Saturday, March 31, 2012

The bouncing in my chest? Those're muscles

When I look in the mirror after the average night in Wrigleyville, all I see are flaws. Bulging stomach. Bags under eyes. Two-day stubble I'm simply too lazy to shave.

When I look in the mirror after (or, in certain hipstery gyms, during!) a workout, all I see is awesome. Shrinking stomach. The weary, driven eyes of an action hero. Stubble so manly it has its own stubble.

Today I did a 20 minute session on a treadmill after some very, very basic weightlifting. I stared at myself in a TV screen damn near the whole time. Even as I listened to classic TAL in an effort to distract my brain from my struggling, plaque-encrusted heart, even as I glanced repeatedly out the window and tried to count roof tiles, even when I stopped and panted like a man who'd escaped a forest fire instead of just running a couple miles. I kept looking at my face in that inactive TV screen and thinking:


I look awesome.

Of course, objectively, I didn't look awesome. Sweat drops had long since evolved into sweat rainstorms across my skin; my eyes made me look more like someone out of the Hunger Games than Die Hard. And my stubble had its own ecosystem.

But to the camera of my eyes: I looked like a man who'd faced his demons and tamed them. If only slightly.

Then I came home and had a beer, because 1) it was offered and 2) the bike ride back was really hot and a Stella Artois sounded not just nice but necessary.

So basically your hotel took cues from shoes owned by Disco Stu?

"Uh...your apples are dead."

"I know. I...can't get them out."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hi There

If you're wondering where I am, it's somewhere close to paradise and far from reliable internet connectivity.

I haven't forgotten you. I couldn't ever forget you. You'll get all three entries, don't worry.

Good old Holland, China. Neighbor to Houston, China, its chief exports include tulips grown in half the time, windmills built for half the cost, and a some very angry college-aged tourists who thought for sure they'd found the right Amsterdam.

Wait. This is...this is another one of those fake China postcards, right? There is no Holland, China! I've been had! I've been... Huh. Apparently there is a Holland-China, and they sell trailer hitches, landing gear, and kingpins. China's just sounding weirder and weirder lately.

Oddly, this reminds me of Ron of Japan. See, my family eats there with a devotion approaching the religious, and once I returned from Japan it was necessary, clearly necessary, for me to talk to our servers in Japanese as much as possible.

Our Mexican, Chinese, Korean, literally any other kind of person who is not from Japan servers. I'm pretty sure, had a tentacle monster emerged from the teppanyaki, my brother would've goaded me into asking it "Nihongo ga dekiru no?" as it savaged our poor, American orifices.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


You wouldn't think you can wash your hands too much.

But you don't have to contend with The Sink.

The Sink has exactly two settings: Liquid Fire and Shoot Icicles. You will encounter the sink many times on your average day, and despite the experience of a year or more you will never properly set it to avoid scalding heat or freezing cold. Your hands, already raw from the bargain barrel soap you use--no lotion or aloe in this stuff, you buy it by the gallon after all--shake as you touch the spigot.

"Please," you say to this stainless steel demon, this entity of washing. "Please just don't hurt."

Maybe it's the eight shots of espresso bouncing angrily through your veins. Maybe it's the clopen you had to work today. Maybe it's the cumulative madness of no weekends whatsoever for well over half a year. Whatever it is, when you turn that spigot, you're dead certain you hear laughter in the running water. Not one laugh, but many, hissing through the faucet like so many snakes.

The paper towels with which you dry your hands are about as gentle as Sam Elliott's face. The bar towel sanitizer can't get in open wounds. The coffee urns drip at random as if they wish to attack you.

But I'll always hate The Sink the most.

...seriously? Seriously Jess? I already posted one video game environment today, must you taunt me with another? This is beyond Lord of the Rings. This is a training ground out of Ranma. And am I the only one wondering if you could safely traverse these things by jumping really, really carefully?
 Barf is always funny.

Gosh Darn It

Why can't we swear?

No, seriously. Swearing increases pain tolerance. It also seems to convey more passion and honesty, which is why anyone trying to sell you a TV will eventually resort to "this is a damn fine TV." It also just feels really fu--

Excuse me. It feels really freaking good.

But why is it okay to say freaking? Frigging? Even fudging? At best it makes it safe, sanitary, publishable. At worst, in the case of dithery little workarounds like "the f-word" or "the b-word" it sounds childish, like something coming out of a nervous 10 year old who really needs you to know he's talking about a swear but really can't say such an awful thing.

Of course, freaking, fudging, shoot, darn, ticked off, and all the other sanitary swear words are all...okay. They're functional. I use them all the time, because you can't just toss off fucks and shits and damns all day. I try to throw in the less-embraced criminy from time to time, too, just to keep people on their toes. Maybe I'll start using zounds.

You know what really grates my cheese? Honks me off? Drowns my puppies?

When people publish part of a swear word, but not all of it. As if that makes it okay. At least sanitary swear words aren't meant to completely imply real swear words. But when I see a newspaper or magazine say something like:

"'F--k you, you stupid sons of b----s!' the Kansas fan shouted, displaying both middle fingers at the Mizzou fan's face. 'Suck my d--k, a-----e!'"

I mean...why? You're swearing. Our brains fill in those gaps near-instantaneously. You're making us read the bad words. And yet this happens in every paper and many magazines. I guess it's on the off chance an eight year old will pick up the Times and learn something new? In my view, you either publish what was said by the person you're quoting or you don't publish it at all.

For f---'s sake.

Okay, no. You didn't go there. That place doesn't exist. If the photographer had snapped a photo thirty seconds later Chow-Yun Fat would've come flying by. 

Holy crap is right. Where's the next postcard going to come from, Middle-Earth?
A while back, my family and I went to Ireland. Everyone scrambled around near cliff edges taking photos. We went to the Cliffs of Moher, where a guide told us people went over the edge at the rate of about 2 a year.

"Shouldn't they put in bigger fences?" I asked, pointing to the rickety old wooden thing a hundred tourists were climbing through or over.

"Oh, that's not for people," the tour guide scoffed. "That's for sheep. It works just fine on the sheep."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Settling In

I have a desk. The concepts "my professional life" and "desk" haven't intersected since about 2007; desks were things other people had, people who left biscotti wrappers on the tables I had to clean every day. I can hear Finance GuysTM talking into bluetooth headsets, but now instead of passive-aggressively eye-murdering them I want to let them be so they can work and I can too.

I have a chair. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I have...autonomy.

That last one is unnerving. My first day, I didn't leave until virtually everyone else in the office had. I didn't go to lunch until well past 2. I assumed when it was time to do either, someone would tell me. I didn't want to step on toes, you see, or break unwritten rules.

I'm still resisting the compulsion to tell someone any time I go to the bathroom. Like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank, only less convicted murderer redeemed by time/Tim Robbins, more wearied barista redeemed by improv and copious amounts of alcohol. "Starbucks broke you," my roommate taunted. "You're a dog afraid to walk out of an empty cage."

Since I'm told the corporate environment values initiative, let's hope that's not the case. I brought cookies into work today. Does that count as initiative? I didn't even say anything, just grinned a little every time I heard a worker say "who made these?" And there's my backup plan: if it turns out Starbucks did break me, I'll bring in so many weekly treats that to fire me would be unthinkable. If I ever leave, who will make the cookies?

Now, I'm not the most devout Catholic, as I'm fairly sure being in a Christian Rock band earns you a bit of leeway with the big man upstairs. But Jess is correct: I fear no consecrated corpse-bits. Why be afraid of what's already dead, particularly when its sanctity renders it immune to any form of zombie plague or necromancy? Plus, uh, being handed a swatch of cloth and told it touched a dead guy's tongue before I got it prepared me for a reliquary life. Is reliquary an adjective? No? Well, it is now. My, are those St. Anthony's bones? How very reliquary of you. Reliquant, almost.
Welcome to me ordering sushi, or craft beer, or anything delicious. Art I can usually take or leave, but it's good there are people in the world who can go nuts shopping for things you cannot eat or drink.

I have certainly never seen this enthusiasm, this shopping Jess de vivre, in person. Never. Nor have I ever watched countless souvenirs be separated, catalogued, and wrapped for shipment to various recipients. Neeever ever ever.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Oh man oh man oh man

On Thursday, I went to a meeting. We talked about sales numbers, customer surveys, expansion opportunities...all the stuff you cover in your usual Starbucks meeting. But instead of remembering song lyrics, mentally replaying favorite movies, and desperately wanting to play with my phone, I was listening attentively and with great excitement.

I was taking notes.

This was an ad meeting at my Brand New Job, which starts for reals in eight hours, twenty-seven minutes.

Twenty-six minutes.

I'm all out of sorts. I wonder if I'll sleep. Does the car have enough gas? Should I shower now or in the morning? Are my slacks pressed enough? Should I wear a tie? Short sleeves or long? It's been a long time since my morning routine involved anything but "roll out of bed" and "make sure not to forget my hat and apron."

Gaaahhhh. I gotta read or something, get relaxed. This is like Christmas Eve, but instead of presents there'll be contracts and desks and--

oh my god you guys I get to sit down while I work

Okay, postcard!

Almost as tall as a man? Almost? Either the wall's eroded a bit over time (likely but boring), Chang and Bolin got lazy on their section (unlikely, less boring) or the Han Dynasty's biggest enemies were an army of Tyrion Lannisters (awesomest).

Bus tours are always terrible, Jessica. Always. Unless of course your family takes the mic and narrates the tours themselves. Then they're great! And very musical.
Chicken gizzards. Huh. I guess that's boneless in the most technical sense imaginable. I kind of want to try a plate, and I kind of don't at all.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Party Party Party

I've been drinking for...ten hours?

I'm not that drunk.

I've cleaned up bottles and compressed solo cups. I've refilled beers and provided napkins. I've turned down pot and turned up music.

My guests need to be entertained more than I need to be entertained.

Is this maturity?

I love how little context that note on the front of the postcard has...
...until you get here.

Apparently Movember was huge during the Qin dynasty.

Jess looks so proud of her head-stache. I'm proud of how proud she looks.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monkey's Out of the Bottle

How do you tell someone you're not their friend?

I can't even make a blanket statement and say I never befriend customers, because that would be a lie. There are customers I want to see every day, there are customers I keep up with on Facebook, there are customers from three years ago I still miss seeing right now. But these associations form naturally, through conversations and personal compatibility and all the other flavors that make a good friendship stew. I don't go into work hoping to find a friend, and the customers I love don't go to MoonDollars needing one.

And then you have the customers who seem to know too much about you. Who want your phone number. Who get hurt and confused when you hesitate to give them your phone number. Who find you on Facebook when you didn't even give out your last name. Keep in mind: these people are never bad dudes. Often they're almost painfully kind. Nice, every last man and woman among them. A little awkward. A little lonely. And above all, talkative. We're paid to talk, we have to talk, and so they talk to us a lot.

It's touching, it's friendly, it can make your day. But it can break your day when you're trying to serve a line of twenty and someone is standing at the service area trying to talk to you about movies. Or when you just want to sneak a text on your phone and exhale during your three minutes of downtime and someone keeps coming over to chat. Or when you're about to get off work and someone whose name you do not know excitedly asks if you want to go out for a beer.

But there's no appropriate social strategy for telling someone "you are a decent person and I bear you no ill will, but were we not connected by these circumstances we would not be interacting." It's a dick move no matter what, and you're usually a dick for thinking about doing it. The polite, appropriate thing is to and endure, because really, the person on the other end of the bar is just looking for a friend, and you don't need to take that away from them, do you?

Man. I keep revising and revising those four paragraphs and never manage to not sound like a dick.  But keep in mind: people are awesome. Sometimes that doesn't come through on this blog, because this blog contains more bitching than March of the Falsettos. But people are awesome. Customers bring me books on voiceover when they find out I'm trying to act, customers bring me gingerbread cookies with my name on them during Christmastime, customers befriend me and perform with me at my location in an hourlong tribute to Frank Sinatra. It's unfair how awesome my customers can be. It'd be much easier if I loathed them all, in the way a dictatorship is much easier than a democracy. Posts like this wouldn't suck to write.

Apologies for the bad scan here. I tried three times and never got the text legible. It says: "I am guessing based on the diorama in the Great Wall museum, which we were exploring by flashlight because the guard wanted to go home a half-hour early, so he kept turning off more and more lights on us. (Later he realized that better visibility actually increased our speed.) Anyway, it was a bit unclear in the dark! (I swear we asked more than one person--including the guard--about the hours.)" Sure you did, Jess. Sure you did.

God, it's like a bizarro version of my MoonDollars diet. Not much variety available, so staples are the order of the day, but in my case the staples include 1) marked out sandwiches 2) marked out pastries 3) marked out fruit plates and 4) free smoothies.

I cannot properly convey how much I'm going to miss my free daily smoothie. I have that thing down to a science. Two yellow scoops of ice, three scoops of protein, the biggest banana you can find, three pumps of chocolate, nonfat milk, two shots espresso (optional), double blend, pour into Trenta cup, enjoy. There. Now you all have the keys to the kingdom. I should probably stop updating this blog, I'll never top the knowledge you've received.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Some of the stuff we do is so illogical that when you describe it to Vulcans they burst into flames.

We keep our sleeves behind the counter. You know, those little cardboard doohickeys that protect your hand from the heat of the drink? The ones you grab by default from an accessible container at virtually every other establishment? We keep them away from you. Hidden. And we put them on some beverages by default (the really, really hot ones), and on some only if asked. So you constantly have people:

1) Getting their drinks.
2) Realizing the drinks are too hot for their delicate hands.
3) Looking furtively around the serving area.
4) Taking their drinks to the condiment bar because surely there must be sleeves there.
5) Sometimes pacing the length of the store hunting for the Sleeve Dispenser or perhaps a Sleeve Tree.
6) Finally asking in tones ranging from apologetic to totally freaking irritated, "can I have a sleeve?"

We force people into this pointless waste of precious life-minutes because it's apparently better service to give them sleeves instead of just assuming they'll take sleeves. People complain about the policy on our surveys, and still we are resolute.

I realize this may sound like small potatoes, but today was the busiest day I've had in months, and going through steps one through six about five hundred times has driven me up all four walls and left me on the ceiling.

It was my last Saturday shift ever, though. god.

It was my last Saturday shift ever. I may just repeat that to myself for a while.

Holy balls, that place looks cool. I want to wander up to it after weeks of riding camels and bartering with bedouins. Um, okay, not actually bedouins, but whatever the local equivalent may be. There I will meet a mysterious woman, and my adventure shall truly begin.

What kind of powers, Lisa? Are they as cool as mine? According to this thing, I  "conquer rivals using a death-dealing tail made from mental energy. He likewise developed the talent to change shape into a hat, however only when angry. Lamentably, Jim Smylie becomes powerless in the presence of adamantium." Don't piss me off, people. I'll turn into a trilby. Maybe even a panama.


I've seen one one anime and one live action show based on Journey to the West and I have never thought of any dick jokes until now.

What is wrong with me?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not A Single Boob Joke

[I actually wrote this entry at approximately 4:15 AM Wednesday morning. It was the first day I'd had espresso in nearly a week. You totally can't tell, can you?]

Wayyyyyyy too much positivity around here. Let's get into hate.



oh god I hate making no foam drinks. So much. So much so much so much. Especially during a rush. Did you know we aren't even supposed to use our spoons anymore? Our newfangled standardized pitchers are designed for optimal, even steaming of milk. They're the pitcher engineering equivalent of the vortex bottle, a solution to a problem you didn't even know you had.

But then you come in and you order your venti soy extra pumps extra hot no foam chai and suddenly all that engineering goes right to hell, right to the lowest level of hell, and we're scrambling to aerate the soy milk just enough to avoid that jet-engine scream you hear when you steam milk without aerating it, and we can't keep sequencing pitchers because we have to focus on yours and of course there's still foam because it's freaking soy milk, the foamiest of all milks, and then you fill it with bubbly, foamy chai syrup, and OH MY GOD WHY DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE FOAM?! WHY?! WHYYYYYY---

Kidding! Kidding. I don't mind no foam drinks. As long as you're nice about asking for them. And as long as there's no major line. And as long as you're not ordering soy, or chai, or (I swear to god a customer asked for this once) a cappuccino.

You also have people who go to the opposite end of the spectrum: all foam. Like, twenty ounces of pure straight up foam. I had a wonderful customer who ordered this all the time in the suburbs. Sweet woman, late forties, and she loved whole milk all foam hot chocolate. Which is easy, because it's whole milk. But then you've got people who order bone dry nonfat milk cappuccinos, and if there's a hint of moisture in the whole damn cup they look at you like you resurrected Jesus just to kill him again.

Oooh! Which episode? Did it have Toph? She was the best character. Well, no, every single character in that show is the best character. Even the cabbage merchant. No, especially the cabbage merchant. 

Ahhh, gotta love the good old Lmpire. Sure they were brutal from time to time, but man, from the Mpire onward it was straight downhill.
I stayed at a Japanese hostel once. It had:
1) Communal showers
2) Passive-aggressiveness

Man, the more I think about it, the more I realize I got shafted on the Cute Animals front when I traveled Asia.

Except for that one short-tailed cat that followed me to the train station every day. That little guy was cool. Not as cool as a luck dragon, but still!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changing


I turned in my two weeks' notice on Friday.

Starting March sixteenth in the year of our lord two thousand and twelve (or as I like to call it, Saint Patrick's Day Eve), I'll be free of these coffee-stained shackles of mine. I'm hanging up the apron. Closing the till. Punching out my numbers, one more time.

It...hasn't quite sunk in yet. Damn near five years, now, I've poured myself into pouring people's coffee. I have loved the job, hated the job, tried to drink away the memories of ever having the job, and everything in between. And now it's about to end.

My life is about to seriously-for-reals-guys-I'm-not-kidding-hey-I-mean-it-this-time change. There will be set hours. There will be expectations related to my skill set and not my ability to smile and nod. There will be responsibility.

There will be weekends.

I am absurdly lucky.

I am stupendously lucky.

I am very scared. Very excited. Teetering on the edge of a precipice, about to close my eyes and jump in. Maybe it's full of fun things to land on, like marshmallows. Maybe I'll have to go all badass and catch a bird's legs or something on the way down. Maybe all that lies in wait for me is a bunch of jagged rocks and broken bottles. But the important thing is, I'm about to jump.

I hated Myst and Riven. Hated them. Hated them even more than Obsidian, which made me nearly put my fist through the family's old Gateway 2000 back in the day.

But if playing the hell out of those games means I get to go to this place--at any point in my life, ever--then I'll dig up the disks. Or just, you know, play it on my iPhone.

Man, I'm having Japan flashbacks. Cuteness on sleeve protectors? Not just on sleeve protectors, cuteness everywhere. Everything Kawaii. I once walked past a hair salon represented by a pair of beaming, anthropomorphized scissors and toward a bar with googly happy eyes on its beer sign. Even the cute mascots had their own cute mascots. Certain sections of Akihabara were probably a cynic's version of hell. Pink, big-eyed, cheery hell.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now

How quickly we forget what life was like before the internet sat in our pockets. Not to mention lifelines to every last one of our friends. Not to mention every little distracting bleep and bloop we're used to pulling up for any dull moment in our frenetic little lives.

Well. Okay. You don't forget that. I do.

Last time my smartphone went goodbye, it was because of my stupidity and someone else's avarice. This time, if my smartphone is hitting that old dusty trail, it's due to simple entropy. Time eats everything, even the shiny expensive bits I put at the center of my life.

Last night I couldn't find people because I didn't have a phone. I couldn't even borrow someone else's phone to call the people in question, because I'd saved the necessary numbers in the phone instead of in my head. It got me wondering: How many addresses do I remember? How many phone numbers? How many birthdays can I pull up from thin air without Facebook or Calendar reminding me?

I read somewhere that if you kidnap an Aboriginal tribesman from the mythical land of barbies and eskys and put him in the middle of a city half a world away, he'll have an easier time getting around than you. See, Hypothetical Aboriginal Tribesman's language has no words for right, left, etc...just east, west, north, south. As in "you dropped your pen, sir, it landed three feet south of your feet."

Put me in the middle of the Loop without the lake in plain view, on the other hand, and I'd be grabbing at smartphones or screaming questions into taxis. Thanks for the lasting knowledge, technology.

It's not the end of the world, though: I'm about to use my computer to call the technicians working on my phone. The future's a strange place, sometimes.

Whoa! Words all over the place! Words Words Words. Deceptively competent English at first glance, until you see lines like "the shine brilliantly one another, s wonder in the Tienshan Mountains." I like it, though; I think the broken English adds to the mysterious power of the visuals. Like a stereotypical wise old merchant running a curio shop.
Ahhh. Brochures. I wonder if the writers also wrote did this Mystic Grand Canyon writeup. I give them an A for effort and several thousand A pluses for entertaining execution.