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With a Small Stain

I arrive for work at the usual time. Fifteen minutes of chit chat with the dinner chef, George  (later, he’ll earn the nickname Jorge Flambe’ after burning his eyebrows off lighting the convection oven), before daring to walk into the dish washing room where I’m certain my friend Darrell has left at least three trays behind for me to finish.

It’s not that he’s lazy (though I know he takes an hour nap each morning between the two breakfast rushes), because I’ve seen him work. And I want to believe it isn’t because he dislikes me and wants me to start my shift with something unpleasant. I should just ask him outright, but I’m only 18 years old, and the thought of confrontation still fills me with dread.

I’ve talked to Joel about it. He works with Darrell each morning. Also, he’s my best friend.

Joel says they often run out of time, and certain things take priority- The pans that must be ready for the next shift. The line that cannot be covered in debris when George comes in to work. The floor that must be swept of all food and filth or the head chef will be angry (though the thought of an angry Stewart almost makes me laugh).

So I swallow my frustrations and clean the leftover dishes, rinsing them with water so hot it scalds my skin (I’ve lost sensitivity to the point I have to test shower water with my elbow, unable to trust my fingers). Then I send them through the *sanitizer* before making my way back to the kitchen where a massive pile of green beans waits to be cut.

I pull a tape from my pocket -Nothing’s Shocking, by Jane’s Addiction- put it in the grease covered tape deck and press play. George hates this music, but allows me the honor of the first selection each shift. He gets to play all the classic rock he likes when the restaurant opens and the bus tours arrive.

On bus tour nights, I’ll be running between the dish room and the grill for the entire five hours the restaurant is open. There are only two of us and when 85-170 people descend on the dining room, George can’t cook all the burgers, fish, and chicken by himself.

I’m the jack of all trades- Dishwasher, food prep (I make the best cheesecakes, Cajun potatoes), short order cook, errand boy. Sometimes it is overwhelming, but most of the time I enjoy the routine. Even the days I get yelled at by the asshole who runs the front end become comical stories, and we all have our tales for sharing.

This night there are no buses at the hotel, only a few guests here for a midweek mountain getaway, and we are not anticipating much of a rush, so we talk more, laugh more, pause between tasks. George tells the same jokes, and I laugh at them like this is the first time I’ve heard them.

The tape ends and George puts on something atrocious by Aerosmith, and since I’d rather chew nails than listen to this, I excuse myself to run silverware to the dining room. The lights are still out and I don’t hear the usual bustle of servers getting ready for opening. Puzzled, I return to the kitchen.

“Hey George, isn’t John supposed to be opening tonight?”

“I think so.”

“Well, it’s quarter to five and there isn’t anyone out there.”

He replies with a string of profanities, then walks to the office to call the asshole who runs the front end. He shuts the door. I pour myself another coke from the soda machine. It is one of the perks, free soda. Also, we get one free meal a day, and 2$ a night lodging at the hotel. It’s a good gig, really. One night after my shift, I made a steak and cheese sandwich with the trimmings from the beef fillet. Best. Sandwich. Ever. I figure retail on it was close to 25 dollars.

I hear some muffled talking, then George’s raised voice. A curt goodbye and he is back in the kitchen.

“Someone will be here by 6. You’ll have to be host and server until they arrive.

I’ll have to what? I’ve never waited a table in my life, and how can I host and serve?

“George, look at me.”

I motion to my working clothes- A dirty pair of jeans, a stained apron, a grimy black Brian Head t-shirt, shoes covered all sorts of yuck, a greasy baseball cap.

“It’ll be fine. And we likely won’t get anyone in that first hour anyway.”

By the time I wash my hands, try and make my hair presentable, it is 5:05 and one couple waits at the still locked door. I swallow my nerves and unlock the restaurant.

“Sorry folks, We’ve had a bit of trouble this afternoon. Two for dinner?”

They don’t appear too upset and reply kindly to my inane questions on the way to the table with the best view.

I hand them menus and offer bland suggestions as to what they might like. The woman looks me over, most likely noticing her server is covered in kitchen filth and smells like deep fryer oil mixed with stale sweat.

“I’ll give you a minute to look over the menu and I’ll get the drinks.”

I smile, turn and walk briskly back to the kitchen. George laughs at me as I overfill the glasses and spill all over the floor.

“You’re making more work for yourself.”

They order the baked chicken. I check on them twice after taking their order, bringing them refills and a basket of poorly cut bread.

I’m still too nervous to stand still and wander back and forth from the front desk to the kitchen, sure it’s taking way too long for the food to be ready and the couple will walk out very soon.

Finally, the chicken is done. I carefully carry both plates to the table and place them in front of the couple.

“Can I get you anything else?”

No, everything looks great.

I retreat to the host desk, hoping there is no one else waiting. From my stool, I can see them cutting into the vegetables, the meat. They seem pleased.

George wanders out from the back, gives me a wink. Just then, John arrives.

“Sorry guys, I totally forgot it was my night to open.”

“It’s cool,” I say, hoping I’m not letting on how glad I am he is here. “Just the one couple and they seem alright with my service.”

He laughs.

“I’ll take over from here, but I’ll bring you the tip.”

Back in the kitchen, I finish making a pan of potatoes, put them in the oven. The Aerosmith tape ends and before I can put in some Oingo Boingo, George slaps in something from Supertramp. It could be worse.

Ten minutes later, John comes up and hands me two bills. Both ones.

Two dollars.

They tipped me two dollars on a 30 dollar meal.

John laughs, tells me to keep my day job.






No Answers

I didn’t write last week. My wife took the day off (Valentine’s Day), and we spent some time hanging out, watching movies, eating too much chocolate. I planned to write, I really did.

Then, on the way back from some adventure or other, we stopped for a warm beverage at a place near our home. Waiting for our order, a breaking news story on the television caught our attention. Another school shooting had taken place, this time in Florida. I didn’t want to write after that.

I’ve spent most of the last week shifting through all sorts of emotions, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of my responses were irrational. I got into snarky debates with old friends, commiserated with like-minded allies, had flat out angry arguments with acquaintances and friends of friends. I stated opinions, backtracked on them, then restated them later. And while I certainly was not at my best, I watched on social media as people said far worse to each other. What an ugly event, and how unfortunate that tragedy brings out so much extra awfulness in us, in me.

Answers continue to elude me. I’m trying to be patient, to pay attention, to hope (but)…

…the tone hasn’t become any less terrible this week, and the rhetoric being tossed out, the flat out lies being spread about children sickens me. I honestly do not care what political ideology people cling to, and I certainly don’t pretend to have all the solutions or be correct in my assumptions (facts in my favor or not), but the vile behavior of adults towards young people is inexcusable.

Disagree with their political aims, but do so in a constructive manner. The world is certainly a callous place where most of the time what we want or need is irrelevant to it. Not ever situation turns out the way our kids might want, and we want them to learn to be resilient, but deliberate cruelty disguised as political debate destroys any opportunity for understanding or growth.

I still cling to the belief that humans are at their core, decent creations, and that at our best we can accomplish difficult things.

I also believe that the way to a happy and fulfilling life is pretty basic-Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.

That’s pretty much it.



IWSG- February 2018


You know the drill- Check us out and sign up here.

Remember to check out our awesome Twitter and Facebook pages as well. The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is the best writers group out there.

I’ve had an interesting month on the writing front. As I mentioned before, the IWSG Twitter Pitch Party was very successful for me. Not only did it offer me a few agent/publisher opportunities, but it rekindled my hope for finding representation sooner than later. My query letter seems to hit the mark, and now I just play the waiting game.

Another interesting development- The manuscript drawing all the attention only contained 38,000 words, and apparently no one wants to touch novellas. I’ve been pondering ways to increase the word count without losing what I thought was a very good flow to the narrative. In the past, multiple attempts to do so have failed. Miserably, I should add.

But this time I was determined (nibbles people. Actual publishing folk wanted to see this book) to push this story to novel length.

Getting to 80,000 was not in the realm of possible outcomes, but if I focused and worked smart, I could reach 50 or 55. The day after the twitter pitch party, I sat down and got writing. I found a place in the first three pages that begged to be fleshed out. Two pages later, I found another. I wish I could better express how frustrating previous attempts and adding content had been, and how rewarding it felt to finally be able to succeed. It sounds cliche’ but like a light suddenly switched on, I could see through the darkness, understand where I could stretch things out, add story, take risks.

I still had hours of frustration and days where nothing worked, but in the end, I added 14,000 words over the course of a week and a half. I’m sure some of it will have to be reworked, cut, replaced, but regardless, I have a completed manuscript that I am confident querying.

Now, if only I could find that confidence for the other two amazing novels I have waiting in my file folder for some wonderful agent or publisher to love.

A Few Words on a Wednesday

One month before the placement of twin seven year old boys in our home, Sheryl and I took our last vacation together before becoming parents. I’d never been to San Francisco, we both wanted to go, so we went. It sometimes seems like only yesterday.

I don’t think I had the slightest idea how my life was about to change, or how insane being a parent would be/is. Looking back, I wouldn’t change one damn thing. I’ve got great kids who are less than 6 months away from graduation. I love them. But once again things are about to change in a huge way, and as before, I have zero clue about the how.

Anyway, here are three pictures from that trip. It was a really good time. Also, don’t pay any attention to the plastic bag in the last picture. It isn’t really there. You’re mind is playing tricks on you.



A Nibble

Last Thursday (18th) The Insecure Writer’s Support Group  held its second Twitter pitch party. I was a bit reluctant to participate, not because I think these events are bad ideas, but because of the frustration I felt after so much work and zero reward last time.

Of course when the day came, participation happened. I remembered that sitting around not tweeting pitches was a sure fire way to never get an agent or publisher to take a look at my writing.

I wrote two pitches the night before, but wasn’t satisfied with them the next morning. A bit of rewriting, some drama over what genre to place one particular manuscript, and I hit send on the first tweet. Before I could copy and paste the second, someone liked the first. For those who don’t know, agents and publishers search through the pitch party hashtag  for book ideas, and someone liking your pitch is an invitation to send an official query. In my experience with Twitter pitch parties, when likes come quickly, it is a friend who doesn’t understand what’s going on, or another author thinking the like is a good thing.

Imagine my surprise when an actual agent liked my pitch.

A few hours later a different pitch for the same novel received two more likes. My other two manuscripts also received some interesting attention from two individuals. Unfortunately neither of those opportunities are a good fit for me or my work.

Now the waiting game begins. Sending a query, even one per agent request is no guarantee of a full manuscript request or an offer, but man, it is so much closer than I was on Wednesday. Even if these opportunities fall through, I’ve at least learned that one manuscript has potential and that information is priceless.

I’m very grateful to those IWSG members who put together a fantastic event. It is the best writers group out there. Any writer who hasn’t joined yet really should.


IWSG-January 2018


Welcome to the first IWSG blog hop of 2018. Check us out and sign up here.

We also have a great Facebook group and a very active Twitter feed, so do yourself a favor and join the fun.

I’ve always struggled with the concept of new year resolutions. Not because I don’t like setting goals or pondering what I’d like to accomplish over a given time period, but because of the arbitrary nature of selecting one particular day just because of when it occurs on the calendar. If I set a goal, it is because I want to achieve something, change something about myself, and while I would never begrudge someone for choosing to start some project, path, etc on New Year’s Day (seriously, good for anyone who works to improve themselves in any way regardless of when they decide to start), I get a bit put off by all the fuss.

Now, after writing that arrogant paragraph, I will follow up by saying that I have made all sorts of writing goals for myself in 2018 (my hypocrisy knows few bounds). Starting of, I will be participating in the IWSG Twitter Pitch party on January 18th. I am hopeful, but realistic once again. I don’t know anyone who has had much success with pitch parties, but I am always willing to participate. If you happen to have a grand story, please share it with me.

Sometime in the next few months, I also plan to self publish a novella titled “From Water”.  The process may take longer than I expect, so please don’t hold me to that few months deadline. Also, I have submission goals for the year as well (numbers and whatnot, but I think I’ll keep those to myself). I plan to query agents, submit stories, be as aggressive as possible.

The interesting part to me is I’ve made most of these goals before and not followed through. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I feel like this time around will be different. I have my wife fully in my corner, pushing me to get things going, and that means the world. I’ve wasted far too much time planning. It is time for some progress to be made.

As always, I’d love to hear what you’re doing, accomplishing, thinking, planning. Let me know.

Inversion Week and Hey, Some Books.

Thanks to a lovely December temperature inversion, I’ve been spending most of the past week indoors. The air is so toxic and nasty, taking the dog for a 30 minute walk on Monday made my throat hurt for hours after. For both our health, we are putting walks on the shelf until this nastiness clears out.


When too much gunk and moisture get trapped in the valley,  dense fog forms, and as it is super cold as well, these lovely layers of hoar frost form on everything. I’d find it beautiful if it hadn’t been created by toxic air.

I’ve lived in the Salt Lake Valley most of my life, and this is the one thing that makes me wish I lived somewhere else. Sometimes these inversions last weeks, and along with the health risks, winter depression settles in. The hours of light are already fewer, and when you add gray skies, bad air, below freezing temperatures, warmer, sunnier days can seem far away indeed.

I usually enjoy winter. And more often than not, it is spectacular here in Utah. DSC_0015


I try to remember that beauty, but it is hard when I’m trapped indoors, experiencing the same day over and over.

So, in an attempt to keep my chin up and talk about more interesting things. I’m presenting this photo of five of my favorite reads from this past year, and—IMG_0176.jpg

hoping you fine readers will share your favorites with me.

I wouldn’t really call the following paragraphs reviews. Think of them as reasons I liked and recommend these titles.

I found it nearly impossible to pick a favorite this year, but My Absolute Darling came as close as any.  I almost hesitate to recommend it as the subject matter (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) are difficult topics for many, and this book does not shy away or hide the horror. That said, it is an important book, and Gabriel Tallent is a fantastic writer.

History of Wolves vexed me. It is a coming of age story that refuses to fit the mold. It took me several days of pondering to decide if liked the book. Months later I realized I loved it. I’m a sucker for flawed characters, and this book is full of them. The ending left many feeling confused and frustrated, but the ambiguity worked for me. I didn’t need to have everything explained, and the answers I was offered were satisfying.

Good Morning, Midnight is also atypical of its supposed genre. An post Apocalyptic novel that ignored many tropes. Themes of regret, loneliness, ambition, loss, redemption are beautifully explored. I highly recommend this one. Also, it made me cry three tears.

The Nix surprised me over and over. Nathan Hill weaves a very compelling story about a son trying to understand his estranged mother. I laughed out loud several times, felt disgust and sadness, and found myself completely wrapped up in events. Again, this book is filled with awesomely flawed characters who might get it right in the end, but maybe not.

American War offers a glimpse of a very likely future for the United States- A second civil war. Omar El Akkad gives striking insight into how someone becomes indoctrinated, and how quickly that indoctrination can lead to extremism and horrible acts of violence.

Don’t forget, I want to know your favorites as well.