Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A black shirt and a bar

I buttoned up my black shirt, the garment had been purchased less than a week ago at the Sears next door, it was a necessary item for work outfit. Once buttoned and tucked in I put my suspenders over my shirt and rolled up the sleeves.

The small closet of a room stored the staff lockers. A large sign on the front of the door stated that "This room is not secure." Several of the lockers had small locks on them with various items of clothing, purses, and bags stuffed inside.

Next to the lockers was a rack on which lay various folded piles of towels; blue ones for the kitchen, white ones for the bar, striped ones for polishing. I took two towels of the latter types and an apron. I wrapped the thin strings of the white shoe length apron around my waist and knotted it. It was a stark contrast with my otherwise black outfit; black shoes, black socks, black pants, and black shirt. I opened up the staff locker room door and walked through the hallway and through the curtains onto the restaurant floor.
Having come back from Thailand broke I didn't have much option in employment. Not having a degree (which is worthless if its not a master's or graduate degree), and there being a recession meant that my choices for what type of work I wanted to do were limited so I did what an reasonable person would do, I canvassed restaurants for work. Having worked in the food service industry for over 7 years I've done it all. I've washed dishes, prep cooked, line cooked, bussed, food ran, waited, barbacked, and bartended. I've never stepped into the big shoes of a manager because of my distaste for firing people and mucking my hands with owners and upper management.

The restaurant at which I work now is considered fine dining, which is merely a matter of appearance. Fine dining is more concerned with appearance and gives the customer higher quality food and beverages along with service. This labor and product comes at a higher cost both in terms of labour power and in price. With the higher bill comes a corresponding higher class of customer. Its hard to justify spending $50 on a meal as a worker that only makes $70 a day, but for someone that makes $150 or more daily the fee for luxurious living can be easily afforded.

As a bar back at the restaurant I am in in charge of doing all the grunt labor for the bartenders. The variety of tasks to which I am responsible for is enough to drive a schizophrenic sane. The onus is on me to make sure there is enough fresh squeezed juice, ice, crushed ice, bitters, liquors, utensils, plates, glasses, etc. all the while being burdened with customer service; clearing plates, getting and refilling waters, setting dining ware out. The pace of a restaurant is bipolar in the the psychiatric sense. The business can be depressed and slow with nothing to do and then all at once a maniac streak breaks out demanding immediate and sustained attention. This maniac dash must be reined in by concentration on a variety of tasks demanding one multi-task and constantly think ahead essentially doing labour saving tasks in order to make sure the job gets done.

Eventually the evening ends.I come home and I shower. The smell of food and liquor hangs on me like a foul perfume. The soap scrubs away the stench but doesn't alleviate the aches and pains. Its late and I know that there is no one to help me ease my pain other than other late night workers. I open a beer. The cold liquid rushes down my throat making my throat cold and my body warm at the same time. I stare out into space and try not to think of the things that I forgot tonight, of the repetition, of work.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


My friend Mark sent this over. The music is aight. I'm a fan because of the name, which reminds me of my blogs incorrect spelling which irks me at times. It should be les enfants perdus not les enfant perdus. Oh well. Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The end of the affair and Oranges are not the only fruit

I picked up a copy of Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair" in a small bookshop off of Khao San road. The shop had reasonably priced used books, roughly the same price one would pay in the states. One of the drawbacks of Thailand is the expense of books as most are imported, and there is a small used book market. That market also mainly contains crappy pulp espionage Tom Clancy style books and or romance as that's what people read while on vacation.

Greene returns to the theme of affairs in "The End of the Affair," which is a running thread in all the fiction that I've read by him. The story follows Maurice Bendrix, a slightly crippled writer who while working on a novel falls in love with a married woman, Sarah. Their love affair is troubled by Sarah's refusal to separate from her boring husband, Henry. Bendrix is a jealous lover and their relationship is plagued by his emotions. Set in World War II in London the climatic change in the novel comes about from a bombing. Sarah and Bendrix are at his home and Bendrix goes downstairs, a bomb hits. He is injured and temporarily trapped underneath a door. Sarah in a fit of panic prays to god to save Bendrix. Her lover is saved and as part of her prayer Sarah has promised never to see Bendrix again. Her devotion to god and her desire to keep her promise to the almighty sets the tone and subsequent dilemmas for the second half of the novel as Bendrix tries to reunite with her. The novel's ending is predictable but what is particularly irksome is the religious tract feel of the story. Instead of being a fictional tale about the sorrowful end of a relationship the novel turns into a polemic about belief in god. Several miraculous events unfold relating to Sarah and her faith which turns everyone into big old Jesus believers. Blech!

Reading about Greene makes me not surprised in the least about this latter turn, as authors' writing is influenced by their lives. Greene was a Roman Catholic himself and had an affair, in fact the book is dedicated to his mistress at the time.

Continuing on with the overally religious is Jeannett Winterson's "Oranges are not the only fruit," a book I shamelessly stole from one of my Thai roommates (sorry man I'll pay you back for it?). The novel is a bildsungsroman about a young girl whose mother is fanatically religious. The mother's social circle is confined to her church group who routinely chastise others for their sins. The mother is heavily influenced by missionary style beliefs and has a strong pentecostal background.
The essential tension comes about because of the young girl's (and narrator) affair with another girl. Under the guise of being especially devout the two girls spend all their time together, eventually a relationship blooms. Unfortunately the lesbian flower of youth is crushed by the hammer of religion as the mother and her cronies find the passion of the two children intolerable. The two girls are torn apart, yet the cycle happens to the narrator again, and again as she become mores cognizant of her sexual desire for women.

The narrative is non-linear with several side tales told about a young woman and a wizard along with knights of the round table. Heavy on the religious symbolism the book is quite layered but what ultimately shines is the simple desire for a more diverse world in which people's desires can be accepted. The title of the book comes about because of the mother's insistence to feed her daughter oranges. The fruit is the only food available until the close of the book when the daughter has come of age and separated herself, to some extent, from the confines of her mother's religion. The mother comes to an uneasy acceptance of her daughters carnal passions by not mentioning them whilst still going out to save the world from sin.

"Oranges are not the only fruit," is Winterson's first novel, published at the age of 24 and like Greene's novel is at least semi-autobiographical. Winterson grew up in a penecostal family. A devout child, Winterson began to deliver sermons and proselytize by the age of six. Ten years down the road she realized that she was a lesbian and left home which mirrors the narrative of the novel. We write about what we know, and we only know what we live.

Winterson includes a handful of poetic and interesting lines that I liked which are included below:

"I have a theory that every time you make an important choice, the part of you left behind continues the other life you could have had. Some people's emanations are very strong, some people create themselves afresh outside of their own body. (p. 164)"

"Time is a great deadener; people forget, get bored, grow old, go away. She said that not much had happened between us anyways, historically speaking. But history is a string full of knots, the best you can do is admire it, and maybe knot it up a bit more. History is a hammock for swinging and a game for playing. A cat's cradle (p. 166)."

"There's no choice that doesn't mean a loss (p.167)."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back in the USA

The sky is a drab grey. The rain is cold and chilly. The people are taller, and often wear rags to accentuate their alternative lifestyle. The public transportation is slow and expensive. Bikes litter the streets. The restaurants, bars, and clubs are expensive matching worker's wages. The dominant language is english, with all of its idiosyncracies and annoyances. I am back in the USA.

I came back a little over a week ago after a final fight at MBK mall in Thailand. My bout will be posted below. The bout went well considering my opponent's experience level, he had about 40-50 fights. My corner asked me if I wanted to keep fighting as blood dripped down my face and I said that I didn't want to make the decision. They made it for me saying that continuing to fight wasn't worth it. My bout wasn't at a big stadium, it wasn't for a belt, and the money was horrific, I got paid thirty dollars for the bout, granted that is a fair amount of pad thai.

Coming back to the states is like coming back to a heap of problems, and the drudgery of everyday life. I have to find a job, I have to move, I have to pay my bills, I basically have to make up for the borrowed time that I was living on in Thailand. Vacations are borrowed time in a capitalist world, time you are lended in order to keep you in place when you return with more bills and more problems. That said my time in Thailand was one of the best times in my life because I was living exactly the way I wanted to. I went to Thai language school, I was in a great relationship, I had great friends, I trained all the time, I fought, I read a lot, I wrote a lot etc.

I would have stayed if it was feasible but its just not realistic as I don't have a degree. To get the most basic job, teaching English, you need a degree. That said degrees out here in the states are pretty much worthless. While giving a graduate a few dollars more in a new job they don't pay off the college loans right away, if ever. Instead they are a false promise of security down the road, a promise that is increasingly shown to be another lie of the capital-spectacle.

Coming back and not getting into the schools I applied for is pretty disappointing but also reminds me of how pointless it is to be university. If you want something you need to get out there and do it. Now all I have to do is fully express what it is that I wants.

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3 part 1

Round 3 part 2