Not Much To Say Again

Well. Yeah.

I dunno. 



But not exactly.

I miss doing this. It's pointless and human. Redundant.

Ugh let's start over.

I've been, well, every so often, I have been taking stabs at writing about the restaurant industry. In one case, the work is fiction and I keep coming so close to finishing and can't quite do it, though I will. And the other is non-fiction but I don't know where to start. Even the acknowledgements section is like two names. And if I'm already trying to knock that particular section out, then you know I am fucked. I should mention that I am laughing about this as I write. There are two of you out there who deserve apologies, though. I am self-sabotaging. It's a hard habit to give up. Thanks for investing time in me. I really don't want to waste it. It's going to take a while, though. Fuck. I'm still learning how to be my own parent. I'm making progress, but I did eat calzones after midnight twice last week. And I spent maybe two hours doing creative work, all of which involved making music. The calzones are not the problem, really.

Until I try and work up something more formal, here's something worthwhile not written by me. As another personal aside, I'll say that I am trying and failing to write about what the writer of the piece, Patrick Abatiell, is writing about and looking for others to write about. So maybe I have a few more months of being slightly ahead of the curve. Must hurry up. Though, actually, I'm not too worried. I don't see any burning desire among the middle class to "overcome" their alienation from the responsibilities their participation in consumer society allows them to avoid. I can't tell if that last sentence was grammatically correct, though. I don't want to write it another way.

Colloquialism. My writing would be a parody of itself if it existed to be parodied.

Another line break, another one-word sentence.




I think one of the things that I would write about when it comes to working in the front-of-house (FOH) in a restaurant (FOH is all the people you can see, basically; all the people you interact with and who interact with you deliberately). I just ended that sentence prematurely due to too much writing being in parenthesis.

When I am waiting tables, or bartending, I am stuck with a question. Who is my boss? In the case of most jobs, this is fairly simple. In restaurants, not so much so. Why is this? Well, most FOH restaurant jobs pay a little more than $2 an hour. There are certain cities where normal minimum wage rules apply, but those places are the exception. I have not worked in those places. So. I make $2 an hour. And plenty more. In tips.

And those tips don't come from ownership. They come from you.

I think you are starting to figure this out.

I hope you are.

I think a lot of the writers I like are all, really, writing about the same thing. The loss of a value system. Certain writers focus on certain things, and, on some level, it would be foolish, say, to link them all together. That one writer, say, is sad about the dearth of innovation in street-level black culture, while another may lament the beliefs that actually lead to the creation of the ghettos that produced that cultural innovation (nobody I read laments the death of racism, but, maybe, just the civilizational coherence of Western values that, sadly, lead to that racism), invites the possibility of contradiction, of course. And yet. On a deeper level.

So I think one thing I want to write about is the move from fine dining to "casual" fine dining. There's a lot to that trend. Although I hate to give him credit, David Brooks, in Bobos In Paradise, got here way before many of us. I was still listening to techno, confident in the future when the book was published; Brooks was already talking vintage. Handcrafted. Etc. And what he captures, especially, even if he doesn't necessarily loathe it as much as I, is the disingenuous nature of it all. The way in which big money is spent on seemingly-modest things.

Like a lot of the writers I like, it's not necessarily that I want to return to that previous period. Rather, I want the present and future to be that which is extrapolated from that in which I value in the past.

To often, we lose the good stuff and keep the bad. 

There is a restaurant, for instance, here in Providence, that charges $45 for some of its entrees. While I don't idealize haughty, reservation-only service, or tuxedo-clad waiters, or menus exclusively written in French, well, really, in some way, that the prices stay the same but everything else is, well, crappier, you know, fuck you.

This is where the writing falls apart. It's hard to pull it apart. What are the semiotics of distressed wood tables? Mason jars? Craft anything? Fuck. Can I really spend a month trying to untangle all of that bullshit?

But back to the lecture at hand (Snoop Dogg).

For all of it's pretension, what I like, at least theoretically, about fine dining is simple: the expectations are clear. What good service is, whatever it is, is a set of objective principles that are, hopefully, understood by both the patron and the worker. Of course there is a bit of improvisation, but, ultimately, wine service is always what it is (or was).

You either had that, or you had some guy or gal at the local pub slinging cheap beer. And that was that.

Now, a lot more complex.

Not only because the lines are blurred, but because of you.

Going back a bit. To all those writers (you know who I read).

I think what a lot of what is being lamented is individualism and relativism. Sure, relativism is handy when you want to, say, expand the canon of great painters beyond those who lived up to a seemingly-disinterested aesthetic ideal that is not disinterested at all. But ideas have a way of traveling out into the world to be used in unanticipated ways.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that, whatever you care about, Marx, secular humanism, the Enlightenment, "good architecture", rap music, etc., or if you just wait tables, like me (and also I care about all of those things), well, these things worked at some point because there was some clear, seemingly-objective, principle at stake. Now there isn't.

Good service is what you think it is. And so is good music and so is a president and so is literature. So, actually, it's all the same thing. Or nothing.


Good service is what you say it is. And you are the one paying me. You give me the tips. The IRS takes that $2 an hour.

And here is where it gets tricky. And here is where I get tired, right as I start to try and actually say what it is I am trying to say.

You don't have to tell me beforehand what you think good service is. You expect me to know. And I do, when it comes to the classic rules of service. But you don't always know those rules, and, whether you know them as rules, or just that which I happen to be doing at a particular moment at your table, you are entirely entitled to your opinion about them. At least you think so (I don't). But that doesn't matter. You are paying me.

But you are not employing me.

And my employer has rules.

Some of which contradict BOTH your rules and, in certain cases, the classic rules of service. Between your expectations, my training, and the expectations of ownership, my job is not to give good service, but to guess what good service is. Years of experience has made me decent at this. But still. It's bullshit.

This is a random stab out there, apropos of nothing, but I think there is an inherent conflict in the Left between individualism and democracy, once thought to be, well, related, at least.

Was the goal of toppling canons the chance to rewrite them in a better way? Or to eradicate them altogether?

I think the real challenge of the next truly great music critic would be to actually find a way to sift through the detritus of alternative culture, the canon of those of us with "taste", and try and actually distinguish...

Well, another aside. I think I'm borrowing from Nietzsche or whatever, but I've always made this distinction between positive nihilism and negative nihilism. Positive nihilism is "yay, nothing means anything and I can do what I want". And negative is, well, "I can do what I want but nothing means anything". 

I guess I am trying to draw the contours between what needs to be tossed from the canon and what to preserve, in order that there might be some sort of future again. What were the records that worked towards the democratic ideal of new canons and cultures, and what were the records that demolished the possibility of those cultures or canons meaning anything?

I still don't quite know what I am getting at.

What is good service? What are the principles? What are good records? What are the principles?

I don't want to leave it here, but I have to. I have to go back to work soon.

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