Chapter 8: Putting the “School” Back in Restaurants

January 26, 2009

Sitting down in room 208A of the Los Angeles Convention Center, I could tell this was going to be different than the last Restaurant I worked at.

I had been a waiter at one joint for over five years.  Crazy, right?  I survived two owners, seventeen managers, and countless co-workers as I watched the place more or less fall apart.  I had the luxury of time in crafting my complaints about how the place was run.  At no point was my input ever called upon for how to improve the place, and my unsolicited advice was simply ignored.

As I have mentioned earlier, all I was looking for in a place of employment was flexibility for my Acting pursuits.  So perhaps the flaws of the Restaurant were actually it’s saving grace.  Things were so poorly run that it was hard for me to look bad.  I’d show up one day and tell them I was leaving on Tuesday for two months, expecting them to be furious.  But given the fact that our employee attrition rate could rival The Apprentice, that was not particularly startling news for management.  And upon my return, I could expect immediate full-time employment.  Sure, it may take a few days, but eventually someone would either get canned or walk out the door and I would take over their shifts.

I lasted as long as I did for one simple reason: the phone.

Now I’m not talking about sneaking out to the back to talk on my mobile.  I’m talking about the phones in the front of the restaurant.  There was an actual position that was devoted to this piece of equipment: the Hostess.  I know it’s sexist to assume that the position would be filled by a female, but my choice of word reflects the actual hiring tendencies of the owner, George.  Not a hostess would be hired without a sit-down interview with him.

Requirements for the job?  Hmm.  Most would guess personable, good communication skills, ability to multitask.  However the skills that I found to be consistently present in our hostesses were: foreign, suggestively dressed, copious amounts of makeup.

The day came when George turned this hiring policy into a mockery.  Her name was Natasha and she didn’t speak a single word of English.  NO.  No.  That’s not fair, I’m being a jerk.  She in fact did know several words.

“Hi!”

That jovial greeting that people got upon walking in the door seemed customer-friendly, but something was off.  The mirth seemed to be derived from her own amazement that she knew a word in English, and not from the thrill of an incoming Table of Four.

As of late I had been getting roped into delivery and take out orders on the phone because the English of most of our hostesses was so bad.  Even if English is your native language it can be difficult, as the people ordering delivery don’t tend to be trained in the art of rhetoric (or speech for that matter).  To top that off the restaurant is usually pretty noisy, and our delivery menus didn’t even match our dining room menus (this was not in any way on purpose).

Usually at the very least we could count on hostesses to be able to seat people.  But with the new addition of Natasha, I was actually being told by the manager to seat people so she wouldn’t scare people away.  The final straw came when the owner told me to get the phone.  I was pretty used to having orders barked at me, but this time George was sitting at a nearby table, hitting on the very hostess whose job description included “answering the phones”. 

It was this moment that I channeled Bucci.  I dropped the “go fuck ya’self” portion of it, and simply said “this is not my job George” as I picked up the receiver.  I took the order, placed it in the computer, and went about my business.  I waited until George was no longer with Natasha (or any other attractive female…challenging his authority in such company was grounds for termination).  I told him that after months of helping out I would no longer be answering phones or seating customers unless the hostess and manager were both busy.  I assured him that I was a team player, but I could no longer let my customers suffer because we had hired people that were not able to do their job.  This wasn’t fair.  I wasn’t sure how he would react to this, but it went over pretty well.  George knows the restaurant business very well, and any missteps generally come from his love of women and/or love of yelling at people.  But he could see that I was trying to put my customers first.

The “hostess problem” was never actually solved, but precedent was set that I would not be answering the phone anymore.  This really paved the way for my being treated like a human being.  I started to understand why Bucci sat me down all those years before.  No one was going to give me my (state required) break, so I was going to have to demand it.  Every time.  Had I not put my foot down, I could have eventually been managing the place but only receiving a waiter’s salary, which is about half of minimum wage.  I saw it happen to other people.  But Bucci taught me well, and I drew a line in the sand.  As Walter Sobczak from The Big Lebowski would say, “across this line, you do not…also dude, Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature, Asian-American, please.”  Wait.  That didn’t really make sense.

The hardest thing about putting my foot down was seeing everyone else get walked all over.  I tried to have my Bucci-talks with people, but I guess I’m just not as effective.  It’s for this reason that I had always been pro-Union.  Rather than me having to fight for a break every time I worked, I could be a part of an organization that would make sure the management was prioritizing my (state required) break.  How nice is that?  I would be treated like a human being without having to break out my Bronx accent.

But until I walked into Room 208A of the Los Angeles Convention Center I had never considered the “Corporate” factor.

Corporate.

What a word that is.  College students hate it.  Mom and Pop shops fear it.  But on this November day, Jesse was embracing it.

With each click of the Power Point Slide Show I fell more and more in love with Corporate America.  It was as though they read the handbook I wrote on how to create a healthy work environment.  Let’s start off with a simple one: Gossip.  Written in plain legal terms on Power Point Slide 62 was the no-nonsense policy.  You don’t gossip about each other.  You don’t gossip about customers.  It’s not appropriate for anyone to do.  Even if two people think it’s fine, it’s not acceptable as other people may be in earshot.

I had a flashback of something George said to me while furiously munching on a mouthful of Scallops drenched in Hollandaise sauce.  “This girl at the table over there, she is Lesbian.”

What place does that have in the work environment?!  Now I’m not complaining, in fact my favorite part of work was the crazy things that would come out of the mouths of the kooky cast of characters working or eating at the restaurant.  But ultimately that’s not helping things when it comes to the overall morale of the staff.

Click.  Slide 63.

As each equally anal policy appeared on the screen, I started to fantasize about the life I could be living in the Corporate World.  Sure it’s not some sort of magical place filled with Rainbows or Unicorns, but a policy exists should a Rainbow or Unicorn appear.  The organization of it all was too much to bear; I was about to explode with delight.  I didn’t mind that I was in a painfully banal conference room.  The fact that we all had to stand up and say what our favorite food was did not bother me like it should.  I said “pancakes”, and had a difficult time pushing my chair back along the carpet so I could stand up just like everyone else.  We were all awkward and uncomfortable together, and we all gave each other the forced chuckle we hoped we would receive for our own favorite food (haha, Shrimp Scampi, it sure is delicious, Todd).  We had nametags on.  And we had to wait in line to get the nametags.  Asking each other’s names would be too ambiguous, so the nametag policy was instated.  Oh this wonderful world!

Who needs Unions when you have Corporations?  Sure, they may screw you in the end with face-less layoffs, but at least you have Kelli in HR to call in the mean time.

The phone rang while I was on the lunch break I didn’t have to ask for.  As I answered it, I experienced my first earthquake upon moving to California.

Metaphorically.

I then checked my messages and had a new voicemail.  Just then, another earthquake occurred, equal on the Richter Scale.

Metaphorically.

I called the next morning and told the manager Geoff that I wouldn’t be reporting for training.  It was a painless call, given their “at will” employment policy that didn’t require me to explain why I was quitting.

What was the siren that led me astray?  In fact it was not one, but two part-time corporate jobs.  Perhaps I just wanted to be involved in as many Corporations as possible.  One job was tutoring.  The other is hard to describe without a real life example:

A customer approaches me with a twenty dollar bill.

They hand it to me.

I take it.

I look at them.

They look at me.

I say:

“Regular Unleaded, Middle Grade, or Premium?”

They respond. 

I fill ‘em up.

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Chapter 7: The “C” Word

January 18, 2009

I was standing in a parking lot in Venice, back from a relaxing stroll on the beach.  I had achieved a certain state of Zen, which was put back in it’s place by a little sound my car made as I unlocked the passenger side door:

BEEP.

Take that, Zen!  What you got, punk-ass Zen?

It was deja-vu, except last time was before I spent fifty dollars to have the car alarmed removed.  I knew of two methods that could possibly help me out here – unlock all of the doors, or man the kill switch, after disconnecting the battery.  You may remember some of the war stories from earlier entries.  But something felt different this time around.

I was dressed in a superhero costume this time, cape and everything.  Not literally, of course.  I was wearing jeans and hoodie sweatshirt.  The hood was large and flimsy, almost cape-like, but no one walking by was going to confuse me for Super Man.  I was in Clark Kent attire, so to speak.  But in my mind…

Cool as a cucumber, I popped the hood, ready to disconnect the battery after I started the car.  Turning the keys of the ignition, I was met with the lovely melody I was expecting – BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP (repeat, staccato).

I casually got out of the car and disconnected the battery, in stark contrast to the previous times where I spent twenty seconds chanting in a falsetto whine: “I hate cars, I hate cars, etc”.  I unlocked all of the doors of the car, carrying out Plan A. 

Success. 

Closing the hood of the car, I sauntered back to the driver’s seat.  About to get in, I noticed a couple at the parking meter for the Lot I was in watching me.  I looked at them and recognized the befuddled admiration in their eyes, as they had no doubt witnessed the whole thing as they were making sure they had enough time on their meter.

Perhaps they thought I was a really good criminal, stealing cars with a nimbleness and serenity you only see in the movies.  Or maybe they thought I was just tremendously car savvy.  Either way, I felt the need to acknowledge their stares with a triumphant “nod”.  You know.  The kind you see in the movies in slow motion. 

“Stay in school, kids” I thought, but fortunately did not say as they were adults in their fifties and I was only figuratively and not literally in a superhero costume.  But one thing was for sure – I was The Man.

It was with this confidence that I walked into my first day at The Farm of Beverly Hills Restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles.  Ironically, I took the subway.  I reported to the LA Convention Center, where the first week of training would take place until construction on the site was done.  It was back to the World of Restaurants for Jesse Gavin.  A brief History:

Jesse began working at an upscale Italian Restaurant in Saratoga Springs at age 15, during the town’s infamous Horse Racing Season.  It was there that I learned how to mop floors, de-vane Shrimp, and scrub pots and pans.

But more than that, at the tender age of fifteen, I got to learn how the world “really” works.  Oh yes.  It’s not like they teach you in School.  There were many teachers…scratch that…there were many guest lecturers in this particular school of life.  But more than any other, I remember the Head Waiter.

His name was Bucci.  First name?  I don’t know…what’s it to ya?  Huh?  What’s da matter with you?  You a snoop?  You da police or somethin’?

You don’t ask Bucci stupid questions.  Capisce?  For example, the customer that asked him if we considered ourselves a “real” Italian restaurant was asking for trouble.  He went on to tell Bucci that a “real” Italian Restaurant serves warm bread.  Now our bread was so fresh that we didn’t need to warm it, which is usually done to mask some stale product.  But that wasn’t the point.  The point was that you don’t piss off Bucci.

The customer got his soup with a Bronx specialty on the house – Loogi de Bucci.  Yep.  Hawked it nice and loud for everyone in the kitchen to hear.

You give Bucci shit, you get Bucci snot.

So needless to say, a chill ran up my spine the day I heard Bucci’s voice behind me, “Hey kid, what’s the matter with you?”  Perched on the stairs of the loading dock, I was enjoying the one moment of peace I got per day: hunching over a heaping bowl of Pasta Primavera, shoveling every tasty morsel I could into my mouth before I was called back inside to attend to the growing pile of pots and pans that needed scrubbing.  Sometimes I shoveled too fast, and had to take a gulp of the glorious Coca Cola I had never ending access to in order to wash it down (can you imagine what that kind of access is like for a fifteen year old?).

I quickly turned back to look at him, although it occurred at slow-motion speed like in the movies. 

“C’mere” barked Bucci, reiterating the imperative with the classic “c’mere” finger gesture that is only used for purposes of seduction by a lady or brutal punishment by the mob.

I put my food next to me and got up for my walk down the plank (both figuratively and literally, the loading dock had an 8-foot drop). 

“Grab your food.  And your soda.” 

As I reached down to pick up my food and soda, I noticed him moving a table and chair in my peripheral vision.  I walked over to him.

“Sit down” he said, taking an ominous drag of his cigarette.  I sat down, putting my Pasta and Coke on the table, ready for anything.  “Hold this” he said, handing me his cigarette.  I took the cigarette, doing my best not to wince in anticipation of some sort of backhand to the face.

Instead he went into the kitchen.  “This is my opportunity” I thought, not bothering to think of what he was off fetching (A pot? A pan? A ladel?).  Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be pretty.

SLAM.

On the table in front of me was a roll of silverware in a cloth napkin.

“You eat like a human being, Ok?’

Speechless, I managed an “Uh…yeah”

“Don’t let anyone treat you any different, you hear me?”

I nodded mechanically, knowing that was what I wanted to do but without the proper motor skills and muscle memory available to do so.

I opened up the silverware and put the napkin in my lap, kind of unnecessary since I was in my dishwashing attire.  But this was not a time to question such trifles.

I took a bite and chewed very deliberately as Bucci finished his cigarette.

“Hey Jesse, dishes are piling up man” I heard behind me, as one of the cooks came out to call me back in to the kitchen.

“He’s eating his dinner, go fuck yourself” said Bucci very matter of factly.

“Oh yeah, sorry Jesse, whenever you’re done” retreated the cook.

Putting out his cigarette on the ground I would later be sweeping, Bucci looked over at me one last time, “you stick up for yourself, OK kid?  Never forget that you’re a human being.”  I wasn’t sure if this was some sort of a test or not, and for a moment considered following him into the kitchen and shouting in front of everyone: “Hey!  Bucci.  How bout you go pick up dat cigarette butt and put it in the can like everybody else does?  Ya stinkin’ goomba!”

Fortunately for me I was still too dazed by the entire episode to get out of my chair.  And given the fact that this was the first and last conversation we ever had, chances are he didn’t even know that I was the one that swept the loading dock every night.  Bucci simply saw an opportunity to impart some wisdom.

Bucci’s advice carried me through the next twelve years in which I worked on and off in the Restaurant Biz.  My life had mainly consisted of School up until that point, a meticulously organized system run by qualified professionals that strives to reward hard work and promote fairness.  The wonderful, wacky world that I was entering was the antithesis of School.  It attracts the very people that deplore School for every position available, throwing the logic out the window in favor of a “bust your ass” mentality.  The more tension in your neck, the better job you’re doing.

Walking into room 208A the LA Convention Center, however, it occurred to me that I had perhaps falsely generalized the Restaurant Industry over the years.  All the places I had ever worked were Small Businesses, where the boss would make up his or her mind on the spot about things, and what he or she said would “go” (even if the policy would completely change the next day).  This was the exact opposite of the meticulous organization of the School System.

So it was the sound of the laptop click when Karen moved from Power Point Slide One to Power Point Slide Two that made me realize I was in a new, uncharted territory: The Corporate Restaurant Biz.

Oh, I’d heard of it before.  The TGI Fridays; the Unos; the Olive Gardens.  “Ugh, it was Corporate”, the hungover and in all likelihood stoned waiter would moan, beginning a horror story of his last place of employment and their unbearable “rules”.  It was the most dreaded word in the Restaurant Business:

Corporate. 

Corporate: Putting “the School” back in the Restaurant Business since 1983.

Click.  Power Point Slide Three: “Overview of Management Policies”.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.


Chapter 6: Tofu?!

January 12, 2009

When we last left off, I had a large man sitting across from me at the Thanksgiving table.

“Tofu?!”

One day back in January of 2008 I decided to do a little experiment.  I had waited on one of the “top 5 coolest customers I’d ever had”, who happened to be a vegan.  I knew that he was a vegan because it meant I had to go back to the kitchen and try to communicate what that meant en espanol.

“no queso, no mantequila, por favor.”

“Yah, it’s Ok” answered Jose.  His response was less than comforting as his eyes had that glassy quality they acquire when he starts hitting the Tequila well before his shift is over.  So I had to sit there and watch him make it just to be sure.

Now normally this is the type of fastidious thing that bothers me about a customer, but this guy went about it in a respectful and courteous manner that left me eager to cater to his special request for our Butternut Squash Ravioli (sans parmesan).  Despite the fact that we were busy, it didn’t bother me to have to go find the box for the Zucchini Sticks to make sure there were no cheese in the filling or eggs in the breading.  Granted, I could have just taken Jose’s word on it:

“Yeah, it’s Ok man.”

My eyes stinging from the alcohol on Jose’s breath, I figured it better safe than sorry.

I had always like the idea of veganism, but was never particularly wild about the idea of practicing it.  Not only did it seem like a lot of work, but then you don’t get to eat meat, dairy, eggs or even honey.  These were all things I really enjoyed eating.  When I was five years old my parents let me order food for the first time, “ten bacons and a tea”.  But I was in need of a shakeup in my life at the time, and was inspired by my cool customer, so I decided to give it a go for one week.  If nothing else, just so I could say I tried it.  I had already been eating less meat after having a vegetarian girlfriend, but I never went more than a few days without seafood or a few weeks without red meat.

That night I ordered the veggie burger as my shift meal, which I was already a big fan of.  This time I left the cheese off, however.  It was my first intentionally vegan meal, and in no time at all experienced my first “vegan response”.

“What’re you eating?” asked my manager Jeff, a native of New Jersey with an inability to keep his hands or shoulders still while speaking.  “No cheese?” he asked.  “What’re you a fucking vegan now?  Jesus Christ”. 

Jeff finished off the sentiment with a “Fangul” hand gesture.

Eight minutes in and I already kind of wanted to quit.  Sure, the veggie burger was delicious.  In fact I was wondering why I’d never thought of adding avocado before, which I had done to fill in the void of the missing cheese.  But I found myself worriedly trying to assure Jeff from Jersey that I was not a vegan…just giving it a try is all.  “Nah dude, you’re a vegan, admit it.”

Jeff’s uncle and aunt had apparently done so much damage to their bodies with years of drinking and drug abuse that they decided to become vegan as a way of cleansing.  Jeff found it particularly irritating, because he had to eat at vegetarian restaurants from time to time. 

“I have to go to McDonald’s after I eat at those places.  Not just because I’m still hungry, but for the principle.”

My meal took a while to finish because I had to check on my tables from time to time.  Normally Jeff would look after them for me, but he was a bit preoccupied with lecturing me.  Before I could take my last bite he gave me the low-down on what to expect if I kept this up.

“You will never be able to take a normal shit again.  Ever.”

I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about, but I didn’t bother asking him to elaborate.

The next day I had my usual breakfast (vegan by default) and then went to Burritoville, my favorite joint with lots of vegetarian options.  Later that night at work I got the Butternut Squash Ravioli without the cheese, just like my cool customer the night before.

“How’s your shit doing?” Jeff asked me as I sat down for my shift meal.

It’s been almost a year now, and I haven’t noticed a significant difference in my bowel movements.  My one-week experiment kind of stuck.  I’ve had dairy a handful of times since then either by accident or because I didn’t feel like having “the conversation”.  In order to not die, I thought it would be good to read about nutrition pertaining to those that don’t consume animal products.  That ultimately led to a lot of information on the ethics of it.

A lot of times people ask me why I’m a vegan and I skirt the issue to avoid the touchy subject.  “Eh, you know, I thought it’d be funny”.  But I read something that kind of says it all for me, regardless of any facts or figures or horror stories:

“Veganism is a practical expression of the oneness of all life”

I think that’s kind of cool.  I have lots of thoughts on all of “the issues”, but they all kind of fall under that umbrella.

Now, when I have a large man ranting about tofu in front of me, or Jeff from New Jersey telling me my shit is never gonna be the same, it doesn’t really bother me.  It took a little getting used to, sure, but it’s probably my favorite response because it’s so fun and ridiculous.  A good time is had by all.

However, there is a terrible response that I encounter that makes my skin crawl every time I get it. 

The defense.

The word “defense” implies that I have attacked, and this is what bothers me.  I then have to do my best to not get baited into “the conversation”, when all I wanted was to eat my salad.

But no such conversation happened that Thanksgiving, which I was thankful for.  Just a whole lot of flabbergasted outbursts from Andy’s dad.  “I sure hope they didn’t make this pecan pie with tofu!” 

I was especially thankful to be spending the holiday with my brother, Jeff (not to be confused with Jeff form Jersey).  We went to a hockey game, saw the new Charlie Kaufman film, ate donuts and drank lots of beer.  Jeff’s been in Seattle for over five years now, and I’m the first in the family to join him on the West Coast.  It’s still a ways away, but certainly not as far as before. 

The local burger joint had a deal where if the home team scores five goals, you can redeem your ticket for a free burger.  They had four goals with two minutes remaining.

“I can’t wait to get Jesse’s burger” whispered Andy’s brother to his girlfriend.

Unfortunately they didn’t get that fifth goal, but my burger definitely would’ve been up for grabs.  The night ended with a thirty-one year old man being pushed down a Seattle sidewalk at approximately 35 mph in a shopping cart by Andy’s brother.  It was kind of like Jack Ass The Movie, except real and with drunk people.

The trip was just what I needed.  I headed back to Los Angeles feeling refreshed and ready to start at the new restaurant.  On my way home from the airport I decided to take a detour out to the beach.  It was the first time I had seen the Pacific since I’d moved!  Before I moved I had written down what I wanted to do and accomplish in Los Angeles.  I ambitiously vowed to go to the beach every day, and here I was finally making it after three weeks.

Breathing in the ocean air confirmed my belief that this was an important ritual.  I felt that relaxation that makes people start to talk like…well, beach people.   Strolling back to my car, I felt like nothing could bring me down from this natural high.

I went to unlock the passenger door.

BEEP.

Oh shit.  I know what that means. 

FUCKING BULLSHIT MOTHER FUCKER COCKSUCKING SHIT!!!!

Oh jeez.  Sorry for the profanity, but my state of Zen was just toppled by the car alarm that I had previously paid to have removed.

 


Chapter 5: Kristham Has to Go

January 3, 2009

With my economical haircut finally finished, I was determined to find employment.  Problem was, I also had to find a way to finish the video I started with Kristham before he had to go home.  A lot of my job-hunting involved logging onto Craigslist at 7:30 am and finding out about an open house from 10am until noon that very day on the other side of town.  Get there by 9:50am and you have the upper hand on everyone else as they’re not rushing people just yet.

So trying to schedule stuff with Kristham was a bit of a pain.  But nonetheless, I had started the project, and I was going to keep my word.  If not for honor’s sake, at least because then if I was ever in Madrid I would have a place to stay.

“Joo come to Madrid, we go dancing.  Yes.”

I couldn’t pass up this offer.

We scheduled a shoot for 11pm one night, after I’d be getting home from a hockey game.  Now usually I like to get hammered after watching a game (finishing off the job I start while I’m in the stands).  But with my hectic schedule, this was something I felt was necessary to do in order to get this thing done.  My good buddy Brian Walker came into town for work and went with me to the Staples Center.  I passed on drinks afterwards and hopped the subway home.  I was pretty exhausted and not particularly in the mood to shoot.  We were going to get some dancing in a nearby parking lot.  I finally got home and started to get ready when I passed Kristham in the hallway.

“Hey, you all set to shoot?”

“Ah.  Yes.”

“Cool.”

“Joo are tired?” noticed Kristham.

“Yeah, but I’m fine to shoot.”

“Is OK.  We can shoot another time.”

I uncharacteristically took him up on the offer, opting instead to just hit the sack.  But as I was brushing my teeth I noticed that Kristham was already leaving the house with Florian (the Frenchman).  They were heading down to Hollywood to hang out.

Hmm.

I didn’t think too much of it, but it struck me as odd that he had made plans so quickly.  The next night we shot the parking lot, and scheduled something for the following day at his dance school.  We were going to meet at the house at noon.  As far as I knew he had talked to the school and it was cool to shoot at that time.  In all likelihood he had booked the studio ahead of time so we’d be good to go.

That morning, I tried to squeeze a morning interview in and got my first lesson in LA traffic: it sucks. 

Apparently, it can suck even if your car isn’t breaking down.  I was cursing and cursing and feeling really rotten about being late, finally getting home at 12:30.  I didn’t have any way to get in touch with him, so I wasn’t able to give a head’s up.  Where I come from, showing up a half hour late with no notice is grounds for an ass-whooping.  Or at the very least being fired or bitched out.  Especially in anything with the Entertainment Industry, as people are working for very little and on tight schedules.  I was hoping he’d understand, but was fearing the worst.

“Joo say noon!  Joo say noon?  Yes.  And I wait.  No dancing now…no dancing!”

The scenario was playing out in my head; a fuming Kristham trying to express how pissed he was but not knowing enough English to express himself.  Maybe he’d express himself in interpretive dance, and then I’d be in the awkward position of feeling bad about what I had done while at the same time trying not to laugh because he was communicating with a Harlem Shake.

I finally got home and apprehensively tip-toed into the front door.  No sign of him at all.

I guess the worst case scenario was that the Spanish Justin Timberlake would tell people that I’m not reliable.  I took it as a lesson – expect the worse for traffic, and prioritize.  As much as prioritizing paid employment is wise in most circles, it really isn’t in mine, since all it does is keep you in that employment you’re only in because you want to get into the other kind.

Realizing that he had probably given up on me, I stayed at the house just in case he came back and scoured the internet for more interviews.  I found a place that was doing a 2:30 – 4pm Open Call for Waiters.  I got myself ready, and was about to head out the door at 2pm when I heard a door creak open. 

Through the door stumbles a groggy Kristham.  Not from outside, but from his bedroom.  I didn’t even bother checking his room!  The guy was asleep this whole time.  If you do the math, you’ll notice that he was waking up two hours after the time we agreed to start shooting (and you know that he’s going to need some time to shower and gel his hair). 

I was kind of frozen in shock.  Now I’ve had my share of “holy shit I overslept by three hour” experiences, so I wasn’t about to get all pissy about what happened.  But that wasn’t quite it.

“Hey” smiled Kristham.  “Oh man, I sleep late”.

This wasn’t an acknowledgement, more of a fun fact.  He started talking to Florian and they began laughing about something funny that had happened the night before.  I found this kind of irritating, especially because Europeans tend to laugh in a more effeminate way than Americans.  After a few minutes I thought it time to bring up the shoot.

“Hey Kristham, weren’t we supposed to shoot at noon?”. 

“Oh.” Looking at his watch, he laughed a bit.  “Ok, I get ready now.”

Now perhaps Jesse Gavin is being a bit of a jerk here, but this comes down to a fundamental opinion I have.  I’ve opted to try to pursue a career in Entertainment.  I could get some sort of random job and live in Upstate New York, and do “the Arts” in my free time and talk about how I do it for the love.  But I live in Los Angeles, and I lived in New York, because I want to actually do it for a living.  It’s pretty common knowledge that the only way to get to that point is to do a lot of work-for-free, which can suck balls.  I think the only thing you expect in return for working for free is to have your time respected.  So showing up late to something becomes a huge No-No, because you have wasted other people’s time, time that they have generally squeezed out of their ever-shrinking sleep schedule.

Now I’m not a professional director of music videos, so it’s hard for me to have as much of a chip on my shoulder about it when I’ve never been paid to do this.  But I know for sure that I have lots I could do with my time other than wait around for Kristham to wake up because he and the Frenchman had a fun night.  Not to mention having to remind him that we had scheduled a shoot.

I told him I couldn’t shoot because I was going to another job interview.  As I talked to him about rescheduling, the image of him sitting outside with his Boombox popped into my head.  Who is this guy?!  Why am I making his music video?  What the heck was I thinking? 

The Life of Jesse Gavin.

I did my best to get some more stuff shot, but he was a no-show the one time we actually got something figured out.  He told me he could try to do half the video in Madrid and mix it with what we got in LA, but after his second no-show, I kind of gave up on him. 

So here’s just what we got from the first day, back when I wasn’t a douchebag and just did it for “the love”:

 

So this was clearly never going to make MTV (not that they play videos anymore).  I didn’t really edit it as well as I would’ve if I kept my drive.  I’m pretty sure the rhythm is off in one of those shots, if not several.  And ultimately my camera only costs 275 dollars for a reason.  I still have yet to edit the footage of the Parking Lot Dance Sequence we did at night.  Perhaps I’ll be tempted too if Kristham has enough fans…?

Well, back to looking for a job.

I had told everywhere I applied that if I was hired I was available to work Thanksgiving.  After having a Restaurant renege on their offer of employment pending I worked that day, I hopped on a plane to Seattle to spend the holiday with my brother, Jeff.  We went straight from the airport to a gathering hosted by his good buddy Andy’s parents.  I got an email on my phone right before we walked in.

You’re Hired!  Like, for real this time.  An aspiring Los Angeles Chain Restaurant called “The Farm of Beverly Hills” had hired me as a waiter at their new location in Downtown Los Angeles next to the Staples Center.  I was to report for training the following Monday.

Score.

I was feeling relaxed.  Even Zen, dare I say.  All that was left was to enjoy my weekend with my brother Jeff who was wonderful enough to fly me up there so we could have the first ever West-Coast-Gavin Holiday.  There was a weight lifted off my shoulders.

As I started to think about all the things I was thankful for, a large man that had been watching football this entire time finally came over to the dinner table and sat down across from me.  Noticing what was on my plate, he began a forty five second rant that could only be successfully re-enacted in a movie by the late Chris Farley.

“Tofu?  To.  Fu?  Is that Tofu?  In my house?  Oh my goodness!  Oh God!  Oh no, there’s tofu in my house.  We got turkey!  Turkey, not tofu.  Tofu?  ToFU?

“(Etc.)” 

Amidst all the chaos of whether or not I’d be working Thanksgiving or just staying in LA or coming up to Seattle I forgot about how this was going to be my first vegan Thanksgiving…

“Tofu?!!”

Did Jesse just say “vegan”?

Ah jeez, I’m going to have to explain this…in the meantime, here is my roommate Danny doing a re-enactment of my Thanksgiving: