contrariété

if a harness is keeping
this cat on the ground,

I ask myself
what she
could have done
to deserve.

moistening suitcases
and tasting a freckle,

I stop to marvel
at another
celebrated
custard-whipped dictator.

humming as her mustache
clips itself,

while a child
has delighted in
pinching her
floured neck.

tiptoeing ’round to find
that ammonia’s not like bleach.

*Cat No. 29 of the 500 Cats Project

Pearls, Unstrung

all flesh burned shall peel
in due, sanctimonious time.

a family practitioner provides advice, while the nation’s best hospital mails you their annual book. you know the maladies that keep you in bed, and you know, honey and lukewarm water are enough to keep you out of trouble. for one more week. better than a day, you would think.

I was the kid
finding hope in cough drops.

a hefty mortgage two blocks away and a crying lover on an unpainted porch await me every day, the only words said illegible, sleepily falling through dozens of gaps we see on a rusted chainlink fence.

today, no one reads cursive.
not the girl who grieves.

Snickers in Spacious Sandboxes

she once had a dog
that dug holes,
and sniffed for truffles
buried at earth’s hard edge.

not the center,
not the meat.
salmon jerky’s tactful apology
for soggy pig ears.

they went to the beach,
and I went too.
tucked in a basket,
but soon, footsteps away.

even in quiet areas,
there were ice cream stands.
but here, no children screamed.
as I lapped at trickling mango.

pawed at puddles of guava,
jumped at centipedes,
tore apart their pamphlets of doom.
proselytized, theatrical quivers.

things the dog did
for the love of her palms.
digging these holes,
panting at Polaroids.

*Cat No. 28 of the 500 Cats Project

5 Awkward Questions to (Never) Ask Your Waitress

I’ve noticed that across my previous workplaces, superiors resorted to using education, or lack of, to wield superiority. Often it was a tactic to bolster their credibility, as questioning and input from anyone not the CEO were improper and ironically, “pretentious,” “weird,” or a telltale sign of mental instability.

Until the past several months, I grew accustomed to unsolicited comments about my “shitty” education, and questions about my interests and “where I got that from.” While I have my quirks, it struck me as odd that these two attributes coupled together would qualify me as strange and malfunctioned. For a while, the person concerned succeeded in what I think were her objectives. I often felt worthless, questioned praise, dismissing it as sneering patronization, and found myself obsessing over increasingly clogged pores.

I noticed that during my brief stint as a waitress after graduating college, my coworkers exuded comparable cynicism and a want to get out. We made good tips at the restaurant, few things were particularly wrong with the establishment itself, and managers weren’t automatons. But if you asked the girls who worked with me why they looked so mad, they’d tell you: “It’s the people.”

I walked home from work visibly upset. I guess because of “the people,” and the odd things they’d say. Same sentiments and intentions as the person I mentioned before, but nicely put, the acid was thrown from another end of society’s spectrum.

It reminded me of waitressing the summer of 2013. It reminded me of questions and remarks I found inappropriate, but were treated as usual banter. So I laughed it off, but I’ll share what I remember.

1. “Are you retarded? Well, you’re working here, so…”

My coworkers often asked me why I “wanted” to work at the restaurant. At the time, it would have been foolish to discuss the actual “why,” but I told them I “needed a job.” We can point at statistics in newspapers, or widespread conceptions about the promises of college, but I took my time explaining to them that without an additional degree, it was highly unlikely that I would find work in a major-specific area, and I was saving money until I decided continuing school was something I really wanted to do.

Late on Independence Day, a cop sat down with his rather agreeable wife and her gregarious girlfriends. The women were like parakeets, ready for a tea party. The cop eyed the way I placed silverware on the table, and immediately grabbed my hand after I placed his utensils before him.

“That’s fucking gross.”

The lull of teenagers talking in the booth nearby filled the next few minutes. The women nervously laughed, and the cop asked coldly,

“Why were your fingers close to the prongs? Are you retarded?” I was a clumsy waitress, though I wasn’t deliberately unsanitary. I didn’t grab the silverware by their exposed prongs or scoops, but I remember my thumb touching the “handle”, instead of the napkin bundled at the end and tied with a thin strip of paper.

I couldn’t really tell him, though he spoke to the manager, who told him I wasn’t retarded and actually received a scholarship to law school, but chose not to go.

I have no idea why the manager found it sound to tell me this, but the cop had asked him why law schools thought it smart to “give people with Asperger’s scholarships.”

Somehow, I better sympathized with girls at work who refused to serve local law enforcement.

2. “Plan on having kids?”

Yes, a relatable question that annoys more than a handful of people my age who haven’t accomplished this yet. Maybe the stigma to childlessness isn’t so salient in other places, but I’ve found the question established as a formality. If I tell you it’s none of your business, well, that could deem me “pretentious,” “weird,” or mentally unstable. Perhaps that makes me a lesser person by articles of convention.

I told the man I don’t have children, and he advised me to “make nice to your husband, and get fucking.” The last time I asked, I look around twelve. I look no different than I did in pictures at homecoming dances, and at the time, I cared more about iced chai lattes than saving for my future. Apparently he thought I was ready, with aggressive encouragement to offer.

3. “You ever thought of doing porn?”

A suggestion by a man who owned another restaurant within the regional chain. I admit I enjoyed the nightly pay, and giggled to myself at how many one dollar bills I’d take to the bank. The teller had already asked me where I worked, but was skeptical as he mentioned the regular clientele. I frequently served larger parties, who liked that I could take nine to twelve orders without a notepad or a visit to re-inquire about what kind of salad dressing Mallory would like, or if John said “yes” to white gravy. So I made good money. Shortly.

I don’t know why this man would suggest porn as a lucrative venture. Maybe he presumed I was desperate, or didn’t have many options. He asked me if I was doing well on tips, and I nodded, not saying much. Strangely, he brought up wages, providing me with a verbal menu of the raunchiest acts, in order of highest payout.

It so turned out he wasn’t a manager, but introduced himself as one upon my seating him. A strategy for me to pay attention, nod and smile, and act politely out of fear he’d complain to management. Many customers did. I thought the couple I served two booths down would certainly ask for a supervisor, but they chose not to tip me, having heard his inquiries, possibly thinking my agreeableness indicated shameful Jezebel-ian curiosity.

I don’t know what this man really did, but I spotted him on the bus a few nights later, laughing at a comic book not drawn for children.

4. “So you’re here in need of a no-brainer, huh?”

A classmate I remembered from high school forty-five minutes away came to dine with her family. Or her family came to dine with herself included. She knew who I was, and I knew her name, but said nothing. Of course it went awkwardly. Their meal was delayed a good forty minutes, she inquired about it, smirking at me, and I heard her father ask,

“Wasn’t that the girl you were in Key Club with? The one you said was ‘really smart’?”

As you may infer, we had a falling out. I remember the father as a dedicated community volunteer.

“I didn’t say she was street smart.” This was the last I heard from her. Which struck me as my boss advised not to stress out about social skills, that the degree will pay off, but in time. This was after another instance when I failed to sense sarcasm, and cleaned a kitchen oven that I was never instructed to scrub.

The meal eventually arrived, and as I stood at the register to check them out, the father mentioned high school, my health, and if I was “fine.”

Hospitalization at age sixteen doesn’t seem like a thing you bring up. Even out of concern. But we all lived in a once small town (made a “suburb” thanks to rapid development and a Walmart five minutes away from the other built not too long ago). I guess some things are remembered, and discussed as another formality. “Small talk.”

5. “Did you major in English? Art?”

Like the question about kids asked in my locale, this is too commonplace. It is possible to write for a living. I know freelance artists who make an ample income. There are commitments to both, but name an endeavor without commitments. Given the circumstance, perhaps serving tables is a start, to keep your lights on as you refine your craft or build your capital as you plant your seeds. Maybe you serve part-time. Maybe you need extra cash. Maybe you’re happy serving. To some people, you’re questionable.

Let’s repeat: “pretentious,” “weird,” or mentally unstable.

I didn’t major in either, but studied things I liked. But I never discussed politics, or the possibility that Scott’s roommate may suffer from an Oedipal crisis. I didn’t want to go through the process that comes with offending someone, of receiving the Talk from the boss, following directives to walk to the table, apologize, and make up for a refund offered as a “sorry” for a customer’s bad experience. Or death by salmonella. It’s a possibility when you fail to properly handle a fork.

I’m no longer a waitress, and I’m no longer told I’m a mess with wasted potential. While I heard too many “you’re not good enough”s from finer strands of society’s yarn, the questions I recall, from those not as “calibrated,” seem to serve the same purpose.

Insecurity’s a bitch. No matter what you do for a living. What matters, moreover, is your permission for its consumption.

Postgrad Indulgence by an Outdoor Elevator – $5 Catfish at Lone Star Cafe

I chose my current residence with the goal of saving money to further pursue my endeavors. Though perseverance in a whole week of miserly doesn’t exactly nurture a calm that facilitates a productive workweek, or weekends that leave you dreading and anticipating the upcoming Monday.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Iced Starbucks with coasters made by local artist and sold at the Texas Folklife Festival, 2015.

Downtown’s potentially expensive. I realize the Starbucks a minute from work charges a little more, and “little” adds up to a good twenty bucks, if mainstream macchiatos are your thing. I also realize that amidst the quiet dives hiding behind salt rocks and contemporary abstract hotel sculptures, good deals can greet in the open. And if you’re working Downtown, a fulfilling though affordable Friday lunch can feed your weekend excitement A thing to look forward to on Mondays as you conquer your workweek.

I’m raving about the five dollar catfish buffet at Lone Star Cafe, off Losoya Street, by McDonald’s and Fuddruckers.

For some, Lone Star is a bit hard to find, but my first week of training, it was all coworkers and supervisors could recommend. On Fridays. No one ever asked if those in my cohort or myself were “fish people,” though I’m aware catfish has a tendency to polarize, depending on how it’s prepared. Breaded, blackened, seasoned, plain.

I typically say “meh” when it’s fried. Not at Lone Star.

IMG_1385

I was informed it was a “catfish buffet,” so I thought I’d walk into a room filled with fine wood tables boasting heaps of golden batter on silver trays, livened with the glow of a modest flame and made approachable by five or six pairs of scattered tongs. This is what I’m used to when dining buffet style.

But as you walk down the street, there’s a host that greets you by an elevator painted white. You’re offered the choice of dining indoors, or out. I live near the unpopulated side of the Riverwalk, and already accustomed to what I call confetti-ized (or confetti-sized) tourism (the authentic calling your name in crowds of the gimmicky, and vice versa), I thought it refreshing to sit from above, look at the trees, and note all the colors down below.

IMG_1383

Fortunately, my first trip was nothing like this past weekend, bogged down with flash flood warnings. I visited in early March.

I was told by the waiter that simply, I finish my plate, and he brings another. While I readied myself for a greasy feast all too iconic of Long John Silver’s, my fish arrived easily managed. You’re left to enjoy several pieces of modestly sized fish with a whiteness and flakiness that left me thinking, “This isn’t American catfish.” But it is.

IMG_1395Maybe, in limited experience, I’ve just had crappy catfish. I realized I arrived a bit judgmental. The admittance was repeated as I bit into a sweet roll. They’re not frozen.

In training, we were given fifteen minutes extra when walking out for lunch. So I used it the best I could, warming up, studying branches, craning my neck to hear what people were laughing about at the outdoor bar several steps down.

I didn’t have to ask, and my plate was replaced. And replaced. And replaced.

Actually, I sat through three plates of catfish, several inhalations of dough rightly baked, and playful dips in tartar sauce.

I can be iffy on tartar sauce. And restaurants. Tourism. Work.

I fished out my tip, feeling that my bill, in total, ought to have been around $14.99. It was a little over six after tax. And of course, add the tip that I prefer giving in dollar bills, quarters, and dimes.

Truly, there are places to foster my frugal hesitance. Some I’ve passed, everyday, unaware without the prodding of those who like me, dance for Friday, and sulk on Monday mornings.

LEGOS (a reblog from “A Noun Walks Into a Bar”)

This is relief. As I was reading the poem, I was pleasantly reminded of the closing scene in American Beauty. Which I won’t describe, because I know some of you haven’t seen this film, and I feel that those who haven’t damn well should.

boredom, unamused

the cardboard torn says “Antiques.”
describes you perfectly as you stare.
and as you aren’t a lamp from IKEA,
I look to the side, and walk away.
you know, like when you were younger,
and your elders told you to ignore mean things.
I know you aren’t mean, exactly.
but greetings from strangers
mumble like the very mosquito
nestling into your ankle.
I’m wondering if I should nestle
in the dust of the earth,
in the vase that gapes
by a van emptied of ice cream,
upholstered with patchwork fur.

*Cat No. 27 of the 500 Cats Project