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Corporate Growing Pains and Gains


Passing the torch, transitioning, growing the brand, turning a page, writing a new chapter, continuing the vision....the company I work for is celebrating their 25th year in business. It's been a year of changes. We have a new CEO. The last founder has retired. We have a newly revamped HR department along with a new HR guru. We have a gaggle of new board members and many new managers. I just finished getting through the first year in a newly renovated dining facility. Lots to celebrate. I was recognized as one of the company's OGs. I was the fourth hourly employee hired when the company began and worked my way up that ladder to my present exalted management state. We've gone from a little company with a handful of clients and quirky business practices (home office was a broom closet for the first year) to 70+ accounts spread out across the country and a more conventional corporate culture. At the anniversary celebration, they gave me a medal in a box, which serves no purpose that I can figure. A symbol of my loyalty I guess, but I'd chalk up my longevity with the company more to comfort and inertia. I like where I work and see no reason to go elsewhere other than for a change of scenery and a larger salary. How large? I don't know what my price would be until it was in front of me. I'm not a greedy man - something that would make me and mine comfortable would likely do. Still, I'll probably stick with where I am until I get too old to stand all day in a kitchen for 10-12 hours expediting and cooking food, managing the krew, and kibitzing with the customers; in this case, college students who are eternally exasperating, entertaining and rewarding to be around.

The company also gave me this gift book full of appliances, gadgets, trinkets and such to pick from as a thank you for my service. The thing was like a SkyMall magazine. I flipped through it for days, trying to find something I liked. Finally settled on a pair of head phones even though I already have a couple pair. The ones I have are cheap, go anywhere sets that I use with my ipod. The ones I picked were a couple hundred dollars and literally something I would never, ever spend that kind of money on even though I love me some high end audio equipment. So this gift was a good thing however I would have appreciated just getting a cash bonus, but I get the logic. I would have spent the cash on practical stuff for the house or the kid, etc. Not on myself. The SkyMall idea was a good trick.

We had a 25th anniversary celebration dinner for the managers at a nice venue with an open bar and hors doevres. Everything was fine and about what you'd expect but the caterer was definitely not up to our usual corporate standards. The staff were all in mis-matched uniforms and looked like they'd been sent here by a temp agency based out of a homeless shelter. The food was beyond bad and embarrassing especially since this was a celebration for a Contract Food Management company. Whoever was on the catering committee was going to have some explaining to do. Much as I enjoyed being served and not having to cook the meal; had I known what sort of horrible shit was going to be served I would have gladly given up my seat at a table in order to cook food befitting the occasion and the client. The worst meal I've had in a while and it's at my company's 25th anniversary dinner. Oh, the irony. Being polite midwesterners, most of us have held our tongues but I'm sure the upper reaches, particularly the new CEO, have let their displeasure be known quietly, but firmly. That said, this dinner won't be forgotten amongst the chefs who were there and it won't happen again if we can help it.

We had our annual corporate meeting which was an all day affair filled with themed break-out sessions and sub committee meetings. We had an actual key note speaker which we'd never had before. A friend of the new Head Cheese who talked about something he called "Upside-down Leadership" which essentially is leadership modeled after how Jesus lead the disciples. My company is faith based in its mission statement and motto so this keynote theme was no surprise. I thought it was more of a sermon than a speech and at times I thought I'd been transported into a church service rather than a corporate meeting. But again, this sort of thing is no surprise with my company and something I've grown used to. I will say that working for a company that's faith based has been more positive than negative, but at times the spirituality seems out of sync with what we may be involved in on any given day. I'm still getting used to having a prayer before doing a food demo or having a catering strategy session. I've even been asked to pray with an employee before their annual performance review. I wonder what the new HR guru will make of that? We'll see.


It's What's for Dinner


I'm part of a social circle of disparate people joined by the common bond of love of all things culinary and anything remotely nerdy. Started out as a group of regulars at my local watering hole playing trivia and cards against humanity. The group has grown into a loose affiliation of people of all different ages, walks of life, etc. The bar lets people bring in their own food, so once a month or so we take over a couple tables had feast together under a common theme. The last couple meals revolved around Chili Creations (February), Hotshit (March) and Ramen Bowls (April). The next one is going to be Umami Steak Fest 2015 which will coincide with a farm market demo I'll be doing on July 4. The concept of Umami is one of my favorites because it celebrates the particular food genius of Asian culture particularly the Japanese. Umami is the name given to that previously undefined taste we percieve as "savory" or "rich". It is often referred to as the Fifth Taste next to Salty, Sweet, Sour and Bitter.  Steak with sauteed mushrooms is a perfect example of Umami in American cuisine.

It's fun and envigorating for me as a chef to mix it up with people who share my food love and are up for diving in and trying new things or learning traditional techniques. In preparation for the Umami Steak Fest a couple of the group members are going to dry age some beef for a couple months. I've never done this myself so I'm excited to take a crack at it. I've been cooking professionally for 40+ years and I'm still learning. It never ends and I love it. People always ask what is my favorite thing to cook and I always say, "Something new."



Honey! I'm Home!

Ok - so it's been a year. Or nearly. Not that I took a break from journaling/recording/whatever - I just took a break from here for reasons that include everything from being tired of LJ ddos breakdowns to merely finding it easier to scribble at length in a moleskine saving the non-work computer typing/squinting for the popcorn fun of Facebook. No real reason now for starting back again except for the symmetry of the dates and feeling like doing it here again. So there. A lot happened in the last year. But not going to enumerate it now - have to save it for days when I got nothin. Which hopefully won't happen. So this last year will go quietly into the past perhaps to be mined later. Maybe.

Recently my office mate, A, (third one in as many years) came up with an annoying idea in our weekly staff meeting. I'll never get used to the more tediously ridiculous parts of staff meetings i.e. when the boss asks at the end if there's anything new anyone would like to share. A, who I'm good friends with and like, even though I think he's a shameless striver and future executive toady, comes up with a brainwave to have the management team complete a Personality Survey as part of our annual retreat a month hence. Before I can spit out the words "Myers-Briggs" and "over my dead body", he quickly points out that this survey is NOT Myers-Briggs but something meant to highlight our strengths as individuals and to show us how we can play to those strengths in our work life. So, it's some other Fresh Circle of Hell within the whole Meyers-Briggs universe. Terrific. Fuck. Of course, boss LOVES this idea as it SEEMS to be more FUN and POSITIVE than the old Meyers-Briggs survey which was all the rage for us as a team over 15 years ago and which served to only solidify my position in the work group as the outlier iconoclast to be viewed with skepticism and maybe even a slight amount of dark suspicion. The survey clearly indicated I was the only one with a personality type that can be succinctly described as "Creative Pagan Intellectual". A type that didn't match up neatly with any of the other career managers on the team at the time and the only one my boss can still remember from that time all those years ago. He immediately points out my ancient Myers-Briggs results as an example of how USEFULL this exercise can be and how it helps bring a team closer together once we understand WHERE WE ARE COMING FROM. Godammit. At this point, I'm lasering A with my heat vision and he is pointedly avoiding eye contact as he describes something called StrengthsQuest which he found quiet easy to take and very enlightening. Blah-de-Blah.

So I take StrengthsQuest because I don't want to be hounded about the thing by my boss who can be as tenacious as a three year old wanting ice cream when he detects you are dragging your feet on something because you really, really hate it. So my results were positive (big surprise - its about strengths not weaknesses) and somewhat accurate - it says I like thinking (wow), I like achieving things, I like people but don't need a lot of friends, I'm creative and like ideas, I like to create projects but not executing them, I am committed to learning and hold education in high regard, I like encouraging people more than leading them (whatever the fuck that means), and I'm pretty tolerant with people I come across (Duh, I work in service - kind of a pre-req). So it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be and I even think this stuff could be useful. There's reams of data and PDFs the size of novelettes. I really didn't want to be singled out for being wildly different again - I know internally that I'm a weirdo, I didn't need scientific proof. Again.

That Time of Year


J sits across from me with concern, desperation and regret passing across his big mug like semaphore flags on a sunny day.  He's not hiding a thing, which assumes that he ever could. J is the proverbial open book.  "I have more to offer and since I'm about to be fifty I figure I need to move forward with whatever opportunities are out there. I mean opportunities here. I'm not looking to go elsewhere."  J's voice is a booming bass that echoes in this high ceilinged echo chamber of a room tagged onto the end of the Communications building like a silo attached to a barn.  J has the sort of voice that lends itself to singing Johnny Cash tunes at Karaoke bars, which is exactly what he does for fun with his wife on their days off. I hear they do a spot on version of "Jackson". I'm all for J getting ahead, and yeah, he could contribute. Maybe.  Trouble is, nearly every time he's been put in a position of responsibility beyond supervising a couple guys on a shift, he's fallen apart.  But this time it'll be different he tells me. This time he'll be ready, more prepared. Sure J - we'll get you more training and the next time something comes up that looks good, you throw your hat in the ring and we'll see what happens.

It's yearly employee review time and I am spending my days listening to all manner of stories, both guarded and completely open, about people's lives at work. People I work with every day. It's not my favorite time. Everyone wants something and no one likes to hear why they can't have it.  Or at least some of it. Some of these people are pains in the ass who need to grow up, shut up and just work. Others just put their heads down and grind through the every day. And a very few, take it as a challenge and point of pride to do their work above and beyond anyone's expectations including their own.  The thing is, I'm doing these reviews and handing out these raises with virtually no guidance or direction from my boss. He's trusting me to get things right with the staff. A staff of about 70 people. It's daunting if I think about it too much, but then I realize that I'm the one manager that has the most exposure to all of these folks, so actually I am the best one to do the evaluating.  Doesn't mean I'm wholly comfortable with it though. Not by a long shot.

Signal from Radio Free Albemuth

I'm a big fan of Ryer's and it's not for the obvious reasons - he's an artist that works in as many mediums as he can get his hands on, a quality I've always been attracted to in artists I like. Also, despite his love for and obsession with trains, he is willing and interested in exploring most any subject to bash his art against. I've collected art for a long time and besides being attracted to multi-medium artists, I like collecting pieces that represent an artist working outside of their box i.e. a printer creating oil paintings or a potter creating tapestries - that sort of thing. I've known Ryer for many years now and he's always had a talent, but in recent years that talent has started to grow into that undefinable something that helps him create wonderful work in whatever medium he turns his hand to. As I said, I've collected art for decades, and I've always followed the cardinal rule of art collection which is don't buy for an investment, buy what you like. and I have a favorite print of Darth Vader grilling burgers with a light saber to prove it. I also like Ryer's work and that little monsters are calling to me so take my money, boy! Here! Take it!

Guy was a pretentious, arrogant prick who captured the proto-punk zeitgeist of the 60's and 70's and rode that wave to the bitter end. Every pierced-up, no talent, two chord thrasher pissing on authority, writing shitty poetry and playing gigs in urine soaked basement clubs owe this guy a blood debt. My favorite record from him was "Metal Machine Music" - a double disc "fuck you" to his fans,his label and anyone else who didn't get it. Perfect.

Puttering around the house, writing, laundry, writing, dishes, writing, and putting off turning in my bottle/can deposits at the store...

Iron Butterfly providing the soundtrack to this Sunday groove. "Metamorphosis" is a little known, highly under rated album that followed the group's monster hit "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" by a few years. This record is a very tasty mix of vocal and guitars all wrapped up in a psychedelic blues burrito of rock. "Easy Rider" is probably my favorite tune if only because I think it should have been a bigger biker anthem than "Born to Be Wild" - it has everything- chugging rhythm section, amazing guitar licks, growling gumbo vocals and outstanding in your face lyrics. IMO - a great little gem of a record that sounds even better cranked up to 10.

Way to sneak back into it Bosox.

Fall light slanting in through my windows with that special golden glow suffusing my darkened office and this hovering in the air.....

A picture of Hellen Keller with her beloved cat, "Mittens".

I am going to Hell.

Yeah - don't feel so superior - I know you laughed too. So here, share a seat with me on the bullet train to The Lake of Fire...

Yeah I'd really like another beer but my ancient cat, Siam has found a comfy place to nap and I don't have the heart to disturb him. A small price to pay.

A lot of the point of Japanese food is subtlety. Today we are serving udon noodles with winter vegetables and beef at Hope Dining - it's hard to keep things subtle when you prepare 400 servings of miso broth and udon, but we're Americans and sublety isn't usually our strong suit.
Here's a clip from my all time favorite food movie, Tampopo. In this scene we see the Japanese version of the Heimlich maneuver. Let this stand as a warning to the dangers of over eating noodle soup.

Happy birthday to the great Jon Anderson...

Check out my sweet new wine glasses I got at work today.

This is true. I've walked by Secret Service like this, carrying a 200 pan and shouting "Behind!" for extra effect.

You can have your marathons, mudders and fun runs...running with the bulls takes REAL fortitude and bravery...:D

My Halloween season film fest continues with "Cold Fish"
Crazy creepy gory fun. If cold blooded murder, dismemberment and violent insanity is your thing then this one's for you. Bring mops and sponges for the clean up.
I give it 4 bad dreams out of 5.
Waiting for you now in the stream at Netflix.

Dog just posted this great recipe on Pinterest...

Oh yes...

What a delightful interview. A pair of brothers who brought a huge load of love and light into the world. If only their were more, just like them.

So flipping through the channels I get stuck for five minutes on a 60 minutes expose of "leadership PACS" used by members of congress to feather their nests and create generational wealth. Rage welled up from nowhere so I quickly dashed off a rant e-mail to my rep, Bill Huisenga and switched the TV to Netflix. I shall watch American Horror Story (how apropos) and drink beer while waiting for the Secret Service to knock on my door...

This amazing piece of Epic brought to you by my friend Janis of Tanuki.

Fall commute in Michigan...

Dressed for success...

Churrasco beef with chimichurri sauce - Lunch today! Phelps Dining Hall, Hope College

My co-worker and office mate Mimi Lixey left work at 5 today(early for foodservice folks) being chauffeured by our boss, BobV to the hospital in Grand Rapids so she could have her baby. About two hours later Baby Boy Lixey arrived! Congratulations to the Lixeys on the new addition!
BTW - Mimi, are you coming in early tomorrow to finish up the staffing schedules or are you taking the morning off? Just checking...

We really need those schedules ASAP.

And you have a couple interviews to do tomorrow, also.

Just sayin'...

Yes is finally being inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame. As a life long fan I'm so pleased. In their prime they were a mesmerizing live experience. I hope they have enough room on the stage at the ceremony for everyone that's been in the band over the years. And I hope we see the return of the amazing Jon Anderson to the fold.

So I'm custodian of Zoe's goldfish while she's away at school. His name is "Gordo", which is Spanish slang for "fat". Which he is - in his own charming goldfish way. Anyway, I've never cleaned his tank solo before and tonight was the first time. I housed him in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup while I rinsed and scrubbed his tank squeaky clean. I really got into it, letting my OCD take control of the situation. When everything was perfect and sterilized, I turned to the measuring cup to retrieve Gordo only he..wasn't..there. Oh. My. God. Where is he! He's a frickin' goldfish! What? Did he up and decide to take a stroll? A frantic few seconds and I find him wallowing around in the kitchen sink about to flipflop himself into the drain screen. I grab him and toss him unceremoniously into his tank with a quick look around to make sure no one saw this shameful episode. Good. No one around. Whew!

Great points and good overview of the unintended consequences of streaming music. Myself, I've always felt an obligation to throw money at artists I like and even extra dough to the ones I fan. I suss out new music by keeping my ear to the ground, so to speak and Pandora/Spotify is part of that process - for me they are tools to finding the New Music not sole sources of music entertainment. I'm old school in the respect that I like owning the recording medium in a physical sense - I grew up with the LP as part of the whole experience. I learned to live with CDs, but I prefer owning the vinyl. Right now I'm busy replacing my Peter Gabriel era Genesis vinyl and some Be-Bop/Fusion Jazz favorite discs. Small price to pay for the near-lifetime of listening pleasure these artists have given me.

Ryer's cool train that he built with his train buddies... I just keep thinking of "Bridge Over the River Kwai".

ames Dean's last film "Giant" was released on this day over half a century ago. It's not a great movie, but I like it anyway because of Dean. He makes everyone else look like high school drama students tripping over lines and stiff as two by fours. Love the little "see ya" wave he improvises at the end of the scene here.

Cabrera lights the fuse....

It's Breakfast at Dinner, Hope Dining style! Chef Steph peeling apples for tonight's stuffed pancakes at the vegetarian station...
It's Monk's birthday. Dig.

Yes! Keep battling, Tigers - don't give up!

Incredible. Most say, "Ohmygod, the piano!" but for chefs it's "Ohmygod the knives!"
Oddsmakers pick three of my favorites to win the Literature Nobel this year. Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro and Joyce Carol Oates. I enjoy reading everything they write and you would too.

...and now he's playing the Big Room at Caesar's.

Babysitting brisket.

At GFS food show. I think I've found our new staff uniforms.

John C, Calhoun looks like Willem Dafoe. Oh, and an article about one party about to go supernova, taking us and possibly good portions of the rest of the world with it.


                                                               Back Yard Blue Chair      
If I were in Santa Fe I would so be there for this.......

Originally posted by grrm at Seven Days And Counting...

 We're down to seven days till the grand re-opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

[That sound you just heard was me gulping.  Work is proceeding apace, but there's still a lot to do, and that opening is bearing down on us like a damned locomotive.  I need to whip my minions harder.]

First up, the classic 1956 MGM big budget SF classic, FORBIDDEN PLANET.

Tickets for FORBIDDEN PLANET... and Jean Cocteau's ORPHEUS and John Carpenter's DARK STAR, our other featured attraction... will all be FREE, but they're going fast, especially for opening night.  If you're in Santa Fe, drop by the box office and get yours now.

Oh, and we also hope to have signed copies of some of my books for sale at the theatre... and maybe other cool stuff as well.

Where Reality Goes to Die

                                                               Photo 65     

I enjoy Vegas but not for the gambling or the shows or any of that. I enjoy it's world class people watching, I enjoy the food, I enjoy it's energy of corruption and yes, I enjoy the hedonistic vibe. I've been going since the 80's, mostly for conventions and as a jumping off point for hiking trips in Utah and Arizona. I've only been there for strictly vacation purposes a few times. My wife's 50th, a bachelor party trip and a one time, solo three day layover on the way to culinary training in Napa. Vegas is constantly evolving. Over the time I've been visiting I've seen it go from Sin City to Sin City with the Family back to Sin City and now it seems like it's Sin City 2.0 with special add-ons; those being the less Mortal of the Deadly Sins - Gluttony and the uniquely American Sin of Consumerism. Vegas is now one of the culinary hubs of the world - any famous chef worth his salt has a restaurant (we call them "properties" in our business) in Vegas. Same goes for upscale retailers and major International Brands. Versace, Hermes, Coach, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Chanel, etc. They are all there and they are everywhere. Vegas is becoming a shopping Mecca, supplanting Rodeo Drive, Mall of America, Fifth Ave and any other Hive of Shopping in America you can name. What the world has to offer in consumer goods Vegas has in concentrated form contained in an 8 mile radius surrounding the Strip, Fremont Street, The Fashion Show Mall and the International World Outlet Center.

I'm always a little unsettled by the amount of money floating around when I first arrive in Vegas. This time I had a monetary out of body experience while buying a $5 toothbrush on the first morning there. Along with the outrage and shock of paying 5 bucks for a toothbrush at Walgreen's, I was further shocked when the guy at the register next to me plunked down 2 grand for a new laptop like he was buying a pack of cigarettes. And yeah, they had laptops at Walgreen's - it's Vegas, you sell anything, anywhere. This was 6 in the morning and I was approaching being awake for 24 hours by this time, which is something else I do in Vegas - not sleep. My former SousChef and now newly minted Banquets and Catering Chef was with me. He had never been to Vegas. Even though the counter person didn't bat an eye at the laptop purchase, my convention partner and Vegas newbie, Josh, couldn't help but say something.

"Dude! You're buying a laptop at Walgreen's?"

The guy peered at Josh with a look of friendliness tinged by a hint of disdain. It's a look you get a lot of in Vegas from the truly heavy weight hustlers you run across.

"Yeah, my old one took a puke down at the sports bet and I need to have one for the afternoon races."

"But its two grand."

"Yeah, now I'm only up 22 grand." And he grinned like Satan barbecuing babies.

Josh looked at me in gawping shock. I smiled big enough to hurt.

"I love Vegas."

Another thing I like about Vegas is the Casinos on the Strip. Some, like the MGM Grand, Wynn, Riviera, and Treasure Island are casinos that happen to have hotels wrapped around them. Others, like the Venetian, the Bellagio and our hotel, the Cosmopolitan, are actual, huge grand hotels that just happen to contain casinos.

Our chef's convention, for whatever reason, was booked in the newest place on the Strip - The Cosmopolitan. Perhaps you've seen the commercials on TV. It's a hotel specifically targeted for the younger crowd. From my perspective of a 55 year old aging hipster, it was a delightfully weird hotel with a Goth/Matrix theme full of 20-something party girls and their douchebag paramours. Their were the Italian Guido douchebags, the Persian douchebags, the Asian douchebags and the Hustler Hip-Hop Brother douchebags. The girls were non-descript and interchangeable hoochies with no delineation from each other. Whereas the GUYS all had their separate style identity, the girls all looked very much like they were taking their stylistic cues from Maxim magazine and the BET channel. This didn't bother me so much as the little accessory obsessions did. I am so over the baseball hat turned backward, sideways, flip up thing. The bill perfectly straight preferably with the hologram UPC sticker still attached. Bad tattoos. Japanese kanji and barbed wire bicep bracelets for the guys and tramp stamps and ankle tats for the girls. Ugh. Sheath dresses with nothing underneath but perhaps a thong seemed to be de rigueur for the girls. And sky high stilettos. Some things don't change.

Of course, Josh was in his Glory, ogling every girl that flounced past him even though he has a wedding looming with the Love of His Life in December. All I saw was my daughter, the Z-Girl, wrapped around some gorilla tricked out like the rapper Pitbull and reeking of Axe. Disconcerting doesn't come close to covering it. That said, I delighted in the occasional Grey Panther that glided by me, usually attached to some corporate, high roller drone, on their way to the Roulette or Craps or Cirque du Soleil show VIP section. Their were a few unattached women of a certain age wandering the casino, but I had no time to discover if they were pros trolling for guys like me, or just there for the Gambling Jones or there attending the convention. I had to remain focused on keeping Josh from going off the rails and I had some certifications I had to attain before I left. Opportunities for a Vegas tete a tete would have to wait for another time. I would be back again soon, with no obligations. And then we will see what we will see.

I love Vegas.

Next: Fremont Street, Las Vegas - Hell's Pre-Registration

Nimrod Neiman Needs a Plan

Nearly two months of browsing LJ with nary a post by yours truly.  The time does go by. Especially when chaos reigns. Still, I've had time out in the real world to polish this nugget here, amongst others in the sieve....

“How long we gotta stay out here, Nimrod?”

“Don’t call me Nimrod. I told ya that before!”

Neiman stamped his feet, which only refreshed the slimy chill of the large amount of slush that had already leaked through the bottoms of his boots. He was standing on the busiest corner in town in twenty degree weather holding a huge sign that said “Sanford’s Sporting Goods. Going Out For Business! 3 Days Only!” Neiman’s partner held a similar sign, but his stature allowed him to hold the sign high above the traffic whizzing by. Neiman gazed at him with exasperated contempt. He swore his eye balls were starting to freeze. Neiman pointed at the big man’s hat.

“Jesus! Fix your hat, Dan. Ya look like a retard out here.”

Neiman giggled a little at his own irony. After all, Dan was a retard, but one of those kind that could actually do stuff like have a conversation and not have to be watched every second. Dan shuffled his feet and did a dance like he had to go to the bathroom. The guy looked like a version of Elmer Fudd built by Dr. Frankenstein. Close to seven feet tall with hands like platters and a round head that sat on his shoulders like an orange sitting on a table. Dan straightened his Green Bay Packers hat then stared back at Neiman with eyes like blue marbles in a pail of milk. Neiman spread his arms.

“ What?”

Dan blinked.

“How much longer we gotta stay out here?”

Neiman leaned out into traffic a bit so he could see the bank sign clock two blocks down. Shit, it had only been a little over two hours. It felt like a day. The wind got suddenly colder.

“We got another few hours, Dan. Then we can go back.”

“How long’s that?”

“A while, Dan. Try not to think about it. Walk around a little. It’ll help keep you warm.”

Neiman knew if he didn’t distract Dan he would be trapped in a long circular conversation with him that would include copious amounts of whining and repeated requests for the time.

Is there a plan? Was there ever? Move on and find out....Collapse )

Neiman had known he was going to have a long day when the Rescue Mission director told him at breakfast that he was assigning Dan to go with him to work at Sanford’s. Neiman not only hated being partnered up, but this was a little worse because he felt uncomfortable around Dan. Neiman felt Dan was unpredictable and could quickly become uncontrollable if something spooked him. Truth be told, Neiman was a little frightened of being responsible for Dan. If something happened to him, it would fall on Neiman. This fear of responsibility was one of the root causes for Neiman’s being in his present situation. Whenever his responsibilities became too great, he drank. A lot. An inhuman amount. Over time his drinking solved the responsibility problem for him like booze solves most problems if you allow it; by leaving you with nothing but yourself and the liquor. No responsibilities, no family, no home, nothing. Neiman had been cool with it until he’d begun to lose whole days, and when he wasn’t doing that he was starving and freezing to death out on the streets. He had had just enough wit left to figure that he needed a better plan. The first step to this still nebulous plan had been to find food and shelter. He’d stumbled into the Mission on a clear, cold night in November and had been there ever since. It was now February and his head was just now surfacing from the ocean of drink and deprivation. The last thing he needed was to be charged with taking care of Dan. Neiman took it as a sign that he needed to update his plan and focus on getting the hell out of the Mission.

At breakfast that morning Dan was working his way through an enormous pile of corned beef hash when Neiman came up to his table. The sight of Dan shoveling the Alpo-like stuff into a maw that was lined with semi rotted teeth almost caused Neiman to lose his own breakfast right there. He focused on a point beyond Dan’s head.

“Looks like it’s me an’ you today, big boy.”

“I ain’t a boy. Pete says I’m a grown-assed man.”

Pete was one of the senior residents who had almost completed the Rescue Mission program for rehab. Neiman hated Pete because he knew the dude was scamming and he always put on this Snoop Dog bullshit nigger front. Neiman knew the guy would be dealing and using within a week of leaving the place. Pete had told Neiman once that for him, coming to the Mission was what normal folks call taking a time out. It was this and the fact that Pete had been the one to come up with the Nimrod nick name that caused Neiman to build a pretty good hate for the guy.

Neiman shrugged at Dan and hooked a thumb over his shoulder towards the front entrance of the Mission building.

“Yeah whatever, big man. Look, finish up quick because we’re gonna work together at Sanford’s today. The van leaves in 15 minutes. Dress warm – we’ll probably be outside for a while and its cold out.”

Dan squinted at Neiman, his eating hand never stopping its circuit from plate to mouth.

“You gotta help me get my stuff.”

Neiman sighed.

“Alright. Wait here when you’re finished I’ll come get you and help you with your stuff.”

Neiman left him to finish while he went and gathered up his own gear. He had a pea coat that worked well keeping the cold out if he layered stuff underneath it. By the time Neiman was finished getting ready he had every stitch of clothes he owned on his body. He worried about his lack of gloves and the rubber boots he owned had cracks everywhere. He had a feeling the two pairs of socks he had on weren’t going to be enough. Passing down the hall towards Dan’s room he met Pete coming the other way.

“Nimrod! Don’ worry ‘bout Dan’s stuff, I got him all set. He’s waitin’ downstairs in the lobby. Damn son! Y’all look like Frosty the Homeless Snowman! Y’all probly only be out for a hour or two. Ya don’t need all those clothes.”

Neiman shook his head.

“I’ll take my chances. Can always take the stuff off.”

Pete gave him the eye like he was laughing at him on the inside.

“Okay, okay. You do what you gonna do. Have a good one today.”

Neiman just nodded and turned back down the hall. He met Dan at the front door. Dan was dressed in colors that made him look a little like a giant traffic cone. Red snow pants with a yellow ski jacket and yellow and green scarf. His gloves were yellow and he had on a yellow stocking cap with a Green Bay Packers logo on the front and a ridiculously huge pompom on top. Neiman noticed that as dumb as the stuff looked, it was all brand new. The ski jacket was a Columbia brand, he knew those weren’t cheap. Neiman had shop lifted one before. Dan was a sort of mascot at the mission and Neiman had no idea why he was there. Neiman knew he’d better not let anything happen to Dan or his name would be mud with everyone. The thought was making his breakfast turn sour. He piled into the van with Dan and a small group of other recovering drunks and addicts being dropped off at their day jobs. Neiman told himself again that he had to get a plan together soon, otherwise every day was going to be a long day if he had to keep this shit up.

Sanford’s Sporting Goods was on the other side of town and the best way to get there was by the highway, but they couldn’t take that route because everyone knew Dan got carsick on the highway. So they wound their way through side streets that were either clogged with snow or polished to a frictionless sheet of ice. When they arrived at the store Dan was the first one out, but not before he spewed his morning’s intake of hash all over the sidewalk from inside the van door. Neiman, shuffling out right behind Dan almost fell on his face trying to avoid the mess.

“Well, hell Dan. That stuff doesn’t look any better the second time around.”

No one laughed at the joke and the others in the van all gave Neiman the stink eye before they buttoned up and drove off leaving him and Dan at the curb. Before they could go inside Mr. Sanford himself came out and met them on the sidewalk. He went right to Dan and shook his hand vigororously.

“Well hey there, big boy! Haven’t seen you in a while! I’m glad you come! How have you been?”

Sanford was barely five feet tall and round as a basketball. Dan looked down at him like an ostrich getting ready to peck. Neiman noticed that it was okay if Sanford called him “big boy”.

“I’m fine Mr. Sanford.”

“And how’s your ma? You been keepin’ in touch?”

“Yah, I call her once a week ‘cause they make me down to the Mission.”

“Well good! Good! You ready to do some work today?”

“Yah, me an’ Nimrod’s ready, Mr. Sanford.”

Sanford frowned and shifted his gaze to Neiman, looking surprised to find a second person standing there.

“Nimrod? That you’re real name, son?”

“No sir – just a nickname the guys at the Mission gave me ‘cause it rhymes with my last name, Neiman.”

“You sure it ain’t because you’re stupid?” Sanford beamed then winked.

Neiman resisted the knee-jerk reaction to clock Sanford in his round, porky face.

“Nah, I think I’m smart enough. It’s just somethin’ that rhymes.”

“Well that’s fine! I’m glad they sent someone down to work with Dan. His mind wanders. Last time he was down here it was a little tough. But that was last time. We gonna do better this time, eh Dan?”

Dan didn’t answer. Dan was watching clouds go by. Sanford blinked and re-focused on Neiman.

“So…what’d you say your name was?”


“Oh! Yeah! Yeah! Nimrod! Well, okay! Look I only have a few hours for you guys today and its real easy work. We’re having a sale this weekend and we want to make a big splash. We’re calling it a “Going out for Business” sale. Get it? “Out for business”. The wife came up with that one. A real attention grabber!”

Neiman thought it was a stupid idea. People would only see “going out of business”. He smiled thinly at Sanford.

“Sounds good, Mr. Sanford.”

“You boys are gonna help get the word out. I’m gonna drop you off out at the bypass with a couple of signs and all you have to do is wave ‘em at the passing cars and make sure everyone that drives by sees that we’re havin’ a sale.”

Neiman was relieved. It sounded easy enough except for the standing out in the freezing cold part. He glanced at Dan. He was still looking around distractedly. Neiman thought he was being pretty patient. Sanford waved them inside then stopped Neiman at the door.

“Dan and I’ll go get the signs, son. Would you take that snow shovel and push that puke off the curb? Gotta get movin’ – I want you boys out on the corner before the morning rush!”               Neiman could have sworn he saw Dan smirk a little as he toddled in after Sanford. So that was how it was.

Neiman and Dan rode out to their work spot in Sanford’s gigantic SUV which was painted a garish electric blue and orange with Sanford sporting goods signs plastered on three sides. The thing looked like an automotive version of Dan’s outfit. Neiman sat as far away from Dan as possible in case he got sick again.   Neiman couldn’t imagine the guy having anything left to spew; the amount Neiman pushed off the walk had almost been too much for the snow shovel to handle. Dan and Sanders chatted, ignoring Neiman completely.

“Dan, do you like my car?”

“Yessir, it’s nice.”

“Like the colors?”

“Yeah. Blue’s my favorite.”

“Those are the colors of my favorite basketball team, the Detroit Pistons. Do you like basketball Dan?”

“Yessir. We watch it sometimes at the Mission.”

“Maybe sometime we could go see a game in person. How’d you like that?’

“I’d like that.”

It when on like this for the entire 15 minute drive out to the highway bypass. Neiman had been invisible, while Dan, by the time they reached their spot, had been offered a trip to see a Pistons game, dinner at a restaurant, a part-time job at Sanford’s and an autographed basketball that Dan would receive at the end of the day if things went well. At this last, Sanford fixed Neiman with a laser-like stare through the rearview mirror rendering him suddenly and uncomfortably visible once again. Sanford let them off on the only vacant corner of the intersection. There was a Village Pantry gas station directly across from their designated spot. When cars weren’t pausing for the stop light, they were careening by at better than 60 miles per hour. When Neiman and Dan finally got situated with their signs Sanford gave them the game plan.

“Okay boys, I’m gonna leave you out here for five hours. I’ll be back to pick you up and take you back to the Mission in time for lunch. Now, if you need to go to the bathroom or take a break and warm up a little you can go on across to the gas station. You can get a little coffee or somethin’ too – I have an account there. Just give’em my name. They know you might be comin, but they are also my eyes and ears so no screwin’ around and no slackin’ off or I’ll know.”

Again, he fixed Neiman with a dead fish stare then gave Dan a beatific smile. Neiman’s eyes drifted back to the gas station. Right above the entrance was a blinking sign. Packaged Liquors. Neiman felt a small stir deep in his brain pan. Next thing, Sanford was driving away and Neiman was there with Dan who was already wiggling and waving his sign at passing motorists like he was landing planes on an aircraft carrier. Neiman took up a spot a few feet away, facing the traffic coming the opposite direction; his back turned to the gas station. He didn’t move his sign at all. He shuffled his feet to keep warm and glowered at the cars as they passed. He’d already cleaned up puke for Sanford and he was damned if he was going to dance like a trained monkey for the guy. Neiman saw Dan out of the corner of his eye bouncing his sign and shuffling around in a kind of dance. He was singing “Yellow Submarine”.

Neiman was to the point of stepping out in front of the next semi that came roaring by when Dan finally stopped tonelessly repeating the line “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine”. There was about five minutes of blessed silence before Neiman heard Dan’s footsteps crunching in the snow, coming up behind him. Dan whined about the time and getting cold. Truth be told, Neiman was getting a little frozen himself. The bank clock down the street let him know they had over three hours left. The wind was picking up and dark clouds were moving in. Snow clouds. He told Dan to walk around a little faster to get warm. Neiman’s gaze fixed on the gas station. The packaged liquor sign seemed brighter in the gathering gloom. Time to take a break.

“Hey Dan – let’s go over to the gas station to warm up and maybe get some coffee.”          

Dan’s moon pie face lit up then instantly went dark.

“I don’t like coffee. Do ya think they have hot chocolate?”

Neiman clapped the giant on his back.

“I’m sure they do – let’s go get out of this cold.”

They trudged hurriedly across to the station once the light turned. Neiman’s eyes moved not an inch from the blinking liquor sign as they made their way across. When they got inside, Dan announced that he had to go to the bathroom. Neiman waved Dan on without looking at him. Neiman was busy scanning the shelves.

“Yeah Dan you go on ahead – I’ll get your hot chocolate.”

There was a spot where you could make your own cup of coffee, cappuccino or, by God, hot chocolate. Neiman poured chocolate in the biggest cup he could find then made himself a small cup of black coffee; Tanzanian Yirgacheffe, whatever the hell kind of coffee that was. He brought the cups up to the counter, looking over the shelves and shelves of liquor bottles behind. Neiman knew it wouldn’t do to put booze on Sanford’s account, but he had a five stashed in his coat that was his emergency fund. If standing out in the freezing cold for another few hours with an annoying half-wit wasn’t an emergency, he didn’t know what was.   He set the drinks down and was about to order a half pint of Kessler’s when he spotted a small plastic bucket full of airline sized bottles next to the cash register. The bucket was being held by a plastic polar bear wearing a stocking cap just like Dan’s. The cap was emblazoned with the word “Rumplemintz”. Neiman knew the brand. Schnaaps. One hundred proof liquid candy cane goodness. The counter guy pointed at the cups.

“That gonna be it?”

“Uh, yeah. This is gonna be on Al Sanford’s account. He said you knew we were coming.”

“Oh yeah sure. Lemme get the ledger. You’ll have to initial.”

When the guy bent to get under the counter Neiman took a quick look-see around then swept a fist full of the small Schnaaps bottles into his coat.

They crossed the street while Dan tried to slurp his cocoa, walk a straight line and talk all at the same time. It was like watching a three legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond. Dan made it to the corner without getting run down thanks to Neiman running traffic interference for him.

              About five minutes later Dan finished his cocoa. Refreshed and revived he started up with “Yellow Submarine” again. Neiman popped the lid off his untouched coffee and tossed it on the ground. He fished two bottles out of his pocket and one after the other he expertly unscrewed the tops using a thumb. He dumped them into the cup. He opened a third, and drank it down not caring if Dan or the passing traffic saw him. Instantly the old familiar warmth and well-being spread throughout his body. It started to feel like the cold wasn’t there anymore; not warmth necessarily just neutral temp neither cold nor warm.

Neiman began to feel better about standing out on a corner in the freezing cold. He downed the rest of the cup and fished around for more bottles. He had two left, which he promptly snapped open and poured into his cup. He took a sip and told himself to go easy and pace himself. Make it last.   He looked over at Dan. The big doofus was singing at the top of his lungs now and he had figured out how to twirl his sign like a baton. About every third twirl he hit himself in the side of the head, but he kept doing it. He was having the time of his life. Every so often a person driving by would honk. Jesus Christ. Neiman drained the contents of his cup, stared hard at Dan bouncing around like some demented giant bear and tossed the empty cup into traffic. He watched the crumpled cup bounce off the windshield of an Escalade with pitch black tinted windows. Florida car, Neiman thought nastily as he smirked at the thought of the poor bastards driving around in the Great White North freezing their asses off. The car hit its brakes and swerved. It bounced over the curb and came to a stop just beyond where Dan was swaying and dipping to his own tune. Neiman gaped as three guys jumped out of the vehicle.

Neiman saw immediately that they were gang bangers. What the hell they were doing up here was a mystery. They had on the required uniform. Hoodies, flannel shirts, Raybans, baggie pants pulled down mid-thigh. One guy was rockin’ the bandana down tight, almost covering his eyes and another wore one of those dumbass pork pie hats. The biggest one led the way. Neiman watched, fascinated by the steam rolling off the guy’s bald head. They came straight for him bypassing Dan who stopped his dancing and singing to stare dumbly at the bangers as they pushed by him. The Big One walked up until he was nose to nose with Neiman. Even though the situation was dangerous, Neiman felt calm. He had hundred proof courage. Big One spoke in a whispered growl.

“What chew think you doin’ trowin’ trash at my car?”

The guy’s accent was laughable, Neiman smiled.

“Look, it was an accident. I didn’t mean anything by it, esay.”

Big One’s eyes narrowed.

“Who the fuck you callin’ ‘esay’? You Latino now? You thinkin’ you down if you talk the talk?”

“No man, I’m just tryin’ to be friendly.”

The guy stepped closer, touching Nieman nose to nose.

“Oh we friends now? You toss trash at my car an’ now we friends?”

He got a thoughtful look on his face.

“So, since we friends now I guess you could do me a favor, right?”

Neiman could see the other two smiling wolfishly just on the edges of his peripheral vision.

“Sure man. Wadda ya want?”

Big One hooked a thumb over his shoulder.

“Come over here an’ take a look at the mess you made on my windshield. See if you can do somethin’ about it.”

Neiman felt adrenaline killing the buzz. They walked over to the car, the three bangers surrounding him. Dan stared like a dog watching a magic trick; mystification coating his face. He reached out to Neiman as they passed.

“Are these friends, Nimrod?”

Neiman waved Dan away.

“Its alright Dan. We just have a little business to do.”

Big One gave Neiman a quizzical look.

“Nimrod? That your name? What kinda name is that?”

Neiman shook his head.

“It’s a long story.”

They got to the car. It was still running, its exhaust sending out huge clouds of vapors in the freezing air. Big One pointed at the windshield.

“Take a look. What chew gonna do ‘bout that?”

Neiman looked but couldn’t see anything. He shrugged his shoulders.

“I can’t see anything.”

“Look closer. It’s right there.”

Neiman started to bend closer when one of the three grabbed the back of his neck and slammed his head into the windshield with such force that a spider-web of cracks formed where his forehead met the glass. Neiman saw black spots popping then it was like he was looking out from a tank of water. Big One’s voice sounded tinny.

“Oh man, look what you did! Now its really fucked up! Now we got a problem…esay!”

His head was slammed into the car again and this time the black spots stayed. Neiman’s legs gave way and he fell to the ground. He cried out as the first few kicks to his kidneys landed square. After he pissed his pants he didn’t feel the kicks so much. They kept on coming and he could hear all three of the bangers yelling at him, but it was like they were too far away to hear what they were saying. One of the black spots opened up wide and Neiman headed for it. Right before darkness closed over him Neiman saw Dan grab Big One around the neck.

Dan stopped singing and dancing when the Black Car pulled over. He didn’t like the guys that got out. They felt wrong. They felt like some of the men that show up at the mission. Their eyes all covered with scary dark glasses and wearing mean clothes. Dan was starting to have the bad feeling in his tummy like when he rides in the car and things go by too fast. He watched them closely when they talked to Nimrod. The Big One looked like a cage fighter like what some of the men watch at the mission. The mean ones who like fighting. Dan liked the wrestling show better. Pete said it was fake and no one really got hurt so it was okay. The Big One was almost yelling at Nimrod. Dan didn’t know what to do. He hoped they were Nimrod’s friends and it would be fine.

They walked over to the Black Car and Dan asked Nimrod if the men were friends. He didn’t even yell at him for calling him “Nimrod”. He just looked worried. Dan watched them close and suddenly one of them pushed Nimrod’s head into the car. Big One yelled at him then did it again. Dan saw blood and Nimrod’s eyes were all scary like a zombie’s. He fell down and the men all started kicking him. Dan was frightened to death, but Nimrod was a friend. Nimrod lived at the mission with him. Dan started yelling for help then he went to stop the men.

Dan grabbed the smallest man around the waist and was surprised at how light he was. He easily spun him around and threw him over the hood of the Black Car out into the road. His friend with the rag on his head stopped kicking Nimrod to watch where his friend landed. Dan grabbed his arm and twisted it up like he saw on Wrestlemania. He heard a crack sound and the man started screaming. Dan let him go and the guy fell on the ground next to Nimrod.   The Big One tried to punch Dan but he jumped to the side then grabbed him around the neck in a choke hold and started squeezing. Dan heard cars honking and sirens. He kept squeezing, waiting for the Big One to give up. Dan felt him go limp, but he kept squeezing. The other man on the ground was moaning and Dan didn’t know where the one he threw into the street was. Nimrod wasn’t moving. The sirens got closer.

The first thing Neiman saw after swimming up through syrupy unconsciousness was Pete’s face. He smiled a huge grin showing his piano-key sized teeth complete with a gold incisor that fascinated Neiman; momentarily distracting him from the fact that he felt terrible. Like the worst hangover of his life combined with a case of the flu combined with a ride inside a cement mixer. Pete’s voice rang through Neiman’s head like a bell on fire.

“Heeey, buddy! You up! Man, you done got fucked up real good. Just lie still. You got all kinda shit broken and bruised. Good thing our man Dan was there to get your back. Otherwise…who knows?”

Neiman felt like his mouth was full of steel wool. He tried to speak.

“A…an? Wh…wha..?”

Pete chuckled.

“Oh Dan’s alright. The director’s straightening the shit out with the cops now. They gave Dan a ride down to the station. An’ guess what? The dude hurled all over the inside a that cruiser.”

Pete’s booming laugh made Neiman’s head vibrate like a tuning fork made of razors.

“Oh yeah! The cops er alright wit it though ‘cause Dan’s a regular hee-ro. Saved yo’ life he did, Nimrod! Those cholos were diggin’ you a dirt nap when Dan came chargin’ in an’ tore they ass up. Put ‘em all in the hospital. They say the big un probably won’t ever regain consciousness. Oh yeah, Dan’s a regular bad ass. You owe him the biggest thank you your sorry ass can think of.”

Neiman sluggishly processed what Pete told him, horror and sad resignation dawned. It couldn’t be. The big dumb Baby Huey had rescued him. Had even saved his life? He was a hero? Neiman moaned. Pete patted him on the shoulder, a shit eating smirk smeared on his face.

“Yeah, I know Nimrod. Life’s a bitch then someone stupid saves it. You just lay there and try not ta think about it. You just get well an’ we’ll see y’all back at the mission in a few months. I gotta go. I don’t wanna miss Dan’s press conference. See ya on the flip-flop buddy!”

Press conference? It just kept getting worse. Neiman felt nothing now. Pain faded, giving way to a budding determination. Neiman had months of free time ahead of him. He couldn’t go back to the mission. He couldn’t be Dan’s bitch for life. He had all the time he needed right now. All he needed to do was think; think of something good. Think of a way out. He needed to think of a plan.  

                                                                                         sign waver

Jean Cocteau, George R R Martin and Me

It tickled me to no end to see today's LJ post from George RR Martin (he of "Game of Thrones" fame, and yes, I'm a fan) and find that he just bought an abandoned art house cinema in his home town of Santa Fe.  If I had his kind of money, I'd be doing the same sort of thing, but unlike him - I'd be there running it and booking the films.

I love that the place is called "The Cocteau".  If I had a theater I'd call it either "Sensei Kurasawa" or "The Oddyssey".

Here's Mr. Martin's post....

Originally posted by grrm at Jean Cocteau and Me
I had not intended to mention this until somewhat further down the line, when my plans were a bit more advanced, but the Santa Fe NEW MEXICAN got wind of a recent real estate transaction of mine and ran the story this morning, so the cat is now out of the bag. (The cat in this case perhaps being Jean Cocteau's original Beast? No, not really, but it's an amusing coincidence, considering my years on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST).

Anyway, I don't intend to say much here, since there is as yet not much to say... but I will fess up to basics, since I see the story is already out on the internet and I would rather not be bombarded with hundreds of "is it true?" emails.

Yes, it's true. I've bought a movie theatre.

Here it is:


The Jean Cocteau is a small Santa Fe art house, with a single screen and 127 seats. It was built in the early 70s as the Collective Fantasy, became the Cocteau later in that decade, went through several local owners who ran it well, and finally became part of the Trans-Lux chain. They closed it in April, 2006, when they shut down their entire chain of theaters. After that it supposedly became the site of the New Mexico Film Museum, but the museum was never funded and never had any exhibits, so that was more in theory than in practice. Aside from a few special showings for the state film commission, which used to have its offices upstairs, the theater has been dark since 2006.

Before that, however, it was one of the city's nicest film venues. It offered coffee and pastries, and had the best popcorn in town, fresh-popped with real butter and parmesan cheese. I saw a lot of movies at the Cocteau between 1979, when I moved to Santa Fe, and 2006, when it closed. I like the idea of bringing it back, better than ever.

I will not be doing it myself, of course. So please, readers, fans, don't get nuts. I am a novelist and a screenwriter, not a theatre manager, it won't be me standing at the concession stand asking if you want butter on your popcorn. My job remains the same as before: editing anthologies, creating and producing television and writing the occasional script, and... first, foremost, always... completing A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. This does not change that.

I love movies and old movie theatres, and it broke my heart to drive past the Jean Cocteau for these past seven years and see it sitting there, dark and decaying. Bringing this beloved theatre back to life is my small gesture at giving something back to Santa Fe, the community that has been my home since 1979. Might be that I will lose my shirt... but, hey, I've been very lucky, I have other shirts.

For those of you who want to read the story that broke the news, the link is here:


We're having a press conference on Tuesday to detail our plans for the Cocteau to the local media, FYI. If anyone reading this is local media, you're welcome to attend.

More than that, I cannot say at this time.

Catering Radar

Work is smacking me hard.  Don't know whether its my age, my attitude or the shifting of the stars and the crashing of the planets, but damn...

Every year it's like this - there's a long stretch of just balls out work craziness.  I know it's coming and I prepare, but this year it's just a grind.  I made the mistake today of looking at last year's planner and I saw that I had four days off in April and five days in May.  It put things in perspective because I couldn't recall any of the food I made for all those VIP, Must Be Perfect, The Bar is Sky High events for all those VIP clients that Have to Have Things Perfect Or They'll Just Die.  Well, that's not true - I can recall some of them because I have pictures and documentation (menus, recipes, etc.), but I looked at some of this stuff and couldn't recall many details.  It was a blur then and it's a blur now. I do remember doing a menu and cooking for Obama, but I couldn't be there to actually serve the meal because there was a More Important corporate client that needed my personal attention. I remember my incredulous look of astonishment and my instantaneous question to my boss..."More important than the President of the United States? Really?" Kind of a metaphor for the current state of affairs, doncha think?  Anywho, I'm in the midst of a daily cycle now that goes - wake up in the dark, get dressed, have cup of coffee, feed/water cats, stare at Facebook for ten minutes, go to work, come home in the dark, feed/water cats,shower, fall asleep watching Netflix, wake up at midnight, go to bed. Rinse and repeat until July 4 or thereabouts. Somewhere in there the Z-girl comes home from college and then she can wake me up earlier to tell me to go to bed.

Don't get me wrong - I appreciate the work, I really do. But damn.

From my perspective, people are spending money like drunken sailors again - it's just that there aren't as many of those people as when the shit hit the fan in '07. We're missing a few high roller clients who fell through the net during the recession. Clients who paid us so Things Would Be Perfect, but despite their efforts to entertain their way through hard times things turned to shit anyway.  I grew to have radar for the clients who would make it and the ones who wouldn't.   Caterers are a lot like canaries in the coal mine - we are inside, but not involved and we are some of the first to be able to see the cracks appear.  You just gotta see the signs. Forget about what food gets ordered - stopping booze service at corporate events is the first big blip on the radar. From there, if it goes quickly to only serving bottled water, then you know it's getting grim.

We had a client who's business was building and selling yachts.  The last big event we did for them was their annual sales blitz where they brought in their big money customers for appreciation and maybe an upgrade on their old yacht.  There were more salesmen than clients there - they served shitty Korbel champagne and Jones Soda and the food was hot dogs and hamburgers grilled on site.  The clients that did come, drove their Bentley's and Rolls' up to the showroom expecting valet service only to be told they had to park their own cars in a lot across the street and down a block.  I was treated to slightly miffed one percenters in Armani and Chanel trudging past and through the fog bank of charcoal smoke billowing off my grill full of cheap quarter pound burgers. A year later the company suspended it's yacht making operation and announced that it was going to work with a Dutch company to build props for wind turbines.  But that fell through when the Dutch found out the props they produced at home were better and cheaper. Since then the yacht company's been limping along on life support. They don't use us for catering any more. A local pizza shop proudly announced recently that they are now providing catering services to this company.  The clock is ticking.