Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just another day............


I woke up this morning and felt strangely upbeat a bit disconnected from the day.  There were no somber thoughts or feelings of despair.  Just business as usual.

I wondered if that was a bad thing; ya know, not stopping to honor the day.  But then, I got to thinking.  What's so bad about moving on?  I think it's okay not to yank yourself out of feeling good just for the sake of "remembering."

Trust me, I remember.  It's the remembering that brings me down.  And I could stay there; I could.  The comfort of the darkness calling out to me like a warm blanket.  The nobility of having "survived."  I got lucky - for sure. 

But sometimes, if I let myself, I can see it all - the horror of things no one should ever see.  Ya see, going there keeps me there and I don't want to be there today.  Eleven years ago, I could've packed it in and lived a life of being a "9/11 Survivor."  And, believe me, it was tempting.  I'm a natural storyteller, so telling my story to anyone who would listen made me feel good.  I felt special.  A part of something.  And I probably could have fed off of that forever.

But my life didn't end on September 11th.  I am alive and to be a survivor means you to have to move on and make your life whole.  I saw things on that day that I will never forget, but I've also seen wonderful things like the Taj Mahal and my smiling nieces.  When I look back on my life, I want to see more than just one story.  I want to see my whole life.

So today is like any other.  I remember; but I keep going because I am a survivor.

I don't think so.  I think it's okay not

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Impressions Last


Sitting there waiting, I try not drink my wine too fast, though it feels good going down. I have no idea just when he will be walking through the door, so I feel a little uncomfortable I sure wish I had an iPhone or something to distract myself. Instead, I pull out my journal, but I can’t concentrate. I’m trying to look natural and not like I’m dying to know if this trip was really necessary. Of course, I’m convinced that everyone in the place knows I’m waiting for a Match.com date. Why wouldn’t they? My outfit says first date with my crisp white shirt, skinny jeans, red ankle boots and chunky necklace I got from my jewelry guru, Linda.

I decide to talk to the bartender. Being left to my own mental devices will surely put me over the edge. He’s nice enough and I contemplate sharing with him that I’m waiting for an online date. Instead, we talk about the wine list and Brooklyn. The conversation is easy enough to take my mind off the awful waiting game that feels like it’s gone into overtime. The good news is that we previously agreed to meet from 5p-8p because of other engagements, so if he sucks, at least I know I’ve got only an hour and a half of torture.

At 6:45p, Bill walks through the door. He’s tall and lanky; very lanky. We greet each other awkwardly as he seems breathless by the turn of events, shaking his head in disbelief about the madness of it all as he settles onto a bar stool next to me. I’m not totally listening – I’m checking him out. He’s not as cute as his picture. In fact, he looks kind of tired. He’s got long eyelashes, nice lips and an angular face. His hair is very short, shaved, but not completely and he’s got some sort of jewelry on – bracelets – leather ones. Definitely no attraction at first glance, but let’s give his personality a chance.

Bill’s not really into wine and I’m grateful they have an eclectic list of beer from which to choose. After some more chatter about the dead deer and the PATH train, we begin the get-to-know-you portion of the evening. He’s attentive and proactive about asking questions which is nice. We trade our background stories and family situations. His parents divorced when he as six and his mother raised him on her own. Though he keeps referring to his “parents” and correcting himself by saying, “Oh, sorry. I mean my mom.” The guy’s 35 years old, you’d think by now he’d be used to the fact that his parents are no longer together.

The conversation flows easily on a level slightly more relaxed than talking to a colleague. He tells me about his work which is architecture. It sounds pretty interesting until he launches into a 15 minute description of the architectural software he uses at work. My eyes are starting to glaze over I’m sure when he finally switches the conversation back to me. He’s very interested in my singing and musical background and tells me about his short stint playing the saxophone as a kid and how he wishes he kept up with it.

Here’s where meeting men as a self-aware, intelligent, 39 year old woman gets tricky. Though I haven’t traditionally dated a lot, I’ve still met a lot of people over the years. Through my own self-exploration and experience, I’m pretty good at recognizing people’s issues fairly quickly. Past experiences especially can be a double-edged sword. My ex mentioned his mother 7 times on our first date. Looking back, I now know it was a sign that he, at 35, hadn’t quite cut that umbilical just yet. Sure enough, it manifested in his inability to fully commit to our relationship and tell his mother to stop doing his laundry. Since then, I’ve met other men with Mommy issues, however, I’m hip to it right off-the-bat and as a result, I make my escape.

Does it make me jaded to notice that this guy’s talked a lot about his mother already? Is this why I’m still single, because there’s nobody out there – save for an ex-convict – well, no I dated one of those too – who can surprise me? And why is it so hard for people to be mature and in a healthy relationship with their parents?

We order another round and talk some more. It occurs to me as I’m almost finished with my second glass of wine that this guy is boring. I haven’t laughed once in the 90 minutes we’ve been chatting. My conscience reminds me that, perhaps he’s nervous. My conscience is the reason why I’m doing this Match thing! I need to be more clear-cut and not doubt my instincts. If the guy doesn’t make me laugh on the first date, he’s probably not funny. Still, I waiver and contemplate giving it a second date to see. That is, of course, if he’s even interested. I decide to get back in the moment and cross that bridge when and if I come to it.

We both realize the time and wrap the evening up. He pays most of the bill which is nice and I leave a generous tip for my new friend, the bartender.

Once outside, we walk a bit and there is no mention of another date. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself with a response just in case he asks. I really want to tell him that it’s not a great fit. He’s very nice and I mean that. A genuinely nice guy. But there’s no attraction, no spark. Why can’t I just be okay with knowing that and not feel like there’s something wrong with me? The hecklers in my head tell me that I’m too picky and I’ll never find a man. “What’s the big deal? So, he didn’t make you laugh? You’re asking for too much.” Yep. Hecklers are in full force.

He hails a cab, we hug good-bye and he says, “Yeah, this was great. We’ll have to do it again sometime.” I offer a casual, enthusiastic, “Sure. Great!” As he pulls away in the cab, I know that I won’t be seeing Bill again.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

DEER John.......



Saturday arrives and I’m grateful that my head is in the right place about this date. I’m excited, but grounded. I’m not looking for the one - to put that spin on things would create way too much pressure and if it doesn’t work out, it’s going to be a huge disappointment. Maybe this is how those people who date a lot do it. No expectations. Well, limited expectation. Of course, I hope we hit it off, but I’m not walking down the aisle with this guy in my head just yet.

At around 4pm, I get a text message from Bill, explaining that he’s running about 15 minutes late and he wants to give me a heads-up. Truth be told, my initial reaction was mild irritation, which I found to be interesting. What’s so bad about him running a little behind? He certainly gave me ample notice. That’s the thing about relationships - it’s hard to remember that each person is different than the last. I had a boyfriend once who was consistently late and I’m not talking the customary 15 minutes, which isn’t a tragedy if there’s notification. This guy would show up an hour late or sometimes not at all. So, I’ve got a bit of a sore spot on lateness and reliability. Glad that I caught a glimpse of my own shit in time, I bring myself back to the present moment and prepare to leave my apartment for the date.

In the East Village and a bit early for our meeting, I decide to grab a quick slice of pizza. If we’re having drinks only, it occurs to me that I better have some food in my stomach to avoid any possibility of getting smashed off the first drink. As I sit down to eat my pizza, my phone beeps indicating that I have a voicemail. Bill’s left a message explaining that he’s been stuck on the PATH train for the last hour and it’s still not moving. My mind’s full of a million questions: Why’s he on the PATH if he lives in Williamsburg? Why didn’t he call me sooner? WHAT THE FUCK? Rage gets the better of me but thankfully, self-awareness kicks in reminding me to breathe and more importantly, this is just a date - he’s not the one, he’s just a date.

When I call him back, he’s still stuck on the train and we agree that I’ll hang tight for a bit until he has an idea as to what’s going on. It’s not the ideal scenario for a first date, but shit happens. And though I feel like my expectations are in a healthy place, I can’t help but be a little discouraged by the turn of events. Hassle sucks in general, but when there’s hassle with someone you’re not even invested in, what’s the point? I decide to give it until 6pm, get on the train and head over to my friend’s restaurant to drop off his drill as promised. This is the same friend whom I’d planned to visit post-date, but I can’t just sit around waiting for this guy - I need to keep busy.

I head up to Chelsea hoping that his train hasn’t miraculously started moving and he’s now waiting for me in the East Village. Nope, he’s still stuck. “I couldn’t make this up even if I wanted to,” Bill says from the PATH where he’s still idle. Apparently, the train hit a deer and they have to clean off the debris and remove the carcass from the tracks and the bottom of the train. Nope. He’s right - making this up would be quite a feat. As we’re marveling at the ludicrous nature of the situation, the PATH conductor announces that they will be moving in about 10 minutes. I tell Bill that I’m in Chelsea and we agree to revamp our original plan. I offer to find a place to meet, which is not my favorite thing, but I feel as though as I should since I’m now in a different ‘hood. I promise to text him with a place once I figure it out.

Hanging up, I’m unenthused. I feel like we’ve already had our date - sort of. It’s not technically drama, but it feels like too much work for this date. Maybe it’s a sign. Maybe the Universe is stepping in and saving me from an awful evening. Maybe I’m really not ready for this whole dating thing.

I call my sister. She’s the best at choosing places.

Finally, we’ve got a new plan and I’m settled in at a delightful winebar on Hudson Street called lelabar. It’s dimly lit, sparsely decorated but still warm and inviting. As I sit waiting for Bill, I realize that the anticipatory excitement of meeting one another has worn off for me. I hope that his personality and energy will bring me back to some sort of enthusiasm. For now, I’ll just drink my wine and wait.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wink, wink!




The next day, the powers that be at Match, have given my profile picture the go-ahead. I feel strangely excited at the prospect of signing into my newly created profile to and taking a look at just who’s out there looking for love. My friend, Matthew put it perfectly when he heard about my creating-a-profile-angst, he responded, “It’s the online equivalent of what do I wear?”

Today, I’m all dressed up and ready to get in the game. That’s the thing about me. I’m a sucker for potential. Though, I hate getting up too early, the morning is still my favorite time of day – there’s so much possibility! Anything can happen. Surprisingly, I’ve already got mail. Or, shall I say winks.

Winks are in place of email. It’s the ultimate risk-free way of telling someone you’re interested. I plan to be bolder than that. I plan to face my fears of rejection and jump in with both feet – no hiding behind a wink here! Still, I’m intrigued by my prospective winkers.

Most of them are not my type – balding, kind of vanilla – chinos and dockers - not really my type. I feel shallow. But, I remind myself that not everyone is for everyone. I happen to like bald men – not balding. I like men who are in shape. I also like men who’s eyes draw me in – “honest eyes”, as my friend Eric puts it. Isn’t this the point of Match? To find the right match for yourself. To not just respond just because someone has chosen me? Still, maybe I’m not being open if I’ve already written these guys off because of their lack of fashion sense I can see that I’m starting to circle the drain and I remind myself that I am not necessarily looking for the one. I am looking to expand my horizons – whatever that means.

Scrolling down my inbox, I notice I’ve got another wink. This guy’s not bad! He’s much more my type – dark-skinned, South American – a definite plus! And his eyes, they look honest. Now, the dilemma. Do I wink or email? Winking would be risk-free and totally against my self-imposed guidelines. But I have to say, now that I’m there, on the cliff, contemplating a tandem jump or a solo one, my courage seems to have disappeared. Doubt prevails. What if I email him? What will I say? It’s so contrived! Winking is so much safer….chatter, chatter, chatter. Blah, blah, blah.

“No pressure,” I whisper, while clicking on the wink! Icon. There. It’s done. Whew! This is exhausting.

****


Later that evening, I got an email from my winkee. He immediately cops to the fact that he’s not big on winking and thought of emailing, but decided to go safe instead. He seems very positive as there are several “=)” littered throughout the email. He’s also quite a fan of the exclamation point. He sounds refreshing. We engage in the usual get-to-know-you emails about where we’re from, what we do, where we live.

In the third email exchange, I mention meeting for a drink. He suggests the weekend and we decide on Saturday evening at 5pm. He has plans afterwards and I tell him that I do too - a lie - unless the consideration of stopping by my friend’s restaurant afterwards constitutes plans. Whatever. I like that this guy is on the same page as myself. I’m not really interested in emailing back and forth - chemistry is too important. Let’s get to the meeting and then see what’s what.

I decide to put a few more eggs in my basket. There’s one thing I learned recently about dating. In the early stages of dating, it is essential to have more than one guy happening at one time. It takes the pressure off. “A pair and a spare!” my friend Daphne reminds me constantly, quoting the line from her favorite dating book. For me especially, this is a good motto. In the past, I’m was what you might call a one-man woman. This is not a bad virtue to possess, however, it left me feeling powerless and a little obsessed, always waiting to see what he was going to do. Having a pair and a spare always gives you options as long as everyone involved knows the rules.

I spend some time looking for my spares. Feeling confident, I cast my net out a little further than usual choosing guys that are not necessarily my “type” with their looks, but more for their profiles. Emailing this time, I settle on three guys - all totally different from the next. This match thing isn’t so bad. Hell, after 48 hours of membership, I’ve already got a date! Until Saturday……

Monday, August 13, 2012

MATCHup



For those of you new to the blog, here's an oldie but goodie...............



Online dating is really not my thing. I tried it once, several years ago and spent a better part of the evening watching my date - who showed up wearing clothes that looked as if he’d slept in them for days – shovel food into his mouth at the speed of light. I’ve never had a problem meeting men which sometimes prompts people to sign up for online dating. I witnessed a good friend go on date after date when she joined Match a few years back, each date getting worse than the next – nobody looked like their picture, the men seemed desperate, the whole process was totally unnatural.

My stance has always been – “It’s just not for me.” Until today. Yup, I did it. I joined the millions of people surfing the net for their next true love. Only I’m not looking for love necessarily – that would be a bonus.

I’m looking for an education.

I don’t know how to date. Nobody taught me. My mother wasn’t a big dater. My best friend married her high school sweetheart. As role models go, I had few. There was Luke and Laura from General Hospital. Bobby and Pamela from Dallas and of course Gary and Val from Knots Landing. None of them dated – they just fell in love and spent a lot of time breaking up and getting back together.

I followed their lead and had several intensely dramatic relationships with men whom I probably spent more time getting over than actually going out with.

I shy away from dating because I don’t totally trust my instinct. Everyone tells me to be “open-minded”. But there’s a fine line between open-mindedness and talking myself into something that isn’t right for me. There’s also a fine line between being staying single just ‘cuz it’s comfortable versus taking a risk and pushing myself beyond my limits.

So, today, I am hunkered down on my couch and doing it. I have to say that I’m amazed at what goes into the process. First, there’s the username. It’s obviously best not to use your real name, but choosing one is so loaded. Should I be clever? Should I be funny? Should I be straight? Cryptic? All these questions flood my mind as I try to come up with my handle. My go to is always “gari”, but that’s taken. Strike one, Match. I choose “bkgari” because I live in Brooklyn and I can’t really think of anything else. Good times!! This one isn’t taken. I’m on my way.

Next up is creating a profile. This is the place where potential suitors can read about my hobbies, likes and dislikes, favorite places and anything else I want them to know. I hate this part. I really hate this part. In conversation, I’ve got no problem talking about myself, in fact, I’m sure I go on a bit at times. But this; this is sooooo contrived. This is the first of many moments where I contemplate aborting my mission. “You are doing this to learn.” I assure myself and coax myself gently through the 5+ page questionnaire.

Joining is the easy part, though it costs to join. Who knew? I feel so cliché, resistant and a somewhere between optimism and horror. But, I’m determined. I’ve committed to three months for $75, a small price to pay to cultivate instinctual trust.

The profile part is hard because I’m not one to nutshell myself. When asked about my favorite things, I snort aloud, “At this moment? Ask me again in five minutes. I’m sure it will be different.” I want to be authentic. I like museums, but not all, so I choose “some museums”. Favorite places? Hmm….right now, it’s definitely not here, on my couch filling out this profile.
The final part is filling out a blurb about me. In 4,000 words or less (200 word minimum), I have to tell people who I think I am. Thankfully, I’m pretty clear on who I am, however, putting it down on paper, so-to-speak, is another story. Apparently, others have the same problem. There are examples provided with little coaching-esque explanations in the margins.



Or..........................for $39.99, you can have someone help you write your profile.


http://www.match.com/PCS/PCSMarketingRegPage.aspx

Wow. This just keeps getting better.

I keep it simple with a short paragraph about being a kind person looking for a kind person, blah, blah, blah. Half-assed, I know. But, I’m losing interest already. I move onto uploading my profile picture promising myself that I will go back and edit my profile at a later date.

The profile picture is frustrating because I’m not technically savvy. I know what I need to know to get by, but insert media into the process – I’m at a loss. My mind flashes to someone I can call to ask for help, but I’m not ready to tell anyone that I’ve joined just yet.

An hour later, my picture is uploaded and awaiting approval. There’s a whole list of guidelines that must be followed – no nudity and such. I’m happy with my photo, though it bugs me that I had to cut my good friends out of it. Approval takes up to 24 hours, so I guess I’ll just wait and see. Besides, I think I’ve had enough match.com for one evening.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's time to refill the tank and get ready for some exciting new changes....See you VERY SOON!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The FINAL CHAPTER

Check out the final installment of Crossing Over at Bored and Thirsty and STAY tuned for what's to come....................

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Crossing Over - TWO for ONE!




With just ONE more installment of "Crossing Over" to go, here's a DOUBLE DOSE just for you!!!

Brought to you by Bored and Thirsty, of course.

Crossing Over Part ONE

Crossing Over Part TWO

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crossing Over RECAP!

With just two more installments to go, catch up here on the first half of Crossing Over at Bored and Thirsty.

Looking for the second half??

Scroll down and enjoy!



Dinner Service...........


In an effort to round out my training, I spent the second week working nights. Dinner service was a completely different animal – emphasis on animal. Lunch could be somewhat intense, with everyone trying to get in and out in under an hour, but the stress level never got above slightly uncomfortable.
Dinner usually started around 5:30 with a healthy bar crowd congregating in the front of the restaurant. The bar area was large, but the layout was terrible. The bar itself, sat in the middle of the room and wasn’t nearly as big as it should’ve been. With bad acoustics from the marble floors and a front door that spilled directly into the main bar area, it was one, loud, cluster-fuck.

I was scheduled to follow Kevin that first night; He was the Assistant General Manager and where Vivian’s approach veered towards high-strung, Kevin was relaxed and easy to work with.
“How are you liking it, so far?” he asked as we made our way from the back dining area to check on the bar.

“It’s great,” I said, struggling to find something else to say. “I’m learning a lot.”
“It’s a lot in the beginning,” he said, turning to me as we stood watching the bustling bar. “Just take it all in. The rest will come naturally.”

At that moment, the only thing I could take in was how handsome Kevin was. He had dark brown hair, neatly cut close to his head and blue eyes that reminded me of tranquil beaches in Mexico. Thankfully, his energy was such that the more I got to know him, the more of a sister-brother vibe I felt. This was a gift as I’d made plenty of mistakes mixing business with pleasure. I’d adopted a “Don’t shit where you eat,” motto several years back and Kevin’s unassuming energy made it easy to stick to it.

He wasn’t very tall – maybe about 5’8” − but he had a tall demeanor. We were awaiting the arrival of a new GM and until then, Kevin was in charge and he did it with such a natural confidence I wondered why he wasn’t GM.

“I’m not ready,” he said when I’d asked him earlier that night.

It seemed like he was repeating what he’d been told, not what he’d thought. “So,” he said, walking through the dining room. “Dinner service is a beast and I’d like to see you get as involved as possible. Don’t be afraid to jump in and take charge.”

I nodded with enthusiasm, hoping to cover my fear. How could I jump in? That was like telling a kid who just learned to walk on Wednesday that she’d be running a marathon on Friday.
“Tonight, let’s focus on the wire. I’m going to let you call out the tables, so you can get more comfortable talking on it.”

The wire. Ugh. I hated that thing for a million reasons. It was super intimidating to be heard by all. And when I say all, I mean two maitre D’s in the front and every manager in the house – whether they were on the floor or in the office. What’s more, I noticed that after 3pm, when Vivian would come off the floor and go into the office, she’d unplug her ear piece and the radio would be on speaker for everyone to hear.

“Table 28 – up, not set,” I practically whispered into the microphone, picturing everyone in the office gathered ‘round the radio, laughing at my timidity.

“Ha,” Kevin chuckled. “You’re going to have to be a bit more assertive than that. You look like a CIA agent, lurking in the corner and hiding the fact that you’re wired up.”

He stood firm, like he was readying himself in the outfield for a fly ball and reached for the microphone clipped to the lapel of his suit jacket. “Table 28 – UP, not set,” he spoke slowly and articulately for effect.

The other thing I hated about the wire was how it interfered with my newly acquired wardrobe. Keeping the tags on everything turned out to be a blessing because half the stuff I bought wouldn’t accommodate the walkie-talkie part of the radio, as it always had to be clipped to something.
“I keep an elastic belt in the office,” Vivian explained, showing me how she’d wrap it around her body underneath a dress that had no waistband. “See? I just clip the radio to that and I’m good to go.”
Good to go? That couldn’t be comfortable! I was going to have to re-think my wardrobe.
“Did you just hear that? They need us to pop up table 83 for seven.”

Once again, I nodded and pretended to know what he was talking about. The truth was, all I heard was muffled talking, static and “83.” Paying attention to the radio was like trying to listen to two conversations at one time. Not so easy when my own nerves were making a ton of noise and competing for attention in my head.


The Toby Show....................




“Heeeeeeey, pretty girl! I hear you’re with me tonight!” For training night #2, I was to follow Toby around.

Toby Treadwell was a one-of-a-kind.

Well built, tall and blessed with thick and wavy blonde hair, Toby looked like a Ken doll. He was always impeccably dressed in designer suits and expensive shoes on which he glided more than he walked. “My mama named us ‘up and wanted the trash to end with her,” he’d told me when I’d worked there as a bartender. “She gave us all fancy first and middle names so that we could go out into the world and stand a chance with the affluent.”

I was tempted to ask about his last name, but as upbeat and positive as he was, I sensed that Toby’s exterior was a perfectly orchestrated mask to hide a life of imperfection decidedly left behind. Plus, he was so good at acting “up,” using words like, “Dah-ling” and “Fabulous,” it was easy to get caught up in the façade.

Add the mastery with which he handled the guests at Le Volte and Toby was his own show – floating around the room, greeting people with blown kisses and surprisingly genuine gushes of “OH.MY.GOD! Look at how gooooood you look!”

In many ways, Toby was the face of Le Volte, as he had the most dramatic presence on the floor. Kevin certainly had a presence, but it was more serene and controlled. Toby was like light bursting into the room everywhere he went.

Following him for several hours was quite a challenge. He moved fast and my feet were achy from night before, making it difficult to turn and pivot behind him each time he saw someone he knew.
“I like to do figure eights,” he said, moving quickly from the bar to the back of the dining room. “If you just stick to your figure eights, you’ll always be tuned into what’s going on. Hiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” He stopped abruptly at a table for four. “You look FAB-u-LOUS! What are you wearing? Is that Versace?” He held his hand up as if to stop traffic. “Don’t tell me. I can’t handle it.”

The middle-aged-Versace-wearing-woman was thrilled at Toby’s over-the-top attention. She gushed and smiled, showing off a wrinkle-free forehead which could’ve qualified her to be a Botox spokesperson.

They chatted for a few minutes and I stood there, looking pleasantly interested while trying not to be in the way.

“Toby. Come back.” the wire squeaked in my ear. “We need 54 popped up for 8 people. Do you copy?”

Toby talked away, waving his hands, smiling from ear to ear, flashing his gi-normous dimples as I stood there waiting for him to respond to the call to set up Table 54.
“TOBY! DO you copy?”

I wondered why he was ignoring his wire until realizing he’d popped it out of his ear when he turned to Versace Lady’s party to say something.

I didn’t know what to do. The dining room was filling up fast and I knew that Table 54 needed to be set. But, what did I know about telling people what to do? I didn’t even know any of the Busboys’ names, so how could I get them to jump into action?

As I stood there, I pictured Kevin, sitting in the office, listening in, waiting for me to do something.
This was it – my big moment. I had to step up and be the Manager that I was hired to be.
I grabbed the wire with both hands and spoke into it, squeezing my eyes shut with angst. “Copy. Table 54 for 8.”

“Is it ready? Or are you setting it up?”

Oh boy. I thought I was done with this wire thing for the moment. “Uh, I’m setting it up,” I said, much more quietly that time.

“I can’t hear you,” the Maitre’D squawked back. She was losing patience. “Guys, does anyone copy?”

“Copy. Copy,” a voice came over the wire – Kevin’s. “I got it.”

And there he was, walking across the floor directing busboys to get the table ready to go. I felt like an idiot, standing there, frozen or should I say trapped, as Toby chatted away with Versace Lady.
Kevin was headed our way and I was sure he’d light into me for being such a timid, little idiot.
“Toby!” he called out from a safe distance.

Toby’s eyes moved towards Kevin while the rest of him stayed put as Kevin signaled for him to wrap it up. And just like that, Toby was back at my side, oblivious to all that just went down.
“I love her!” he cooed. “Let’s get back to our figure eights.”

The rest of my time with Toby was much of the same. Figure eights followed by dramatic greetings and long conversations, with me always feeling like a third wheel. I hated standing around, especially when I was there to learn something. Toby was a sweetheart, but I resented having to be his audience for four, long hours.

By the last hour with him, my feet were killing me and I could barely concentrate on anything except how miserable I felt. The restaurant was in full-force, making it challenging to maneuver around the droves of people packed into the dining room. My sore feet didn’t help matters as my balance was off and I almost fell into a guest’s chicken parm while trying to help get the table next to him set up for ten.

I was starting to panic and couldn’t get outside fast enough.


No Mas......................


“Are you okay?”
I was operating in survival mode and couldn’t hear a thing over the shrieks of “OW!” slamming around in my head. Servers were coming up to me and asking questions. I could see their lips moving, but I couldn’t hear a word they were saying. The pain in my feet was so excruciating that I didn’t even notice Kevin standing in front of me.

“Liz? Everything alright?” he repeated, concerned.

I nodded my headed and forced a tight smile and followed him downstairs into the area reserved for private events. Limping behind him, I felt the tears welling up. I really wasn’t sure I could handle this. I was sore, tired, overwhelmed and really, freakin’ hungry!

“Let’s chat,” he said, sitting down and gesturing that I do the same.

I suppressed a moan of relief as I finally got off my throbbing feet. I hoped in doing so, I would regain my quickly deteriorating composure.

No such luck.

“So, I thought I’d check in and see how tonight went for you. Any questions? Concerns?”
I opened my mouth and out came a rather embarrassing, almost primal groan. And then, the tears.
“Oh no! What’s the matter?”

I couldn’t stop crying. I knew I had to, but all the angst and pressure from the last week and a half was draining itself through my tear ducts.

“I….I….don’t…..” I stammered. “…..know (gulp)….if…I..can..do…this.”

Kevin’s concern only made me cry harder. Why’d he have to be so nice? I needed someone to smack my face – hard – and tell me to snap out of it.

But Kevin understood. And for the next hour, he shared with me his journey from hard-partying server to running one of the busiest restaurants in Manhattan.

“Before I was a manager, I didn’t wear suits,” he said with a laugh. “My first month, I thought I would suffocate with this tie choking me.”

Still unable to speak, I just sat there, nodding and blinking.

“It’s going to take some time to adjust, Liz. Go easy on yourself. The shoe thing – well, that’s not going to change; so I suggest you get yourself some comfortable shoes.”

“Okay,” I finally answered.

Kevin leaned forward and put his hand on my knee. “You’ll see. Maybe management isn’t for you after all. But ya gotta give it some time, okay?”

The very mention of giving up sent a pulse through my body causing me to shoot upward into ramrod position.

“I’m not giving up,” I thought. “Not me. I’m no quitter.”


A Napkin Emergency..................


After my conversation with Kevin, I was determined to make management work. I found two pairs of shoes that were relatively comfortable despite their less than exciting aesthetic. And after almost two months, I was beginning to see looking cute and hip wasn’t a priority.

Flowing blouses were out because they got caught on everything and long necklaces found their way into monkey dishes of marinara sauce. It was hard to look at myself in the mirror and not feel like an old fart. Lunch service was less….sexy, which meant my dress had to be more conservative. And conservative wasn’t really my thing, so walking around in functional clothes was downright depressing.

Lucky for me, I had little time to think about all that. Life at Le Volte moved fast and I was pleased my 11-hour days didn’t drag.

“Liz, can you do pre-shift today?” Vivian asked, eyes transfixed on the computer screen in front of her. “I’ve got a TON of stuff to do.”

Vivian got on my nerves fast. As soon the as the “T” next to my name on the Manager’s schedule was removed, she pretty much checked out. Every day it was the same thing. There were about two hours to prepare floor charts, sign-in sheets and service notes for the staff and I did them all while Vivian would roll in twenty minutes late, huffing and puffing about something and how much “work” she had to do.

In the beginning, I was all too willing to accommodate. She was a senior staff member and as the newbie, it was my duty to eagerly take on anything that was asked of me. The problem was, Vivian’s TON of work consisted of surfing Facebook and ordering cheesy dresses from websites like bebe or Venus.com. Everything was drama with her and I decided it was easier to take her out of the mix than suffer the bitching and complaining that came so naturally to her.

“Hey Liz,” Chef Billy peeked his head into the office. “We’re missing a runner.”

Chef Billy ran the kitchen during the day and I could always count on him to keep me apprised of any wrongdoings of the staff. He wasn’t a jerk; he was just very by the book and I appreciated that. What I didn’t appreciate was the fact that he always came to me with the problems.

“Who’s it supposed to be?” Vivan asked, as she checked out seven different angles of a pair of patent leather pumps. “Liz. Find out who it is and call him to see where he is.”

“Ya gotta tell these guys to be on time,” Chef added before ducking back out of the office.
Wow. Those two could start their own Captain Obvious club. Sure, I’d only been there two months, but when you’re working 55 hours a week, you catch on quick.

“LEEZ,” Felipe, one of the busboys said, as he poked his head into the office. “We’re out of napkins.”

And so it went. Management – the ultimate experience in firefighting without the flames.
“Do we have enough for service?” I asked, picking up the phone ready to dial the missing runner’s number.

“Nah.”

“Why are you just telling us NOW?” Vivian snapped. “We’re opening in 15 minutes, Felipe! Liz. You have to stay on top of these guys.”

Vivian was lucky Jorge picked up his phone or else I was going to lose it all over her. I had to stay on top of it? Ha! ‘Cuz she’s so busy shopping!

“Jorge, it’s Liz from Le Volte. Where are you?”

“Oh. Leez,” he said, the sleep still in his voice. “I over sleep. I sorry.”

Terrific. I knew how this was going to go. Most of the bussers and runners lived far out in Queens or up in the Bronx, so the chances of him coming in quickly were slim.

“How long until you can get here?”

“Uh….”

I swear he stifled a yawn.

“One hour.”

I rolled my eyes and snapped, “Get here as soon as you can.”

“You should write him up,” Vivian said, gathering her stuff and heading to the bathroom. “I’m going to get ready. Let me know if you need anything.”

And just like that, she went off to do her hair and make up and left me to figure out how I was going to get my hands on 100 extra napkins within twenty minutes.

Feeling Brand New.......................



The challenge of being a new Manager was less about how to make my mark and more about fitting in. I’d worked in many places where new managers came in all gung ho, ready to reinvent the wheel. Le Volte was a well-oiled machine, so there wasn’t much to change. For me, it was about gaining respect from my fellow managers as well as the staff.

Every one of the managers had been there since the place opened and their decisions came instinctively. Me, I had to learn the ropes by asking questions and making mistakes.
Lots of them.

The first was on a Sunday, when I was managing brunch by myself. Brunch was a pretty easy shift and not all that busy and I rather enjoyed running the show alone on those days. It was so chill that I didn’t even wear a wire which made everything so much better.

We hadn’t seen a table come in for at least an hour, and having worked slow summertime brunches, I felt for the staff. I wanted to be fair, and I wanted to be liked. I’d had too many managers that didn’t give a crap about the fact that people were standing around not making any money.

“I’m going to cut the openers,” I told everyone.

They were thrilled, of course which made me feel like a hero.

“Just make sure you fold napkins before you go.”

Cutting staff was a tricky business as you never wanted to do it too soon. During the week, I’d learned that we never cut before 2pm, unless lunch was completely dead. At brunch, the rhythm was different and I’d always struggled with whether I was keeping people around for too long. The truth was, I was still a bartender at heart and I’d worried way too much about the comfort of the staff and what they thought of me.

As I sat at Table 50 eating my lunch, we started to get some action. At first, it was a few tables of two which gave the remaining three servers something to do while they waited for the shift to end. And then, just like that, I watched the busboys start to scramble, setting up two tables for eight, a party of thirteen and a table of ten.

I dropped my fork and sprang to action. We were getting hit hard. I rushed to the host stand to see what was going on and I could barely see the Maitre’D amongst the crowd of people.
“Holy crap, Laura. Did a bus just let off?”

Laura – young and beautiful with dark hair and skin like a china doll, was about to lose her normally calm disposition.

“I don’t know, Liz. They all just came at once. I don’t know what to do.”

Neither did I. Lunch had gotten busy since I started, but I’d always had help. Vivian, for all of her shopping and “work to do” loved to come upstairs and save the day. That day, it was me, myself and I.

“Okay, well, let’s just get ‘em sat,” I said. “Do you have a wire up here? Good. I’m going to run downstairs and put mine on. I’m here for you Laura. Don’t worry.”

As I ran downstairs, I laughed at my false bravado. I should never have cut people so early. The remaining servers were going to get slammed and the kitchen – forget it. They were going down. I could help out, but how? I wasn’t comfortable as a server! I’d only get in the way. And the night managers would be coming in two hours. I couldn’t let them see me so out of control.

Working in a restaurant, I suppose, is a little bit like going to war. There’s no time for thinking. You just hunker down and do what needs to be done. And for the next hour, I ran food from the kitchen, bussed tables, took drink orders; I even made some drinks for the poor bartender, who probably got hit the hardest.

The kitchen was overwhelmed and the chef kept calling me on the wire to tell me how much the servers were screwing up.

“Ya gotta tell these guys, Liz, to get their shit together.”

“I get that, Chef. But with all due respect, NOW is not the time to discuss this.”

I had no time to polite or diplomatic. I didn’t need the Chef adding to my stress. It was a total shit show and all I could do was help everyone get through it.


Too Many Cooks................




“I heard you got spanked on Sunday,” Kevin said, his blue eyes dancing with pleasure.

“I sure did,” I sighed, doing my best not to show how mortified I was about the infamous Brunch Disaster.

“It happens to all of us,” he said, lightly punching my arm. “It’s actually a good thing.”

Ha! A good thing was Joseph, the General Manager from our sister restaurant a few blocks away and his decision to stop in for a quick fix of French Toast before going to work. When I saw him, I didn’t know whether I should duck into the bathroom and hide − I so wanted to do that – or to just stand there and start crying. (I wanted to do that too.)

“Tell the girls up front to go on a wait,” he’d said, surveying the room. “If you make anyone else coming in wait for like 15 minutes, it will space out the traffic.”

It hadn’t even occurred to me to stop seating people. Oh, how green I’d felt!

Joseph was tall and a little on the husky side. He wasn’t that old, but his energy was more fatherly-like and on that day, I needed that.

“Don’t sweat it,” he’d said in thick Long Island accent. “You’ll know for next time not to cut everyone so soon.”

Next time, I’d thought, NO ONE is getting cut. I didn’t care if they all hated me. I never wanted to go through that again.

Kevin’s comment stung. Though intellectually, I knew he was just kidding. I just hated being in the position where people might deem me incompetent. But, I had to shake it off because in the restaurant world, there was no time to dwell.

I so wanted to fit in with my fellow managers. Everyone was nice enough to me, but besides, Vivian, I was the only other female and as much as I hated to admit it, there was a bit of a boy’s club thing going on. Lunch, in their eyes was a write-off. Dinner was where it all happened.

One guy, Damian, loved to correct me at every turn. I didn’t like him when I was a bartender and I certainly didn’t like him as a co-worker. He was young and way too cool for himself.

As a rule, I always say hello to people. It’s just the polite thing to do.

With Damian, he’d look at me – or shall I say, look me up and down and never say a word. It was infuriating and uncomfortable. He was also so much younger than me – like 15 years. That made it even harder to respect him and his legend-in-his-own-mind attitude.

“Liz. Can you send an email to management – kitchen and restaurant – letting them know that someone’s coming to do the floors tomorrow morning?”

I loved when Kevin asked me to do stuff. It made me feel useful and I liked that he was starting to count on me.

What I didn’t like was sending emails.

Emails were probably one of the more stressful parts of my job. The distribution lists were endless with the owners and investors included on some. I never knew just who was reading my emails plus, I worried constantly about tone. Should I be straight-forward? Cute? Sarcastic? Funny? Looking at everyone else’s emails always made me realize just how unsure of myself I really was. Their emails flowed; with mine, I was lucky if they got to the right people.

The email for Kevin was straight forward and despite my stress about whether it was too long or short, I sent it off without a hitch.

Or so I thought.

Uh, hey, this is the Exec Chef in Miami. Our floors were done last week. Wrong distribution list!
UGH!! I couldn’t believe it. I had sent the email to all the chefs in our restaurant in Miami! How embarrassing. What’s more, he replied to ALL on the email, so now everyone knew. And sure enough, I got about ten emails letting me know I’d sent the email to the wrong people. I wanted to die. First brunch on Sunday, and now this.

I resent it with a quick apology and a few emoticons to express my mortification.

Damian, of course, didn’t miss the opportunity to send me a separate email outlining who to send mass emails to and who not to. I tried to be mature about it, replying with a “Thanks!” But deep down, I was pissed.

I really hated being the new kid on the block.


Thursdays With Toby..........................


“Hey Sugar Plum!”

It was Thursday which meant one thing – working lunch with Toby!

“I’m sooo glad you’re here,” I said hugging him. “You make everything better.”

Toby stepped back from the hug, still holding my hands. “You make everything LOOK better,” he said, twirling me around. “That outfit is hot!

Toby was the master at making a person feel like they were ten feet tall and lately, I wasn’t feeling very tall. Frumpy and isolated maybe, but definitely not tall. I was grateful for the compliment because the silky, animal print shirt I wore felt so not “hot” mixed with my basic, black pants and comfortable wedge sandals.

I never thought being a manager would be so lonely. I didn’t know where I fit in. The staff and I chatted, but it’s not like I could have a deep conversation with them one moment and then write them up for being late the next.

Vivan wasn’t much of a conversationalist either. She had two channels – herself and complaining. I was losing my taste for both and as time wore on, I did my best to avoid her whenever possible. Lunch wasn’t always that busy, so most of my days were spent waiting until 3pm when the night guys came in and I’d have someone to talk to.

Except for Thursdays. Thursdays with Toby were electric, whether we had a full house or not.
“Let’s find you a husband today,” Toby purred into the wire as he did his usual “figure eight’s” around the dining room. “OH! I see one! Liz, Liz. What’s your twenty?”

“I’m in the back getting a bottle of wine,” I said, suddenly self-conscious; like the whole dining room knew he was scoping men out for me.

“Table 48, position 3 – blue shirt. He’s going to be your man.”

“Dark hair?” Linda, the maitre’D joined in over the wire. “Yeah, he’s a hottie.”

And that’s how it went. Toby would comb the room for potential suitors and I would play along, secretly knowing that with this job, there wouldn’t be much of a social life for quite some time.
Sure, I had my nights off, but by the time I got out of work, it was 8pm and I was still adjusting to getting up at seven in the morning. The few times I had gone out my eye stayed on the clock the whole time, vowing to be in bed by 11pm.

Plus, I didn’t have much to talk about except Le Volte.

“You can say good-bye to those friends,” a server told me early on, when I’d mentioned I was going out with a few people after work. “Le Volte will take that shit from you. Trust me.”

At the time, I laughed it off and told myself, as a manager, I knew better than he and that wouldn’t happen to me. Now that I was several months into management, I saw how maybe that server was right. I had nothing else to talk about except work. UGH! I’d become one of those people. Long, detailed stories of how Hasan the busboy showed up to work an hour late with a swollen cheek so large, it looked like he’d balled up a pair of socks and put them in his mouth. I’d had a hard time understanding his heavy Bengali accent to begin with, but his apparent toothache made him sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

My friends were good sports; laughing in the appropriate places and asking questions here and there. But I knew it had to be taxing – all that listening to things that had nothing to do with them. I contemplated getting closer with my colleagues, but that’s the thing about restaurant management. Everyone works so hard; there’s barely any time left over for play.

Plus, I wasn’t really a part of the crew. Sure, everyone was nice to me, but I left at 8pm. If these guys were going out, it was after hours; four hours before I had to get up.

“Liz! Liz!” my earpiece buzzed. “You HAVE to come to the bar. Forget blue shirt guy. I have FOUND-YOUR-MAN.”

Thankfully I had Thursdays with Toby!


Donde est Jorge?..........................



It was 12:15, lunch was in full swing and we were missing a food runner.

“Did you ask the other runners?” I asked Vivian, who was still in the office, cultivating her latest habit of staying off the floor for most of lunch service with her usual proclamation of having “loads to do.”

“Yep. Miguel said they were all here. But, I’ve only counted three, so far. Did everyone sign in?”
It was turning out to be a busy lunch and I didn’t have time to wait on the phone while Vivian checked the sign-in sheet. “Wire me, when you know,” I said, not waiting for an answer.

“Liz, Liz. Can you come up front? We’re getting busy up here.” Hearing Linda’s plea for help over the wire snapped me back to the day I got spanked at brunch. There was no way I was going down like that again.

“Let’s go on a 10-15 minute wait,” I told her as I squeezed through would-be diners anxiously awaiting a table.

“Okay, but these people are not happy,” Linda said quietly as I slid in next to her at the host stand. Before I could get to the angry people up front, Maddy, one of the servers approached.

“Uh, Liz. Table 46 waited a really long time for their meal and now they want to speak to a manager.”

Terrific.

I turned to the now, angrier people with my maybe-you-won’t-hate-me-if-I-say-this-with a-smile and said, ”Just give me one more second, okay?”

“Liz, Liz, come back.”

Vivian.

“Go for Liz.”

“It looks like Jorge is the runner for today. He didn’t sign in and I checked with Chef and he isn’t here.”

Shit!

“Okay,” I say, nearing Table 46.

“You need to call him, Liz and find out where he is.”

I barely reached the table and the host – a handsome, elderly man – a la Charlie Rose – waved me down like one of those guys on the airport runway.

“Miss! Miss!” he yelled, despite my being less than a few feet from him. “Can you get me the manager? I need to speak to the manager!”

“We can’t go with just three runners, Liz. Try calling in the on-call person. See who can get here the fastest.”

Vivian was going on and on in my ear as the Charlie Rose look-a-like kept asking me to get a manager. Why did I have to deal with Jorge the runner? Last time I checked, Vivan was a manager too.

“Liz! Liz! Are you there?” It was too much for me. Vivian would have to wait. I pulled the wire out of my ear and approached the table.

“Hi folks,” I said cheerily. “What can I do for you?”

“I want a manager!”

“I am a manager, sir,” still with the cheery voice.

“Oh,” he sniffed. “I thought you were a hostess.” Score another one for the Boys’ Club! I wanted to tear that guy up and unleash a ton of equal rights on his ass, but instead, I listened to him rant and rave about how long it took for them to get their meals.

Ten years of bartending had prepared me for moments like that. After listening to a million stories I had absolutely no interest in, I’d gotten very good at making a person think I was listening, by honing in on a few key topics and nodding my head at the appropriate times. “Salads….ohhhh, right…okay. Mmmm hmmm, yes. Garlic bread.”

The truth was they weren’t even waiting very long, but it didn’t matter. That guy wanted blood and I wasn’t in the mood to talk him out of it.

“I do apologize for the inconvenience today, folks. Really, this is not a usual occurrence here and I hope that you’ll give us another try,” I said, like an actress settling into a long, monologue.
And then I went in for the kill. “Lunch is on us, today.” Pause, for effect. “Again, I’m so sorry.”
What happened next made the long hours, the constant pull of fires needing to be put out and my aching feet completely worth it. I had exercised my executive power as a manager and the rush was incredible! I wondered if this was how the President of the United States felt when he made his first big decision. Okay, it was only a restaurant, but watching that guy go from puffed up asshole to flat and listless in a matter of moments, was pretty satisfying.

All he could muster was a small, “Thank you.”

But, I didn’t care. I’d just snatched the control right back from him and I loved it.

Back on the wire, Vivian had an earful for me.

“Jorge just walked in. I told him to go and talk to you. You’re going to have to send him home, Liz.”


Firing Squad..............................



We’re going to have to let him go. I’ll be there in ten minutes. Let him finish out the shift and we’ll talk to him after.

Once lunch settled down, I’d emailed Kevin to let him know about Jorge’s showing up almost two hours late. Per Vivian’s word, I was prepared to send him home, but I’d done that once before with a new busboy that was late three times during his training. I’d taken it upon myself to send him home as I’d seen the other managers do in cases like that.

“It’s probably not a great idea to send people home without checking with me first,” Kevin said later that day. “Especially since you’re still learning the ropes.”

It was the first of many mixed messages I got from the entire management staff. I wanted to do it right but it was getting pretty frustrating when one person said one thing and another said something entirely different. I was beginning to second-guess myself in everything I did.

I wasn’t taking any chances with Jorge and once I knew he had to be fired, I was glad to have Kevin in on it with me.

We sat him down in the same room where I’d cried to Kevin about my reservations of being a manager.

Jorge, a short and stout guy in his twenties, looked nervous.

“Jorge,” he began. “Your lateness today has become a usual thing and it’s clear that we can no longer count on you to show up for your shift when you’re supposed to.”

Jorge just sat there, licking his lips and nodding his head.

“I hate to do this to you, buddy, but I gotta let you go,” Kevin continued with a stern kindness that tugged at my heart. “I have to think of the rest of the staff and ya know, if I let you come in whenever you want with no repercussions, why should they bust their butts to get here on time?”

I sat very still, nodding earnestly, ready to make eye contact with Jorge if he looked my way. Instead, he just looked down at the floor, his eyes welling up with tears.

I felt terrible. I wanted to reach out and touch his arm and say, “You’ll be okay, Jorge! I’ll help you find another job. I will!” I wanted him to say something that would make Kevin change his mind. I wanted to stop the noise in my head reminding me this guy was now out of a job.

After he was fired, Kevin and I escorted Jorge out of the building. When I stood up, I couldn’t believe how much my legs were shaking. I didn’t have the stomach to be the person who impacts another person’s livelihood.

“Keep it short and simple, Liz,” Kevin said once we bid Jorge adieu. “The first time you do it is the hardest. Trust me, it gets easier.”

I didn’t want it to get easier! I wanted Jorge to have his job back and be on time every single shift.
Being a manager sucked and despite my feelings of grandeur earlier that day when I bought table 46 their lunch, I realized it was stuff like firing people, and constantly staying on the staff to pay attention or do their side-work, that made up the majority of my days.

I missed my old life where if there was no toilet paper in the staff bathroom, I’d tell someone and it would get replaced. Now, I was the one people told and I was the one who had to make sure things got done. Maybe I was just tired – the long hours starting to catch up with me, but I realized I was beginning to despise my job and all the fires that had to be put out.

Maybe management wasn’t for me, after all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Thursday and I hope you're THIRSTY!

Toby's back and more concerned with my future husband than lunch service in this week's "Crossing Over" at Bored and Thirsty!



Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

Check out this week's installment of Crossing Over at boredandthirstynyc.com


Special thanks to those who made it out to our launch party tonight!  Woo hoo!  What a great time.




Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!




This week, read about my aching feet and my colorful co-worker...... "Crossing Over" continues at boredandthirstynyc.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

The training continues.......check out this week's "Crossing Over" at boredandthirstynyc.com
If you missed the RECAP last week, scroll down to catch up!


Friday, April 13, 2012

Crossing Over RECAP!

Now's your chance to read Crossing Over - my new weekly column at boredandthirstynyc.com - in its ENTIRETY!



Be sure to catch up 'cuz next Thursday, the story continues............

Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapter 22 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional



photo courtesy of www.picnicsinc.com

Being a clown sucked.  First off, there was no big head in which to hide.  I was out there for all to see, talking in a high-pitched, nasally voice doing my best to sound like a clown.  What the hell does a clown sound like anyway?  I should’ve done my homework and studied clown-speak, and clown-walk because in the first two minutes, it became very clear that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Nobody else noticed, of course.  Part of me wanted them to.  I wished Mom would put a stop to the madness and call me out.  “You’re a FRAUD!”  I wanted her to scream; snatching the balloons from me and sending me on my way.  But she didn’t.  All she did was clap her hands together with delight each time I let out a long, mouth-breathing laugh that sounded like a cross between the witch from The Wizard of Oz who gets crushed by a house and a buck-toothed, donkey riding down a hill on a bicycle with no brakes. 

It was exhausting – running around, trying to engage a bunch of four to seven year-olds who mostly wanted kick me and pull at my wig. 

“Ba-woons!  Ba-woons!” the birthday girl whined and I had to catch myself from giving her a dirty look.

According to the clock on the wall, I still had 25 minutes left to go.  Balloon animals were supposed to be the big finish; and at an estimated rate of fifteen minutes, I still had ten more to kill before getting to it.  Ten minutes may seem like nothing in real life, but when you’re dancing around like an idiot in a clown suit, it was an eternity.

“Why don’t we see if Olivia the clown is ready to make some balloon animals?” Mom said in that scary, sweet, persuasive voice only Mom’s knew how to conjure up.

Bitch.   It was my show.  I was in charge and the damn balloons weren’t supposed to come out just yet.  I wished Erin were still there, but handlers only stayed for the costumed character portion of the party.  I hated her too.  In fact, I hated them all; especially the little ones chanting in unison, “Ba-woons!  Ba-woons!” 

I finally knew why clowns were so creepy.  They were haters dressed up as happy, carefree people. 

I had no choice but to get to the balloon animals.  I sat down doing my best impression of jovial and within thirty seconds, the living room was filled with close to fifteen kids.  My hands were sweating and as I blew up the first skinny balloon, I began to panic.

Violet had taught me to make four different variations; a sword, a purse, a parrot and a poodle.  The trouble was, my nerves were messing with my head.  I couldn’t remember anything except how to make a sword.  I couldn’t just make swords for everyone! 

It was a disaster.  I did my best to make other things, but in the end, everything looked like a sword with a pimple.

“That doesn’t look like a poodle,” said one of the youngsters.

I just nodded and smiled muttering in my head something like, “It’s not, kid.  Who the hell cares anyway?  It’s a freakin’ balloon.  Now, go eat some cake.”

I had to get out of there and thankfully, it was finally over.  I was sure Mom would give me a talking to upon my departure.  As I changed into my street clothes, I prepared myself for the worst.  She was going freak out on me ranting about what a crappy clown I was.  Hell, I’d probably get fired too, but that didn’t matter.  For as long as I lived, I was never, EVER going to be a clown again.

“You were FANtastic!” she gushed as I stepped into the kitchen to say good-bye.  “Here’s the balance for the party and a little something for you.  Thank you!  THANK you,” she said, pumping my still-sweaty hand with gratitude.

I just stood there for a moment – dumbfounded and exhausted.  She was thanking me?  I just threw a bunch of balloons together and called them “animals” and she was giving me a tip? 

I mumbled a few niceties and got of there as quickly as I could, before she changed her mind.

Out on the street, I separated the money and saw that she’d given me a $100 tip.  ONE-hundred-DOLLARS!!!  Oh, the irony!  I tucked the money into my purse and dialed Violet.

“Liz! Hiiiiii!!! How’d it go?”

“It was great,” I lied, hoping she wouldn’t ask for any details.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!




Thursday may be almost over, but the fun is just beginning!  Check out this week's "Crossing Over" at boredandthirstynyc.com.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday is the NEW Thursday!





photo courtesy of www.wikipedia.com


There's a lot cookin' at the moment, so this week, Thirsty Thursday comes a day late.

Check out the latest insatallment of Crossing Over and read all about the big, first day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!


photo courtesy of www.current.com


It's time for another installment of "Crossing Over" - my new column at boredandthirstynyc.com.

Be sure to scroll down for this week's HELP WANTED, where I take the freelance life to a whole new level.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 21 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional


photo courtesy of www.clownpictures.org


Erin was an expert handler, walking me through the party, yelling commands like, “Birthday girl on your left,” and “Family dog near your feet,” as I danced around and waved for 45 minutes. Most of the children loved it, reaching out, touching my leg, grabbing my hand and poking at my stomach.


I couldn’t see a thing because Elmos’ eyes came up to my neck and all I kept thinking of was the kid who got stepped on as I peered down my nose, trying to get a look through Elmo’s eyes. It was strange being in that costume – the center of attention and so removed from it all. And Violet was right; It was CRAZY hot! By the time we were finished, I was soaked with sweat and could feel the heat permeating through Elmo’s head.

Erin kept checking to see if I was okay, but the problem was, she couldn’t really hear me. So, when I told her I needed to sit down, she responded with, “Let’s do a little Ring Around the Rosy.”

After the third time, I squeezed her hand really hard and practically screamed, “It’s too hot in here!”

“Everybody wave bye-bye to Elmo,” she sang, leading me quickly back to the kitchen. Erin was no bouncer, but she sure knew how to get me out of there quickly.

Once in the kitchen, I clawed at the clasps holding Elmo’s head on the jumpsuit like a claustrophobic astronaut. I was so hot, I couldn’t see straight and all I wanted was out of that damn head.

“I got it,” Erin soothed as she unhooked the clasps and lifted the head up and over mine.

“Ahhhhhhh,” I sighed.

“Drink this,” she said, handing me a fresh bottle of water.

As my body temperature began to recalibrate itself, I leaned against the kitchen counter and simply said, “Whoa.”

Erin laughed with a tinge of bitterness. “Why do you think I’m a handler? I couldn’t deal with all that shit.”

I nodded my head and wondered if I too, would end up being a handler after this party was over.

“That was GREAT!” the Mom squealed, bursting into the kitchen. “Afton looooooved it!”

“Awesome!” Erin said and though I barely knew her, I was beginning to see just how much she hated her job.

“We’re going to do cake and then we’ll be ready for Olivia the Clown!”

Ugh. I thought and almost said aloud. Why did I agree to be a clown?

Once Mom was gone, Erin leaned in close. “And whatever you do, don’t agree to be a clown again. It’s awful.”

Back in the bathroom, already exhausted from my sweaty Elmo experience, I smeared clown make-up on my face and felt suddenly depressed. What the hell was I doing? I wasn’t an actor! I was a singer and clowns don’t sing. In fact, I hated clowns; they were so……creepy.

But there was no going back. At least, not that day; I had balloon animals to make and little kids to entertain.

Another knock at the door from Erin, as I slid the red, clown wig onto my head.

“Okay,” I yelled, weakly.

Standing in front of the mirror, I was taken aback by how much I looked like a clown. I was creeping myself out! I looked at the clock on my cell phone, sitting on the vanity and whispered to myself, “45 minutes. That’s all. After that girl, you’ll never have to do this again.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!



photo courtesy of peguclub.com

It's Thursday and you know what that means - check out my column, "Crossing Over" at boredandthirstynyc.com!

And.....if you missed it earlier in the week, scroll down to see what happens next at "Help Wanted:  Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chapter 20 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional



Check back on Thursday for more "Crossing Over" from boredandthristynyc.com!



My first job at Focus on Fun was a birthday party on the Upper East Side.  The birthday girl was turning four and I was scheduled to spend 90 minutes entertaining her and all her friends.  It was a “Double the FUN” party which meant the children would get 45 minutes of Elmo and 45 minutes of Olivia the clown, balloon animals and all.   

At Violet’s urging, I’d practiced wearing the big, Elmo head at home prior to the party.  With no blinds in the living room, I’m sure I was quite a site for my neighbors to see –  walking around my apartment wearing as a life-sized
Sesame Street
character costume, waving and dancing for nobody in particular. 

“It gets hot in that costume, so make sure you wear leggings and a tank top – nothing more,” Violet had warned when I’d trudged up the stairs to retrieve the costume from her apartment.  “The head is heavier than you think and you can’t really see out of it.  But don’t worry; there will be a handler to help you.”

Having a handler sounded very glamorous and made me feel very professional as I pictured a bouncer-like guy maneuvering me through droves of admiring children all trying to get a piece of Elmo. 

“And don’t forget to practice your balloon animals,” she’d said, handing me a pack of at least a hundred skinny balloons to be blown up and wrestled into poodles, purses and swords.

As I gathered all of my party gear, I felt like I was going camping at Disney Land.  It was a lot to carry and I wondered how I’d get it all to and from my apartment to the Upper East Side. 

Elmo’s head turned out to be great for storage and on the day of the party, I stuffed everything into his head and then into a very large garbage bag.  As I lugged my gear onto subway from Battery Park City to the party, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

When I arrived, the party was in full swing and at first glance, I figured there to be around 20 kids running around. 

“You can change in here,” the mom said, showing me to a small half-bathroom off the entrance way.  “Your handler is waiting in the kitchen, right this way.”

I followed her into the kitchen and met Erin who looked more like a helper than a handler.  She was barely five feet tall and I’d guess, around ninety pounds, soaking wet.  We said our hello’s as my visions of performance grandeur quickly faded into the distance.

“I’ll walk you around the room,” she said.  “The key is not to step on any of the children.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, I burst out laughing; thinking it was a joke.

But Erin wasn’t kidding.

“It’s no joke,” she said, smoothing her perky, blond ponytail.  “A couple of months ago, Adrian, the Cat-in-the-Hat guy, jumped up and down while he was dancing and stepped right on a two-year old, who happen to be crawling on the floor next to him.”

“Ohhhh….” I said, starting to sweat a little.  “So it’s…..dangerous?”

“Nah.  Not really.  Not with me here.”  She took a swig from her water bottle.  “Go get dressed and I’ll meet you at the door.  Just follow my lead and you’ll be fine.”

The bathroom was tiny and maneuvering around with the big head, clown gear and my own clothes was tricky.  It was also really hot in there.

“You ready?” Erin asked, knocking on the door.

As I zipped up the back of the furry, red jumpsuit and held Elmos’ head in my hand, I looked in the mirror and thought of the $120 I would be making from the party.

“Yep,” I said, putting his head over mine and fastening it to the jumpsuit.  “Ready.”