Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's Been Almost One Month Since My Last Post

I've been very busy, and haven't had time to post anything here. Also, I was off line for awhile because my modem stopped working and had to be repaired. I've been good, for the most part. Work has been good, though challenging at times.

The two weeks I worked with Lauren on the other side, learning as much as I could about food service for the day care program, went well. This young lady is very good at what she does, turning out restaurant quality food under less than ideal working conditions. Depending on what the meal is (breakfast, lunch or snack), there are either four or five rooms that get served. I've had the chance to taste almost everything Lauren cooks and every single thing has been delicious.

Once I was back on the cafe side, it took me a few days to get back into my routine. Mike and I make a good team. He handles most of the cooking, which is fine, because he's been doing it for forty years. I take the orders, cash people out, keep the tables clean, sweep the floor, and handle a few other things along the way as well. Mike does let me handle a few things in food prep. I've made cocktail sauce (for which Mike let me use my recipe and liked it enough to have me use it again). I've made honey mustard sauce people liked, and Thousand Island dressing that came out well. My spicy tartar sauce comes out well, also.

Friday was challenging because Mike had to fly out of state for a family emergency. I got the call that I needed to open and I was on my feet for almost eight and a half hours. I was under strict orders to keep the grill turned off. So, a lot of people were upset because that meant no eggs for breakfast, nor home fries. No burgers for lunch, either. One regular customer was so rude as to curse at me. Another decided to leave without paying and when I went after him, got on his bicycle and rode away.

If Mike's not back by Monday, I'll have to put in the full day again. I'm not 100% comfortable with the idea of that, but I'll show up on time and do my best, just as I did on Friday.

Lauren always helps me out whenever she can and I help her as well, when I can. Some times she gets really behind on dishes, so I hustle to get them caught up while she's on her lunch break. Or if someone orders a milk shake, she'll do make it for us and I'll take over what she's working on for a few minutes if she needs me to do that.

Six weeks in, I really have no complaints about the job. Plus, we got a perfect score on our inspection by the Health Department. I know that some of the really hard work I did cleaning things contributed to that and I feel good about it.

Wishing you well, dear reader.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Kevin, The Short Order Cook

Today I finished my second week at the Y.M.C.A. cafe. So far, so good. My immediate supervisor is a good person, very easy to work with. Today when we got really busy for about forty-five minutes, we got all the orders out fairly quickly, because we made a good team. All the orders were done right, which isn't the easiest thing to get done. Our customers tend to be residents of the building, or people who work out here, or people whose children are in the day care program. We get a lot of parents who want a quick meal after dropping their kids off for the day.

Most of what's on the menu is your standard diner type fare, but Mike does a nice job of creating some fun specials. Today we did taco sauce cheese fries and people really liked them. I've had customers complement me on some of what I've made including cocktail sauce, Thousand Island dressing and honey mustard. I made a spicy tartar sauce to order today for one customer and he raved about it, and he also gave me a nice tip.

I've done well enough that the next two weeks, I'm going to be cross-trained on doing the meals for the kids in day care. Lauren turns out some really good food that's healthful for the little ones, so I'm excited to see how she does what she does.

The pay is decent, as I've said before, and I'm learning a lot.

As always, dear reader, I wish you well.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break 1997

Picture it, if you can. March 31st, 1997, heavy snowfall coming down in the early morning hours.

I woke up early that morning because that semester in college, I had an 8 a.m. class three times a week. Though there were no classes that week, I thought it'd be a good idea to not make any changes in my sleep patterns.

I was, to put it mildly, a wreck right then. The toll of working part time and being in college full time was really hurting me. Also, I had really been raked over the coals, as the saying goes, at a staff meeting a few days earlier. I asked for the week off the next day and the director of our agency was able to let me have it.

I was standing in the bathroom shaving when it hit me that what I really needed was to just get away from it all. This was around 6:30 or so in the morning. I finished shaving, then showered and put on clean clothes. I quickly packed a bag and then called the Greyhound station to check departure times for various cities. The agent I spoke to really listened to what I was saying about just wanting to go, and to go now. He suggested something Greyhound had at the time that was called the "Ameripass", which was a seven day pass good for travel on any Greyhound route anywhere in the country.

I went out into the dining room and told my Aunt Jane (I was renting her spare bedroom at the time) what I had in mind. She offered to take care of my cat while I was gone. I gave her $20 for cat food, litter and whatever else might be needed, and $20 more as a small token of gratitude.

I caught the local bus to my bank, took out $500, and used $300 of that to get travelers' checks. It was a short walk from there to the bus station. I was on the bus to New York at noon, because the agent suggested it as the best place from which to get to anywhere else.

While on that bus, I remembered that my co-worker and friend Patty had suggested Myrtle Beach as a possible destination for spring break. I decided to give that a try.

By the time we reached the city, I had about five hours or so to kill before catching the bus to Myrtle Beach. I spent that time walking around Manhattan, having dinner, and buying a few things in a Woolworth store (the last time I ever set foot in one, as it turned out).

The weather was getting really bad by this time, and the Greyhound driver we had from New York to Baltimore handled it really well. I ate again, while at the Baltimore station (the second one, which was newer and is on the edge of town). I slept well most of the rest of the way.

I woke up when the driver announced that we were ahead of schedule, and could stop to eat if we wanted to. A show of hands decided the matter; we stopped to eat.

I do not recommend traveling without having any idea where you're going to stay, but that was the first time I did it, though not the last. Fortunately, I found a small but clean room with an ocean view for a reasonable rate.

What did I do the four days I was there?

I relaxed. I ate at a restaurant Patty had recommended. I sat on the beach and waded out into the warm water of the Atlantic Ocean. I listened to my mix tapes. I listened to local radio stations. I played miniature golf. And, I spent the last three nights with people I met.

What happened was, I was at a club named "Mother Fletchers". This was Tuesday night. I was dancing with the girl who had won the wet t-shirt contest and things were going great, until her boyfriend walked in.

I thanked her for a good time, and sat down alone near the back. About half an hour later, I was drinking white wine when I got the feeling I was being watched. Which turned out to be the case, but in a good way. This kid tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I went to Broome Community College.

I do, I replied. He then introduced himself and said to several other people "See? I told you I've seen him on campus". He then introduced me to everyone else and we hung out the rest of that night until closing time, and the two nights after that as well.

I really hit it off with one of them, a girl named Tracy. So much so that the first day back on campus the next week, she spotted me and came over to talk to me. She invited me to her birthday party that night. I accepted, and though I had no time to get a gift, I did get her a card.  It didn't take long for us to figure out we wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend.

She cried a lot the night we broke up, and to be honest, so did I. She cried even more the next night, which was when we all had one last huge party to mark the end of the semester. She came very close to getting back together with me but her best friend talked her out of it. After that, over the summer, we were still friends, but never spent time alone. And in the fall, she transferred to a school in another state. I never saw her again.

Twenty-one years have passed since I got on that bus for Myrtle Beach, a town I liked so much I later spent a whole winter there (December 2009 to March 2010).

As always, I thank you for taking the time to read this.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

I Got The Job!

Yesterday at 10:08 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, I accepted a job offer from the Y.M.C.A. cafe. It's  part time, 20 hours a week to start. The pay is competitive with what similar positions offer. I have a very good feeling about this. The cafe serves good food at reasonable prices, and to get to work is just a short walk of three or four minutes.

I'm excited about this. I finally have a chance to show what I can do, and to learn more. Once I have enough experience under my belt, I'll be allowed to run the cafe by myself at times. That will  tell me, one way or the other, if I have what it takes to open a small restaurant of my own at some time in the future.

I'm so glad I never gave up on things.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Things I Want To Say

First things first, okay? I haven't posted here in quite some time, because I've been dealing with some things in real life. So, I'm sorry, but there's not much I could have done about the lack of posts.

I've been good, for the most part, but just had such a problem dealing with winter weather. I'm just not able to handle the cold, the wind, the ice, the snow and various combinations thereof the way I used to be able to. There were far too many days I went nowhere, or just one block up the street to the convenience store and one block back. Being the person that I am, I did go out a few times when doing so wasn't exactly the safest thing to do.

I mean, when it's four degrees out with a wind chill of minus-eight, that's dangerous. But that night, I just didn't care. I had to get out and do something, anything, to take my mind off things. So I caught the #57 bus to Vestal and got some groceries at Wal-Mart. I had it timed what should have been just right in terms of waiting for the bus back, but the bus was behind schedule. It was starting to snow heavily, which is why the bus was running late. Still, it felt good to just get out of the building I live in.

I've done more of the work needed to get my catering business up and running. I still have to attend the food safety training the local health department requires, which is free and takes just one day. I also need to deal with a few other requirements, such as getting a waiver for worker's compensation insurance, because at first, at least, I'll have no employees.

I had two job interviews that went very well, but didn't get the job from either of them. Still, it was good to be in the running, at least, as it were. I am currently in the running for a volunteer position that could possibly lead to a paying job. I've done that twice before in my life and had it work out well both times. So, fingers crossed and all that.

Things in my building are good, overall, but we have several new residents who are making for a real problem in the kitchen. Unwashed dishes, dirty counter tops and such are bad enough, but there have been several incidents of the smoke detector being set off. If the kitchen winds up being closed for an extended period of time (which has happened before) or even worse, closed permanently, I'll have to move. Neither my budget or dietary restrictions can handle any extended period of canned and frozen foods.  Plus, I've been turning out some first rate food lately. Baked macaroni and cheese, pizza, pasta sauce and tuna casserole are some of the things I've made from scratch and been very pleased with. I have a recipe for brownies I want to try, as well.

As regards current events and politics, I'm both worried, and optimistic. Worried, because hard liners like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are downright dangerous when given positions of power and both men are on the rise once again. Optimistic, because there is hope for the mid-term elections. But the people who run the Democratic Party, my party, need to embrace the core values the Party once stood for.

So, that nicely sums up what's been going on. I do intend to resume regular posting soon, but as always, I won't make any promises.

Also, as always, I thank you for taking the time to read this, and I wish you the very best.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Saturdays, Now And Then

It's Saturday night and here I am at home, doing pretty much nothing. I did go out for about forty-five minutes this afternoon. That was to have dinner at the Salvation Army and to get a few things from the convenience store up the street. They sell what was my dad's favorite pizza and whenever I can, I pick up a slice or two. It's not the best pizza I've ever had, it's not even the best in this area. But it's what we ate when I was growing up so it's nice to still be able to get it now and then.

Weekends have meant different things to me at different times in my life, as you might expect. As a child, Saturday was the one night I was allowed to stay up late and I appreciate that, all these years later. As a teenager, some weekends I made good money by babysitting. Or I might sit in on a game of poker with my brother and his friends. We never played for money, just for fun. Or I might find something good to watch on television and if lucky, have something to snack on while doing so.

When my wife was alive, we often went out on Saturday nights, usually to see a movie. My brother did a nice thing by letting us use his car, as he could get a ride to work and back with someone else.

When Michelle's health really started to worsen, that ended for the most part. But we'd still watch a movie, just at home instead of in a theater. We had a forty inch flat screen television paired up with a really good and quite expensive sound system designed for watching films. That thing was a real pain to set up but once I found the sweet spot for its settings, it was well worth the expense and the effort.

When I lived in San Francisco, I never had very much money to spend after paying the bills but I was able to afford a Netflix subscription so again, Saturday was movie night. And now that I'm in Binghamton once again, I've gotten back to that. I do have the money to go out but most of what there is to do downtown revolves around nightclubs and bars, and I was never much into that to begin with and certainly am not now.

This was nice, to just reflect a little on the past.

Again, as always, I thank you for reading what I've written, and I wish you the best.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

I'm Still Here

I regret that I haven't posted anything new in so long but January wasn't a good month for me. Too much bad weather, too many things to deal with, too much...of pretty much everything.

And the last few days I've been dealing with a sinus infection, which is never fun.

But I'm still here, honest. I can tell you that I made some good food the last few weeks, The best was my homemade macaroni and cheese. I used just five ingredients, which were flour, cheese, salt, pepper and milk. The milk and flour I used to make a roux. Once that was done, I added the cheese, which was mild cheddar. Once that was done, I seasoned it very lightly and it came out just right.

I mean, for my tastes, it was perfectly seasoned. Also, I used very good macaroni, which is key to the whole thing, of course.

I also made some fried chicken strips, which also came out really well. Lightly battered and again, seasoned just so. I paired them with homemade stuffing and corn.

What else can I share with you?

Well, if you like soul music in all its various forms, you might want to look into a series of releases all using the title "Eccentric Soul". These are various artist compilations, most of which focus on a particular record label. These labels are mostly very obscure ones but some of the sides they cut are very good. The most recent one I purchased is sub-titled "Sitting In The Park" and was inspired by a man who had 35,000 45 R.P.M. singles in his personal collection at the time of his death in 2014.

His name was  Bob Abrahamian and from what I've read, he was fanatical (in a good way!) about preserving soul music produced in Chicago and surrounding areas. He would spin these rare records while on the air at WHPK.

Here's a link to it.

I've received no compensation whatsoever for posting the link or for recommending the release.
I just want to share the good stuff with anyone who might enjoy it. If you don't want to wait to have a disc delivered, you can do what I did and buy the whole thing as lossless FLAC files. Or, if you want them, you can also get MP3 files but there's no pricing difference so I went with the lossless files.

As always, I thank you for reading this and I wish you well.