Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So, I sat on my ass all last week......

     I'll have to be careful about posting too much about asses, or I'll end up on a restricted list somewhere.  It's tough to do though, especially since I'm the topic of a lot of these, but this one is not about my physique, or about my inappropriate behaviors,  it's about how I spent last week, and how I've spent my life avoiding such weeks. 

     Without going into too much detail, I spent last week in meetings in Dallas.  The temperature in Dallas finally eased back from 100 degrees, but I didn't know it as I spent the week inside the Omni hotel that had an air conditioner that was on steroids. It was pretty funny to look around the room and see the 130 of us donning jackets inside the conference rooms and restaurants, while it was 95 degrees outside. 
How I felt in the room at the meeting
The agenda that was sent prior, listed 5 straight days of 11 hour meetings, and I assumed that that was probably a worst case scenario.  I was wrong.  It didn't help that they brought in a different snack at each break, granola bars, biscotti, nuts, popcorn, cookies, I gained 4 lbs in a single week.  There really was enough important business that it took that long and while the time was well spent, I had to ponder, later, if that wasn't the longest stretch of sitting on my ass I had ever had.  It was, by a long shot.  Before I continue, I'll dedicate this blog to all those workers, who sit down on their jobs, thrust into cubicles or locked down in meetings, all week.  Prior to last week, I hadn't given this much thought but I literally feel your pain now.

      Many of my brothers got to work with or for my Dad in his plumbing/electrical business more than I did.  I don't recall how many times I did it, but I do recall the type of work we did, and decided early on, that it wasn't for me.  One job we did was for a guy named Robert E Lee (you can't make this stuff up), and I think it was a sewer line or water line we installed, but I was just the shovel guy, so the grand plan wasn't shared with me, just the instruction to move dirt from one place to another.

That time I worked for Dad
  One time, years later, I saw Cool Hand Luke on TV, and instantly had a flashback to working with my Dad.  As mentioned earlier, I decided that ditch digging wasn't where my talents lie (Dad agreed, by the way), so after college I pursued a white collar job.  Prior to this, I had worked in the Foodservice field, slinging chicken wings, managing a pizza shop, and helping to develop a catering business.  With my Computer Science degree, hot in my previously kitchen-grease stained hands, I went out to seek employment, and found it almost immediately, right back in the Foodservice field.

     I went out to find a programming job, where I would have likely sat in a basement of an office, in a cold room, on my ass, for hours on end.  It was during this process when I was invited to interview for a distributor sales rep job, in the foodservice industry. My final question of that interview went something like this, "Wait, do people really get paid to ride around and talk to restaurant people and sample food, and they get free samples of that food all the time?  They had me at "talk to people", the free food part was a bonus.  I took the job, and avoided the job sitting on my ass in an office, working for the Man, and started my new career, riding in a car, sitting on my ass, working for the Man.
My Monday morning commute
There doesn't seem to be much of a difference when you say it like that, but in that job, every Monday I drove through Letchworth Park from one side to the other to call on the Glen Iris Inn.  I'd see deer and fox and groundhogs and beaver all on my twenty minute commute to my first account.  How many office workers have that commute or can see those things from their cubicles?  Exactly.  I did have to do some office time each day.  I'd input my orders into the computer when I got back, or call some accounts to take an order over the phone, but even then it wasn't like being shackled to a desk, I had a corner office and I usually made dinner in the test kitchen we had, to make it seem less like office work.  I worked there for almost four years, before I left that job to do the exact same thing for another company.

    I really need to get back on point here, or you'll have more ass time reading this, than I did last week.  The point was, working for C&R Foods, I avoided office work, and the same held true for my time at the John Sexton and Company.  My job was outdoors, traveling Western NY and selling mainly canned goods to restaurants and schools (a little known fact, the John Sexton company invented the #10 can which is the standard in that industry).  My office time was now spent at pay phones in the front of restaurants or sitting at the end of a bar, entering my orders, but still successfully avoiding the cubicle.
My first cell phone
When cell phone use came in vogue, I got one of the first, and had it installed in my car, making that my office.  I had to do training for this job, but that was a one week school, in Chicago, mainly spent tasting and spitting out different kinds of foods, still no office.  I was proud to work for that company, and I did, right up until they closed the Rochester branch, and I left for another food job working for the Kraft Foodservice company.  I encountered an issue immediately as they normally started out salespeople in a program called "Fastrack", which entailed spending 6 weeks in an office shadowing different people to learn the ropes.  Mid-week of the first week, I approached my boss and together we developed "Fastertrack" which cut my office stint down to 2 weeks (Thank you John Glynn), and allowed me to test out of the other parts.  You see, I knew how to work in an office environment, I just chose to avoid it.  My next job at Palmer Foodservice was very similar, no office work to speak of, but a few hours spent each day from my home office.  My home office continued to evolve in these jobs, starting at the dining room table, or in a recliner in the living room, at night, and ending in a dedicated room that I tried like heck to not make look like a regular office.  I put a TV in each one, and even though I only ever watched the first 15 minutes of the Today show on it, it made my home office seem more like a regular room than a true office.

     For my last two jobs, I got out of the DSR job, in the Foodservice industry and transitioned to being a manufacturer's rep, um, in the Foodservice Industry (Ok, anyone that knows me at all, knows how much I like food, so there should be no shock factor here at all).  My final question for that job went something like, "Wait, do people really get paid to fly around and to talk and entertain people at bars and restaurants on an expense account?"  They had me at bar.  My office quickly changed to the flip down tray on airplanes and hotel desks while on the road, or my home office still while not traveling.  My training at each Corporate Office took less than a week each.
My family like it better when I sold this.
One company Mrs. Smith's Bakeries was headquartered in Atlanta, and my current one is headquartered in Dallas.  During this time I built my current home office, which is about 500 square feet in the top of my Garaj-Mahal, complete with TV (never used), exercise area (rarely used) and an open air balcony (not used enough).  Point is, even when I'm working the beginning and ending of each week from there, it doesn't seem like office work. I even re-created the test kitchen from my first job downstairs,complete with an oven, refrigerator, sink, and a smoker.  On days when it seems like I am more of a cubicle rat, I take a break and exercise my culinary talents downstairs, to break up the day.  If you haven't gotten the pattern by now, I'll pretty much do anything to avoid sitting in an office all day. 

     In closing, (and in case my current bosses read this), I know I am probably just prolonging the inevitable as it relates to sitting in a chair, in an office somewhere. My future may take me to Corporate somewhere, and that's how business is done, so you have to accept it. I'd like to point out though, that even if that does happen, I'm well ahead in the ballgame, as by my count, I've spent about 6 weeks of a 30 year Foodservice career sitting on my ass, in a true office.  Not too shabby if you ask me, in spite of the time I spent in Dallas last week.    I'd ponder this more, but the Today show is about to start. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An open letter to my daughter, Molly.

     In the past few weeks, I've been reminded of the importance of a father demonstrating and professing his love for his children, especially his daughters, too many times to be just a coincidence.  I've encountered people that told me stories of Dads who were cold.  I went to a party and the guest speaker had a tale of her father turning her back on her that was heart wrenching.  I've learned that some friends and relatives were in bad and abusive relationships with men, and this caught me unaware.  I've had close to a dozen such instances in such a short period of time, I had to ask myself if God was directing me to be more communicative about my feelings, and while the jury is still out on that one, I decided it wouldn't hurt to take a hint and do it anyway.  I then pondered whether an open-access blog was the right forum to do this in, and you can see my choice.  I hope readers, especially Dads, take this as a cue to do the same for your children, and especially your daughters.  Here goes....

Dear Molly. 

  When we met I didn't know the first thing about raising you, and I hope you'll forgive me for the mistakes that I made along the way. Everyone gives you advice about parenting, and I had an excellent game plan given to me by my parents, but some lessons were lost in translation, and I adapted as best I could along the way.  My parents were loving to me but they weren't overly demonstrative of their love, and I'm afraid that I wasn't to you either.  I'd like to correct that, starting right now.  There were two things that were constants for me since the start of our relationship, my unconditional love for you, and my paternal pride of having you as my daughter.  I'd like to expound on that.

     When I fed you as an infant in front of the Today show each morning, sometimes missing your mouth due to my attention to the day's news, I loved you.  Those mornings, though habitual, have stayed with me and I clearly remembering you turning your head towards the TV when the Maxwell House or Folgers commericals came on.  It tickled me.  I loved you later, when I mis-affixed your first training wheels on your bike, and you as much wiggled your bike down the driveway, as rode it.  I was proud that you persevered in spite of having a mechanically inept father.  I can't remember if I was there the day we took you to your first Nanny/Sitter, but I do remember the many times I did drop you off and pick you up.  I was always amazed at how happy you were to experience each day with her, but just as happy when you were coming home to us.  I was proud of you the day she told the other parents that she was quitting the business, but asked us later if she could still sit for you, solely.  It spoke to your character and easy going attitude, even back then.  You repaid that choice of hers by keeping in touch with her so many years later, based on those few young years that you spent together.  I can't recall your first day of school, and maybe I wasn't there due to an early business appointment, but I loved you that day, present or not.  That might be a theme for me, I loved you, present or not. I can vividly picture you, for some reason in pink boots and a raincoat, heading off to the bus.  I remember volunteering in your class a few times, and I was proud of, not only your efforts, but of your kindness to the kids around you.  You liked to pick up strays and help them, that compassion surely comes from your mother, and I love you for it.  At that age I started to going to your extra curricular activities, and I'll honestly share my thoughts with you now about those.  I didn't care for most of the early band and choral concerts, they were loud and squeaky and sometimes disjointed, but I loved every performance of yours. I like watching a fair amount of sports, but soccer is not one of them, but when you played or practiced, I loved watching you.  You were never a great wrestler, you don't have that killer instinct in you, but I can say you were an entertaining one.  I was proud of your enthusiasm each and every time you went out and prepared, once again, to get pinned to the mat, and you came up smiling each time.  I learned something about how life should be approached, from you, during those times, and I thank you for teaching it to me.  It's a lesson that has stayed with me many, many years after the impression of your face had left those mats.  I loved you when you got your ECO class to reconsider slaughtering a pig, even though the class had raised it for that particular purpose.  I wanted the bacon, but I loved you when I didn't get it.  I was proud of you when you wanted to work a split shift at your friends farm, and I told you that you would have to bike the few miles back and forth each time.  You didn't back down, you accepted the challenge, and early each morning you rode/wobbled out of the driveway (I already apologized for that).  I loved you the day you quit your job at a restaurant after just one day.  I didn't understand you, but I loved you.  I was proud that you looked the owner in the eye and let him know that it wasn't a good fit for you and watched you offer to work as long as he needed you to. I was proud of you, years later, when you gave restaurant work a try again, and excelled at it.  I always knew that you would be good, and honestly I can't think of anything you couldn't accomplish if you set your mind to it.  I loved you when you organized a walkout of a class, because you felt the teacher had disrespected the students.  I was proud of you standing up to your beliefs, even in an environment that could arbitrarily punish you for your actions.  Doing the right thing is always worth taking the risk.  I loved you when you cheer-leaded.  To be clear, I didn't love the few full cheerleading competitions that I attended, but I loved you in them.  I'm not a basketball fan, but I was a fan of you cheering at basketball games (now Football I like, who doesn't?).  I was not of fan of you dating, but that time had to come too.  I am proud of how you left each relationship that you were involved in, and trying to stay friends with guys who weren't "The One".  Pollyannna as it was, it was you, and I loved you for it.  I love you for finding a guy now, who treats you like you deserve to be treated.  He's a keeper.  I loved you even the night we stood nose-to-nose screaming at each other, heading towards a total meltdown until your mother intervened.  I may have been upset with you, and you with me, but my love for you didn't change, even that night.   I love how you prioritized family, even keeping in touch with members that I don't have frequent contact with.  I loved that you found time to sit with your Grandmother, overnights and I wasn't surprised that you wouldn't take compensation for it. I was proud.  She loved you for that time spent too, and I suspect you don't regret missing anything else on those nights. I loved you the night you rolled the van on an icy road.  I feared for you that night, but you made me proud when you stopped on the way back to repair the faulty seat belt restraint, that ultimately saved your life.  I loved you when we searched for colleges together, and both of us learned the process along the way.  I was proud when you picked a State school, and even prouder when you stood your ground later and transferred to the school that could accept you immediately into their nursing program.  Change is difficult, but you make it look easy sometimes.  I love that throughout your college career you have found time each week to reconnect with us and let us share in your joys and disappointments.  I love you for introducing us to your great circle of friends, and letting the old folks hang with you sometimes.  I'm proud that you choose your friends wisely.  I love you for being so frugal and taking on as much of your college debt as your budget allows, and sometimes more than that.  I love you and am proud that you continue to make such great choices in all aspects of your life.

     Molly, I don't know what the future holds for us.  I hope to be around to watch you continue your growth and development, but it's not entirely my choice. So I want to bank a few of these, in case God and circumstances prevent me from being there. 

I'll love you on the day you get engaged, no matter who it is to.
I'll love you the day you get married.
I'll love you the day you get your degree, and on the day you get your next one, and so on.
I'll love you the day you start your family.
I'll love you the day your bratty kid melts down at my house.
I'll love you and support you as you become the parent. 
I'll love you as you raise your kids, and on the day they leave you too. 
I'll love you until the day you die, and I get to see you again, to tell you how much I love you.

     I hope I haven't overplayed my hand here, and this seems like I've been awfully redundant.  I guess I'll chalk it up to some things bear repeating, so I'll say it once more.  I love you, and I couldn't be more proud to be your father.




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My wife has dimples on her rear end.....

     One would have to be pretty secure in his marriage to start a blog with a title like this, and I am, but this blog is not about how secure I am, it's about how secure and unpretentious my wife is.  She does have dimples on her rear end, and I don't think she minds them, at all.  
My wife, the time she dyed her hair.
I have offered to have them "fixed" but she always chides me about the unnecessary expense, and the needless time it would take to have it done, so she will continue to have dimples on her rear end. She's not into "body" work in general and she thinks more people notice her front more, but as someone who follows from behind often, I think it's a toss up.  She's very cavalier about the dimples saying things like "That's how I know it's mine, when I see them" or "You won't see them anymore after you trade it in for a newer one".  She might be the funnier one in our marriage, I know if she had a blog, I would be her most faithful reader.  She's not even upset that my girlfriend doesn't have them on hers, but in fairness my girlfriend's is smaller.  I think a fair amount of women would be embarrassed to have them, but not my wife, she's been known, on occasion, to even show them to our guests.  She takes entertaining to a whole new level.  It thinks it's also natural to lay the blame on someone else, and in this case, my wife is no different, she blames my daughter Molly for them.  I always insist that she must share in at least half the blame for them, but I can freely admit that Molly was a contributing factor.  Husbands should be like that, supportive, but not afraid of calling a spade, a spade either. 
                     That's why it bears repeating, My wife has dimples on her rear end, of her minivan.

     How did this happen?  How do these things ever happen?  We were at at afternoon summer party at a dear friend's of ours, several years ago, and we had parked the van on the lawn next to several others.  Molly had wanted to borrow it quickly so Char gave her the keys and off she went.  In fairness, the van was on an incline that made it difficult to see what was behind you, using the mirrors, and the truck that she backed into was black and hidden in the shade of the tree next to it, but the end result was a collision between the two vehicles. 
The aforementioned dimples on the mid-right
The big truck's bumper put half a dozen dimples in the mid section of the rear lift gate, but no damage was done to the truck.  The owner of the truck was very gracious about it, and we didn't find it necessary to report it to either insurance company.  As mentioned previously, we looked into having them banged out or fixed, but since they didn't effect the functionality of the rear lift gate, we left them alone.  So it's been 3 or 4 years now that my wife has had dimples on her rear end of her minivan.  I was reminded of them last night when we went out with my girlfriend and parked near her Crossover vehicle and noticed the smooth polished curve of her rear end, and the absence of dimples (What? I told you it was smaller).  Back on point though, I have an very unpretentious wife. For those not yet married, I'd recommend holding out for one of these, they make your life a lot easier and enjoyable.  To give fair time on the quality of an unpretentious husband, I can't really comment, as I don't have one of those.  I'd ask my wife to comment, but I don't think she does either.

     The Bible speaks on the value of an unpretentious or virtuous wife and says, depending on the version, that she is more valuable than rubies or pearls. 
Geez, Mrs. Cleaver, you look lovely tonight.....
That guy Lemuel was sharp, and Solomon was wiser to listen to Lem's mom's advice.  Think of a Wally Cleaver/Eddie Haskel relationship here, cuz didn't Eddie always get advice from Wally's mom too?  Sure he did.   If you read Proverbs 31, you'd get an apt description of my wife and our relationship, I think.  Let me illustrate....

 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her    (Yup) 
She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (Pretty true, she does "Do me Good", but not every day, we'll have to work on that)
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. (Wait, What? We can count the work willingly with her hands bit)
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.  (This is crazy true, we live in Hall and she has to shop in Geneva)
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens  (She does get up at 4:30 each weekday (to worketh willingly) and the meat part was all true up until Molly became a Vegetarian.  
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.(Ok, it's a garden not a vineyard, but she drinks the fruit of the vineyard often)

      I could keep going with these, but I think you get the picture. I could talk about how she can't spend money on herself (she'll call me, pondering a $20 dress decision, while I am drinking a $30 martini).  I could speak to the sacrifices she makes to provide the children what they need, or me for that matter.  I could talk about her simple taste in home furnishings, and a slew of other things, but if you have met Char, I really don't need to keep going, you've seen it first hand.  I've taken this blog as far as I can, and still have her be modest, so I'll close with these thoughts on my unpretentious wife.  I may have talked about the dimples on the rear end of her van, ad nauseum, but Char has the final say.  When I ask her if she minds them, she says " Not really, they kind of match my ass".  Love you dear. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The night I danced on Broadway.

     It's true.  I did.  I had a trip scheduled to NYC about ten years ago, and it happened to coincide with my wife's birthday.  I could take her along, according to company policy, so that's what I did.  I worked the trade show one day and took a vacation day the next so we could tour the city together.  I should mention it was November 2001, and the tourists were still staying away from the city after the attacks of September 11.  I'm not cavalier about terrorist threats, but if you let your fears keep you from doing the things you would normally do, then the terrorists actually accomplish their goal. I refused to let that happen and in fact, this was my second trip back to NYC, the first one just a week after the attack, while the towers were still smoldering, but I digress, this story is about the time I danced on Broadway.

      I had the whole evening planned, we were going to cocktail first, go to an early play, and catch dinner at a great restaurant after.  I chose to see Cabaret, as it was playing in the remodeled space that used to be the infamous Studio 54.  They had it set up as a small bistro with tables that sat four, and we got an aisle table facing the stage only a few rows back. The seats were fantastic.
Studio 54 in it's prime.
We had dressed for our big Theater night out, with Char in an elegant dress, and with me in a black silk shirt and tan pants.  We settled in and I took the seat directly next to the aisle.  The show was great, and we were thoroughly enjoying it, and thinking that it couldn't get much better than this, when suddenly, it did.  It was right after intermission, the show had started back up and the Master of Ceremonies came walking down our aisle, and selected me, to go onto the stage as a dance partner.  Now, I don't consider myself a great dancer, but I don't really shy away from the stage either, so I accepted the offer.  For the next minute or so I danced across the stage with the Master of Ceremonies from Cabaret and I didn't do half bad.  I always end the telling of this story with the fact that the narrator in Cabaret is a purposely asexual character, but is played by a man, so yes I danced on Broadway, but it was with a guy, but oh how those bright lights beckoned.  Knowing that my time on stage was short, I hammed it up a little, and even goosed the actor as we danced.  To say it was a fun experience, is so underrating it, and I highly recommend the experience if you ever get the chance.  The play finished, and we were off to dinner.

     I had chose Gotham Bar and Grill at 12 East 12th Street in Greenwich Village for our fine dining experience.  I'm lucky that Char likes to dine as much as I do so she seemed to appreciate the choice.
Gotham's interior
The Chef Alfred Portale was just hitting his stride with this place, so we got to get in, and have a great meal.  That year he was won a James Beard award personally, and the following year, it won the Outstanding Restaurant award nationally from the same Beard Foundation.  I had timed that one just right, as I can say that I took my wife to the best restaurant, not only in the City, but in the World that night, oh and yes, it was that good.  We had at least a five course meal with creative cocktails, and great wine, and we waddled out of there after a 2 plus hour dinner. The meal was a great follow up to the evening we were having thus far, and I was showing my wife the time of her life.  If only it were to end as well as it had started, but that's not the way our evenings work, I'm bound to step in a little something most times we go out, and this night, memorable as it was, was not going to be any different....

     Do you know the problem with a city that never sleeps?  It gives you too many hours to get into trouble.  We had finished our meal and were walking in the neighborhood, and it seemed too early to head back to our uptown hotel,  so my wife asked what I would normally do on a regular trip to the city.
The exterior of Hogs and Heifers
Now a smarter man, would have said, " I like to wander the neighborhood and get the feel of it" or " I like to sit in the park and people watch" or if I was really thinking " I generally go back to my hotel and call you, cuz that's when I really miss you". But no, I am honest with my wife about my adventures when I travel, so I suggested a walk to a quaint bar I know, called Hogs and Heifers.  It's a nondescript place with a particle board bar and the bartenders there wear halter tops and cowboy boots.  They insult you with bullhorns or squirt you with the soda gun.  It was frequented then by bikers and meat workers and at any time, girls are invited to dance on the bar. 
The famous collection at H& H's. 
The bartenders do a couple of numbers on there regularly, and dance to "The Devil went Down to Georgia" when it is played on the jukebox.  Girls can dance for free, but if you dance more than once, the expectation, by the crowd, is that you will make a donation to the wall behind the bar.  On it are thousands of brassieres from countless unknown and famous women (even Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore) and every one of them were thrown from atop the bar.  It's your choice how you choose to donate, but trust me, if you try that trick where you pull your bra out of your sleeve, you will be quickly booed off the bar.  It should be noted now, that I normally travel during the week when the bar is tamer, and I've spent several nights at Hogs and Heifers where no-one save the bartenders, danced.  This was not the case that night.  As we entered the bar, there was a women's softball team on the bar, 8 wide, topless and bent over showing their thongs.  I got our beers and turned around to a wife with her arms crossed and a look that told me immediately that we wouldn't even be staying to finish them.  We exited immediately, cabbed it back to the hotel, and spent an icy night together.  Hog's and Heifers is many things, to many people, but apparently it is not foreplay.  My wife, to this day, refers to it as "Pigs and Whores".   I still maintain that if she got to know the bar first she would have come to know it's charm, like I did, but she disagrees.  Sometimes, timing is everything and you don't get a second chance to make a good impression.  Incidentally if some of this bar sounds familiar to you it's probably because you saw the movie "Coyote Ugly" that did a great job of capturing the look, the staff, and the feel of this place, but then named the movie after a competitors bar.  The locals know the story well.

     So that was the night I danced on Broadway, truly memorable from beginning to end.  All of it is true, and true to my nature, Coyote Ugly, as it might be.  If you get to the city, I highly recommend catching a Broadway show, dining at the Gotham Bar and Grill and even finishing up at Hogs and Heifers, but try and pick a slow night.