What the heck does that mean?

All about working as a waiter, pursuing my dream, eating vegetarian, and loving where I live!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Filling a Niche

My post yesterday made me think about "looks" and "types" in this industry. It seems to me that unless you are drop down gorgeous All-American super model type...you should just forget about even trying to be an imitation of that. If you aren't an ingenue, don't even THINK about trying to be an ingenue. I may be a well-rounded, multi-faceted human being, but everyone else in this business is going to try to label me and define me by what they see on the surface. And "Maxim Hot" I am not.

So long ago I let go of the pressure to try to be tan and toned and have long flowing hair. I do not tan and my hair, no matter how hard I tried, would not flow. So I wear sunblock religiously and cut off all my hair. My pixie cut may be somewhat limiting, but it's also opened me up to a completely different world. It's eliminated some competition. There may be hundreds of pale German-Scotch-Irish white girls auditioning out there, but not many of them are going to have this cute little haircut. It makes me stand out. It makes me memorable.

My life partner tried the whole acting thing a few years ago and he tried to have short hair and go clean shaven...but nothing he auditioned for seemed to match him or his personality or skills. He's gotten out of acting for the past few years, and now he has long dreadlocks and a gnarly goatee. I think it's hot. And as one friend told him, his exterior appearance now matches his true personality. For someone who knows how to wield a sword and set himself on fire and fall off a multi-story building...he looks a little more the part. It makes me think that he should go out there and start auditioning again. I think he'd have more luck. There might be fewer parts available, but he'll be a better match and have less competition for the ones that do come up.

Our roommate, C, has actually had a lot of success lately with getting little parts and auditions without an agent or even trying too terribly hard. His niche is his weight. Putting it nicely, the guy is significantly overweight. He's round. He's not just a "big" guy. He's a really, really, really big guy. And he doesn't have much competition out there. He's told me before that he's gone to auditions that are looking for a "fat guy" and he's shown up and been the biggest one there. He's sees it as a positive. Los Angeles does not harbor many obese people and those people don't always go into acting. So that's his niche. Add on to that his fancy theatrical education and his resume looks pretty good.

So, how do you find your niche? How do you figure out what suits you? It's sad that labels are put upon us...but when you're just trying to get your foot in the door, all they look at is your headshot. I wish I could describe myself in five words or less or have an answer when someone asks what my "type" is... But for now... I have short hair and I'm hoping that makes me different enough.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tattoos and Acting

I love tattoos. I love checking out tattoo galleries, gawking at beautiful sleeves, laughing at really hideous ones... And I love imagining the gorgeous ones I'd like to get. Buuuut...as it is, I have but one tattoo. And it's not so awesome.

I'm sorry. My foot looks disgusting here.
It's a Chinese character that means "drama." As in theatre drama, not baby mama drama. And yes, that is what it means... I did my research first. 

I got this tattoo when I was 18 and had been dreaming of it for probably two years before I got it. And now? I'm not that crazy about it. I don't know why I got Chinese instead of Japanese. I don't have any profound interest in Chinese culture or have much of a desire to visit China. At least I had an exchange student in high school who was Japanese and we're still good friends. I'm much more interested in that culture and would LOVE to visit Japan some day. So why did I get the character in Chinese? I have no idea. It's also not an especially pretty tattoo.

I've thought about covering it with a different one...but then again... that tattoo represents me at a certain point in my life and it's very inconspicuous. And that brings me to the point of this post:

As an actor, it's probably a huge mistake to get any more tattoos.

The reason my current tattoo is so small and on the inside of my ankle is because it's easy to hide and will rarely be seen. But that's not much fun, is it? I think about the tattoos I'd like constantly. I have an entire folder on my computer of inspirations for my dream tattoos. *sigh*

Unless you're Angelina Jolie and big enough that a producer won't care that you need an extra two hours in the makeup chair... it would really suck to be limited to certain roles or to be passed up for parts just because of some body art.

(the pictures I posted aren't literally tattoos I'd want...just ideas...*double sigh*)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fast Food Vegetarian

I've been a vegetarian for almost 10 years now, and that's pretty exciting to me. It's actually been pretty easy. Once I made the decision to go veg, I wasn't too tempted by meat anymore. Mostly, because I couldn't bear the thought of eating cute animals like this...

I love you ZooBorns!

How could I eat that? And soon goats and cats and dogs didn't seem that different from pigs or cows. And how could I differentiate between my pet bird and a farmyard chicken? Or my goldfish and a catfish? Nowadays, meat just grosses me out.

One of the reasons I love living in L.A. is how much easier it is being vegetarian out here than in Iowa. We have Whole Foods and my beloved Trader Joe's (if I ever had to live without one again I would cry). We live around the corner from awesome Thai food and mere blocks away from a health food convenience store and vegan restaurants. Over time, I'm looking forward to highlighting all of my favorite super awesome places.

But today... Today is an ode to Fast Food Vegetarian and the place that made me weep with joy when I first discovered it.


This is not to be confused with the place I call "astrOburger" near Paramount on Melrose. That place is OK, but they've got a bunch of Greek food thrown on the menu and their onion rings suck. 

This is Astro Burger at 7475 Santa Monica Boulevard, not too far from the Trader Joe's... I don't know if the two restaurants are related or which one came first, but I know which one I prefer. 

What makes this place so magical is THIS:
Do you SEE that???? GARDENBURGER!

That's straight up, greasy spoon, fifties diner style FAST FOOD for vegetarians. I don't eat it often, but it hits the spot, I'm telling you. Their onion rings are also AMAZING. The place is cash only and a little over-priced...and those are my only gripes.

I love that my photo is focused on that weirdo in back.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If you apologize, there's probably no need.

If you are a self-conscious customer who feels bad about making special requests or asking "too many" questions or worry about a waiter spitting in your food... don't worry. You aren't part of the problem. The other day I had a group of guys that I was helping my partner with and one of the guys arrived late. The rest of the group was ready to order, but he had a few questions.

This is not me in the kitchen. Promise.
He asked about the fish and where they were from and if they were wild caught or farm raised and asked about specific ingredients and if certain dishes could be modified. He was a kind of picky pescetarian, which I can certainly understand and appreciate. I was happy to make suggestions and help him find something he'd like. He ended up getting the Eggplant Parmesan with whole wheat penne.

As I finished taking the order, the picky pescetarian joked that his friends had a bet going that I would spit in his food because he gave me a hard time. I was half embarrassed (I hoped they didn't seriously think I would do that) and half amused. I wasn't annoyed by this guy in the least.

Typically, that's how it goes. People who apologize about special requests are generally nice, sweet people. If you're a nice person, I will go above and beyond to make sure your meal is perfect.

Assholes never think twice about their demands. And yet, I would still never spit in their food.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Hate Sundays

Lots of assholes come in on Sundays. And screaming children and big families. Picky people. People who eat A LOT.

Why is this?

I don't know. But what I do know is that Sundays are often my least favorite and most frustrating day of the week. That's why we, at my restaurant, sarcastically refer to this blessed sacred day as "Sunday Funday." Blech, blech, blech.

We have "Family Style" where I work. In this set-up, it is literally all you can eat. People can get more food. However much they want. They start off with a TON of food, by the way. If they get a certain number of "refires," the computer will start asking for a manager's swipe card. This is to prevent employees from refiring food for themselves.

Today, I had to start asking for my manager's card after the first course. They ordered two additional rounds of appetizers and salads alone. I never imagined they would eat so much.

At least those people were nice and tipped very well. I didn't mind that so much.

But one of the last tables to get sat in my section was so irritating that I just gave it away to a PM person. I'm still mad about them so I don't feel much like typing it all out, but I'll give the highlights...

Is this enough butter for you?
  • Eating all the bread and butter before I'm back with their drinks
  • Asking for LOTS of extra sardines with their Caesar salad
  • Demanding "Can we get that butter?" right after I put in their order. I never went farther than four feet from their table from the first time they asked.
  • Sucking down all their beverages in five minutes. Over and over and over.
  • Informing me that the kitchen better get, "Like, 40 gallons of caramel sauce ready for their dessert because I, like, drink it straight." I laughed and she said, "No. Seriously." 
  • When I went to get them more marinara sauce ("like, two more bowls?") for their calamari, another server heard them ask, "where is that girl?" and look around for me. 
I gave them away at that point. I did not want to deal with it.

Sunday Funday!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I expected as much...

On Monday I waited on a couple of very kooky guys. One of the guys was so hyper and manic that I could barely follow most of what he was saying. But he was funny and lightened up the evening.

Turns out he was an actor/writer type and right before they left, he gave me the name and number of his agent and his agent's assistant at the Osbrink Agency. Osbrink is a pretty big agency and the name/number were legit. Crazy Guy (Keith, as it turns out) told me he was going to call them the next day and recommend me and told me to call them in a couple of days.

He was crazy. True. But I figured, what have I got to lose?

What happened when I called was pretty much what I was expecting. They asked me why I was calling, didn't give a shit that I mentioned one of their current clients, and told me that if I wanted to submit, to do it like everyone else and promptly booted me off the phone to one of their pre-recorded messages.

Yep. That's pretty much what I was expecting. *sigh*

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Absurd Customer of the Week #3


Imagine this conversation featuring a thick Russian accent.
ME: Hi folks, how are--
CHIEF JERK OFF: What do you have to drink? Let me see wine list!

Gee. Thanks, host, for failing, for the one millionth time to bring this standard item to a table.
I bring the wine list and cocktail/bar list. I list off some of my favorites.

JERK OFF #2: (to quiet wife) What you want?
QUIET WIFE: mumble askldjfovv mumble
Clearly Russian drink of choice.
JERK OFF #2: Grey Goose?
ME: You'd like Grey Goose?
CHIEF JERK OFF: No! I'll have Stolichivakinoffvivana!
ME: I'm sorry? We have Stoli...?
ME: Oh, sorry... Stolichnaya. Sorry. I don't hear it by its full name often.
JERK OFF #2: Do you have Ketel 1?
ME: Yes, absolutely. So... One Stoli, one Ketel 1, one Grey Goose... on the rocks?
CHIEF JERK OFF: NO! No Grey Goose! We are Russian. We don't drink Grey Goose!
ME: Of course, I understand. So the lady will be having....
ME: OK. So. Three vodka on the rocks, two Stoli, one Ketel 1? (so vodka from the Netherlands is OK but from France is bad?)


Whatever. So I bring them.

CJO: Is this just vodka or is this vodka red bull?
ME: I'm sorry? I never heard red bull. This is just vodka on the rocks.
JO #2: (to quiet wife) Didn't you order vodka red bull?

She nods.

ME: I'm sorry, we don't have red bull.
CJO: No red bull?
ME: Or any other energy drink. Would you like soda or tonic or Coke or maybe cranberry juice?

What follows is a very painful discussion that results in me bringing three glasses of cranberry juice and larger glasses to mix them together.

The food order is nearly as difficult. The wife seems intent on ordering the most expensive item possible, but I try to talk her out of it because she doesn't seem to understand what she'd be getting. She asks me to compare Chicken Marsala versus the Veal Porterhouse which she wants to get "contadina" style...which means adding sausage and potatoes and peppers. On top of a 16 oz. veal slab. Yuck. The Jerk Offs are getting MUCH lighter meals. She doesn't share. Or eat much of it. But they say it's all fine.

They drink more. Some expensive Chianti and Long Islands with double shots. Wow.

Now for my favorite parts...

CHIEF JERK OFF: Tell me. Why can't you smoke out here?
ME: It's California law. Sorry.
CHIEF JERK OFF: No it's not. I own two restaurants. No. It's not.
ME: Well, you can if it's an open air patio. But this one is enclosed. It has a ceiling. It's just non-smoking. If you want to smoke you can step outside.

I get waved away dismissively.

We close at ten, but we still have lots of tables eating at 11:15 PM.

ME: Sorry folks, but my bartender is asking for last call.
CHIEF JERK OFF: Is it 1:30 already?
ME: No. We closed over an hour ago. It's time for him to go home. It's last call for us.
(I receive a derisive snort.)
JERK OFF #2: We'll be fine.

The shocking part is that they actually tipped OK. I guess he really did own two restaurants.

P.S.> In a year, there won't be smoking allowed on outdoor patios in Los Angeles either. SO EAT THAT!
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Absurd Customer of the Week #2

I have TWO nominations and I really can't decide which to go with... so I won't. One story today and one tomorrow.

Group of 6 people, Asian folks, about half of whom speak absolutely no English whatsoever. This table was really a test of patience, even at the start. Time for drink orders.
Don't have this.

ME: Can I get everyone started with something to drink? We have a full bar, beer on tap, specialty cocktails, wine... or maybe some ice tea or lemonade?
IDIOT #1: What do you have to drink?

ME: Um...alcohol-wise or non-alcoholic?
IDIOT #1: Non...
ME: Coke products (I list them off), raspberry lemonade, regular lemonade, ice tea, juice...
IDIOT #1: Do you have fruit punch?
ME: Ummm... No. Perhaps you'd like raspberry lemonade or cranberry, orange, or pineapple juice?
IDIOT #1: I'll have grape juice.
ME: Um.... NO. We only have... (and again I list the three juices we have).
IDIOT #1: Do you have coconut juice?

At this point I laugh openly at her. Seriously, we're an Italian restaurant. NO, we don't have any of that shit. I think she changed her order a few times before settling on a cranberry juice. They also tried to order their Dad a Bud Light in A CAN. No. We don't have Bud Light IN A CAN. We have it on draft AND by the bottle. Why would you want it in a can? They didn't seem to believe me when I told them no.

Don't have this either.
Even once everyone ordered, I still had more drinks written down than people, so it took me another 5 minutes to figure out what they actually wanted. Two hot teas (surprise!), a cranberry juice, a diet coke, a raspberry lemonade, and one Moretti (I don't know why they started with that. His second beer was Bud Light in a bottle, the seemingly obvious choice).

Then there was the issue of the vegetarian mother. They wanted to do Family Style, but Mom was veggie. I gave numerous suggestions about items they could choose, or the option that Mom could NOT to participate in FS and order a la carte. They ended up picking numerous vegetarian items, but still ordered one pasta a la carte for Mom.

When I brought out the first course, I told the host that if Mom wanted to eat some of this food, but didn't eat much of it, I could charge her for a children's FS at half price. Host insisted that Mom couldn't eat ANY of this food. However, as Mom started serving herself salad, the host told me to bring her mom a plate and charge her half price. Fine.

 Why the fuck would we have this?
Just before the second course was about to come out, host asked if I could "undo" the order for the vegetarian pasta. I told her I would check, did, and the food was all prepared and 5 seconds away from coming to the table. I reported back that, sorry, but the pasta was already made. FINE.

When the pasta was out there were many stupid questions about what was IN the food they ordered. Items I had already described when they made their selections. Questions like, "is there blue cheese in this dish?" in a dish that clearly would have no blue cheese. That's a VERY distinct flavor. I don't think you know what blue cheese tastes like.

To end on a perfect note. They left me $20 on a bill that was $243. *sigh* And by the way, I did them a FAVOR by charging their mom half price. She ate LOTS of that shit.


[EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't have a problem with people who have sub-par English skills. They can just take A LOT more time and are consequently more difficult to deal with as a server. Unless they're the point and smile kind. I like those people. They don't ask for anything.]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Real Life Waiter Nightmares

A couple weeks ago, my restaurant completely revamped the menu. Completely. Portions were changed, prices were changed, items were added, items were deleted, things were moved all over the place. We've been prepping for this for awhile, talking about changes in pre-shift meetings, but nothing could have prepared me for it.

The very first day of the menu change, I showed up to work for a 6 PM shift where I hit the ground running taking tables. Didn't get to see the new menu at all. I also didn't get to discover that we had gotten new specials as well until I was greeting my first table of the night.

I looked like an idiot.

TABLE: Could I get the salmon with mashed potatoes instead of the roasted potatoes?
ME: The salmon comes with potatoes? Um... SURE!
TABLE: Do you have any specials tonight?
ME: Yes. They're on that little menu to your left.
TABLE: Are they good?
ME: Usually! I really don't know what they are. I walked in five minutes before you did and they just changed them without warning. Sorry!

Obviously, I've adjusted to the changes now, but I still catch myself sometimes about to do my old schpiel (how would you spell that?) or ask someone if they want a half or full size (we got rid of that).

But once again...this was an element to my usual nightmares come true. You show up to work, and the entire menu has changed.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Reason #592 for Loving L.A. = Proximity to Disneyland!!

See. It's all pink and stuff...because this post is about Disney. That makes design sense, right?

Life partner and I had a great couple of days this week because his sister and brother-in-law came to visit. Besides the fact that I love them both and it was great to see them, I also really enjoy playing tour guide when people come Los Angeles. What a perfect excuse to tell my restaurant that I need the weekend off... to go to Disneyland.

Disney was fun, but crowded. Considering it was a Friday in August, however, it wasn't too bad. I always think that some people get a lot more out of Disney than I do. No, I know that some people get A LOT more out of it. I always enjoy going, but it does not fill me with joy and contentment the way other places do.
(btw, that link is to one of my favorite bloggers)

However, when we went to the L.A. zoo and the Griffith Observatory the following day, I realized that I enjoy the zoo and park even more than animatronic rides. I mean, we have an annual pass to the zoo that costs less for two people than a single ticket to Disney. Plus free guest passes. And the observatory is free! And it's all less than a few miles from our place.
Griffith ObservatoryImage via Wikipedia

I really love this neighborhood. Last night at midnight, I got home from work and was hungry but didn't want to try to cook while our visitors were over. No problem! Why? There's a Thai restaurant around the block from us that's open super late and does take out. Did I mention that we live next to the best Thai food in the city? No? Well, now I am.

Of course, I always have to remind myself of Disney history like this... 
and that's why I like the zoo.

P.S. You should follow those links. You will be rewarded with cuteness.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm a Dreamer

Reason #5,498 for Loving L.A. = CONCERTS!

I'm going to see K'NAAN at the House of Blues on Wednesday and I am so incredibly psyched for it.

UPDATE: The concert was awesome.  Bruno Mars opened, and I didn't even realize that I already knew some of his music, too. My only disappointment was that K'NAAN didn't do "Dreamer," but hearing T.I.A. was SO AMAZING.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Server Nightmares

Have you ever heard of the play, "The Actor's Nightmare"? It's inspired by a typical nightmare that actors have where they're thrust upon a stage and can't remember their lines or don't even know what play they're doing.

I've never had that dream before.

However, I've had more than my fair share of waiter nightmares. Man...they are the WORST. I wake up in cold sweats, in a panic, and utterly exhausted. I don't know if this happens to people in other professions, but at least among my co-workers, it's pretty common.

My typical waiter nightmare usually involves the restaurant being in some bizarre location...in a mall or a 5 story building or a football field or a supermarket. And I have tables in locations that are impossibly far apart. Plus, I have a million tables and each of those tables has some kind of special request. And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS... the computers are down.

A couple weeks ago, I had that nightmare become a reality. First, I started taking tables early (and didn't get to take a break) because it was really busy. Pretty soon, I had 3 tables on the patio and 4 inside and they were all pretty needy... and then... wait for it...


For a good solid 30 minutes, I had to hand run every drink and food order to the bar and kitchen. I had to hand write receipts and add up the totals and calculate tax. I had to get manual imprints of credit cards.

I came very, VERY close to murdering someone.

Luckily, my managers stepped in and were able to help at least a little bit and I explained to my guests what was going on so they would understand why I was sucking it up so bad. By the time the computers were back up and running, my tables outside had finished up and things were going much more smoothly. But it was still a very long, very busy night, and by the time it was all over with, I was ready to collapse.
I read this article. I think it's bullshit. It starts off with a waiter nightmare, but you know what? All waiters have those. It's because our job kind of sucks. But I wouldn't trade it for being a desk jockey in a million years.