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photoIt is Christmas morning at almost 9:00 am as I start to write this post, J and I have been up and about since 6:00, and he keeps discouraging me from starting on today's food preparations until a little later. I guess I am not used to being around the house in the morning, and I am having trouble settling on something to do until it's time to start cooking. I realize that this is partly because all of 2013 was conducted at a full-on run, mostly because of my job, and it's weird to sit still. We did actually take two little vacations this year, to Curacao for four days in August followed by a couple days at home, and then to see our friends in OKC for three days at Halloween. But those, and two days back in January, were literally the only days this year until today that I did not appear at work for at least a short time. Working 350 or so days of the year, as I did in 2013, isn't going to be sustainable in 2014.

But I am making some changes in the workplace in 2014 which are going to be good for me. I'll be reorganizing the team a bit and  filling a couple of vacant positions so that I can delegate away some of my more time-consuming chores and start to withdraw a bit from the minutiae of day-to-day operations. I need to to do this so that I can get some more big-picture stuff accomplished next year and also so that I don't just completely wear myself out. Also, I think my crew is getting tired of my stress-level (did a really bad job of keeping it bottled up inside this year!), and I would like to stave off mutiny for a while. But I kind of needed this year the way it was in order to figure some things out. My department expanded in size in 2013, and is about to expand again, and the experience of 2013 told me a lot about how to run a much larger operation.

Other Stuff
Changes at work need to help me create more time for other non-work stuff because I need to set some priorities and accomplish some things in my little writing/publishing world as well. M-Brane Press was considerably shrunken this year with only one new book title released and the promised revival of M-Brane SF magazine unrealized, and the long-promised final edition of Fantastique Unfettered altogether cancelled. A shame, because it was gorgeous, but I can't say I was too sad when its editor, Brandon, told me we were canceling. I was just too tired to finish my end of it properly anyway.

My own personal writing projects have been more or less in stasis for months. I haven't finished anything new and haven't published anywhere in a fairly long time. I am still plagued by what's now really a pair of novels involving a set of characters that have wanted their story finished to the exclusion of all else for a couple of years now. It's almost there, but it still needs some sustained attention.

This universe originally emerged in my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel (the only year so far that I actually made it to the finish line). Then, in the winter of 2011, I revived its characters in what was intended to have been a short story for one anthology or another. But it ended as a 30K-word novella, but still didn't feel done. Then I noticed that the two main characters from the '09 story, were separated from each other throughout the '11 story and only one of them was actually "on-camera" very much. So, sometime in 2012, I suddenly went to work on another big long thing focused on the other main character and what he was up to during the same time-frame as the '11 story. It could have stopped there. There's something I liked about the symmetry of the two parts. But it still wasn't done because Some More Stuff still needed to happen.

So '13's segment is intended to bring this to a conclusion at last. But now I have another problem: this three-part thing was originally imagined as a sequel to the '09 book. But I have somehow gradually changed enough stuff about these people and their past that the two stories don't make a lot of sense back-to-back now, or maybe that they make just enough sense together that the discontinuities are annoying to me. The timeline is messed up. I wonder if I don't really care about this or if I should somehow retcon the original story to make it match the newer one. It probably doesn't matter except for the fact that they might both end up in print at some point (just because I might put a revision of the '09 thing in a collection that I am considering). I have written some other junk here and there, but it's all been more or less unfinished or un-revised because this one project still wants all the attention. So that's the one that's getting it in early 2014 during this free time that I imagine I am creating for myself through reforms in my work life. We'll see how that goes.
I haven't been maintaining my pointless journal lately, and it's been driving me crazy. My work life the past few months has been so intense that I have had no time for much of anything. But that's settling a bit--we're entering a mid-season mitigation of insanity--and I am done with regular M-Brane tasks for a while, and I have been carving out a bit of normalcy. Which should really include babbling in this journal and then advertising that I have done so. Just like in the old days. For tonight's post, I have no particular topic other than recapping what's been on my mind outside of work lately.

Reading Books!: Anyone who knows me very well might be stunned to learn that in the year 2012, which is nearly half-over-with, I have read exactly ONE book plus 206 pages of second one (whilst in 2009, for example, I think I tore through about 100 titles). But what a wonderful, huge, weird and totally crazy long-ass book that one was: Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. Clocking in at nearly a thousand pages, this giant hardback city of weirdness, given to me by Jeff for X-mas, engrossed me for months. In usually very short installments. I actually read most of its bulk on laundry mornings at the laundromat. And then I'd struggle to return to it at night on the couch after work. But inevitably doze off from exhaustion, sometimes after having read as little as a single new sentence. At this pace of reading such a long book, in sessions of as little as 30 seconds at a time, it's not too hard to figure out why it took me so long to get done with it. Weird fact: just a few days after I finally finished it, it developed that Jeff's mom had heard about the book from one of her friends (who had listened to an audio book of it, which must have taken about six months to listen to) and so she wanted to read it herself. Wouldn't think it would be her thing. But she borrowed my copy. Haven't heard back yet on how it's going.

Now I am 206 pages into another thick read, Samuel Delany's long-awaited Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders, and I have somehow managed that number of pages in just a few days. Yesterday I glanced over at Jo Walton's review of it on and I felt that I share some of the  reviewer's sentiments: it's really hard to enjoy it at first (Christopher is not at all into the lead character's obsession with nose-picking and snot-eating!), but then it sets its hooks in. I think I am going to love it, even though I occasionally have to avert my eyes a bit at an especially squicky passage. Before I glance back it at it and really read it anyway. Delany's a favorite author for me and I love having this thick new volume. For someone who hasn't read Delany before, however, and wants a sense of his whole body of work, this may not be the book to start with. It revisits a lot of the sex aesthetic of a much earlier work, Hogg, and like that earlier work, fuses "Literature" with some of the dirtiest (literally) hardcore pornography that I can recall ever having read. But this new book is not the gruesome and nearly altogether hopeless horror story that Hogg is. It seems like it's coming from a much brighter place. And it's got a character that I am falling in bookworld-love with, its young protagonist Eric who gets more awesome chapter-by-chapter, even when he is making boneheaded decisions (please finish high school, honey!). But then I consider his rationale, and I wonder who I am to say he's not making a good choice. He's going to be another Delany character that lingers with me for a long time after I have finished reading the book. As the story opens, he seems to be in a role somewhat analogous to that of silent Cocksucker in Hogg but with much more free will, and not nearly so much the receptacle and void of corruption that Hogg's lead was. But as the story has gone on, Eric has turned into something else entirely. He is going to stay with me like the fractured Kid and  the sweet Denny from Dhalgren, and the other very scary Denny from Hogg, and Rat Korga from Stars in My Pocket Like Grain of Sand, and Comet Jo from Empire Star. I'll report back on this book later.

Other Junk!:

1) I was greatly victorious at the June installment of the monthly wine dinner that I chef at the Botanical Garden. It was themed to go along with the Chinese Lanterns Festival in progress there now (San Francisco-accented Chinese food with Napa wines). Everything about it--the specific venue within the Garden, my menu, the makeshift kitchen, etc.--conspired against success, but we totally dominated. It was hard as hell, but when it's that difficult and it all goes perfectly, then that's what constitutes triumph.

2) I am looking ahead with some dread at Jeff's impending vacation to New Mexico to visit a friend. I can't go with him due to work this summer, and I just realized that I have never once spent more than a couple hours at a time alone in our current home and have a hard time imagining its emptiness when he is not here for days. It's gonna freak the cats.

3) Of late, I find it difficult to get out of my head Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend" song. Once any portion of it is heard, it replays in the background of my mind for a long time. What's annoying about this is that I probably would never have been aware of this tune were it not for the fact that the staff in my production kitchen at work constantly listens to a top-hits pop station on radio (later in the morning after they rebel against my selection of the local NPR affiliate) that only has eight or ten songs in its rotation, and one of them lately is this insidious Justin Bieber song. But what's really kind of fucked-up about the whole situation is that I don't really mind! I actually totally love this song! I think I am going to spread the contagion even further now:

4) An upside to having come down with the above-described affliction: I recently had a dream that Bieber was cast as Feyd-Rautha in a new Dune film, and in the dream context this seemed like a totally awesome idea. It still kinda does. Maybe I am still dreaming.

5) Got some new writing done yesterday, about 2000 words of it. This is best one-day achievement in many months. 


May. 16th, 2010 01:37 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
Last night, I completed my first two weeks at my new day job. I like the job a lot, though I have been going through some new-job-adjustment anxiety. As I have mentioned before, I returned to a company for which I worked for almost seven years in a couple of different capacities. The company is a high-end caterer and also has contracts to manage services at a number of locations that include restaurants and other modes of food service. It was in the contract services division in which I spent my first period of employment with them as a chef and later a general manager. Now I work for its catering division, and a lot of what I experience there is both new and familiar at the same time. Honestly, I feel a little rusty with my skills. It's like I am unpacking tools that haven't been used enough in recent years, and I am having to reacquaint myself with their functions. Every day so far, I have had at least one moment where I find myself not understanding something quickly enough or making a dumb mistake, and then I realize just a moment too late that "Oh. Of course! I remember that! I am such a dumbass!" 

Is this irrational? I guess I will get past it, and it's already getting better. I had a realization a couple of days ago that I am really in an orientation/training phase despite my past experience, and that when I feel dumb in the presence of a co-worker it's probably just because they are trying to give me complete information. What prompted this thought was a set of instructions I was given to prep some chicken for a an event that we were doing. I was given verbally a step-by-step list of what I needed to be doing with this chicken and was getting all caught up unnecessarily in the details of it--wanting to get it just right!--without understanding what the end goal of the project was. If my co-worker who had asked me to do this project had not given me the step-by-step and instead just said, "Make ten pounds of teriyaki chicken for a salad," then I would have just done it in a much more relaxed manner. 

It would be like if I decided to train someone how to format and publish M-Brane SF for me. If it was someone who had laid out a magazine or a book before, I might be able to say, "Take all these documents and put together a book in 6x9 format, and slap together a cover and ToC page." But someone who hadn't done that before might prefer that I either give more specific directions, or at least describe the end goal of the project. Someone who had done it before, but perhaps years ago and with different software, might do best knowing the purpose of the project up front and then asking follow-up questions later as they arise. That's how I am in this new job, and understanding that has made the last few days easier than the first few. 
After a few days, we have gotten fairly well settled into our new home. J continues some organizational tasks, and has been potting plants today. He's going to do some painting over the rest of the week. The place is very nice and very "us" but it needs some freshening up and some minor improvements to make it look and feel more like our home. Tomorrow morning, I start my new day job. People who have followed me for a while know how I felt about my previous day job, but I am seriously looking forward to the new one. Generally starting a new job is highly anxiety-inducing in me, but it's a bit less so with this one. For one thing, I am returning to work more suited to my skill level. And I am returning to literally the same company that I used to work for during the good years of my culinary career. A lot of the same people are still around, and my new direct supervisor has been a great friend for many years. So while I am still a bit nervous about tomorrow morning just because it's Day One and I need to get oriented, I am not dreading it in the way I would if it were either a completely new thing or something that I didn't actually want to do. Honestly, what jitters I do have about the first day are probably coming from a mostly irrational concern that I have become a bit "rusty" in my knowledge and skills since the old days. But I bet by tomorrow at this time, I won't be worried about that anymore.


Mar. 19th, 2010 12:46 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
I have mentioned this a time or two on Twitter and Facebook, but now that the date is getting closer, I guess I can state firmly that J and will end our exile in OKC and move out of here around May 1, if all goes according to plan. The only reason this is possible at all this year is that J inherited some money. It's not a lot of money, but it's enough to get us moved and have a little bit of a cash reserve to keep us afloat for a while as we get ourselves employed in new day jobs. Yes, like every other time I have moved from one city to another, I am doing it with no firm prospect of employment. Last time, when we moved here, that was quite nearly a catastrophe because it took a couple months longer for me to get steady new income than planned and we completely ran out our cash reserve and were in some trouble. Because of our business failure and subsequent bankruptcy in 2007, we have no credit cards to fall back on either. So the money in the bank is what we have, and that's it until we come up with some more. I have decided to view this as an opportunity rather than a crisis.

The need to change jobs is the main downside of this plan. But it's also one of the best things about it, too, since we fucking hate our day jobs and can hardly stand them for even the few weeks that remain. Also, they are untenable even if we did like them, because we have both been rolled back on hours steadily over the last year, to where our combined income, which was meager to begin with, has contracted by about a third as compared to a year ago. Indeed J's rollback has been even worse than mine, and he earns so little that he can hardly be said to even have a job anymore anyway. We can't cut anymore from the budget, we need more income, but neither of us can stand the prospect of doing another job hunt around this town that we have grown to deeply dislike. So the inheritance cash comes at a perfect time. J is a believer in the idea that circumstances in the universe sometimes click together in a way that occasionally points us in a direction we need to go whether we were ready or not: We inherited money. We hate living here. Both of our day jobs suck and they have both undergone management upheavals in recent weeks which make our staying with them even less possible. Spring is coming. All these things and others suggest to him that a new chapter is being opened for us. I don't believe there is any order in things on the human scale, but I can see the comfort in a pattern like that and I am happy to view it in that way right now.

Another thing that we are of mixed minds about is our destination: we are returning to St. Louis and to the old neighborhood. This does not accord with our long-held dream of living somewhere with a winter-free climate, but we just can't manage something so extravagant anyway, and maybe never will. So let's be realistic. Also, J's mom still lives there as do most of our real-world friends. And it's much more our kind of city culturally and aesthetically than where we are now anyway, and it's just easier to go about our daily business there than here because of its density (we're not from the vast suburban sprawl around STL but rather the city-proper, which works better for us since we have only one car and J doesn't drive anyway).  We know people and places and will get reoriented quickly, so in that sense, it's an easy choice. Also, J wants to continue his horticulture education at the Missouri Botanical Garden which is within walking distance of our new home (we do not actually have that new home rented yet, but wherever it is, it will be probably be that close to the Garden because we're not planning to look outside our old territory if we don't need to, and Craigslist suggests plenty of options for us in the old 'hood).

We'll be up there for a few days in early April finding a place. If all goes well, we'll be relocated soon and hopefully feel some new optimism about our future. The moving plan and working on The Aether Age are the only things that have beaten back what felt like an acute season of depression coming on, and now it's almost spring. So I feel (cautiously) good.
"Where is your smile?...The stupid, idiotic smile everyone else seems to be wearing!"
--Kor, from the Star Trek episode "Errand of Mercy"

Though I have not read the book itself, I was delighted to come across this review of Barbara Ehrenreich's recent book Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World. Like the reviewer, I found it intensely refreshing, even liberating, to know that someone finally had the guts to take a swipe at a fraudulent concept that has built a phony-baloney multi-billion-dollar industry and duped far too many people into believing that all life's problems are best solved just by wishing real hard and grinning a lot.

Years ago, when I was chef at the Saint Louis Art Museum, we endured a brief period where we were beset by a goofy Napleon-complex manager who never tired of making the claim that "it takes twelve more muscles in your face to frown than to smile." Whether that's true or not (I'm sure it's not), it was his standard admonishment to everyone and his way of trying to enforce the fascism of phony good cheer on everyone. In a restaurant situation like that, service personnel who are any good at their jobs at all will automatically adopt a reasonably pleasant and good-natured demeanor, including smiling, when approaching customers, but this dude never let up on his dimwitted  theme under any circumstances. I could be sitting in the back office entering inventory data into my computer and be criticized for not smiling while doing that. Why so glum? What's the matter with you? And so on. To not be deliberately forcing a broad smile at all times automatically meant that there was some kind of problem, and that the problem was my fault, and that I was an asshole for having the problem, and I should fucking fix it by smiling. 

This sort of nonsense seems to permeate a lot of workplaces, which is one of the many reasons why am I unsuited to having a day job and need to get fully self-employed again ASAP. At my current job, there was an incident which is what set me off writing this post in the first place. Every other Friday, an "in-service" meeting is held. Attendance is mandatory. Though I do not attend anyway unless I happen to scheduled for work on that Friday. I was there last Friday, and part of the purpose of the meeting was to watch the video Fish! If you don't know what Fish! is, maybe you have a spare few hundred dollars to buy a copy or maybe you, too, work for a douchey company that will show it to you as a "motivational" training tool. It's a short film about the Pike Place fish market in Seattle and how they turned around a failing business by adjusting their attitudes and starting to have fun at work. Easy, right?  I can see why my boss found this appealing, because he seems like someone who, by nature, would very much like to incorporate a lot of yelling, shouting, cheering, hooting, hollering, throwing objects, and jumping around like a giggling jackass at work all day. Sadly, the fun-loving culture of the fish crew cannot be transplanted into just any work environment (least of all ours). Indeed, one of the fish crew members says during the video something to the effect of, "If you just try to copy us, then it won't work." But watching that video is not actually what pissed me off during this in-service. What pissed me off was the fact that the boss, during his lengthy intro to the film, was throwing pieces of candy at us. So throughout the meeting, it was necessary to constantly catch pieces of candy or be hit in the head with them. And we had to smile the whole time, too, or be called out for not smiling enough. 

Ok here's the deal: fuck that. As a fully grown adult, I don't find candy to even be appropriate as an item in the room during a work-related meeting, and having it thrown at me is just about the last thing in the world that is going to make me smile. While I do like there to be a positive, pleasant atmosphere of cooperation and conviviality in a work place, I do not enjoy juvenile behavior, particularly not from people even older than I am. It doesn't make me smile. I am not even going to pretend it makes me smile. I am not going to wear a fake smile at work because someone is bugging me about it all the time. And you know what else? Just changing one's attitude does not always (or even usually) fix problems: you actually have to do something about them sometimes. So if things aren't going well at work or in life, it's probably not actually caused by you because you didn't smile enough or wish hard enough for good things. But it might require some actual work to fix it. Amazing how doing something sometimes gets a result. 



Dec. 12th, 2009 12:47 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
Whoever made this video mash-up somehow happened to produce the equivalent of a "Power Point Presentation" of how I will ultimately deal with my day job and its villains. It's amazingly realistic, as if pulled directly from my own thoughts.

Hmm. I'm not quite sure what's up with the following item. It's certainly not an account of a real event. But it bears some resemblance to reality. It'd be ridiculous for me to deny any connection with my day-jobbery.

            “What you doing up in here, nigguh?” says Trog. “This is a Zone No-Go for you and your kind now, nigguh!”
            Bios twists the big thick red control cuff that wraps the gray gun barrel, resetting it to Lift-Pin. He opens fire on Trog, blasting him back against the break room wall, then gradually lifting him upon the end of the blazing blue beam until the fucker is pinned up in a corner by the ceiling. “Piss on you, Trog!” Bios says. “I’m here for that bitch Debbiform, and this time I’m getting the job done!”
            Trog squeals, his skinny ass mashed in a corner where two walls and the ceiling meet. Bios lets him squeal like that for a few seconds and then releases the beam. The fucker falls to the floor and lays there squealing and coughing.

Weeks ago:

            Bios suspected he was about to get fired from his job at the nursing home because of the machinations of Debbiform and her confederates. So Bios started to make his move against her, because she had already killed over thirty of the home’s residents and was working on ending ten more of them. She was using her own personal brand of Jesusism to decide who needed to be poisoned.
            “They said we can use the Jesus Glass to make the decisions,” she kept saying. “It’s allowed under state law.” The Jesus Glass was this ridiculous contraption that was something rather like an old TV monitor with a keyboard attached to it, though the keyboard only had six big keys on it, each one bearing a different style of holy cross. It had a rabbit ears-style antenna and it got its info out of the air, analog-style, broadcast from a nearby church.
            For some reason the Jesus Glass never gave any advice other than that which hastened the pain and eventual death of the home’s residents.
            So Bios had knocked the Jesus Glass off the steel prep table where it sat in the kitchen and it broke all over the floor. They tried to make him pay two hundred fifty dollars to buy a new Jesus Glass, but Bios told them to all go and fuck off, and that finally got him fired.

            Debbiform starts screaming her head off when Bios steps into the kitchen. “Oh no! Oh hell no!” she shrieks. “You get out of here!  You can’t be in here!”
            “Fuck you!” Bios says, turning the gun’s control cuff, selecting a new setting. He chooses Acid-Blast and fires a few bolts at her. She screams some more because the beams burn like concentrated sulfuric acid.  She runs to the sink and tries to splash water on the burns. Then she grabs the spray hose from the dish sink and tries to spray the burns. She gets a lot of water all over the floor.
            Bios shoots her again. “Quit trying to treat your wounds!  It will do you no good anymore.” He adjusts the control again, this time to Shrinker. He fires at her, hits her square in the forehead and she shrinks by two feet. She isn’t tall anyway, but now she’s short as a little kid.
            “Oh fuck!” she screams, realizing what Bios has done to her. He pulses her again with another short blast and she shrinks another six inches. Then he dashes down the length of the room to the prep table where the new Jesus Glass sits. He knocks it off the table. Now their second Jesus Glass is a broken pile of junk.
            “Fix it, faggot!” Debbiform shrieks.  “Fix this right now!”
            Instead he shoots her one, two, three, four more times, short little blasts of pink light striking her, each one depriving her of more size. Now she’s about as tall as a Chihuahua puppy. “Now I’m gonna kick you to death!” Bios says, stomping toward her. She scuttles underneath a refrigerator. She’s so short now, that she doesn’t even have to duck to make the six-inch clearance.
            Bios selects a pair of eighteen-inch tongs from a rack of hanging utensils. He’s pleased that Debbiform has trapped herself under the refrigerator, but now he realizes that he can’t reach all the way to the back wall, where she hides, with those tongs. He considers finding a broom with which to run her out of there but then he’d have to leave the kitchen, go to the mop closet or the storeroom to find a broom, and then the miniscule turd might escape while he is way. So then he has a better idea. 
            “You better get out from under there, bitch, and submit to being placed into captivity, or you will seriously regret it!” He sets a two-quart saucepan on the stove and empties a greasy jug of cooking oil into it. He turns the burner on full blast.
           “I ain’t coming out until you say you will make me big again!”
            “Well that’s not ever happening, you murdering monster. I wrecked your new Jesus Glass and in a few minutes I’ll be putting an end to your fucking chicanery once and for all.” While the oil heats, Bios finds a big gallon jar in the very fridge under which Debbiform is hiding. It’s full of brine and a few stray hamburger dill chips. He dumps all that out in a sink.
            Then Leotard enters the kitchen. She looks like a stack of tires topped with a fringe of frazzled fiberglass hair. “If you have any wisdom, Leotard,” Bios says, “you’ll get out of here.  I don’t have the kind of iron-clad evidence on you like I do on Debbiform, but I’ll still cut you down in a second.” He waves the gun at the squat newcomer. “Because I fucking hate you, whether you did anything or not.”
            Bios knows that Leotard is, in fact, probably complicit in Debbiform’s crimes. She is a Jesus Glass nut like Debbiform. Always praying to her fake-ass TV god and shit like that. Suddenly seized with anger and hatred, Bios points the gun, still set on Shrinker, at Leotard and opens fires. He doesn’t let off the trigger for a few long seconds. The beam warbles and whines and bleebles and Leotard gets smaller and smaller and smaller until she is finally drilled down to the smallest possible size: about as big as an adult cockroach.
            “Aw fuck!” Bios says, looking at the power reading on the gun. He’s discharged a lot of power. Resisting the temptation to stomp the life out of Leotard, he instead shouts at her: “It’s gonna be a while before this recharges!  Try not to get killed in the meantime.  Not that I’m going to make you big again either, you dumb conservative doxy.”
            Now the oil on the stove is hot. Bios lifts the pan off the stove and lowers it toward the floor, toward the underside of the refrigerator under which Debbiform cowers. He flings the pot of hot oil over the floor underneath the fridge. Since there is water on the floor from Debbiform’s thrashing about earlier, it makes a pleasing sizzle as it slicks across the quarry tile.
            Debbiform screams as she first sees and then feels the burning oil slick. In a second, she is out from under the fridge, stomping her feet furiously, trying to kick off hot oil residue. Bios grabs the tongs, clamps down and seizes his miniature enemy.
           Debbiform screams and writhes, clamped in aluminum teeth, as Bios lifts her from the floor and raises her above a prep table. The pickle jar waits. He lowers her through the mouth of the jar and lets go with the tongs. Debbiform collapses into the bottom of the pickle jar, screaming. Bios leans over the jar and shouts down into it, “Fuck you!  Fuck you and die!” He slaps the lid on top of the jar and then rummages in a drawer. Finding a paring knife, he uses it to punch a few rude holes into the jar’s aluminum lid. “Air holes!  Not that you’ll need them for long!”

            A few minutes later, Bios is carrying the jar containing the shrunken Debbiform. He is taking it outside the building. He notes that it has apparently occurred to her to try to call for help using her tiny cell phone.
            “Better call now. Where you’re headed, you might not be able to get a signal,” Bios  said.  “Hey, take a look at where you are going to end up!”
              They have entered the graveyard behind the home. Bios lowers the jar and aims Debbiform toward an object. It’s a headstone sitting ahead of a shabbily-dug hole. Says the stone: “Here Lies Fucking Debbiform: Murderer.”
            “Yeah! I’m in the graveyard!” Bios thinks he can hear Debbiform scream into her miniature phone. “He’s burying me alive in a jar!”
            “My religion’s got TV now, too, Debbiform!” Bios shouts, lowering the jar into the hole. “I saw what to do in my own Glass this morning. Great Cthulhu said it to me: Justice!”
            He laughs and laughs as he shovels dirt over the jar, as Debbiform’s shrieks become fainter and fainter.

 Those readers who follow have followed me a while know that I cook at an assisted living facility for people with dementia, and that while I love the residents, I am pretty much sick of my co-workers.  The accompanying image is of an actual note left for me by so-called boss, one of the rudest and most self-serving creatures that I have ever had met in my life. Don’t worry about trying to read it in that little image; I intend to go through it line-by-line below.

But first, a digression. Before this relatively low point in my working life, this final or perhaps next-to-final day job that I will ever have (because either freelance success or suicide will intervene soon), I actually had a respectable career. Years back I was real chef. I worked for some years in a high profile venue. I got interviewed by newspapers and had write-ups in culinary magazines. If I would have been motivated enough to really try hard—if I had believed that food was really my destiny—I would have had a better chance than most at parlaying my early success into some sort of celeb chef situation. I’ve written a cookbook and culinary memoir (unpublished).  But I fucked away all my potential on a failed attempt to be an independent restaurant owner. I burnt myself out, bankrupted myself, and also turned myself into a person who can’t figure out how to thrive working as someone else’s employee. I am completely unsuited to it. Being self-employed for a couple of years, as hard as that was, has made me virtually unemployable in the usual douchebag situations. I don’t work well in groups (of idiots) and I don’t accept being bossed around (by idiots). I know there probably are places where I would fit, but I doubt I’ll swing an invitation into one, since I am such a ruined and damaged thing now.

So let’s go line-by-line through this stupid note. The first line is, at first glance, simply my name, “Chris.” Not knowing the context, you might think that this is just a harmless header, like the first line of an email or a simple note between humans. But in fact, even this simple statement of my name grates on me like the worst insult. Because I when I see it written by this person, I hear it spoken. All phone calls around here begin not with a pleasant greeting, a light “hi-how-are-you” or the like, but with a crabby statement of a first name in a harsh twang followed by nonsensical bitching: “Chriiis…blah blah blah blah.”

“Please dont [sic] make any more green soup.” I assume this is a reference to the fact that I made a passable rendition of split pea/ham soup a couple weeks ago. Oddly, it was actually what that day’s menu called for. Normally we violate company policy and really never make anything that the corporate menu calls for, favoring an in-house designed cuisine made of convenience products and garbage. So, of course, when I actually make one of the prescribed items I get in trouble for it. How the creep even knew about it, I have no idea. I assume it was reported by one of my other co-workers. Actually, I assume she grills them when I am not there to find out what crimes I committed. [We don’t work together: when I am there, she is generally not].

“Please dont [sic] put gravy over meat.” This is perennial complaint against me. Evidently all meats are to be plain, unseasoned and wrung dry of even the saline solution that leaks out of the fake turkey and faux Salisbury steak that we use as “meat.” No rationale has been offered for this, but I have been mostly complying with the instruction for months. I assume that it has been reiterated because I still refuse to serve dried-out shredded beef stew meat without seasoning it up with some beef broth and tightening the broth with a bit of corn starch (and I add some onion and bell pepper and black pepper and thyme to it, too—all forbidden, but fuck it).

“Watch how much dressing your [sic] putting on salad.” No fucking idea what this means. It gets the dressing it needs to get. Period. Not too much, not too little. I know how much dressing a fucking salad gets better than anyone else in all Dumbfuckistan. And when she is working, she doesn’t even serve the salad at all. I know this because I can count (also a rare skill around here). When I leave work and there are three bags of salad mix in the cooler, and then I come back after three days off, and there are still three bags of salad mix, then it is obvious that no salad has been served in my absence.

“If a puree is to have Potatoe Chips [sic] Make them mashed potatoes.” This instruction applies to the evening meal, which generally consists of soup and sandwiches and sometimes other sides like potato chips.  It also applies to food prepared for a couple of residents who need their food in pureed form. But it is based on a maddeningly stupid, completely unfounded idea that I have at some point in history prepared pureed potato chips! Just think about that for second. How the fuck would you puree potato chips?  I am not anywhere near stupid enough to think that would be a feasible idea and attempt it, and it pisses me off that week after week I get accused of this when I have. Never. Done. It. Once!

“For the Resident [sic] that cant [sic] eat corn make [was previously “mix”] a different vegetable.”  No clue here. Who is the resident who can’t eat corn? I have never heard of one. Also, I can’t remember the last time I served corn as a vegetable with any meal. I don’t think it’s happened once in the last year.

“When Changing Meal Write it on the Right Form [sic].” This refers to some of fraudulent paperwork that we do, devised to lie to the company about what goes on there. When I actually do write something on the substitution form, she leaves a nasty reply on it. So fuck that. I refuse to do it. And if I were to do it accurately, it would take all day since every single thing we cook is a substitution. We were supposed to have had coq au vin for lunch yesterday when she was there. Well, I don’t know what the hell she made, but it sure as shit was not that, and she wrote nothing on the substitution form.

“Make sure your [sic] using Big Bowls for soup.”  We have twenty of what she calls “big bowls.”  We have thirty residents currently. So I don’t know what the hell. I end up using ten of the “small bowls.”  In fluid ounce capacity, the big bowls and the small ones are identical…but the shape of the so-called big ones makes them look bigger, because they have a big wide lip around them. Perceiving spatial things is another skill that doesn’t exist around there.

“*Change Dish Machine Water Daily Please.” Die in a fire. I do that every fucking day and have done so every fucking day that I have worked there. The whole place—dish machine included—is cleaner when I leave at the end of the day than it is when I arrive in the morning.

“If it say [sic] Fried Chicken fry it.” No clue what this is about. Die. Die in a fucking pan of fried chicken.

“If it say [sic] Pie make some kind of pie.” Like we make the specified desserts. I don’t even look at the damned desserts on the menu because we never ever are able to make what’s called for. I know that yesterday she did not make cappuccino crème brulee (nor even know what that might be nor how to pronounce it).

“The soup is to [sic] watery they said.”  Bullshit.  But it brings forth an important question: who are “they?” Unless she is just making it all up and there is no “they,” then it must be that some other jerk in my midst is making up this shit. I will find out who that is.

That’s all I have on this topic for this week…Oh, one other thing: she leaves Dr. Pepper cans all over the place. And yes, this is a part of the country where Dr. Pepper is a major soft drink, on par with Coca-Cola.  Where I grew up, it existed but it was a niche beverage, something one might get in the mood for once in a while, but certainly not a daily habit for any significant part of the population. She leaves those cans sit around and they attract flies. It’s gross.

 A little follow-up to yesterday's post about my Primary Enemy at the day job trying to stop me from listening to the radio...I continued my defiance of this horseshit today. I know she must be aware of this defiance because when I arrived this morning there was evidence that she had been in there ahead of me and had therefore seen the moved radio (I did not return it to its normal place yesterday as I would have in the past) and its lack of a "do not touch!" note.  She never reappeared all day (even though she was working next door in another building on our compound) and even refrained from calling me to hassle me about anything. I suspect that she is for the moment flummoxed by my blatant defiance and trying to figure out how or if to respond. No matter what happens in this stupid situation, I come out the winner. Even if they fire me over it, I still win because then I won't have to ever see Primary Enemy or her moronic confederates ever again. 
It's rather standard that when I report to work (the day job) I will see a note from my so-called supervisor, stating in her illiterate fashion, some kind of crazy-ass shit that leaves me puzzled all day. It may be something like "Make sure to use big bowls," or "For resident who can't eat corn, mix another vegetable," or "Use the right form please."  Believe me: that makes no more sense to me than it does to you, even though I am immersed in the context of it. This morning, I found (in addition to other senseless notes) a note taped to a radio stating "Don't touch!"

Some background: the kitchen in which I work (generally by myself) has within it an ancient decroded filth-encrusted radio/cassette player device from the 1980s which I use to tune in the local NPR affiliate so I have some information to listen to all day when I am working back there. Evidently is has begun to annoy this turd for whom I work (even though she is almost never there when I am) that I move the radio to an area of the room where it can receive the signal from this radio station. I am sure, also, that it irritates her that I listen to that particular station instead of a commercial radio station playing endless re-runs of Eagles and CCR songs. Even though I put it back and re-tune it to her station when I am done. So she strikes back by taping a "Don't touch!" note to the fucking radio.

Yeah...well two things about that: 1) I am not a five-year-old, and so I neither respond to nor respect childish taped-up handwritten notes from tiny small-minded pieces of humanoid trash; and 2) during the 10 to 12 hours that I am confined to that space, I WILL listen to the radio or I will NOT work there, and I will leave that decision up to her.  It may be a small and petty thing, but I will in fact walk out on my job over it if pressed. I will indeed resign my main source of income over this and feel totally awesome about it.  I think it finally sunk through my thick stupid head the fact that I used to have a real career and now I work for barely above minimum wage for a loser who writes notes and uses tape all over the goddamned place. Fuck it.  If they don't want me listening to radio, then they can fire me. But under no circumstances will I comply with this stupid new rule. Rules are for chumps. I defied this one all day today and will do so again tomorrow.

 Countdown-to-new-job Day 59 was spent at the current job, embroiled in much the same old shit. It did have the upside of it  being a Saturday, which means that the odds of interference and annoyance from the Monday-Friday crew (the MF-ers, or clock-watchers, as I usually call them) are at a minimum. So I was able to focus for a few minutes on the characteristics of a particularly vile artificial food product and the actions of one of my co-workers which make it even more vile than it would otherwise be.

I'll try to be as brief as possible. Do you all know about those processed turkey products, the cheapest kind of lunch meat turkey that one might buy in one of those round plastic Oscar Meyer blister packs at the grocery store, or the very cheapest kind of deli turkey that you could get at the most scabrous meat counter? That substance, molded from shredded turkey breast meat and skin and gelatin (with extra arteries and esophagial tubes), is also available for bulk food service use in the form of 8 pound ovoids of pinkish grey protein volume. When the corporate menu calls for "Roasted Breast of Turkey" to be served, it is this product that the person at my place of work who controls product procurement procures. This product is to "roasted breast of turkey" as the Beethoven's 9th Symphony Choral "sung by Chris Fletcher" is to reality. 

A proper way to prepare turkey breast--if, indeed, the breast is all you want--is to buy a raw, skin-on, bone-in turkey breast and then brine it and season it and roast it and then slice it up and serve it with whatever accoutrements one desires. That being said, I am not such a snob as to claim that there are no acceptable pre-made products. In fact, if one spends a bit more per pound at the deli counter, one can obtain a variety of perfectly sandwich/salad ready turkey products that resemble closely enough a properly prepared turkey breast. What we have at my kitchen of employment is, however, something else entirely.

These grey ovoids have a tremendous amount of saline solution infused into their bio-mass. This becomes very important to consider when deciding how to store the product for later use. Despite the fact that the expiration date on these ovoids--which arrive NOT frozen, just refrigerated--is always at least a month or two in the future, my boss insists on freezing them upon arrival even if it is our intent to use one of more of them within a week. The manufacturer of the turkey ovoids would, however, tell you to not ever freeze them. Why? Because of the water content.  What happens when you freeze a human corpse for later revivification? Sadly, as you know, the body's moisture freezes at the ridiculously non-cryogenic temperature of 0 Celsius, causing ice crystals to form and expand and rupture cell walls and basically make the human corpse (and brain) unsuitable for resurrection. Now, of course, many naturally occurring or not-too-heavily-processed food products endure freezing and defrosting quite well. But those are not bloated to bursting by the infusion of saline solution. The turkey ovoids, in their non-frozen state, have a reasonably firm and uniform texture. They are not appealing, but it is not wholly disgusting to run one's knife through it. It is rather like firm tofu, but maybe a bit firmer than that. After freezing, though, a disastrous and irreversible change happens.

Today I cut up one of these ovoids (it will be the entree tomorrow) that was still mostly frozen, in process of defrosting. The outer layer was the texture of slush. Then, deeper within, where it was still more frozen, it was like shaved ice or snow. Turkey snow. Think about that for a minute. Turkey SNOW. Then, as I chopped it up and it defrosted further, it's uncannily horrid stench became apparent as its esters vaporized in the relatively warm air over my cutting board. Tomorrow at noon, I will be feeding this substance to 31 members of the "Greatest Generation" whose lives have ended in dementia. They deserve so much better, but no one else seems to think it's a problem, and the elders themselves are past understanding what's being done to them.

Day 60 of 60

Jul. 31st, 2009 07:59 pm
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 Today I swore on Cthulhu's grave that I will leave my current day job in not less than 60 days. The count down begins, and I will update periodically on my progress. Sometimes things happen for me sooner if I simply declare an arbitrary deadline for it. It doesn't always work out, and this one is a big risky bet since I have NOTHING whatsoever lined up for when Day Zero arrives. But I can't continue like this much longer. I don't even WANT to resuscitate my former career, but I also can't abide the current situation any longer. I currently earn less money than I have at any point since I was 22 years old, and I have adapted to that reasonably well. So earning the same or more in a new situation shouldn't be that hard to come upon, but just earning a paycheck is not sufficient. I need to want to do whatever it is that I do to get that check.