Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UPDATED: trick-trick-trickING, trickING, TRICKING.....

YES, UPDATED JUST FOR MJ, WHO IS A SPECIAL PERSON. Not special enough to rate amending the main body of this post, of course; just the footnotes. Smilie emoticon implied.

I'se back, ducklings!!!
Yeah, I had this one in the can. I knew I'd probably need a couple of days to get my shit together after I came back from my sojourn in parts exotic. Know that the whole time I was thinking of you and only of you, my darlings, every moment of every day, which is a lie. I was thinking of Tim Footman emerging from the wine-dark sea in tantalizing increments, a sardonic smile playing about his cruel yet sensual lips.

Once upon a time I got a job at a place that I'll call the Totem Inn, because it had a big scary totem pole jabbed in the middle of the parking lot.

Why did it have a big scary totem pole in the middle of the parking lot?

It is a mystery.

Also a mystery is why this totem pole included not only Frog, First Man and Thunderbird, but also Grumpy The Goddamn Disney Dwarf.

Swear to God.

I suspect this place had opened during the boom period of the Seattle Worlds Fair in '62. The 'shed roof, white rocks' architecture was in keeping with the era. Another distinctive feature of the architecture was how obvious it was that the place had gone up in a big hurry, and on a very low budget.

The rooms were divided into 'normal' and 'weird'.

...As you can see from this helpful chart, the distribution of 'normal' and 'weird' rooms was slowly blurring as time and wear overtook the fixtures and those were replaced with whatever happened to be closest to the storeroom door. The area on the right, in the middle of the surveillance zone, was anyones had run across the lot and check because nobody could remember which rooms were the weird ones. If it was a 'normal' one, the price went up 10.00.

I also suspect that one of the original owners must have been a plumber/bathroom contractor with a lot of return overstock. Everything was beautifully installed, mind; someone took a lot of pride in their craftsmanship - but the beautiful stopped abruptly at the installation method, in the weird zone. And in the completely jacked up zone...? Oh dear.

There were more than 70 units in this motel. Their most distinctive feature was the bathroom. A black toilet might have a bright yellow tank lid, or a pink seat. A jade green 1940's pedestal sink would have one red faucet. There were lavender tubs with bright red soap dishes. Avocado floor tiles with little coffeepots on them combined with shag carpeting.

Still, in the 'normal' section, the bathrooms managed to be mostly one red, or black, or pepto-bismol pink, say. (My favorite was this freaky hard lavender that turned into a strobing nightmare purple when the overhead fluorescent was turned on.)

In the weird rooms, things were quite a bit more mixed up.

As depicted in this colorful diagram, one half of a room would be, say, black and electric lavender, and the other half would be high 70's harvest gold. Lines of tile would stop abruptly and pick up again in a smaller size or a different color entirely.

The 'completely jacked-up' rooms were like a very depressed persons' acid trip. You could tell that someone had tried desperately to bring a little order out of the porcelain chaos...the blue tiles would all be in one section by the 1930's blue toilet, all the yellows in another around the 1970's yellow sink...grouped together despite varying sizes, shades and patterns...but it was obvious that there simply hadn't been enough of any given tile to complete a motif.

This chaos extended to the furnishings, carpets, drapes and paint. Any given 'jacked-up' room might hold a chunky swag lamp, a faux Louis dresser, black shag carpet, one red curtain, one white curtain... counters topped in turquoise formica with little satellite thingies on it, a baby blue refrigerator, and a fire-engine red stove.

The only bath-fixture color in abundant supply was fired this really ominous, arterial maroon. Only one room on the entire lot had a matching bath, and it was this color. I mean down to the brackets for the towel bars, kids. This room also had a bright red shag carpet, red upholstery, red drapes, a red velvet swag lamp and a red refrigerator. Guess what we called it.

Another weird feature of the place was that all of the rooms were skewed on the diagonal. Think of the 'boomerang' style that was popular in Vegas back in the 50's and 60's? Only in three dimensions. And the entire complex was that way. This made fitting standard issue motel furniture into them very difficult.

The rooms with the most ridiculous angles were the designated smokers...which in this case also meant 'cribs'.

The ones in the surveillance zone were set aside for the maids.

Who tricked during their lunch hours.

And brought back dates after their shifts were done.

Well, yeah...this is what you always suspect goes on in a sleazy motel, right? But I'm here to tell you that it was the exception to the rule. A lot of maids are former prostitutes -and they'll be the ones who are the most militant about making an 'honest' living - and some moonlight and trick on the side. This was the only place where I ever saw them shit where they eat.

Of course, 'tang was not the only thing you could buy at the ol' Totem Motel. No, like Alices' Restaurant, you could pretty much get anything you wanted. That was why we maintained a special 'party room' with a separate entrance that opened on the sidewalk, out of view of the front desk.* With a titty bar across the street and three more down the block in either direction, smack in the middle of affiliate territory in Southeast Portland, you were pretty much spoilt for choice when it came to vice. And this all went on beneath the completely uninterested eye of our manager.

My first day on the job he told me ' If you want to work the desk nights let me know and I'll give you a shift. If you need a draw on your pay try and tell me around noon so I can put it on the books. And please wait to do your business until you're off my clock.'

"Huh?" I said. I now know that he thought I was being terribly cute.

"I don't mind if you hook, just do it off the clock. I'm a motel manager, not a pimp, but I'm not stupid either. I mean that seriously, I hired you to clean rooms. Whatever else you want to do, you do. Just don't rip me off is all I ask."

"But I don't hook," I said, all offended and shocked. "Oh my God!"
He ignored me. "Lana can tell you where the working rooms are. And I'd appreciate it if you'd take a load of sheets up with you and try and keep the supplies stocked. It's just polite."

I wandered off with my poor blown little mind going oog oog oog. I thought about heading straight for the bus stop. I didn't.
I should have.

The housekeeping department was completely underground and the sucker was vast, like an aircraft hangar. We only used the four washers and four dryers nearest the door. The rest, possibly hundreds of them for all I know, disappeared off into the distance and darkness where the CHUDS and Morlocks partied.

The storage room was on ground level, and represented the other side of the black hole where the mutant toilets and furniture came through from their home planet. Ever see 'Phantasm'? Kind of like that.

Ah yes, and speaking of home planets...the staff.

At first glance the manager was a completely average balding middle aged man. He lived onsite with his wife and their five hundred annoying yappy pee dogs. The only times I ever saw his expression change out of 'neutral' was when he was acting the host as he checked in a lodger (all the while assessing them for how much weird they were willing to put up with) and when he told me about his last job. "I used to be a sixth-grade teacher. Oh yes, right here in town. Yes, I taught there for 12 years. You know what I came away with?" his eyes began to glitter. "I now know that you can't trust anyone in this life. No one. Nobody's word means a thing. Period. And you know what else?" his glittering eyes narrowed down to slits. "There is nothing worse-NOTHING" he hissed, "...than an eleven year old girl."
Gollum, gollum.

The head laundry lady was a bone-nasty human being, like some evil old gutter granny out of Dickens. She was also the first 'hard' steatopygic I'd ever seen...the fat, solid as chilled suet, began abruptly at the hips and was stacked in immense misshapen lobes from there to the floor. Her ass was the most un-ass-like ass I have ever seen. It looked like a huge sack filled with random sized potatoes. There was no symmetry whatsoever. Only her toes could be seen, because the fat drooped down over her feet...and it was scuffed raw and spectacularly infected from where it drug the floor as she lumbered along.

Her daughter obviously shared moms' diet; the only difference was, her chub hadn't hardened. When she got up from a chair or came to a stop it took all of that acreage varying amounts of time to get the message while it rolled around like an old-fashioned waterbed mattress. She moved within a large, noticeably warm, humid cloud of bad funky like a planet with it's own atmosphere. A salami planet.

This poor girl could barely walk. When she did a room she would first clean everything she could reach without bending, and then lie down on the floor and roll-yes, roll-around and finish up.

We couldn't let her clean the weird rooms or the cribs because she would 'get stuck' in the bathrooms. Accidentally on purpose, that is. It usually happened on Friday around 1 in the afternoon. The first two times it happened the fire department had been called and there'd been a lot of gratifying fuss. After that, everyone got a bit skeptical. And she just kept right on doing it, and suspiciously never calling for help. No, she'd simply lie there on the floor and take it easy while she waited for for someone to come. Then have sobbing hysterics in the office when she saw her check and realized she didn't get paid for her time!

One of my unpleasant tasks as the new kid was to work with her so I could keep an eye on this and figure out if she was doing it on purpose. Sure enough I busted her one day. We were working opposite ends of the floor, but she was easy to find; you just walked down the row-and these were outdoor units- until you smelled her. I stopped outside her room and looked through the window, and saw her just stop, sigh, look around, and then very deliberately back into the bathroom, lie on the floor and wedge herself behind a sink.

Lana was a pro, and she looked like a pro; a very hard-bitten little blonde with perm-burnt hair and heavy blue eyeshadow. She cleaned a full set of rooms and tricked during lunch...and sometimes after work she picked up a john across the street at the titty bar and brought him back. Her husband pimped her out on her days off. She had three kids, drove a Toyota, and was one of the hardest working people I have ever met. Also one of the most unself-consciously amoral.

The rest of the girls were pros, and they all worked half-weeks. I barely ever saw them. When I did, half the time they were waving to me from one of the balconies while their john unlocked the door.

The other people I remember best were the handyman and his wife, Chris and Clara.

Chris was a little person. A very skeezy, creepy, icky, foetid little person.
He had pycnodysostosis (the same thing Toulouse Lautrec had, and probably for the same reason) and this had left him bent into a variety of angles. Watching him scuttle across the parking lot was like watching a sack of scrap metal roll down a hill. I never actually saw him fix anything, although he wore a tool belt loaded down with every imaginable hand tool he could hook onto the thing. The tools clanged off the pavement as he scurried along, hitching up his pants every three or four steps as the weight of all that drop-forged steel drug them down.

Nope, I didn't have a lot of sympathy for the guy. I hope he got run over by an elevator. He was a degenerate. Not even an interesting degenerate; a stupid, mean, low-norm degenerate...a spitty, snivelling, dirty minded, creepy little perverted degenerate who always had dried food on his face and filthy hands, and who beat his wife.

Clara, his wife, was built like a pinto, although she lacked the vitiligo...very narrow shoulders, a huge butt, obscenely bucked teeth and no chin. Like her husband, she was also unwashed and skeezy, and also travelling along through life at about 72 mph. Every few days Chris would beat the shit out of her. I never saw her without a black eye and a swollen lip the whole time I worked there.

One day, sitting around the lunch table with the other girls, just casually, out of the blue, Clara invited me to a threesome with her and her husband. This was evidently a new low for the rest of the group because there was actually a pause in the conversation.

I declined.

Forever after that Chris referred to me as the 'stuck-up bitch'. As in "Hey, Stuck-Up Bitch, put that chair out on the sidewalk wouldja 'cause I hafta fix it."

Another thing I hated about Chris was that he ran to whores. He just could not stay off the sidewalk out front where the working girls pretended to wait for the bus. If the office wanted him they never paged him; they called one of the jacked-up rooms and had the maid open the window on the street side and yell down to him. He'd stop in the middle of a conversation and track every woman that crossed his line of vision like a dog. The first thing you learned about Chris was 'stay out of arms reach'.

I was in the office one day taking a draw on my pay when he came scuttling in with the white showing all around his eyes and the color up in his cheeks. "I gotta have 15 dollars!" he says. "It's an emergency! I gotta have 15 dollars right now! Excuse me but this is an emergency!" So I stepped aside and let him take his draw. "Awright! I'm gonna go get a blowjob!" he announces. All delighted. "I am! Only fifteen dollars! I bargained her down from twenty! Wow! Fifteen dollars! Couldjoo believe that?"
Yes, Chris was mighty pleased with himself.

Once he'd gone, I just stood there and tripped. My jaw was just hanging. Meanwhile the manager counted out my draw and looked kind of annoyed. "Midgets got a dick too, you know," he said.

It was one of those moments when you look at a person and realize that not only are you not on the same page, there is no hope of you ever being on the same page, and it is time to simply pack up your tent and ride your camel off into the night.

Me and my camel lasted three months at this place, part time. While I'd been working there I also held two other jobs, both of them at different motels. (Lest you think I was some kind of super go-getter, this was simply the state of the employment market back in the late 1970's in Portland. People were fighting for jobs that consisted of working two days a week. It was bad.) I'd told them all that the one who offered me full-time first got me. I quit the Totem long before that condition ever threatened to become an issue. It was just too much weird, too much crime and skeeze and constant, daily fucking degradation. Most of all, I was absolutely sick to death of everyone assuming I was a pro. That was the worst part. I hated it. Absolutely hated it down to the bottom of my soul.

One day I just stayed on the bus instead of getting out at my stop. Two days later I got my check in the mail .

Two years later I was head of housekeeping at the downtown Hilton.


*the 'trouble room' was for accommodating guests that the desk considered 'suspicious'. In light of what went on every day I shudder to imagine what kind of criteria they were using to define 'suspicious' behavior, though.

That there is what the sapsucker looked like. Those are CLEARLY satellite thingies. I have never seen thingies which were more clearly satellites, in fact. Have you? No you have not.

Monday, March 17, 2008

NEED THE FEEDBACK! come out and comment, lurkers!

I am going away for FOUR DAYS to visit my son!

While I am gone, I want you to blow the doors off my comments lounge by discussing the following:

Have you ever thought about carrying advertising on your blog? Do you think its a good thang or a bad, evil, sell-out thing utterly antithetical to the spirit of blogging and all that is bloggal?

I have been thinking about the whole subject of advertising on blogs. So far the conclusion I've reached is that I would, but ONLY IF I got to choose the ads (in other words, I am NOT INTERESTED in carrying Adsense or Google ads services.) If there is any way to do this without angering the Google Gods or mighty Blogger, do let me in on it. Or fill me in on the whole seamy underworld of internet advertising and why it is spiritually akin to eating crab and stomping kittens. Either way, a lot of you work on the inside and I'd appreciate the education.

I know I can endorse things in the form of a linklist on the sidebar. I just might do that, unless a significant number of you would find that offensive. Yes, thats right. I have a mouth like a sailor and I regularly bash the Catholics but I'm genuinely concerned about offending y'all with TAWDRY EVIDENCE OF TRADE.

This is NOT about needing money. That being said, I would not tear up a check. I got to thinking about the number of things that I think are way underrated and how I'd like to give them a boost, and as long as I have a public venue, why the hell not stick a few badges in my sidebar? Or tell me why thats a bad idea-really. The internet is a whole new playing field and I'd like to do the smart, as well as the right thing.


why you should always cover that sneeze*

I just realized that I've been doing this for a couple of years and yet I've never written much about how I spent ten years of my life. And I know that y'alluns are simply slavering like hounds to hear about the fast paced, exciting world of cleaning mucus off television screens, so here goes._________________________

The first job I got as a maid I got by literally pounding the pavement.

I was living with the Dishrag at the time. We had just discovered I was pregnant, and so in the grand tradition of useless boyfriends everywhere he promptly quit his paying job and devoted himself to his 'music career'. I had just been let go from my own promising career as a sandwich maker at Arbys, and since nobody looked like they were going to pay the bills my pregnant ass hit the bricks.

I walked from 52nd and Powell Boulevard all the way down to 82nd, stopping occasionally to cry, light up another smoke and take a hit off my inhaler. By the time I hit 82nd I simply had no pride left. I was hitting everyplace. I didn't care if I had no idea what the place produced or if I could do it; I applied. Gas stations. Beauty salons. A place that sold Mexican pottery and bottle rockets out of a van in a field. Everywhere.

This is not to say that the jobs weren't out there. Every time I sat down to rest at a bus shelter a car would pull up, and I'd have to turn down an offer of temporary employment. Sometimes my prospective employer was so eager to take me on that he stayed alongside me as I walked, and tried to negotiate a price. Nothing says 'chin up, little buckaroo!' like being followed by an undercover cop who simply cannot believe that you aren't a prostitute, while he desperately tries to trick you into naming a sex act and quoting a price.

I was pretty damn footsore by the time I walked into the lobby of 'D' motel on 82nd and lit up a smoke (back then it wasn't considered bad form to smoke in a job interview, and besides, I was kinda past hope at this point.) I was sniping a handful of matches out of a bowl on the counter when the manager came out of his apartment. I gave him my 'looking for a job' spiel...and be damned if the guy didn't hand me an application and tell me to come back the next day. Quickly regaining my savoir faire, I laughed in his face.

Part of that was because he had about 30 of those small pink plastic curlers stuck all over his remember those? I could smell perm solution or something going on too. I had no idea what to think of this. So I enquired, tactfully, 'Whats with all that shit in your hair?' and he just smiled and told me he was styling it. It ended up looking like this:
I know because I did come back the next day, and I was hired. For some reason.

This place was pretty typical low-end lodging. It just missed being a hotsheet place, and we tried to keep the prostitution down, but we didn't attract many vacationing families either. Mostly depressed salesmen, people bumped off their flights, and criminals of various kinds. Working at this place was a real education.

Maid work is not a skilled profession, nor does it take any particular smarts or even a working knowledge of English. It is a great job for people who are down on their luck or have problems with authority- both of which described me- since you operate under minimal supervision for the main part of the day and you don't have to maintain much of an appearance beyond 'being clothed'. All you need to do is show up for work and do it. And that suited me down to the ground.

Most of the women I worked with spoke using that hard Oregon twang that says 'I went to Eagle Crick high school but I never gradjiated.' Most were divorced. A few were married. Some of them were working a second-income job, but most of the married women were sole support for a family and an alcoholic or disabled spouse. Disability, Unemployment or Welfare supplemented their income. It was standard for their hours to be scheduled so that they still qualified for a full grant with medical and food stamps, a practice which can get a place shut down but was nonetheless common. (After I had my daughter I played this game too. It really helped me get out of the poverty hole, and I owe those employers a tribute of thanks.)

My manager, 'C' was a really good guy. He ran the place like a charity, truth be told; anyone with a sob story could get a break. His useless nephew worked there or pretended to; mainly what he did was wander around stoned, bother the prostitutes out on the side street and pretend to paint parking lines. The maintenance guy spent most of his time with his head over the tank of the lawnmower huffing fumes. He was just out of military jail for drug trafficking. He was also an acidhead and was completely in love with me, not that those states were mutually necessary but there ya go.

One of our maids was the sweetest, chirpiest, nicest little drunk with the best work ethic you ever saw; the designated 'pet old lady' that every place I ever worked had. These poor things were usually widows living on Social Security, barely able to crip along behind their carts. They always kept one of their chemical bottles topped up with bourbon or vodka. They were given an easy string...usually on the first floor down at the end of the building in what they called the 'smokers'. Every month a couple of the younger girls would come in and give the smokers a thorough going over so we could keep our 'A' rating. (The 'smokers' were the cheap rooms, and the customers who rented them weren't the complaining type.)
My head maid was living under an assumed name and identity because her ex was stalking her. A couple of times he found her. She came in so beat up one morning that we called the police and made her give a report. The rest of us were on the same loser hit parade, down to the new hire: pregnant, unmarried, living with a drug-addled 'professional musician'.

Surprisingly this place did not see the kind of spectacular rock-star messes that the more expensive places I worked at did. We did see more than our share of weirdos, though. We had one nice little old man move in and decide he wanted to die there. A couple of U-Haul vans showed up one day with his entire collection of sparkly evening gowns. He liked sparkly. He could be found wandering around in the parking lot on a nice evening, dragging his wheeled oxygen bottle behind him, smoking an unfiltered camel as he tottered along in one of his pretty dresses, wearing the worlds biggest gold bar mitzvah pumps. He'd wave and smile. Nobody had any idea what he was supposed to be dying of, but he was convinced he was, and he liked us for some reason. After he left the sheetrock had to be stripped off the studs and all the bedding, linens and curtains thrown away. The carpet-you don't wanna know.

Back then the customers we hated to see were the Japanese businessmen. Oregon was being purchased by the Japanese at the time, and the little sapsuckers were everyplace. Every single one of them smoked like a fiend and lied about it (presumably to get a better room)...rotten, compost-smelling cigarettes with a picture of a bird on the package. Not even the most desperate smokers would bother to filch one. With the smoking came the coughing, and with the coughing came the wads of snot. For some reason the television screen was a favorite place to leave these particular souvenirs from overseas. It was really horrible. I mean, a television screen way up high on a wall-mounted arm is the last place you expect to run into something ooky, and yet you'd be dusting along and bliiiiiiikkkkkk, ah geeziz shit you've smeared a big old wad of snot across the glass and there it is, dangling and swinging from a string like a horrible cave worm. I said fuck it and started dusting with toilet sanitizer, even though it took the fake wood finish off the plastic.

Even worse were the pipe smokers, the ones who smoked Borkum Riff. I remember taking mattresses out to the dumpster, upholstered chairs, innumerable sets of curtains, simply because there was no getting rid of that horrible vanilla stench AT ALL, not back then. What the fuck can this garbage have been doing to their lungs? Wreaking a horrific karmic payback, one hopes.

The worst of all? Pimps. I have never met up with any other creature in my life as filthy, nasty and downright disgusting as a pimp. And I mean the oldschool meaning of the word; a guy who ran a string of whores. For all their money and flash, these guys were vile. They had a signature funk repetoire too.

Every single surface where an ass could rest or a hand could be placed was coated with a foul, freaky brown combination of grease, nicotene, wine, cigarette ash, various bodily secretions and hair. The tub. The mirrors. The walls. EVERYWHERE. It was like Mark Trails Nature Journal-'the presence of the Pimp is given away by the distinctive and uniform coating of filth which adorns his surroundings.' I don't think any of them ever figured out what toilet paper was for; they left ass stripes on the sheets, the bedspreads, on wadded-up shirts in the bathroom behind the door, on the hems of the curtains...they pissed in the wastepaper baskets and in the beds, there was food smeared everywhere, ashtrays dumped in the dresser drawers....and the sons of bitches ALWAYS STOLE THE TOWELS. These habits crossed all racial and national barriers. It never varied. Not in the lousiest place I ever worked at, not at the classiest. Pimps are the vilest form of life on the face of the earth.

Speaking of pimps, this is the place I was working when I was shot at.

All you really have to do to advance in the ranks at a motel is keep the thievery down to a minimum and continue to show up on time. Soon I was head of housekeeping, which meant a raise and a whole bunch of keys to keep track of. It also meant that I was in charge of rousting. To this day I have hard calcium deposits on the first two knuckles of each hand. Those came from rapping loudly on solid doors. I went around at 10:00 am and again at 11, knocking authoritatively, waking up the profoundly partied out and telling them it was time to get the fuck down the road.

Everyone had to check out by 11: 30. If your shit was still in the room after that time, we put a steel case over the doorknob called a 'lockout' and you got charged for another day. In order to get your crap, you had to pay up. My job was to inspect these rooms for valuables and evidence of illegal goings-on, make a report, and attach the lockout. You can see what kind of potentially dangerous situation this could be.

On this one occasion I was doing my first 'wake up' run down the line. When I knocked on the door of this particular room I heard what sounded like someone hitting the other side of the door with a rolled up magazine-THWACK THWACK THWACK THWACK- and figured "Ok, well they're up," and moved on. I came back later to clean the room, and thats when I noticed the four shiny new indentations on the inside surface of the door.

Yeah, I freaked. I also showed up for work the next day.

Anything that was left behind and remained unclaimed for 90 days went to the maids. We'd put sticky notes with our names written on them on the items in storage and if we still wanted them after the time was up we'd flip a coin. Of course, if anything of an illegal nature happened to fall into our clutches it never made it as far as storage, with the exception of the occasional hand gun. People were always leaving guns behind. We'd call 'C'. He'd put on a pair of gloves and come pick it up and put it in the office safe. The police didn't like us much (being scum of the earth motel employees and all), and...well, yeah, fine, most of my co-workers had warrants out. Anyway nobody wanted anything to do with fingerprints on guns.

It became clear early on that there were two main stereotypes associated with motel maids. The first was that they're included in the price per night. It wasn't that way. Maid work is hard work, and most maids are there to earn an honest paycheck. Anyway, the last thing you felt like doing was giving one of the pigs you just cleaned up after a little play. I have only worked one place where the maids tricked, and as soon as that became clear I left (although therein lies a tale, lemme tell ya). This is not to say that we were not a fun loving bunch; any given group of maids is rastier and ranker by far than the scurviest, saltiest restaurant crew you've ever worked with.

The younger women were tough, if nothing else, hanging on by their teeth and fingernails to keep their kids fed. A lot of the older women had come up the hard way...cut firewood, picked apples, worked as laborers in the shipyards, turned tricks in logging towns on the coast. Maid work for them was nothing; it was easy money, the best job they'd ever had. We younger girls would start bragging about our mileage and they would not only shut us up, they'd leave us slack-jawed. These were the first older women I'd ever met who not only admitted to having had a wild youth, but were proud of it.

Let me return to that 'honest paycheck' issue. Earning honest money is a point of pride with maids. These are women who have difficult lives for the most part, but who make the decision to take the high road, even when it means cleaning up after a suicide. That honestly describes most of the maids I worked with. Of course, so does 'former inmate', 'addict', and 'all six of my kids have different fathers'. As well as 'sticky fingers'.

Which brings me to the second, and unfortunately true stereotype: maids are thieves.
Yup. Lots of them are. And the ones who thieve keep the stuff they steal and show it off to each other like trophies. It's weird. Put your valuables in the office safe. Maids make minimum wage. If you trash your room, bet your bottom dollar that somethings going to get ganked.

On a lesser rung of the same ladder, most maids will go through your shit while you're gone. I did.** It started out as part of my job when I did lockouts, and I returned to it every now and then just for something to do. Why? Sheer nosiness. Information, too.

That's one of the unspoken-but-understood parts of the job...everyone reacts in horror to the very suggestion of going through a strangers belongings, but it is expected that you will. In defense of that I'll say that it's often very good to know what you're dealing with when you have a long-term guest, because long term guests in low-end lodging are often shady characters. If you want to keep the police on your side, you contribute information. Word gets around that you co-operate and some of the criminal traffic drops off too. Thats life in the big shitty.

Which is not to say that we really do it for that reason because we don't. Oh yes. We not only go through your shit, we compare notes and laugh at you behind your back, too. Hiding your double-ended dildo under the mattress is fooling nobody, Rev. Miller. We make the beds, after all.
Yes, you never forget the first time you tug a bottom sheet out from between the mattress and box spring and it brings a vaseline-smeared vibrator flying out with it, and same hits you in the leg. And turns on. And lies on the rug going 'RRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrr' while you hop and flap and go EW EW EW EW EW. You know what happens then? I make your bed, and your little buddy ends up on your pillow.
Have a nice stay.


*and now for the answer to todays question 'why you should always cover that sneeze': because if you don't you risk getting window cleaner tipped into your bottle of japanese nasal spray.
hey, respect is a two-way street.

Of course, if you happened to have a bag of weed, I pinched out of it. You bet I did. Are you going to complain? No you aren't, you lawbreaker you. By the way, I dipped into your painkillers too. Lock your suitcases, people. You're dealing with minimum wage workers here, and the swankier the establishment, the more they resent you. You'll be leaving a tip whether you choose to or not, in any event.

a baaaaaaaaaaaaad mother-

Last week at the library I decided to pick up a collection of Steven Hawkings' essays, 'Black Holes and Baby Universes'. Unlike his American edition of 'A Brief History of Time', 'Black Holes' carries a very pleasant picture of Mr. Hawking. This Steven looks like he might actually know a couple of dirty jokes and be up for a glass of beer. In contrast, 'Brief History's EVIL HAWKING DARK LORD OF THE INFINITE looks like he'd have no problem using the Force on your sad ass for breaking the yolk on his fried eggs or something.

As I read the essays I went back to the picture a few times, thinking 'Check out this ordinary looking guy with his glasses here. What a hell of a mind you have." And lest that seem to be damning the man with faint praise, know that I approach very little in this world worshipfully; and so I'm approaching Hawking as simply a guy who wrote a book. That explained, it's an exciting book about a very abstract subject, expressed with the most glorious lucidity by a nerdy looking man who looks kind of like the counter guy at UPS.

We know how I am about NERDS.

He seems like he must be a pretty good guy. He had a total slacker attitude growing up. He barely slid into college. Once he was there , he joined the sculling team. Not your ordinary pocket-protector nerd. I mean, Jesus...can you scull? You can not. Chaucers' Bitch can. Go check her out and tell me you'd want her pissed off at you. Hawking must have been a fairly hard little sonofabitch, in that sexy ' evil scrawny British fucker' kind of way. He was kinda cute too. Check him out in the b/w photo here. Hell yeah.

He didn't stop being bad when he got sick, either. He SOARED.

Yes; the man has a great mind, but having a great mind and being hard enough to push your views to the forefront of academe are two different things entirely. Furthermore, he's tough enough to take criticism that would demolish me. Extraordinarily well-informed criticism. Also more than his share of really evil, low criticism in many cases. He faces it up, and pretty damned graciously too, considering that 'evil and low' seems to be an accepted norm in academic circles.

Hell yes, I'd do him.

And don't start with me. They all look like that... right before they come.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The sum greater than the parts

My Biker and I are fricken' GODS in the kitchen. He and I constitute 2 halves of one whole culinary genius.
I don't mean in terms of technique, although we have our shit down. No, I mean in terms of coming up with recipes and combinations that are absolutely excellent. I can honestly say that with very few exceptions, the best meals I have ever had have come out of my own kitchen, and the Biker was the one who made them possible.

When we started out, we both maintained separate batteries de cuisine. It was goofy. Over the years we both learned to use the others tools and quit sniffing at each others preferences and methods. That coming together just deepened over the years. We both like the same cooking shows and we both take food seriously, but we'll get completely different things out of a given episode or recipe. But those things WORK when they're combined. He'll ask me questions, I'll ask him questions, we'll plot and plan and throw out suggestions to one another. We've learned from each other, and joined forces, and...shit, I dunno. Its just been black magic.

Me, I'm the studious one; I do the research and experiment with the theory. I can prepare pretty much anything I can read about because I have a feel for the 'craft' and food as a medium. But the Biker can perfect it. The Biker is the flavor genius. He is the one who can tell what something is going to taste like simply by knowing what the prep technique is, and know where it's going-or, what the goal of the recipe is, if that makes sense. He has a memory for flavor that is uncanny. His instinct for meal combinations is inspired, and his intuition for knowing exactly which technique will get him the result he's looking for is too.

Take for example our latest triumph: the Wendy's Spicy Baconburger, improved.

OK, it isn't fois gras with shaved truffles.

This is one in a number of fast food attempts to appeal to a growing ethnic market in this part of the country. It fails miserably. I went right out and tried it, certain that the combination of jalapenos, smoked bacon, jack cheese and a burger sounded like a natural.

It isn't, not the way Wendy's does it. And thats a rare failure for Wendys. They generally put out a quality product. The Cheddar Burger they came out with awhile back was worth going out of your way for. But on this one they miss the mark.

The advertisement caught the Bikers attention this afternoon, and I explained to him where the burger falls down-too many patties with too high a fat content, canned jalapeno rings piled in an unwieldy heap in the center of the sandwich,underdone bacon thats salty and flabby; pepper jack cheese adding nothing but more fat to the equation. It's like biting into a goopy mess; hot bland candlewax with sesame seeds.

"But the combination should work," he said. "What if....the bacon was very well done, very crispy and well drained. And the number of the patties cut back to one; two is overkill." The jalapenos could be retained, but they would be chopped up and pressed into the melted cheese on top. That cheese would be cojack, which has got a little character, not pepperjack, which is too mild and loses it's identity behind the authority of the jalapeno and the bacon. No seasonings whatsoever...the flavors of the ingredients would be enough, and would 'happen', if you get my meaning, in the mouth as you chewed it. Sliced tomato and onion to add flavors, crunch, juice and a temperature difference. No lettuce, because we wanted to build on the savory flavors, and besides, lettuce wilts and would take away from the crunch. We wanted this to have the classic hamburger combination of hot and cold, crunchy and juicy, and these things have to stay separate from each other. This is a hamburger that you don't get sick of after a few bites, because every bite has just a little bit of a difference from the next one.

Have you ever though about it like that? It's true. There are a lot of different things that go into making something taste good, even something plebian like a hamburger. Temperature, resistance, mouth-feel...its interesting. The Biker has an instinct for it.

And by God, it was a revelation. It was FANTASTIC. I feel kind of bad for Wendys now. They had a really good idea, but they didn't take it far enough. If they'd had my Biker on their team they'd be making millions of dollars off this thing.

Smokin' Biker Burgers

1 small can Herdez sliced jalapenos in escabeche, chopped
hamburger, medium fat ( not extra lean or regular grade; right in the middle.)
thick sliced hickory smoked bacon, fried very crispy and well drained
sliced ripe tomato
sliced white onion
co-jack cheese
sesame buns

whatever condiments you like on your burger; i use just plain ketchup, the biker uses mayo.

cook the burgers medium well and drain.
top with chopped jalapeno,
place a slice of co-jack on top and
melt quickly under the broiler.
top with room temp bacon, broken into pieces (not crumbled.)
stack on bun with cold tomato and onion.

And that's it. Simple, right? It's heaven.