Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's Cachagua......

Sunday was Mother's Day......Duh.

This is not a big deal in Cachagua. Most Mothers out here have separated from their sons.....legally, physically, or spiritually. Often it is legally....one or the other is actually incarcerated, and jail collect phone calls are really expensive.

Imagine our shock to get the phone calls that two tables of people were coming out to Cachagua for brunch from Pebble Beach: Mrs. Hatfield!!! And another couple of nice, refined and rare left wing residents: the Evan's, who sponsored Paul Hodes successful congressional campaign in VERMONT for chrissakes, starting three years ago. Way before it was cool.

If you are not a regular follower of this blog.....Mrs. Hatfield is our Number One Favorite Lady....and client. She runs five or six houses, one of which is conveniently located in Pebble Beach. Her husband plays golf with George Bush.....and still likes the guy.....and she is a visual artist and clean freak. Who supports Teresa Heinz Kerry......Go figure.

She also is in the middle of a battle with a recurrence of lymphoma. We have been dropping off chicken broth, Vasquez strawberries, and my strawberry jello for her during the chemo. My last drop I found her in the garage of the Pebble Beach house wrestling with a giant barbeque in her bathrobe and straw hat (to hide the chemo hair loss).

"Bob (a Viacom board member) just gave us a new barbeque, and I wanted you guys to have our old one....if you want it. I just wanted to move it outside where you can get at it....."

What happened to the fucking cancer? The woman is worried about her caterer when she is supposed to be in bed fighting for her life? And she is coming for brunch?

Oh, crap......back to civilization. We gotta clean up. Brunch at The Store is normally just locals. Our standards are somewhat lax.

Town people, despite the way they mob The Place on Mondays....don't quite fit. Like last Monday....a gorgeous spring evening. A TownPerson complained that the sun was in her guests' eyes....."Do Something! Stop the sun!"

Well....Even for Irish guys this is a tall order: the curtains are cut from butcher paper....no help there. And, I have noticed that the sun often moves around....in ten minutes it would be gone, what the fuck is your problem?.... and anyway all of us were actually pleased by the gorgeous, golden light that was now flooding the place.....the sun moving around and all..... and newly shining in those paper bedecked windows after eight month's absence.

I responded the only way I knew how: "I am sorry for the sunlight, ma'am.....That is why we don't wash the windows......"

The woman looked like she had been pole-axed: she had no clue, no sense of irony, no point of reference. We really are Indian Territory, and I guess I am Sitting Bull.

Anway in the face of Nice People From Town Coming For Brunch:

We scrubbed, we organized, we swept. We washed the fucking windows. I went in at 6am to get my food scene together: the cast-iron eBay waffle griddle, the cast iron aebelskiver pan, home-made English muffins (started the night before).....plus the normal stuff.

Bernardus was having a Mother's Day Brunch for $65. Ours was neatly positioned at $6.50. Gas is expensive. Really. We are 25 minutes from Bernardus, and at least five dollars in gas money......The other costs are spiritual and social, I guess.

Amanda and I assigned special tables for the Evan's and the Hatfield's. Flowers. Linen napkins. I tried to express to my brunch waitress that the ONLY reason we were opening for brunch was that Mrs. Hatfield was coming in. And the Evan's.

The first guy through the door was Grant Risdon, one of our pet homeless outlaw wino pet humans. Grant has a fixed income from the lawsuit from the beating he got from the sheriffs after he lassoed one and dragged him a half mile forty years ago, and comes in every day. We get his check....we keep him alive. Next, a family involved in gunfire litigation with one of my store ladies....marijuana growing related water issues might be involved....walked in. They had reservations. My waitress, who walks over from the trailer park to work, could not conceive that there might be a difference in treatment between Grant, the pot people, the Hatfield's, and the Evan's. She gave Grant the Evan's table, and the pot people the Hatfield table. With the orchids, the linen napkins......

"They had reservations!! I gave them the reserved tables!! And Grant likes orchids! What is your problem?"

As Brendan says: "It's Cachagua". They are untrainable. Trotsky would be proud....the class structure has been destroyed or inverted. Grant, who costs us $3,000 a month is just as important as the Hatfield's.....who bring us $50,000 a year.

For their part, the Hatfield's acted as if it was normal to sit at a table with no linen or silverware, with the orchids at the table next to them with the mountain people pot growers, and the toothless old bandit with HIS own orchids. Mr. Hatfield asked me: "Is this your normal crowd, or did you just bring them in for us?" Restaurant shills?

I was suddenly hit by PTSD......Post Traumatic Shill Disorder. The idea that people would pay people to eat in restaurants so they looked busy......Gong!

I worked at The Colony Restaurant in New York City, back in the day. It was started in 1917, and quickly became a Big Money clubhouse. Big enough that the old maitre d'hotel, Ciro Maccioni....now runs New York's longest running and most expensive restaurant, Le Cirque. The Colony was Jackie Kennedy, Gloria Vanderbilt, the Nixon girls, Truman Capote, Pablo Escobar, Cordelia Biddle Duke Roberston......like that. It is featured in the original "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn. The place was huge during Prohibition....the backbar with all the booze was in an elevator that disappeared into the basement with a touch of a button. I was the youngest winesteward in New York history, with the biggest winecellar.....based upon the fact that I had actually once been in a vineyard, I guess.

Unfortunately, the place had been purchased from the Italians by an ex-Hitler youth named Carl Demler. He was a Cornell person, like me. When it became apparent that the place was not flowering under his guidance......he put it on the market and tried to dump it. He was such a putz that he tried to sell it to the supposed heirs to the Romanovs.....the descendents of Anastasia, who may or may not have been in the cellar with the Bolsheviks, and may or may not have lived.....and they may or may not have been descended from her. But they had a great publicist!

Business was slow. Carl had alienated the entire City of New York. I will go into chapter and verse at a later date....but I am sure I am partially responsible (see post about tossing the Stock Exchange member in the dumpster). And there was the Truman Capote thing on the Johnny Carson show.....and the Salvador Dali thing with the wife having sex with the Jesus Christ SuperStar guy......and the thing with Mr. Revson of Revlon and his split-toothed supermodel girlfriend while his wife was dying of cancer.....and the thing with the hookers......and the thing where the chef had me murder the swan in Central Park for the Arab guy....and the thing with Andy Warhol's boy/girlfriend's dog.....the thing with the Beignets Souflée guy with the busted colostomy bag. Wow. Which Step is it when you say you are sorry? Sorry, Carl..........

Anyway, Carl was sure the faux-Romanov's were gonna buy the place.....if it just looked busy. He asked me to call my friends in to fill the place up, and look nice and act cool. Not a problem. My friends were typically broke and hungry....and fairly cool.

The problem was that Carl was a cheap prick. Despite trying to sell a million dollar place, he would not let me bring in a helper in the dining room. He worked the door, as faux-maitre d'hotel.....and his mom cooked. I was captain, barman, waiter, busser, sommelier, bitch.

Unfortunately, all my buddies showed up. Including my pot dealer, and her boyfriend.....a drummer in the band at the National Lampoon show.....some guy named Chevy. He was a diabetic and kept passing out during the shows, and didn't like her trash cans full of pot in the apartment, so she was gonna dump him. Soon. She had an Irish Setter, I had an Irish Setter....walks in The Park......

Anyway, I was slammed. All the shills got: Escargots, Duck á L'Orange, Marron Glacée. These dishes were chosen by the relative cheapness of the ingredients.

The Colony was known for its tableside service. From the gueridon....the war wagon, a little cart with knives, forks, platters, and a Sterno-fueled stove we did everything. When we did a Caesar salad, we started with coddled eggs and put it together right there. Crepes Suzette. Steak Diane. Chateaubriand. Flames. Carving.

Ditto with the duck: Duck á L'Orange. Carmelize some sugar in the pan (sugar cubes rubbed on the outside of the oranges). Butter. Cognac. Flame. Orange juice. Grand Marnier. Flame. Carve the duck. Present.

Meanwhile, all my loser friends were packing the dining room, scarfing snails, drinking champagne.....and watching me race around like a long-haired, Irish Lucille Ball......cutting, slashing, flaming, pouring, serving. While Carl sat there sucking up to the faux-Romanov's, calm as could be.

Oh....and, we had a piano guy. Tinkling away on an upright. Carl could not afford a baby grand, so we just thumbtacked tablecloths on the back of the upright to hide the bare wood.....The piano guy was a super-stoned, heroin kind of gay guy.....that was a friend of somebody named Billy Joel. We heard "Piano Man" all night, every night.

It turned out that Carl could also not apparently afford new Sterno. He would take all the old Sterno at the end of the night, and pack the little pieces into one can. It would burn.....sort of.

Back to Post Traumatic Sterno Disorder.

I was working like a dick......racing around, serving escargots here.....dragging the gueridon over to another table, flaming, carving......dragging it over to a new table. While my shill friends snapped their fingers and ordered more champagne. From me.

I finally got to the last table, over in the corner by the piano.....with the beautiful pot dealer and her friend named after the car. Carl continued to engage the Romanov's....and it was looking good. As I moved the gueridon over to do their ducks, I bumped the fucking wagon a little too hard and the Sterno rolled off and hit the floor. I swooped it up (coolly invisible to the Romanov's and Carl) and got going with the caramel, the rubbed sugar cubes, the flames and the ducks.

In the middle of my presentation, the Chevy guy started pointing over my head and squirming.

"Yeah, whatever......fuckhead-diabetes-no-pot-man-Harvard drummer boy. Workin' here!"

I finally heard a shriek from Piano Man. I turned around to a wall of flames.

The Sterno chunks had exploded like a incendiary grenade and pieces had rattled off out of the can and under the piano and set the linen and the actual piano ablaze. Ablaze.

Carl actually continued to sit there and pretend that nothing was wrong with his lunch with the Romanov's.

I raced behind the bar and grabbed a seltzer bottle....the same kind of seltzer bottle that made the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges......and hosed down the flaming piano. My friends all cheered and laughed hysterically. The Chevy guy looked bitter......

Anyway......The Romanov's did not buy the place. Carl went broke and opened a famous piano store in New York.....something about ''Beethoven". The Chevy guy became Chevy Chase. His ex-girl friend is certainly still beautiful......

And the PTSD remains.....

With my Vietnam buddies.....it can be triggered by the sound of helicopters.....

With me......just say "Restaurant Shills".


Blogger happy said...

I was riveted to your story mainly having worked with Carl myself and I can tell you he is still a putz.
I am looking forward to more stories about the Colony days.
The way I heard it from Carl his restaurant was very super popular but closed because the unions ruined it for him.please write more
There are bunch of people whose lives were never the same after working for him who would love to see him. Happy.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I too am a "Carl Survivor". Every morning I wake up and I thank God I am no longer working for that man. My very first day on the job he had me forge his driver's license by going to Kinko's and making 8 front&back color copies of his license & laminating them. He cut me loose the week before Christmas, which was also the week after my grandfather died and the DAY before the office Christmas party. What a humanitarian, eh? There are other horror stories I could share, but that's another entire blog.

It is true that Carl was part of the Hitler Youth. However, to be fair, it should be noted that he was only a toddler when the Nazis first took power in Germany, & was probably a pre-schooler when he was enrolled. So being in the Hitler Youth wasn't entirely his fault. But there's a hell of a lot of stuff that IS his fault. Not that he would admit to it. He's never wrong about anything.

10:41 AM  

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