Thursday, November 24, 2011

Living the dream......

Posting this without permission.......from a friend seeking work as a "stage" (ie, free kitchen worker...) in Spain. He tracked some of our favorite spots, even worked in them.....and hated some for being horrible scumbags......

I am posting this because I find Eric's thoughts charming.....if way overly self-deprecating.....and the mere fact that he is actually thinking, working and struggling gives me hope.

The 99%, right? We should be so lucky......and maybe we are.

Hi Michael,

In your last email you said it was good to hear that I’m living the dream, and in my last email I too felt like I was living a dream – the Spanish cooking adventure – but you probably noticed that my dreaminess also left me giddy and confused – dreaming in the wrong ways – and that there was a certain basic stupidity to the way I was going about things. (Immature, unprofessional, naïve, et cetera). I mean, my plan was to start staging at a handful of places that I really didn’t want to be staging at just because by that point I had gotten desperate for anything, and I suspect that I seemed like a child lost in the dark to you as I tried to convince myself (vicariously, through you) that I would be happy and learn a lot and be on my way to bigger and better things if I just got started somewhere, anywhere…your silence has actually been very helpful to me. Not the night-light of encouragement I thought I was looking for (as I stumbled around groping the walls, trying to find my way to the kitchen) but something better: a different kind of light, a light for me to turn inwards and examine the reasons why I’m stumbling around looking for the kitchen in the middle of the night anyway...and I realized that maybe the cookies in the cookie jar aren’t really so great as they sound, and maybe I should be looking for other things instead…

Real life: after one week of staging at that first place – the place with the traditional and innovative mix, where the chef wasn’t so great but living with his brother was interesting – I quit. I couldn’t handle it. I mean the food was shit, but probably more importantly for me the people were shit, so the whole experience was shit, and I realized (inward light) that I don’t have enough genuine cooking integrity to persevere through such things. I’m too picky, too idealistic, too sensitive, and probably ultimately just too weak. I don’t want to work in anything but my ideal conditions, which is an impossible way to start building a career, and (more inward light) by this point I’m 99.9% sure that I should be looking for whatever it is I’m looking for (a “good life,” I guess) elsewhere.

So I left that restaurant and spent a few weeks at a farm/restaurant in Bordeaux, and now I’m back in Spain at another farm. Outside-living, and working hard without an asshole-boss, and getting dirty and tired and cooking/eating good food (instead of shitty staff meals) makes me very happy. I think farming would be a good way for me to live, but also a difficult way to provide for any kind of uncertain future…so I’m thinking to start studying existential psychology in London in January. Maybe this sounds crazy to you (the lost child in the dark again), and sometimes it sounds that way to me too, but also I see it as a good way to deepen my focus on what matters most in life. For me cooking was always mostly about trying to get to the essence of human life anyway. (Which of is a fine idea, but of course another bad way to start building a career in professional kitchens).

The jamón we have curing here, the wine fermenting in the bodega, the rabbits we slaughter and eat with potatoes slow-cooked in the ashes of the fire; the fire from the oak-tree we cut into pieces on that sunny afternoon with the Pyrenees filling the horizon and the cold wind sweeping down their snowy slopes and blowing at my face – this is much closer to the “good life” I’m looking for than the endless compromises and petty bickering that seems to constitute life in most restaurants that serve their guests anything like a decent meal.)

Anyway, don’t want to take too much of your time. Hope you’re doing well.

All the best,


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fuck Me Silly....

It may be hard to imagine....but I have probably spent more time and energy coaching sports and working with kids than cooking and working with food in the last twenty years.

This may be why I get hourly calls from my scumbag subprime mortgage holder....and why the only car I own from this century has been languishing at the Jaguar shop for six months....while I pound around in a car older than Dylan.

So.....I can't let the whole Joe Paterno thing go without at least a comment.....or two.

People seem to be lining up on both sides of the St. Joe issue: Hey, he reported to his superiors....let the game go on, get over it; and Hey, he never called the cops, fuck him to the wall.

The Penn State students have given their verdict: riots, overturning media trucks, etc.

Nittany Lions are Everything......

If you want to get the straight story about this whole deal.....I suggest you follow (as usual) the European media. Go crazy....actually read the Grand Jury indictments. Notice that the link comes from an English newspaper.

If you read the will need Maalox and an aspirin. And possibly an automatic weapon.

The child rapist coach, Jerry Sandusky, involved in all this was known on campus as a pervert going back to 1998, and before. Around that time a temp janitor found him sucking off a ten year old in the coaches' shower. The janitor was a Korean war vet who had managed to get through that lovely experience (disemboweling of friends, body parts flying around, folks freezing to death in rivers of shit....) without too many problems. His encounter with Coach Sandusky's blow job of the 4th grader put him over the edge. He collapsed, nearly had a heart attack and was a sobbing wreck who needed medical intervention.

But, hey....he was a temp, scrubbing showers in the greatest football program in America. Football at Penn State provided the gym, the fields, the year round programs that provided his job...and the jobs of all his co-workers. Still, he obviously reported the incident to his supervisor...who had to call an ambulance (for the temp janitor!).....and his supervisor's supervisor. They all got together to decide what to do.......Basically, shut up for fear of being fired.

See, the coach in question was up to replace Joe Pa as head coach in the multi, multi million dollar operation that is college football in State College, PA. Janitor vs Head Coach? A no brainer.

Still, word got out. Everyone knew. Coach Sandusky lost his chance at being Head Coach, and quietly resigned. With a pension, an office, a parking place, free access to all campus events, keys to all the buildings, etc.

The list of his victims marched on......The most egregious violation was the ass-fucking of a ten year old witnessed by a grad student four years later. The grad student also melted down, and reported the incident to his dad (a friend of Coach Sandusky) and eventually to Coach Paterno, all the while trembling in fear of losing his job and his place in Penn State Football. These gents volleyed the report up through the channels of the administration, but no one ever called the cops.

The indictment lists Victim 1-8 with various levels of nude showering, back rubbing, knee grabbing, dick sucking, etc. The first two kids....including the ten year old that got ass fucked in the shower by a 6'4" adult jock....are not even part of the indictment.....since no one ever bothered to figure out who they were!

Nobody called the cops.....their best effort at justice was to ask Coach Sandusky not to do it anymore. He kept his office on campus, kept his keys to all the buildings on campus, kept his pension, kept his full free access to all campus events, kept his parking pass and parking spot outside the gym with the showers......

Word will be coming out in the next few days that Coach Sandusky pimped out the kids in his care to high dollar donors to his youth ministry.....

For all those that are horrified that a great man like Coach Paterno got fired because of other peoples' actions......

No. Coach Paterno created an organization with so much power and organization devoted to kids playing a game, let us not forget......that the second most powerful person in the organization's penchant for ass fucking ten year olds was much less important than even ever finding out the name of the ass-fucked ten year old.

Please remember that all this took place at an institute of higher education. Ummph, higher. Ummph, higher.....oh, yeah.

Joe Paterno does not just need to be fired....he needs to be jailed....for creating and supporting a continuing criminal organization.

Before anyone in GPS proximity to me here gets all righteous about those bastards in State College, PA.....we have a similar continuing criminal organization right here in town. Some people call it Carmel High School.

Actually....I can't say that it is still continuing. I have lost contact with the CHS culture some years back...but I don't have high hopes. The same judgements that put institution over child have been going on here for decades, and see no sign of slacking...because no one has ever called them out or acknowledged them. In fact, the best way for a teacher at the High School or Middle School to find themselves out of a job is to go to bat for a student against the powers that be.

I have know three different women who were sexually harassed by the same teacher at CHS in each of three decades. Another freely admits that she had sex with English teacher when she was 14 or 15. And one of our clients married her English teacher directly out of high school thirty years ago. Not a scientific sample by any means...... At least one called the Sheriff, involved authorities....supplied inappropriate voice mail recordings, had her dad confront the guy parked across the street from her house late at night.....

Nothing happened. Zero.

Full disclosure: I was fired by CHS as a soccer coach for......something. So, I am not completely without rancor towards the Carmel Unified School District.

My last year of coaching, my superior....the athletic director....was having a full blown affair with a junior in the school. The affair affected his work, his marriage.....and his ability to do his job as AD. Everyone on campus knew of the affair. When I was not able to get messages through to the guy, I asked my players what to do. They told the girl to have the guy call me. It worked. I complained to the principal about the situation.....He stopped taking my calls.

I was fired as coach. The AD guy was hired as soccer coach.....the GIRL'S soccer coach.

Another coach (married) started an affair with his assistant....a counselor at CHS. Rather than actually coach...they would repair to his truck and fuck themselves silly in full view of the teams they were supposed to be coaching. Windows steamed up, truck a rockin' a laughin'. The behavior was only stopped when the coach's daughter went to the principal and complained that she was being humiliated. Neither coach (a teacher) nor the counselor were fired or otherwise disciplined.

In the past few days the internet was all abuzz about two teachers who harassed a fat girl in their class, ridiculed her, abused her, forced her to run on a stair climber between classes. The girl's parents wired her up, recorded the abuse and a scandal resulted.

At Carmel Middle some years back there was another abusive teacher. His office was papered over for privacy, and he was famous for having his girl students sit on his lap and bounce on his knee. Not to mention the private meetings in his papered over office. One of my guys was also a student.....a fat kid with attitude who wasn't shy about pointing out these proto-perversions. The teacher constantly abused him for being fat and short. The kid asked me what to do....and I wired him for sound. Sure enough, really terrible verbal abuse resulted. Zephy turned the tape into the school office, expecting.......justice?

No....the principal called in the Sheriff and had him arrested for illegally recording the teacher. He was grilled for two hours by deputies before his mother was even allowed to see or talk to him, much less a lawyer...and he eventually was suspended for a length of time for his violation of the teacher's rights.

He was eleven.

Ooops.....I used his name. You could talk to him about this whole thing....except he is not here anymore. A kind, funny, bright country kid...... died of his various abuses last year at the ripe old age of 24.

The girl who called the Sheriff is still around, as are many of the others. The girl is a toughy....a hard core fighter for what she holds dear and what she believes in. I still detect some damage under the waterline, though. Just because you survive something, doesn't make it right.

And....isn't school supposed to supply a completely different kind of education?

All the Occupy X movements now are a bunch of random folk finally standing up for principles of right and wrong....and it's about time.

I submit that it is difficult and uncomfortable to stand up against social and economic wrongs at the hands of the powers that be.....and much, much more difficult to stand up against sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the powers that be.

Banks are one thing....they are supposed to be cocksuckers.

But schools?

Once the power and supposed value of an organization....especially a educational organization...completely overcomes the value of the lives and the well-being...and even physical safety....of those it was created to is time for a restart.

All Penn State's officials and coaches should be fired and jailed. The program itself should be banned for some years....and start over in Division III or IV, with no scholarships, no TV, no Bowls, no perks.....

As for Carmel High.....the principal involved in almost all these terrible decisions I named above.....just ran for school board. And many of the same board members, and many of the same teachers......who were all complicit..... are still there. I hold out zero hope for any change in that environment. I am just grateful that my own kids are gone.....and that they were boys. Not that that was any help to the Penn State kids.

As for the Cachagua kids for whom I still feel responsibility.....especially the girls....especially the jocks who are girls.....I just shake my head.

And walk away.


Friday, November 04, 2011

For Floyd....

I didn't think I'd be so sad.....

We inherited Floyd from Tassajara ten years ago. Floyd was then called Madra....a perfectly horrible name for a dog. MAH-drah. Yuk.

Madrah was a Nason dog....part Border Collie and part.....who knows? Tallish, all black with white toes and a white blaze on his chest. There used to be tons of these dogs around. The last one I know is the English guy with the Jaguars across from the Rose's above Calle Cielo. His dog madly runs out in the road challenging cars.....a Nason dog.

Floyd was being banished by Tassajara because he was charging guests. Not money....just rushing up to them in a way that the guests perceived to be aggressive.

Turns out that Nason dogs are supersmart, and super near-sighted. Madrah was just running up to make a new friend....too close and too fast for uptight rich people.

Everyone involved of course missing the lesson that the Buddah would have taught......

So....Madrah had to go. Can't scare the Gooses that lay the Golden Eggs....

An elderly couple in Berkeley wanted to adopt him....with a tiny back yard and no walks. Madrah was the go to guy for days off for the monks, always ready for a ten mile hike up to The Indians or the caves, familiar with every inch of a hundred square miles of back country. Berkeley, no way. We brought him to Buck Mountain instead.

Madrah hated small, cute, furry things: squirrels, kitties, blue jays. He HATED blue jays....was better with squirrels, but I suspect that part of his banishment from Tassajara had to do with his obsession with one of the senior monk's cats.....

Madrah was the project of one of the monks at Tassajara.....Sonia. Sonia eventually followed Madrah in banishment from the mountain. She did teach him some skills: Madrah would bow like a monk on command; Madrah would balance on his back legs for a treat; and Madrah was an inspired vocal tenor.

Part of the Tassajara work day is Work Circle....Every morning after breakfast, and every afternoon after lunch the entire tribe gathers in a giant circle for announcements of news, policy, staffing, etc. The work circle welcomes new guests and workers, says goodbye and thank you to departing workers, discusses work assignments....and recognizes birthdays by singing.

One of the odd side effects of studying statistics is the realization that in any group of 50 people the odds of any two of them having the same birthday are 50-50. Extrapolated out....this means that in any group of 50 or so....there is nearly always a birthday. This is why we only sing "Happy Birthday You Asshole" at The Store....because we, like hookers at The Bunny Farm....don't need to know your name. Our pleasure is supposedly not important....only yours.

For Madrah...with two Work Circles a meant a LOT of Happy Birthday songs. Madrah learned to sing along. Madrah would sit down on his butt and howl like Pavarotti.

The other odd thing about Madrah when he came to us was that he was completely unused to public forms of expression or affection. If I hugged Amanda for more than a minute or so....Madrah sought to intervene. Not just us....anyone. I think the Tassajara sexual relationship/harassment policy was ingrained in the poor lad at a genetic level. He also didn't know what "Good Dog" was....and we had to teach him to like to be petted.

When Madrah arrived at Buck Mountain we instantly changed his name. My boys renamed him for their favoritie character in their favorite movie: the Brad Pitt part of the stoner in True Romance: Floyd.

Floyd lived nine years with us. He learned to accept and understand human love and affection. Floyd became a fan of the Wolverhampton Wolves......say "Wolverhampton" around Floyd and he would jump up and sing. Any morning a chorus was required for whatever reason, just a few notes of "Happy Birthday" or "Wolverhampton!"....and Floyd was the choirmaster. our house, Floyd was not the Alpha Dog.....Xabi arrived and Floyd's dark, bitter notes caused him to recede to the background in contrast to Xabi's flamboyant star status. Always there and ready for a hike...and always there and ready to point out which dish had more or less, and which dish had more or less stuff. Floyd was far and away the smartest of the dogs...with the best language he was always aware of his decreased position, and his intelligence turned his status into something Dickensian: "Please, Sir....can I have another?"

Still, Floyd never lost his Tassajara upbringing. He was kooky for bread. Especially good bread, and good butter. In his younger years he would race off and bury a particularly good piece on the point of the hairpin opposite our mailbox. Still today you could find a cellar of our better bread efforts buried there.

And good cheese. The sound of the toaster going down for a solitary sandwich at 3am always brought an audience of Floyd. The fancy dogs turned their nose up at the cheese rinds, Floyd was all about it.

Last week he had a stroke, and lost control of his back legs....a little at first, then total. He was such a gentleman that he never lost his bowels in the house....would wait to be carried outside. He fought to the end to show his independence, dragging himself up and down the stairs to be with the pack, even though by comparison we are all idiot knuckleheads.

Amanda made the call that there is a better place waiting for him. "You will come back a monk....a better monk than those guys!" At the word "monk", Floyd's ears popped up.

He spent two bad days in obvious distress. I laced him with Vicodin. We carried him about, but it was clear that our time together was done.

Floyd had never been to the vet. Never had a rabies shot....never seen the inside of scary, sterile, tiled office. We poured the internet for solutions: pistol, heroin hotshot, visiting vet death angel. In the end we decided that he lived such a kind, aware life that a bullet was not the way to go out of it.

In the end, I found some Oxycontin from my friend DJ in a drawer....and we loaded Floyd up with a fatal dose, along with some Xanax, some of Micah's really good bread with good Wisconsin butter and Schoch Family cheese......and drove him to the vet's. We sang "Happy Birthday" and the Wolverhampton Fight Song.....and hope and pray that our efforts love and support in the end were worthy of the dignity of this fine animal.

Jesus apparently said something about how in the end we are judged by how we treat the lowest and most helpless amongst us....

Here is Robinson Jeffers about that....

Hurt Hawks

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,

The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine

And pain a few days: cat or coyote

Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits

The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom

And flies in a dream, the dawn ruins it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.

The curs of the day come and torment him

At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.

The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those

That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;

Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;

Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail

Had nothing left but unable misery

From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,

He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,

Not like a beggar, but still eyed with the old

Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,

Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what

Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear

at its rising

Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

Robinson Jeffers 1928