Archive for October, 2006

Bloody Mary

October 31, 2006

It was a few weeks ago when my best friend, Jared, invited myself and Aaron to his birthday shindig at the Queen Mary. For those unfamiliar, the Queen Mary is a famous luxury liner that has been docked in Long Beach, CA for decades. Over the years it has become a major tourist attraction, and every October they decorate the ship and surrounding area for Halloween.

As if luxury liners weren’t frightening enough by themselves, they make the extra effort of turning the ship into a haunted maze. Neither myself nor Aaron are easily scared by the supernatural — global warming and child abductors, yes, but definitely not ghosts or zombies.

Queen-Mary

Anyway, there was a large group of us, and we decided to carpool with Jared and his current romantic interest, Benjamin. The two have been going on dates for months, but at this point Jared had become very frustrated by the fact that things hadn’t been moving forward with them. I had never met Benjamin before that day, and we hit it off immediately. Jared, Benjamin and I had fun talking through the long drive to the Queen Mary, but Aaron, fearing the worst, chose to sit in awkward silence and hold my hand.

As it turns out, when 25,000 people all decide to visit a ‘haunted’ luxury liner, it ends up missing the point. For the entire evening we waited in lines, whether it be to enter the mazes, buy a churro, or use the restroom.

While waiting in line I decided to make a game out of creating false lore around the Queen Mary itself, in hopes that someone would overhear it and believe me. We had great fun in coming up with the most elaborate and absurd lore possible. My personal favorite involved how the Queen Mary used to transport Nazi gold across the Atlantic, the ship’s crew tossing the gold overboard, and also, the Nazis who were transporting it. They vowed revenge, and every night at 11:43 they say you can still hear their screams. These are the kinds of games I play when I’m bored. Deal with it.

The crowds themselves were very polite, and the event’s organizers did a fantastic job of keeping things organized. This is a something of a rarity in Southern California, as other local haunted houses often become a focal point of chaos and gang violence. Between the polite crowds and the lackluster quality of the ‘mazes’ themselves, I didn’t fear for my life once. How disappointing.

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Elbow, Macaroni

October 28, 2006

There is a growing concern from management that I’m rude and unhappy at work. While there is no evidence to support this, I think this image of me being so negative is preventing me from moving up in the server world as a bartender or trainer. Every time the idea of promotion is brought up my fellow servers seem incredibly supportive, but management just rolls their eyes and promises that they will ‘keep me posted.’

Since I’m not even sure I want to move up in the server world, it’s the principle of this that bothers me the most.  I have tried on multiple occasions explaining to them that I’m only rude to rude people, and only outwardly unhappy to my co-workers and management (which is for good reason, since most of them are tools.) Simple logic is lost here, though, and I doubt they will ever be able to understand the fascinating and multi-faceted person I am.

A promise example of this is earlier this afternoon. It was about 3 in the afternoon, and during the early afternoon we don’t have a hostess scheduled to greet customers. I was speaking to the bartender, away from the entrance when a pair of foreign gentlement entered. I say ‘foreign’ because I’m unsure of their ethnicity, and also because it might explain what happened next.

Rather than wait at the front of the restaurant to be directed to a table they walked up and down the aisles until they found one they like, and sat themself. Nobody else seemed to have notice this; I took it upon myself to move the two to an area of the Macaroni Grill where someone would actually be able to serve them (as opposed to in a remote corner.) I walked up to the men, and, feigning ignorance, asked them if they had already been helped.

‘We helped ourselves!’ One laughed, failing to understand how the proccess of sitting in a restaurant actually works. Even at Denny’s a hostess or server will assign you to a table, anyone who tries to bypass this simple step is breaking an unspoken rule among restaurant patrons. Before I could ask them to move somewhere more appropriate, our General Manager swooped in to interrupt me and greeted the two. He then orders another server to take care of the two men, and asks to speak to me in private:

‘Don’t get so mad at them,’ I’m told, ‘It’s not the end of the world if they sit themselves.’

Yes it is! What if they start cooking the food themselves? Then we’re all out of a job.

So that’s that the gist of it. Apparently me getting ready to move the two was an act of war. ‘The customer is always right’ is not an excuse; even at Disneyland we knew when to tell someone what they were doing was wrong, and those people paid 50 dollars a head to get enter through the gates! In order to give our guests a proper experience, they need to play by our rules. Our rules include being sat by us, as opposed to wherever the heck they want. Next time I eat out I’m just going to take a table of my choosing, and see what the reaction is then. Of course, this is only a minor complain, but it represents my issue with the management pretty well. I have a headache right now just thinking about the whole thing, which is kind of a relief, seeing as it takes my mind off of some unbearable elbow pain.

My rights elbow hurts tremendously right now. So much so that I left work early because of it. As far as I know I haven’t crashed it into anything, and given the fact that I’m left-handed this injury isn’t because of overuse. First it began to sting when I extended it, but it nows hurt tremendously whenever I move it at all. Co-workers have suggested I pulled a set of muscles (which would make sense, given where the pain is located) but if it hurts in the morning I’m going to the hospital. I. don’t. do. pain.

I’m fully aware that many people (women for one) have to deal with pain on a regular basis, but it is not the norm for me. In all of my years I have managed to avoid broken bones or other major injuries — in fact, the only surgery I’ve ever had was an appendicitis in the fourth grade. In fact, if the world were filled with people like me, nobody would ever go through the torture of childbirth and life would end on Earth as we know it.

I’m a wimp, a baby and a coward. When I hurt I expect everyone to drop what they are doing and shower me in attention and presents.

Vino-Saurus Rex

October 26, 2006

In honor of Macaroni Grill’s 100 millionth glass of house wine (‘vino’) being sold, every Tuesday this month we are offering the stuff for just $1.99! While the idea certainly seems like something that would attract bargain hunters and alcoholics, Tuesdays are as just boring and dead as ever. Once again my restaurant is failing to excite the masses.

Wine

Worse yet, those few guests who do visit the restaurant are completely ignorant of the sale, or don’t drink. Selling alcohol is a surefire way to increase sales and tips overall, so it has become everyone’s personal mission to sell as much of the stuff as they possibly can. Management (who is still as inept, thanks for asking) is attempting to motivate us even further with incentives based on how much wine we sell. While at one point in the competition the prospect of a gondola ride (or whatever the grand prize is) had people genuinely focused on selling wine, a month later the great divide between our strong salespeople and the weak ones has made itself clear.

I’m happily somewhere in the middle with about 150 glasses sold in the past month: I’m nowhere near leading the contest (the number one seller has about 500 glasses under his belt) but I’m not in danger of getting reprimanded for being unmotivated, for once. Selling something is as easy as asking someone if they want it. People are easily influenced, so merely suggesting a drink or entrée to a customer usually ends in them ordering it.

This is also true elsewhere in the sales industry. Aaron once bought a junk refrigerator because the salesperson told them it was ‘better’ than any other model in the store. Of course, they didn’t even bother to explain why it was better before Aaron pulled out his checkbook and started asking about home delivery.

At the Macaroni Grill all of our tables are covered in butcher paper so the guests can write on them with crayons we provide. Being the lover of crayons that I am, I think this is one of the cooler things they offer. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you like tacked on advertising) the servers are now required to write advertising slogans all over the empty tablecloths. The idea is that a guest will sit down at the table, see a wine slogan on it, and begin to order drinks with reckless abandon. In reality it doesn’t quite work like this, and more often than not I get comments not related to the wine, but the fact that the table has writing all over it.

Since forcing these slogans onto the masses is required for the time being, I have taken it upon myself to be creative with the ones I do write. When all else fails, use alliteration:

  • Vino, Las Vegas
  • Vino, to the eXtreme
  • Vino-Saurus Rex
  • Vino-Licious
  • Vino, for Vendetta
  • Vino Victorious
  • Vino, Viti, Vici

Liberal Bias and Sesame Street

October 12, 2006

It’s not uncommon for me to spend a morning watching children’s programming. In fact, given how early I’ve been waking up lately, it’s become the norm.

The past few weeks Aaron has been waking up earlier and earlier, which means (of course) that he falls asleep earlier and earlier. This creates a dilemma for a night owl such as myself, since on an average night I pass out anywhere between midnight and three in the morning. In an effort to save my marriage I am trying not only to change a sleep schedule I’ve had established for years, but also my TV viewing habits as well.

Barring notable exceptions such as 9/11 or a Rocky and Bullwinkle marathon, there have been few occasions worth getting out of bed and watching television for. Morning news is usually generic fluff pieces poorly disguised as information, and everything else on the dial is a joke.

Campaign 96

I have fallen out of love with the various syndicated shows that litter morning TV schedules. If you see one episode of ‘People’s Court’ you’ve seen them all, and I can’t bring myself to watch trash like ‘Cheaters’ or ‘Eye for an Eye.’

With nowhere else to turn, I reluctantly turned towards children’s programming to keep me engaged during the early morning hours. It had been quite a while since I’ve watched Nick Jr., and for good reason. Aside from the obvious age difference, I feel like their programming panders to the audience, rather than make any attempt to educate. Mind you this isn’t any different than adult programming, but there should be some responsibility to teach America’s children more than the Spanish word for ‘backpack.’

Fortunately, there was one venue I know I could rely on. Sesame Street basically rebuilt children’s programming from the ground up decades ago, so if anyone would stand a pillar of quality education it would be them.

What I actually saw bothered me quite a bit.

For those unfamiliar with the delicate format of a Sesame Street episode, each features a specific theme, be it ‘dogs’ or ‘school’ or ‘cookies.’ This theme is explored throughout the hour-long program, educating the viewer about the topic through various sketches, cartoons and songs. Today, I learned, the theme was ‘Agendas of the Left Wing.’

The first segment I watched seemed harmless enough. Elmo was walking around Central Park and talking to people about families. A video montage followed, showing various types of family, and establishing early on in the viewer’s developmental cycle that unconventional family models were just as ‘normal’ ones. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, stepparents, cousins: virtually every type of family model was shown, including those featuring two moms and two dads.

‘Eh?’ I thought to myself, ‘Did Sesame Street just feature multiple sets of gay families in a video montage?’ I thought I must have been mistaken.

As a homosexual I have no problem with this, but as a amateur media watchdog, I do take concern with the statement this makes. Considering that Sesame Street receives a substantial amount of its’ operating budget from federal funding, does doing such a thing create some kind of paradox?

Being a member of the highly sought after 18-34 white male demographic, I suspect that my personal boycott of Sesame Street may force the show into cancellation, but they deserve it. Snuffaluffagus, you’ve violated my trust for the last time!

At least when I watch The View I know what to expect from Rosie O’ Donnell.

*Despite his weak interviews, I’d still rather have Elmo host the evening news than Katie Couric.

Vegas, Vegas, Vegas

October 2, 2006

Although Aaron’s birthday actually fell on the calendar over a month ago, this past weekend we finally had the chance to celebrate it. Last year I took him to Disneyland (which was fun for him and cheap for me,) and this time I surprised him with a weekend trip to Las Vegas (which was much more fun for him, and much more expensive for me.) He was given the opportunity to drive us 300 miles to receive his gift, while I navigated and provided color commentary on the various billboards we passed by. Like any good co-pilot should, I stayed concious for most of the drive.

Bellagio

We stayed at the Bellagio, which, if you were not aware, is probably the most luxurious hotel on the strip. I’d be perfectly happy staying at the casino with clowns on the walls, but apparently some people like having a nice view and comfortable mattress. Go figure. He treats me well, and as such, he gets what he wants sometimes. Let it never be said that I’m not the generous type.

The first photo gives you a vague idea of where our room was, the second is the actual view from our hotel room, as taken from Aaron’s amazing camera phone. Our hotel was truly a work of art, and I probably could have spent all day admiring the architecture and beauty of it. In addition to their wide selection of slot machines, the hotel offered a fine art gallery, an indoor garden, and every amenity one could possibly want.

The picture below shows an enormous duck topiary, representative of the type of luxury that only a 400 dollar hotel room would provide. Aaron has given me no reason to believe he dislikes ducks, so I consider the hotel choice to be a great success.

Bellagio3

Oddly enough, we didn’t gamble very much, and never saw any shows throughout the entire trip. Most of our time was occupied by eating or shopping, the latter of which is a great pastime of the birthday boy. This wasn’t our first time in Sin City, and we had more fun not feeling any pressure to go and do something. I think next time we’ll just sit in the car for the entire weekend and have an even better time! At least it would be cheaper, since Aaron spent a great deal of money on some “much needed” additions to his wardrobe.

In fact, the only thing we did was upon my request, and on our final day we visited the world famous Liberace Museum! On my first trip to Vegas I kept running into advertisements for it, but being the ignorant individual I was, I had no idea who or what a Liberace was. After looking over some information about the man and his legacy I decided that it would be both an affordable and worthy addition to the vague itinerary we had planned.

Liberace

For those of you unfamiliar, he was a wildly flamboyant pianist and stage performer from the 1950’s up until his death in the early 1980’s. He started the museum in the late 1970’s to showcase his rhinestone-covered wardrobe, and elegant lifestyle. It is due to his enormous popularity the museum remains decades after he has passed away. The museum basically rests in a strip mall, only this one is bright pink and themed to Liberace. Next door is a wedding chapel, an Asian church, a hookah bar, and a gay night club (which is ironic because during his life Liberace strongly denied that he was homosexual, and would go so far as to sue anyone who claimed otherwise.)

Although it doesn’t seem like the kind of attraction that would bring in the tourists, we were far from the only people at the museum, or the youngest. I befriended a 20-something docent who gave me an informative pamphlet about Liberace’s shoes, and she took her job very seriously.

She had been working there since December, and was one of the few paid employees there. The woman assured me that even though I knew very little about Liberace, I could learn a lot about culture, style and art from the collection the museum had on display. It was at this point Aaron’s eyes glazed over and died from boredom (although that might have been after we saw the world’s biggest rhinestone they had on display. I’m not sure.)

Liberace2

Many of the other docents were elderly volunteers; and since they were actually old enough to have seen the subject matter perform live, seemed like a much better authority on the subject than the woman I was talking to. It is one of my goals to become a docent at various museums during my retirement, and if it is still open in 2051 (or so) I’ve found someplace else to add to my list.

We left with a newfound appreciation of niche tourist traps, and began the long drive home. All in all we had an excellent time, and I’ll be hard-pressed to come up with something as fun to do for his next birthday, or worse yet, Christmas. Hopefully he’ll actually get his Christmas present in December this time.