Ever Newer Waters

I quit my job last week. And then they fired me.

Back up.

First there was Frank. No, wait, back up some more. First there was a parade of increasingly untalented chefs, each who bullshitted their way into the gig, and behind this parade was cast a stretching shadow of gloom and disappointment. With each chef, another cook would stand up and say, ‘this is unacceptable’ (except, they’d say it like a cook: ‘this is fucking bullshit’) and then they’d be fired. Good friends of mine, some of the best cooks I’d ever met, fired for refusing to cook bad food on purpose. Frank was only the latest in a line of hacks. And, finally, it was my turn, so I told him, ‘this is unacceptable.’

Except I said it like a cook.

So, that was probably the end for me. But I played nice, and gave my two weeks’ notice. I offered to help train the new crop of ex-felons and crank addicts and whatever poor sobs they can find to reheat food for minimum-ish wage. I worked hard, even though my heart was broken. I tried very hard to be professional, which – how can I say this? – is not always the way I play things.

On Wednesday, Frank called to fire me. It was hurtful and unprofessional and my goddamn day off, and it’ll leave me with a week and change of not being employed until I start my new gig in April. But, I’ll make good use of the time – WIP abound, plus I’ve been promising my wife I was gonna put those guitar racks on the wall since February – and, more importantly, when Frank called, he gave me the opportunity to say something I’ve always wanted to say.

‘You can’t fire me because I quit.’

You really should say that, once in your life, I promise, unlike those foot-massagers in the Sky Mall magazine, this feels as good as you think it will. I mean, technically, I think it’s a touch ambiguous, and for clarity’s sake a more articulate phrase would be: “You cannot fire me, logically speaking, because I’ve already quit.” But, screw it, I like the Cobain way.

Now I’m at home on a Friday night, while every kitchen in town gets hammered. I’m sitting here with a narrow finger of bourbon, having worked diligently all day, but something feels wrong. My hands are dry and clean, no burns or scratches. My shirt is clean. It’s the first Friday in quite a while I don’t smell like shit and spaghetti. My stomach is not a knot from a diet of coffee and bread-crusts. I ate sitting down this afternoon. At a table. With a fork.

I’m back from the war, not entirely sure what happened to the rest of the platoon.

And the part I hate most: we lost.

We won a moral victory, one by one, we were fired for our principles, we quit for our principles. But if you know anything, you know that moral victories are the fucking O’Doul’s of victories. The bad guys won: they choked us out, cut our hours, stripped us of any creative outlet, made our lives an assembly line. A painful lesson – painful because you can learn it so many times, and it feels fresh, and stunning, and wretched, each time – is that sometimes you cannot win. The restaurant will have lousy food and a lousy environment and a profitable year, because capitalism. Because America.

But that I can live with; I’ve lived with America for quite a while. What I miss, are the men and women I worked with. One thing I especially hated about Frank* was that he constantly called us ‘boys and girls.’ He hadn’t earned the familiarity, and he failed to recognize how amazing these people were. I loved them, as brothers and sisters. I could not, if I wanted to, exaggerate. Some of them I’ll be working with again, soon. Some of them have been scattered out. I doubt we’ll ever all be in the same place, at the same time, again.

I miss them. I wish I could go back, appreciate it more. I wish arson was legal. I wish this post was funnier.

My father told me, ‘you’ll never step in that river again.’

Because my father understands, in his weird way, and also has a tendency to quote cryptic Greek philosophers in casual conversation. You have to love a father like that. But he was right. Frost was right. Heraclitus was right. Nothing gold can stay. Nothing at all can stay. Panta rhei.

But the old Ephesian also said that nothing is ever destroyed, only exchanged, like gold for goods, and goods for gold, like fire into air, and air into earth. So there’s that.

He also spent a lot of time wandering the mountains of Asia Minor, chewing on herbs like a goat, and he died covered in cow-shit, eaten by a starving dog. So there’s that, too

But enough maudlin navel-gazing. As Doug E. Doug said in Cool Runnings, ‘you know what my grandfather said? Get back to work!’

The upshot: a lot of new stuff coming out. New songs, new stories. Less bitching about work. A fresh spike of piss and vinegar in my veins. That ‘true story’ I promised? I’ll tell it. More rock and roll? We’ll play it.

Back to work.

*And Frank? Oh, don’t worry about Frank. As Heraclitus says, ‘strife is justice, motherfucker.’

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