Dispatches from Suburbia

If I played an instrument, I would have a band called "The Simon Thomsen Sex Tape"; and other musings, rants, and disconnected ramblings.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

House of (kitchen) Horrors

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

I cook at an extremely popular Albuquerque restaurant chain known as Flying Star. The meals being served at said restaurant are generally thought of as being fairly fancy and are appropriately pricy. I'm sure many of our customers have an image of some rotund, red faced individual--like something they may have seen on the food network--treating their plate with extra special care.

What people hardly ever seem to realize is that, beneath their starched chef's coats, many line cooks are crude, rude, and downright vulgar, and some of us don't even practice good hygiene. Otherwise, don't you think we'd find a job in which we could be exposed to customers without embarrassing our employers?

I'm not saying anything against Flying Star. Actually, I take pride in working at a restaurant that is so well liked. I used to work at Gardunos, a restaurant with an increasingly poor reputation, and now I'm embarrassed to even admit that I worked at such a place. The thing with Flying Star is that it is run with the knowledge that, lots of times, the restaurant industry--especially kitchens--tends to attract employees with little human interaction (or else we'd choose work that didn't involve devoting our weekends to our jobs). Many of us don't really understand proper behavior.

Flying Star has strict rules to ensure sanitary practices, and the strictness is key. An infraction could mean dire consequences. When you go to a restaurant, any restaurant, take a look at the line cooks. Sure, they all look the same--fairly clean in those white coats, almost like doctors. But REALLY look at them. What do they do on their time off from work? How do they dress? Are they drinkers? Do they do drugs? Are they religious? Are they married? Do they bathe? You never know, but you'll always have access to the restaurant's reputation. If you're eating at a reputable place, chances are that they have safeguards against less than admirable employees.

To avoid some real Halloween horrors when you go out tonight for a devilish dish, try to avoid a chest hair in your meal, or E. coli, or Salmonella, or any other nightmare by spending a few extra bucks at a reputable joint. I encourage you to read your restaurant reviews and remember that you can never kn0w the personal lives of the folks making your meal.

By the way, I'm a very clean person, as are many of my co-workers. I'm just saying that you never know. Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Americans are boring

“My driving abilities from Mexico have helped me get through Hollywood.”

-Salma Hayek

I've left the country only twice. The first time, I visited magnificent Costa Rica; and recently, Kim and I went to beautiful San Carlos, Mexico (the two-pronged mountain I'm pointing at is known to the locals as "the tits.")

I know little to no Spanish, which doesn't help in the two foreign countries I've visited. With my pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes, I also stuck out pretty bad. That's not to say I didn't have a blast on the two trips--I just wish I'd paid a little more attention in the three years of Spanish that I took in high school.

As many of us have probably heard, one should visit a foreign country at least once in their lifetime. It's a surefire way to broaden your horizons. What I find amazing in the south-of-the-border countries I've been to is the shockingly personable nature of the people. They aren't nearly as concerned about making a good impression as they are about making friends and spreading good cheer. Americans, on the other hand, are more concerned with their recent text message than they are about the current conversation they might be having with you (I threw away my cell phone about a year ago. I know nobody who needs theirs as badly as they say they do).

In Guaymas, we needed groceries, and in the parking lot the jovial attendant stopped to say something about the weather. The conversation was full of laughs and smiles, and though I haven't a clue what he said, the conversation was a breath of fresh air. And I'm pretty sure that everything he said was good-natured and nothing, hopefully, snide about tourists. Pretty sure.

I'm sure even Mexicans and Costa Ricans have their off days and don't always feel like being friendly. We all do. But in these countries, at least it seemed to me, when people are in a fine mood or are in the mood to converse, it's acceptable for them to speak to, God forbid, somebody they've never spoken to. Maybe I was lucky, and being exceptionally nice to a tourist is common practice, but that's better than nothing. Here in the states, anybody with darker skin or a funny accent is somehow a threat to our jobs or national security.

We're raised never to speak to strangers. Ok, the fear is, at times, somewhat reasonable (when it comes to kidnappings). But where's the harm in a simple hello, especially from one adult to another? Shouldn't it be difficult not to trust somebody who has never given you a reason to distrust them? I like giving folks the benefit of the doubt. I'm not saying I'd take just anybody to my apartment or loan them my car, but there's no harm in getting to know a person.

We're way too afraid of outsiders. Give me a break. Everybody needs to travel to a foreign land at least once in their lifetime, and while they're there, they ought to examine how the locals react to a foreign presence.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cocktail Hour

“I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.”
-Rodney Dangerfield

I have a fantastic margarita recipe.

My father moved here to New Mexico some 20 or 30 years ago, and he made a living cooking at a then-popular Mexican restaurant. Before the restaurant's owners got sucked into the world of franchising and corporate whoring, they had an impressive signature margarita. Dad, the culinary artist and (at the time) heavy drinker, refined this recipe and eventually passed it to me. Over the past few years, I have refined the recipe even more, and I encourage you to do the same.

These margaritas are the perfect, albeit dangerous, addition to any social gathering, large or small. I memorized the recipe so I could burn the hard copies and never share my secret, but what fun is that? So, here it is, a margarita recipe that won't disappoint. But be careful, they're "sleepers."

First, mix the following in a pitcher:

2 cups tequila
3-4 cups water (make it closer to 4, unless you want to end up on the floor before your guests arrive.
1 cup sweet and sour CONCENTRATE (preverably Tavern)
1/3 cup Triple Sec
1/4 cup ROSE'S lime juice (and no more than 1/4 cup)

Blend these ingredients with minimal ice, making it nice and foamy. Serve on ice in glasses rimmed in Kosher salt. Serve with a lime wedge and a straw. Enjoy!

For a twist, try blending frozen fruit (I recommend strawberries) with the rest of the ingredients and proceed as usual.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coffee stains

"All knowledge, the totality of all questionsand answers, is contained in the dog."
-Franz Kafka

My dachsund became a woman this week.

No, not in any magical, mystical "poof" moment where she turned into a living, breathing, beautiful human female--a la "The Frog Prince" with the roles reversed--but rather, she got her period.

I didn't know dogs did...that. Nor have I ever been exposed so explicitly to the menstrual cycle. She's a coffee-colored weiner by the highly original name of Coffee. She has more personality than most persons I know. And now I've come to discover that Coffee, or "Automatic Drip" as I now call her, has inadvertedly ruined a blanket, a couple of towels and a sweater. Like all of us, she likes to sit and sleep on soft surfaces, including blankets, towels and sweaters.

My cocker, on the other hand, has been spayed. Unfortunately, I fear that they may have simultaneously lobotomized the poor thing for she simply sits and wags that nub of a tail with a huge doggy-smile on her face, not a care in the world.

There is not a chance of a frisky male dog jumping the tall, cinder-block wall that surrounds my back yard to knock up Coffee. But the blood stains that have my apartment looking like a Pollock painting are a tad bothersome. My fear is this--what if, along with taking away her ability to reproduce, surgery also takes away that personality I adore so much. This is, no shit, my daughter, that I'm talking about (yes, I'm one of those dog owners nobody can stand).

I'll have to wait till this ends and figure it out then. In a few months, when this inevitably happens again, I'll know how long it lasted the first time around and maybe by then I'll have a game plan.

Friday, October 27, 2006

On the art of collaboration

"No one wants advice, only collaboration."
-John Steinbeck

I've recently finished a script.

By "I," I mean "we." The script, for the aforementioned school shooting television series, was the collective effort of three other people and myself and will next month be getting a live stage reading.

Collaboration, as loathsome as it can be, may perhaps be one of the only reasons I get things done. I've worked on this project for almost a year now, and though it's not for a grade, I've invested more time into this screenplay than in any school assignment. I like to think that, had this been an independent project, I would've done just as well and had complete creative control.

But I'd just be bullshitting myself. My "independent projects"--essays, short stories, homework, etc.--usually don't get done until about an hour before they're due. Or, for the projects not being assigned to me, I usually begin with a jolt of enthusiasm before abandoning it once the newness wears off.

What does it say about me that I need somebody to answer to before I will get anything done? Why isn't answering to myself enough? I like to think of myself as maintaining my own individuality and identity; but I'm beginning to believe that this identity may need some solidification in order to be defined and lead by it.

Like the worn-down issue of abortion, this leads to very deep questions about existence, about life and living, and the human soul and what drives it. The ability to shed the crutch of collaboration and take the reigns, I'm coming to realize, will only occur only once the individual has reached self-actualization.

Or maybe not. Perhaps (and I like this concept better) self-actualization is the ability to admit, without embarrassment, that collaboration is a necessity. I hope not to be misunderstood here--I am not making excuses for my own procrastination. Nor am I claiming to be self-actualized (not by a long shot), but in the material produced by my small group of writers there is a glimmer of the painstaking hours that went into our project. I couldn't have done that on my own. The art of the collaboration is bringing your own flavor to the melting pot.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Introduction

Other than a simple myspace excursion, I've never taken a very aggressive approach to blogging before--in fact I'm not really sure what the word "blog" means. It sounds like another word for burp or fart (dog blogs are awful), but I figure that I could give it a try. This will simultaneously introduce me to the world of online, public journals and help me get over my technophobia.
I do not live in a suburb, but I'm attracted the concept of glossy exteriors and questionable interiors (I've worked on a television script that focuses on fairly wealthy suburban high school with pretty students after they've experienced a Columbine-style shooting). Hence the title of my "blogspot," "Dispatches from Suburbia." I like the juxtaposition of a battlefield notion and the traditional, American family lifestyle. I loathe violence, but I can't help but feel compelled by it.
Anyway, give me a couple of days to figure this site out, and I'll soon return with more interesting material.