Nachos. Tips. Abagail Thomas. Venison. World Series of Flannel Nightie.

New restaurants always spleen me. They hand you this laminated plastic, they give you the perma-grin, and they ask, “Do you need a minute?”

Sometimes they kneel at your table. Or is that showing my age? Do they still kneel at your table, touch you on the shoulder? Do they give you candies?

I remember when I worked at Chili’s maybe 15 years ago, whatever. Anyway, I was waiting on my board exams to return from some nursing organization (will I be an RN, or not?), and so I needed to pay rent and so bussed, a lowly job of cleaning up after human grazing, all that purchased attention, and I observed everything and eavesdropped and watched because I am hard-wired that way and find all human behavior to be very, very odd (mine too).

But I loved the swinging door. What a metaphor. What literature: appearance VERSUS reality. OUTSIDE the swinging door, in the warm glow of tacky upside down-kettle-as-chandelier, the waitresses, all young, hot, etc (college kids, Knoxville, TN), would SMILE and NOD and “Ha, ha, oh good joke, sir, and I like when you call me honey” to the tables, as is their occupation. Then they would glide back, the door would swing open, slam shut (now behind the door, in the hot breath of the dishwasher, the sizzle of the fryer, the rank odor of sweat and packaged black bean soup boiling and touch of cannabis [truism: ALL COOKS SMOKE GRASS] and industrial soap), and the most polite, petite 18 year old blond girl in the world would cackle out, “Table 14 is a bunch of fucking cheap-ass blue-haired cunts!”

Wow….

Salty, salty world behind that swinging door.

I remember one time a guy leaned over and his cigarettes dropped from his shirt pocket into the deep fat fryer. Impulsively, he reached….

but that’s a different story.

I think I might have stolen it from Mark Neely, the poet.

From a researcher at Cornell U.

1. Two studies show little relationship between quality of waiter service and size of tip.

2. Hotel bellboys can double the size of their tips, on average, by showing guests how the TV and air conditioning work.

3. Tipping is less prevalent in countries where unease about inequality is especially
strong.

4. The more a culture values status and prestige, the more likely that culture will use tipping to reward service.

5. Tips are higher in sunny weather.

6. Servers can increase their tips by giving their names to customers, squatting next to tables, touching their customers, and giving their customers after-dinner mints.

7. Drawing a smiley face on the check increases a waitress’s tips by 18 percent but decreases a waiter’s tips by 9 percent.

8. In one study, waitresses increased their tips by 17 percent by wearing flowers in their hair. In general it pays to look distinctive albeit not freaky.

But what to choose for my dinner?


Whew…ok, now I feel better.

*

I am teaching a graduate class these days. Called “Reading and Writing Across the Genres.” I am loving it. One of the best things is professors get to visit, and we read the book from their specialty, and yesterday Jill Christman visited, a CNF writer of note, and she suggested Abigail Thomas, Safekeeping.

WOW.

This book rocked my single perfect offering to the calve and biceps.

Add to your book list, peoples.

Structure: 3 husbands, 3 sections, all of this a collection of micro-nonfiction. Time is centrifuged around the death of the 2nd husband. Also, a meta-move, where discussions between the sister and the narrator are used as “threads,” connective tissue to the text. Like most quality books, the structure is so artifice, and well considered and wrought, as to appear perfectly natural.

Easy writing = Hard reading.

Hard writing = Easy reading.

Language: The reason you populate any text (fiction, CNF, poem, etc.) with THINGS is because THINGS have metaphorical value. A jar is a container. To seal something away? To keep something pure? To store something? To hide it behind glass? To shatter against a wall? To bury, to sell, to can, to collect, to eat from?

Every micro-CNF text (flash nonfiction) is populated with specific THINGS.

chaos: raccoons in the walls of the house.

the world: the woods are waiting outside the house. Build a lean-to. Anyone can do that.

a knife is good for cutting bread. or stabbing your lover. or opening an envelope. or slicing the threads from a white suit turning the corner.

I’m not sure what that means.

Theme: The epigraph: “Take a sad song and make it better.” Hey Jude

We look back on hard times, but maybe they were necessary. Maybe hard decisions are necessary. Maybe we abdicate our own free will, act in bad faith, when we decide to avoid very hard honest decisions, when we make excuses to avoid conflict, etc.

OR?

Some day finally wake up and realize you don’t have the answers. So quit judging others for not having the answers. No one has the answers. Let’s try, try this world without the guide (the guide we were never, and will never be given when born), just try this thing together. Together.

*

Hemingway couldn’t make his Nobel Prize speech–he was out hunting. He did send in a written speech.

“Members of the Swedish Academy, Ladies and Gentlemen: Having no facility for speech making nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this prize. No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience. It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quiet clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day. For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed. How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him. I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.”

Here’s the ear of the dinner I shot with a bow yesterday. Pretty David Lynch, eh? I only eat meat I PERSONALLY hunt, kill, drag (what a drag–I am getting old!) and prepare. Period. If I do not harvest an animal one year, I am a vegetarian for that year.

Tonight is tenderloin with carrots and potatoes…

To blog your food preparation is the ultimate in banal. I embrace banality.

*

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6 responses to “Nachos. Tips. Abagail Thomas. Venison. World Series of Flannel Nightie.

  1. Man, I love your blog. I worked as a waitress and a bartender and thos were, looking back, very good years. You learn a lot about humanity in food and booze services.

    Anyway, just excellent post. I loved to read the Hemingway speech- fantastic.

    I find it interesting you only eat meat that you hunt. Have you read the works of Temple Grandin, the autistic woman who changed the design of slaughterhouses? Good stuff. Wierd stuff, for sure. (I know peeps in the biz, who raise beef cattle…)

  2. FREE KWAME

  3. Barry is my daddy

  4. god that stew looks good.
    Have been contemplating having dale take me deer hunting someday on his land.
    showing me the ropes, etc.
    gonna visit him in december I think.

  5. your use of “spleen,” eh…
    read a gary snyder poem that reminded me of you today.

  6. yes, the hater has been posting on a few blogs

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