hand was forced to play, entertain, and work with my mental fatigue in the days, nay months, leading up to my parole.

I have grown accustomed to referring to my metamorphosis in cliche and god bless the woman to my left that refrains from the involuntary eye that results in having to hear these one-liners every time we cross somebody who mistakenly mutters out of politeness the phrase "what are you up to these days"...just cause they ask, doesn't mean you have to tell...but I do and I will.

Being plugged into more than one of the social medias that allow you to know exactly when I am washing my shirt, or debating between BBQ or PHO for dinner have served a very enlightening purpose that I had not foreseen.
It arms the casual conversation with a starting block and in this "no-time-for-love-Dr.-Jones" world we live in, chance encounters on the street can have more substance as well as getting right to the point. Any person lucky enough to be a "friend" or "follower" can now approach and right off the bat proclaim, "I heard you got out of the business", to which I can reply "Yeah-it was time that I started getting tested for intelligence rather than threshold for pain", which is exactly how I feel, but rejoice in making it appear that I just thought that comment right on the spot.
Or one of my favorites that take the casual visitor a little more time to digest is the response to "well what are you doing now?".
I love coming right back with "almost the same thing as restaurants. I am a technical writer at a Bio-engineering firm".
I am usually met with the initial expression that would accompany a person who just thought they heard a guy next to them use the word "pussy" in church. Doesn't make much sense. Kind of a "huh" thing where the persons head is thrown off it's access like a Golden Retriever waiting for the ball.

Like any other person lucky enough to escape from prison, I'm not so dellusional to say "I'm never going back". I know the business, and I know the sticky tentacles that I goes looking for you with as soon as it realizes you have escaped. "I keep trying to get out and it keeps suckin me back in". But if ever those cold fingers of death that dangle the lure of a fast buck in front of me come back and start to dance again, I would be tempted to pull a Cagney and never let them take me alive.

However; until that plank has been pushed out over the side and I have been politely asked to walk it, I will revel at the fact that this very minute I am at a desk with a picture of me and my girl on one side and a nice bonsai I found on Amazon on the other, and pressed by the fact that if I don't wrap this up I may be late for our weekly staff meeting cause I have to stop by the break room and brew a fresh cup of coffee and get some of those peanut butter filled pretzels that I have grown so fond of. Best of all I will leave this new place of employ right at the time that a restaurant manager will be gearing up for their shift and I will be silently wondering if I should go out to dinner somewhere tonight. Let me call up 15 of my friends and NOT make a reservation......I'm just kidding...could you imagine?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jagged Little Blogger

I have recently embarked on a journey to the outer depths of the writosphere where my hopes and desires lie with the elite ranks of my professional mentors who get to write everyday for a living, and on this quest I have been privy to some of my "less-than-marketable" attributes.

"We here at Toby Airlines would like to welcome you aboard. We are currently flying over the beautiful state of Arizona and out the right hand side of the plane you can see the Grand Canyon. For those of you to be so unfortunate to be on the left hand side of the plane towards the back you can see what appears to be a jaded, sliver tongued word smith who applies far too much sarcasm to his daily angst in written form. We will now begin our decent into truthville so we remind you go ahead and leave those seat trays in the down position in the hopes that when we crash (and we will be crashing) they will provide a quicker end to this humbling madness. Smoke em' if you gottem!"

I have so very recently put the stipulation on myself that I must apply to at least two free lance writing jobs posted on public websites a day Wed-Fri (my writing days). This is not to achieve a dream job at some Gazette somewhere, but merely for exposure in the hopes that some publisher somewhere will read what I have concocted and have their "A HA" moment. The tricky thing about piloting this quest is the fact that I am doing so completely blind and without a net. I don't know if this is how one breaks into a writers guild, or gets discovered but my vessel is fueled by the two largest components of flight....hope and patience.
All I truly know at this point of infancy is that all (not some or most) sites require a writing sample which of course I am going to pull from this here shiny blog pond. Thing is I have been forced to go back to the archives and pull a marketable piece from this very collection. A collection mind you that is full of angst, sarcasm, bitterness, and swear words. None of the least which is marketable.

True the blog was created at first to merely vent the pressures of everyday life working in a restaurant, and double true is the fact that I make no bones about being a huge proponent of "comedy for one", the art of making myself laugh-even if you don't; but here I was so recently being forced to answer internal questions like "am I really that jagged?" and "should I create a literary Toby that is more shiny happy, care bear-esque in the hopes of getting discovered only to hold (then unleash) my wrath in season two of my Comedy Central series that I am bound to get?". I mean here I am as a human practicing the philosophies and teachings of Buddha, privately meditating on human suffering, then turning right around and calling people with celiacs disease a**holes (see the **-already starting to clean it up). Where is the balance here, and what do I stand for?

I will not waver from the structured belief that people on the whole need to learn how to eat out better, and I will not ignore that selected few representatives of our population should be singled out as ruining it for others, but I will try to be more compassionate in the hopes that I may be softer on the pallet if only to show that I truly believe that we are a remarkable race worthy of literary translation. I will just try and represent the other side of the spectrum more completely, even when my explored side of the spectrum piss me off....and they will piss me off......darn it-there I go again.

Maybe I need Prozac!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Be A Celiacshole!

In the ever evolving world of food and beverage, a (relatively) new and worthy adversary has emerged with a vengeance.

Over the span of what could be interpreted as months, but has really been evolving for years is Celiacs Disease.
To those unaware, this is an autoimmune disease of the small bowel that occurs to genetically indisposed people of all ages starting in middle infancy. However; to those aware of this pre-disposition but not being directly affected by it, one could deduce that one of the most common symptoms is it can turn you into an asshole. (ironic based on the location of affected area)

Allow me to please take a sympathetic step back while Celiacs catch their breath and decide whether to keep reading or not.

I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for anybody affected by any disease and this is simply a rant to the small percentage of those that treat me (and others in my profession) like the very people that gave them their illness, and it seems to me that topically this illness could be related to kids and the ADD epidemic that seemed to gain speed and popularity as soon as Ritalin was invented and hyper kids could be muted...bottom line is that yes many people are affected directly by an intolerance to gluten and must eat accordingly, but just because you get a lower belly pain when you eat 3 loaves of bread in one seating or get a little farty when you drink a gallon of soy sauce with your sushi does not mean that you get to jump on or drive the bandwagon.

More importantly its not my fault.

So when you begin your meal with the tone of royalty telling me about your allergy and I, in turn, tell you exactly what items on the menu are safe for your consumption (because I am that prepared of a manager and so is my staff), don't waive me off dismissively like the royal food tester and aghast at my incompetence when I bring you your "very safe" soup of the day with a fried plantain chip in it, because you thought it was a tortilla chip.
Generally people don't get to take responsibility for the daily operation of an establishment when they can't even carry out the simple task of providing you a dining experience based on your dietary restrictions, and just in case your keeping score-I have the keys to the place.

Here it is-Celiacs have had a tough run of things while the general public has adapted menus and education policies for staff to assimilate themselves with this new allergy, and I can totally dig that for the last 5 years you have remained in your house eating nothing but chicken broth through a strainer behind drawn shades while the rest of us have tried to catch up, but the bottom line is communication.
All anybody has to do is make a phone call before your time in a restaurant and ask if the establishment is equipped to handle a gluten free dining experience. (most are) Then remove your empty Kleenex boxes from your feet and pull your hair back into a pony tail then step into the light and come enjoy a fine meal void of anything that may cause you pain. But leave the attitude back at the house with your collected bottles of urine because I really don't want to crumple a cracker into your salad dressing....but so help me god.

Naw, I'm just playing...could you imagine?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

From Beef to Fish

The transition is complete and I have now moved on to greener pastures...or rather out, of I suppose.

My once arena of simple grazing menu items have led me to the vast openness of sea faring creatures and all the nuances that come as a package deal. Staying true to my game, I will not publish the name of my new restaurant out of respect for those that I may inadvertently reference in a "less than" positive light, but with a little leg work, if one was so compelled, the information is readily available.

A few major differences in the land of sea:

You will be pleased to know that the finicky diner that lends themselves tirelessly to the subject matter of this blog is, not only, alive and well at my new venue but in fact further armed with the "questionable validity" of fresh seafood. This allows every Tom, Dick, and Harry to really peel apart the layers of what should be a wonderful dining experience in the hopes that they may get sick just so they can blame us. (a note on food poising to come)

My new digs come with 13..count them...13 years in the game. A far cry from the 4 years of struggle and strife trying to put a relatively new restaurant on the local map. Upon getting to know my new staff, Me:"how long have you worked here"...Her:"Oh I'm relatively new, I have only been here for 2 1/2 years"....UNHEARD OF!

It has been my happy discovery in my new home that when shucking and slurping oysters, or cracking and eating lobsters, it becomes impossible to fathom keeping white linen tablecloths clean...the solution...lose em'. Funny thing about losing tablecloths, ties and coats follow, the volume gets louder and happier, and people tend to have a grander time! Keep it informal and they will associate you with a positive place to be. The selfish side of this is I get to shed my once mandatory suit jacket for a dress shirt with rolled up sleeves. I still have the tie, because otherwise people wouldn't know who to call a dick! But the summer pounds don't come falling off in the form buckets of head and pit sweat and I'm cool with that (pun intended).

Tips on Dining Here:

A note to all those that make the conscious decision to enjoy our fresh oysters, then call later that night to tell us how sick they made you....NOT POSSIBLE! Food poisoning takes over 48 hours to set in ,if and when the food product is tainted. Contrary to popular belief, you are no more likely to get tainted fish than you would be tainted Ice Cream so stop giving the little swimmers such a bad rap and do us both a favor...get done puking and Google, Bing, whatever you want, the words "food poisoning" and then see if you can go all Doug and Wendy Whiner on us. Chances are you pshyced yourself in to hurling based soley on what your 300lb cubicle mate told about what happened at the all you can eat seafood buffet in the Greyhound bus depot outside of Reno in 1982. We are a far cry from those days and that place.

If you call a manger (me) over to your table and say "I just don't like it, it tastes a little fishy", I am going to grab the lobster mallet off your table and smash your fingers. There is a good reason your dinner tastes "a little fishy"...it's because it's FISH! Maybe you should have tried something less fishy...like chicken!

If you feel properly educated now, please put on your Tommy Bahama shirt and linen shorts (we don't care if they are wrinkled) and come see me for the freshest variety of fish that you will ever have, but be aware: you will have a great experience and you will want to come back even if I am "the dick in the tie".

Dearest Cow: I miss you a little and think of you often, but I am very happy in my new life. I wish you nothing but the best in yours!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Have Ben to the Top Of The Mountain...and the View is Spectacular

Contrary to anybodys belief on my own personal state of mind and the content that riddles this particular blog, I am not soley a jaded, chip on the shoulder elitist that takes valuable time out of his day to simply unload bags semantic waste on the industry that chose me as a member.
With every course of unwanted and seemingly indigestible plate of brussel sprouts and boiled cabbage, there is always the promise of an ice cream Sunday or piece of pecan pie as a reward. (let the record show I actually enjoy brussel sprouts and boiled cabbage, but one cannot escape the iconic image of undesirable when using these timeless examples). This is your (the readers) pecan pie!
This career in F&B marathon that most recently has yielded toil and torment have crescendoed in the form of the single handed best dining experience of my career!
I speak lovingly as to properly dictate the sheer gastronomical heights achieved by this sleepy little cottage in Yountville called The French Laundry, and accented so appropriately with the perfectly casted table of characters.
In attendance for this carnival for carnivores were some of my most cherished inhabitants of the earth from all generations and walks of life. All of whom, not only shared in, but overwhelmingly relished in appreciation for our 4 hour dining experience. "OOHHS and "AAHHS" abound!
The exterior of the French Laundry in Yountville is that of a Thomas Kincade painting. You know the place. Cozy brick laden cottage with wonderfully historic old gnarled trees wrapping around the front of the multi paned facade that allow just a peak into the candle lit kitchen from the manicured front lawn, not big enough to pitch a large camping tent on. Inviting to say the least.
Sufficed to say that I will not be reliving the marathon meal ingredient by ingredient, but rather touching on the aspects that set this place apart form all others.
Aspects like the servers in full pressed suits that are clinically clean. No traces of last night sweat on the cuffs of these pros, and all three buttons up the front fastened fastidiously accenting the perfect Windsor knot under a starched collar.....and her name was Shannon!
Allowing us to select between the left side nine course chefs tasting menu or the right side nine course chefs tasting menu in vegetables (both $240.00 U.S. tax and tip included), she sided up to the table and warmly greeted us before reciting every word with extra descriptors from memory from both sides of said menu. (reader be aware that these menus are completely different day-to-day, presenting any intellectual being the mammoth task of flawless execution.)
At four points in the nine course meal, we the consumer are forced to make a decision between two items. I.E. the Sauteed Fillet of Columbia River Sturgeon or the Sashimi of Japanese Hamachi, the Sirloin of Devils Gulch Ranch Rabbit "En Persillade" or the Moulard (not Mallard) Duck "Foie Gras En Terrine"...you get the idea.
Shortly after marking our decisions she vanishes and is only to be seen again twice during the meal itself and then constantly at the end. The rest of the duties have been turned over to her more than capable support crew. I will refrain now and forever from calling these people runners, bussers, or expos because that does their craft no justice.
Throughout the next four plus hours plates are placed from the left with the left hands in synchronized service right under your nose, and silently. Really-you look down and there is food, and you wonder..."how the hell did that get there" as a flash of black blazer ducks down the stairs just out of the corner of your eye.
Upon placed perfection an adorable little french man (no more than 20 years old) arrives and explains what is in front of you with a heavy French accent and the precision of a surgeon. (Also flawless)
Let the "Oh My Gods" and the "Can You Believe This" followed by the occasional "There Are No Words" ensue, but never...I MEAN NEVER..the "Holy Shits" and "Jesus Christs" (this isn't the place, as much as you want to scream it). And it is this way until the last morsel and sip of hot coffee vanish from existence.
This type of eating is art. It is so much more than food and beverage. It is religion.
The evening starts very quiet and perfectly postured with conversations of world travel and books you are reading, but ends with voice volume above clinking silverware and conversation of Kool Aide and nakedness, not unlike how any successful and appreciated meal should choose to dictate what a wonderful time one is having.
While this particular experience has now been checked off my bucket list, not unlike anything a person thoroughly enjoys, the thought of a potential second helping is salivated over, and rest assured while not being able to use my time there as a bar for the standards of my own restaurant, you can bet that I will roll my eyes a little more defeated the next time one of my own forgets to put a steak knife down before the entree course......
........I just couldn't get out without a parting jab at SOMETHING, could I?