Thursday, July 28, 2016

Love and Hate

Life is hard. There is no eloquence or flowery prose to dress that feeling properly. It may be ironic that one needs to firmly grasp that concept to live a proper and full life as well. It's as essential as coming to grips with the idea that you will one day die and that everything around you does the same. It's not morbid, though rather quintessential to the pursuit of beauty, to acknowledge that life is brutal, cruel, and often times shorter than desired. This was the world before humanity became civilized (in some ways), and we have surely done many things to make life both easier to pass through and harder to live with. Our greatest common enemy is also our closest companion: the hate we hold in our hearts.


Hate is a terrible word. Short, brutish, harsh, pointless. At what point did humanity decide that this word was even necessary. Can you imagine how fucking stupid the first person who said that looked? The only thing that can be certain is that the concept of hate is purely a product of human interaction. It requires the object to understand the emotion. One may despise mosquitoes. Mosquitoes do not give a fuck. Therefore, it is a pure human emotion, one that can only exist in the concept of our lives. Animals can be jealous, mean, indifferent, sad, but hating is purely ours.

It's not a young concept. A famous man preached against it in the desert thousands of years ago. He was killed. A man once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." He was shot. So maybe the downside of hate isn't the best idea to espouse. Humanity loves to hate. There are millions of people making ludicrous sums of money tearing people down. If any do, there aren't many making money building them up. To what end does hate help us live our lives. You could argue in favor of cynicism and skepticism, but at what point did hatred do anything except cut someone else down.

To avoid the hypocrisy that this surely reeks of, I must acknowledge the seething hate that exists inside of me. There is a long list of things that I hate, most of which would surely paint me as a decent person . It's easy to say I hate people who defend rapists, everyone on Twitter, stupidity, the one-percenters, or war. Less understandable is telling people you hate them without any justification, which I do from time to time. Perhaps belittling someone for their terrible beliefs is not the nicest of things either. I am remarkably well trained at insulting people, which at times crosses the line into darkness. So, this is less a lecture and more of a reminder for myself as well.


Fear engenders the same reaction from most, but that comparison is unfair. There is nothing wrong with fear. Fear is a healthy emotion. Fearing death is beautiful if only because that means you love life. I won't shame you for fearing the city I live in, for that fear comes from the unknown. The monster lurking behind fear is hate. When people are spreading fear, they aren't trying to warn you to your benefit, they are searching for hate. Hate is the weapon that feeds on your fears and makes you weak. Weakness in turn allows hate to flourish, and the brutal cycle of humanity continues. One may think that hate makes them strong, protects them from external forces, but in reality, it tears you apart from the inside.

In essence, you no longer fear anything, but you instead hate everything. The vitriol that we spew is not a product of our fear nor our ignorance, but rather that purer bile that poisons our hearts. We all hate because we are all the same, which is perhaps the most ridiculous circular argument against hate. There is no reason to fear a human without hate in their heart; unfortunately, those humans are utopian creations without the flaws that make us beautiful and terrible to behold. A greater man than me said, "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." That is catchy. It also is terrible sentiment. Fear losing love, Fear bad health, Fear empty pints. Fear losing your inner child. Fear all of the hate.


Love is hard. There is no eloquence or flowery prose to dress that feeling properly. Many have tried, some better than others, most better than I. The struggle just to say "I love you", both indicates the importance of said words and the idiocy of humanity. Like all words, they are meaningless with the emotions laden into them. I still struggle to convey my affection properly, leaving too many beautiful things unsaid to the people I love. In turn, by withholding love, I destroy the majority of what I hold dear, be it relationships, friendships, family, and my life. So let me change my tune and tell you something; love is easy.

Living a life without love is hard. People thank God all of their lives for all of the little bullshit, but if you look back on everything beautiful in your life, the invisible hand is love. Without digressing too far, love is the only religion worth saving and the only God worth following. If you do not kneel at love's altar, you are not worth saving. Love brought you into this world, love will follow you out, and love will be the driving factor in your quality of life. I'm not even talking about romantic love, you know the one where you are in love and then you aren't like flipping a light switch. Romance where you sit on the same side of the table because you are insufferable or destroy another person to make yourself happy. Romantic love is hard, loving is not.

Love is the proper response to hate, though that may not seem natural or fair in practice. Pigmentation. Religion. Sexual Orientation. Political Affiliation. Money. All of these things which divide us are irrelevant without hate. To change FDR's statement for the better, say instead, "the only thing we have to hate is hate itself". Hate simplifies the complexity that existence brings. It cheapens your emotions, it lessens your triumphs, and it kills all the beauty around you and inside of you.

Love is an amazing word. Serene, succinct, feminine. It rolls off the tongue gently, embraces you in a hug. It gets thrown around pointlessly and yet still remains cherished. Perhaps, love is the most hallowed of words. It has no boundaries unless we create them ourselves, a wholly idiotic human tendency. Can you imagine how fucking brilliant the first person who said that looked? Can you imagine how much better life would be if we all were loving rather than hateful? Probably not.

Nevertheless, that doesn't stop us from trying it out on an individual basis. Love life, love other people, love passionate romance, love anything and everything. First of all, love yourself. Then approach the world with that love. I can't guarantee that there won't be sadness, pain, or death because these all come in life. I can guarantee that our lives when embraced with loving arms will be richer and more beautiful than the ones we are living right now.

Love is music, too.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Problem with a Post-Racial World

When people unaffected by racism talk about it, there is a aura of disbelief. This is inevitably followed by denial. These people tend to be white males who don't have any affiliation with anything remotely urban. They'll spout facts at you. Sure, more white people are killed by cops each year. They also make up a majority of the population, so this quite obviously is a loaded statistic. Sure, the world would be better if no one cared about racial equality. This is turn requires racial equality to exist. The final straw may be when they ask African Americans where the outrage is when they kill each other. Now, you've crossed a line into some insane world where you think the police are an equivalent of a street gang; or shooting unarmed civilians is the equivalent of a turf war, a drug deal gone bad, or a jilted spouse.

I'm not writing this to insult everyone by attacking their straw-man arguments. However, let's consider that you are right, and if there wasn't racism, all these problems would go away. This is probably the most fantastic of arguments because many of us just have racism ingrained in our being as a child. So personal racism is there and cannot be destroyed, but I could imagine a world without institutional racism. Racism is the product of people being assholes, racial inequality is the product of us putting the wrong people in charge at every level for perpetuity. For this exercise, if we imagine that there is no institutional racism, sexism, or homophobia, we can also imagine that laws guarding against those things are necessary. So, no more affirmative action, title IX, marriage equality laws, etc., etc.

The first thing one notices about this world is the lack of a story-line. Cop shootings draw attention to the plight of African Americans. Now, they are just poor and disenfranchised, part of the forgotten masses. In a sense, they are now the same as poor white rural Americans, but entrenched in an urban setting that does not allow for any upward movement and has far higher costs of living. While they are no longer targeted by police, they still incur the majority of municipal fines and tax penalties, which one may state shouldn't affect lawful citizens. Those "lawful" citizens have never had to choose between fixing a taillight and feeding their kids. Those "lawful" citizens are in better school districts in better parts of town, and got to go to college because of that. The poor cannot move into these districts, not restricted by skin color but rather by simple economics.

Secondly, the murders and drug problems that plague poor black neighborhoods do not go away. They are not a product of race; they are a problem of socioeconomic destruction. While the race element has gone, the ticky-tack nature of policing drug users continues. Parents still end up in jail, schools still lack funding, and kids are lost into the abyss that the hood becomes. Life is a vicious cycle, especially when in comes to economics. You may not understand how this works, but look at who we are. If you were born into a white middle class family living in the suburbs or a small town, now you have a white middle class family living in a small town. Upward mobility is a lie on an individual basis, and in a post-racial, world no one cares about pulling an entire group up. Sure, you could burnout and drop down a class, or be the .1% that plays sports, cheats their way up the political ladder, or is famous in some other way.

This is the crux of the people who would tell you All Lives Matter, that African Americans are no different outside of skin color. Nevertheless, that racism (both open racism and more insidious government actions) has changed the way our country's wealth is distributed. The ultimate differences between human beings is not their color, sex, orientation, nor religion. It's the amount of money that they can put in their pockets, and the means to have a legal way of obtaining that money. Racism and police violence are the tip of the iceberg. Eliminating those does not put money into poor neighborhoods, nor does it build them good schools, healthy grocery stores, health care options, and those churches that promote community pride, Equality is not people begging for hand outs; equality is begging people to strip off the chains of economic destruction.

That is the problem we face and why Bernie Sanders made such a push with America's youth. It is a post-racial problem for this generation, because rising costs have made even getting back to your parents wealth an impossible climb. So while the older generations worry about their tax brackets and raising rent prices, the youth of America is slowly drowning in their greed. The only difference race makes is that every African American gets caught in the flood, because we have systematically put them in harm's way since the rich, powerful Africans shipped them to rich, powerful white people. I don't want you to imagine being in their place, I want them to imagine being in your place and then have the opportunity to be whomever they choose. Or at least, to be as fucked economically as the rest of us. Like launching a rocket into space, the hardest part is breaking free of the inherent chains pulling us towards the muck, keeping us grounded.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Vote None of the Above

My parents used to buy us cheap B-movies back in the day. (This is not another story about how amazing my parents are.) It got me the classic John Candy two-pack, where he ends up in some sort of magic house type thing. Seriously, they were terrible enough that you can't remember the name. One of those two-packs was fro Richard Pryor, the first movie of which was Carwash. Yes, they made a movie completely around the song "Carwash", and Richard Pryor had a five minute cameo in it. The second, which may be pertinent than this digression, was "Brewster's Millions" a remake of an older movie actually starring Richard Pryor.* The premise of the movie is irrelevant, but essentially he had to spend 30 million in 30 days and end up with zero assets to claim his larger inheritance.

*Before anyone lectures me, I realize it was a book and play before. I am not 131 years old.

At some point, he gets the idea to blow all of his money by running for mayor of New York City, but after realizing he can't have the job and get the inheritance, he withdraws and campaigns for a write-in vote of none of the above.

I'm a firm believer in the impotence of democracy; democracy is a shell for oligarchies, plutocracies, and an occasional dictatorship (looking at you Russia). Yes, I am a cynic, but have you seen this country? If you need a better symbol for impotence than the Democratic Party, you're out of luck. To be fair, the Republicans are still trying to find their way out of the primordial muck that God created on one of those fucking days. Now, you are faced with two real choices, and some peripheral choices. A good analogy is there is a bloated orange rapist invading your home, you have no trouble killing men, you allegedly offed that one guy back in the nineties. You could choose to shoot the rapist or yourself. Or you could fire your guy wildly off into the night hoping that your bullet somehow triggers a chain reaction that causes him to be mauled by cute little puppies while money rains from the skies. I'm sorry that you had to be Hillary Clinton in this exercise, but who else is going to lose a presidential race by self-inflicted means.

See, that is what voting for a third-party is like. It's an exercise of hope in futility, compounded by how hard you actually believe America is a country that currently cares about improving itself. You are the smartest of all the idiots and, on that, I congratulate you. I personally fuck up a ton because I'm relatively smart. So let's acknowledge something right now, Hillary Clinton is going to win this election; not because she is the best choice (though she may be in these slim pickings) but rather by default. You may believe with good reason that she is a criminal, but to rise to the political elite, you must either beat them or scam your way to them. They are all criminals, in one way or another. Donald Trump may be the most entertaining and scary of historical candidates, even more if you realize he could do this again in four years. He is not going to get close to the win, because of demographics, his own failures, and general apathy from the conservative establishment.

So you're a cynic like me, and you're thinking, why do I even vote? Well...

Well, that's just disconcerting. Is he implying that he's gonna shoot all the politicians? That just doesn't seem like effective political maneuvering. Might be more illegal than Hillary's doings and that's pretty illegal.

Don't worry though, he's not winning. Especially, seeing how much he hates farmers.

Crime is caused by career politicians (says a former Speaker of the House? Running for Governor?), not social structures that disenfranchise poor Americans yet give them access to illegally obtained substances and firearms. Note how this starts with a key Republican talking point: they really hate black people that aren't okay with the status quo. Why would she think that way? Here's a picture of Catharine Hanaway's father trying to pour non-dairy creamer in coffee:

*Not actually her father, but probably someone of similar upbringing
How can we know if she is even capable of pouring creamer in coffee, an essential part of being the yes-woman in a large conglomeration of bigots and assholes.

So here's the deal, you need to vote. I don't really care if you are a Republican or Democrat. Sure, the Republicans are easier to make fun of because they are batshit insane these days, but I'm sure there are decent men out there that are more likely part of the establishment, because decent men aren't typically loose-cannon dumbasses. There are decent Republicans and moderate Democrats that I could support. Hell, the Democrat running against these idiots for Governor is a middle of the road guy, who seems to have a platform of, "Hey, that's just common sense and decency; also, I'm pro-business in our state." There are local and state issues that need to be supported (see infrastructure and education bills) and some that need to be squashed (see anything sexist, racist, or homophobic that the teabaggers came up with this time). You don't have to care about an increasingly pointless Presidential election to make a difference, because it's possible that local democracy still carries some weight. Just go ahead and vote, and for President I suggest candidate "None of the Above".

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Myopia and the Far Right

Note: Like most things, I wrote this a while ago, so it may seem dated. Sometimes, it is best to sit on one's anger, instead of blasting it immediately. RIP Rubio For President

What do you stand for?

It's a simple question, that encapsulates the entirety of your personal political platform. It is the question Rick Rubio has no answer for and the reason his entire party is doomed. Its constituents stand for something, whether that is of merit or not, matters little. Say what you will, but Ted Cruz has a specific platform, a specific message. Donald Trump has the "Fuck that guy", "Fuck you", and definitely "Fuck Those People" message on lock. A man who essentially is running a joke campaign is destroying the Republican establishment; perhaps because the runner-up is a scarier option and the third option is a vague establishment charming doofus (much like the President we elected in 2000).

So as a Republican, given three terrible to uninspiring choices, you have to ask what you stand for to pick among them. That doesn't help. They all hate women, or at least Rubio has to get on a stage and parrot that. (Trump loves women in a way, but his family is too easy to joke about) They all love guns, but who doesn't.* They all hate Obamacare and generally any policy that helps poor Americans, because poor Americans don't pay their bills. Except for taxes, the poor and Republicans hate those and especially the things they provide like education and roads. They especially hate immigrants despite two of the candidates having Hispanic surnames and the third is a notorious importer of wives.**

*gun violence victims, their families, honest, intelligent cops, unarmed African Americans

From the other side, it's obvious. One backs Trump or Cruz and watches the whole thing burn to the ground. I don't mean the United States. The only way either of those nimrods get elected is if women suddenly stop voting or stop being far more reasonable than men. Just like nominating Sarah Palin in 2008, the nominations would set the party back even farther by alienating the key demographics that are still rising in this country. Women, gone. Non-white males, gone. Moderate republicans, somewhere else.*

*These people may no longer exist, like the Yetis of American politics. I think they are "independents", or Democrats, the moderate ineffectual types like pretty much every Democrat in Congress

The Broad Brush

The key to Trump's success is his ability to keep the eyes on him by making several broad proposals that are either impossible to implement or hilariously unconstitutional. Deny entry to every Muslim. Check. Build a giant wall between the United States and Mexico. Check. "Make America Great Again"* Check. I Love Troops and using warfare as a means of creating peace. Check. Let's find a stock photo of someone he is appealing to here.

*Of course, these kids aren't of voting age. Wait, they are and they have kids of their own they raised to be just as fucking dumb. (Saddest thing about this photo is they got their wish and essentially segregated the world by insulating themselves from the rest of humanity. Then, blamed the empty cities for being unsafe.)

The term uneducated gets tossed around at the Trump supporters, as if intelligence is the primary qualifier to making good decisions. I'm an uneducated man, and I can tell the difference between being a decent person and just living for yourselves. The above policies are directed at a certain type of voter. This voter has a family, is most likely a good parent by most measures, is probably one of the hard-working poor that Democrats are known for fighting for, and is most likely living in a suburban or rural area. They hunt, which is a perfectly banal activity. They drive American cars to dirty jobs of hard labor. They drink American beers, owned by foreign companies, Most telling, if you talked to them about anything but politics, they would probably seem like the nicest people you ever met,


Family is all that matters. One works hard to feed his kids, kids his wife had because that was her duty as prescribed in the scripture. He does not identify as poor, though he unmistakably is, he is a working class man, a sideways shot at his neighbors who can't find jobs or work white collar jobs that pay more. The racism is practical to him. Hispanics are taking working class jobs around him, African Americans do project their legitimate problems as the fault of the general white population He's never met an Asian or Muslim in real life, so they are all just the ones he sees on Fox News. Terrorists. Foreigners.

His father didn't have to deal with this America. His ancestors lived in a past free of African Americans protesting unfair treatment. Women were not fighting to be equals while maintaining the right to be a woman in control of their own bodies. Immigrants did not want to come here to escape warfare or poverty. There were never people who wanted equal opportunities to just love someone. His parents never asked for handouts, and will not receive them in the future because of government entitlement programs.

He lives in a house in a community that has had one murder in the past ten years. There hasn't been a (reported) rape (that went to trial) in that time. Not a single house invasion. Yet he holds his gun as if any of those things is imminent, It's an assault rifle because inaccurate bullet spray has never been known to kill the wrong person. He thinks his job is constantly under threat, despite the fact that no one wants that job. He worries about terrorism as if it's a larger problem than his neighbor cooking meth across the street.* He doesn't worry that forays into an endless quagmire of imperialist and religious violence will kill that nice boy down the street with no money or college prospects.**

*actually happened to me in a small town, not going for a stereotype there
**this too

That is the problem. The far right (and far left, to be honest) are playing short games. They want their situation to be better, but the truth is if you are in your thirties working a dead-end job with a family, that isn't getting better in your lifetime. Once you eliminate yourself and peers from the beneficiaries category, where does that lead us? We need more immigrants. We need more ideas, We need equality. More than anything, we need to fight for education just as hard as we fight for our guns. If you change the game, your children will not have to fight tooth and nail to feed their family. They won't have to be scared to walk the streets of any large city or small town. They won't have to go overseas to show how great America is, people will come like they did at the turn of the last century to marvel at it, cracks and all.

Right now, the Republican candidates want to play Americans for their fears. Why is there no one out there asking you what you are hopeful for rather than what you are afraid of? Why can't we look outside our own existence and first look to fix America's real problems? Or on a greater level, humanity's flaws.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

In a Land Without Opportunity, Bernie Sanders Becomes the Reluctant Choice

As a preface, I am a not a Bernie Sanders supporter. I have no horse in this race and most likely will never fully commit to a candidate, outside the final choice of this candidate is not Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. There are many ways I agree with Bernie Sanders though my pragmatism does not lend to being an idealist. I think you should be able to afford to go to college; Bernie thinks we should foot the bill. I think we should increase the tax burden on the 1%; Bernie almost wants to bury them. It goes on and on; he wants utopia and I just want something to happen that is remotely positive. He isn't even the best Presidential candidate on his party's slight ticket.

One can almost feel for Hillary Clinton, whose legacy at this point is almost doomed. She's always been too late and always opposed by men (a horribly misogynistic but key distinction) with clearer ideas of how they would run this country. Obama presented a vague but rosy picture. Sanders presents a clear, unwavering, and ludicrously impossible picture. Clinton does not flip-flop but rather saunters between concepts that she probably doesn't support. This at worst paints her as racist, and at best as someone actually able to deal with the impossible bargaining that is being President of the United States.

However, the train keeps a rolling for Bernie Sanders, and as long as the youth continues to show up, the pressure lies on Hillary's campaign. She can't point to primary wins in southern states (which are sure to follow) as consolation as Sanders continues to gain in the key states where Democrats recent domination has provided two easy election victories. The scary proposal that either Democrat winning has at a break even affect on women's issue as opposed to say whatever monster the Republicans conger up, is even more in her detriment. The history of electing a female president does not even come into play, not nearly as much as the right wing's universal hatred of the Clintons, which spreads into swing voting moderates far more than one would hope.

Personally, I think Clinton makes the better President. Many of the successes of the Obama administration are subtle, and I doubt Sanders has that ability. I imagine a Bernie Sanders presidency is going to be a lot of toddlers trying to pound squares into circle holes. Of course, the other toddlers may be biting each other, so maybe no one will notice. I think that socialism works on a small scale, but the problems of the United States do not compare with the problems of Denmark. One could say that the United States military is a albatross leading us to budgetary shipwreck; one might say that is the only lock on the door holding out global chaos. Others may say that college is too expensive; some may say who cares if the people we give it to for free waste it (stop looking at me, I can feel the anger). Some oppose health care for everyone, because they are monsters; others like me realize that getting proper care is just as expensive now, because people who gamble with human health and, in the end, lives are the real monsters.

So we get to the anger, which is the crux of the 2016 Election cycle. There are two angers. One is from a populace who feels disenfranchised. The Hispanics have claimed all of their low paying jobs. A black man is in the White House, a black man who they refuse to even give the basic courtesy that is due to the leader of what they call "the greatest country in the world." Gays can marry, women can still do whatever they please with their bodies, and their friends in blue are under constant threat of violence. This anger spawns Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, two men who are not dumb, and that should scare you even more. Countless spineless idiots have tried to counter this anger with half- assed reason (See Bush, Jeb). This anger is the sour note in your milk and the off-key singer in your church choir; they are the poison that courses through our veins and the cancer that will never fully leave our body.

The second anger is younger, quieter, and quite broad. It is the anger that elected Barack Obama. The youth that peacefully protested for Wall Street reforms and equality in Law Enforcement, but also the angry young people who want the whole thing to burn. This is not a call for violence, but rather a call for that change that Obama harped upon that isn't remotely realistic, but more and more necessary in an evolving America. These are people who realize that there is no middle class, rather that there are three levels: rich as fuck, getting by, and poor as fuck. They don't want a President who compromises, they want a gunslinger, and there are only two liberal gunslingers out there.

One is Elizabeth Warren, who unless a great tragedy occurs and a Trump or Cruz Republican slimes their way to victory, will most likely never be the Presidential nominee, due to age and her intelligence. The second is Bernie Sanders, who I would never have imagined to even be this close at this point in time. However, the tides seem to be in his favor, if his campaign can persuade the poor and young to vote in larger numbers. While the other candidates have much more solid bases, Sanders has the most growth potential. He's the only candidate sending a clear message and the only candidate who even pretends to court minorities' votes. (In the long game, Clinton probably realizes that this doesn't matter, because the Republican party is abhorrent to minorities, gays, and educated women, Also, Clinton has no need to court them; she is killing Bernie in these demographics at the moment, as the establishment Democratic candidate should.).

So the reality comes down to simple questions. Do you hate everything (gays, muslims, women, low-level drug offenders, clowns/Missouri legislators(interchangeable at this point))? Do you care about social issues which have no bearing on your life? Do you care about pedigree? Do you care about the ability of the President to work with opposition parties to enact change? Or do you feel like there is no way out of the hole America dug you? Maybe I'm getting by and you're getting by, but there are people being crushed under our boots and people stepping on us. It's not that I think we can do anything about it; at least, we should have the courage to fight for someone who wants to at least talk about it, and not just sweep us under the rug. Like it or not, Bernie Sanders might be the only one to look to.

Note to old people: "Killer" Mike is a hip-hop artist, not a murderer. It may be a reference to him killing on a mic, or is a better rap name that simply Mike. I don't know; I may be the whitest man alive excepting Bernie Sanders.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Dance and the Draw

I remember the first kitchen I worked in, in fact every kitchen I ever worked in perfectly. I assume most chefs have this burned into their minds, so much that we could go back there today and work even if time has changed some things. I've gone on one hiatus or another, but thirteen years later, I still find myself here with a knife and pen in my hands.

Funny enough, I have dreams about all of those kitchens, and they are never imagined the same. The kitchens of your dreams are cleaner, planned better, calmer. The kitchens of your nightmares are exactly as they are. They're grimy, small, noisy, and alive. Sometimes, you hear the printer spool in your sleep and sometimes you forget to fire something, but there is nothing major happening and it's the worst catastrophe that has ever occurred. It's odd to have demons that are so mundane, that you are the only person who's horror movie is an even-more tame version of the movie Chef. The reality of having a job that you both loathe and love with often equal passion is that permeates throughout your subconscious and thus you can't even sleep off the clock.

The Internet and television have had the interesting ability to record what seems to be a changing of the guard in the restaurant industry. Television has attempted to make being a chef glamorous, and succeeded in many ways. If it hasn't, why do people still go to culinary school? They also made us look like huge fucking assholes, which to be fair is not so much off the point. Newer programs have been more honest, because the chefs have made it that way. I may the only one who can look at Dan Barber's life and both love his ideas and see the misery that chef's lives are outside of the kitchen. This is even acknowledging how amazing I feel about my own job the majority of the time.

The Internet lately has been a mixed bag on the subject. There is a never ending cavalcade of food pictures, chef interviews, and stories about the evolution of cooking. Those aren't lying to you; it really is that cool to be an executive chef, work with new local products, and create new dishes. Most of those stories won't tell you how hard it is to be a the top of the pyramid. How little moments are what is noticed in the day-to-day slog of management and recruiting. The next wave of articles is bipolar and reflects on how the next rung down feels. Chefs are boisterously proud of their profession, and most of them would be happy if tomorrow was their last day in it. The articles will detail misery intricately, and then end with messages like, "that is what made us strong". Or they will simply be questions: where have all the chefs gone or why am I a chef?

This isn't going to be a diatribe about it, but I feel the best way to get back into to writing is to explain why I got out. The simple reasons are probably easily discerned, I had bouts of depression and most likely alcoholism, but that doesn't explain the professional choice. These are both common in chefs and writers, so it's hard to blame either for what I now deem self-dissatisfaction. I hate deadlines and I hate shop talk. These are the two most prevalent features of professional writing and restaurants. Writing about sports and politics, which are my two main interests past cooking, also boils down into the most cliched and simple conclusions. When history constantly repeats itself, it becomes easier to prognosticate and harder to develop new content. Seriously, read any of my Sporting Kansas City articles on SBNation, change the players names, and tell me if soccer has changed in three years. The same goes for me handicapping the Republican field in each election.

Cooking is different somehow. On appearance, it is a static and cyclical field, very much like fashion where the trends move slowly even in the modern age. The money in it is very old, even if the active participants are not. But a kitchen is an organic beast of its own, and the restaurant is never boring from a chef's perspective. On slow nights, the guests are cranky and picky and appreciative. On busy nights, they'll be joyous, drunk, and leave the restaurant with a Yelp review in mind. The chefs will be on point up until service and melt under pressure, or freak out and do just fine. They'll do things that you've never seen before, both on the positive and negative. There will be jokes that have no punchline, righteous anger that has no target, beautiful dishes that guests love, and dishes that confuse the hell out of people (in our case, dishes that have been around for decades in French cuisine). These are of course generalizations about working in a kitchen that everyone probably gets by now.

To be more personal, the same reasons I wish I was in shape to put on football pads and knock the crap out of somebody lives inside a chef. You do it to be the best at something, perhaps not just cooking. Maybe you managed the fuck out of that kitchen. Maybe that french top sparkled at the end of the night. It doesn't matter what your passion is. It's the closest anyone can get to the big leagues these days. It's endlessly demanding, incredibly physical, high pressure, and probably the most ludicrous physical environment, just from an outside temperature extreme and random dangers that you can find. It's a low paying, low rewards job, and most of us love it.

This is hard to explain to people who make six-figures to sit behind a desk and surf the Internet in between strategy meetings, emails, and the occasional problem solving. It's hard to explain to anyone with a different job that I find harder like being a mother, a good police officer or a nurse or doctor. It's even harder to explain to chefs who hate their jobs, yet keep coming in day after day to do it. I know because I was there: I walked in the door angry, I worked angry, and then I went to the bar angry. Yet I'll try, perhaps in vain.

There is a motion to it, a flow that you feel on the better days, that's hard to find anywhere. Love certainly eclipses the feeling, but love is on another plane that I'll have to explain in another post (or a book the way I write). It is a zen, so much that when I started working my current job and perhaps for as long as I have worked, there will be days where people constantly ask me if I'm okay. I don't speak when I'm focused, whether that focus is internal or external. If you are still reading, I assume you can see I'm not at a loss for words. In a perfect world, I would just wear headphones and completely ignore everyone, but I am not alone in this by any means. So sometimes I sing, and other times, I spin on my heels and make movements that are completely unnatural to other chefs. I use my knife strangely, and frankly cook in ways that I find completely worthless to new chefs. It is my dance, and it is probably one of the most terrifying things to a chef, and certainly the most fun I have professionally.

The draw that brings people here interests me. Some of us do it because we love food and we knew it was what we were meant to do. They went to culinary school, they bought the right books, and said their yes chefs. Some were told they had to make money or else by their lovely ladies. They stuck around because they love it, or because those lovely ladies found them some more mouths to feed. Some us just don't know why, but they're here. When people ask where the chefs are going, I tell them the money isn't there and the anger still is, because the food isn't getting worse and the fun can be found. Perhaps the draw just isn't that great anymore, but it's funny that if I were to be rich tomorrow due to some unforeseen instance, I'd probably find myself back here before long.

That's the draw of it and the flaw of it. There are no awards, cursory recognition, and not many thanks for the most of the work you do. Your body has aches and pains that no one your age should have, beautiful scars and mangled hands. There will be countless friends that pass on by, and casual annoyances that linger forever. The money will come someday if you work real hard, or it won't because it's the real world and hard work's reward is mostly spiritual. You'll look back on it fondly, with so many regrets, especially the anger. Every day, you want to stay in bed, especially at 6am on a weekend, but then you get there and the clouds fade. The sarcasm stays (because who are we kidding it's tough), but there aren't many jobs that you like better when you are there than when you hit the bar after. So you keep dancing and hope the music never stops, because you might be lost without it.
A photo posted by Ben Davis (@bmiked71) on
Life Lessons/Apologies:
1. Never work hungry. Hunger is the devil crawling inside your body's empty cavity. Meatballs are the best solution, but preferably those with pork in them. Pork is the solution to every life problem, except heart disease.*
*Not a proven fact, studies say death is preferable to a life without pork.
2. If you aren't having fun, stop what you are doing. This goes for work, relationships, and generally everything. Exceptions include parenting and breathing, never stop those.
3. Apologies to my girlfriend and family who are the only people who read these things and wish for them to continue. Apologies to anyone who was hooked after one sentence and continued to read as I meandered through many "feelings". Apologies to those looking for humor, I swear I've never been happier. I mean Donald Trump is the leading Republican Presidential candidate; the schadenfreude is going to be delicious.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

From a City of Ghosts to a City of Zombies

Chicago has always seemed the opposite of romantic. There's a reason they used it to shoot the newest Batman trilogy. Even in daytime, it seems to carry this perpetual gloom, as if the sun cannot penetrate the shadows of buildings and that's only when a constant cloud cover allows the sun to shine it's best. I walked and walked this weekend. Probably over forty miles of downtown Chicago. You see many of the flaws apparent. One observes an overly African American homeless population, and they're really homeless not the hustlers that parade the CWE every night that live a few doors down from me. Or sees a Jersey Shore knockoff being filmed outside Harpo Studios and assumes the world deserves to burn (perhaps that's harsh).

Yet Chicago has a heartbeat, and due in part to locals or tourists, it feels alive. The last time I went it was fifty degrees and raining, and it felt much like St. Louis. The streets were empty if more modern. The trains were empty, and the people were not to be found. I couldn't even find a decent bar, and ended up at the weirdest bar in the world hitting on Polish women. This time you could feel it. The pulse that should be in any crowd of people. The heat of amorous love, the kids tugging on their parents to give money to homeless people, people of all races, from many places coming together and doing so as one group.

To be fair, this is a modern city, and the problems have been pushed outwards so the poverty is less glaring. It is no different than St. Louis in that, as you can see when young black kids post signs on their park for white people to use it so it will get more funding. Yet the undercurrent is not as prominent, perhaps because a poor working class of white people still call the city home, whereas in Missouri they gravitate towards rural or exurban areas, specifically St. Charles county. But this isn't a treatise on the differences between the two cities, this was a personal journey.

I'm a lost soul, a man without a home in many senses, perhaps I'm trapped in the city I live in. Maybe no longer trapped by love, though I wish I were, but certainly trapped in the grips of a great job in an industry that does not pay higher wages in more expensive locales. Life is perhaps too mundane for me, too scheduled out, and I'm predictable in my comfort zone. I needed to get away and recharge my batteries, find my soul.  So I didn't do expensive touristy things in Chicago, I walked and I sat and thought.

What I found about myself was intriguing. I thought for hours on how I have failed everyone, whether it be romantically or in the simple act of friendship. My weird conundrum has always been that I am extremely giving in nature, and this in turn becomes a selfish gesture. I can go into examples but if you wish to hear a list of my shortcomings you will find them in no short supply in my past posts. However, I spent the rest of the time worrying about everyone else, for obvious reasons that will be rehashed in due time.

I like the ghostlike way the city drew me in. Everyone looks like someone I knew, sometimes like people I wish were there with me. There aren't exactly smiles; like a beautiful woman with and happy and lovely child who just wouldn't stop gazing at me with such a look of intrigue. Maybe because the smile which is ironed into my face is a contagion worth setting loose into this world, when so many people have no idea what happiness truly is. Yet there is a beat, there is life and there is hope.

Then, there is St. Louis. There is no beating heart when I get back, no higher brain function. There is an ever present bloodthirst and an indifference to the great inequity that leads to problems such as the Michael Brown shooting. This is not an indictment of the cop, nor the kid. This is not a Ferguson problem; though there are many problems that have been brewing there for years. This is an indictment of all of St. Louis. There is a failure of parents to educate, then a failure of schools to educate, and a failure of the area to find jobs and economic opportunity for young men and women. The young people then turn and vandalize the city, but only the poor parts of the city still perpetuating the cycle of black on black violence that is ingrained in the story of impoverished St. Louis.

There are my friends who are all lovely and smart people. They say their town in different, while reminiscing about a town that used to exist. They take pictures of good black people doing good things when they are black, or white people doing good things when they are white. They argue for the cops in a society that is further militarizing the police force, because the society is further militarized than any time before. I've met many cops and most are not racist, but I can tell you that they all are human and human beings are fallible. No, their job is not easy, but they aren't given mulligans either. No one has once said the word mistake here, as if the intent to kill makes it better. No one deserves an execution. Not the young man nor the cop who executed him. Innocent or not, he does not deserve to be thrown to a lynch mob, which none of these protesters realize is what they are.

All I ask of St. Louis is to take a deep breath and really look at their city. Where is the place where people of different races and backgrounds can coexist? There isn't one. I could argue as an entertainment district for the Loop, but on the north side sits impoverished crime ridden minority inhabited suburbs and to the south the loveliest of houses sparsely filled with white families. The newest construction there was not something to help the whole community but rather luxury apartments for rich kids attending Washington University, a school with only 6.8% African Americans in a county/city with 23.7% African American population.

This is not an argument for the despicable violence and nonsensical attitude the African American community has taken towards a very serious issue. Nor is it a condemnation of the white people trying to pretend that their city does not have a problem. It is just a plea. Be honest with yourselves, and instead of asking why such horrible events occur, let's look for ways to fix it. That's what brings me back here; it's a raw piece of clay ready to be molded into pottery, but it's not yin and yang. The clay needs to be molded together and stick together. I could move to Chicago, live in an area of my choice, and never care about what is happening to the city. Or I can be a white man living in a predominantly black neighborhood asking you why that is something for you to fear and showing how it's not.

That is the story for St. Louis. The stupidity will march on in this example and national news will paint both the police and the citizens in poor light, besmirching those few bright spots that do exist. People will cry for their city when it deserves no pity, cry for a young man they wrongly think is in a better place, cry for soldiers fighting their own citizens, but none will cry for change. They cry for justice, which is just as bad as murder, a Hammurabian myth that hurting another man will kill the pain. If only they would use their brains and hearts, perhaps the city would find it's heartbeat again and not amble blindly towards racial dissonance's inevitable failures.