The Joke Guy

Let’s see if I still remember how to do this . . .

There was a time in my life when I did a lot of writing. I have been directed since I was in high school towards a writing career. Let’s, for now, look past any questions of what rewards that career has brought me. Instead let’s talk about what I did with my time.

I wrote stories, screenplays, TV scripts, novels, poetry. I even tried my hand a couple of factual magazine articles. The remuneration was nearly non-existent. But I always kept plugging. I loved writing, and I loved my dream, and I didn’t mind working towards my goals. I wrote. I once wrote every day – every single day, without exception – for 1.5 years.

And then, at a summer party, I played ‘Pride And Joy’ (by Stevie Ray Vaughan) with my roommate’s band. I didn’t know it then, but that was it. I veered onto a course of concentrating my creative energies on music for the next 10+ years, playing guitar and singing in two different blues bands over that period.

I didn’t stop writing, but I cut back a lot (not willfully – it just happened). Like 90%. And I didn’t really miss it. Instead of smacking away at the keyboard for a couple hours every night, I instead practiced guitar. Or I rehearsed with my band. Or I played gigs. Or I listened to other guitarists to cop licks. Or I went out to blues jams (open mic events). Or I even wrote my own songs.

I’m telling you this because it explains, somewhat, why I’ve stopped blogging for around a year. I discussed this a couple posts (and about 12 months) ago.

For about two years, I posted 5-10 times a month. I was happy doing it, and I didn’t feel like I was running out of material. It was a pretty natural thing to do for two reasons:

  1. I had quit my band and decided not to join/start another.
  2. My marriage was in shambles. For some reason, emotional strife turbo-charges my creative juices. So it was a good way to spend some time while the Wife was not being a member of the marriage.

Then the marriage effectively ended (permanent separation) and I declared myself back on the market. Hence, dating.

I stopped blogging and started spewing my juices (figuratively, of course) in the endeavor of trying to find a new girlfriend/getting laid.

But this time I’m not as happy about it. Especially now that more than a year has passed and I don’t really have much to show for my efforts besides 100,000 words of emails, the reduction of my net worth by thousands of dollars, and the memories of 20-30 forgettable dates (wait, how can you remember something forgettable?).

Imagine if I’d instead written 100k words on the waiternotes.com? I’d probably have gotten a book deal like Waiter Rant!

Okay. Probably not. But I’d have something good. I reread six or seven of my -blog posts last night and was actually quite entertained. Either I have narcissistic delusions or I write pretty well. I tend to think the latter. But then, I’m narcissistic . . . ohhhh, I’m getting dizzy now.

* * * * *

I had a thought tonight at work at Carney’s ($232). What is it like to be married to the Joke Guy?

We all know him. He’s the one who makes a ‘joke’ about every phrase that comes out of your mouth. And also makes ‘jokes’ about everything that he says too.

‘Tonight the chef has Bacon-Horseradish Mashed Potatoes as the side accompaniment,’ I state.

Joke Guy: ‘So then it accompanies the side dish?’ He looks at me with a highly-satisfied glint in his eyes.

‘I guess you’re right. It is a side. It accompanies the entrée. You got me there,’ I say.

‘So the side dish comes unaccompanied? What kind of place is this?’ Twinkling again.

What does a jackass like this expect me to do? I can’t really start laughing, because he hasn’t said anything funny. But he thinks he has. Or is he expecting banter from me, so he can riff some more and impress his sad wife and the other couple?

‘What kind of place is this? It’s actually a Charter School. Are you the English teacher?’

But I don’t say that. I just match his bemused eye twinkle and move on.

At another point, he said, ‘One thing you’ll learn about me. I’m not always right on everything, but I’m always right on.’

Whew.

Usually this bonehead has a suffering wife who spends the meal staring at her food while he excretes his gems like anal beads out of a porn actress. But every guest is different. This time, his wife seemed to think he was just hilarious. And this is no joke (pun intended) – he was ‘on’ for a solid 120 minutes tonight.

So maybe this hits tangentially with my initial thoughts in this post. Getting with the right person is nothing more than finding someone on the same wavelength as yours. Even if you’re flat-lining.

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Number 100

No irony. Numbers can’t be ironic, can they? But this is post number 100 for waiternotes.com.

What? Four or five months since the last post?

Well it’s not easy being a human being. Stability in one’s life might be vastly underrated. Here’s my thinking:

You can be totally alone for years. You can be rich for years. You can be destitute for years. You can have the same job for years. You might be unemployed for years. You might be able to get the perfect pastrami sandwich from your favorite deli for years.

But everything ends. Even love everlasting.

Back to my impromptu list, any of these things can be positive or negative, right? But the thing is, you get used to it. Even bad stuff, is what I’m saying. Wherein, you have a limp because your ankle is gimpy, but after awhile you really don’t think much about it, and you just get around as fast as you get around.

On the other side, there’s a check that comes every month simply because your aunt liked you before she died. You get used to that too, and don’t think about it much.

Well, ol’ waiter here, the last number of months, has been getting a reminder dose of what it was like before he had a wife to count on.

Not to say I could count on her for all the important things. But certainly for one of the most important things: relieving me from worrying about getting and/or keeping a girl.

Eight years of marriage, and I had actually forgotten how intermittently miserable I was until I got married.

Make no mistake – I’m a generally happy and even-keeled person – when I was single or married. However, those stretches during the single years when I was chasing a girl who didn’t end up working out (and isn’t that all of them?), those were some troubling and frustrating times.

And here I am again. 🙂

Yes, that was a smiley face, something I would never have used before the breakup – because I was blissfully ignorant of the modern dating environment. But now, having been shock-and-awe initiated into the world of contemporary dating and phone texting, I find it second nature.

Oh, god, the smart phone! I hate it, and I love it so much I have to hate it. There’s no message I can receive besides snail mail (and who gets that anymore?) that doesn’t funnel down into my Blackberry. Email, texts, voicemails, Facebook notifications, and of course phone calls. It’s the cruelest of worlds when you can be tied in knots over a new love, pining if you will, and have the ‘ability’ to monitor her every communication to you in real time. You will get her call, text, email, Facebook comment – anything – instantaneously. And when you’re really hanging on that response to your important text – ‘Whazz up? :)’ – it can destroy your central nervous system if she for some reason doesn’t respond for a few hours.

And if that reason is that she’s not that into you, well, all of those unrewarded glances towards your bound-and-gagged cell phone are just the same as needle-like drops of H2O in the classic Chinese Water Torture.

But as usual, I digress. But then, maybe not. This is post #100 and the biggest topic probably should be why I’ve waited so long between posts?

Well, people, I’ve got to tell ya, chasing women is really time-consuming!

My Second Waiting Job

Back to work for lunch, yesterday and today. I tallied $108 and $70, respectively. I commented to a regular diner who asked me how things were going: ‘Surprisingly, since the first of the year, it’s actually been busier than before. Maybe all the Bailout money’s being spent here.’

It is tough to figure. But maybe it’s as simple as people are shifting down at Michael’s from dinners to less expensive lunches.

Yesterday I told you about my first waiting job at Red Robin in the mid-’80s. My second job was at a place called Baxter’s, a mid-level lunch, dinner, and nightclub place. Very ’80s. Think torqouise and mauve and grey, Nagel-ish art on the walls. The chain may still be going somewhere else, but it disappeared from Southern California in the ’80s.

I was most excited to work there because it was a nightclub in the evenings, with a bunch of hot bartenders and cocktail waitresses. Baxter’s was super-corporate because I believe it had not just its own bureaucracy, but also a parent corporation’s. Part of Grace restaurants, I think. Not that they were any good at it. I remember my first day of training, observing the kitchen. They were short staffed, of course, so an assistant manager was chopping lettuce and vegetables, preparing the bulk mixed salad. He was pretty coked-up, bragging about how he only had two hours sleep because he was partying all night. Corporate or no, this was going to be a pretty loose place to work.

The food was a bit more expensive than Red Robin, so the money was a little better at lunch, and a little bit better still at dinner. As usual, I had a few crushes going on. I actually had two dates through the restaurant. One was a blond hostess, call her Susan. Her birthday had happened the day before, so I gave her a card when I picked her up. She read the card while I chatted with her mom. Susan thanked me for the card, then we had our date. I thought it went okay. I called her the next day and left a message. Nothing. Didn’t see her at work for about a week, while continuing to leave messages. When I finally saw her at work, she explained that it wasn’t going to work out for us. She was freaked out by my card. I’d written something like, ‘It’s great that our first date is the day after your birthday. It’ll be easy to remember when we tell our children when we first met.’

Ha-ha. I thought it was funny, my being deliberately over-the-top in jumping to conclusions. Even if it wasn’t funny, she didn’t get it, either way. ‘It freaked me out,’ she said.

My next ‘conquest’ was an even better girl. Tracy was a bartender, 27, brunette, fantastic body, very attractive. Our date was framed that she’d been dating someone for a few years, but it was kind of ending. I took her to drinks after work at a new club, themed to Italian auto racing. We had a good time getting drunk on margaritas, then went back to her place. We made out for awhile. Things were going very well. She showed me some photo albums.

I commented on a group of pictures of her and her ‘old’ boyfriend. ‘He’s a dork,’ I said. ‘No he’s not.’ ‘Well, compared to me, anyway. Come on.’

I was cocky back then, for some reason – I think because that was how my friends acted around girls, and they were almost all more successful than I was.

‘Well he’s not. And you’re not so great.’

Ho-kay! That put the ki-bosh on any more making out. Next thing I knew, the date was over, never to be resumed another time. You live and learn. Rather, you screw up and learn.

Other than those two feathers in my cap, my time at Baxter’s wasn’t very memorable. About two months after starting, I sprained (possibly broke) my ankle playing basketball. I didn’t go to the doctor, but I should have. Enormous swelling and pain. I had to use crutches for a couple of weeks. Obviously, I couldn’t work during this time. When I came back, they gave me another week off before instituting the ‘Minimalist Schedule’ waiters sometimes experience: one lunch, a dinner on-call, an expediting shift. The third week of this I voiced my concerns. They said they didn’t have the shifts to give away. If I wanted more hours, I could do some hosting . . .

That wasn’t my bag, though I did cover a couple host shifts.

The graffiti on the wall was clear. I had to get something else. So I hit the pavement again.