Dabble in Detroit

It’s -4 degrees in Plymouth, MI with over two feet of snow on the ground; this is the most “wintery” winter I can remember in a long time. There is a lot of hysteria in the Midwest over the storm last Saturday and the Polar Vortex that has swept down and chilled the air to dangerous levels. I haven’t left the house since Saturday afternoon, and quite frankly I am OK with that.

A new batch of classes started up yesterday but I haven’t received my textbooks yet, thanks to Amazon. I assume the delay in transit is because of the recent snowstorms. Next week I start my internship at an urban farm, which will be a lot of fun and a nice break from the at home/at work routine I have developed. Other than that, no news is good news.

Resolutions? Eh, not many. I’d like to drink less beer, eat less meat, leave the past in the past and not let others that live there affect my mood or opinion of myself. Oh, I’d like to visit Detroit more often.

I’ve become fascinated with the City over the past few months, only a 25 minute drive from my house. The rich history of an industrialized urban area met with decay and corruption of the past few decades leaves me in awe. I feel hopeful when I read about it, excited when I’m driving there, and little scared when I arrive, quiet as I walk the streets, thoughtful when I patron shops and restaurants, and obsessed when I get home and look up new places to go on the Internet.

I wonder if Detroit is the place to be. How easy is it to fall in line with the establishment of NYC, DC, or Chicago? Not that these places are perfect, or don’t have room to improve because they sure do. Is it the same parallel as building a new house or remodeling an old one? Detroit is fascinating because I think that any one or group that tries will do a little of both.

I explored the idea of transferring to Wayne State University and living in Downtown, I think because I was scared about the uncertainty of my professional future, and the WSU/Detroit seemed like something concrete to lean against. I decided that I will stick with my program at Northwestern and make the most of the opportunities I can find in Detroit at the same time.

“I came from Detroit where it’s rough, and I’m not a smooth talker.” -Eminem

Uncertain

I’ve embarked on a new venture in life. I chose to study Public Policy as a way to become academically and intellectually involved with food, something that the hospitality industry doesn’t offer. I finished my first two classes, but I have 11 to go, which seems like I have some time; but when I contemplate what I will do once the program is over, and how I will pay back this debt, I feel scared.

Should we stick around Detroit and help regrow the city? Should we move to the more policy-oriented locations such as Washington D.C., or maybe even Chicago? Will we get married soon (which means, will he ask me soon)? When should we have kids? Where in the world is this all going? Did I choose the right college? How will I spend the money my grandparents left me once it’s disbursed; which I have to say is not a lot, but it’s enough to make a meaningful difference in at least one aspect of my life (house, wedding, college)?

It’s weird how once I sit down and write all of this out, it doesn’t seem so bad. It is actually reminiscent of what I’m sure many people go though, especially those 30-somethings in the year 2013.

The holidays are upon us; we just had a great Thanksgiving dinner with Matt’s family, and I got to cook my first turkey dinner. The rest of December is filling up with obligations to family and friends.

Every year my friend hosts a “framily” dinner; this is when the friends I was closest to in high school get together at her house to eat and catch up on each other’s lives. It’s always a good time and I end up having fun, but there is always this nagging feeling I get beforehand, like I’m not suppose to be there. Many of these people spend a lot of time staying in touch during the year; they travel to see each other, and consider themselves best friends. One friend recently got married in England (I really couldn’t afford to go) and sure enough, three of our high school friends went. I try to embrace the fact that our connections have remained intact for over 12 years.

I now have a one month break from school. Hopefully I get to write more because of it.

 

 

I’m Not a Professional (on what you’re asking) Yet

I woke up today feeling like the holidays really are upon us. It was 11:00 am, and I was startled by how much I slept; 10 hours doesn’t justify one bartending shift and a few hours of reading the day before. I was refreshed, and the day just had a feel, like, game on mother-fucker. I liked it.

School is in its final throws. Finals are due in two weeks, and I’ve also signed myself up to make my first Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve diligently researched brining, roasting, potatoes, dressing, sauces, and beverages. I’m not worried, I got this.

Work is good. I’m making money, and relieved to walk out of the door without a care in the world.

Part of my interactions these days at work involve my explanation of why I am there. It’s hard to explain to people that you gave up your job to go back to school, and that bartending is a valid and optimal financial choice given the time constraint. The most annoying part of the customer-bartender interview happens when I tell them that I study public policy. People think it’s carte blanche to ask you what your opinion is about current politics, or relevant policy at the time. No no no no no, my new friend. I’m studying how policy WORKS, and of course specific examples come up relative to understanding concepts in my classes, but I learn mechanics, that’s it. Asking me what I think about policy as a student is no different that asking me as a typical citizen, as far as anyone is concerned. Thank “insert your higher being” that I’m not a law student in this regard.

Bartending, by the way, should be a word recognized by most programs. I always get the red squiggly line when I type it, but “bar-space-tending” seems weird. Agreed?

It’s the time of week to miss Matt; I haven’t seen him since Tuesday and I won’t again until tomorrow night. It’s nice to have an equal partner and ultimate best friend. It’s nice to miss, and be missed.

This weekend will bring on the ultimate “clean out the refrigerator and pantry movement” prior to Turkey Day. Let the culinary fun begin.

Pretty Pictures of Parks, Pumpkins and Pigs (not together, but wouldn’t that be cute?)

We had our first snow in lower Michigan last night, well, the first one that stuck to the ground. My backyard overlooks part of a huge park, and the snow is glistening in the sun. The leaves are almost all gone, and, dare I say, it’s winter coat season.

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Yesterday marked one month since I left my job. I also have one month left before my classes end for the year.  I’ve made the most of what the season has to offer the past few days by making Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin, Walnut, and Gruyere Focaccia out of the heirlooms I bought from the farm down the street.

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I’m headed to the town library today; I have to get out of the house. I’m feeling caught up this week, but behind in life. I have to remind myself that I’ve been through a lot this year, and its OK to not have an internship picked out, or that I haven’t started volunteering yet.

Work at the bar is going well; I like keeping my brain busy, and I make enough money to get by. I get a little tired of the meaningless banter with co-workers and the bar flies, but that’s just an extension of my exhaustion with the hospitality industry.

Matt and I had a great weekend. We didn’t wake up before 11:00am either day, and we watched a bunch of Breaking Bad. He hasn’t seen season 5 yet, and wants me to catch up to him before he starts it. It’s the least I can do after dragging him through Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead.

My uncle informed me that they received an offer on my grandparents house. He still hasn’t picked a date for Grandpa’s interment.

Overall, life is getting a little simpler. I’m still purging the old job out of my veins, a process I didn’t realize would take so long.

Lastly, some info on Charlie Pig. I met her two years ago. I was fostering her for West Michigan Critter Haven until they found a suitable adopter for her. She came to me with four awkwardly-healed broken legs, crooked feet, broken whiskers, and a digestive problem that makes her poop watery and smell like fertilizer. She makes mudpies under her butt when she sleeps, and there isn’t any better way of saying it other than it’s fucking gross! I spent some money at the vet trying to figure out what was wrong with her. The vet and I came to decide that even if we figured out what was wrong, the diagnosis would be academic because we wouldn’t want to operate on her. I decided to adopt her myself; I didn’t think it was fair for a family to take on her burden, and I didn’t know how long she would live. I also fell in love with her. Years later she’s still going strong.

Last week I had to renew her pain meds; I give her Metacam occasionally to manage her pain when she needs it. She was due for a checkup in order to get the prescription refill. She was a little mad at me:

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She cheered up toward the end:

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What a Dick

It’s interesting, since I left my job last month I can’t stop thinking about how much I dislike my former boss. It pains me when I wake up sometimes, and I know that I’m not doing myself any favors by thinking about him, but he really is an asshole.

I guess the first indication would have been that his name is Dick Johnson. His full first name is indeed Richard, but it takes a particular type of asshole to want to be called “Dick” in this circumstance.

I met him on my first job interview. He was a little bit intimidating, but seemed nice underneath. I was eventually hired; when I was informed about my compensation, it included, “one paid week off after the first year and every year thereafter, and you become part of the family”. This seemed like a nice idea.

The “family” he was referring to was himself and his stepdaughter. It turns out that he bought her a restaurant even though he knew nothing about the hospitality business (or running one on a college campus) even though he owned 92% of the business. A mere 2% went to the third owner, the chef, who really wanted nothing to do with our property. The three owners were too concerned with our flagship restaurant 40 miles away in a small town that nobody gives a shit about except the people that live in it.

Dick went on to become the mayor of this shitty town, thus completely checked out from our properties. He would get mad about how the business was run, get an idea in his head about what the problem was, and look for everything he could to confirm his uninformed opinion, to the detriment of his managers, like myself.  We were making money, but I know he was hiding cash off record.

His tactics included shutting you out, both in person and by email. He wouldn’t look you in the eye. On the surface this seems mild, but when you work in an organization that has six people making up ownership and management, being ignored and reduced to nothing in the proprietor’s eyes in heartbreaking, especially when you care about your job. His standoffish behavior would go on until his stepdaughter would intervene. Then he’d take me out for pizza and I was suppose to forget about what he did, until it happened again in a few months.

This pattern lasted for five years. Knowing that I was leaving soon to go to grad school in my final year there, I tried to separate my emotions from my job. I loved our restaurant because I ran it like it was mine. I did everything for that place, and saying goodbye gradually was part of the mourning process.

In the last six months of my employment, I was asked to undergo a large project that entailed finding out why one of our campus properties had a loss in sales and to propose a way to increase revenue. After three months of work I finally presented it to Dick and his stepdaughter. Once it was over, and they understood my ideas and knew that I had the support of all of the other working managers, Dick basically said that he hated my ideas, didn’t have any of his own, and well, that was it. I asked what they wanted to do if they didn’t use my plan, and mentioned that no one else brought anything to the table. You could see his face swell up in anger as he left the meeting without saying a word.

One week later I received an email from him, two days before my five day vacation, asking me who the hell I think I am talking to him like that. He called me a “petulant two-year-old”, and implied that he wanted to meet with me the following week to fire me. This ruined my vacation, and left me a wreck. When it came time to meet, he didn’t show up.

I only ended up on speaking terms with him in the end because I had first hand knowledge of another manager looking to cause trouble in the company with a sexual harassment suit and I did the right thing by informing him right away.

His parting gift to me was my laptop, the one I am typing on right now. He acted like it was a gift from God, and that I should be so lucky to keep the two-year-old machine that allowed me to do countless work for his company on my own time from home for many years.

As of today, he is requesting “data files that are on the laptop I am in possession of” and that “all data relating to work is his property and he wants it”, even though nothing on this machine is very relevant. Here’s a thought: maybe an email or a phone call to the tune of, “Hey, can you send us the work files on your laptop? Thanks!” An inconceivable tactic for such a flaming asshole.

He lives in a community that thinks he is the greatest man in the world. He does nothing but grandstand and appreciate those that put him on a pedestal. He doesn’t actually appreciate people who “tell it like it is, and aren’t afraid to say what they think”, a trait that he claims to prize.

Thanks for reading this; I’m sure that writing this was better than reporting him for having illegal aliens working in his kitchens, or complaining about all of the illegal overtime pay he made me enforce over the years, or even bringing up the emotional harassment he put me through.

Life will go on. Hey Dick, thanks for teaching me about the type of person I DON’T want to be.

Pivot Point

I’m having a very distracted type of day, coming off of a three-day weekend with Matt. On Saturday we drove to Salem, OH (approx. 4 hours away) to collect a 50″ plasma TV, wooden entertainment stand, and two boxes of my father’s from my grandparent’s newly emptied home.

I hadn’t seen or spoken to Matt in two days (even though we live together) due to our work schedules. When I saw him on Friday night we stayed up late, talking and laughing until 4:30 am. This made our Saturday road trip a bit more challenging, but it was still fun. We listened to This American Life, a road trip must, and some other music along the way. We didn’t get home until 10:30 pm; our buzz from our long-distance accomplishment kept us up late again.

Matt took Monday off, and we were able to get rid of a lot of our possessions via Salvation Army and the local library.

We still haven’t carved our pumpkins. Maybe we can do that tonight, after I get back from drinks with my sister Wendy.

I took Matt to the cemetery in Salem where my dad, grandma, and grandpa (soon to be) are buried. He likes the town, and we agreed to visit every-so-often as the years go by. It was a nice balance, saying goodbye to the past with the person who will hopefully help me build my future family.

There is a pivot point in life where you come to terms with the way things were; you get over what you disliked about your childhood or how your parents raised you, the disappointments you’ve faced, and accept them for what they are in order to build something new in your OWN image. You then focus on what you want out of life, how you would raise your own children, and unlike the years of childhood dreams, you actually make it happen.

So far, I like grad school. I’m happy with my new-found free time. I like studying, and going to Roger Monk’s to make a little money on the side and helping Erik out. I like my weekends with Matt, and time with friends when I can. Overall, life is getting better.

I also like my guinea pig time. I haven’t talked much about them, but I will soon. Until then, here’s a picture of the first piggies I adopted (Miss Phil “Collins” on the left-still alive, Miss Keith “Olbermann/Richards” on the right- RIP 8/24/13).

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Pauline

I took a trip to England with a few people and a chef instructor from my culinary arts program in March, 2004. I was 21-years-old.

I started dating a guy named Mark. He was part of a culinary arts program in Weston-Super-Mare where we spent a lot of our time in England. Most of my memories of England have nothing to do with him.

We reconnected when he visited our culinary arts program during his personal vacation that following summer. We then began dating, but I only spent a matter of weeks in his physical presence. The majority of our time together was spent an ocean apart. He wanted to move to the US and get a job as a chef. He was smart, had average looks, very funny, and had a saddening charm about him.

He was denied entry into the US the following winter of 2005. He would not be allowed to enter again without a visa.

He decided he wanted to marry me. OK, to explain, he didn’t really want to marry me, nor did I really want to marry him. He needed a visa, and the F5 fiance visa was the easiest route. He never proposed. He turned verbally abusive; he told me my family were simple, uncultured people, my friends were no good for me, and that if he moved here and married me he would take me away to a better place where we could really live life.

When he became pushy about the visa, I remembered that I installed a key-logger program onto my computer the previous summer when he was in my apartment. It was women’s intuition with a dash of common sense, given the circumstance.

I hacked his email, and found out that he was going to be a father in February (2005). He got a woman named Pauline pregnant on their first date, and she wanted to know answers to all of the reasonable questions; are we still dating? do you want to be part of this child’s life? will you financially support this situation? Mark tried to convince me to run away from my life because he wanted to run away from his.

Pauline and I still talk to this day. She is busy raising Jake (who is eight-years-old now) by herself in Cardiff, Wales. Mark pays her child support each month (because he is legally bound to do so), and she takes his money and puts it into Jake’s college fund. Pauline and Jake are happy as can be.  Mark has not contacted her (or myself) in over seven years. The last I heard he was living with his mother and unemployed; no telling where he is now, and I will never care to find out.

I am not happy to tell this story; in fact, I may never talk about it again. However, there is something to be learned from it. Life sure has a funny way of taking care of people.