Tuesday, May 30, 2006

compliments of the chef

Chefs are tempermental souls. After working in two of the most famous restaurants in Miami Beach, I can confidently vouch for this. Either insanity is a culinary school pre-requisite, or it’s only because as artists they automatically posses some amount of lunacy. Given the right circumstances (and power), it will rear its ugly head. Hitler was an art student, he got a little power and look what happened to him.

So as boss of the kitchen, the ugly head is ripe for rearing.

We get the word "chef" from French. In English, it translates to boss. And in the kitchen, the Chef is the king priest boss on high. The kitchen is his country, and he’s given ultimate control. Since every line cook aspires to work his way up to Chef, they pander to his every crazy demand, no matter how insane the rules are. Not to mention at 8pm on a Saturday night, tensions are high, the heat is on full blast and the Chef’s success or failure depends on a bunch of obsequious Mexicans to carry out his vision. You can see why he’s prone to go a little nuts.

I’ll illustrate.

A few years ago I worked in a famous restaurant that kept an arrangement of Sake bottles on display. As I was setting them up one afternoon before we opened, the chef approached me and asked if I would pour him a carafe (not a shot, a full carafe) of our house sake. I agreed, assuming he needed it for cooking. As soon as I handed him the sake, he proceeded to chug the entire carafe in front of me. Well not the entire carafe. Some managed to leak out the corners of his mouth and litter his beard with stray dribbles. I’ve seen fraternity boys bong beer with more class.

As I watched him sloppily stumble back to the kitchen, I wondered what celebrity was going to come in that night and call him a genius. I stood there in shocked silence, probably looking more like a hooker than a waitress – my mouth hanging open in a perfect “O.” I probably should have run after him and tried to prevent him from getting his hands on any knives that evening. But what could I do? He was the Chef.

So you can imagine my surprise when I started working for a new restaurant in New York, where the Chef is actually…normal. Normal and nice. His benevolence is so surprising that I’m fully prepared for the day he’ll come into work, smile at everyone, pull out an AK and start shooting. Nice, I tell you. He doesn’t yell, he treats the servers with respect, and he actually gets his hands dirty in the kitchen. (Most Chefs only parade around the floor of the restaurant and accept compliments for the food that the sweaty slaves in the back are actually making.) He’s so nice that there’s no way he meant to offend the bartender who I was lucky enough to witness him inadvertently insult last week.

J the bartender, is sweet. The sort of niceness that doesn’t deserve to be the object of insult. She’s also been trying to loose some weight. So far she’s been successful, shedding a respectful 12 pounds. And her efforts did not go unnoticed by the Chef.

“Hey, J.” Chef began. Did you loose some weight?”

“Yeah,” she brightened. “I did.”

“About 12 pounds right?”

Given that that’s a pretty precise guestimate, her faced twisted up into a confused contortion that said, “How the fuck would you know, stalker? Did you stick a fucking computer chip in my scale or something?”

She actually said, “Uh…yeah. How’d you know?”

He smiled, completely oblivious to the insult he was about to make. “Cause I cut meat all day.”

Satisfied with what, to him, was a perfectly logical explanation, he walked back to the kitchen to continue working. But if you've ever been on a diet you can imagine how she felt. Most women don't want to be seen as just a piece of meat. More importantly, while J has been diligently dedicating her efforts to look better in a bikini, Chef (albeit obliviously) only made her feel like a slaughtered cow.

But what can we do? He’s the Chef.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

never mind the bollocks, it's time to talk about my boobs


(And now Concha references an exceptionally trite and mindless movie that yes, she is embarrassed to admit she has seen, but it is relevant to the exceptionally trite and mindless subject she is about to discuss. )

I was twenty-two when I saw the movie, “The Sweetest Thing.” (Shut up. I was at a friend’s house and she put it on. I have better taste than that, ok?) There’s a scene where Cameron Diaz and the chick from Married with Children are standing in a dressing room. Wearing only a bikini top, Cameron Diaz lifts her boobs to the top of her chest and proudly declares, “Twenty-two.” She then lets them go. As they fall down to their sunken position on her chest, she announces her current age, “Twenty-eight.” She repeats this sequence of lifting her boobs and letting them go, to illustrate the waning of her boob quality as she’s aged from twenty-two, to twenty-eight.

Back when I watched that movie, I was twenty-two. As I watched Ms. Diaz map out the path of her boob’s descent, I felt content that I was still at a peak age and my boobs were surely still on top. Well, my friends, this past weekend I turned twenty–seven. You can spare me the happy birthdays, as I am not too happy about this one’s arrival. Because here I am, only one year away from her dreaded age, and I can confidently conclude that, yes, my boobs are also sagging.

“My boobs are sagging,” I shirtlessly announce to the Rican.

He squints his eyes to examine the evidence.

“No, they’re not. They’re fine.”

“Yes they are. Look closer.”

Of course he doesn’t get it. Men will never be able to grasp any of our illogical female plights. For example, no man can comprehend that we as a gender perpetually have nothing to wear. In fact I can guarantee you that if I decide to go out Friday night after work, I will stand in front of a heaping pile of brand new birthday clothes, declare that I hate everything, put on my pajamas and pout. This is also the same sort of female common senselessness used when we insist that we ARE, in fact fat, or goddamnit, yes they are too sagging, and I’m not putting my shirt back on till you agree with me!

“Baby, your boobs are fine. They’re not sagging.” He gives one an affectionate squeeze and walks past me. I should be happy with his approval.

“Goddamnit, yes they are!”

But I should give him a little credit. It's not like they've sunken dramatically. Cause, aging moves kinda like continental drift: slowly BUT surely. It doesn't happen overnight, but eventually the once young and tightly unified Pangea will spread into the seven problem continents of wrinkles, graying hair, failing eyesight, swelling ass, drying eggs, and a few I’d rather not mention. (Causing tidal waves and earthquakes of frustration like this one, as they carve their course across my epidermis.) But as goddess of my own continents, I’m must bear the burden of omnipotence. And thus, be aware of every millimeter of progression, as my once twenty-two year old perkies decend further and further to my knees.

Happy fucking birthday to me.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A completely hypothetical hookup story that I’m only writing about because the Rican and I are lame and never go out and do anything on Saturday night hence I’m living vicariously through my own rambles


It’s come to my attention that perhaps I have too much paprika. (Ok one of those bottles is thyme, but I put it in there so that you would be affected in the same way I was when I perused through my very cramped spice cabinet this evening, and thought, “Hey, really who has this much paprika?”)

What does this say about someone? We all know that a sneaky peak in the medicine cabinet can reveal whether or not it was a good idea to take home the smelly dude drinking the Pabst in the back corner. (I mean, he said he wasn’t homeless and that was good enough for me.) In fact I’m an advocate of the sneaky peak. Cause while sweet drunken lips may be deceitful, Valtrex never lies.

But what, pray tell, does it say about someone whose spice cabinet is overloaded with a spice usually found in Goulash? I mean, you’re in a bar, you meet some drunk chick (me) who’s doing a lot of drunken rambling on and on about herself (most definitely me) and one cab ride to her apartment and a sneaky peak later you discover an abundance of the spice in question (Yep. Me again.) First you may think, “What do I know about paprika? Oh, Crackberry, Wikapedia me!”* And pull out your blue little friend for an answer. (At which point I hope you stick a ballpoint pen through your balls for saying something so stupid.)

After a quick scroll down of the page (if you can still read since you were drunk enough to take me home) you’ll learn that paprika is a spice most extensively used in Hungary. **
You may have stray thoughts like, “I’ve always thought the people in Hungary should go to Turkey. Ha ha. Or how come they named an entire country after a side effect of getting high?” But I assure you, please keep these overwhelmingly asinine thoughts to yourself. They may have that discovering-Valtrex-in-the-medicine-cabinet effect on me and send me out the door. Except for, shit. This is my apartment. Godamnit, who’s the idiot now?

After all this inconclusive pondering, you may hear my footsteps and thus have to shut the cabinet and pretend you weren’t just going through my stuff or surfing the web. All before you were able to come to a resolution about what paprika is or what it means if someone has so much of it. In this brief period you may have only had time to jump to some conclusions like, A) I’m a Hungarian immigrant B) I might suggest getting kinky with goulash or C) Not that you’re gay or anything, but you found David Hasselhof to be much more attractive in Nightrider than in Baywatch. Well, my friend (and potential questionable hookup) if you found David to be less tasty when surrounded by a throng of perfect bodied females on a California beach, then may I suggest this: take one of my paprika bottles and spice him up by dumping four tablespoons down his hairy chest. I’ve sure got plenty to spare.

*No, I was not high when I wrote this.

**And yes, that is my paprika.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

American Airlines is the worst airline there is ever ever ever

A couple of years ago two of my friends and I took one of the most bungled backpacking trips through western Europe. I don’t have evidence of this, but if I were to list the series of unfortunate events laced through the tapestry of our adventure, you would agree that our story was lampoon worthy.

The climax of these mishaps occurred in Paris. Dan, Jaime and I were scheduled to board a 10:45 train to Venice, with Jaime in charge of the tickets. For a reason that not even hindsight can enlighten, Dan and I entrusted the tickets to Jaime without ever double-checking the time. But when we arrived at the station, there was no train. That’s weird, we thought. But we assumed it was only delayed.

But the only occurring delays were the synapses firing in Jaime’s brain. Because the train was not scheduled for 10:45, but 20:45. And anyone who knows how to translate American hours into European time, would realize that we were not scheduled to leave at 10:45, but at 20:45 hours.

For a very eternal half an hour it seemed that there would be no trains that evening. We had no place to sleep in Paris, and all hostels were booked. Because of him, it looked like we might be joining the bums for the night. I sat on bench chain-smoking, plotting Jaime’s death. As I took slow deliberate drags from my cigarette, I envisioned places that I could put out the burning butt on his body. Frustrated, Dan asked me for a cigarette. “But you don’t smoke,” I said. “No,” he answered. “But now’s a good time to start.”

And this is why I believe that Jaime is running American Airlines, and why he must step down.

Despite my aversions to moving to hick-town, I was pumped for my NC interview. Free flight, hotel and even a chauffeur. A chauffeur! They actually called it a chauffeur on the itinerary! I hoped he would be British. I hoped he would be called Wellington and wear a cap. My very own chauffeur. I imagined a delightful ride to the agency in the morning.

“Dear Wellington, sir!”

“Yes, Madame, Concha?

“This caviar is delightful, but I must say I hate Moet!”

“Yes, Madame. It is truly the Budweiser of Champagne.”

“Do you presume, sire, that we could pullover and get some Perrier Joet? Perhaps a bottle of Blanc de Blanc?”

“Why of course, Madame. Anything for Madame Concha!”

(In case you're wondering, yes, you should also imagine that I have a British accent in this scene.)

The sound of haughty white laughter filled my head until my dream sequence was interrupted by an announcement by one American Airlines counter people. (What the hell do you call those people that work at the desk?)

“Attention passengers on flight 6473 with nonstop service to Raleigh/Durham. Your flight has been cancelled.”

“WHY IS IT CANCELLED?” I demanded of the fat Jamaican counter woman after standing in line for a half hour. “Why? Tell me why. I wanna know why exactly I’m going to be late for my job interview tomorrow.”

“It is broken.” She snapped.

“It’s fucking ‘broken?’ What the fuck do you mean it’s fucking broken?”

“And if it was broken,” chimed in a very angry girl in line next to me, “Why the hell did you wait to tell us until ten minutes before the plane took off?”

“Well maybe you were not listening when I made the announcement.”

I wanted to say, “Listen you fat piece of poor excuse for a woman. I know your husband stopped fucking you 8 years ago due to the incredibly large tire around your waist you call a stomach and that nasty patch of black hair on your upper lip. I know your misery increases every time you’re forced to look in a mirror, but you are not going to ruin my job interview. Job interview? Know what that is? Oh that’s right. You wouldn’t. Cause you work for American fucking Airlines and they handed out this job to everyone who passed their GED exam in the lobby of the test building. Just think of it like this. You’re going to put me on a plane. And that plane is going to be tonight. Do you understand? Or can you not hear me becasue you stuffed some Twinkies in your ears? ”

Instead, I tried calling their 1-800 number.

“Yep. It’s cancelled.” She said. “All we have is a 7:10 flight in Newark.”

“Lady have you looked at a map lately?”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m standing at the counter of a LaGuardia terminal and you think I can make it to New Jersey in 30 minuets? But how would you know that? I don’t think geography is a section on the GED.” Ok, I didn’t say that last part.

“Well then you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow.”

“Well then you’re going to have to put me in a hotel at the airport since the flight is so early.”

“No.”

“No?”

“NO.”

“What do you mean, ‘no?’ You guys had a schedule and you’re supposed to keep it. And if you can’t you’re supposed to accommodate me.”

“No. We won’t”

“NO. You will.”

“No.”

“NO? NO WONDER YOU GUYS ARE GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!” I slammed my phone shut. Humph.

I don’t know what I was most pissed off about. The cancelled flight, the unaccommodating woman, or my lame ass comeback.

I looked up from my phone and in the face of another counter person.

“So you have a 6:45?” Smile cutely. You need something from him.

Five minutes later, I was booked for an AM flight. I wasn’t happy about the time. Nor the fact that I’d have to get up at 4:30. Nor that I’d be deliriously tired for my day tomorrow. But the next flight wasn’t until 9:30 and I had to make my interview.

Nice hotel room. Bigger than the shoebox. Wireless internet. Shower. Order some lame, yet kinda expensive room service, including half a carafe of “red wine” to calm the nerves. (In the spirit of NC, i probably should have picked the "white zinfandale" option.) At first it looked as if I wouldn’t be able to drink all of it. But the funny thing about wine is, a little goes down and all the sudden you’re wishing you ordered the whole carafe. (And an 8-ball).

For some reason I couldn’t sleep all night. (No, I didn’t order an 8-ball). Combination of nerves and fear that my wakeup call would never ring me awake. Perhaps it wasn’t fear, but rather my psychic powers. Because that phone never rang. The only reason I was up, was because I never really went to sleep.

“I never got my wakeup call.” I said flatly to the hotel receptionist. I was too tired for anger. Plus he seemed like a nice old man. The screw up couldn’t have been his fault. Unlike that fat American Airlines lady, who probably dropped a burrito in the propeller and was obviously personally responsible for the nonworking airplane.

“No?”

“No,” I answered with the same dull flatness that comes from a night of no sleep. “No call.”

“What time was it supposed to be?”

“Four-thirty.”

“And you never got it?”

“Luckily I never went to sleep,” I said.

“You know what.” He raised my room service bill in the air. “I’m just gonna take care of this for you.”

I cracked my first smile in 20 hours. But it went away when I realized, since the bill was comped, I really should have ordered a full bottle of wine. For this I also blame the Jamaican. (Who works at AMERICAN AIRLINES).

Back to the airport. Early. Coffee. Adweek. Plans to power nap on my way there. “Ok, take two,” I thought, and boarded the plane.

The coffee was still working, so I continued to read my magazine on the plane. But a few minutes into taxi, my eyes were beginning to droop shut. That’s when I felt it.

THUD. My eyes snaped open. That couldn't be good.

“A truck hit the plane!” A passenger shouted.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

“A fuel truck!” someone else cried.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. We’re going to fucking blow up.

First, I want to ask, how does one crash their truck into a stopped airplane? It’s not like he accidentally backed over a squirrel. A plane is big. Huge. When someone says they like whores the size of airplanes, we know they ain’t banging supermodels. So how can someone look into their review mirror and miss a fucking airplane? But despite questions of logic, this genius driver plowed into a glaring example of his own stupidity. Canceling my second attempt to get to Durham on time. Last night’s plane wasn’t working. This time, someone’s brain wasn’t either. My guess the driver was a fat Jamaican woman. Either that or she had something to do with it.

Deplane. Stand in line of irate travelers. Plot Jamaican-me-crazy’s death.

A few phone calls later my interviews and chauffeur were rescheduled. My later flight would now be on US Air. And unlike AMERICAN AIRLINES, they actually seemed to know how to keep a schedule and avoid trucks containing fuel.

And this brings me back to you, Jaime. I implore you. Please step down from your position as runner of American Airlines. You’re a fine copywriter and that job should keep you busy enough. Running an airline is too big a responsibility for an extracurricular activity. Sell it. Get out now. Cause I got a schedule to keep. And aren’t you tired of staring at that nasty patch of hair on the Jamaican woman’s lip?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

taking the Y out of NYC

J and I are sitting on the patio of a German Restaurant on the Upper East Side.

“So what exactly is ‘German potato salad?’” I spent 3 months in Berlin so I should know this. But while I was there I spent more time in Indian restaurants than native ones, so I ask J. His dad is after all, off the Deutchland boat.

“It’s crushed up potatoes with a vinegar dressing. No mayo or anything.”

“So good, it’s not like American Potato salad? I fukin’ hate that shit.”

I know, I know. What don’t I hate?

A round of Spaten in authentic looking German beer glasses. Authentic as Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. I take a sip, swearing this will be my only drink of the day.

A few sips later, the waiter brings our plates.

“I wish we had a girl waitress. I’d rather get to look at a chick in a dress than some guy in Leiderhosen.”

“I’m glad we have a guy. I’d rather have a guy for everything. For friends, a waiter a boyfriend…”

“We’re you thinking about switching to the other side?”

I crinkle my nose in disgust. What kind of question is that? Besides, I’ve ordered sausage. Not tuna.

“At least the papas are good,” I offer. But I guess to a man, no potato can replace the enjoyment of seeing bosoms every time you order a refill.

“I don’t wanna move to North Carolina,” I blurt out like whiney 3 year old. An agency, an unfortunately good agency, is flying me down next week for an interview. Flying means they’re serious. I wish it was a bad agency. But it’s the kind of agency I’d be naïve to turn down. But I posses a problem that fosters this naïveté. I’m a city snob. It’s an arrogance that was fostered early in my youth and nurtured by my string of past residences. Buckling down with a good job in a city without distractions may be a smart career move. But then I picture rodeos. Unnecessarily giant muddy trucks with stickers of Calvin peeing on the Chevy logo. Waitressing in this city has been suddenly elevated to rock star status.

“No one says you have to,” says J.

Sure no one says I have to. I didn’t HAVE to work two jobs my first few months here either. But I did. And now I can still afford to feed my addictions.

I gulp down a mouthful of my Spaten and wipe off my top lip. “What am I gonna drink there? Busch beer? Do they even drink imports down there?”

“Sure they do.” He says cheerily.

My feigned confused expression goes flat. “Dude, I wasn’t being serious. I know they have imports. I’m not that fucking ignorant.”

“No, I was gonna say, they import their whiskey from Kentucky.”

I reply with an unenthusiastic, “Ha.” I am not amused at their idea of cultural exploration.

My whining re-commences. “But I don’t wanna move to North Carolina.” I am three years old. I’m at the dinner table. And I don’t wanna eat my green beans.

“It’s really the north of the south.”

This does little to comfort me either. It’s like saying they’re the best of the worst. “I don’t want no north of no south,” I say. My grammar already beginning to assimilate with the NC natives.

“Just use it as leverage.”

“Can I do that?”

“Of course you can. Tell all the agencies you’ve been talking to you here that Agency wants to offer you a job.”

“But aren’t I really screwing Agency over? My headhunter too? He’ll hate me.”

“It happens all the time.”

“What? People hating me?”

“That too.”

“The rican’s gonna hate me.”

“No he won’t.”

“I’m sticking him with rent.”

“And you’re stuck with it now.”

“True.”

I look up at the fading sky. Then back down at my papas, nudging what’s left of them around with a fork. I’d finish them. I want to. But I’d spent the last week abandoning the gym in favor of 5 nights of heaving drinking with my favorite Korean drinking partner. I swore I’d use this hiatus to be “productive,” but it’s easy to forget your plight with eternal rounds of vodka. But after my week my body feels two pounds heavier. Multiply that by 765 and that’s how my head feels thinking about moving to the country.

I pull my sweater tighter. It’s getting chilly. I bet it’s warmer in NC. And if it’s not, a shot of Bourbon might do the trick. But then I remember my one beer limit. So I go home and pour myself a glass of water. Wondering if my future glasses will come from a Brita pitcher, or a well.