Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

On Joining the Darkside October 18, 2009

Attempting to look cute to divert attention from the fact that I am stealing the Shock Top beatle.

Attempting to look cute to divert attention from the fact that I am stealing the Shock Top beetle.

Dropping roots in North Carolina, I was skeptical of the idea that we might still experience seasons here. Even more skeptical when it was still swimming weather just a week ago.

I’m happy to report: no mas.

Temperatures have made a sharp, downward turn, and although it’s a little late, Fall is most certainly here. We’re finally breaking out the sweaters (never mind everyone back home is breaking out the parkas), burning leaves and shopping for pumpkins.

Admittedly, I’ve been MIA for a couple of weeks, trying to get settled into my new position as the server manager at the hibachi restaurant while simultaneously tackling my grad school application. My workplace is decidedly nutty, at times just plain surreal. But having stuck it out for a couple of weeks, I’m finding it has its endearing moments as well.

It’s the slow season for Wilmington restaurants, the tourists long gone, the patio season winding down. You’ll find this clearly evidenced when you walk into our kitchen to find a hibachi chef with his face submerged in a pot of water attempting to best his own breath-holding record. So the money doesn’t flow as freely as it did just months ago, and the staff is having a hard time staying motivated.

I arrived at this location after just a month at a different one. The server manager at the time was about to bust out to go to South America for a couple of months, and I was the only one with the availability to fill the position. They offered me a raise. Did I mention it’s the slow season? I had to take it.

At first I thought I’d just sold my soul and was paying the price. The staff at the hibachi location are largely young and apathetic, lazy and irresponsible. I fired the first of that breed tonight, and I had imagined it feeling better than it did. I won’t lose sleep over it or anything, but I suppose you hope for one of those shiny movie moments where the heroine finally gets to put her spoiled, self-absorbed counterpart in her place. Instead, I got to leave some meandering message on her voicemail that ended simply in, “…. we have to let you go, please don’t come in tomorrow.”

And I have to cover her shift on my day off.

Where’s the justice in that? (Don’t start looking, it’s not there). Well, my boss was happy about it, so there’s that. He’s been telling me to fire someone (anyone) from day 1, the idea (his idea) being that this makes me look powerful and will gain the respect (read: fear) of my servers. In the meantime, I can only hope this is the first big step in cleaning up the staff here. I’ve hired two older servers who actually need the work, and not just on weekends. But I’ve never done this before, and I certainly don’t have a manual or anyone sitting on my shoulder telling me how it’s done.

I’ve seen management done well, and I’ve seen it done poorly. And that’s all I’ve got to go on.

In the meantime, I’m cool with being nicknamed “OCD” (something to do with my obsession with the napkins being rolled tightly – thank you, Philip, whom I also used to make fun of for this), and with “Grandma” cooking in the kitchen even on busy nights, and with the lone computer at the server station (actually, wait – no, I’m not cool with that, and I’m pushing for another). And I’m starting to really like the chefs and their crazy performances and the busboys and their tejano singing and the weekend hostess who is typically sweet and demure, but can be a lion when she fires up her Chinese to argue with the kitchen manager (and who tells me that from behind I look just like an Asian girl).

It’s not so bad.

One night during my first week, I came home from a particularly busy night and cried. And cried some more. I was convinced I’d made a huge mistake, and that I was going to have to find yet another job and continue to struggle.

I don’t want to wait tables forever. I don’t even want to wait them for another year. But the situation certainly is not as bad as I initially surmised, and it looks like I’m there to stay. For now.

In the meantime, all of this gives me the impetus to work harder than ever on my grad school application. Not only do I need to be accepted, I need scholarship money, and I need a job.  I’ll be wrapping up the first part of my manuscript this week, so it’s just a matter of coming up with another brilliant, cohesive and deeply meaningful 15 pages or so.


No problem.



How Not to be a Rockstar September 14, 2009

9631_536941278496_28501299_31826005_6709213_n…  Jeff’s proposed title of the compelling bestseller he proposes I write. Not a bad idea, really, for a girl who spent a good 6 years pursuing a career in music, only to realize the pursuit had made her into something she was not. Into someone she did not envy or admire. And thus, she walked away from it all.

Not to say I was anywhere close to infamy. But those years did produce some pretty great stories of experiences both hysterical and terrible, both bittersweet and just plain bitter. SO maybe this is the new direction of my masters thesis… for the grad program I haven’t been accepted to yet…. because I’m still working on the application…. and because I can’t decided if it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to my next point.

Today is one of those thankfully rare days when, never mind all the a##-busting and name-taking you’ve been doing, you feel like you’re just not doing enough with your life. In fact, you can’t figure out what exactly you are doing, and why any of it hasn’t gotten you somewhere beyond serving shrimp teriyaki to college kids.

((Oh- great story – today, an elderly woman of questionable sanity walks in and tells the hostess that a friend recommended our sushi restaurant to her. For seafood. She is also allergic to shellfish. So when we settle on the seafood tempura, with only red snapper and salmon, I think it might just work out. I even bring her ketchup in lieu of cocktail sauce (Cocktail sauce. In an Asian restaurant. Seriously?). She looks pleased, but when I glance over a while later, she’s calling me over. “Honey… I’m sorry, but I just don’t taste any fee-ish in theya anywaya,” she says. She has eaten all the salmon, but the red snapper is there untouched. “I know it’s hard to see it with the batter, but these are the white fish,” I explain, pointing out all the fish she hasn’t eaten. “Well, I know forah fact they’s onions theya,” she says, pointing to the one white thing on her plate that, true, is not fish. Soon, I convince her to open up one of the “potatoes” so that she’ll see it is, in fact fish. She puts a small piece in her mouth. “Well that don’t taste like no fee-ish I evah had; try it,” she adds, actually offering me a piece of fish. I tell her that’s really okay, that I believe that she is unsatisfied with the fish and will see what I can do. I’m able to comp half of the price of her meal, tell her so, hand her the bill and get back to my other tables. Moments later, the hostess comes walks over and tells me the woman is at the front desk trying to get her bill decreased. I take a huge breath, trying to summon whatever patience I might have left. And to not drop my tray and run screaming for the hills. (Did I mention there is NO MANAGER ON DUTY??) Once again, I try to explain to her that we’ve already given her a huge discount on her meal. Somehow (and I’m a little foggy on the details here; I may have blacked out in order to save my head from exploding), I get her to pay 7 of the $7.51 she owed me. Victory? I’m still not sure.))

Clearly, my life is not glamorous.

But I don’t need it to be. The years in which I sought musical stardom (in one form or another) were some of my most exciting but undeniably my loneliest as well. I’ve traded it all in order to be true to myself, and was rewarded by meeting a most amazing partner. Together we traveled to a more happy latitude, and finally I live by the sea.

It’s like working on a puzzle, and your down to your last few missing pieces. But as soon as you find one that fits, you realize another has gone missing, and this continues until you feel like you’ll never get the damn thing together.

But if history repeats itself (and clearly it does) I know the feeling of being completely overwhelmed will only last so long, that tomorrow I’ll wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. Happens every time.

‘Til then I’m summoning my patience, not running for the hills.


Too Sexy for Milan, New York or Japan September 1, 2009

Filed under: photography — curiouserx2 @ 11:19 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
Photo by Scott Halford

Photo by Scott Halford

So there I was – surrounded. The darkened alley stretched out on either side of me. I eyed my four-inch patent heals critically, took one more look at the ivy-strewn, open window above me, hitched up my skirt and decided I was definitely not too sexy to climb up a wall in a dress if it meant getting the shot.

Back up an hour or so. I had volunteered to model for a Wilmington-area photography club at its first event. The group of roughly 10 photographers met me and two other girls in historic downtown to try their hand at shooting models – many never had. Never mind that I’m 5’4” and have the uncanny ability to blink in sync with camera triggers, today I was a model.

My only problem with this image is it remindes me of an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag. But thank you, nonetheless, for the image, Mitch. (Photo by Mitch Ward)

My only problem with this image is it remindes me of an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag. But thank you, nonetheless, for the image, Mitch. (Photo by Mitch Ward)

Truth be told, I had ulterior motives for participating. While I think it’s fun to get in front of the lens every once in a while (this, after overcoming an irrational terror of being photographed), my real itch is for art direction. Not having a great camera of my own, I still love to see the shot, to concoct the idea and make it real. I thought this might be a good chance to help these photographers not just get shots, but create images.

Therefore, I was a little bummed when the first  half hour was spent being posed (by the guy running the show) in hokey, portraiture positions with silly props (ahem… balloons??) in uninspired settings (ahem.. flagpoles???).

Something had to be done.

So when one of the photographers lamented that she’d wanted to look  in one of the old alleys close by to find cool textures, I told her I was in, and a group of us left the main event to explore.

Immediately,we were graced with a killer doorway with lots of depth and great color on the surrounding walls. After a few minutes there, though, we walked down further and struck gold. One of the buildings enclosing the alley was completely gutted and missing its roof. The windows were entirely blown out, and the inside was overgrown. “I’m going in!” one of the photographers shouted. “Well then I’m getting up,” I responded. I knew if I could get into the window, the framing of it would be amazing. I’d be able to squeeze in and have enough room to fill out the window by pushing out my legs and arms and working with the massive vines that had grown in. We couldn’t have staged it better.

A girl's gotta do...

A girl's gotta do...

... what a girl's gotta do.

... what a girl's gotta do.

Never mind that I leaned my head back into a huge cobweb that stuck mercilessly to my hair when I tried to pull way. Or that I broke my shoe. Or that it was so warm that evening that they probably had to Photoshop out entire droplets of sweat on my face. The lack of fuss made for some stunning work.

My thanks to Tami LaNunziata, Scott Halford, Mitch Ward and all others involved. It was a spectacularly creative evening.


Photo by Mitch Ward

Photo by Mitch Ward

Photo by Tami LaNunziata

Photo by Tami LaNunziata


‘Tis a Gift August 28, 2009

DSCN3952It’s been four months since I set out to simplify my life, and I thought it was high time for an update on the process. While I admit it took some massively complicated chaos this summer,  I’ve arrived at a living situation that is infinitely simpler.

Four months ago I drove to work each morning (and home for lunch to take the dog out) and home again in the evening. Today, Gabe has a better home in Ohio, and I ride my bike or walk two blocks down the street to go to work.

I used to cart myself and a fat overnight bag to J’s practically every other night. Now we’re settled under one roof, helping each other with meals, bills and household responsibilities. Also, we’ve both shed a quite a bit of unnecessary stuff, via either donations or sale. And while I’ve been adimant about keeping our load light, we were able to cheaply find the few furniture pieces we needed through Craig’s List. Not only were these in great condition and priced far lower than anything we could find in stores, but I felt pretty good about reusing these items, saving them from a wasteful end in a landfill.

But this is not the end of the road, amigos. I see my present situation as a good starting point for finding new ways to waste less, to want less and to unburden my life. Admittedly, a small beach town is not a shabby locale for such things. I feel much less pressure to keep up with Vogue, and more inclination to be comfortable. And with so much available in the way of outdoor activites (beaches, bike trails, parks, farmers markets…), I have more money to set aside for savings and clearing my credit card debt.

Speaking of which, I was talking to my manager the other day about this woman who comes in almost every day and spends between $30 and $50 on lunch (some rolls, a little sashimi, a couple glasses of wine…). How does she DO this?? My manager’s response? “Well, some of them are just plain filthy rich. But a lot of them like to live like they’re wealthy and just have massive credit card debt. They’ll spend hundreds of dollars here, and then you won’t see them for months because they’ve maxed out their cards.”

That blew my mind. And yet, I know just the type of people she’s referring to. And like these big spenders, I think many people are under the impression that you have to spend in order to enjoy life – and that credit cards are a necessary evil.

My next mission: to prove them undeniably wrong.


Waiting? I Think Not. August 26, 2009

Filed under: adulthood,life,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 1:39 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

L1000324Waiting, mes amis, is what I might have called my previous position as office manager of an interactive marketing agency. There, at my “real” job, I sat at a desk for 8 hours a day mostly biding my time until I could figure out my next move (read: until I could convince myself to stop doing what I was “supposed” to be doing and start doing what I wanted to do).

And what did I want to do?

By god I wanted to live by the beach.

Don’t ask me how it took 28 years to come to this conclusion. Haven’t I always decorated my apartments like beach houses? Haven’t I always doodled swaying palm trees and crashing waves in the margins of my notebooks? And haven’t I spent endless winters parked by a space heater vowing someday to replace all my pumps and stilettos with flip flops?

How, then, did I not get a clue a little sooner?

No sense dwelling on strangely spent years, however. Now that I write to you not from a swanky, little third floor office or even the Midwest, with its autumn already on the horizon, now that I’ve made it to the beach, I find that taking up waiting tables for the time being is not just bearable – it somehow makes sense.

And how seductive the waiting game is… I can think of at least five instances in which I’ve sworn it off forever, only to find myself tying on another apron. How hard it is to deny something when (damnit!)  you’re just really good at it. And then there’s the cashflow. Between that and a skin that’s been thickening for some six years, I’ve amassed something of a protective shell capable of deflecting any swing a customer can throw.

Add to that the rush. I liken it to a runner’s high – which I think I may have only experienced once, and which I’m convinced is only experienced by someone who runs infinitely more frequently than I do. What I mean is – you keep at it long enough, and you get into a sort of stride. And when you’re in the stride, and the tables are full and everything clicks… well it’s far more satisfying work than wearing adorable outfits behind a desk. There’s something to physically earning every dollar you take home that has always (and will always) appealed to me.

And because serving shifts are typically shorter than the average workday, I arrive home with time to attend to creative projects, to get outdoors, to head to the beach I moved here to be close to.

To live.

I’m not implying I’ll be a server until I’m old and gray. Of course I hope to mold one of my 342 interests into a career that’s both lucrative and stimulating. But in the meantime, I’m happy to serve a bunch of fellow sushi connoisseurs (or even the California Roll types – you know who you are) and to never again find myself just… waiting.



One Year August 20, 2009

sushiBefore I get rolling on today’s topic, I’d like to report that I am no longer unemployed. It seems certain statements made in my last post, while laden with sarcasm, turned out to be strangely prophetic. I’d only been in Wilmington for one day when my cell phone rang with an unidentified Wilmington number. It had to be one of the 32 places I’d put in applications, and I knew that whatever job I was about to be offered, I would have to accept. Luckily for me, the voice on the other end of the line was the manager at a sushi place right down the street from our new apartment. With what probably seemed like excessive enthusiasm, I took the job, hung up and thanked my lucky stars someone had actually hired me.

I then got calls from 5 other restuarants, also offering me work.

So apparently there was never anything to worry about, but I’m happy to say that after a couple day’s training, I think sushi and I were meant to be.

Moving along, though… I was flipping through Facebook this afternoon when I came across a little artifact that had been sitting on my profile for precisely one year. It was a Graffiti note that I’d drawn –  painstakingly, nervously. So nervously in fact that, as I recall, this final draft was actually a third or fourth attempt.

I’m not an artist.

I draw stick figures and smiley faces. I have no perception of proportion, no hand-eye coordination. But I’d decided to draw this particular invitation, thinking it fitting because it was the recipient’s fault that I had the program at all.

I was a Myspace girl. He was a Facebook boy.

We’d met at a photography studio I was managing. He was a lowly intern, and although I found him intriguing, I put up a wall of professionalism and ignored him mercilessly. But at the end of his internship, I was about to leave my position at the studio as well. All of the employees met one night for one last bash, and he and I were the last two standing along with my boss and his girlfriend – who got into a fistfight. There was a cut eye (hers) and broken nose (his) involved, and the intern and I were dragged into the argument. After an hour or so of high drama, both the boss and his girlfriend left the scene separately, and the intern and I turned to each other in bewilderment.

We sat at a patio table, unclear of what exactly had just happened. “I’m glad you were here,” I said, just as the proverbial ugly lights cast their glare out onto the patio, and the barback began stacking the chairs around us. “Can I give you a ride home?” I asked, and he did not decline.

On the way to my car, we passed a playground. “Swing?” he asked.

“What?” I turned to catch his meaning, but he was already up and over the fence.

“Coming?” he offered a hand over the low fence to help me over, and I, without a thought, followed. The intern lead me to the swingset, where twin swings swayed in the warm night breeze. And there we sat, occasionally rocking back and forth, and talked about everything and nothing at all. For how long, I don’t know, because it’s times like these when time means nothing.

I did eventually arrive home at 5:30 in the morning. My alarm would blare in an hour to wake me up to go work at the outdoor market in downtown Columbus. That evening, I would sit, a little delirious from lack of sleep, and devise a way- a meaningful, clever way- to ask the intern on a date. Not because I was a particularly bold girl, or dated often, or liked making the first move, but because I was relentlessly aware that I could not let this particular guy pass me by. Hence the nervous rendering of the Facebook graffiti.

The point is, there were at least a half a million times while I formed lines and shaded with my mouse with that little art program (never quite to my satisfaction) that I found myself second guessing and playing the “what if” game, questioning whether what I was up to was completely silly and would be viewed by its recipient as, well, lame. For one of the first times in my life, however, it occurred to me that what I was doing was being myself. I found my little plan both amusing and thoughtful. So, if some guy found it otherwise, well, he wouldn’t exactly be prepared for the girl behind it. Having decided then that I had nothing to lose,  I clicked the “send” button, and off my graffiti went.

As you’ve probably surmised, the answer was a resounding “Yes.” Jeff and I met at a favorite cafe to share a bottle of wine. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I did, however, make him ask for the second date.