WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from my longtime coast-to-coast co-conspirator, the social activist and culinary entrepreneur (and mom!), Erika K
Day forty-seven, barreling toward his two-month medal, the most he has done is four, four months working straight-through. No need for a repeat performance — hospital stint, strapped to heart monitor — but, shit, they’ve just reopened after a remodel, owner and money men tight with cash, he’s got a staff of newbies, undocumenteds, relying on him to steer the ship.
Just a neighborhood place, good drinks, honest food — unlike the complicated shit he cooked in the hushed temples of gastronomy — all would be fine if the hostess hadn’t quit today. He’s been pressed to put his sole suit into service, double duty, front of house not his domain, he prefers the sweat and swear of the kitchen.
His idea — or maybe his owner’s — to add “General Manager” to “Executive Chef”. An after-hours brainstorm, his owner swilling rye, shouting for penne a la carbonnara, which he dutifully whipped up before pouring himself into bed upstairs, the studio apartment “loaned” to him by his owner.
Only to be called the just after the crack of dawn for the day’s deliveries. Good morning, GM.
Killing it tonight, triple table rotation, bar four and five deep, regulars buying rounds for each other, him, proximal strangers.
He accepts a shot of Jack. Owner joins —sketchy money men not in sight —possibilities swell and crest. The gang rush in anticipation of last call, stacked drinks, traded digits.
Dwindles, the night, the crowd. His cooks shuffle off to wives, outer boroughs. Another round for he and his owner. Bartender counts out. Swing by a friend’s bar, decamp for a throbbing dance club managed by a former colleague, nightcap back at their place.
Owner’s vitriol over his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s latest salvo weakening to momentary melancholy. Another slug of top shelf bourbon — the serious stuff — owner on the phone, sniffing, arranging to meet his girl du nuit. Another shot, another decline of powder — he needs to unwind, not rewind — his owner off again, a trail of useless menu ideas in his wake.
Home. At last. He sits on his sole chair — a restaurant renovation castoff — sips a desultory Jack in the first hesitant morning light, before the day’s confidence dawns.
Finds an innocuous flick, settles in with a leftover spleef, mentally runs through tomorrow’s specials, food cost-to-customer price ratios, back invoicing, private party scheduling. Waits for sleep. Roots around for the half-bottle of wine abandoned by a couple of amorous diners earlier in the week. Starts another movie. Smokes his next-to-last cigarette. Counts the hours until he anticipates the first delivery call, more subtraction than sum.
Longs for the riptide of sheer exhaustion. Calculates the week’s grosses. Smokes the last cigarette down to filter. Scrabbles for another bottle, emergency smoke stash. Looks at his missed messages, a couple of friends, his mother. Missives from an alternate universe.
He’ll take Monday off. Shit. Inventory. The next Monday, then.
The day arrives in full force. He stumbles to the futon mattress, stubs his toe, plunges into the scratchy sheets bought cheap. Just short snooze. A nap.
“drown” handwritten at
post fueled by and uploaded at Elsewhere Cafe, east village, nyc
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