October in San Diego

Wednesday, sweating standing still
a sultry spell. Vietnamese. ninety-five degrees.
bought some veal at the market
– a bone-in shoulder, which I salted
the site said ‘rain this weekend’
a system. a cold front. from Alaska.

Saturday, up with those crows
needed my beanie getting coffee
silver cloud bands streaked the sky
I braised that veal in a Paso red
& stock I made from two hens
six hours. three-hundred degrees.

After dinner, out on the porch
Surfliner blowing down at Sassafras
the wind’s swishes in the eucalyptus
that skinny palm swaying away
first drops on the palm of my hand.
a downpour. a new season. from Alaska.

Big Trip To Europe

“I SAVED EVERY CENT and then suddenly I blew it all on a big glorious trip to Europe” – Jack Kerouac

Quitting the bakery and going to work for FI not only helped me learn about how to function in an office environment. It also goosed my paychecks. I wasn’t getting rich, but by squirrelling away cash, I was able to save $3000 over the course of a year.

There was this website I found. The Art Of Travel (which as of late 2008 appears to be still alive!). All about backpacking around the world. It swept me off my feet. All I thought about was going around the world solo with just a backpack and a train pass. It seemed the height of youthful adventure, and I was determined to do it.

I went with $800 in my pocket, another $1000 in the bank, a guidebook and guts.


((the first day in Paris, walking aaround, not feeling I had the right to just go into a place))

((meeting people))

((self-suficiency for the first time. I had allowed myself to be mollycoddled in life))

”Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude toward us”

John Mitchell
Attorney General of the United States 1969-1972

Looking back, from the age of 12 until about the age of 20, with minor exceptions, I was a fairly unhappy person. If you knew me, this might or might not have been evident. To some I was the joker. Light as a feather. To others, I was the guy always bummed about the something.

The short answer is that, like a lot of young people that age, I expected God or the Universe (or whatever you choose to call Him/Her) to provide me with Shari La, and failing that I became inpetulent.

It was on that big glorious trip to Europe when I first began to reverse the equation. Sitting on my own on a Metro in Paris, surrounded by a foreign people speaking a language I didn’t understand, I was truly alone for the first time. And in the sweet meditations that only being utterly alone in a crowd can bring, I realized that I’d been looking at life through the ass end and ending up mad at how ugly it was. Later, my martial arts teacher would describe it as ‘what you walk out of the temple with, has more to do with what you walked into the the temple with, than anything in the temple does.’ At the time I simply knew it was the truth: That it was up to me. My choice. I could choose to be miserable or I could choose to be happy.

A few years later, reading Henry Miller for the first time, I was struck by how, not only had he also flipped the equation in Paris, but by well he put his own assension from misery. It’s one of my favorite paragraphs in all of Literature:

My eye, but I’ve been all over that ground—years and years ago. I’ve lived out my melancholy youth. I don’t give a fuck anymore what’s behind me, or what’s ahead of me. I’m healthy. Incurably healthy. No sorrows, no regrets. No past, no future. The present is enough for me. Day by day. La belle aujordhuis. (This beautiful today) – Henry Miller

The Other Side Of The Counter

Freshman Year at Community College. My schedule, 4 days a week: Start work at 7AM. Work until 10. Leave for my first class at community college at 11. Go to three classes. Come back to work at 3. Finish up at 6. Friday was my day off both school and work. Then on the weekends I’d work 8-4.

So for not being a morning person, it was a lot of early mornings. Been like this for a long time. I just keep finding work that requires calls for an early morning. And as far as days off go? Forget about it.

The work wasn’t difficult. But it was hard work, especially the morning shift, and especially especially on the weekends. During the week it was mostly regulars. Good natured folks who came in for the same thing every day. I wish I could say I always did my best to leave them smiling, but it isn’t true. I was 18 and I hadn’t found the ethic within myself yet.

The weekends were Beast Mode. Woodside Bakery had two things going for it. One, the owner was really good at what he did and it showed in the food. So we got a lot of press in the type of magazines and TV Shows that lure folks out of their San Francisco flats with fluffy works about the cute little bakery shop in the idyllic outskirts town. Two, we were at the end of the Canada Road bike route. So we’d get a combination of local tourists and the spandex set. And they would show up in vast waves that had the line out the door and ten drinks stacked up on the espresso machine. Mornings like this taught me a lot about dealing with stress. ((link to High Stress))

The Holidays were the ultimate test. Weekends plus plus. On a normal day we had four or five specialty orders set aside. At the holidays it was more like fifty. Weekdays we ran a three person crew. Weekends, five. Holidays? It was all hands, seven or eight of us working at a time. Things got wild. Orders got misplaced. Customers got skipped in line. Tempers flared. One of our coworkers was a Guatemalan man named Rudy. Rudy saved us at the holidays. He made little games out of things. Like, we get all the orders straight all mornings shift? He’d buy beers for the whole crew that night. Otherwise we had to buy him all the shots he could do.

There were other experiences, too many to name, especially when I’d pinch hit as a busboy or have to fill in for the dishwasher. Some of which do credit to my name, some of which were the type of thing only an 18 or 19 year old could be proud of. Suffice to say, it was a great experience. And I got to meet a few famous people.

Sometime in late 1996, I can’t remember exactly when, but I’d been there for almost a year. The owner came up to me and asked me how I’d like to work at his annex shop in Portola Valley. It was a completely different shop. They only got 70 or 100 customers daily, tops. Shifts were 6-6. He needed a weekend manager. Just the two days a week, but those two shifts with overtime pay, plus one or two shifts a week back in Woodside, would be enough to handle my bills. I took the job.

So now I was really a morning person. Saturday and Sunday I had to be up by 5 and out the door by 5:20. Get to Woodside at 6. Load up the company van on pastries and bread, drive it over to Portola Valley, set up shop and be ready to rock at 7AM.

It was working in Portola Valley were I started to get the ethic of customer service. It was simple economics that tripped my brain. My customers tipped well. Really well. Fifty cents on average. It added up to a hundred bucks a weekend, or a roughly four dollar an hour raise. I didn’t know anything about marketing back then, and certainly wasn’t wise enough to realize how it was within my reach to do some. So I didn’t think I had the power to bring in new customers. But I sure as heck could figure out that I had to treat the ones I had well enough to keep them!

I used to have nightmares about oversleeping and not opening the shop on time. As it was, I only had to call the owner once to come down with an extra set of keys to let me in the door.

I didn’t have much of a nightlife, but I didn’t care about that. I had my weekdays free for the most part. I scheduled classes so I was only in school three days a week. Tuesday and Thursday were my days off. It was nice being off on days when the rest of the world was working. No lines anywhere. No crowds at the beach. And I always felt like I was getting away with something, walking around town in the middle of a Tuesday.

I rocked the weekend shift at Portola Valley for over a year. Then Sherri Fisher called me one day and asked if I’d like to work in an office. I wouldn’t get rich off the salary but it would pay me decently. And it was the kind of experience that I needed, working in an office environment. I said yes. And my Apron Days came to an end.