People have to be nice to you when you give them free food. Well, they don’t have to be NICE to you, but if they have any goddamn manners they’ll be POLITE to you.
I’m finishing my last week of work at the restaurant I have worked at for over 3 years and I am reflecting on the food I’ve cooked, and the people I have cooked for. So much pizza. Pizza for friends. Pizza for people I wish I was friends with. Pizza I put in boxes and brought to people who don’t know me at all. Pizza slices I wrapped up in tinfoil and brought to bartenders or strangers or friends or acquaintances or mentors or combinations of the above.
What I think about more than the food I made for people are the people who didn’t or couldn’t come by to eat. I know I’ll work at other restaurants, but I wish that these people didn’t miss out on what I was doing here. I liked it. Things are changing and it’s time for me to make other things, but I liked what I was doing a lot.
Having said that, I wanted to make up for lost time and I started inviting everyone I could think of to come by and eat. One of the people I invited is a guy named Henry Owings. You may not know him, but you probably know his work. Henry designed the Mr. Show book. Henry’s record label reissued the Olivia Tremor Control albums on vinyl. Henry managed the Comedians of Comedy live tour. Henry, in short, is fucking cool. He did a magazine called Chunklet for a long time. Chunklet was the first place I ever read about almost everything that I enjoy today. It was published fairly sporadically between 1993 and 2010 and contained exhaustive articles and interviews about cool bands and cool comedians and really stupid, stupid jokes. It was one of those things that felt like maybe it had been made just for me. It’s good. It holds up a lot more than any of the Sonic Youth albums or Patton Oswalt jokes that I also enjoyed in the early 2000s. Anyway, I had met Henry one time after I had started reading his magazine. It was 2003 and he was dressed as a train conductor at a music festival in Long Beach, CA. I don’t think I had anything to say to him besides “Hi.” I’ve always tried to keep up on what he’s been doing. He’s a busy guy, he does a lot. He was in Portland this last week. I saw he was making plans to visit the record store up the street from me, so like a fucking idiot, I said “hey, I work down the street, you should come in and get lunch.”
WE DON’T SERVE LUNCH AT MY WORK. I DON’T EVEN EAT LUNCH AT MY WORK AND SOME DAYS I GET TO WORK AT 10 OR 11 AM. WHY THE FUCK DID I THINK IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO INVITE ONE OF MY PERSONAL HEROES TO COME EAT A MEAL WE DON’T SERVE AT A PLACE THAT I’M LEAVING IN A WEEK. JESUS CHRIST AT LEAST HE DOESN’T HAVE A FUCKING CLUE WHO I AM SO HE’LL SAY “FUCK RIGHT OFF” AND THAT’LL BE THE END, RIGHT.
Henry said “Sure! Sounds great!”
I absolutely panicked and realized there was no way I could get out of this. I don’t know why he said yes other than it’s nice to get free food. I began to get absolutely furious at myself for being so stupid. I’ve been really depressed lately, and in a weird way, I think I wanted things to go terribly because I wanted another reason to hate myself and hate my job. I wanted to leave on a horrible, disappointing note.
I woke up early, got to work much earlier than normal, didn’t tell anyone until about 90 minutes before he was supposed to show up that I was going to be making lunch for “a friend”, set the farthest table from the kitchen, and made lunch for a guy who, essentially, made me into who I am today. He brought a friend who lives in Portland and we exchanged brief pleasantries, I made them some lunch, and after they finished eating we got to talk for a couple minutes about Unwound, Mr. Show, records, Chunklet, Tom Scharpling, and I don’t even know what else. I had written him a note that morning and gave it to him at some point during the meal and basically said the same stuff I wrote down to him out loud: Chunklet meant a lot to me. I was glad he designed all the stuff he designed and put out all those records and put together the tours and everything. He was gracious. He asked if they could pay for the food and I told him no, but I did ask him to sign one of my Chunklets. (I brought all 5 but what sort of shithead asks for 5 autographs. 1 is plenty.) His friend took a couple pictures of us and one of them came out kind of great:
and the rest of my night was pretty awful, but I couldn’t really appreciate it because I made lunch for Henry and his friend. I was too blown away.
At the end of the night I had a long sad conversation with my boss’s mom about my horrible shitty coworker, and I cried and tried to explain why I felt like I failed in my dealings with him and why I felt like it didn’t even matter that I had spent over a year working with him and being terrified of him and why I feel like I had let him ruin my last year of work there. I don’t think any of it mattered. I guess she had read some of my resignation letter and it sounded like she didn’t understand that I wasn’t mad at her when I wrote it. We’ve never gotten along that well and it’s my fault. It doesn’t even matter now because I’m leaving and nothing is going to change that. I’ve been pretty awful to work with and I honestly would have fired myself from that job about 10 times by now even though I loved it. I have to leave because the bad coworker is never going to get better and my boss hasn’t been able to hire a replacement, and I’ve been feeling worse and worse about my performance and especially my behavior. I’m not fun to be around most of the time, but especially not there. I think I can still work at another restaurant, at least for a little while, but I’m not even sure sometimes that I want to cook at all anymore. I mean, I do, but I don’t know.
I got home that night and looked at the cover that he signed for a really long time and thought about everything that had happened since the first time I got my first copy of Chunklet in 2002 (I’ve had to re-purchase every issue, and also, seriously? 2002?) and I opened the magazine up and saw this:
and I still don’t know what to say about it.
About 5 minutes after I stopped crying happy tears Tom Scharpling called me a “load” on Facebook and I laughed so hard I thought I cracked a rib. I am a failure and a load. feels good man. feels good.
edit 7/30/14: the issue I’m holding, issue 15, originally came out in 2000, but all of my research indicates that the Giant Robot store didn’t open until 2002. I’m pretty certain that the years indicated are correct: the concert I reference in Long Beach definitely took place in November 2003, and I found my wristband from the Unwound show I attended in 2002. I don’t think anyone even cares besides me anyway!