Okay. A gentle pot of fresh green tea, a few yoga poses. The thing about restaurant work is facing the down mood that may have come from easing through a bottle of Chinon in the hours after work to calm, to process the night, another night the lone server of a large territory, free wine tasting thrown in. An article from the New York Times, "Ode to the Classic Bistro," saves the day. I cook some Merguez under the broiler, think less of my brother's loutish influence over my college experience, meditate and go off to work for one more night of the week. The second jazz night of the week, gypsy swing jazz will be ringing in my ears frenetically all night. Great music, don't get me wrong, would love to play it, enjoy listening to it, but I wouldn't want to work to it for more than an hour, it seems, or am I just being grumpy.
Working in the restaurants, like a lot of jobs, involves fear and anxiety. I wake and find the dirty dishes from yesterday, which were not done when I got in, and for a moment I stew about them. And then, like the worker, I go and face them. I rinse them under hot water, put them in a rubbermade tub in the sink, and fill some with hot water with a squirt of dish liquid soap. Step one. I am facing the fear. The water is slightly too hot, but I gingerly get through them, the cups, the steak knives, the tongues, the plates, placing them in the racks of the open dishwashing machine to dry.
Now I face the fear of writing, before, the fear of work, with possible thunderstorms on the way there. Yes, I was pushed over the edge just a little bit. I needed a little milk of human kindness at the end of my shift, so the downstairs bar with pool tables up the street, a couple glasses of pinot noir from the Pays D'Oc, higher alcohol than I would like, but not a bad wine, from Winebow Imports, trustworthy. Yes, the blur of customer K, who arrives right at the height of the rush, right as the server has turned hostile to the crowd, as things have gotten confusing. Needy customer K sits next to two attractive young ladies, and begins his great spouting, touching upon everything, riding, riding, riding the bartender. I speak to the two ladies, he butts in. "See, this is the typical loud American who destroys the (quiet, decent, polite, discreet) French vibe of the place." Yes, it's nice to read an article about classic Parisian bistros, but not always a perfect translation is one able to construct on a given night of business. And yes, we're one of those bistros, really to survive, here's your table, need it back in an hour and a half, of maybe two, though it's not always like that.
K is working his way through explaining everything, ordering another measure of the super runny cheese spread over toast, which sets off a gufuffle. Bartender, thinking he knows everything, orders St. Marcellan, 4.50$, open food, and when it comes, no, that's not it, goddamn. Busboy: "I read the name on the package." Shit, my fault. K: "Oh, I didn't mean to cause..." But now he's fully leaning in to the two chicks, one of just the skin tone he tends to favor. A few minutes before, the singer, approaches the bar, even though she is sitting down with her mother over in the corner, meaning server V is taking care of her. "What wine do I like?" Oh, fuck you, lady. "Pinot blanc, you like Pinot Blanc, always," I say gritting my teeth. "My mother would like a glass of wine too." I look at her--"what?" Guitar runs are working their way into the cracks of my defenses like snapping rubber bands, a million soft cuts. "She needs a red, for her stomach, you know." She smiles at me intently. Why do I feel like the poor Superintendent dealing with Clousseau? "Pinot noir, or Beaujolais?" Well, (grandly), she's having paté, and an onion tart. "Beaujolais," I say, pouring. Beginning to not like singer very much, impersonally--she gets in one's face, has her rules, pours herself a glass from a couple's $95 2009 Beaune Lycée Viticole. I run the glasses over to the table in the corner. Mama starts to tell me about her years in Paris. "Have you been to Lyon," I ask. "Oh, only once, not long enough." We nod to each other.
"Have they tried the Bordeaux," K asks, referring to his two new friends, who've I poured tiny tastes of food order appropriate wines, and one of curiosity, needled by K about the new Malbec (Argentine.) I ignore him. I just don't acknowledge I've heard him, though of course he spoke in medium loud and perfectly clear, as if he were my boss, the fucker, turning away and batting his eyes like a grand lord, as I move about some bottles of white and rose in the two ice filled sinks before me. It is 80 degrees today upstairs here at the wine bar. And why would I think lightly dark thoughts about the perfectly nice and talented singer who beautifully sings French songs as the Hot Club bangs away in our little Chekovian provincial musical theater here.
K is probably making a study of my ignoring him. So, yes, soon enough, it comes. "This guy behind the bar wrote a book... What's the title of it?" "It's not worth looking I up," I say, refusing, through silence to speak of it. As I write now, of course, one thinks, of 'what I should have said.' It's not a happy easy topic to bring up, my friend. It wasn't exactly a case of write a book or or... But it's a dark offensive subject because it involves the charge of stalking and sexual harassment, because it involves a reasonable person being nudged into the corner of 'the deviant.' Ironical, but that's how it goes. The book involves many acts of perfect insane stupidity and foolishness, such that one would never even want to relate such things, useless things, things that get in the way of people meeting their basic clear-cut goals in life, and then being left to suffer the great pains of growing up with great dissatisfaction, the dissatisfaction of never being able to really talk things out, not to someone who wouldn't be taking a lot of money from you. Yeah, my book, titled after Lermontov's, as I toil away, pestered.
And then, later, as one attempts to slowly pour cement over this Chernobyl, old and faithful friends, quiet, kind, respectful come in, and must too, observe the comedy, the band being fed. The music has finally ended, and I open the closet door to put music back on, a Pandora station, the Police. A Flock of Seagulls comes on, and K is riding it right out of the box. "Oh, Ted's having his Flock of Seagulls moment." (A few minutes before he wants to put a song from his iTunes on over the sound system. I tell him NO.) Each song that plays now, K will comment on, name the band.
I end up closing out the night sitting next to a big girl with tattoos on her plump white wrists. She's cool, I like her politics. At some point, after discussing her upcoming Scandinavian travels, she shows me how'd she finger Angelina Jolie. Then finally I ride my bike home and watch a Nature show about Zebras, the nerve under my right eye twitching again.
To round out the week, I go in for Thursday night, leaving my keys in the door knob, discovered by the landlord who stashes them away safely. It's a nice smooth shift, no jazz, no badgering. And yet, at the end of it, waking fresh, I feel rattled, shaky almost. The night had its good moments. A nice lady who's sat with a long table of moms tells me before she leaves of the unhappiness of marriage. "Yeah, I married a restaurant apparently," I say to her. "Well, at least a restaurant doesn't talk back." It's a nice moment. We chuckle. It's a beautiful job, truly enjoyable. And then, on a day off, you need space, a walk in the woods, Buddha.