Peterson vs. Zizek, What Really Happened

After reading some of the poorly written articles regarding the Peterson/ Zizek debate, some of which were written before the event, I decided to add my own impression of the event. The topic was Happiness: Capitalism versus Marxism, a topic people might consider paying attention to with the upcoming United States presidential election likely facing off between a far-right capitalist and some form of socialist. This notion flew over the heads of many who pretended to cover the debate and I will come back to them later.
On April 19th, 2019 I watched the Peterson vs Zizek debate from a live feed and while I had some issues with losing the feed during the event, I was able to watch it again earlier today. The debate started out with Peterson making his argument for the first half hour discussing the ideas he found wrong in the Communist Manifesto, of which there were many. He narrowed it down to six and was able to finish his argument when his time was up. Having not read the Manifesto since college he read the document again to become familiar with it and make some precise arguments against Zizek’s defense, this turned out to be a futile gesture since Zizek did not defend Marx or Communism during his half hour that followed. Zizek took a different approach and attacked capitalism for its faults, political correctness, and never talked about Marx.
Peterson was caught off guard realizing that his opening argument was almost a waste of time with how Zizek came in never discussing what was supposed to be the topic at hand. The back and forth between the two became more fluid, more so with Zizek who is prone to droning on with his constant barrage of unfiltered thought. Zizek’s opening remarks ran over the time limit and his solution wasn’t to narrow down his final statement but instead asked for two more minutes to finish reading a page of material. Neither party became flustered or defensive and Peterson worked around Zizek allowing him to talk over him and ask questions when the roles were supposed to be reversed.
Some of the statements that came as a surprise involved Peterson and Zizek agreeing on many topics including the flaws in capitalism and how Marx wasn’t a great thinker or philosopher. At one-point Zizek even pointed out that he didn’t care for Marx and preferred Hegel for his ideas over Marx saying, “Hegel is what our world needs at this time.”
Zizek did go on the attack, showing that he had read 12 Rules for Life, asking about the rule to “clean your room.” But what if the room is dirty and your life is disorganized because of the rules put on you by society? This was a question that Peterson was able to work out by explaining that we can still make the world a better place by how we act and the things that we do, that which we are ultimately responsible for. Peterson had already argued this point in his book by describing how the people you live with might be confrontational with the idea of you cleaning your room, the idea that you might think you are better than everyone else of trying to discourage you through the question of why? Whether or not it’s the people you live with or the society you engage with the same problem is there, you navigate through the mess and try to claim some order for yourself.
There was a discussion about the social justice warriors and why they were considered Marxist? Peterson replied with a short history of leftist ideology on college campuses during the 1960s to today and Zizek agreed with his statement. But when the argument came to the topic of today, Zizek was insistent on hearing the name of someone who was a Marxist that was pushing the social justice agenda. Peterson couldn’t come up with a name but stated studies and numbers that had been done over the years. Zizek named off some professors he was familiar with that Peterson did not know and Peterson stated the studies Zizek didn’t know, in the end the question led to a stalemate.
Zizek on multiple occasions expressed his concern with the rise of China and how they were going to affect the world. The effectiveness of a communist government running a capitalist society must be admitted and while the benefits of a system like that can be seen, the horrors can not be ignored. The Muslims in work camps, the censorship of the internet and the crackdown of free speech only prove that with all the growth over the past two decades the flaws of communism are still abundant. This is the extreme end of what Peterson and Zizek both agreed what is needed in the future, Capitalism with regulation.
While some wanted this debate to turn into a fight, a battle of ideologies, their discussion came to some truths that others needed to hear or discover for themselves at these two men did. The old ideas of the twentieth century need to be left to that time. Both communism and capitalism, to their extremes, are horrible ideas that only hurt people in the end, and maybe that is the true answer to happiness. There is a balance that needs to be found and yet we have a right-wing agenda to deregulate everything and a left agenda to control all aspects of life. If democracy really worked well there would be a balance and that doesn’t exist. As Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is a horrible way to govern, except for all the others.” This last quote was used by Jordan Peterson in a rebuttal to Zizek pointing out the current dysfunctional United States government.
There is much more to cover, and I would encourage anyone to watch the debate for themselves when it becomes available on YouTube. While other articles consider the debate a “waste of time” trying to make the entire event seem like a farce, others decided to push their anti-Peterson agenda and poorly executed it. I don’t know if it’s a sense of jealously or if they are trying to get those “clicks” onto their 300 word toiletreadings but the opinion of a so-called journalist is not helping our society and I doubt it does much good for their paychecks.
The Guardian published an article today titled, the ‘debate of the century’: what happened when Jordan Peterson debated Slavoj Zizek. I read this article while putting my daughter to bed tonight and found a handful of misquotes and disinformation that made my head spin. Zizek made a reference to the apocalypse during his opening comment and, according to The Guardian, Peterson agreed with him. This isn’t true in the least bit and there will be video to prove it to people who have not seen it. Peterson said the apocalypse was a bit much and that in his research things aren’t as bad as some would say they are. He mentioned a bet that was made between two scientists, one arguing that due to overpopulation the world would start feeling the stresses on resources by 2000 with the rise in the price of commodities. Peterson did not agree with Zizek. In the little research that was done for this article Stephen Marche found a video on YouTube of Zizek eating two hotdogs while walking down the street saying that he was “more or less a Gen X nostalgia act.” Unlike the Guardian, Zizek remains relevant with his current critics of social events such as pointing out that Trump, for all his flaws, is not a fascist and that trying to label him as such is not helping the left in their fight against him. I wish that Stephen Marche was paying attention to that piece of wisdom.
As for other articles that didn’t bother to take this debate seriously there was The Stranger, a Seattle based online magazine. For a debate that was a waste of time Charles Mudede spent a lot of time writing about the event before it even happened. With such pieces as “Nothing is a greater waste of time than the planned debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Zizek” and “what Jordan Peterson’s followers don’t know about Zizek or postmodernism” one can point out that it was important enough to write about on multiple occasions before it even happened. The first article turns into an angry manifesto on why Peterson is not worthy to debate Zizek and how he will be exposed as a fraud. The second article was a self-masturbatory mental stroking to make the author feel smarter than he really is. I’m sure that he of all people ended up watching the debate that in his words was a ‘waste of time’ and I hope that he cringed and remembered his words as he argued what kind of Marxist Zizek really is. In the middle of the debate Zizek admits to not caring for Marx and preferring Hegel’s perspective on things, oops.
I should not be surprised that the media didn’t take this debate seriously even though it sold out and had an online audience that paid $14.99 to watch it. It is difficult to take the media seriously when they don’t take intellectual debates seriously. There doesn’t appear to be a discussion happening in our world anymore, just yelling on all sides to be heard and forcing ideas on people who do not want them. For god’s sake convince me, make an argument, say something with meaning? That is why these men are talking, you aren’t. It is difficult to read anything of any substance these days because everything is the opinion of some no name, wannabe reporter with too much student loan debt and hoping to have that one toilet tweet go viral to make rent. Thankfully we have people like Peterson and Zizek to have these talks and we don’t need the media to fill us in on it, we can watch it for ourselves.

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Adventures in Cooking: part 13

Towards the end of my time at Olga’s I was invited to go out to Karaoke night at Brann’s Steakhouse located next door to the Mall. This was the first and last time that I would hang out with many of the servers and cooks who I had worked with. The manager that had come out had a reputation for belting out late 80’s pop songs. Many of the people tried to perform 90’s rap/ hip hop and a few tried to get me to sing “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-lot. I declined and eventually, through the aid of much alcohol, picked Ænima by Tool. Nate Dawg made some comment about me of all people picking a 6-minute song and I didn’t care. I had to listen to him rapping some track by Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
When I finished singing one of the only songs, I had memorized the bar was silent. “and that was Matt, the only guy I have seen able to sing Tool. Very nice.” The DJ said before announcing the next up to the stage. This night I learned about putting myself into horrible situations. I was too drunk to drive, knowing this is a good tool to stay out of trouble. The bad part about know this was being taken to Karen’s apartment across the street to sober up. We didn’t have Uber back then and I didn’t want to pay for a cab. I argued to sleep in my car, but it was below freezing outside. I caved in and fell asleep on Karen’s couch, coat still on and my large case of CDs wrapped in my arms. Back then people would steal CDs from cars which is unthinkable today. After Karen checked on her kids, she came back into the living room. I pretended to be asleep and I was in a state of panic as she stood over the couch. After a long moment there was a deep sigh and she disappeared.
Early that morning I woke up and found the apartment dead silent. Karen was still asleep, and I wanted to be out of there as soon as possible. I grabbed my CDs and went out, walking across the street, finding my car in the Brann’s parking lot and driving home. I needed something different. I needed to get out of Olga’s before I ended up as a trophy on somebody’s wall.
There are places in Kalamazoo that appear impossible to get into. Pizer, Stryker, Bronson, Borgess, the list goes on but the institutions that offer a living wage had their doors closed unless you knew somebody on the inside. My mom snuck her way into the hospital through a loop whole in their hiring system. She was working at a daycare center operated by the hospital however it was a separate entity and the employees were not regarded as hospital employees. One of the other women she worked with bid on a job that was only inhouse and she got the job. Others started to do it and soon HR learned about these women who shouldn’t be bidding on these jobs but not before my mom was in.
One of the floors in the hospital was short staffed for cleaning people and I was given a paper application. That paper was handed to the manager who gave it to HR and before I knew it, I had an interview. The job was 12 hours a day, three days a week and I took it. This was the first time I had health insurance, I didn’t have to worry how many hours I had to pay rent, I wasn’t standing over a hot stove and I didn’t have anyone yelling at me ever twenty minutes. This was a complete change from where I had been working.
I still had some credit card debt from college and wanted to save up for a new car. I continued working at Olga’s and after working 60-70 hours a week for 6 months I left. I still remember the moment I was standing in the kitchen and my mind shut off, looking into nothingness and snapping out of it half awake and dragging myself through my task. I had money saved up, the credit card was paid off. It was time to relax and start living like a normal human being.
I went up to the manager’s office and found Meagan sitting at the desk. I think she had just finished putting together the next schedule and I told her “I can’t do this anymore.”
“You’re quitting?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied with the intend of giving her a two-week notice.
“Today?” she asked. I had not considered this. I fully intended on giving them two weeks and find someone to cover for me, but after all the short shifts, all the double shifts, the times I worked by myself what difference would it have made. Knowing I didn’t ever have to come back was a blessing in disguise. She never should have asked that question.
I can do that? I thought to myself. “Uh, Ya. Today.” Meagan started to cry, and I said “sorry” before turning around, hanging up my apron and going downstairs.
“Motherfucker, where are you going?” Nate Dawg asked as I walked past him in the kitchen without an apron.
“My shift is over,” I said.
“We’re short staffed. Want some more time?”
“I just quit,” I said.
“Oh, you get a job at the hospital and you think you’re better than us now?”
I thought for a second, after all the insults, long nights of Nate tearing me down to make himself feel better, the constant ridicule for not liking the same things as him, I had had enough.
“Ya, I am better than you.”
“Get the fuck out of here motherfucker. Piece of shit. Fucking asshole. I can do this whole fucking thing myself. I don’t need your help uppity asshole.”
“Nate, go fuck yourself.” I walked out and never saw Nate again.
There was a weight off my shoulders. A burden had been lifted and, in the end, I had to wonder if it was ever worth it. What is the purpose of running a business that treated people like cattle pushing them into the butcher shop every day? Who thought of these business models and at what point did they ever seem like fun or a useful profession? I understand making hot food, serving those who need to eat, helping keep the rest of us going, but this was something else. Olga’s never figured out if it was fast food, or a bistro for lunch, or (heaven forbid) fine dining. It wanted to be everything to everyone and in the end, it failed its customers and the employees the most. I was now free from the grips of Olga’s and I only went back there once in the last 20 years. Some of the same servers still worked there. I spotted Junior working in the kitchen with his hair now white and his frame thinner than I remembered. I wasn’t curious about some of the other people I worked with and therefore didn’t ask. That time was gone, and I was grateful to be out of there. My membership card to the brotherhood of the spatula had been revoked.

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The Tale of Brendan

Neighbors came and went with the seasons at Maple Ridge Apartments and during the spring of 2000 a white pick-up truck backed up to a door and started unloading furniture. A few days later I heard a woman calling out my name in the parking lot and I saw someone I recognized but didn’t know, although she acted like she knew me. Karen was a cashier at the Meijer grocery store I worked for in high school. Two years later one of those cashiers was my new neighbor. Karen was ten years older than me with dark straight stringy hair, a thin face, and a bad attitude. This was the first time she had tried to be nice to me. In the two years I worked with her I could not recall anyone liking this woman. Then I met her husband.
Brendan was close to my age. A young decent looking guy who acted like he was always on a caffeine kick and had never heard of something called peace and quiet. His blonde hair was spiked with gel and he was still at that stage of eating whatever he wanted and still appearing in shape. When you met Brendan, you could not leave without hearing about his truck. It was a mid-90s white Ford Ranger that was nothing remarkable except that it had been totaled in an accident and rebuilt. To this day I can’t figure out what is so special about a truck that “has no value” as he put it and “I could never sell it since it doesn’t exist.” How much of this story is true, I have no idea? There were the holes I found in the story back then, how do you buy tags for the plate? How do you get a plate? Insurance, it’s not like they won’t look up the vin number. None of these questions were answered and he usually turned the topic to sex. Women he banged. Prospects in the apartment complex. Women, women, and more women was the constant topic of discussion, but he never talked about his wife.
The marriage was rocky from the beginning. These two were always fighting and Karen would storm out taking their kid, I don’t remember if it was a boy or a girl, to her mom’s place leaving Brendan to roam the complex on his own.
During that time, I had regular visits from Gary, a former co-worker from Meijer that knew Nate and Rob who were also regular visitors. Rob eventually became my roommate for a period, and it was during that phase Brendan and Karen moved in a few doors down. Gary lived in the building behind ours and as the social butterfly that he was. He knew most of the people in his building, who smoked weed, who was throwing parties, who was looking for some action, etc. Gary was not picky and as he put it, “they all look that same when the lights are out.”
Karen had stormed out of the apartment again. There was the usual yelling and screaming that had all the neighbors looking out of their blinds. A few minutes after she left, Brendan was knocking on the door expecting me or Rob to entertain him. I didn’t answer the door and went about my business. An hour later Gary came knocking and around that time Rob came home from work. He had the misfortune of landing a Union job for a garbage company and his task was cleaning out the backs of those trucks. And I thought I had it bad with the rats.
“Ya’ll gotta come ta muh building. Dis gurl haffin a party up in der.” Gary was difficult to understand. If you didn’t know Gary you would think he was drunk, or high, or maybe a speech impediment, or just had dental work done. None of these were true although sometimes he was high but that made it easier to understand him.
I was bored so I said to heck with it and followed Gary and Rob out the door. On the way Rob went to Brendan’s and that man came rushing out like a dog let off the leash.
There was indeed a party that was happening. Some girl that nobody knew had just moved in and was having people over. Her real agenda was to have someone bring some weed so that she could get high and Gary was happy to fulfill that wish. With a dozen of us in this one-bedroom apartment we sat around looking at one another wondering how nobody had something to smoke it with. Rob went back to the apartment and grabbed an old corncob pipe that he had, and Brendan assigned himself to pack it.
“I’ve done this before,” Brendan said. “I’m good at this.” Not exactly the thing to brag about when you are pressing your thumb into the bowl with all your might. He never broke apart the bud and instead stuffed the entire thing into the pipe. Gary sat back watching completely entertained. Eventually the bowl was lit but nobody could draw from the damn thing, so we went about drinking cheap booze and making small talk. Brendan was hitting on the girl the whole time. He would say he liked rap and she would reply she liked country. “I was just kidding. I love country. Country is my jam.” Then he started talking about his truck. To my surprise the girl started asking all the same questions I had regarding the truck being legal. Brendan changed the subject to what he wanted to do with it. “I’m going to lower it down, put some small fat tires on it and run some lights underneath. It’s going to be sweet.” The girl on the other hand said. “I like big trucks.” Brendan changed his tune and said, “I was just kidding. Ya, I’m going to get one of those kits and put some big fat mud tires on there.”
This act went on all night and I was one of the last people to leave. My job that evening was the cock blocker. I didn’t like Karen, hell I didn’t like Brendan, but who was this girl that was being pulled into their bullshit. When Brendan went to take a leak, I told the girl he was married, and they had a kid.
“He said he was single,” she whispered back. “How do you know?”
“He lives a few doors down and I worked with his wife. Look do what you want but now you know.”
I went home that night feeling a little better. To this day nobody knows what happened. The next morning Brendan came nocking on the door. Half-awake I answered and he told me about his sexual escapades with the girl from the party. “She had a huge bush and she blew me. It was so good.” These were the details that would be repeated and never expanded upon and I was fine with that.
The next day I saw Rob and he said he ran into Brendan after work. “He said she was shaved, and they fucked.” After comparing the few notes we had it was obvious somebody was lying.
A week later Rob came storming into the apartment with a large cardboard box. “You won’t believe what this guy a work gave me.” It was difficult to tell what it was at first, all the VHS tapes had the covers missing and the titles were in small print.
“What is it?” I asked.
“There is this old cranky Vietnam vet at work who doesn’t talk to anyone and is pissed off all the time. He comes in today and says ‘does anybody want this box of porn’ so I raise my hand up and he tells me its all lesbian porn because seeing another dude’s dick is gay. He didn’t have to explain that to me, but he did. Then he tells me that if I didn’t take it then it was going in the trash and I put it in my car right away.”
Rob starts going through the titles; Muff Divers volume 4, No Dicks Allowed 2, Carpet Burn, and the list went on and on. He was happy with his find and had the next day off.
“Just make sure you clean up afterwards,” I said rolling my eyes as he explained he wasn’t leaving the house all day.
That next day I went to work at Olga’s and Rob stayed home with his box of porn. What happened is as follows. Rob went through his tapes reading the titles. When he came across All Anal Action volume 12, he thought “this sounds nice.” None of the tapes were rewound so if you put it in the VCR you were starting at some random spot. This tape started with a close up, loins slapping and heavy breathing, Rob sat back on the couch and enjoyed, until the camera started to pull back. There was something odd he couldn’t put his finger on. The guy was odd enough, not exactly what the man at work had said these movies were. No, the problem was the girl in the movie who either had a serious case of hemorrhoids or…
Rob fast forwarded enough to learn he had been enjoying two guys going at it and for a few minutes he sat in a corner balled up crying. Then he had an idea.
Rob rewound the tape to the exact spot he had found it and took it out of the VCR. Then, he called Brendan. “Dude, you know that box of porn I got from work. I have something you need to see.” Brendan was at the door in seconds. “Now when you watch it don’t rewind it. It’s at the best scene.” Brendan grabbed the tape and ran back to his place eager to watch the film. Rob waited.
And waited…
And waited…
What he had expected was for Brendan to come back yelling and throwing the tape at him. Maybe a phone call where he said, “very funny asshole.” Some prank played on him later. But none of these things happened. We never saw Brendan again. We never saw Karen again.
When I came home that night Rob told me what had happened, and I too waited for a response. A week later the truck was gone. A few days later, Karen was moving out on her own with the kid. She never said anything to us. We had no idea what had happened to Brendan. The girl in Gary’s building disappeared that summer as well. It was like those few weeks had never happened.
Rob often wondered if he had ruined Brendan’s life, opening doors that weren’t meant to be opened.
“Rob, he tried too hard. You know this. He was living in denial.”
“What about Karen?”
“He picked the one girl at the bar that looked like a man. And she was always a bitch.”
“Ya, she was a bitch.” Rob smoked his cigarette and maybe felt better about the joke he had played. I could see why it would be difficult to move on. A marriage destroyed, a child’s life in limbo, and a woman with nowhere to go. I think Rob liked Brendan, for all of his faults, of which there were many, he was likable in small doses, really small doses, like not living a few doors down from you, or keeping a safe distance while passing on the street far enough away that you won’t end up talking, or not knowing that a person like him exist at all. That is the best way to enjoy Brendan’s personality.
To this day I have never run into Brendan. I don’t know if I would recognize him if I saw him. I never saw the white truck on the road. I never saw Karen again either. It was obvious from the beginning that Brendan had some issues the down side was that he had to take a few people down a road with him because he was too afraid to do it by himself. In the end I think the big old box of porn was a practical joke that turned into a two for one deal. When you work with garbagemen expect to feel a little dirty.

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Adventures in Cooking: part 12

In the cooking world there is no shortage of stupid that you will meet along the way. One of the most common phrases you will hear from newbs is “I didn’t know.” I used this a few times like the moment I threw the chicken tender away and quickly learned that it sets you up for a verbal assault from wailing banshees armed with spatulas and knives. It is best to yell an F bomb and just pretend you screwed up while making a mental note to never do that again.
During our monthly deep clean one of the new guys took a mop and cleaned out the walk-in cooler. He did a good job and maybe in his moment of pride he decided to repeat the act. He opened the walk-in freezer and dropped the soaping wet mop in the middle of the floor. That is the spot it remained for several days until a handful of us were smart enough to pour hot water onto the mop. Somebody thought of A Christmas Story and in the end no mops were harmed during this escapade. The man walked out of the freezer, looked around, didn’t tell anybody he was leaving, and walked away never to be seen again. I don’t know why these people think they will be fired or suffer some punishment so harsh it would scare them for life and maybe they were right. Perhaps they did do something like this before and were belittled in front of the crew, tarred and feathered, or bent over the knee and spanked. We will never know.
I have seen plastic utensils put into the deep fryers to take something out of the oil. Metal pans put into microwaves to heat something up. Dishes put into the washing machine with the glasses facing up. Gyro meat cut down while it was still raw. Food not rotated in the cooler. The list could go on and on.
There is nothing wrong with these people. They are not mentally defective or have a learning disability, although there is a chance they might. In most cases these are young people who have never functioned outside their homes and had most things done for them because their parents were too lazy to teach them how to do things on their own.
For all the immature antics that happen in a kitchen it takes a level of maturity to be a functioning member of the crew. If you are constantly screwing up people will not cover for you and eventually you will be out the door. Shit happens, we all know this, but when you keep repeating the same mistakes and you think that it is never your fault, the problem isn’t your co-workers or your parents or the school you went to or the friends you hang out with, it’s you. When there is no personal accountability or responsibility there is no trust. If there is no trust in you to do your job on the deep fryer, or working as the dish bitch, your ass will be out the door. You may get a second chance, hell I have seen people come back three or four times. Don’t think it’s because you have value. Nine times out of ten it’s because we were short staffed and having a body is better than no bodies. Some people thought they were hot shit when they strolled back in like they had been vindicated from their previous crimes. They say ‘hi’ to people who never liked them to begin with thinking they were best friends. They immediately become lazy, start doing the same shit all over again and the next day are shoved out the door. They should be glad because the handle on the walk-in freezer tends to jam and heaven forbid everyone goes out for a smoke break at the same time.
I can see it now, the plaque placed inside the walk-in cooler” For Guy la Douche, the dish bitch. May your memory last as long as your mop stood on its own in this freezer. You will not be missed. Sorry.” Meanwhile a large gym bag sits in the back corner of the freezer with a note that says Do NOT Touch.

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Adventures in Cooking: part 11

There are days that everyone dreads. Up there on the list of crappy days that you don’t want to go to work for are; holidays, Christmas shopping season, short staff days, and the dreaded health inspection. Nobody wants to be there, from the dishwasher to the manager this is a trip from on high looking down on those who have not followed the rules and any infraction can result in thousands of dollars in fines or being closed. A word of advice to the managers out there, tell your staff that it’s happening. Don’t schedule your biggest fuck ups, and don’t walk around like you’re trying to hide Jews from Nazis.
I didn’t know who the guy was walking around with Meagan that day. She looked scared and they kept talking in private. I wondered if it was corporate and she was looking at losing her job. Had we been making her job that hard on her? I went about my shift as I always did not thinking about it. Communication around the kitchen had flatlined and the staff walked around oblivious to what was happening. It was the health inspection.
I sharpened all the fillet knives and waited for the gyro meat to turn a golden brown. I was going to make sure we started off the shift right with some thin cut meat. I ran some bread through the roller and piled them up to be cooked on the grill. Then came the meat.
I sharpened the blade one last time; the metal had a ring to it that made the hairs on my arms stand up. I took a damp rag and wiped the blade off. The edge was so sharp it sliced through eight layers of washcloth and into my index finger. I didn’t notice at first, it wasn’t until the sharp stinging pain like a bug bite hit me that I pulled the blade back and saw the blood rushing from the side of my finger. I pressed the cloth against the cut and turned around to see Meagan and the health inspector looking at me. Her mouth was hanging down by her shoes, eye wide like the moment a deer realizes it’s going to that big feeding field in the sky a split second before the semitruck smacks into it. The health inspector kept that bland unimpressed look on his face as he said to her “did he just cut himself?”
I walked into the kitchen and into the back room where I found the first aid kit. The band aid wrappers were brown, aged through the passing of time. I cleaned off the blood and pressed the cloth band aid on hoping to stop the bleeding. A few minutes later blood was running down my fingers dripping off the tips. It didn’t matter what I did it would not stop. I went upstairs and found Meagan at her desk. The health inspector had left.
“I cut myself and it won’t stop bleeding,” Meagan looked at it and when I pulled the band aid off the cut started to gush all over again.
“Oh Jesus. Go to the hospital.”
I went downstairs and told the rest of the crew I had to leave.
“Good job motherfucker, now we’re short staffed the rest of the day.” I could see that Nate Dawg cared.
I went to the local emergency room and was checked in. the place wasn’t busy, and I was placed in a room surrounded by curtains. The nurse checked the cut and then the doctor came in. he pried the wound open and watched the blood come rushing out again.
“Oh, that’s bad,” the doctor said continuing to open the cut further.
This was the first time I had ever been in an ER and I didn’t think it would be like this. I wondered if they played with people’s wounds to encourage them not to come back in the future. My finger was left to soak in iodine and when it was done the doctor looked at the cut again.
“it doesn’t need stitches, but it needs to be sealed up.” He took out a tube of superglue, it had a medical name for it, but it was superglue, and applied the quick drying substance to my skin. I would be out of work for three days. At this point I was happy for the break.
I had no idea at the time that the room I was in would end up being the future spot where I would spend the next 14 years of my life. The ER would become my home, my purgatory for half of my life. To this day I don’t know why I stayed for so long, looking bad I wish I had left so much sooner than I did. That is all another story and we will come back to that later.
Injuries were common in the kitchen. People cut themselves, slipped and fell, burned, and battered themselves all the time. It was rare for someone to go to the ER; most would cover the wound and go about their business until the end of the shift. There was nothing a good toke break couldn’t handle. The fry cook would have blisters on his forearms from the oil spattering up. The dish bitch would have cuts on his hands from broken glasses and knives put in the trays in the worst possible spots. When things were stressful in the kitchen, punches would be thrown into shoulders, wet rags flicked into faces and in the heat of the moment knives pulled but never used. Working in a kitchen is already hard on the body. Long hours on your feet. All the important heavy stuff you need is stored under the counter where you are constantly bending down to retrieve something or worse finding that you ran out of god knows what and you have to run to the back cooler dodging servers, cooks, and dish washers who have their heads up their asses.
If you have been reading this blog and you find yourself saying “I think I want to work in a kitchen” seek professional help. Already have a counselor, check the medication drawer and see if you are taking your pills regularly. You have no mental illness and have no need for prescriptions, then you must be a masochist. I don’t know why you don’t like yourself and it’s not for me to judge. There are worse things in life to be into, like heroin. So maybe, the life of a cook is a better choice. Still not convinced that you should reconsider being a cook, fine. Here are some things to think about.
How old are you? If you are in your teens or twenties, sure give it a shot. Why not? You’re young, your body is still in one piece, and you have time to make mistakes in your life.do it now if you aren’t going to listen. If you are in your thirties or older find something else to do. This life is like the UFC the good years are before the 30 mark and there are few, the rare few people who can handle working in a kitchen past that age. You might be the Randy Couture of the kitchen world, but odds are you aren’t, plus there in the possibility of jail time when you find yourself surrounded by immature assholes who don’t respect you and shit on you any chance they get. When you are older you will have less patience for their shit and its not a good place for you or them.
So, you are young, what kind of kitchen do you want to work in? there are the places that serve the same thing everyday with nothing new on the menu and they are loved for it. Can you make the same shit everyday with nothing new to challenge you? If not stay away. It might be a good place to start and get the swing of things but leave after a year or so. Tuck it away on your resume and move on. If you like a challenge and always doing new things, find a place that constantly changes their menu. There are a few local examples I can point out. Rustica is a fine dining restaurant that hasn’t changed their menu in years. They have always had the roasted bone marrow, bouillabaisse, and grilled duck breast. People love this place, but it doesn’t have much to offer in diversity. Then there is Fuse a place that experiments with new dishes every week and uses outlets like Instagram to feature the new menu and was they have to offer.
There are of course other options. Bakery, chain restaurants, and diners can be a start. There is something appealing about those dives that leave you questioning the cleanliness of the place, but the food is so good you come back for more. At the local Ray Ray’s, I was shocked to see the owner/ cook working the grill with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. But I tell you he makes some of the best damn burgers in town. There are times that I have been there, and Rodger is smoking at the grill, cops come in to order their lunch and nobody says a damn thing. Meanwhile my friend and I are sitting at a table with two beers bought at the neighboring quickie mart. That is the power of being a good cook. When your food is something special, that which nobody else offers or doesn’t come close to matching you earn certain privileges others don’t enjoy. When you make the right friends through food, and your menu offers things people can’t refuse, there isn’t much you can’t accomplish.
You could go to a cooking school but why the hell would you do that? The local library I work at has three aisles of cookbooks available for the pickings. I have read about people spending a year going through the Julia Child cookbook. There is a man who is working his way through Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halle cookbook for the one-year anniversary of his death. There are other places to learn how to cook and not go into massive amounts of debt that can not be repaid on this salary. If you are planning on working for someone else do not go to culinary school. You will be buried in student loan debt and not make enough to survive and pay back the debt, something you can not claim when filing for bankruptcy. If you are planning to open your own place do not go to culinary school. You will be buried in student loan debt and then the debt of starting your own place. In the end, learn how to cook on your own, or work at some shitty fast paced restaurant that is nothing special and get the hands-on experience that is the most valuable part of working in a kitchen. Who cares if you can make a great filet mignon? What matters is if you can make 16 of the damn things at the same time for a large group and not lose your mind under the stress, then do it all over again twenty minutes later because another group came in. this is the reality of working in a kitchen. The job is never done except when the open sign is shut off and the last customer is out the door. That is when you can sit back relax and enjoy that drink or joint or whatever it is that you are into, but only when everything is out away and the grill is cleaned, and the floors are mopped, and the stock is rotated in the walk in cooler, and the left overs are dated, and the last dishes are run through the machine, then maybe you can relax.
Did I mention the dreams in the middle of the night about taking an endless stream of tickets off the machine? That happens. Or the ones where you are standing naked at the grill, but you have too many orders to go find some clothes. That one happens too.
My point is this life isn’t for everyone. It wasn’t for me. That is why I am writing about it but not still doing it. The last time I went to the Olga’s I worked at I saw Junior. He didn’t recognize me and even if I said something to him, he probably wouldn’t remember who I was. With the turn around the odds are he has worked with a few hundred people in the last twenty years. I was a small check on the list of people that have come and gone. Junior will likely be working there until the day he dies. If he enjoys it then there are few things better one could hope for. I know too many people that worked shit jobs they hated only to die before retirement and never had the chance to enjoy what they loved. If you don’t love cooking, stay out of the kitchen because you will receive no love in return.
To be continued…

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Adventures in Cooking: Part 10

It’s not everyday that a person is a victim of a terrorist attack. No, I’m not talking about 9-11 I’m referring to the Crossroads Mall Pepper spray gas attack of 2000. There are things that do not mix in nature. Oil and water, chocolate and vanilla, white trash and money, but sometimes they come together, and the outcome is never good. Look at the Kardashians for the last example.
It was spring and while the birds were chasing one another and the bees remained hard at work helping flowers have sex, the hormones of the mall were also in full swing. There weren’t too many feuds that happened in the mall. We never competed against the McDonald’s crew to find out who was better. There wasn’t a Greek food vs Asian food fight happening to figure out dominance, and by the way Asian food would have won hands down. The orange chicken at Oriental Express is worth swinging by the mall for. The one group of douchebags that we could not stand was the security guards.
For me this was an odd gang that roamed around in their uniforms for the soul purpose of hitting on girls while trying to look good catching shop lifters. Like any wannabe cops they collected any weapon they could carry except for a pistol. Their belts were customized towards each guard showing their different personalities. The one common element was the radio, everything besides that was a combination of handcuffs, which they couldn’t legally use, zip ties, baton, tear gas, pepper spray, flash light, and any doohickey that can attach to a keychain. There were moments when we would catch the guards hitting on the waitresses, fucking up our times and pissing off everyone in the restaurant.
“Lindsey, order up for 12,” Nate hollers out of the kitchen towards the doors.
Heads turn and the guard waves his hand telling her to ignore Nate. I caught this and popped out to see if she had heard. Their eyes were locked, and the guard was instantly pissed I was interrupting.
“So, you can arrest people? That’s so cool,” Lindsey says looking at his zip ties.
“Hey Lindsey, your order is up.” I look at the guard’s belt with a smirk.
“Hey buddy, I think she can take care of it.”
If there is one thing I hate about douchebags, its when they call you buddy. I’m not your bud or buddy. I’m certainly not your bro. unless there is some DNA test I don’t know about, I’m not your brother. Those guys can fuck off and this meant war.
“So, you know that you don’t have the power to arrest anyone, right. Plus, you can only restrain someone if they are a threat to themselves or others.” I said, knowing the laws.
He rolled his eyes and spit out a “pts” before saying, “you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He didn’t argue just tried to discredit. It was game on.
“Are you really going to strip every time you try to arrest someone?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“The zip ties on your belt. They are looped around but you connected the ends so the only way you can get them off is by taking your belt off and since it is going through the loop of your pants that mean the pants must come off as well. So, are you going to strip them into submission?” I waited for a response.
“Fuck you,” the guard said.
“Oh my god, he’s right. How would you get those off there?” Lindsey said.
“Lindsey, get this fucking order.” Nate yelled from the kitchen.
Lindsey went to the kitchen leaving me and security douche by ourselves.
“You’re a fucking dead man.” The guard said. “fucking cock blocker.”
“what are you going to do arrest me. Keep your clothes on, I’m not into that.”
“Don’t get mad at me because she wants some of this.” Then he took a low blow. “At least I’m not working some shit job in a kitchen.”
“Hey asshole I worked security for two years and we had to deal with protestors. You chase shoplifting teens out of hot topic. Have a nice day dick bag.”
“Fuck you.”
“Not if you took me to dinner and a movie first.”
The fight to have the last word went on until a call came through the radio. Elderly man stuck on the escalator. Real action-packed stuff.
The guards continued to come around, and in the end, things did not go well for them. The police were called. EMS showed up. The fire department came to the rescue. You know, the real men in uniforms.
Lindsey and the guard were in their usual mating ritual. Lindsey decided to be the aggressive one and pull the pepper spray from the guard’s belt.
“Hey, give that back.” Yes, it really sounded that pathetic.
Of course, Lindsey didn’t and played a short game of tag until her thumb hit the button and a mist went into the air. The guard jumped back, and Lindsey dropped the canister on the floor. The area was instantly cleared as people coughed and rubbed their eyes.
In the kitchen, I had an itch in my throat. Nate Dawg started to cough. The servers rubbed their eyes as they grabbed their orders. Customers coughed as they ate. I started to cough.
“Mother fucker, are you burning something?” Nate said rubbing his eyes.
The doors opened to the kitchen. “The police are clearing the mall,” the manager said. We learned the whole story outside.
In the food court a customer had a severe asthma attack. People in the Sears store had itchy eyes and horrible coughs. The people in Hot Topic discovered a new way to torture themselves without cutting. Some people feared it was a sarin gas attack like what happened in Tokyo with the subway terminals.
The police came out, long with every other first responder in the city of Portage. This wasn’t the act of Islamic terrorism, religious nutjobs, or societal anarchist. No, this was the result of hormones.
The pepper spray entered the ventilation system and was pumped through the entire building. Two levels of stores plus the anchor stores on the ends are all tied into the same system. One spray of the guards $5 toy cleared out an entire shopping mall. The police kept the building cleared for five hours to air everything out. While people like to say that pepper spray is harmless the category is technically ‘less lethal’ rather than ‘non-lethal’ force. This was the great Crossroads Mall pepper spray gas attack of 2000; Al Qaeda would have been proud.
After this event security was not allowed to carry pepper spray anymore. Management contacted the head of security and demanded that the guards no longer come around the restaurant unless they were called, which we ever did. It’s difficult to shop lift a sandwich from a place that you dine in. The mall eventually went back to normal and the event was forgotten. To this day when people say they carry pepper spray for personal protection, and when they work indoors I shake my head and tell them to find something else. There has never been a substitute to a good knife and there never will be.

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Adventures in Cooking: Part 9

If there was a best kept secret in the cooking industry that few knew about it would have to be the black market underlining the whole thing. Fed by cash and odd tax rules, a server can earn enough to support themselves and have some fun on the side. When I say black market, I’m referring to the side businesses that employees engage in for extra money. As I discussed earlier, Jeremy was the go-to guy for marijuana and other recreational substances. Nate Dawg was burning and selling the latest CDs that people couldn’t afford to pay $20 for. Even the strippers started to come to him for their music. Back in the bowels of the restaurant one could find car stereos, the latest movies still in the theater on DVD, but with Korean subtitles, videos games at a fraction of the cost and even CD players with subwoofers that had skip protection-built in. This was before the iPod and as long as something could be copied in a basement or burned on a computer it was available for purchase.
I was kept out of the market until someone requested music that only I owned. I was the nerd, the guy with shitty taste in music and movies, the guy who hated pop culture and all of its bullshit, but when someone came around with a pocket full of cash wanting the latest Tool CD Nate came nocking on my door. There was also my jazz collection and a fondness for early rock and roll. What Nate ended up learning over time was that strippers had a tendency to change their taste in music as often as they changed their shoes. One moment he was the go-to guy for the latest rap album, then he was forgotten because he only had the music he liked. He branched out looking to expand his selection. His chance of being the guy that a woman like Jordan wanted to be with was slipping.
Mix CDs were brought to work and popped in the CD player as a way to drum up business. People would hear a song and ask “what’s that?” and Nate would get his book out flipping through the 96 CDs he had available and pull out a freshly burned copy with the price tag of $5. To say that someone in the food industry is lazy is to not know of whom you speak. Long hours in the kitchen, working over a hot stove, cleaning, prepping, screaming and yelling are all in a day’s work. Then there is the after hours of hustling to make a few dollars more. Long hours of downloading music, burning CDs, and hunting at the library for those rare gems people have asked for could take up your time. Making connections with shady people who found items that “fell” off a truck. Those military connections that would mail boxes of DVDs from Asian military bases to show up in a backpack at work. These were all things people were doing and they took time. If a server had tickets to the latest show that sold out at Wing’s Stadium it’s because they woke up first thing in the morning and stood in line outside the ticket office. If you wanted them you were paying the asking price. There was a market with in the market and I still can not figure out to this day how they managed the time to do it all.
Things could become violent in the kitchen. Threats were common. Knives were pulled. It wasn’t uncommon for people to come in with black eyes from deals that had gone bad. These acts were a consequence of the lifestyle. It wasn’t sought out it just happened. Then there was me.
For a time, there was a show on FOX featuring fights from the Tough Man Competition. It consisted of young men from different backgrounds fighting in boxing rings trying to be the last man standing at the end of the night. One of the hosts was a model for the Fredrick’s of Hollywood catalog so that showed you how classy this thing was. In Kalamazoo the event was run by a shady guy with a business called Adorable Promotions. Men would pay $50 to get in the ring and beat on each other. Some did it for fun. Some thought they were good. There were the few that had lost bets or were dared to enter. It wasn’t uncommon for guys to disappear before they entered the ring.
Bored, wanting something to do, and missing my old Tae Kwon Do classes I signed up for the competition. My instructor had been teaching me boxing on the side with Tae Kwon Do and I thought I might have a chance at getting somewhere with it. Word spread at work and I thought I might have a small corner somewhere in the arena where my name was chanted. I was wrong. I trained, running a 5K every day and doing bodyweight exercises. I hung a heavy bag on the tree behind my apartment. I let my sideburns grow and called myself the Wolverine. Yes, it was hokey, but I was having fun with it.
The night I went to weigh in the room was filled with guys trying to feed their egos. I could tell most of them had never competed in anything like this before. There was the stare down, the guy who wouldn’t shut up about how good he was, several guys slamming beers, and the guys who had their girlfriends there as props. I had gone to several Tae Kwon Do tournaments and to me this was just standard procedure, these guys wanted to do the face off with words said and punches thrown. We didn’t even know who we would be fighting yet. I weighed in at 188 IBS, three pounds over the limit for middle weight. I was in with the heavy weight boys, fuck.
When I told people at work that I was competing Nate laughed and said the DJ at Déjà vu was also entered and the place was plugging a ton of money into advertising and sponsoring him. Max was a former Muay Thai fighter from Thailand. He was tall, thin, and appeared to be in shape. He wore a long ponytail that hung past his butt cheeks and could appear intimidating. Nate warned me to look out because he would “fuck you up.” I laughed and brushed it off.
Rob Laughed when I told him I entered the competition. Looking back a lot of people rolled their eyes and laughed. It was becoming clear that I had no support in doing this thing. It was going to be all me, only me.
The night I went to Wings Stadium I had a gym bag that consisted of shorts, warm up pants, and that was it. My shoes were a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars and I hadn’t thought about wearing hand wraps because the gloves were already 14 ounces. For practice I would shadow box using three-pound weights. After 20 minutes of that 14 ounces felt like wearing winter gloves.
Fights were announced and it turned out I would be fighting DJ Max. We came in at the same weight three nights before and I had a feeling we would be paired together. I sat on a bench watching the fights. A man would come around announcing the upcoming fights so that we could warm up. There was a body builder who was constantly jumping rope and when he entered the ring, he gassed out in the first round and was pummeled in the second. The guy he was fighting looked half his size. There was George of the Jungle who knocked out every guy he fought with a right hook, the only person to fight twice in one night. He filled in a slot after knocking out his opponent in the first five seconds of the first round. My name was read on the docket and I started to stretch. I did some jumping jacks to loosen up. In the ring a guy was fighting that they kept sidelining because he wouldn’t blow zero into the breathalyzer. When he was cleared, he entered the ring and was knocked out by George. In his mumbling words “I took it like a man.”
Finally, the moment arrived. I was called to the ring first. I jogged out, slid through the ropes and the corner guy slid my gloves. “No wraps?” he pointed out. “Nah,” I replied as if they weren’t needed. I stood in the corner and watched as the announcer put everything they had into Max. “a Muay Thai fighter from Thailand, weighing in at 188 pounds, and sponsored by the folks at Déjà vu. DJ Maxxxxxxx!”
Some guys standing behind the ring pointed at me and said “this guy is going to be fucked up.” For a moment I thought they were right. My goal at this point, hit him hard and make sure he remembers me when this is done. Max slid through the ropes and started hopping around. The long ponytail reminded me of the move Kickboxer and I questioned for a moment if I had health insurance or not?
The ref had us stand in the middle, I had to look up at Max, and the rules were set. We touched gloves and went into our corners. The bell rang and we were off. It was a race to the center of the ring. Max was hopping around on the balls of his feet, something I wasn’t familiar with and told to never do in all my years of sparring. His hands were up blocking the sides of his face, so I went straight in, snapped a jab between the gloves and hit Max square in the face. His head snapped back and blood appeared everywhere. I don’t know if I broke his nose or not, either way he was definitely a bleeder.
The punches continued and that first round was a non-stop assault on the man everyone thought would crush me. By the time the bell rang my gloves were covered in blood, his chest and face made him look like an extra from Carrie. My corner man encouraged me to do the same thing all over again. I wasn’t tired, hell I felt like I had just warmed up. The bleeding had stopped and before we knew it the bell was ringing again.
Playing the same cards again I hit Max in the face and the bleeding continued. One thing to keep in mind is that bleeding in the Muay Thai culture is inspiration for winning. The one who bleeds first will fight harder and likely come out as the victor.
Half way through the round Max’s pony tail ended up wrapped around my forearm. I was tied to the man. As I pulled my arm back his head would move with it. I didn’t want to be stuck there and Max didn’t want me chained to him. I used that moment to land several blows and a moment later the pony tail came off and Max put some distance between us.
Between the heavy gloves and the padded head gear it was difficult to feel anything. The leather of the gloves would slap against your skin, everything was wet, you body moved around as you were pushed and pulled in different directions, but there wasn’t any pain. The adrenaline running through your veins gives one the impression they aren’t being hurt or taking damage. I have no memory of Max ever hitting me, but my body did.
The bell rang and I sat in my corner sipping water and having blood cleaned off my torso. “keep doing what you’re doing. You already won this fight. Don’t let him knock you out.” The corner man didn’t need to tell me the obvious but I appreciated it. In Max’s corner I could hear his corner man saying “he’s tired, now is the time to go in and give him everything you have.” He was wrong though. I wasn’t tired. I used an old trick from my days on the track team in high school and chewed some coffee beans before the fight. I had a caffeine buzz that the hipsters as the local coffee shops would be envious of.
The bell rang and we continued where we left off. This time Max was trying to land some blows. I bobbed and weaved, slipped into his world and continued the assault on his head. I don’t remember being stuck in a corner or either of us leaning on the ropes, we were in the middle of the ring, the crowd cheering as the two of us threw punches waiting to see if one would fall or finally give up as so many had done before. The bell rang and the crowd cheered. It would have to go to the judges.
There was no question as to who won, but I had seen fights be handed over to people who didn’t deserve it in the past. The judges were unanimous and my hand was raised. “the Wolverine” was screamed over the speakers and I left the ring to calm down in the locker room. I found Max later, laying on a bench with his head wrapped in bags of ice. His eyes were swollen shut and he was having trouble breathing. I was still feeling fine and left not longer afterwards. We were one of the last fights of the night and George ended the night with another knock out.
I went to Nate Dawg’s place and found his car in the driveway. I thought maybe he left after the fight to beat traffic. I stepped in the house to find him at the computer downloading pictures of Brittany Spears.
“Get your ass beat motherfucker?” he asked.
“You weren’t there?” I asked disappointed.
“Fuck no, I have better things to do.” Nate went back to his computer. That was the start to the end of our friendship. This guy that I spent so much time with was like everyone else in my life at that time, a huge disappointment. Later I saw Rob and he wasn’t their either. I told them that I won the fight and that I did fight Max. They didn’t believe it until the strippers at the club told them the story because they were there handing out free passes to the club or working as ring girls. It wouldn’t be long after that the three of us would go our separate ways.
Nobody from work showed up. My parents showed up the second night to watch me get knocked out by George. My head was throbbing that morning and I shouldn’t have shown up. The beating that Max had given me appeared in the delayed migraine I encountered the next morning. It lasted for three days and the fight the second night with George of the Jungle didn’t help.
I have heard people refer to the kitchen as a military setting, divided up by ranks and jobs, everyone assigned to their post. One would think there would be a level of loyalty, the desire to support your brothers of the spatula. That is not how it is. In this capitalist world everyone is out for themselves. If they can’t make a buck from you then you have no value. You are as useful as you can prove and the useless are as desirable as gum on the bottom of your shoes. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my friends didn’t show up, but I was. That was when I started doubting my roll in the kitchen and started to look elsewhere for employment. That night, for all the headaches, let downs, and disappointments changed where I would be in the world, little did I know that it was only downhill from there.
To be continued…

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