Spaghetti Pie

It was suggested by Ur-Spo that I post my Spaghetti Pie recipe.  Of course I have to explain why I’ve been making it so read the explanation and the recipe’s at the bottom.

I moved to New York in 1998. I had been living in Cincinnati in the best apartment I’d ever had. It was a one bedroom with almost 1200 square feet of space. It had two fireplaces, a completely modern eat in kitchen, formal dining room, living room, walk in closet, hard wood floors, 13′ ceilings and more windows than you could imagine. The building had been built in the early 1900’s to house the stars who sang at the opera house across the street. The only real drawback to the apartment was that it was in the part of Cincinnati called Over-The-Rhine. This is the part of the city where the riots occurred several years later. It was not the nicest neighborhood but my rent was only 500 bucks a month and it included a parking space.

While I lived there I actually bought real furniture. My first new furniture. I bought a beautiful sofa, a new bed, and an amazing armoire/chest for my clothes. I had planned on beng there a while. Then a couple of events occurred and I decided to leave Cincinnati and move to NYC. I cashed in my retirement, rented a moving truck, hired some movers to load it and I was on my way. Before I left, I returned my grandmother’s dining room furniture to my parents because there was no room for it in NYC. What I didn’t know was that there was no room for my couch (it wouldn’t fit in the front door), and little room for the rest of my furniture. I moved from that apartment a year later to an even smaller space. I got rid of everything but the bed, armoire/chest, and a few other pieces. I moved again a year later to another small apartment And from there to San Diego to a normal size apartment.

While in San Diego I bought furniture again. A dining table, a sofa, a chair. Those things one likes to have in your apartment. And so for the first time since leaving Cincinnati I entertained people in my apartment. I threw parties that became the talk of the department. I cooked food, had flowers, supplied most of the alcohol. And sometimes there would be 40 or 50 people in my two bedroom apartment.

And then I moved back to New York. This time I refused to downsize. I spoke to my new roommate and told him that we would need a bigger apartment if he wanted me to move in. He looked at two apartments before I got here. And then we looked at my current place a couple of days after I arrived. (Without my furniture.) We walked in and said “We’ll take it.” For NYC the place is huge. The living room is large enough to have a living room, dining room and small office space for me. And it’s not cramped. And so we moved in. And have lived here for 18 months. And during that time, my roommate and I have talked about entertaining people but it never occurred. We were busy, we live too far uptown. And then our friends Brett and David came to visit. And we had them up for dinner. And we had such a good time that I swore I’d do it more often.

And now, long story short. And if you know me that never happens. I’ve started entertaining. I had three people over from work three weeks ago. A couple of friends from grad school and Oklahoma over on Monday. And this Monday I’m having 5 other friends over from work. Each time I’ve enjoyed myself more. It’s fun to clean the house. It’s fun preparing the food. It’s fun to have the place look great with the candles lit (around 30 or so of them) and warm and inviting. That’s what everyone says…our place is warm and cozy. It also helps that I’m a lighting designer because even without the candles the lighting is great.

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The one drawback about entertaining is that I don’t cook. I have one recipe that I make over and over again. But it tastes great, everyone loves it and it has never failed me yet. It’s called Spaghetti Pie and it’s cooked in a crock pot. And so now, if you are still reading here’s the recipe for it. I promise, it’s easy to make and it always tastes wonderful. And it makes enough for leftovers.

Spaghetti Pie

8 oz spaghetti (I use around 12)

2 eggs

1/3 cup parmesan cheese (I use almost a cup)

1 pound ground chuck (I use about a pound and a half)

1 32oz bottle of spaghetti sauce (I use as much as I need to cover the previous layer)

3 cups cottage cheese (I don’t measure it, I just use enough to cover the previous layer)

4 oz mozzarella cheese (Once again I use enough to cover the previous layer)

Boil spaghetti 7-10 minutes. Brown the chuck. Drain spaghetti and cut up. Add eggs and parmesan. Stir well.

Pour 1/2 cup sauce on the bottom of the crockery. Layer 1/2 pasta, 1/2 cottage cheese, 1/2 meat and sauce, 1/2 mozzarella.

Repeat Layers

Cover, plug in and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

That’s all there is to it. Now for some tips. If you follow the recipe exactly it doesn’t fill a standard crock pot. It’s only about 3/4 full. So I make extra and end up having three layers when I’m finished. I fill the pot all the way up to the top making as much as I can. According to the recipe it feeds 10 and with the extra that’s about right, although it doesn’t leave enough for seconds which I promise everyone will want. Also because it’s just spaghetti sauce you can switch it up. Sauce with meat, sauce with garlic, sauce with vegetables. What ever makes you happy. The one thing I have noticed is that it really doesn’t give off much of an odor while it’s cooking. So since I only prepare it when I’m having guests over, my roommate suggested sauteing garlic and onions on low in olive oil about 15 minutes before the guests arrive. It produces a wonderful aroma and makes everyone think you’ve been busy all day. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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30 Dollars Worth of Project Runway

Tonight was slow at work.  When I say slow.  I mean REALLY slow.  If every night were like tonight I’d have to start thinking about prostituting myself to pay the bills.  Of course as my roommate likes to point out, who would pay for an over-weight, middle aged man who waits tables for a living.  All kidding aside, I only made 30 bucks at work tonight.  I waited on about seven tables, and that’s counting the two that didn’t tip.  After tip out 30 bucks was what was left.  I’m not complaining though.  There’s only about two or three more weeks before the business becomes insane again as people start to go on spring break.  At that point it will be a zoo again.  I just have to hold out till then.

It’s been a Project Runway week for me at work.  On Saturday night I waited on a table of four women.  They were out celebrating a 40th birthday, and had been drinking and did some more while I waited on them.  About 10 minutes into my greeting the table I was asked if I recognized any of them, since one of them was a celebrity.  I said no but asked why she was famous.  Turns out she was a model on Project Runway this season.  On Episode 5 the models were all women who had lost a significant amount of weight.  The designers were then asked to use “fat” clothes the women wore before they lost weight to design a new look for them.  My particular model was paired up with Jack.  It was in this episode that Jack got sick and left the show.  He was replaced by Chris who I love.

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So my customer was very proud of her stint on the show and it was fun getting the inside scoop from her.

Jack really was sick and spent a week in the hospital.

Chris is a sweetheart and she loved working with him.

Christian is just as annoying in real life as he is on TV.

She has no idea who wins the season.  In fact she didn’t know who won the challenge that she was taking part in.  They were whisked away and out of the building by security guards long before the winners were announced.

She says that Jillian is beautiful in real life.  I don’t think so but maybe it’s the 10 pounds TV adds.

It was fun chatting with her and she and her friends promised to come back and visit.  They live in Connecticut.

And then today Heidi Klum was in the restaurantproject-runway.gif

Unfortunately she was led directly to the event she was attending and I didn’t get to see her.  My co-worker who was waiting on her said that she was more beautiful in person than she was on TV.  I was just pissed that I didn’t at least get to see her.  Of course I did make 30 dollars so I guess it was a fair trade.

Last Night Explained….

I realized today when I reread my post from yesterday along with many of the comments I received that perhaps it seems like I work in a horrible restaurant.   In no way is that the case.  In fact as far as fast-paced, slinging hash type restaurants go it’s the best I’ve ever worked in.  It is in no way fine dining.  We serve cheeseburgers and beer and the occasional steak.  The reason I make money is because we are VERY busy.  The reason we are so busy is because it’s located in the heart of Times Square.  Which means 99% of our clientele are tourists.  The other 1% doesn’t count and I won’t explain why.

Because we are in Times Square there is constant foot traffic and this translates into big business for us.  We are in the middle of the slow season right now and there is still a million times more business than in any other restaurant I’ve ever worked in.  This means that even during the slow season it’s still possible to make money and sometimes it’s even better money because the kitchen is less likely to crash and burn and the work is easier because you don’t have to run around like crazy.

And then there was last night…

I had a bad night.  Of course I think that’s an understatement.  I had an awful night.  It started great.  My first seven or eight tables tipped between 20 and 30 percent.  I remember thinking to myself not to say anything about it because I would jinx how well the night was going.  I must have done something because suddenly the tide turned.  And for the rest of the evening the tips were around 10 percent on the high side and you guys have seen the low side.  Unfortunately, what happens is that as the night progresses and the tips are bad, the service starts to suffer.  It’s hard to be upbeat and happy to fetch things for people when the last four tables have stiffed you…and not in the good way.  This is what happened last night.  By 10:00 I could give a shit.  I just wanted the shift to end and be over with so I could count my lack of money and go home.  Needless to say the tips were worse from then on.

The other thing that I should explain is about tipping out.  The reason that servers are expected to tip out on their sales and not their earnings is because a lot of waiters suck.  There are people I work with who never make money.  It’s because they don’t know the first thing about being personable or for that matter just getting the customer what they want and need.  The other issue is that there is no way to track how much a waiter makes, so less than honest servers could lie and not tip as much as they are supposed to.  Our sales are printed on computer printouts every night so it’s published information so if someone doubts you’ve tipped them enough they can always check.  There is also the issue of why do I have to tip if I didn’t get that many drinks.  Well you probably didn’t get that many drinks tonight.  But I bet you did on Saturday night.  Did you tip extra then?  Probably not.  For me there are nights where I server from 1,000 to 1,500 dollars just in liquor.  That’s a lot of trips to the bar and lots of seven dollar beers.  I’ll let you guys do the math.  Because of the high total of my liquor sales and the total amount of business I do I feel like I should tip more than is required.  So I actually tip out 1% more than I’m supposed to to the bartenders.  This however, has worked to my advantage because I tip more than anyone else who works there.  This makes the bartenders happy.  And because they are happy I get my drinks first.  They very  often stop what they are doing, ask what I need and make it for me.  That is if they haven’t already noticed my check and made it before I got there.  This makes my customers happy because I get their drinks fast.  This makes me happy because “most” of the time they tip better because of it.  It’s only frustrating having to tip out the bar when so many tables stiff me and I’m not making any money.

And with all of this said.  It’s still a great place to work.  I make a ton of money.  The work isn’t that hard.  The managers love me.  Most of my co-workers love me.  And most of the time my customers love me.  Unfortunately there is a truth that every night can’t be good.  If I wanted that I could work at Red Lobster down the street where every table has 18% gratuity added to the check before it’s presented.  But they do half the business we do and I would make a lot less money.  I’m very grateful to have the job that I have.

Time for Math Class…

Work sucked tonight. I repeat. Work sucked tonight. I made less money tonight than I have since I started working there. I’d love to say I sold less but that’s not the case. The foreigners were out in force tonight. It got so bad that I kept my receipts so I could share the “good” news with you.

Here are some of my favorite tips tonight.

Bill: $54.05 Tip: $00.00

Bill: $22.22 Tip: $1.78

Bill: $61.01 Tip: $00.00

Bill: $49.80 Tip: $2.20

Bill: $110.71 Tip: $9.29

Bill: $15.28 Tip: $.72

Bill: $28.39 Tip: $1.61

Bill: $25.46 Tip: $.54

Bill: $66.20 Tip: $3.80

Bill: $11.43 Tip: $00.00

Total: $444.55 Total Tip: $19.94

Total Tip Out Expected to Bartenders, Busser and Food runner on $444.55: $22.22

So to wait on these 10 tables it actually cost me $2.28.

The total amount I should have made after tip out should have been somewhere between the amounts: $44.46 and $66.69 if everyone had left between 18% and 20%.

The actual percentage I made before tipout: .045 percent. There seems to be a shortage if you ask me.

It also didn’t help that most of the tables I waited on tonight didn’t seem to be eating. Two beers and a plate of nachos runs about $22.00. It takes a lot of these tables if you are going to make a living. Luckily, most of the tables I waited on early in the evening were very generous. Their 20-40 percent tips helped to make up some of the difference. Unfortunately, because we were slow there weren’t enough of these tables to make it a profitable evening.

It’s a good thing rent is due this week, otherwise I don’t know what I would do with all of my riches.

Ugh.

A Working Girl…

Our Internet connection has been fucked lately.  Last night there was no hope of getting it to work.  I tried rebooting, unplugging, disconnecting all to no avail.  My roommate finally got so frustrated that he called Time Warner Cable to see if they could do something.  We now have an appointment for Wednesday for someone to come and “fix” it for us.  If you don’t hear from me for the next couple of days you know what’s up.

Work has been kind of interesting for the past two days.  Last night started with the new server manager cornering me in the kitchen to tell me what a great job I was doing.  As he put it, I’ve been on top of my game since I started, I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to do and I’m fun to work with.  I was kind of floored because this guy’s not known for his niceties.  Of course a mere four hours later things had changed a bit.

As I’ve mentioned I only work in the cocktail section.  I should also mention that I’m the only guy who does this.  All of the other “cocktailers” are girls.  Not only are they girls but they tend to be bitchy, pushy, and sometimes difficult to get along with.  I luckily am not bothered too much by this.  I do my job, and they leave me alone.  One of the girls, Gina, has decided that I’m a pushover.  For the last several weeks she’s been a little more bossy than usual.  She also does things like tell me to run drinks to her table, or drop a check, or give her a pen.  All of these things are told to me.  She’s never asked me to do something ever.  And it’s never accompanied by a please.  I usually do what she says, because I like to think that I’m a nice guy and usually it’s not a problem to help her, even though it would be nice to be asked.  She also does things like badger me to switch sections with her.  There are three cocktail sections.  Two of them are equal in their money making capabilities but one is easier to work than the other because of it’s layout and location.  The third section just sucks and I’m hardly ever scheduled in it.  Gina always wants the “good section” and I always tell her no.  But it doesn’t stop her from telling me that she’s a better server than me so I should give it to her.  I usually laugh and ignore her.

So last night, she was her bossy self as usual.  And around 9:00 the bad station got cut and so that made my station bigger by two tables.  I was going about my business when I noticed I had people at one of my new tables.  I went up to greet them only to find out that Gina had pulled her table and my table together so she could wait on a large party there.  In our restaurant that never happens.  They never mix stations.  If they are going to sit a large party at the same table they have to be in the same section.  Otherwise the party gets split up into different tables.  I questioned Gina about this and her response was she forgot it was my table but to make things balance I could have her empty table.  I was annoyed by this but I let it slide.  Fast forward two hours.  The table she gave me has paid and left, and so have the customers at our combined tables.  The bussers have bussed them and everything is back to normal.  And then I turn around and she’s pulling the tables back together again.  At this point I’d had enough.  I went over to the tables and explained that this wasn’t happening again.  It was my table and I was not allowing her to do this.  I had to say this to her about 12 times, and finally I pulled the tables apart told her the discussion was over and walked a way.  The conversation was intense but it was not out of line and it wasn’t inappropriate.   Yet.

I head to the kitchen to get some drinks and Gina corners me in front of the salad station.  She starts bitching at me, getting louder and louder.  Eventually she’s almost yelling at me.  During the entire exchange, I just keep calmly saying, “Gina, it’s my table.  And I don’t care.  It’s my table and I don’t care.”  What Gina doesn’t realize is that the manager’s office which is right next to the salad area is currently filled with every manager that is working.  They are hearing the entire conversation.  Finally in frustration Gina screams at me…”Well I guess that’s why you have stick up your ass.”  And walks away.

Unfortunately she didn’t get very far.  One of the manager’s on duty stopped her, pulled her into the office and closed the door.  I didn’t see any of this happen.  The next thing I knew someone else was waiting on her tables and she was gone.  Seems the managers told her to transfer her tables to someone else, cash out and go home.  They also told her that she couldn’t come back to work until the incident was discussed with the GM.  And that he didn’t take kindly to incidents in the restaurant that create hostile work environments.

WOW.  What an evening.  Gina cornered me around 30 minutes later at the bar and apologized.  She explained that she needed money and was being unfair and that she was sorry.  I accepted her apology.  Unfortunately I can’t do anything to make it better.  She did all of her yelling in front of the managers.

I did get talked to later about the incident.  I was told that next time something like this happened that I was to come to the manager before it got out of hand.  What’s funny is that I didn’t realize that it was going to get out of hand.  I thought it had all been settled.  I wasn’t expecting to get yelled at.  I also think Gina was surprised that I said no, and didn’t let her have her way.  I certainly hope that she doesn’t get fired.  It seems like a minor offense.  But I also think this might teach her a lesson.

And then tonight I was about two hours into my shift running around like crazy.  All of the managers were gathered up near the wait station.  As I was running by to get drinks, the bar manager stopped me and said…”Maddog, do you want to be a bartender.”  I was completely taken aback.  Bartending positions at my restaurant are VERY coveted.  There aren’t a lot of them, they make great money and they don’t work as hard as the servers.  The other notable thing is that their money is more consistent.  They don’t have the extreme ups and downs that servers have.  The take is usually always withing 50 dollars or so every night.  And that’s not true with servers.  I sold the same amount tonight as I did last night but made almost 150 dollars more tonight.  It’s a complete crap shoot.

I have a couple of days to let him know.  I’m going to discuss it with everyone I know and see what they think.

And that is work for the past two days in a nutshell.   I have one more day till the weekend.  I just hope that I can make it.

Maddog’s Ramblings…

Twice today I’ve come up with topics to blog about tonight.  And now that I’m sitting at my computer I can’t for the life of me remember what they are.  Now what am I supposed to do?

I suppose I can ramble for a few minutes.

I’ve continued to read my book.  It’s okay.  She has mentioned the Interstate in every chapter I’ve read so far (If this statement is confusing read yesterday’s post).  Hmmm.  Can’t she leave well enough alone.  I also wish she would use a little less flowery descriptions and just get on with the story.  But that’s just my opinion.

I’m interested to see if any of the major news organizations are recanting their stories about Heath Ledger now that it has been confirmed that there were no illegal drugs in his apartment.  On several news sites as well as news channels I saw reports of cocaine being found as well as pills being strewn about the apartment.  Turns out all the pills were in the bottles they were bought in and there was no cocaine.  But I suppose recanting stories doesn’t get ratings or sell newspapers.

Along the same note.  I see that Fred Phelps is going to protest Heath Ledger’s funeral because of his role in Brokeback Mountain.  I don’t really believe in hell, but I have to believe that if there is a hell, there’s a special place in it for the likes of Fred Phelps.  The pain he causes is far greater than any harm that I’ve created by being gay.

I’ve put off seeing Cloverfield because of the reports of people getting motion sickness from watching it.  I’ve never been bothered by a movie before, but in the past year or so riding in car makes me sick.  I can no longer read on the subway.  I can’t read on airplanes either.  I may take the plunge and just do it next week.  It’s hard for me to pass up a movie where NYC is destroyed.  I love disaster movies.  And it’s always nice when you are familiar with the areas.  Independence Day.  War of the Worlds.  Day After Tomorrow.  Godzilla.  All GREAT movies in my book.  As long as there are no air plane crashes I love me a good disaster movie.

I’m having another dinner party  on Monday.  My friend Kelly who I worked with last summer is in town and I’m inviting her and her new boyfriend over on Monday night for dinner.  I’m also inviting my friend Ryan whom I know from school but will be joining us for fun and frolicking in Oklahoma this summer.  I’m going to once again make my world famous spaghetti pie.  Ask Ur-Spo.  I shared the secret recipe with him and he knows how wonderful it is.  All the makings for dinner are being delivered tomorrow afternoon between noon and 2:00 p.m. by Fresh Direct.  Fresh Direct is our on-line grocery store that makes living in NYC and shopping for groceries a breeze.  I couldn’t live without it.  I also don’t know if I mentioned that I’m going back to Oklahoma this summer.  I signed and mailed in my contract this week, so it’s for certain.  So sometime around June 1 I’ll start my daily updates of all the insanity of being out there.

I have to work all weekend, which I’m not looking forward to.  When it’s all said and done it’s almost 30 hours in three days.  I have the worst time going there.  I’d rather get a root canal than go there and spend the evening.  Of course my friend Michelle pointed out today that she’d be worried if I suddenly loved being there.  That would mean that I’m not taking steps to get out of the game.  That being said, it’s really not that bad.  I was ranked number 1 for the first two weeks of January and I’m number 3 this week.  Not so bad if you ask me.  So I’ll just suck it up and deal with it.

And I think I’ve rambled enough.  Have a great Friday everyone.

And does anyone else find it funny that the spell check program for Word Press doesn’t recognize blog, blogging, or blogger as a “real” words?

A Winter’s Tale

Uh…so I haven’t posted all week.  Uh…so I don’t really have an excuse I suppose.  Well I do but they aren’t very good.  Saturday night when I got home I spent an hour or so reading some of my favorite blogs and then just as I was starting to write a post the internet connection went south.  I tried and tried but there was no getting it to respond.  Then Sunday I spent the day cleaning and cooking to host my first ever “real” dinner party.  I had invited three guys from work over and my roommate was helping me play host.  We had a great time, but three bottles of wine and several beers later along with a trip to the local gay bar and I was in no mood shape to write.  Then Monday I spent the day recuperating and fell asleep watching TV.  And then there was Tuesday.  It was a repeat of Monday.  I fell asleep watching TV.  And that brings us to today.  And I’m posting.  Yippee!!!

I’m an avid reader.  I make a point of reading everyday.  No matter how tired I am.  Or how drunk I am.  Or how late it is.  I read every night before I go to sleep.  My routine usually involves brushing my teeth, taking my meds and getting comfortable in the bed.  Then I set the alarm for the next morning and get out my book, find my place and start to read.  As a point, although not always, I only read fiction.  I like getting lost in the stories and making new friends.  My favorite books are almost always written in first person.  I find that I’m much quicker to get lost in the tale if it’s written that way.  I also find that I have a hard time putting the book down if I’m really into it.  I’m always looking at the clock trying to decide if I can read just one more chapter before I turn out the light.  Only problem is, sometimes it means I only get a few hours of sleep because of how long I read.  I also know that I loved the book when I’m sad to see it end and I feel like I’ve lost a friend that I’m no longer going to get to spend time with.

I just read The Kite Runner and I felt like that.  I was sad for the book to be over and I wanted to continue reading to find out what else happens to Amir and how his life proceeds.  I also spent several months reading the entire Harry Potter series this summer.  I loved them all.  After seven books, though, I was terribly depressed when I realized that it was over.  In a way, even though Harry didn’t die in the books, there is a loss, because he’s no longer a friend spending time with me.  It’s not often that I truly feel this way about a book.  It just so happens in the last several months I’ve been lucky to read a couple.

And that brings me to my current book.  I started a new book last night.  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.  I chose this book after searching my bookshelf for a book I haven’t read and that caught my interest.  I have an entire shelf full of books I haven’t read and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why I pick the book I do.  It’s just catches my eye.  So I chose this book.  Followed my routine, got comfortable and started to read.

First problem.  It’s not written in first person.  Okay, not so much a problem as it is something to get used to.  After a page or two though it’s fine and I’m getting into the book.  I find myself becoming immersed in it and before long I’m very much into the story.   The plot is kind of interesting.  It’s about a doctor who is forced to deliver the twins his wife is pregnant with.  The first one, a boy, is born without any problems.  The second one, a girl, is born with Down’s Syndrome.  The doctor gives the girl to his nurse telling her to take it to a nearby home for children.  The nurse keeps the child and raises it herself.  I know all of this because it’s on the back of the book and most of the premise is created in the first two chapters.

So I’m reading along and, well, I ran into a problem that bothered me so much that I had to stop reading.  The book is set in Lexinton, Kentucky in 1964.  I know it’s a work of fiction, but if you are going to set the book in real place then you should make sure the scenarios that you create are factual.  As the nurse leaves she drives through the snow out of Lexington.  The roads are bad until she gets to the Interstate.  Once there she is able to make better time.   She crosses the Kentucky River and finds the “home” just south of Louisville.  This raises an eyebrow but I’m willing to let it go.  The woman is about to drop the baby off, changes her mind and then heads back to Lexington.  32 miles from Lexington, just passed the Frankfort exit, she encounters an accident.  And well this is where I stopped reading.

I know it shouldn’t matter in the big scheme of things.  But to get to Louisville by Interstate means that you are driving on I-64.  And here’s the problem.  I-64 didn’t exist in Central Kentucky in 1964.  I was in elementary school when I-64 came through Lexington.  And I’m not the old.  The reason I remember is that the construction caused my school bus to have to take detours and this went on for well over a year or so.  I spent a long time today trying to find out exactly when it was built in Central Kentucky but was unable to locate an exact date.  So I know that this should have no bearing on the rest of the book, but for me it does.  What else did Kim fail to research before she wrote the book.  What else about the book is not factual.  In the big scheme of things it’s really rather silly, but when someone’s writing about a place you call home then they better know what they are talking about.  Damn it.

Will I finish reading it?  Probably.  But it’s definitely changed my opinion of the book.

A Friend Remembered…

It was a year ago this week that my friend Chris killed himself.  I had just arrived in Iowa to spend the winter when I was called by friends from California.  It’s insane to me that a year has passed already.  Where has the time gone.  I still miss Chris.  I keep hoping that someone will call me and tell me that it was all a joke.   But then I know that’s not going to happen.  He was my mentor, colleague, and friend.  I don’t pick up a pencil to start a show now without thinking of him.  I hear his voice in my ear, making suggestions.  Being caddy.  I still can’t believe that he was so depressed that he would take such drastic measures.  In fact, none of us were aware of the pain that he was in.  I just wished that he had confided in one of us.  That he had allowed us to help.  I understand when you are in the throws of depression it’s the last thing you want.  But I still wish I could have done something.  Now I just remember him.  What a wonderful man he was.  How funny he was.  How talented he was.  And how kind he was to share of himself, in so many ways.  I’ll miss him forever.

This is the tribute that I wrote in my blog and then forwarded on to use at his memorial service.  It sums up my thoughts about Chris.

I feel like it’s our job now to celebrate his life. He was a wonderful designer. He had a Tony award to prove it. He was loved by most everyone. They found him funny and quirky. He never lost his British accent even though he had lived in the states for almost 20 years. He had gone from being fat and married to skinny and gay. If you went in to his office in the evening you would probably hear Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy, Me. Or It’s Raining Men. Or anything disco. C.P. often worked late and was always around when you needed help on a project. He had a million ways of looking at a design challenge and was great at making you figure out what would work best for your design. He could also be caddy. He once cornered me in my office and said…”I don’t know if you know this, but your getting fat.” I once told him to get out of my office before someone dropped a house on him. I often called him a bitch. Never in front of other students but we were both gay and had that sort of relationship with each other. He would sit behind me in tech and make me a nervous wreck. Even if things were going well. I assisted him in upstate NYC once and we had to walk a mile back to our lodging at the end of the evening. Every night on our way back he would ask me what I learned that day. He was anxious to make sure I was getting the most out my experience working with him. He would often sneak into my office in the evening and very discretely ask for a gin and tonic. As a teacher he wasn’t interested in turning out clones of himself. He recognized that everyone has a different approach to design and he let us embrace our approach and refine it. He was famous for being “cheap” and refused to pay the 300 plus dollars for a faculty parking permit. So, he would come in at the end of his day and ask for a ride to his car which was inevitably parked 10 miles away. And I guess what I loved most about him, was that he fought for me to attend school in San Diego. I originally turned down his offer, for a number of reasons which all seem stupid now, but he called and called and continued to call. He met with me and even had the chair of the department call me to convince me that his program was for me. In the end he was right. I learned so much about myself, my art, and theatre that I would never have learned at another program. He taught me that I was good at what I did and to embrace it. He taught me that it’s healthy to fear a project but then you had to meet the challenge head on and beat it. He taught me a lot.

I loved him a lot.

I miss him already.

A Girl’s Night Out.

First, I apologize for not posting the last couple of days.  I’ve been very bad.  On Tuesday night I went out after work for one beer.  One became two, two became four, then there were shots of bourbon, and a lemon drop, and more beer and the next thing I know it’s 6:30 a.m. and I’v slept passed my subway stop and now have to wait for the train to come to take be back to where I live.  It was almost 7:30 before I got to bed and when I awoke at 2:00 p.m. my head was pounding and the room was spinning.  I did manage to get my butt out of bed, shower and head to work.  The first thing I did when I got there was to tell the managers that I wasn’t feeling well and to put my name on the “give up” list.  Luckily, it worked out and by 5:15 I was on my way home again.  Where I promptly planted myself on the couch and watched TV all night.  It was Project Runway night so I was glad to be home anyway.

As god as my witness though, there can’t be anymore 6:00 a.m. nights.  I’m just too old for this.  It takes me three days to recover.  I also spend way too much money when I’m out.  I tip very well, I also tend to buy drinks for my friends and well it doesn’t take long to blow through a hundred bucks.  So no more late nights.  Period.

I did however, go out with friends tonight for dinner and drinks.  It was a girl’s night out from work.  There were three gay guys, three trannies, and one “real” girl.  I met up with part of the group around 5:30 at Bed Bath and Beyond where they were finishing a day of shopping.  Bradley, one of the gay guys has just moved back to NYC from Orlando.  So he was out all day buying all the things you need when you move into a new apartment.  He’s living with Paul a friend from work so after they finished shopping we head to the Upper East Side so everyone could get ready.   Getting ready consisted of Paul changing shirts, Bradley changing clothes, and C.J. changing from a man to a woman.  The transformation was amazing.  It was also interesting how her personality changed as she got ready.  She went from being this shy, reserved person to this outgoing, fun woman.  Like I said it was amazing.

Our dinner reservations weren’t until 9:00 so we also had a few drinks while everyone was getting ready.  I was drinking my beer of choice, Corona.  At around 8:15 we headed downstairs to find a cab to go to dinner.  It was raining cats and dogs so of course it took forever to get a cab.  We actually needed two because there were six of us.  Eventually we managed to get them and we were on our way.

Our destination was Sea.  It’s a Thai restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  I was worried when we went in because it’s a very trendy place.  We were discussing it on the way there and it seems it’s been used for several movies and TV shows because the architecture is quite interesting and as I said it’s very trendy.  There was a DJ playing music and the place was packed with a very wide mix of people.  It was mostly a young crowd but all the ethnic groups represented — White, Black, Asian, Latino.  As I said, I was worried because upon walking in I assumed it was going to be outrageously expensive.  I was completely wrong.  The most expensive thing on the menu was 14 dollars.   That’s down right cheap in New York.

We were finally seated and immediately got another round of drinks.  They arrived in just a few minutes and we ordered dinner.  I love Thai food although I have to be careful because spicy doesn’t always agree with me.  I was also starving.  I hadn’t eaten all day.  I woke up late and didn’t realize dinner was going to be at 9:00 p.m.  So by the time we got to the restaurant I was famished.  I ended up ordering the calamari and crispy duck salad for appetizers.  The calamari was excellent but didn’t even compare to the salad.  It  was beyond delicious.  For dinner I order the classic pork chop.  It was also very good.  The only thing I wasn’t impressed with was dessert.  I had some sort of fruit roll with butter pecan ice cream.  And although it was good it didn’t impress me the way the rest of the meal had.  When it was all said and done, my entire dinner with two beers, two appetizers, an entree and dessert was only 45 dollars.  That’s unheard of in Manhattan.  I would definitely go back again.

After dinner we all gathered outside to figure out how to get to the gay bar that was nearby.  There was much discussion as to where it was, could we walk, should we cab it, or take the train.  I think if it hadn’t been raining we might of walked.  Of course three of the girls were in heels, so maybe not.  Eventually we decide to take the train and it dropped us off right across the street from the bar.  The bar was called Metropolitan and was a bit of dive.  It had as many New York bars have, very low ceilings and bad lighting.  This place did have two fireplaces though and a fun crowd.  It was a nice mix of people and it was not the usual crowd of twinks and muscle boys you find in Chelsea.  Most of the people at this bar looked like normal run of mill people, which I tend to find more attractive.

I stayed for two beers, people watched, chatted with my new friends and just hung out.  At 12:30 I was done and it was time to leave.  I said my good-byes and I was on my way.  The only thing that sucked about the whole night was that I got to the subway station at 12:45, and I walked into my apartment at 2:20.  An hour and a half to get home on a school night is just way too long.  The other option would have been to take a cab, but it would have cost 50 bucks and I’m not so sure it would have been faster.

The only other thing of note, was that I think Bradley, whose just moved here, was hitting on me throughout the night.  He was very touchy feely all night, and made a point of buying me several beers.  He also made a point to tell me that he looked forward to getting to know me better.  All this is fine except for two points.  The first one, he’ll be starting at my restaurant in a couple of weeks.  He’s transferring from the Orlando store and as soon as his paperwork has been processed he’ll be a waiter there as well.  The second problem is that he smokes.  I have nothing against smokers.  I have lots of friends who are smokers.  But I won’t date a smoker.  Well I might as long as I didn’t have to kiss them.  Which might be a problem.  It’s kind of hard to have sex with someone and not kiss them.  So we’ll see where all this leads in the next few weeks.  And of course, you guys will be the first to know.

Maddog’s Day Off

For the first time in weeks I didn’t sleep away my day off. I set the alarm for 10:00 a.m. this morning and only snoozed it once. I got right up and started my day. First stop, the coffee pot. If I’m only going to get six hours of sleep then I’m going to need some coffee to get me going. The rest of the day fell right into place. I spent the first 30 minutes drinking my coffee and talking to my friend Michelle. She’s the friend that lives in Maine who performs drag shows. I’m going up the second weekend in February to do tech for their show. We were trying to figure out when the best time for me to go would be and how long I should stay. We also spent a good time just chatting, which was very nice.

After my chat with Michelle it was bill paying time. I got everything up to date. Paid everything that was due and balanced my check book. I also called my student loan people to discuss my payments to see if I could make them any less and to see if I could postpone my January payment. It’s not that I don’t have the money, it’s just that I have a couple of other things that I need to pay off and that would infringe on paying my student loan. They were very nice about it, and took care of everything. After bill paying it was time for Fresh Direct. Fresh Direct is NYC’s online grocery store. I can order anything I need grocery wise from their website and they deliver it in a day or two. It’s a wonderful convenience and it only costs a few dollars for them to deliver it. I ordered about 200 dollars worth of stuff. Of course 50 bucks of that was in Diet Coke, but what can you do.

After all that work, I sat down and counted my money. The best and worst part of waiting tables is that all of my earnings are in cash. So it takes a while to sit down, face all the bills, organize them and then do an accurate count. It sometimes takes two or three counts to get it right. Then I stuff it all into a bag, stuff that into my backpack, and then pray that I don’t get mugged on the way to the bank. My favorite part is pulling the bag out of my backpack and handing it to the teller at the bank. They always grimace about having to count all those bills. In case you are wondering, I had a stop at the bank planned today.

After counting the money, I showered and headed downtown. First stop of course the bank. There were no lines which made me very excited. After the bank I was off to Porto Rico to get coffee. It’s the nicest coffee shop I have ever been in. The floor is lined with burlap bags filled with coffee beans. The shop smells terrific and everyone who works there is super nice. I get the same thing every time. Cafe Blend, not ground. I’ve been drinking it for years and even when I lived in San Diego, and then last winter in Iowa I had it shipped to me.

After coffee, I headed back up town to the movies. I finally saw Sweeney Todd today. The film was beautiful. The design of it is amazing, and the direction is near perfect. Johnny Depp as Sweeney I thought was magnificent after I got used to the idea that he wasn’t a baritone. What he lacked in vocal quality, though he made up for in acting ability. The one thing I hated about the movie was Helena Bonham Carter. I thought she sucked. She was terribly miscast, and didn’t have the umph to play Ms. Lovett. But overall I really like the film.

What I didn’t like was the audience. I saw the film in Times Square in the big million screen cineplex there. That was a terrible mistake. The auditorium filled up with a lot of people that it turned out didn’t know what they were seeing. They talked all through the movie. The joked about the singing. They made fun of the the whole thing. About 20 minutes into the film I seriously considered getting up and asking for my money back and going downtown to the ordinary theatre in Chelsea. All the talking really made it difficult to enjoy the film.

After Sweeney, I did head back downtown to do what I have commonly come to refer to as “getting in to trouble.” What can I say. A girl has needs. It was a lot of fun and without going into the details, the very hot boy I met from Scotland was a real treat. Enough said.

I then headed over to Home Depot to buy some new house plants. My roommate and I have not had the best luck with plants in our apartment. So I needed to replace one and I wanted to get a plant for my bedroom. I found what I was looking for and headed home.

By this time it was about 8:30. I did some blog reading, ordered dinner and then planted myself in front of the TV. My dinner had just arrived when my roommate got home and since we hardly see each other, he joined me in the living room and we played catch up.

And that is my day off in a nutshell. It felt nice to not sleep it away.

Oh, and I just went downstairs to get my clean laundry. Another absolutely wonderful luxury of living in NYC. I haven’t done laundry in over a year. Everyone should have it so lucky.