Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Peace, Dawg

My first job in New Orleans was as a waiter at a pizza restaurant with aspirations to California-chic. It fell short of the mark and landed, instead, on California-crappy.

The front of the house was almost plausible—the wine racks, the earth tones, the big plants, the high ceilings. And if you'd had enough cheap wine, and weren't paying attention, you might even think the food was sort of okay. At least for a few bites.

But a glance into the kitchen would quickly disillusion even the most gullible culinary rube: the cheap Sysco ingredients, the ungodly amounts of garlic butter slathered on everything to mask the cheap Sysco ingredients, the motley bunch of dope-heads doing the slathering:*
Riz: Riz was the kitchen manager and sole non-dope-head of the bunch. When orders were slow, he meticulously cleaned his car parked outside the back door.

Big Rick: Rick came by his name honestly. He was a large, large man.

Wayne: Wayne was mean. He looked even meaner stoned, when his eyes glowed red like embers.

K-Murder: Despite his menacing name, K-Murder was not the least bit threatening: pudgy, with a speech impediment and an off-kilter eye.

Matt: The skinny white guy. He had numerous tattoos including one prominently proclaiming the very blasphemous name of the sociopath-punk band he'd played in. (He was kicked out of the band shortly after getting the tattoo.) Once, after a long delay, he dished up precisely half my order. When I asked him where the rest was, he checked his tickets and collapsed in a fit of laughter, realizing that in his drug-addled stupor he'd torn off the top half of the ticket while it was still printing and made only that.
At the best of times (there were many not best of times) they were reasonably proficient at cranking out the restaurant's pre-fab fare. But celebrity chefs they were not.

I'd just finished waiting on a table of tourists, a polite wide-eyed family from who-knows-where, and they'd clearly fallen for the shtick. The father, apparently thinking he'd stumbled upon one of the city's prized culinary treasures, turned to me me: "Everything was wonderful, thank you so much. Do you think could have the chef sign the menu?"

"Um..."

"If it's not too much trouble."

"No... no trouble at all."

I took the (flimsy paper) menu into the kitchen and quietly announced the request. The crew, eyes blazing from a fresh stoning, burst out a giddy blast of uproarious laughter—plainly audible to the furthest corners of the dining room—and eagerly lined up to oblige: "Peace, dawg". "Yo baby! Big Rick", "Word up - Matt". Giant scrawls. Tags. Doodles. When finished, it looked like the back page of a fourteen-year-old's yearbook.

They were still laughing as the father pushed open the kitchen door. His eyes widened. His face darkened. I gave a weak smile and, with my fakest cheeriest "Here you go!", handed him the defaced menu. He took it, lowered his eyes, turned briskly, and left.

But it's okay. Shame's goes down easier with a thick slathering of garlic butter.

* Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

5 comments:

  1. That was beautiful, man.

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  2. Man. Now if only you'd given enough clues so we could figure out which California-style pizza place at the corner of Barracks and Dauphine you were talking about...

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  3. I'm trying to think which California-crappy pizza restaurant is at the corner of Barracks and Dauphine, but either way, that's not the one. (So there's two of them? Weird. Do you think they have rumbles? Does each crew member line up facing his doppleganger-opposite? Do they thrust and parry in stylized dance-fights? Do they wield pizza cutters like switchblades? I like to think so.)

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  4. Anonymous10:20 PM

    Aren't Barracks St. and Dauphine St. parallel??

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  5. wow the image of two pizza places having a rumble is pretty cool. not the employees, mind you-the actual buildings uprooting from their foundations and hurtling themselves at each other WWF style. California-crappy-pizza place SMACKDOWN!

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