Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Warning Signs: Vocabulary Edition

"Cool" "Words"

No kidding--this guy felt the need to say it twice during the course of his meal.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Local Hero's Venue to Close?

The rumor mill has brought to me an unconfirmed report that the Local Hero’s gallery/venue/burrito stand is closing down.

Although there is art on the walls, I don’t think a building can be considered a gallery if when the wrecking ball comes the artists have no interest in coming by to reclaim their work.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Author's Commentary on "Salad Daze"

Since this blog is sponsored by Norton Critical Editions, I am under contractual obligation to provide commentary for any and all creative work I post.  The following are my own comments on my recently posted dramatic piece “Salad Daze.”

First of all, you got me.  You’ve suspected me all along,  haven’t you?  I’ve got aspirations to be something other than a Japanese restaurant and I like to dabble with a little serious writing from time to time.  My background, as you might have guessed, is in playwriting, but I also have aspirations to write for the screen (I’ve got a notebook full  of screenplay ideas if I could only find the time to write them--I only I could dumb them down enough to make them palatable to Hollywood, ha ha).  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little creative venture.  I was kind of embarrassed to even share it with you, but putting your work out there is something every artist has to do sooner or later.  What good does it do hidden away in some drawer (or in some secret folder on a hard drive)?

“Salad Days” was an idea I had kicking about my head ever since I had the misfortune of sheltering the Blowhard and his party from the elements on the night they dined inside of me.  It is not complete in and of itself, but the middle territory of a much larger work, which follows the Blowhard and his companions throughout the entire course of their dining experience.  The second act of the play hinges upon a reveal that further illustrates our understanding of the character of Blowhard, namely that his chosen profession is that of lawyer.  Like all good endings, it should be surprising yet inevitable.  I think that many will, in reading the casual manner in which this information is imparted by the Unfortunately Complected Woman, experience the moment of “a-ha,” and then perhaps think to themselves I knew it all along.

To hear the Blowhard speak in his nasal, weasel-like, measured tones, as if he is the very voice of reason, would be the first clue that he is a lawyer (this is why, in casting “Salad Daze,” choosing an actor with the ability to convey the marrow-deep repulsiveness of the Blowhard is of the utmost importance).  It is the type of speech that if the listener should fall into the trap of listening to the music rather than the words, he or she would be in grave danger of swallowing whole any quantity of manure that the Blowhard is capable of producing.  If you talk loud and long enough and with enough conviction in your voice, people are going to believe you.  (Let me save myself from a barrage of complaints by saying that yes, of course, there are good lawyers out there.  The Blowhard, however, is not one of them.)  This manner of speaking seems to be something that is explicitly taught in law school.  If I might make a small suggestion to universities across the country: if you are going to outright teach lawyers-to-be to speak in a certain manner, you might want to see to it that the outcome of this instruction is less grating.

I dare say that a lawyer so obsessed with the work of Larry David is dangerous and would be an obstruction to the very process of dispensing justice.  With the Blowhard in a court of law, a murder trial might quickly devolve into a nonsense discussion of a Cobb Salad or a loaf of marble rye.  Perhaps the Blowhard would even go so far to fabricate evidence for comic effect, since it is obvious to any and all that his true calling is comedy and this whole lawyer thing is simply his way of marking time until he is discovered (because, god knows, we certainly need two Larry David’s in the entertainment business).

The flaws in the Blowhard’s reasoning border on mental illness.  Is he actually so dense that he sees a restaurant as a singular entity--something akin to a colony of ants--rather than a group of individuals working for more or less their own means?  Does he think that the server pledges blind allegiance to the owner?  Is a server’s greatest dream nothing more than to make his boss rich?  If that is the Blowhard’s belief, he is sorely mistaken.  It is not always in a server’s best interest to keep a customer happy.  The Blowhard and his party, with the exception of the young woman, conducted themselves like swine.  An intelligent server, not wishing increase the likelihood of repeated bad behavior by rewarding it with friendliness or good service, will cut his losses and eat a bad tip in the hope that certain individuals will be unhappy with the experience and never return.  If a server sees things otherwise, he needs to reevaluate his relationship with trifling amounts of money.  In all honesty, Blowhard, a server could give a toss about your happiness if you are a pig.  And you, Blowhard, are a pig.

Perhaps the real sickness lies in the Blowhard’s estimation of what is required in the name of good service.  If a server can get in trouble, or, say, lose his job for serving alcohol after closing, why would you expect him to bend the rules for you?  Oh, yes, we have forgotten about your heroic exploits with the salad, for which you lost your job.  Well, listen, Richie Rich not everyone is so ready to cast their job aside (especially in times when unemployment is hovering around the ten percent mark).  Maybe things were different in your youth when you had a summer job as a busboy--a job that if you had lost would not put you in any real danger.  A server is not likely to put his or her livelihood on the line in order to please a man in a tacky shirt.  We’re sorry if your server stopped at the line of providing good service and didn’t actually risk being fired in order to get you another beer--ESPECIALLY WHEN HE OFFERED TO GET YOU ONE FIVE MINUTES EARLIER FOR LAST CALL AND YOU DECLINED.

Perhaps what you really like is to manipulate people, to flex whatever scrap of power you may have at any given moment.  Well, now that I’ve turned down the beer for last call, let’s see if I can’t get another beer out of the server.  If he brings it, he’s a good dude, he knows I’m cool and that it wouldn’t hurt to bend the rules for me.  I’m just like Larry David, after all, and who doesn’t like Larry David?  If he doesn’t bend to my will, I’ll have to break out the big guns--at any rate I’ll get to impress my son’s date with that great salad story that I haven’t told since, well, since the last time I had a bad experience in a restaurant.  There’s no way I can possibly lose this one.  I’m a lawyer, after all, a silver-tongued voice of reason to whom all weaker minds must succumb.

These are the respectable members of our society?  Thanks, Blowhard.  I think I’m starting to like Larry David less.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reservations (from Beyond the Grave?)

Last night, during an unexpected rush, Julie, the front counter employee, handed the server a rather peculiar reservation.  It looked like this:

Rushed though he was, the server said that it would be possible to set aside a table for this oddly-named customer.  The room was nearly full and the server was performing well beyond the limits of what can reasonably be expected from a human being.  He scanned the room and, as luck would have it, saw a table that was unoccupied.  Since seven o’clock would be at hand in less then an hour, he made a mental note not to seat anyone at the vacant table--as if he didn’t already have enough to be concerned with at the moment.

Spirit, he thought, what a stupid name.  Who would have the audacity christen themselves so ridiculously over a dinner reservation?--as if John or Barbara or Smith or Zabrieski were too corporeal and somehow disrespectful of the eternal wonderfulness of the elevated plane upon which this potential eater of sushi resides.  Not only am I drowning, he thought, but I’m soon to add a couple of stupid hippies to the thirty-odd cretins whose happiness already hinges upon my ability to juggle like some super-famous clown (if super-famous clowns existed, he couldn’t be sure.  Wikipedia was far away and even if he were fortunate enough to own a fancy data phone, he would be far too pressed for time to pull the device from his pocket and thumb “super-famous clowns” into the browser’s search bar.  So, unable to conduct such research, for the sake of convenience, the server adopted the notion that there must be clowns that may not be famous as far as the general public is concerned, but could nevertheless be considered super-famous in clowning circles).  The real kicker was that these hippies, vapid lot they are, would most likely be completely oblivious to the busyness around them and plague the server with innumerable questions concerning in order to insure that their meal would be prepared in a manner approved of by hippies (oblivious also to the fact that this business is such that the owner puts profit far above all else).  In other words, they would be completely stoned.

The server couldn’t imagine that this Spirit would arrive with much of an appetite.  Have you ever seen something without a body sit down to a gigantic meal?  Small checks equal small tips equals not worth the pain of having to deal with customers.  (If you think that's harsh, ask yourself this: Would you look at a hippie for two dollars?)  What use would Spirit have for earth food anyway?  Perhaps this Spirit would want to order items not available on the menu, like milk and honey or manna.

As seven o’clock neared the server, having heard over the past weeks several of his coworkers recount frightening scenes from the popular movie Paranormal Activity, had a sudden change of opinion.  What if Spirit was not a hippie, but a ghost returning to the sushi bar to exact revenge for poor or rude service he had received while still alive?  That would be nearly as bad as having to wait on a hippie.  The server put on his mental track suit and took a jog through recent memory.  The number of people he had wronged during his brief tenure at the restaurant was staggering--he made enemies like Wilt Chamberlain took on sex partners.  Now that one among of them had shuffled off the plane in which sushi plays an important role, he would return in ghost form in order to sate his desire for vengeance.  As the minute hand ticked closer and closer to seven o’clock, the server became more and more certain that the scenario would play out in this manner:  The ghost would enter, suck out his soul, and leave without tipping.

The strain was becoming too much.  It taxed his ability to concentrate, which was already stretched to the limit.  The thought that he might not get to do all in life he had dreamed of doing, like going home and putting a couple good hours into Uncharted 2, was starting to become unbearable.  He would have to ask Julie, the front counter person, if there was anything suspicious about the phone call from Spirit.  He left the busy dining room and walked to the front of the restaurant.

The server rehearsed in his mind the questions he would ask:

SERVER:  Hey.  Was there anything, uh, suspicious about that call from Spirit?

JULIE:  Suspicious?  What do you mean?

SERVER:  Well, did he go woooooooooo or anything?

But when he rounded the corner, the register was unoccupied.  Julie was nowhere to be found.  It was as if she were never there.  The server, now badly shaken, returned to the dining room.  His only option was to re-examine the slip of paper upon which the reservation had been written.

But that, too, was gone.

Spirit never showed up.  It turned out that Julie was in the bathroom and the slip of paper was under some receipts that had accumulated during the rush.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Blowhard Part II: Salad Daze

This is the second entry in a series dedicated to a particularly loathsome customer known as The Blowhard.  The stage is set, the act is about to begin.  Come along.  I've saved you a front-row seat for a little drama I like to call . . .


by The Restaurant


SERVER, a handsome, level-headed young man never prone to fits of anger.

BLOWHARD, a pompous ass in a remarkably distasteful bowling shirt with a modified argyle design.

UNFORTUNATELY-COMPLECTED WOMAN, an aging woman with skin like cottage cheese, the wife or significant other of the Blowhard.

TURD, the grubby, college-aged, dim bulb son of the Blowhard.

YOUNG WOMAN, a polite, reasonably attractive young woman who has somehow become entangled with the Blowhard’s band of miscreants.  The date or girlfriend of the Turd.


SETTING, the dining room of a Japanese restaurant.  It is near closing time.  The cloth napkins stand firmly on the empty tables.  Candles flicker in the elegant atmosphere.

With the bulk of the propaganda painting himself to be every bit a brilliant as Larry David behind him, the Blowhard and company have begun to eat the sushi that the server has recently set on the table.  The diners begin to tear into the sushi with the abandon of starved hogs at a freshly-slopped trough

SERVER:  Does everybody have everything they need at the moment?

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  Yes.

UNFORTUNATELY-COMPLECTED WOMAN (mouth full of food):  Uh-huh.

SERVER:  We're about to close in a few minutes, so I wanted to make sure I couldn't get you anything else tonight.  More sushi, another drink, dessert . . . anything at all.

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  Uh.  I think were all right.

SERVER:  Then I can't get you anything for last call?

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  No.

The feast continues, the likes of which to witness would cause one an immediate loss of appetite.  Five minutes pass.  The server moves to and fro about the room, performing his closing duties.

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  Excuse me.  Can we get another beer?

SERVER:  I’m sorry.  We’re closed.

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  Really?  So you can’t get me another beer?

SERVER:  No, I’m afraid not.

BLOWHARD (mouth full of food):  Is it against the rules or something?

SERVER (actually not sure about the rules or laws, but entirely sure that he is fed up with the Blowhard and his loathsome party):  I can’t serve alcohol after we close.

BLOWHARD:  Huh.  That’s strange.  I’ve owned several restaurants and I’ve never . . .

The server begins to set up the table behind the Blowhard and company.  He is able to overhear their continued conversation.

TURD:  Wow, dad.  What are you going to do?

BLOWHARD:  What can you do?   Why let the little things get to you?  I once heard a very wise man say something to this effect.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  You go to bed, you wake up, and tomorrow’s another day.  I’m not going to let one little beer ruin everything.

TURD: Gee, dad.

BLOWHARD:  It seems to me it’s a matter of hospitality.  You’re in business to keep people happy, are you not?  If a customer wants a beer, you bring him a beer.  Rules be damned.  This reminds me of a story that takes place years ago, when I was working as a busboy for a local country club.  We had hard, fast rules against serving anything after the kitchen closed.  But there was one customer who wanted a salad.  I couldn’t get him this salad, I told him.  My hands were tied.  But I could see a look in the man’s eyes.  It was like he really wanted this salad.  I’ve never seen a man want a salad so bad in all my life.  Not before, not since.  So you know what I did?

All member of the Blowhard’s party wait with bated breath.

TURD:  What did you do, dad?

BLOWHARD:  I got him the salad.

Gasps from the Blowhard’s party.



TURD:  Wow, dad.  What happened?

BLOWHARD:  I was fired.

Even louder gasps from the Blowhard’s party.

TURD: You were?

BLOWHARD:  Yes I was, Turd.

UNFORTUNATELY-COMPLECTED WOMAN:  Well, you obviously didn’t let that stop you from being a successful lawyer . . . And a piss-poor imitation of Larry David to boot.  I mean you’ve nailed the asshole side of the character he created dead on, but you somehow managed to suck every last ounce of funny out of his shtick.

BLOWHARD:  But I got the job back.  The next day.

TURD (amazed):  You did?

BLOWHARD:  Yes, I did, Turd.  The very next day the manager took me into his office and offered me my job back.  On the condition that I was never to serve food after closing again.

TURD: Wow.


BLOWHARD:  I took it.  But I said that there’s no way I would stop serving food after closing, that I would do it EVERY NIGHT if the customers wanted it.

Turd guffaws.

TURD (in utter disbelief):  You did?

BLOWHARD:  Absolutely I did.

TURD (clapping in a monkey-like fashion): Dad, you are too much.

BLOWHARD:  Ain’t I though? 

YOUNG WOMAN:  What did your boss say?

BLOWHARD:  He said that he admired my pluck and he was lucky to have a busboy such as myself on board and that the cut of my jib was such that it was sure to take me far in life.

TURD:  Wow.  Like, wow.

BLOWHARD:  Anyway, it all comes back to my original point.  I don’t understand why someone would want to run a business that doesn’t please the customer.  Be it a salad or a beer after closing, if a customer wants it, he should have it.  It’s a matter of hospitality.

The Unfortunately-Complected woman exits.  From offstage a shrill hissy fit can be heard.  Moments later she returns triumphantly carrying one small bottle of Sapporo beer, her face a bumpy rictus of triumph.

BLOWHARD (impressed): Ho, ho.  Look at this.

TURD:  What did you do?

UNFORTUNATELY-COMPLECTED WOMAN:  I complained to the manager.

Victorious, she replenishes the Blowhard’s glass and her own with six ounces each of the most mediocre beer Japan has to offer.

Lights out.

The Blowhard, An American Hero

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rockabilly Guy's Guide to Tipping

Who would ever imagine that a guy with a chain attached to his wallet would be tight with the dollar?

I think I've cracked this guy's formula for tipping.  It goes something like this.

Round down the total to the nearest ten dollars.  For example, if the total is $44.86, round down to an even forty dollars for the purposes of calculation.

Tip 15% on the rounded figure.  (So, if the rounded figure is $40.00, the tip would be an even $6.00.)

Congratulations.  You have now left a crappy less-than-fifteen-percent tip.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Local Hero's Halloween Appearance

It should be noted the the Local Hero did make an appearance the restaurant on Halloween of this year, at precisely the time trick-or-treating began.  This was undoubtedly a ploy to avoid giving out candy to children, stingy bastard he is.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Local Hero Forced to Wait Like Commoner

The origin of this latest development takes place roughly about a week ago.  The Local Hero and his dining companion, the French woman with the gigantic nose, sat at the bar, shared a small bottle of Perrier, ate thirty dollars worth of sushi, and talked the chef's ear off (being sure to promote an Important Local Event that was upcoming at his venue).  When the meal was done, The Local Hero showed his gratitude for the artfully crafted meal and the chef's company by dropping a single dollar bill into the chef's tip jar (let's not even entertain the notion that The Local Hero left gratuity for the server).  The Local Hero is under the mistaken impression that he is a friend of the sushi chef.  Perhaps he thinks that this is the reason that proper gratuity need not be left (though tips are for servers, not chefs, and the local hero does not know personally any of the servers).

Who could possibly imagine that the Local Hero's piggish behavior could ever come back to haunt him?  After countless months of walking past the sign asking him to please wait to be seated, of leaving terrible tips, of forcing employees to look at his dopey face, an opportunity for revenge was revealed--and the server was quick to take it.  Is the Local Hero completely oblivious to the bad feelings he brings with his every visit?  Is he unaware of the enemies he has created, waiting in the shadows for the opportunity to strike?  Apparently so.

The Local Hero, being a Local Hero, is not accustomed to waiting.  He and his dining partner habitually help themselves to a place at the bar, no matter who may be politely waiting in line to be seated before them.  The only time they are ever in a position in which they’ll have to wait is if the bar is either full or dirty.  On this particular occasion, a swell of unexpected business had filled every table in my dining room--the six unoccupied seats were covered with dirty dishes.  The server, the unhappy soul saddled with every possible duty that can exist on a restaurant’s floor, was planning on clearing the mess at the bar as soon as he had dealt with every other possible thing that had to be dealt with.

On the way to the bar, the Local Hero and company walked past the counter, fully expecting their places at the bar--those directly in front of the sushi chef--to be set and waiting to be blessed by their locally heroic bottoms.  “There’s a wait,” the server said.  “You’ll have to sign in on the sheet.”

The Local Hero stopped, taking a full four seconds to process this information.  He peered at the server over his granny glasses as if to say don’t you know who I am but the server had already walked away to attend to the countless duties that awaited (but not without looking at the clock to ensure that a minimum of thirty minutes would pass before the Local Hero could even hope to get a seat at the bar).  Somehow, the server’s absolute lowest priority had gotten even lower.

The Local Hero and the large-nosed woman waited on the couch outside the dining room with a dejected air about them.  They did not talk to each other.  Perhaps they were silently mouthing prayers from their creepy cultish religion in order to pass the time, having long ago in their relationship exhausted all possibilities for interesting conversation (I imagine that this exhaustion occurred during their first date, somewhere in the neighborhood of the nineteen-minute mark--and that’s considering the bovine rate with which the Local Hero’s words are issued from his dopey mouth).

The server, in his countless trips from the dining room to the kitchen to unload armload after armload of dirty dishes, was met each time by the silent stares of the Local Hero and his companion.  He could feel their impatient eyes upon him, yet he refused to acknowledge their presence with even a cursory glance.

This game was played countless times over the next thirty minutes.  The server, like a hero of myth, gained power every time the Local Hero and his companion cast imploring looks.  The Local Hero was losing by degrees, a tiny rent had appeared in the paper bag of his ego.  Maybe I’m just another person, he may have thought, no better or worse than anybody else.  Look at me, waiting for a seat in a restaurant like a commoner.  If thoughts of this nature did indeed fire in his sputtering brain, I’d like to congratulate him for being at least somewhat on track.  I’d like, however, to point out one flaw in his thinking--the Local Hero is far worse than other people

The wait for his sushi and the company of his beloved chef became more than The Local Hero could bear.  He was forced to seize what little bit of power he could.  The Local Hero arose from the couch, marched past the counter and to the still-cluttered bar, and said the following to the chef (who neither acknowledged him nor met his eye):

“We waited for a half hour.  We were going to eat here, but . . . “

And with that he shuffled out of the restaurant.  I shudder to think how long it may have taken the Local Hero to craft such a parting shot--I dare say it must have taken the bulk of his time spent on the couch.  On behalf of myself and the workers inside me, I would like to say that we will consider ourselves zinged.  We dropped the ball, and because of it we have missed out on the pleasure of the Local Hero’s company and the insulting tips--amounts better suited to, say, a cup of coffee--he continues to drop into the tip jar.  (And, yes, again we bear witness to another fool deluded enough to think that his absence is a form of punishment.)

Let me close with this.  If you are a creep who leaves bad tips and never returns to a certain restaurant, so be it.  You are a creep, and I guess in your reptile brain you’re winning in you’re own creepy little way.  If, however, you are a creep who continually returns to the same restaurant and leaves shitty tip after shitty tip, it is going to come back and bite you on the ass.  Think of it this way, repeat offenders; you are not only tipping for the service you have just received--you are also tipping for the service you will receive on your next visit.  Ever wonder why a server seems to go out of the way to treat you like garbage yet gets along swimmingly with everyone else in the room?  It might be time to do a little old-fashioned soul-searching.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Server's Dilemma

Time for a little problem I’ve been working on, designed especially for servers.  You may want to have a pencil and paper handy for this exercise.  The problem, known as the Server’s Dilemma, follows:

Two customers are seated at a table.  You remember both of them because of their past tipping habits.  Person A is a consistently good tipper.  Person B is a consistently poor tipper.  The check is never split.  Person A and Person B routinely treat one another, though there is no discernible pattern that would allow you to predict who is going to pick up the tab on any given occasion.  You are in a position of having to provide service, not knowing whether you efforts will be rewarded with an appropriate tip.  How should you act in this situation?

A) Provide good service to both parties--how people tip is their own business and there’s no sense fretting about the thoughtlessness a few customers.

B) Provide neutral service to both parties--do not go out of you way to be either hospitable or rude.

C)  Treat Person A well and Person B poorly.

D)  Treat both Person A and Person B like garbage.

Scroll down below the cartoon for the answer.

How will you act as these men play Russian roulette with your financial security?


Just to be on the safe side, treat both Person A and Person B like garbage.  If Person B pays the bill and leaves a bad tip, your preemptive rudeness will have been perfectly justified.  If Person A pays and leaves a reasonable tip, you will not have spent your limited store of friendliness needlessly.  Besides, does Person A, a person who freely associates with a bad tipper, deserve your kindness anyway?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Blowhard

I think the first thing that stands out, among the numberless unpleasant qualities of the Blowhard, is that within two minutes of sitting down I could hear him compare himself to Larry David.  The Blowhard and company were late arrivals to the sushi bar.  He was accompanied by a middle-aged woman with a poor complexion and two college-aged kids, a boy and a girl.  I’m not entirely sure, but it seems as if the boy was the son and the girl, unfortunate soul, was dating the boy and forced to endure an evening of dining with this insufferable trio.  Why is it that I think that the young woman may have been an outsider?  First of all, she was the only one among them who had the words “please” and “thank you” in her arsenal.  Secondly, an aside directed at the young lady by the Blowhard himself made me think that she may have been a new initiate to their reprehensible way of life:

“The only time you’ll catch us drinking beer at a sushi bar is if they don’t have any sauvignon blanc.”

Well, Blowhard, I’m sorry you had to slum it.  I hope your delicate palate survived the experience of having as something as pedestrian a beer slosh across you precious tongue--the precious tongue that has no doubt given birth to so many of your Larry-David-style witticisms.  If one is not familiar with the work of Larry David, yet knows the Blowhard, one might assume the following:

Larry David is not at all funny.

Larry David is a pompous windbag.

Larry David is a snob.

Larry David is a bully.

Larry David has a shrewish, hateful wife.

Larry David has a grubby, selfish, dirty son with fat, dwarfish arms and legs and a complete lack of decorum while inside a restaurant.

Now, I must say I am familiar with the work of Larry David--I would even go as far as saying that I think Larry David is great.  He has made me laugh countless times.  The Blowhard, not so.  Let’s take a moment to examine an example of the Blowhard as jokesmith.

BLOWHARD (saddened at the lack of sauvignon blanc on the menu of a Japanese restaurant):  We’ll share a large Sapporro.  And we’ll take four waters.

UNFORTUNATELY-COMPLECTED WOMAN: I’ll take mine without ice.

SERVER:  Sure.

BLOWHARD:  Can I get all ice, no water?

The server attempts to smile, but before appropriate time for a reaction has passed, the Blowhard butts in.

BLOWHARD (straightfaced, with a hint of anger):  It was a joke.  It was a joke.

No one laughs.

Ah, yes.  Comedy, thy name is Blowhard.  I guess we can safely assume that he is not like Larry David in the sense that he brings laughter to the world.  Rather, he is like Larry David the character, played by Larry David the comedian, every interaction he takes part in inspires anger.  In Curb Your Enthusiasm, this tension is diffused over and over by comic beats.  In real life, it just builds.  The Blowhard is funny only in his own mind.  His self-righteousness is the ultimate funny-killer . . . A joke from his lips couldn’t do anything but sink.

If I may indulge in a bit of analysis, there is a difference between the type of manner comedy of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and some dude who goes around being an asshole and causes conflict simply for the sake of causing conflict.  In Curb Your Enthusiasm, it’s often Larry David’s attempts to be all inclusive and nice that backfire and get him in hot water.  In The Blowhard Show, the Blowhard is a pompous, unfunny jerk and people dislike him.  There is no punchline, no levity, no pathos.  Larry David is lovable and in the end he pays for all of his social blunders.  He is divested of his power and his anger and it is funny.  He is forced to suck it up or shrug it off.  That’s why we like him.  Blowhard, on the other hand, is a vain, pompous windbag who in the blink of an eye can launch into a long speech designed to instruct his family (and apparently his son has absorbed the teachings well because he is a pig of the vilest stripe).  Yes, Blowhard, I can see the comparison between you, a nobody asshole with a bad tan, and Larry David, a man who’s influence on the world of comedy cannot be measured.

The only way in which the Blowhard has outperformed anyone associated with Seinfeld is in that he somehow manages to dress worse than anybody who has ever appeared in a Larry David venture.  No small feat, considering this roster includes the likes of Jerry Seinfeld himself.  In the nineties these crimes against fashion garnered more than a few snickers (What was the alternative?  Did you want to see Jerry trade in his puffy white sneakers and denim shirt for a pair of Doc Marten’s and a flannel?  Certainly not.)  The Blowhard, for his night on the town, at some point had gone to the closet and voluntarily (VOLUNTARILY!) selected a green bowling shirt with a modified argyle pattern running down the left and right of the buttons.  I wonder if somehow the blowhard had happened upon a yard sale held by Tom Arnold or maybe the dude from Smashmouth in order to score such a fine article of clothing.  Now that I think about it, I think Jeff Garlin may have worn the same shirt in the episode where he admitted to Larry that he had a masturbation fantasy about Larry’s wife.  Appropriate, since the Blowhard has a masturbation fantasy about being Larry David.  It all comes full circle . . .

Before the drinks are on the table, the Blowhard begins talking about the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm that revolves around a Cobb Salad.  This aired in 2001, I believe, and, to my recollection, is far from being the strongest episode in the series.  This episode, I overheard, was recommended by a friend who apparently also saw some Larry David-like qualities in the Blowhard.  Way to be on the cutting edge of entertainment, rehashing an episode of a sitcom that aired nearly a decade ago.  Blowhard, I’ve got a hot tip for you.  You really ought to check out a show called Welcome Back Kotter.  I can already see it--next time he goes out he’ll be comparing himself to Gabe Kaplan.  I can’t make any Gabe Kaplan jokes here because I was never desperate enough to watch that trash.  Well, maybe the Blowhard will grow out his mustache and start picking out his hair . . . But I somehow doubt that he’ll ever gain the good sense to pitch that lame bowling shirt.
For the benefit of the young lady, the Blowhard launches into a long-winded description of the episode, as if he had lived it himself.  The crater-faced harpy at his side chuckled, “It’s so true.  It’s just like what happened.”  What?  Wait.  You mean to tell me they’re saying that this, or something incredibly similar, actually happened to the Blowhard?  Did he get into an argument with someone who claimed to be a descendent of the person who invented the Cobb salad?  The odds of this happening are so slim, dare I say nonexistent, that I can only imagine the liberties that this clown has taken with the story.  Even if we give the Blowhard the benefit of the doubt and assume that even a micron of his story is true--what an incredibly trivial thing to blow out of proportion.  A salad argument!  We shall see, dear readers, that there is nothing too trivial for the Blowhard, and that salads, in fact, are an area of specialization for the Blowhard on his quest to misguidedly follow the lead of his comic hero.
I can see that this entry is going to run long, so I'll break it up into a few parts.  Stay tuned for the continuing saga.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Really?  First time inside a building?  Well, welcome.  Try not to be frightened by the electric lights.  They are not deities demanding worship and blood sacrifice, nor are they miniature suns screaming toward the earth.  They are here simply to keep the darkness away.  Those flattish wooden things arranged about the room are called tables.  We place food and beverages atop them.  And those flattish shorter things around the tables are known as chairs.  You'll be sitting in one of them, that is if you can withstand the arctic gales from the air conditioning.  Perhaps next time you'll remember to bring your saber-toothed tiger pelt for warmth.

Yes, we are aware that it is 110 degrees outside, so the shock you are displaying upon entering the building is not at all empty, THAT IS IF YOU HAVE NEVER IN YOUR LIFE BEEN INSIDE A RESTAURANT, MOVIE THEATER, OR STORE OF ANY KIND.

A new invention known as air conditioning has made it so that when it is 110 degrees outside, it need not be 110 degrees inside.  Perhaps when this modern convenience is around for another fifty years, mankind, especially those susceptible to catching a chill, will gain enough sense to bring a sweater along while dining or seeing a movie in the dead of summer.  Some might even find the temporary respite from the heat to be refreshing.

Do you see those red fabric doodads sitting on the tables?  Those are cloth napkins.  They have been carefully folded into a shape known as a bishop's miter.  Cloth napkins are one indication of an upscale restaurant.  Perhaps one of the reasons you are cold is that you arrived wearing a tank top, cut-off shorts, and flip-flops.  Perhaps if you could up your game enough to meet the minimal requirements for proper dress in a restaurant with cloth napkins you would not be so cold.

The waiter and chefs did hear you utter your nonsense syllable.   Brrrrr!  They are fully aware that you want the air conditioning to be turned down.  Feigning ignorance of subtext, they will pretend to not get the message.  They are waiting for you to come out and ask outright and they are hoping you will not have the audacity to do so.  These men and women are working, and it is uncomfortable to work in hot conditions.  There is raw fish on every table in the room and you want it warmer.   Why should the workers and the other diners with the good sense to dress appropriately sweat and suffer for your stupidity?  Perhaps you like your food only when it has been doused in the perspiration of overheated workers.

Bring a sweater.  This is not the dining master class.  This is 101.  As in P.S. 101.  I can't believe I even have to bring this up.  The utter resistance to learning you display time and time again display does not bode well for the human race.

Don't expect any sympathy from me.  Between you and me, the air conditioner humming away inside me feels better than a magic fingers bed.  And it keeps me nice and cool.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Weird Tipping Beliefs

Please don't practice weird tipping.  Tip on the total of the bill.  Include the tax, drinks, and desserts.  Twenty percent is the standard, folks, but feel free to up it.  The server doesn't know what's going on inside that twisted mind of yours.  Your dysfunctional beliefs might make perfect sense to you, but to the rational mind you come off as a cheapskate.  Servers are not mind-readers.  If they were, they surely would never be foolish enough to get within your arm's reach.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bar People: The Streamliner

A sure-fire warning sign that a customer may be difficult is the desire to be seated at the sushi bar rather than at a table.  I dare say that this is the greatest predictor for difficulty.  Exceptions do exist but they are rare.  There is something about the desire to sit at a sushi bar that sets the diner apart from the casual horde that wants simply to fill their bellies.  Bar People, devils one and all, arrive at a restaurant with a hidden agenda.

If it is a male/female couple, the session at the bar will invariably begin with a suggestion by the woman.  "Oooh," she will say.  "Do you want to sit at the bar?  That way we can watch them make our food."  The man will grumble and be dragged by the arm to his place at the bar.  The irony is that, at my particular sushi bar, the bar is elevated and the seats are low, so that the customer is treated not to a front row seat of the chef's work, but a face full of fish in the refrigerator.  Now Lord and Lady are deprived of the special delight they derive from watching another human being--underpaid without a doubt--sweat and grumble as he toils over their order.  They are then forced to occupy themselves with the task of annoying the chef by putting an index finger to the glass and playing the game of questions and answers known as "what kind of fish is that?"

Of all the types of bar people the above are perhaps the most harmless.  We now move forward into darker territory, into the world of those who seek a seat at the bar in order to fill some aching void in their lives.  To take a glimpse of this world is to bear witness to the staggering number of walking the streets with undiagnosed psychological disorders, ready to foist a bit of their madness on the first captive audience they come across.  For them the chef, chained behind the bar by the fetters of duty, is the perfect target.


This is a type of person rather than one particular individual.  Though, unfortunately, the traits of the Streamliner can be found in many customers.  The Streamliner is a rather forward-thinking individual who has, in his own mind, solved some of the problems inherent in the restaurant system.

The Streamliner (ironic that his name so infrequently reflects the character of his physique) takes a seat at the bar because he feels that the direct route is the best route.  He thinks, because he can speak directly to the chef, that he has solved the problem of dealing with severs.  Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth.  The server is still in charge of bringing drinks, soup, edamame, and clean plates for sharing, as well as refilling drinks, clearing dirty dishes, keeping track of and adding the bill, taking the payment, busing, cleaning, and setting up the space at the bar for the next customers.  The only duty that the server is spared is bringing the food from the chef to the table--a convenience which, in a small restaurant such as myself, saves the server a journey of four or five feet.

It is upon this small convenience paid the server that The Streamliner bases the justification for his abhorrent behavior.  Blind to all that goes on around him, The Streamliner believes himself to be the champion of a new era.

Look at all I've accomplished, The Streamliner thinks.  The direct channel I have opened between diner and chef is a new dawn for mankind.  Notice how obsolete I have rendered the server.  Surely, once the table-sitting monkeys follow my lead, serving as a profession will not be around even as early as this time next year.  Accordingly, I will commence to treat the server like garbage.  Every polite inquiry made to ensure that my time spent at this establishment is pleasant and enjoyable and that all my needs are met will be treated as a vulgar interruption and be met with open disdain.

Continuing on in my own limited way, I think that I will tip the CHEF instead of the server.  Ha!  How do you like that?  Tipping the chef and stiffing the server!  Get a load of me!  I am quite the hot-shot, am I not?  I'm not afraid to step on a few toes--I know how things really work.  I am a champion of justice, and champions of justice are not known for winning popularity contests.  I mean, the chef's the guy that's making the food, right?  Why would I tip the server, whose hourly pay is less than minimum wage, when I could tip the chef, a fully-salaried employee who's vitality does not depend on how busy the restaurant is on any given night?  The chef has a skill: making food.  The server, who has to deal over and over again with stunted animals such as myself . . .  well, dealing with difficult people couldn't really be considered a skill, now could it?  Certainly not something that a person should ever be PAID do do.  True, I fumble through life in a kind of short-sighted, blundering way so I don't even know that the chef is already getting a percentage of the server's tips.  Nevertheless, even if I did know that I would not care.  Because I would like to see the chef, this noble soul preparing the feast upon which I will sup, dressed in the finest silks and furs, wandering the spacious halls of a stately golden castle.  Conversely, these servers, loathsome breed that they are, belong in in the shadow of this castle, huddled together for warmth.  Let them be dressed in filthy rags and their blood be the nourishment for lice, ticks, and other vermin that science has yet to discover.

Maybe next time I eat in a restaurant that does not have a bar, I will follow my enlightened philosophy anyway.  I will march past the server and right into the kitchen and shower the chef with handfuls of cash from my pocket.  Why should it be any different if I do not actually see the chef?  He makes the food and food is visible.  Service, which is invisible, does not really exist.  As a result it should not be rewarded.  Gee, I'm on a roll here.  I'm feeling pretty expansive.  Is this the kind of feeling that those poets were always talking about?  Perhaps they are not flakes I had thought them to be.  Perhaps I am dishing out hate as arbitrarily that I dish out love?  Why do I put the chefs above the servers?  Or the servers above the dishwashers?  Or any person above anyone else, for that matter?  Are we not all equal?  Do we not have the same desires, the same hopes and dreams?  Deep down don't we all just want to be loved?

Wait, the chef is handing a plate over the bar.  My food is on it.  The food he made for me.  As I take the plate from his skilled hands he nods sternly.  It is a nod of understanding.  A message is communicated.  He knows how much I appreciate him.  And now I know that he knows it.  We have entered a secret pact, the chef and I.  The server is the enemy.  He stands between us.  He must be done away with.  Not today, necessarily, but soon.  I've got it!  I will tip only the chef and not the server.  It is a gesture of my understanding of the situation.  The server is superfluous and I will stiff him.  I could do much more but this is something.  This is something.  A start.

Friday, October 2, 2009

On the Hydra-Headed Nature of Bad Customers

One might be tempted to think that Kanpyo's banishment would be cause for universal celebration, but the wiser among us know not to don the party hat just yet.  Kanpyo was a pain in the ass of the vilest stripe, but doubtlessly, greater pains-in-the-ass are out there, waiting for their seat at the bar (and some of these offenders have been written about in this very blog).

Every time employees, having divested themselves of one creep or another, breathe a collective sigh of relief, disappointment is sure to follow.  Either some long-absent jackass will reappear, bringing with him all the weight of unhappy memories, or a new threat will emerge, having made a new discovery of the restaurant and together, staff and customer alike will embark upon a journey of unfortunate discoveries.

At first, this might seem like a good thing . . .

It is like out government's dilemma with terrorism.  Even if you kill an important leader, there are countless others ready to step up and take his place.  A restaurant is really no different.  In each and every one takes place a war of ideologies that cannot be won simply by weeding out one obnoxious customer here or there.  Even if this were possible to execute on a large scale, it would be a losing battle.  It is not the customer himself that is to blame, but the ideology of a culture that allows (and even encourages) poor behavior in restaurants.  Besides, bad customers are a resilient breed; for every one fallen, two spring up to take his place.

One week later.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kanpyo: Ejected!

Under the current regime that ticks away like a hammer-pounded clockwork inside my confines, there has been little upheaval.  Firings are few and far between; the bulk of the turmoil is carried internally by the employees who are forced to work under absurd conditions--for this reason, employee walkouts are far more common.  It's rare that employee actually puts in two weeks notice.  Certainly, there have been few incidents between patrons and owners--customers bring in money, and while their more difficult aspects may not suffered gladly at the hands of the staff, the owner, seeing more clearly the direct relationship between any given clown and the profit margin, will often wear her false smiles unfalteringly throughout an interaction with a difficult customer.

Emma Dayo, the owner, loves money.  A lot.  She would chase a rolling dime down a sewer grate and emerge triumphantly (though covered in feces) clutching it between her thumb and forefinger.  I have overheard employees speculate on a treasure room in which she indulges in Scrooge-McDuck-style swimming sessions in her sea of tender.  She has time and time again answered employee complaints with her self-penned adage, "I love customers."  (It's a relatively simple code to crack; simply replace the word "customers" with "money.")

How is it, then, that Dayo's hatred of an individual outweigh her worship of money, and cause her to bar a customer from ever returning to her establishment?  Leave it to Kanpyo . . .

Despite money he invariably brings, Kanpyo's long list of special requests has long since chapped the ass of Dayo.  But, ever the coward (and seldom forced to deal with him directly,) she has on a number of occasions refrained from giving him the boot (though she has given certain employees the opportunity to pull the trigger for her).

This brewing tension recently came to a head, during a photo session in which a member of the press was snapping photos of a steaming cauldron of nabeyaki udon for an upcoming newspaper article.  Kanpyo felt that the shutter snap and flash was more than enough to disrupt the elegant atmosphere he had engineered.  He did not hesitate in airing his displeasure to the owner, who--making a rare appearance dressed in a chef coat--was acting as a shepherd to the member of the press.  Kanpyo felt that the proper recourse would be a showering with apologies and gift certificates.  The owner did not see it that way.  An impasse was met.

At this point in the narrative, one might expect that Emma Dayo would point a finger toward the exit and say in an authoritative voice, "Get out of my restaurant!"  This was not the case.  Ever avoidant of conflict of any shape, she foisted her burden upon the sushi chef, who was to inform Kanpyo upon his next visit that he would no longer be welcome at this establishment.

When the moment came, Kanpyo went quietly and without protest.  Emma Dayo hardly felt the sting of the money she was sure to lose.  After all, the upcoming article was sure to bring in new customers--and no one loves customers like Emma Dayo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Warning Signs: Cutesy Orders Edition

Please save everyone involved the embarrassment and resist clever wordplay when ordering food and drink at a restaurant.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Horrids: Epilogue

Really?  Is that a promise?

I don't understand why some customers think that this is an effective threat . . . it just goes to show how divorced from reality some people are.  They haven't the slightest inkling that they are perfectly unpleasant people and that every time they set foot inside a restaurant they set into motion a chain of events which will be akin to slow torture for all parties involved.  Imagine the hollowness of Daughter Horrid's parting words.  Was she hoping to give everyone involved cause to celebrate?  Joy-spreading seems more than a little out of character for her, but joy she had spread nevertheless.

What exactly is a person like Daughter Horrid bringing to the establishment besides an appalling lack of social grace?  A six-dollar payout?  A nonexistent tip?  Does she enjoy keeping people beyond the closing hour just to wait on her--I often wonder about certain people the type of help they have at home because it seems that they often confuse servers with servants.

Already, one can see that Daughter Horrid ranks in the most netherly-located reaches of the morass from which bad customers emerge and that her absence from any restaurant would be a source of unending delight for workers and buildings alike.  Now, to sweeten the proposition, we'll throw in a handful of hissy-fits and unnecessary calls to law enforcement.  Are you sure we can't talk you into coming back, sweetheart?

If Daughter Horrid really wanted to sting us, might I suggest the following parting shot:  I am coming back to eat every day.  I know I am a horrible person and that to be in my presence is nearly unbearable.  My behavior, while outlandish and symptomatic of any number of recognized personality disorders, is my own and it is my right as a customer to behave in the reprehensible manner that I have chosen.  You'd better get used to me, wage-slaves, because we are going to be seeing a lot of each other.   Now can I get a side of eel sauce?

Fortunately, this degree of self-awareness is a rarity.  Daughter Horrid will go on with her life, holding on to the belief that she has somehow struck a blow to our establishment.  The promise never to return is always met by the staff with a sense of relief.  Nobody who has ever worked inside my confines has ever felt otherwise.  The crass broadcasting of one's unhappiness with the dining experience is something in which polite, well-mannered people simply do not indulge.  They may make their decision not to return privately and indeed, if they did belong to that special brand of exemplary customer, their absence may be noted, even lamented.  So the next time your every desire was not met in a restaurant, go ahead, raise a big stink and promise to never return.  You're sure to make some people very happy.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Horrids

In the normal course of dining out it should not be difficult for all parties involved to follow the social contract. Polite words and smiles are exchanged; the server, chefs, and staff try their utmost to keep the diner happy; the diners, in turn, try not to be utter pains in the ass to those working so hard to give them a satisfactory experience. At the end of the meal the bills is settled, gratuity is left, and everyone goes on with their separate lives. Calls to 911 in the hopes of having a server arrested are not part of the routine dining experience. In fact, it is a phenomenon I was entirely unaware of until the appearance of The Horrids in my sushi bar.

The Horrids are a mother-daughter team of dark-haired harridans so foul that to gaze upon them is to know firsthand the terrors of hell. They are the dung-dropping harpies of folklore, a pair of ready-made additions to the cast of a reality television series that highlights the worst that the human race has to offer. They are shallow, vain, and self-centered to the marrow, and may god help any and all who cross their path.

The Horrids pushed their way into my bar five minutes before closing. They did not seem concerned in the slightest that the place was entirely empty and that they'd be keeping a number of people late simply to serve them. They were utterly unfazed upon taking a seat to see the chef had emptied the refrigerated display entirely of its contents. They ordered water from the server.

Daughter Horrid, an archetypal sorority sister, makes a single mark on the order sheet and places it atop the bar. The sushi chef takes a moment to examine the sheet.

SUSHI CHEF: So just a California roll?

DAUGHTER HORRID: Could I get that with cream cheese?


DAUGHTER HORRID: And could I have that tempura fried?

SUSHI CHEF: Can we get you anything else? We're about to close.


The Chef nods and begins to prepare the order, dirtying the bar he has recently cleaned for the night.

A California roll costs four dollars, adding cream cheese is fifty cents, and tempura frying a roll costs an additional buck. The total for the bill, with tax, was $5.95. Six employees were staying late in order to serve the pair. In short, the owners were taking a bath and the employees were kissing what remains of their evening goodbye.

The Chef continues to prepare the roll. Mother Horrid listens to her Daughter Horrid's hateful tirade in which she issue forth a steady stream of vicious gossip about a friend. Suddenly, as if coming out of a trance, Daughter Horrid stops speaking for a moment and looks to the chef.

DAUGHTER HORRID (to Sushi Chef): Don't we get soup?

SUSHI CHEF: Uhhh . . .

Daughter Horrid turns to the Server.

DAUGHTER HORRID: Don't we get miso?

The Server, putting on a show, knowing very well that they don't get miso, takes the order sheet from on top of the bar and looks it over.

SERVER: Well, it looks like miso wouldn't come with this meal.

DAUGHTER HORRID (spitting out the words as if they are made of excrement): Since when?

SERVER (having made the calculation long ago): Well, we serve miso with orders of seven dollars or more, and this looks like it's not going to be much more than five. But, I'd be happy to get it for you as a side. It's only two dollars per bowl. Would you like some?

There is a protracted silence in the room. The hatred is palpable.


There exists a common misconception in diners in that restaurants are not businesses at all, but will happily take loss after loss in order to give away as much food as possible. Many feel that upon entering the building they should be greeted with a bowl of miso soup and a heaping plateful of edamame, even if it is only a reward for ducking in to use the restroom and not to actually order anything.

The chef handed the roll over the top of the bar to Daughter Horrid, who promptly asked for eel sauce. This is a common request among sorority types. Rather than dunk their sushi in the traditional mixture of soy sauce and wasabi, they time and time again opt to for a small dish full of the thick, sweet concoction. I am not sure where this shared affinity comes from. I sometimes wonder if Paris Hilton has written a book, a sort of guide for the lobotomized, on how to enjoy the finer things in life. I have reason to believe that in this book, if it indeed exists, there is an entire chapter devoted to eel sauce.

The daughter, immersing her fried, cream-cheese-filled California roll in the sugary sauce, may as well have been eating a jelly doughnut. The Mother abstained from eating and listened to the continuation of her daughter's black tirade against her friend, nodding solemnly at the pauses in conversation, her face like that of a Disney villainess cast in wax, coated in makeup, and beginning to melt in the summer heat. She is the overseer and her daughter a sort of demon in training. Every nod of the mother's head is an assent, a tiny step along the path she will take to shape her progeny into a perfect vessel of shallowness and stupidity. Like the cruel master whose dog's viciousness is already ingrained, the bulk of the whippings is behind them, and only the smallest rewards are required to maintain what is now second nature.

They lingered much longer than necessary, sucking the ice cubes on the bottom of the glass that the server had long since stopped refilling. The daughter paid the check with a debit card. As the server cleared the dishes, he noticed that she has left no tip.

"Let's go," Daughter Horrid said. "It smells like bleach." The chef cleaned the sushi bar for the second time that night, spraying bleach water on the surface.

"Well, he told you they were closing." Mother said. I was surprised to hear even this much opposition come out of her mouth.

They got up and left. No words of gratitude were exchanged. The manager locked the front door. The server began to wipe down the counter with a wet rag.

"Ha!" he exclaimed. "Look! She left her phone." He held it up to show the chef. It was an expensive data phone with a neon pink rubber case. "Oh, boy. That's what she gets. Instant karma. How do you like that? Barging in like that at the last minute, being rude, leaving no tip. That's what she gets. Forgot your phone, honey? Looks like you're going to have to wait until tomorrow. Oh, and those girls just absolutely live through their phones. She's going to suffer without it." He continued on in that vein for some time.

He peeked around the corner to speak to the manager. "Everyone's gone," he said. "Don't open that front door for anyone." I could see a dark glimmer in his eye as he savored the sweet taste of vengeance. Situating himself behind the counter, he began his closing duties.

The chef held the phone's display for the server to see.  It showed daughter horrid, smiling prettily.  "Look at that," he said.  "A picture of herself.  That really says a lot about a person."

"Funny you never see her smile like that in real life."

After some minutes, the manager crossed the servers line of sight as she headed toward the front door.

SERVER: Where do you think you're going?

MANAGER: Someone called. She forgot her phone.

SERVER: Don't you open that door. We're closed.

MANAGER (as if by repeating herself the magic contained in the words will rob the server of his determination to keep the door locked): But she forgot her phone.

SERVER: Oh-no. We're closed. I've got money out here and that door is not going to open.

MANAGER: Fine. Then you tell her.

SERVER: Gladly.

The server approaches the front door. On the other side, Daughter Horrid waits. She puts on a smile and opens her mouth as if to speak.

SERVER (cutting her off): Sorry. We're closed.

DAUGHTER HORRID: I forgot my phone.

SERVER: I'm not allowed to open the door. You'll have to come back tomorrow.

DAUGHTER HORRID: I need my phone.

SERVER: Sorry.

The SERVER walks away.

Any reasonable person or building would at this point expect the incident to end. Daughter Horrid, through her own stupidity, has left her phone at a restaurant that has closed. Having been given anything she has desired for her entire life has imbued her with a distorted view of reality. A business isn't really closed if she clamors loudly enough for it to be open.

The Horrids got into their luxury automobile and drove off.  There is a wave of calm inside my confines.  The incident, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be over.

Not so, for ten minutes later twin sets of headlights flared in my driveway.  A nervous silence filled the sushi bar.  The employees said little, anticipating a knock at the door.  No knock came.

"Great," the server said.  "They went and got their boyfriends and now they're waiting outside to lynch us over a phone."  Silhouettes traversed the narrow span of my windows.  "Are they carrying pitchforks or torches?"  So began a silent battle with those inside left to wonder what exactly those outside were plotting.  This went on for a number of minutes.  Finally, a messenger (in this case, the dishwasher) was selected to put an end to the evening by delivering the telephone to Daughter Horrid.

For some minutes he remained outside before returning to tell a tale of tears, incoherent babble, and a telephone call to 911.  "She called the cops on you, dude," he said to the server.

The police never came . . . I suspect that perhaps putting a sorority girl's telephone into the Lost and Found until business hours resume is not the crime that Daugther Horrid imagined it to be.  Through a shameless display of histrionics, Daugther Horrid got her phone back--even though to do so she had wasted the better part of an hour driving back and forth and making calls to 911 (while real emergencies doubtlessly went on elsewhere in the city).  This tremendous waste of time, emotion, and city resources could have been avoided if during her dining experience Daughter Horrid had made even the shallowest attempt to foster good feelings between herself and the staff in any of the following ways:

1. Had said "please" or "thank you" even once.

2. Had left a tip.

3. Did not carry with her a smug sense of entitlement and at every opportunity show open hostility toward the staff.

This is a situation in which everybody loses.  The Horrids' own misery is apparent, for the wish to inflict that misery upon every person with whom they come in contact.  They are not merely from hell, they are hell itself--a movable hell that sucks in anyone unfortunate enough to fall within their radius.  And for that they will forever be defeated, they will move on to other friends, other restaurants.  The people who surround them will remain in a constant state of flux, while the Horrids will remain forever married to their own selves, chained to all the stench and misery they bring wherever they go--and no amount of money could ever set them free.

On a scale of zero to five dung heaps, the Horrids are all the dung heaps in the world, all the dung heaps that have ever been, and all the dung heaps to come.

Let's not let it come to this . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Son of Warning Signs

More signs that your customers might prove to be troublesome.

Ignoring "Please Wait to be Seated" Sign


From a Non-Tipping Culture

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


No, Kanpyo is not the beloved hero in Hayao Miyazaki's lastest animated feature. It is the name bestowed by the staff upon a particular customer, in part because of his habit of ordering kanpyo rolls (kanpyo is a Japanese gourd,) but also because the shape of his body is undeniably gourd-like.

Kanpyo's exploits are the stuff of restaurant folklore. He falls into a special category of lunatic--the type that shows complete and utter disregard for the menu. It seems that the twelve pages filled with appetizers, entrees, drinks, and desserts are somehow inadequate for Kanpyo, for he is forced to design his own creations to suit his dietary needs. True, Kanpyo does belong to the breed of vegetarian-that-occasionally-eats-fish-if-say-the-handsome-young-man-he-has-hornswaggled-into-dining-with-him-happens-to-order-a-grilled-salmon-dinner, so the entire menu, by his own volition, is not available to him. On the other hand, there are a number of vegetarian and vegan options on every page of the menu--in fact, there are two entire pages dedicated to vegetarian sushi alone. Unfortunately, this is not enough to sate the unique and refined tastes of Kanpyo. Instead, Kanpyo bellies up to the bar and from his mouth comes a series of instructions to the chef on precisely which ingredients he would like in his sushi roll as well as the manner in which the roll is to be constructed--all in a polite, effeminate voice.

Kanpyo's attempts to reshape the restaurant into something that conforms to his own personal vision do not stop at ordering off-menu. He apparently takes issue with the dishware as well.

KANPYO, a round little man, enters and takes a seat at the sushi bar. A SERVER approaches him, carrying a menu. The server sets the menu down in front of Kanpyo.

KANPYO: I won't be needing that.

SERVER: Can I bring you something to dr--

KANPYO (mispronouncing miso, making a little bowl shape with both hands): Could I get my mizo soup in a ceramic bowl?

SERVER: Uhh, sure . . .

KANPYO: And could I have extra tofu and green onions?

SERVER: There may be a charge for that. I'll have to check.

Kanpyo makes a sort of grunt-scoffing noise. The server begins to walk toward the kitchen.

KANPYO (calling after Server): And could I get my water in a wine glass?

The plastic miso bowls in which we regularly serve the soup are not good enough for Kanpyo. Neither are the plastic spoons, for, upon the server's return he will also request to be brought a silver spoon with which to bring the soup to his pink, virginal mouth (it's a good thing we already use cloth napkins, otherwise our servers might very well find themselves in the kitchen bent over a sewing machine whenever Kanpyo arrives). Perhaps he also has some suggestions for music or uniforms for the servers--I'm inclined to think he may suggest French maid uniforms for the women and something involving mustaches and leather chaps for the fellas.

Rosy-cheeked Kanpyo lifts his water-filled wine glass to the light, a bright slice of lemon perched on the the lip, and gazes deeply into it. He moves the stem in a gentle circular motion and the ice tinkles cheerily inside. He brings the glass to his nose and inhales--is this guy seriously judging the nose of tap water? A plate full of edamame shells have been arranged in the the shape of a perfect crescent, Kanpyo's way of artfully diverting himself while he waits for his meal. From over the top of the bar, the chef hands Kanpyo a plate. On it's surface a vegetarian sushi roll is artfully arranged by Kanpyo's favorite chef. Kanpyo begins to methodically eat the roll piece by piece, going on at length to the chef about his enjoyment between bites. He is as much lauding the chef's skill in making the roll as he is himself in designing it. His lunch has been a success. He has reshaped not only the menu, but the very traditions of the restaurant so that they conform to the idealized restaurant that exists in his fantasy life. When finished, he uses the red cloth napkin to tiptoe around the perimeter of his mouth, exhales slowly, and with a flick of his fingernail sounds a round tone from the crystal wine glass.

They broke the gourd-shaped mold when they made Kanpyo, or perhaps Kanpyo cracked it himself with his unwieldy frame. Is it any wonder that sixteen times out of seventeen he dines alone, or that the chef, at Kanpyo's appearance, suddenly finds a number of tasks that he must complete as far away as possible from the sushi bar?

Kanpyo gets zero out of five giant lollies. In the event that he was made to wear sailor suits as a child (and I suspect that he was) that score goes up to one out of five sympathy lollies, but back to zero if his primary means of getting from one place to another was skipping.

Little Lord Kanpyo

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Warning Signs

The following are a few of the warning signs I've compiled during the years I've spent as a restaurant. A customer exhibiting one or more of these features may be more likely than the average customer to prove to be troublesome for the staff. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there is the slim chance that a person displaying any of the behavior below may prove to be a lovely, gracious guest in your restaurant. But forewarned is forearmed, they say, and in that spirit I offer you Warning Signs:

Reading a Book on Spirituality

Ignoring the Polite Requests of the Management

Flowing Garments on a Man

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Rich Dude

Every time the Rich Dude enters the sushi bar one bears witness to a highly ritualized event. He leaves his sunglasses on for the trip to the front door to the bar proper. He stands next to the counter, smiling, hair brushed back, and surveys the room through the pair of shining black lenses. Then, with a fluid motion, he snatches the sunglasses from his face and takes a second look around, stretching his wide smile even further, deepening the wrinkles at the outer corners of his eyes. He is a hero and the restaurant spread out before him is another chunk of pineapple in the fruit salad that brims in his bowl of conquests. If a spontaneous round of applause were to erupt for his simple act of entering a building, I doubt that it would catch the Rich Dude off guard in the slightest--in fact, part of me suspects that he anticipates it.

The Rich Dude is truly a renaissance man, for he is fully capable of doing two things, playing the saxophone and having obscene amounts of money. I have never heard him play a note on a saxophone, but I have seen him spend money--and he spends it well.

The Rich Dude is inevitably there to meet his coterie of friends, a cast of approximately eight characters who all share the Rich Dude’s love of sushi (to a somewhat lesser extent) and spending money (to a far lesser extent, for none among them are quite as rich as the Rich Dude). His entourage is a rather mixed bag, but those among them with a little bit of money put on a nice show of acting like nouveaux riches--greetings are accompanied by kisses on the cheek, lapses into foreign language are common (particularly French and Spanish); important men in pink dress shirts known as Robert to others are referred to affectionately as Bobby; art, travel, and romantic comedies are frequently the topic of conversation. Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Slumdog Millionaire are a couple of the Rich Dude's more recent favorites. Let’s take a moment to examine these choices.

When the Rich Dude and his friends gather, there hangs a certain quality in the air about them that seems to cry out swingers or sex cult. Being a cosmopolitan bunch, they needn’t be troubled to observe the morals of the lower classes--and one can hardly be expected to pursue a life of unending pleasure if tethered to a concept as pedestrian as marriage, now can one? In fact, the Rich Dude’s actual wife is nearly never present at these gatherings. Though a number of middle-aged and approaching-middle-age females are. On one occasion, I overheard the Rich Dude refer to one member of his circle as his “booty call.” To hear a man rapidly approaching fifty, in 2009 no less, use the phrase “booty call” is a fate I would not wish on anyone--I think I'd rather hear my own grandpa mutter some vague statement about needing to get his "rocks off." I believe that the Rich Dude and his circle of friends are involved in some serious partner swapping. Whether this is going on in the open, with the consent and endorsement of all parties and their spouses, I cannot say. I tend to think that maybe some are in on it and others are not (I tend to think that if no one else, the Rich Dude and Bobby are definitely in on it). Perhaps this is why Vicky Cristina Barcelona resonates so with the Rich Dude. Though it is no doubt a heavily-watered-down version of the endless bacchanalian held by the Rich Dude and his crew, it does depict an alternative lifestyle--a marriage that can be held in perfect harmony only when it involves three persons (one dude and two women, naturally). Perhaps this scenario is something that the Rich Dude aspires to and that some day he hopes to open the door to his cages and set the animals free, release Antonio the midget amputee from his contract, donate his collection of lotions and lubricants to charity, and settle down to a quiet life with two incredibly attractive women, one of whom might even be his present wife.

On the latter, there was a period of several weeks during which the Rich Dude asked every one of his dining partners the question, "Have you seen Slumdog yet?" I thought that perhaps he was clipping the title for ease of communication, the way that some people will refer to "Wheel of Fortune" simply as "Wheel," but, after hearing him utter the phrase time and time again, I have come to another conclusion. The Rich Dude, being a millionaire and having been a millionaire since birth, actually has no concept of the word "millionaire." It has no meaning to him, is utterly transparent, and is therefore discarded as useless. Imagine if the movie Norbit were instead titled Norbit Person. It would be redundant. The word “millionaire” does have not much meaning to the Rich Dude, for in his eyes, all people are millionaires to one degree or another (though almost everyone on the planet is a millionaire to a lesser degree than the Rich Dude). As a result, the Rich Dude seem to have trouble imagining that other people could ever be encumbered by any sort of financial difficulty.

The Rich Dude, being a rich dude, sees no need for propriety. He seats himself, though a sign standing in my doorway asks him to please wait to be seated. He is respectful of the chef, and in general the other members of the staff, as long as the social hierarchy remains intact and that none of his subordinates forget his or her station in life. In general, he tips well, unless he is forced to wait for anything for longer than he feels he should be expected to wait. In short, he is locked in a constant struggle, a war of ideals in which the restaurant and its workers--who try to ascribe as much as possible to the notion that all customers are of equal importance--clashes with his own idea that his patronage is nothing short of a blessing from heaven above and that his happiness should become the priority of any and all the very moment he sets foot inside my confines. Though the Rich Dude has his favorite among the sushi chefs, he certainly would not fit the bill as others would for having a man-crush. Rather, the Rich Dude sees this chef as something akin to a trusted manservant, someone whose very function in life is to throw a little more elegance onto the Rich Dude's already gigantic shit-heap of elegance. In the army of people whose purpose it is to make the Rich Dude's life as pleasurable as possible, this particular sushi chef is a decorated officer.

Naturally, the Rich Dude's solipsism is all-permeating. The following is a conversation I witnessed between the Rich Dude and his favorite chef upon the Rich Dude's return from a three-month sojourn in Mexico:

The RICH DUDE, wearing sunglasses, enters the sushi bar. He smiles as he turns his head from side to side, scanning the room. With a fluid motion he removes the sunglasses from his face, smiles more widely, and looks around the room a second time. He walks to the sushi bar, behind which a CHEF is preparing sushi.

Rich Dude (hoping to see his own enthusiasm about his triumphant return reflected in the chef, perhaps still holding out for that round of applause): I'm back.

Chef (pretty much not even coming close to reflecting that enthusiasm, in fact, entirely lacking it.): Hey.

Rich Dude: How was the summer? Pretty slow?

Chef: No.

Rich Dude (puzzled): Huh.

That the Rich Dude suffers from certain distortions in his thinking is obvious. He seems surprised to see that I haven't gone out of business during his short absence. He is torn. On one hand, he is happy to find that his favorite sushi bar remains to be visited at his convenience. On the other, he is shocked to find that I haven’t been reverted to the Pizza Hut I was before I became a Japanese restaurant. Perhaps there is the beginning of the realization that the world goes on without him, the white void he imagines the world outside of the boundaries of his senses to be is a figment of his imagination and that, in fact, it is populated with buildings and people who live and die, laugh and love, and have blogs and tweet on a regular basis; the notion that he is an Egyptian king and that all of his favorite people, his sushi buddies, servers, cleaning ladies, drivers, pets, mistresses--even his beloved Bobby, the grey-haired dude with the mustache, pink dress shirts, and Ed Hardy sunglasses with the flaming skulls on the arms--will be cast into the tomb along with him to keep him company in the great beyond, has perhaps died a little.

But the Rich Dude need not fear this void, for his absence is felt heavily by the circle of friends whenever he is away. He is at the center, and without him, the ragtag group of diners that assemble without him are a sad bunch indeed, for they can talk only of the Rich Dude and his exploits. If the Rich Dude were ever to disappear, the group would dissolve and fall away. The circle of friends would go back to dining in clusters of two and threes, ordering the cheapest lunch specials on the menu. The sex cult would lose its cult status and, without access to the Rich Dude’s Mexican Pleasure Palace, become nothing more than a loosely-associated band of perverts, resorting to anonymous trysts in rest stops and airport restrooms. And as the various members continue their Faulkneresque slide into poverty and madness, the Rich Dude watches from high atop a cloud in the sky, serenading his old friends with the most mournful, sonorous saxophone solo the world has ever heard.

The Rich Dude gets exactly two-and-a-half out of a possible five jacuzzi jazz records.