Friday, April 29, 2005

The Ray-diator

A letter from a fan:

Dear Michael,

We hired A Moveable Feast to cater the reception following our mother’s Memorial Mass on April 13th at the Carmel Mission. Your staff did a good job with the exception of your barman. He was inexcusably rude to many of our guests and family members. He scolded people for picking up glasses to be filled with wine, he propped the side door open with a chair when people were complaining of the cold, he gave a snippy response when someone asked what kind of wine he was serving (His response was, “red wine”) etc. At our family gathering I heard of more incidents involving this guy. You were recommended to us by Dana at Grapes of Wrath and I plan to tell her about what happened so that she can be more careful about passing on her excess business to you. Our mother had just died. We really didn’t need this on top of everything else.

Sincerely,
Howling Witch From Hell

LOVE the Love.......

The lady was a failed nun The wake was at The Mission. Ray was a monk. What could go wrong? Well....she grabbed a beer glass from the bottom of the stack, causing a near avalanche of crystal, despite the presence of an active, busy bartender tending other guests at that particular second.....The red wine had no label....a barrel sample. It was in fact......as Ray said.....Red. Her sins? No ''please'', no patience, obvious rampant narcissism, no recognition that we don't drink wine from beer glasses....and horror of horrors: no sense of irony.

But still.......Raymond.......please.

Ray is a former monk. Not ''failed.'' He is a large, older man....and getting larger as he gets older. He has a certain acid, dry...well, Saharan.....sense of humor and delivery that leads people to assume that he is a raging queen. Hence ''Gay Ray.'' He left the monastery (the Big House) when they kept him in the basement maintaining the vestments and holy instruments instead of letting him teach theatre.

We met him when he was working as a butler to a couple from Oklahoma who were mounting an eventually successful campaign to get into Cypress Point....Mr. Lawry. Tulsa Tom.

Mr. Lawry was a piece of work: He bought a house on 17 Mile drive on the ocean, three doors up from Cypress. You may have noticed that the Pacific Ocean spends a fair amount of time trying to enlarge it's boundaries....pounding away, storming...things like that. Mr. Lawry was a clean freak. Hated the salt on the windows, and spent most of the time not golfing walking around his house with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. He would hire two plumbers to do the same job, and watch them battle; two electricians at once to work on the dust problem that the flourescent lights seem to cause in his display cases of Chinese antiquities; he had a carpet rake....to comb the tassels on the Persian carpets; he bought new plush fiber door mats weekly for his Yorkshire terrier, Heather, to poop on. Like that.....

The seminal Tom Lawry quote: ''Maa-kul.....some times I go to a pah-ty; I walk in....I give them mah coat.....and I have to wait TWENTY OR THUTTY SECONDS fo' a drink......And I ask myself......''What the HELL am I doing HERE?''

Anyway, Raymond started out as a passive aggressive server. Think Gosford Park. He has reversely mellowed into purely, straight aggressive.

The Lawry's would hire us for fancy dinner parties as part of their campaign. Back then, we charged more than we do now, somehow. They would always pay for an extra plate....at full price for dear Heather. Foie gras, confit of duck, Provimi veal with morels, etc. Her psychological and digestive concerns ruled the household....and therefore the lives of the servants. Messing up the carpet tassels, for instance.....and we won't talk about retrieving the daily poops from the jute mats for examination on a par with rabbinical sheep entrails.

Ray started a series of ''treatments'' for dear Heather: two seconds in the microwave. We would check in on the patient as we came to do the monthly parties.......Eventually, Ray: ''Well, I have had to discontinue her ''treatments''.....dear Heather has become disoriented, and fell off the bed today. They have called a doggie psychiatrist....''

Ray went on from the Lawry's to a checkered career in retail in Carmel: fired from Do Re Mi Records....mean to customers; fired from Mediterranean Market.....mean to customers; fired from Nielsen's Market.....mean to customers; fired by Flowers Ltd.....mean to customers. He was fired by A Moveable Feast.....mean to customers. Fired by Grapes of Wrath....mean to, well.....you get it.

We rehired him, as did Flowers, Ltd. We are both Irony Sanctuaries......someone has to do it.

Some priceless Ray-moments:

At the Hatfield's, confronted by a roomful of CEO's relaxing after golf: one of the guests made a move to double-dip his shrimp in the chili sauce. Ray, quick as a mongoose, grabbed his wrist, mid plunge: ''Sir, rethink your action......In this household, exchange of bodily fluids is strictly voluntary.....''

Still at the Hatfield's, same week. A writer for Forbes has worked his way in on Thursday night....dinner for 12. He is invited for cocktails. Cocktails only. As cocktails end, he doesn't leave. Mrs. Hatfield is distressed. I say, ''Leave it to Ray.'' Ray waddles out into the family room, where the guests are gathered. ''Dinner is served.......to all the invited guests. (Significant look at the writer.) Ray to the writer, ''Sir, let me help you into your coat. I am sure you have somewhere you need to be.'' Writer, ''Well, actually....not really.'' Ray, acid and Saharan dust dripping, dripping: ''Pity.........''

Slicing our smoked salmon at the Big Sur Marathon VIP tent, confronted by the wife of the chief sponsor: She demanded, ''Keep slicing......Put more on!'' Ray, with a significant look down his nose: ''Moron? As you wish, madam. Moron......''

Back at the Hatfield's, for a conference of venture capitalists, on the buffet line. Ray and I slicing and serving lamb and salmon, the guests serving themselves side-dishes. The tenth guest asked Ray, ''Do I serve this, or do you?'' Ray: "Sir...you people are a captains of industry. You are running our country. The serving pieces that are facing you, are for you to use; those that are facing me, are for me to use......It is simple, and you are scaring me!"

Meeting Bishop Ryan on the buffet, me serving pork and Ray serving salmon. The bishop passed on the salmon. Ray: ''Bishop, no fish? What kind of Catholic are you?''

Serving beef on the buffet at the Bach Festival at the Mudd Ranch. Ray: ''Would you care for beef, madam?'' She, ''God, no! I am a vegetarian!'' Ray, half aloud, ''Funny, you don't look like one.......'' She, ''Sir, you are RUDE!'' Ray, ''I'm sorry, madam. I'd tug my forelock......if I had one!''

Intermission at the Symphony, serving coffee and cookies. Stuart Walzer, reknowned L.A. divorce lawyer, Bronze Star holder from the Battle of the Bulge, comes up to the bar and growls, ''Gimme a cuppa coffee!'' I could see it happening and tried to scamble over......No ''hello'', no ''please'' from Stuart. Ray, shocked at the lack of gentility: '''How would you like that coffee, sir?'' Stuart: ''Black.'' (No ''please.'') Ray: 'Sir...you may have noticed. ALL coffee is black. Do you want decaf or regular?'' (Stuart was literally taken aback....he staggered back two steps).

In Japan, where space is thin, and they are thick with people, they have National People, as well as National Parks. National Treasures in all walks of life: Fabrics; Poetry; Prose; Dance; Sumo Wrestling...... All receive a state stipend and a place to work for life. Why not here? And why not Irony?

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