Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ghost of New Years Past....

It's the usual time for reflection I suppose. But instead of focusing on the events of the past year, I'd rather look back on how I celebrated the New Year over time (if I can actually remember).

2010: In Guatemala City in Zona Viva with my then-fiance. The weather was delightfully warm (compared to Gringolandia) and we sat at some small rickety tables outside a bar. We bought buckets of bottled beers and smoked hookah while waiting for midnight. Midnight struck and fireworks went off all around us and throughout the city. Despite the noise of the New Year, I had a moment of clarity: I would not marry the Chapin sitting next to me and I would not be staying in Guate very much longer. (4 days later, I flew back to the US)

2008: Celebrating New Years and one of my last nights out before leaving for Chile. Despite frigid weather, my Chapin and I met up with some friends downtown and bar-hopped til midnight. I was determined to enjoy the company of my friends while I could, not knowing how long I would be staying in South America. My boyfriend had other ideas. Even though we discussed how we were going to stay together even after I left, he was getting pouty and accused me of ignoring him that night. Maybe "You're not the only one I'm going to miss" wasn't the right thing to say to him. I almost threw in the towel that night --- how different my life would've been if I had....

2007: My boyfriend at-the-time (foreign but not latino) and I threw a super short-notice New Years celebration. We bought booze and noise-makers and confetti. A handful of people showed up and we danced in the kitchen. All I remember about this New Years was all the confetti stuck in the carpet for the next few months.

2004: My best friend in college (and future dorm-mate for the next semester) invited me to a New Years party with some of her high school friends. It was a typical college party in a college house with crazy drunkards everywhere. I developed a crush on one of her HS friends and our DD for the night. We chatted about all topics as I downed cocktails and he sipped on soda. At midnight, we kissed (I guess I wasn't TOO drunk). This was my first true New Years kiss and the beginning of a short-lived college relationship. (My best friend warned me it would never work. I even remember her crying out "No!" when she saw us kiss that night).

Sometime in the '90s: I have no clue the exact year of these memories and actually retelling them is going to show-off what I NERD I was as a child, but whatever. My older brother and I had set up camp in front of the TV for New Years. My mom brought out the usual New Years snacks and sparkling cider. As she pestered us to keep the TV on the count-down to the ball drop, we had other ideas. We had found a Star Trek The Next Generation marathon on one network and since we were really that dorky, all we wanted for the New Year was non-stop Star Trek. And so my mom gave up and we watched countless episodes and missed the countdown and the stroke of midnight.

And looping back around....

2011: Since I have to work this evening for a bit and I have no firm plans whatsoever, my New Years eve will be a surprise.... Either insanely out of control funny or super tame, we shall see!

(It is kind of funny that the New Years I remember usually revolve around a guy and some crazy romance. This year will be no different. Whether crazy or tame, I already know who I will be kissing at midnight. :o) )

Happy New Years! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Club: Service Included, By Phoebe Damrosch

It's worth repeating: I love food. So obviously, the majority of my reading lately has been about food and the restaurant industry.

Also, I currently work in a restaurant as a bartender. So I love accounts of the industry. The ins and outs of serving guests. The little facts that only people in this business truly know and understand. No matter if you serve in fine dining or at the corner diner, there are common truths about the food business.

"Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter" by Phoebe Damrosch is a re-telling of her life and experiences while working a Per Se in New York City. My personal serving experiences in restaurants is nowhere near the level of this author. Her descriptions of her job make me salivate with jealous at the level of food quality and sweat with anxiety at the thought of the caliber of service required for such clientele. I day-dream of working for a restaurant like hers where I truly respect the food and chefs. This statement is not meant to bash the establishment which currently employees me. I work for a super corporate chain restaurant ---and, for what it is, the food is above par. But, needless to say, there is no caviar, truffles, or bone marrow. My knowledge of such things in limited to drooling over shows in the Food Network and Travel Channel. In short, my job has not provided the food education that I crave.

Damrosch's telling of the attention to detail in the service at Per Se is overwhelming. It makes me realize how easy I have it at my restaurant .... and yet also to understand the type of service I wish that every guest could receive (even at my casual dining chain restaurant). Eating out at a restaurant is an all around experience of the food, atmosphere, and service -- which should be (positively) memorable and deeply enjoyable whether it's bone marrow or diner pancakes.

Despite the obvious differences between Damrosch's life in "Service Included" and my current life at Nameless- corporate-chain, there are also amazing similarities. The odd pace of life, the comments from friends and family about your job not being "real," the restaurant romance, the eccentric customers, the camaraderie with coworkers, etc.

I could go on forever about how many ways this book touched me but I won't for fear of revealing too much about my employer and for boring non-restaurant-industry folks. Whether or not you work in a restaurant, this book still tells a lovely and fun story. But if you DO work in a restaurant, you will definitely find a kindred spirit in Damrosch.