Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Waitress daze

I always judge my friends on how they treat waiters and how they tip.  If someone is rude or doesn't tip well then I have a hard time remaining friends with those people.  By those people, I mean elitist pricks.  At the large Texas law firm I worked at after graduating from USC Law School, I was always amazed at how the wait staff seemed invisible to many of the lawyers.  And how, while eating a hundred dollar dinner, they ignored their waiters and waitresses at best.  To them, these people were irrelevant. This was not true in my case. They were my tribe.

Before I became a lawyer, I worked for more than a decade as a waitress to put myself through school.  Name a restaurant and I have probably worked there.  Don Jose's in Montclair, Benji's Coffee Shop in Upland, Marie Calendar's in Covina (for one day, I swear), Tony Roma's in West Covina, Applebees in San Dimas, Rainforest Cafe in Ontario, Carrows in Riverside and others.  The oddest job I had was room service at a hotel restaurant in Ontario where I worked with my best friend Melinda.  It freaked me out to wheel the cart into people's rooms, especially if a guy was only wearing a towel (which happened more than once).

My mom was a waitress.  And my sisters and I waited tables.  It is a noble profession and you have to be wicked smart and a multitasker to do it well.  I was an excellent waitress.  I could take ten tables at a time.  There was a trick to it.  You had to be able to do a million things at once and be able to hold your bladder.

The hardest wait job I had was the graveyard shift at Benji's coffee shop in Upland.  The uniform was a peach polyester skirt with a green polo.  Hideous.  My little sister Annie and I worked there and you had to start out at the graveyard shift because all the old timers had the breakfast and lunch prime shifts.  All the little punks and jerks came in at two a.m. after the club and were drunk and obnoxious. And, they didn't tip for shit.  But, the worst part was staying awake and being polite.  I was always grumpy because I wanted to be out at the club not slinging hash.

Like I said earlier, I was an excellent food server and quickly moved to breakfast and lunches where the regulars tipped well.  My dad would always come visit me and sit at the counter and order an iced tea.  He would leave me a quarter tip.  He would say, "Jenny, you need to go to school."  I would nod my head and reply, "I'm working on it Dad."

I knew I was smart, but I didn't know how I would get to school.  By get to school, I mean literally get there.  You see, I never had a working car and transportation was my biggest issue in my twenties.  The best part about Benji's was that it was two blocks away from my apartment in Upland.  I walked to work because I couldn't seem to save up money for a car.  When Dad got a settlement, he bought me a little black Chevelle for five hundred cash that we called the cockroach but it broke down within two months.

My clients sometimes can't get to court and I always understand because I was there.  I know what it feels like to not have a ride.

And fuck the bus.  The only place the bus is remotely cool is in Northern California and back in the 90's, bus service in the Inland Empire sucked even more than it does now.

In some ways, I miss those days.  There was a beauty to the struggle.  It sucked but in a lovely way.  Something I can look back upon and write about at the very least.  But I don't miss the aching feet or the smell of food in my hair.  Or the hundred dollar checks I got stiffed on.

And I guess what I am also saying here is, when you are sitting at a restaurant and ordering food, remember, that girl waiting on you is a person.  A person with hopes, dreams and ambitions.  Look her in the eye.  Talk to her.  Joke around.  Always be polite and tip at least fifteen to twenty percent.  And, if she is having a bad day, realize, she may have had to call three people before she found a ride to work.

Plus, you never know, one day she may be your lawyer.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Old JEM

My husband and I went to the Greek Theater last night to see a band called Grouplove.  I don't listen much to new music.  I'm your typical punk rock music snob who thinks only the 1970's and 1980's mattered with a little smattering of some 1990's.  Bowie, The Smiths, The Pixies, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Replacements, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Cure.  Those, and many others which are too many to name, are the greats.  I just started appreciating Nirvana.  And if I listen to "new" music it's throwback old school type bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Killers and so on.  I'm like my mother when I was in high school.  Mom loved the 1950's musical era especially Elvis and that music, along with some outlaw country, was all she would listen to. New wave and punk bands from the 1980's are to me what the 1950's music was to my mom.

Can that be true? There is an old Cure lyric that goes something like this, "Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die.  Yesterday I got so old that it made me wanna cry."

Grouplove is a band I would put in the throwback category but they're very modern as well fusing punk with dance (or do the new kids call it electronic?).  The lead singer's voice reminds me of a higher pitched Michael Stipe from REM.  On stage, the lead resembles a blue haired Kurt Cobain in his trench coat slash blue bathrobe and long white t shirt with combat boots and his lyrical partner and keyboardist looks like a hybrid of Blondie and Lady Gaga.  Their songs are infectious punk pop with a little pixies type distortion and male female melody.  That's why I, along with what must be millions of teens including my 15 year old niece, love them.  The average age at the concert was probably 18 but I did see some other thirty and forty somethings.

Friday concerts are always difficult, especially living where we live in the HD (high desert my friends and you can only use the acronym if you live there).  It was a 72 mile drive each way and my husband and I both had to work.  I left work a little early and was home by 5.  My husband Adrian walked in at after 6 and I could tell he was irritated.  To his credit, he didn't try and get out if it, likely because he knows how much I love music and concerts, as does he.  And he had never been to the Greek so I had to get him there.

The drive wasn't bad.  No traffic to speak of as we were heading against the long lines of traffic.  We took the I 15 South to the 210 West to the 134 West through Pasadena to the 5 freeway at Griffith Park.  We were there by 745 and after paying twenty dollars to park, we walked into the venue past a coyote.  The arena is nestled in a park like area with trees and tables.  I could tell Adrian appreciated the venue.  I walked to will call to get our tickets and could hear that the opening band, Portugal The Man, was already playing.

We got to our seats and we were nestled in the terrace section to the left of the stage, thankfully at the end of the row for Adrian who is six foot four.

I would have had a great view except for the four or five teenage girls who stood up and danced like maniacs in the row in front of us.  I kept rolling my eyes as the teenage girl in front of me twirled her hair and head banged to music that didn't warrant it.  They passed a joint around and I waved my hand in front of my face to get the smoke away.  The young JEM would of asked for a hit. Old JEM was just irritated.

The clock hit nine and Portugal got off the stage.  The annoying girls seemed to deflate and fell into their seats. I went to get popcorn and go pee.  Grouplove came on at 9:25 as scheduled and the entire stadium went crazy.  I danced and sang along to every song and was just as annoying as the girls had been earlier, girls who were now slumped in their seats from too much partying early on.

That is the benefit of old JEM's sobriety.  I can always make it through.  I never miss an experience because I am passed out or sick or drunk.  And I have to say, I like old JEM.  Yes, I get tense.  Yes, I stress out without any magic elixir other than caffeine but I am myself.  This is it people.  Take it or leave it.

So excuse me now please.  I am going to go listen to some 80's punk with a little new music thrown in.  Maybe I will even bang my head a time or two to the beat and twirl my hair and remember what it was like.  To be young.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Restless Soul

I feel restless today.  Something is in the air.  This has been a hard couple months but as usual things are bad until they're not.  The sun is breaking through for me today.  Excuse me if I wax poetic for a quick second, but I feel as if I have awoken from the fog of a dream into the real world.  And I am alive.  Breathing is possible.

I am sitting at Starbucks marveling at my life.  I have it pretty good.  A great husband, a job that fulfills me and my writing.  I never thought I would get this far in life, I really didn't.

When I was in my early twenties, all I cared about was partying.  It was all about the fun and while I know how the song goes, it was not all fun and games.  In the end, all partying and drinking is a way to escape the drudgery of an adult existence.  In my teens, drinking was how I coped with the chaos of home, in my twenties it was how I escaped being a real adult (if all you care about is going to the nightclub and what you are wearing out every night, and making enough tips for your drinks, then life seems easy) and in my thirties, drinking was how I decompressed from a stressful legal career.

In my forties, drinking is not an option anymore.  It is not that I would say I had a drinking problem, it is that I knew I didn't want to get one.  I come from a long line of alcoholics on my father's side and after seeing first hand the havoc it wrought, I have decided to abstain.  This is the first time I have written about that choice.  And it is a choice.  Everything is.

Choice is what makes us have a soul they say.  I believe it.  And I choose to be the sober, soulful and fun loving punk rock chick I am today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Showing up

There is something to be said about just showing up. About being there.  Right now, I am not the nicest person to be around.  I feel like I have a perpetual frown on my face.  Life is all too much sometimes.  But I am showing up.

It is not just the baby thing.  Well maybe it is.  Since the day I found out I would miscarry I have been in a funk.  Before that day, I would not have called myself an optimist necessarily, but I did try and stay positive as much as a former goth girl could.  And I tried to be nice.

The problem may be that I never failed at anything I tried hard at.  School was always easy for me academically, although not always emotionally.  But, if I tried, I succeeded.  This baby thing, well maybe it is just not meant to be.  The most difficult part of it all is that for a short time, maybe even seconds, I believed it could happen.  Then God ran my heart over.

One thought keeps running through my head: silly girl for ever thinking you could be a mom.  Reader, please bear with me. I know these thoughts are not rational.  They don't make sense.  I know God is not punishing me for anything and the universe is not conspiring against me.  Some things may not be in the cards.  You have to, and I mean this, you have to be happy either way.

Yes, I show up but in a way, I feel like I've given up.  I am always irritable.  I show up to things because otherwise I would sleep all day and cry.  I learned much from my last year of high school in 1989 when I did give up and doze it all away.  That experience taught me that escapism is not how you deal with life.   You go to work.  You go to concerts.  You live life.  In short, you get up.

Take my seventy-four year old mom for example.  Mom fell and broke her leg two weeks ago.  Her positive tenacity has astounded me. "I'm not depressed anymore," she said one day after finding out she has to have leg surgery.  "Thank you for all you and your sisters do.  I have the best daughters."

When I think of her and how strong she is sitting in her wheelchair, my eyes fill with water.  OK tears.  I want to be that brave. And strong.  To believe in life again.

I want to show up with grace.

I just need to learn how.