Monday, April 22, 2013

The Kitchen

It's been a while - I know. But I wanted to write this. And I don't need it published by someone somewhere. I just wanted to share it. Write it out to appreciate it.

About a year ago, the cafe I've worked at since it first opened its doors in 2010, got serious about their food. What started out as third wave coffee shop quickly escalated to much more as the neighborhood let us know that they were hungry. And no number of croissants could quite satisfy them enough. And so my bosses listened and invested and took a chance on carving out a kitchen to make some food.

Now, I say carve with every intention of the word. The kitchen at my work was never meant to be a kitchen, not in the traditional sense. Housing not only a station to wash and sanitize all the dishes, but also four long tables to prep and arrange the plates and three refrigerators to keep everything fresh. (Not to mention the Big Daddy fridge in the way back, what's known in the restaurant industry as a "walkway" as the fridge is so large and tall that one can simply walk through and go about the business of picking the number of corn on the cobs for the afternoon lunch salads.) This "kitchen" in its beginnings was merely just the dishwashing, a few storage racks, and a desk for paperwork.

Amongst all this equipment and furniture to make a kitchen simply function, there comes the hands - the bodies that inhibit the space. The ones that really make everything hum into obedience: blenders, whisks, burners, and knives. What started out as four guys on rotation soon became 5, 6, and 7. Most importantly, the dishwasher. If you ever work in any sort of restaurant or cafe, never take for granted your dishwasher. Say thank you - with eye contact. But maybe that's just me. Because the very odd, funny, slightly heartbreaking thing I'm experiencing with these hardworking men, is seeing my father in every one of them.

I've known all my life that my father and my mother are hard workers. I probably didn't understand all the details growing up, but weird as it may sound, I felt it. Literally. Especially with my Dad. The callouses and the toughness of my father's skin as he caressed my cheek after kissing me goodnight or putting yet another band aid on my scraped knee gave me a clue that he didn't just sit around. Even when my Dad wasn't working, I remember him doing something: working on a car, riding his bike with me, rollerblading with me, fixing this for my mother or that for my aunt. That's how my kitchen guys are: in constant motion. If they're not prepping this, they're cleaning that or lifting this and carrying that. Back and forth they all go in the narrow aisles and the walks around the back of the building to the walkway to get more ingredients. I watch them and I can't help but feel immensely maternal towards all of them.

My father has mentioned that when he first came to America at 17 in the 70's he worked at a restaurant in the Sears Tower in Chicago as a dishwasher. And maybe that's all I needed to look at these guys in the back of the house and smile at them to ask if they needed anything to drink: "Coffee, water? Cafe o aqua?"

"Buenas Dias!" "Que pasa un bien dia!" "Muchas gracias" "Como fue tu semana?" "Que eso?" Tan rico!"

And maybe it's because most of them are Guatemalan if not Mexican, and they laugh like my father and chuckle while shaking their head side-to-side as I animate my frustrations and tiredness with rolling eyes and comedic, over-exaggerated sighs. Perhaps it's that they get that I always have to find a time and place to laugh about the ridiculousness of people and their food and their coffee and all the complications in between. That they want one yolk and two egg whites in their omelette or yogurt and granola bowl without the yogurt. Perhaps it's because no matter how slammed we get and how hard we all have to continue to work in order make others happy, they do it: they work. It's never questioned. That's where my undying loyalty to them lies. And that's where I see my father. In their sweat they wipe off with their sleeve or cover with their hat to preserve the integrity of their food they're serving. Or their pride that curls in their wide grins as I pretend to faint over how good (and it really is that good) my breakfast or lunch is that they made for me.

I don't take any of them for granted. And they know that. Undoubtedly.
And so does my father.

With good work, comes a good heart; no modifications necessary.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four Year Itch

            Election Day works as a sort of tab in a binder full of papers (not women) representing your life like a presentation tended to be handed in to God or Buddha or whoever or whomever the binder will be thumbed through nodding their head and looking over the work you’ve done.
            Every four years, the climate of political action begins to stir and the media buzzes with the constant newsfeed their viewers are now suddenly engaged in – it’s a whole connectivity that occurs on that fateful day when we all take a moment and step outside of our daily lives to make a decision for a much grander, broken picture that we want to hope we can fix.
            Or at least that’s what I think.
            But that’s the point of being American, no? That I can toss in a metaphor about a life binder and make an opinion about how voting awakens people and unites them in remembrance that they live in the United States of America.
            Four years ago I could give a crap about everything I just stated.
            For reals.
            I’m not proud about being frank here, but regardless, I really didn’t care. I had other concerns at that time like graduating and figuring out what the next step was in my life. What did my next goal entail and where would I direct my ambitions and drive? Where would I focus my personal power (I know, dramatic, but that’s what was crossing my mind: personal power)?
            I was plagued by the weight of my decisions in 2008. But so was Obama. And McCain. Hell, maybe even Palin took a moment to consider a few things…or maybe not. I’m not sure. That woman makes me nervous – and not in the exciting whoknowswhatshe’lldonext kind of way. No – she made me nervous in a I’mgoingtoclosemyeyestillit’sover way. But I digress.
            The way I voted back in 2008 was that of typical ignorant young voter. Again, I’m not proud. I looked at my ballot like I would look at my Scantron in my oceanography class: bewildered and slightly panicked. My eyes grew big as I realized I only knew one answer: the President. That’s it. That’s as far I went when I allowed myself to get caught up in propaganda and the immediate coolness of Barack Obama and his “Yes We Can” magic. It was the first time I was charmed by a politician and the first time I welled up with tears during speeches given in several middle, square states watched closely in the small frame of my laptop screen.
            I let myself walk right up to that cardboard voting booth, and pass casting my vote for Obama, stand idle as I wished I could copy off my neighbor.
            It was a democratic low – a personal low – that I did not inform myself because I was busy with “other things.”
            2012, I registered myself (not a kind volunteer doing all the work for me on campus), I looked up my polling location (not merely walking to school and following the rest of the crowd), I studied (versus not), and I confided in close friends who knew more than I in certain propositions. During my last vote I didn’t realized that they even existed, furthermore, whether I was suppose to mark “yes” or “no.”
            It’s a surreal and humbling thing to realize you’re never you’re best. There’s always need for improvement, even if you don’t see it at the time. I sure thought I was the best thing ever having conquered four years of college on track and with an above average GPA back in 2008.  I was the shit.
            It’s embarrassing.
            Settling comfortably at 26 years old (in three days to be exact), I am accepting my own endless lists of improvements and making daily mental notes on what I should do versus what I want to do. I’m trying to cope with my current status as yet another writer lost in the white noise – figuring out how can break through because it will matter. I matter. It’s even hard to write that – that I matter – as a writer. When you both accepted your infinite state of progression and passion to lead – be it literary or political - it can be daunting. Just a little. 
            Who knows what I’ll record on the next tab, 2016, and who knows who’ll be reading. I can only hope to be better.
            So I voted.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lady Sings the Booms

****Prompt: Write about music. 

I can't wait to see her live for myself Oct. 5th...

  Since YouTube first hit the viral scene it changed things. It made superstars in basements, in bedrooms, and in their living rooms. People made their computers: the PCS and their Macbooks into their studios. They press record and just go for it.
            The Internet does that – all that space between your computer screen and the audience you don’t know; it’s conquerable. Magic happens; it’s like lightning interrupting your connection when you watch a video and someone important emerges. A voice you can’t get out of your head. A beat that pulsates still even after the loading bar has finished. You drag it back to the beginning just to see it strike all over again.
            This is Kimbra – at her live recording of “Settle Down” at SXSW. She sets herself up with two mics and her band: her iPads, standing side by side on a small table to hold each close to her. A large green billboard advertising her sponsor: an Internet radio player. Who thought any of those words would be said altogether?
            She’s adjusting the height of each microphone as a large crowd is already standing and waiting to see what will happen next. A few heads from the poke from behind their neighbor’s back to see if they’ve missed anything - just in case.
            There’s a sense of anticipation in all their faces. Their eyes darting back and forth to the crowd around them wondering if they’re thinking the same thing they are: who is this girl?
            Kimbra, meanwhile, is attentive to having her instruments opened and loaded. Her black bob envelopes her thin and delicate face. Full bangs complete the frame and you could almost mistake her for pinup doll if not for the unkempt waves that make her wild. Natural.
            She licks red painted lips and begins to form a steady hip-hop beat and then finishes it with a hiss.  Punching the air with the beat and softening it with the hiss she loops the first layer of the track and hits repeat. It continues to play as she brings her mouth back to the mic to lay the next layer: the booms.
            Her cheeks hard at work to make it bump.
            She glides her fingers and the booms mixes with the beat and the hiss. They play altogether and the volume rises.
            People begin to get excited. More heads begin to move in and out of the crowd to get a glimpse, make sure it’s real.
            And then she sings.
            Pops her cardigan’s collar and that’s when I love her
             When a fan is born.