Traveling as I am, I can’t help but compare the America around me to the America I grew up with. My family always was driving somewhere, and so I know this country from the point of view of a car window. Stopping along the way to have a coke, gas up, find a cheap but clean and nice motel, like all the other see-the-USA-in-your-Chevrolet families.
My parents were in what they call now the hospitality industry. Or is it the service industry. Anyway, they were both waiter and waitress, and I grew up with a certain discerning aesthetic when it comes to being waited on. In fact if I think about it maybe many of my ‘issues’ in going out to eat stem from the knowledge that pretty much nobody bringing my food gives a damn about their job or my happy morning, lunch, or evening.
But I know that they can really be instrumental in making people happy. Food is a high anxiety point. Gathering with the family doubling so. So if you are a food server, you can really help keep people together by your smile and your can do attitude. Even if the kids are throwing their food everywhere and you and your bus boy will have to work twice as hard and probably get half the tip, you do it because you do a good job, and you do not know how to do a bad job. It’s the quality of you. It’s not about your boss, the union, the mean cook, or the outrageous Feds who now tax a money you do not even have but might have if all goes well. Taxing tips? Shame! It’s not about that.
It’s about a husband and wife trying to feed a family, about a wife trying to have a nice time with her husband, a husband trying to enjoy kids even though he’d rather just be with his girlfriend who he married and now doesn’t recognize anymore. All this stuff. You bring them the menus, make sure they aren’t sticky. You smile, you listen carefully. Suggest that’s classy If they ask you what you like don’t throw it back to them. That tells them this place is not very good, they have made a wrong decision. They are hungry. Give them an answer. Anyway, all that stuff is in my head when I try to go eat.
Came to the cafe and the lady set me in the only room without a window. I mean… I sat there but I don’t know why she put me there. No one else was there. The waiter was grumpy but friendly enough. He took my order but there was more than one ‘just a minute’ and since all he was doing was writing something down, he could easily have come over to the table. I was no rushing him. But by saying just a minute, he sets the pace for that kind of… I’ m rushed… air.
I ordered an omelet. It said it was the Cafe Omelet, with cheese and green pepper, onion, mushrooms. Green chili sauce.
Is that green chili sauce hot?
Do you want the green chili sauce?
Well, it comes with it.
Oh yes, he ruminated that comes with the green chili sauce.
Now, do you cook the onions first, because I don’t like raw onion.
Yes, we sauté the vegetables.
And… you want the vegetables?
Well yes. It comes with the vegetables, so yes I want them.
I don’t eat meat, so can I maybe get fruit?
If you want to have a side of fruit well no, it’s just that the meat is an expensive part of the dish, maybe I could just get some fruit…
No, they will give you a side of fruit which will actually cost more than the meat. Do you want the fruit?
OK. Coffee was not good. Overdone and bad water, but I drank it and read my kindle and pretended all was just fine.
Two ladies came in and the hostess asked them where they wanted to sit… in the back room or here?
Hmm. Oh the back room, it’s so beautiful.
OK, why the fuck didn’t you ask me if I wanted to sit in the beautiful room? I didn’t say anything but I did look away from my kindle to try to see what was going on in the beautiful room.
And after I ate, the bread already buttered, had to wipe the grease off the top of the omelet with one of the extra napkins I asked for, I saw he had charged me for every vegetable listed on the menu for the omelet. He looked scared. No, if you read it, each ingredient is .45 cents.
Yes, there is was.
So you have an omelet advertised as your Cafe Omelet for $9.00 and you charge extra for the ingredients in the omelet? That’s kind of misleading…
Well, I don’t charge it…
Yes, I understand you don’t charge it.
So really it’s a –
It’s a cheese omelet.
I walked over to see the room the ladies were in and it was lovely, looking out at the patio, lit, other people. For some reason, my restaurant karma had a shitty cheese omelet which cost over $10 in a dark room with no windows and a cheerless waiter.
Still, when I left I felt blessed. Everything that happens is part of a map for me to learn about myself. What did I do with this? It was no big deal, shoot, in Tahiti, I might never have gotten the omelet at all. Or France, they might have called me names. No, all in all, it had gone just fine. Because when I came back to the hotel, and had brought the wrong hotel key with me, the one from the last hotel in Dallas, I had a cheery talk with the lady at the sundries store. Separate from the hotel even though its smack in the middle of the lobby. Can’t charge stuff to your room. And we said how we both like a wallet you can open, not one you have to reach into. And we said how we remembered… what was it… well shoot I forgot what we remembered. But that’s OK. It’s the thought that counts.
And as these thoughts dissipate into the air, and I am unmade by time, and all my generation folded into the rewrite of some future day, I sing a song of love to God, and to all those of us who are ghosts, and who are still corporal, how wonderful it is to travel the world.
I look out at a desert landscape like the one I grew up in. The wagon wheel, the wooden Indian, the turquoise jewelry, the smell of beer and whiskey. New Mexico was, and remains different than her neighbors Arizona and Texas. Its population is the only healthy indigenous American population, its landscape largely unMalled. Mauled. And though I have rarely played here, except upon the hill where the richer folk live, I can see now, as I walk around, why I could not really sell tickets here.
How relevant could I be? Life is tough here. My emotive work doesn’t reach I mean. And the cost of a ticket is hard for a working girl or boy. No, I’m am grateful today that a promoter brought me here at all. How lucky I am to keep traveling. My ghostly family in the back of me, holding our arms out the window, the wind rushing over us, half asleep, counting telephone poles, pretending to shoot invisible lizards with our fingers.
I am looking out at the distance from my hotel room. All there is is distance.
The anticipation of a thing makes the time longer. We fill it with – with thoughts, steps, counting, what ifs, when where why not? If you do not fill up your day with anticipation, with dreaming, and hoping, your life will spin by so fast you will wonder why. I know why. The containing of time can be made full if you will only do so. Wonder. Do. Take chances. Make time slow so you can find your way.