Beer And Food Service: A Love Story

I was working my sixth straight nine/ten hour shift in a row (without a lunch or dinner break, mind you) when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I love restaurants like I love nothing else in the world. I was prepping lettuce and dicing tomatoes when this thought came to me. For most people working 50/60 hours in one week would cause them to bitch and moan about how tired they are and how much they hate their lives. Not me. I love it. There is something quite cleansing and pure about working until the point of exhaustion, and then working an additional few hours just for good measure. I’m in love with what Anthony Bourdain affectionately refers to as “The Life.” The all-consuming passion for food that makes me not only want to come to work, but I actually feel as if I NEED to come to work.

“If you like what you’re doing for a living then you never have to work a day in your life.” My grandfather told me this once and it stuck with me. It’s completely true, which is the beauty of it. I’m a waiter. It’s what I do and it’s also a big part of who I am. I love the work. It takes it’s toll on me both physically and emotionally, sure, but I keep coming back for more. Most nights I come home from work with barely enough energy to walk up the flight of stairs to my second story apartment, but I always manage to find the strength to do just that. When I finally change out of my works duds (a Johnny Cash-esque all black ensemble consisting of black slacks, a black undershirt, a black button up long-sleeve, and a black apron full of scratch paper and pens) and into my “casual evening attire” (my high school gym shorts and a comic book t-shirt) I feel fantastic as I slid onto my comfy couch and heave a huge sigh of relief. I sip a few beers, pop a few Aspirin for good measure and I feel right as rain.

The average time I pass out from sheer exhaustion is 3AM or so. 4AM or later if I’m feeling feisty (read: out drinking with co-workers who keep the same vampire hours that I do). It’s always interesting to see people’s reaction when I tell them this. For your “average” 9-5er, midnight is “quite late.” Not for me it isn’t. Midnight is early, man. I take a lot of pride in my night owl hours, the same way those freaks I like to call “morning people” take pride in their early to bed and early to rise lifestyle. You got up at 5AM and hit the gym before work, eh? Good for you. I didn’t fall asleep until around then. This isn’t to say I hate people with “normal” sleeping patterns, it’s just that I don’t understand them.

When your Average Joe is getting home from work that is when I’m just getting my work day started. I’m the guy who serves you food and drinks because you don’t feel like doing it yourself. You’re welcome, by the way. Speaking of customers and such, it is my firmly held belief that if you don’t have enough money to leave a decent tip (15-20%) then you shouldn’t go out in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited on a table hand and foot only to be “rewarded” by three or four bucks lying crumpled on a table under a pile of napkins and dirty dishes. $3 on a $100 ticket? Fuck you! You’re not worth my time. Anything less than 15% is downright insulting.

This is not to say that I hate people. I don’t. I love meeting new people and forming good relationships, why do you think I’ve stuck with the food service for the better part of the last ten years? I’m just saying that us poor food service types make minimum wage (or less, as was the case with my last job) and NEED TIPS TO SURVIVE. There. Rant over.

The good news is that there are quite a few people out there that see the good work that I do and tip accordingly. It’s them I love. It’s those types of people whose names I will remember. Hell, you come in often enough and I’ll even start to remember your drink order and what kind of food you usually like and what to recommend for you. It’s because of people like that I love my job. So if you’re one of “the good ones” then I thank you from the bottom of my heart, because it’s people like you that keep me coming back for more.

The half-priced drinks that I get after my shift ends always helps. So if you need me anytime soon I’ll be at my restaurant either waiting tables or drinking gin martinis, beer, and shots of whiskey after my shift ends. I’m pretty easy to spot, I’m wearing all black with a five day beard and a smile.


Patton Oswalt in Portland!

“If San Francisco and Humboldt County had a baby, it would be Portland, Oregon.”

My friend Josh Mohland told me this once. It was a Monday night and we were both at the local bar The Alibi, seeing the Irish folk-punk band The Smashed Glass perform. By this point of the evening I had had a few pints of Guinness and some Irish whiskey in me and I was feeling pretty good about myself and The Future.

“They say the dream of the 90s is alive in Portland,” I said, laughing.

We both smiled at how clever we were for a long while, then we turned our attention back to the band, who launched into another song about drinking. I clapped along to the melody, being careful not to spill my Guinness in the process.

The subject of Portland had come up because I had been discussing my plan to drive up later that week to the Wild North to see one of my favorite comedians: Patton Oswalt. The fact that my brother and his wife just so happened to live near the comedy club that he was performing was icing on the cake.

I have been a fan of Patton Oswalt for years. His particular style of comedy really spoke to me. The fact that he was a comic book nerd who effortlessly blended his own interests and hobbies into his act was inspirational.

Patton is also a big film buff, and I have spent many a happy afternoon sipping coffee and listening to him discuss his love of film and comic books on various podcasts.

As a self-described “comedy nerd” I have always felt that Patton was one of the best things to come out of the “alternative comedy” movement. Well, him and Louis C.K. But that’s another story for another time. I’ve got to stay focused here or I might ramble on for 2,000 words about my thoughts on stand-up comedy as an artist expression.

Okay, back to the subject at hand: Patton Oswalt.

When I learned that Patton would be playing for two nights in Portland I was overjoyed for two reasons:
1) I had never seen Patton perform before and I was dying to see him live!
2) I really missed my younger brother, Matthew.

I quickly purchased three tickets for Patton’s late show on Saturday night (February 5th) at Helium Comedy Club, which I had been hearing nothing but good things about from various comedy websites and podcasts. I called my brother to make sure that he was free that night, and then when I went into work that night I made sure to check with my co-workers to see who could cover for me (thanks Hannah!).

Everything was in place. I got my oil changed, had my tires rotated, and even got a haircut! It was a very productive week, all things considered.

The plan was the leave Friday morning so I could get there by dinner time, and then Matthew, Arial, and myself would have the rest of the night to do with as we pleased and then we could see Patton on Saturday. To say I was excited about the weekend would be an understatement.

After work Thursday I packed a bag and set my alarm for 8AM, which as anyone who knows me will tell you, is ridiculously early for me (I work at a bar, which means I usually don’t go to bed until 3AM or so). But hey, I was doing it for Patton and my brother, so when my alarm went off the next morning, I hopped out of bed in no time. My plan was to hit the gym for a quick pick me up and then make some breakfast. Looking back at that morning I feel I made the right choice. The work out I got at the gym got my brain working and alert, and considering I would spent the better part of 8 hours on the road, I needed the exercise.

After a simple breakfast consisting of eggs and potatoes and a few cups of coffee I was on my way. I put Matthew’s address into my trusty GPS, gunned the engine and pointed my car North.

Every time the road would turn into a blur (every two hours or so) I would find an exit ramp, track down a coffee house and use the rest room and then grab the largest, most powerful coffee they had on the menu and then hop back onto the highway (I would like to take a moment to recommend Dutch Brother’s “911.” It was fantastic! Thanks to Seth for the recommendation on that one).

For most of the drive up I listened to The Mountain Goats’ album “Sweden,” which I had been saving especially for the trip. After listening to it on repeat for over two hours I switched to the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, which kept my mind alert for the remaining 6 hours of my drive.

When I arrived at my brother’s place in Tigard (15 miles south of Portland) I was a mess of nerves and overly caffeinated energy, but alive nevertheless! Matthew and I hugged and all the stress of the trip melted away.

“Great to see you!” We both shouted, mid bear hug.

“You need a haircut, hippy.” I said after looking him up and down. We both laughed and headed into his place to drop my bags off. His wife, Arial, greeted me and we hugged too and then I excused myself and made a beeline for the bathroom. 8 hours of coffee will do that to you.

“Are we still planning on seeing ‘The King’s Speech,’ tonight?” I asked. “Sitting down and not moving for awhile is starting to sound pretty great right about now.”

“Yeah, we still want to go. Do you mind seeing it again? I know you saw it last week.”

“I would love to! It’s a great flick! Just so long as we get some dinner afterwards I’m a happy guy.”

We piled into Arial’s car (“Are you sure you don’t want to drive?” Arial joked) and drove to the local theater, which was located in a real ritzy shopping mall, which featured a covered dinning area that I admired quite vocally (“I can’t help myself, I’m a food nerd at heart!”). After navigating the shopping mall (“Look! It’s an Urban Outfitters! I haven’t been to one of those in ages!”) they lead me to the theater, which sold tickets for $10.50 a pop, which was slightly more than I was used to paying but well worth it.

After the movie, which Matthew and Arial both loved, they drove me to John Barleycorns Pub/Brewery, which had a happy hour from 10PM till midnight featuring $4 cheeseburgers, $2 pub fries, and a small and delicious assortment of other food items.

“This is my kinda place,” I declared after waltzing in and inspecting the restaurant.

“I knew you would like it,” Matthew said.

Since I’m a beer enthusiast I ordered to sampler tray of all their microbrews to start, as well as an appetizer of pita bread and hummus (only $2!). Our server, Eric, was a shaven head fellow in his early thirties and very friendly. As a server myself, I love good service in restaurants and told him as much.

“I’ve never seen someone smell their beer before they drink it,” Arial said, after watching me sample a few of the brews. “It’s like you’re drinking wine or something.”

“I take beer very seriously,” I lectured grandiosely. “A fine beer is a like a fine wine. It’s important to engage all the senses when sampling new beers. Each beer has it’s own taste and personality and it’s fun to figure out which beer fits your own subjective preferences. Personally, I’m a dark beer kind of guy.”

I went on like this for awhile until the food came, and then I was too busy eating to lecture on beer culture. Let’s just put it this way: When I staggered out of the pub I was a very happy and full fellow and I slept like a baby that night.

The next morning I awoke to the shrill sound of my cell phone alarm. I cursed the heavens, as I do every morning when my alarm rings, and rolled out of bed and into the shower, pausing briefly to admire my reflection in the mirror.

The plan was for me and Arial to venture into Portland proper for the day so she could attend a massive job interview/seminar for Apple. I hope she gets the job! I’ve been an Apple fan boy for the last few years and would love to have a more in depth look into how that company operates. Plus a little extra income never hurt anyone.
That morning Arial was taking me to her favorite coffee shop to try a “scuffin,” which is a beautiful hybrid of a scone and a muffin. It was genius. And delicious. I ordered “The Farm,” with ham, bacon, and Swiss cheese with caramelized onions. It was amazing.

“I love this,” I said in between bites. “The caramelized onions really puts this bad boy over the top for me.”

Arial nodded, sipping her coffee.

“I wish I could get paid to eat. That’s would be a dream job for me.”

Arial suggested that I put my journalism degree to good use and become a food critic, which I thought about for a long while whilst stuffing my face.

Later that morning I found myself in downtown Portland outside of the giant hotel where Arial’s interview was to take place. She let me know that it would take a few hours so I should feel free to go exploring and she would meet up with me later.

I walked a few blocks, feeling slightly under dressed in my jeans, Flash t-shirt (the Wally West Flash, if you’re curious) and light green zip up hoodie. Everywhere I looked there were men in fine business suits and briefcases heading to and fro and looking very professional. I decided then and there that I would go suit shopping. And indeed I did! I didn’t want to buy anything though, I just wanted to try a few on for kicks and giggles.

I stopped by Nordstrom’s and headed straight to their men’s apparel section.

“May I help you?” inquired one the sharply dressed employees.

“Yes you can, I’m looking for a three piece suit. Preferably something in gray or black.”

The man, Marcus, took me into the back and gave me a few different suits to try on. I tried on one after another after another. I couldn’t help myself! I live in small town and I love dressing up, but like I said, I live in a small town. I love it but I never have the opportunity to dress to impress, which is one of the many reasons I am looking forward to moving to Portland in the summer.

Before I knew it two and a half hours had flown by. I had tried on over a dozen suits in various outlets around town and I desperately needed a cup of coffee. I found a large coffee shop a few blocks from Banana Republic and settled down with a copy of the Wall Street Journal and sipped a large cappuccino while I read the style section and felt very posh and sophisticated.

A little while later Arial called me and we met at the coffee shop, which turned out to be right down the block from the hotel. Considering how terrible my inner sense of direction is, this was nothing short of a miracle.

Later that night…

Matthew, Arial and I arrived at the Helium Comedy Club at 9:55PM on the dot. “We made it!” I said triumphantly, jumping out of the car and into the chill night air. I was wearing a brown leather jacket that I had picked up in the Hawthorne District (my future home, if all goes according to plan) for $20. I was looking rather snazzy, if I do say so myself.

As we walked toward the comedy club my heart was beating fast from the excitement! I had never been to a comedy club before and the fact that I was about to see my favorite stand-up perform in front of my very eyes had me in a state of excitement akin to Christmas morning.

There was a two drink minimum in the club, which suited me fine. I ordered an amber ale and waited for the show to start, taking a moment to high five my brother. (“Can you believe this is happening? I’m freaking out right now! In a good way.”)

A local stand-up warmed up the crowd for a good 40 minutes or so and then at long last the moment that I had been waiting for happened: Patton walked out on stage and I screamed like a pre-teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

What happened next was an hour and a half of pure comedy nerd joy. There I was, seeing my favorite comedian with my brother and his wife and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in the world that I would have rather been. It was beautiful, really.

To make things even sweeter most of the material in Patton’s act was stuff I had never heard before, which thrilled me. I mean, sure, he threw in a few of his classic jokes here and there, but it all ebbed and flowed so effortlessly that I didn’t hold it against him at all. Why would I? When trying new stuff you’ve got to throw in some old tried and true bits to keep things going.

Needless to say, I was in comedy heaven.

After the show was over and the crowd scattered into the night, I looked over at my brother and Arial and smiled. I was a happy guy.

On the drive home I convinced them to stop at a 24 hour restaurant that advertised “fresh, homemade pies.” So there I was, fresh after seeing my favorite comedian, drinking coffee at midnight and eating pie. All was right with the world.

We ended the night by playing Mario Kart on their Nintendo 64. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Top Ten Movies of 2010

2010 was an interesting year for movies. On one hand you had “Inception,” proving that intelligent movies, if done right, can be summer blockbusters. On the other hand you had a slew of great movies that underperformed at the box office (“Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” ect.), leaving many people scratching their heads, wondering what went wrong. For me it doesn’t really matter how a movie did at the box office, I just want them to be good movies. Luckily this year really didn’t have an “Avatar” type film to dominate and crush everything in 3-D, which left a lot of space to fill with a generous helping of indie movies and well-written gems. I didn’t get a chance to see every movie I wanted to this year, due to the fact that I work at a restaurant in the evenings and I despise going to matinees, but I tried my best. This is my 2nd annual “Top Ten Movies” list and I hope that you enjoy it.
10) Fair Game

Naomi Watts fascinates me. Besides being incredibly beautiful, she also manages to be one of the most versatile actresses working in Hollywood. She has appeared in everything from blockbusters (“King Kong”) to crime films (“Eastern Promises”) to quirky comedies (“I Heart Huckabees”), and she seems completely comfortable with them all.
I jokingly refer to her as the “anti-Jolie,” in the sense that in every Angelina Jolie film I watch, I am distinctly aware of the fact that I’m watching Angelina Jolie act. When I watch Naomi Watts I don’t see Naomi Watts. I see her character, whomever that may be.
In “Fair Game,” director Doug Liman saw the same chameleon qualities in Watts and cast her in the leading role of Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative who the Bush Administration outed after Ambassador Joe Wilson spoke out against the Iraq War.
The film is a period piece, really. It takes us back to the beginnings of the Iraq War, highlighting clips of press conferences and snippets of news footage that made me feel as if I were learning of the conflict for the first time. The emotion the film stirred in me was impressive. I felt righteous anger. I felt betrayal. I gripped the corners of my seat with anticipation during most of the scenes, even though I know how it all turned out.
And that is what makes “Fair Game” a great film. It transports us back to a story we have all heard before and makes it seem new and exciting.
Naomi Watts and Sean Penn are both fantastic as the lead characters. Watts brings her steely eyed determination and Penn brings his righteous political anger and the two play to each other’s strong suits. A very impressive film.

9) The Vicious Kind

I was first introduced to Adam Scott in the movie “Step Brothers,” as were most people. Scott played Will Ferrell’s asshole of a brother and played it to perfection.
“That guy kind of looks like you,” said my then-girlfriend. “Isn’t that funny?”
“You really think so?” I asked. “Well, I suppose we do both have sideburns, so that’s something I suppose…”
So yeah, I first thought of Adam Scott as an asshole actor who just so happened to look a little like me. Or maybe I looked a little like him? Either way I didn’t think much of it until I came across the much-beloved and all-too-quickly-canceled Starz TV show “Party Down.” Then I fell in love with Adam Scott. An all-encompassing love that burned like the sun.
In an interview with “The Usual Suspects” actor Kevin Pollak on the web-based “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,” Scott talked about a little indie drama that he did called “The Vicious Kind,” where he plays the emotionally scarred main character, Caleb Sinclaire. The movie centers on the Caleb’s strained relationship with his father, played with tenacity by the always enjoyable J.K. Simmons, and his younger brother, played by the baby faced Alex Frost. The film is written and directed by newcomer Lee Toland Krieger, and features one of my favorite film openings of the year. The film opens on Adam Scott, who is bearded and smoking a cigarette. In the course of ten seconds or so his eyes fill with tears, but then he represses the urge to weep, takes another drag of his cigarette and then composes himself. It’s a simple shot, really. Just a steady cam on Scott’s face, but the moment feels so intimate that you feel a connection to the character even before a line of dialogue is spoken.

8 ) Cyrus

One of the strangest films of 2010 was a movie I saw by myself called “Cyrus.” It was a film by the Duplass brothers, whose debut film “The Puffy Chair” didn’t really do it for me. That film felt forced and stale. This film felt alive and new. I love it when directors improve with age.
The movie centers on a lovable loser played by (who else?) John C. Reilly, who I used to hate with a passion but lately has been growing on me. Like a fungus. A strange fungus who keeps appearing in every other movie that I see, apparently. I think that’s why I didn’t like him to begin with. John C. Reilly seems to make about fifty or so movies every year and somehow I manage to see all of them. I’m not saying that he’s a bad actor, I’m just saying that I can only see the same goofy looking face so many times before I go a little crazy.
But I digress, John C. Reilly is great in small doses. I feel the same way about Nicolas Cage. Every now and then they both make a movie that shocks and delights me. I love it when actors surprise me.
In “Cyrus” Reilly takes his loser image to the next level when he plays a man who somehow ends up in a relationship with the beautiful Marisa Tomei, who is completely out of his league, in my humble opinion. I know it, and so does Reilly, who feels lucky and blessed just to be with her. Until he meets her son Cyrus, that is. Funnyman Jonah Hill plays her son, naturally. Except he’s not that funny in this film. He’s down right creepy and psychotic. Hill plays Cyrus with a dead-eyed intensity that is fascinating to watch, and the “mind games” between him and Reilly over the affections of Tomei makes for some of the strangest scenes in 2010. A very unique and admirable trait in a movie.

7) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim: A movie by nerds, for nerds, starring the nerd king himself: Michael Cera.
One of my few film regrets of 2010 was the fact that I never saw this movie on the big screen. I really wanted to but nobody that I knew wanted to go with me and I hate seeing movies in theaters by myself. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do see movies in theaters by myself occasionally but never movies where I might laugh. Why, you ask? I have a pretty distinctive laugh. People turn around in their seats to look at me and I feel like a freak. Besides, some movies are better with a group of friends.
I ended up buying the DVD after eating some pretty amazing Thai food with my friends Max, Steven, and Ailis. We stopped by Target on the way home and I bought it, promising them that I “heard it was great.” And indeed it was.
Edgar Wright, director of such cult classic fare as “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” is the master of comedy action films, I feel. In “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” he proves once again how damn clever he is and I love him for it. Seriously, don’t take my word for it. Watch the film. If you don’t laugh at least once something is terribly, terribly wrong with you.
6) Kick-Ass

Two words: Hit Girl. Now go forth and watch the film. You’ll thank me later.
P.S. Nicolas Cage goes completely insane in this film. In a good way.

5) True Grit

The Coen Brothers reunion with Jeff Bridges has been long overdue, but “True Grit” proves that the wait was well worth it.
The western is a remake of the classic John Wayne film by the same name that won The Duke an Oscar. But to be completely honest, I was never really a big John Wayne fan. He just never really interested me as an actor. That being said, the original “True Grit” is a great film, featuring Wayne doing what he did best: looking stoic while riding a horse and shooting a gun at people.
My feelings about Wayne aside, I’ve always enjoyed the film and was thrilled when I first heard that the Coen Brothers were remaking it. When I learned that they had cast Jeff Bridges as the alcoholic lead character, my interest was officially piqued. It became a movie that I knew I must see.
And what a movie it was! The humor of the original novel shown brightly, and the cinematography was breathtaking. Jeff Bridges brought his A game to the film, and so did the Coen Brothers, and it resulted in their biggest box office success of their storied careers.
The biggest revelation of the film for me was the young actress who plays the girl who hires Bridges’ character to avenge the death of her father. Her name is Mattie Ross, and she is played by the young and extremely talented Hailee Steinfeld, who posses the rare ability among child actors of commanding every scene she is in with authority well beyond her years.
Add Matt Damon in the mix as the cocky Texas Ranger who also just so happens to be on the lookout for the man who murdered Ross’ father and you’ve got yourself one hell of a western!

4) Inception

The most buzz-worthy movie of the summer by far, “Inception” did what few movies dream of: tell a daring and unique story AND make a killing at the box office.
All of a sudden the notion that the only type of movie that will make money over the summer has to be either a sequel, a comic book movie, or star vampires or wizards seemed quaint and out of date.
Here was a movie with a bankable star, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a intelligent director, Christopher Nolan, who has been on a bit of a hot streak after taking over the Batman film franchise, telling a story that actually made people THINK. Oh yeah, and it was the biggest hit of the summer. Who could have predicted that? A lot of people, as it turns out. “Inception” was a movie made by movie nerds, for movie nerds. Though the mainstream success of the film took a lot of people off guard, I feel.
One of the best parts of “Inception,” for me personally, isn’t even in the film. It’s something that happened AFTER the film was released. With the success of “Inception,” all of a sudden there was a great and powerful hunger in Hollywood for original screenplays and unique story ideas. The idea became king. Sure, it helped if your movie starred one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but there was definitely an “Inception” effect after the movie was released. This is good news for the next few years in cinema, because there will surely be some challenging films that will be released with the hopes that they will become “the next Inception.” Mark my words.
Also, “Inception” had one of the best ending of 2010. The fact that people are still taking about it in 2011 means that I’m not alone in that regard.

3) Black Swan

“Black Swan” punched my soul in the face. In a good way.
“Darren Aronofsky will never make an uninteresting film,” declared Anthony (my movie cohort and co-creater of the massively successful movie podcast, “No Middle Seat,” which stars Anthony and myself) after we left the theater on a cold Monday night. I huddled into my peacoat for warmth and pondered this for a minute or two.
“You’re right about that. After all, this is the same guy who directed ‘The Wrestler,’ which was such a heartbreaking film.”
“Don’t forget about ‘The Fountain,'” added my friend Amanda.
“How could I?” I asked with a smile. “That movie broke my heart too. That bastard. He keeps making me cry in every damn one of his movies.”
We walked toward the car in silence for a moment.
“Well, I will say this…” I paused for dramatic effect. “Natalie Portman was incredible. If she doesn’t get a Best Actress nomination I’m going to punch a baby.”
“Punch a baby?” Amanda asked, slightly incredulous.
“Okay, maybe that is a little drastic… I think you guys know what I mean though. She was amazing and deserves to win something. A SAG Award. A Golden Globe. An Oscar. She should win them all!”
The conversation continued for awhile after that, naturally. Basically what I’m saying is that “Black Swan” is a movie that will leave you in a state of emotional exhaustion and will haunt you for days to come. Not enough movies do that.

2) The Town

The best movie of the year staring Ben Affleck’s abs and Jon Hamm’s chin! But seriously, people who say that film noir is dead need to rethink their lives. Film noir isn’t dead. It just moved to Boston.
The movie is set in Charlestown, the bank robbery capital of America. It focuses on a gang of professional bank robbers lead by Doug MacRay, played by Ben Affleck, who is the brains of the outfit. His life is normal enough, if you’re a bank robbing type. He robs banks by day, and kicks back beers with his friends at night. All is well in his world.
Then one day a bank robbery goes horribly wrong, which leads fire-brand Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) to kidnap a bank teller for protection. The woman’s name is Claire Keesey, played by Rebecca Hall, and she is an innocent in all of this. After they evade the cops Affleck convinces Renner to let her go, which he does under protest.
Later that night after they have all had a few drinks Renner convinces the gang that the woman needs to be “taken care of.” Affleck volunteers to “keep an eye on her,” fearing that if Renner has his way the woman will wind up dead in a gutter somewhere.
As fate would have it, Affleck ends up falling in love with Hall and she with him. The only problem is she doesn’t know that it was Affleck and his gang that kidnapped her in the first place, and that’s the way Affleck wants to keep it. It doesn’t end well, as you might imagine.
The most impressive thing about this movie to me was how Affleck managed not only to turn in one of the best performances of his career, but he also managed to do some pretty impressive work behind the camera as a director as well.
Affleck has an eye for detail in every scene. Every actor is perfectly cast. Every scene feels tense, with just a touch of foreboding. It’s a perfect film noir. Affleck will be a director that I will be following with great interest from now on.

1) The Social Network

These days everyone and their mother has a Facebook account. I would know. I have one, and so does my mum.
But what exactly does it all mean?
Should this much sharing exist between people?
With Facebook’s demand for as much information as you are willing to give, this age of information just got a whole lot more personal. George Orwell was wrong. People don’t hate Big Brother. We “like” Big Brother quite a lot and we’ve got the friend counts to prove it!
I have 362 friends on Facebook, but how many of them really know that much about me, other than what I’m willing to share?
In this Facebook age people we barely even know add us as friends on Facebook. I have over 30 people as friends on Facebook who met me and friended me because I was their waiter. That’s not to say that I don’t cherish their friendship, but they really only know that one aspect of my life.
So is Facebook a bad thing? Hardly. I use it all the time. It’s a great social networking tool that allows me to see how my friends and family are doing.
The downside to Facebook is that people are so busy “liking” things and commenting on each other’s status updates that every now and then we forget that there is a world outside of our little internet communities. There is a lot happening in the world, but unless somebody “shares” a news story on Facebook a lot of people won’t bother to read it.
We live in a age of information, but there is so much of it out there that the problem we all suffer from is that there too much information and nobody in their right mind would attempt to read or understand any of it.
So why am I getting all deep and philosophical when I should be talking a certain David Fincher film staring Jesse Eisenberg? Because the movie wants you to. The entire story line of the movie centers around the life of Mark Zuckerberg, played with brilliance and fast-talking dexterity by the always great Jesse Eisenberg. But Facebook isn’t really what the film is about. The film is about what we are becoming as a nation. We’re all on the fast track to somewhere, whether that place is waiting tables, making coffee, going to college, falling in love, robbing a bank, whatever. We’re all going to Facebook our experiences, I can guarantee you that much.
Just ate a tasty burrito? Facebook it! Just saw a great movie? Facebook it! Met a cute boy or a girl at the Laundromat? Facebook it!
We feel a strange need to let everyone we’ve ever known know exactly what we’re going through because our lives are important to us and we need to feel loved, am I right?
I’m no different than the rest, you know. I’m going to post this blog to Facebook as soon as I’m done because I want you all to know that I’m a writer who needs a little love and recognition every now and then! Don’t we all?
And that’s why “The Social Network” is the best movie of 2010! It made us think, and I “like” thinking.

Eat my dust, 2010! A Year In Review.

1) Where did you begin 2010?

I was barely surviving my final semester at Humboldt State University but feeling mostly optimistic about the future.

2) What was your status by Valentine’s Day?

Single. Again. I’m convinced whoever invented Valentine’s Day did it to make single people feel like shit. Though that might be the scotch talking. Scotchy scotch scotch, I love scotch!

3) Were you in school anytime this year?

Ha! I WAS in school, then they decided that I’d had quite enough of all this book learnin’ and set me free in the world, armed with only my wits and a mostly useless piece of paper. Diplomas should simply read “good luck out there.”

4) How did you earn your money?

Waiting tables. And stripping. But I’d rather not talk about that last one if it’s all the same to you.

5) Did you have to go to the hospital?

Whew! I did NOT, thank goodness!

6) Did you have any encounters with the police?

Nope! I’m a model citizen.

7) Would you relive 2010 over and over again?

Like in “Groundhog Day?” I’ll pass. I think it’s unhealthy to focus on the past. We should be looking towards the future while enjoying the joys of the present. Wow. I sound like a self-help author! Maybe if I get tired of waiting tables someday I can try my hand at “helping people find themselves.”

8) What did you purchase that was over $1,000?

No way, Jose! 2010 has been about saving for my aforementioned future!

9) Did you know anyone that got married?

My YOUNGER brother Matthew got married over the summer. I’m still getting used to the idea.

10) Did you know anyone who passed away?

Yes and they shall be missed.

11) Did you know anyone who had a baby?

I’ve hit the point in my life where a lot of people I used to go to high school with are all getting married/popping out babies. It’s a little strange. So yes, I do know quite a few people who have decided to reproduce.

12) Did you move anywhere?

Nope! I’m moving in summer of this year to Portland, Oregon though! I’m really excited about it!

13) What concerts/shows did you go to?

Too many to count. Over 50 but less than 500, let’s put it that way.

14) Are you registered to vote?

Are you kidding? Of course! I’ve been a proud voter since I was 18.

15) Do you still have the same job as you did in 2009?

Haha! Long story. No I do not. I have a BETTER job waiting tables at a local bar called “The Alibi” and I am quite happy there, thank you very much!

16) Has anyone betrayed you in 2010?

I wish! Maybe next year. Fingers crossed!

17) Where do you live now?

I live in Humboldt County (Arcata, California to be specific).

18) Describe your birthday:

Sushi + alcohol = awesome.

19) What’s one thing you thought you would never do, but did in 2010?

Joined in a break dancing competition! Though I’m a terrible break dancer. I came in last place. I rather enjoyed myself though, and that’s what counts.

20) What was your favorite moment?

Graduating college was the most surreal moment of the year for me. It felt like I had been in college forever and it felt really good to see it through.

21) What’s something that you learned about yourself?

I am slowly starting to realize that everyone ages and matures at a different pace and I’m beginning to accept that.

22) Any new additions to your family?

My brother and his bride have a dog now. So that’s new.

23) What was your best Month?

July. Or December. I’m still deciding.

24) Were you in a relationship this year?

Yes. It didn’t turn out how I hoped it would. Sigh…

25) What music will you remember 2010 by?

Great question! 2010 has been quite a musically diverse year for me! Though if I had to choose I’d say The Mountain Goats, The Tallest Man on Earth (thank you Evan!), My Morning Jacket, Beirut, Mos Def, The Avett Brothers, Childish Gambino, Kanye West, and Bon Iver.

26) Who has been your best drinking buddy/buddies?

Seth, Evan, Max, Nels, all my co-workers, the list goes on and on.

27) New friends?

Quite a few, yes! I’ve also had a great time getting to know my new co-workers. They’re good people.

28) Favorite night out?

I’m a big dinner and a movie guy, but I did have some fun adventures with my entourage this last year.

29) Would you say you’ve changed since the beginning of this year?

I would certainly hope so! I think of myself like a fine wine. I slowly improve as the years go by.

30) Do you think 2011 will be better or worse?

Allow me to quote the great Michael Ian Black, “Let’s make 2011 the best year ever! All subsequent years will be terrible, terrible disappointments.”

Baseball & Podcasts: How I Managed To Survive Unemployment

Nothing destroys a man’s fragile ego like being unemployed. I learned that the hard way.

I’ve been gainfully employed for the last seven years and I’ve taken a lot of pleasure out of being able to take care of myself. I’m 25 and these last few years have been kind to me. Earlier this year I graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Journalism, of which I am quite proud of. I love Journalism, but as many might have noticed most newspapers around the country are folding. So when I graduated news organizations were not exactly lining up to hire me. My GPA when I graduated was less than spectacular, due in large part to the fact that I worked my way through college, which didn’t leave me with a lot of extra time to study. I passed all my classes, but I didn’t stand out academically. Fine by me. I was just happy to survive the college experience without having a major mental breakdown.

When they called my name at graduation it was one of the proudest moments of my life. My parents and younger brothers were there, as were my grandparents. The fact that they mispronounced my middle and last name made me laugh as I walked across the stage, pausing for a second to dry hump the President of the University (it’s true). You should never take yourself too seriously, I felt. Behold my victory dance at graduation:

I graduated from college debt free, which is something that I am quite proud of and a rare feat indeed in this day and age of massive student loans and steep interest rates. How did I do it? I’m a waiter and a damn good one, if I do say so myself.

For the last four years my “day job” has been as a server at two different restaurants. The experience changed my life. I realized that there was good money to be made in the restaurant industry if you know where to look and what the hell you were doing. Hard work pays off in restaurants. It’s fun too if you like working in a hyper social environment where you are judged on how quickly you can make a personal connection with a group of strangers. I learned something about myself waiting tables: I’m really good at talking.

If you are friendly and polite and don’t drop food and drinks all over people you can really make it in the restaurant business, I quickly found.

I figured out that I could make much more money as a server than as a rookie journalist, so I decided to stay in the restaurant business for awhile. I rather enjoy it.

So why have I been unemployed for the last month and a half? Well, that’s another story for another time. Long story short: I made some mistakes, but I am proud to say that I learned from them and have grown and matured from the whole experience.

So what have I been doing during my month and half of unemployment? Well well well, I’m glad you asked! Besides applying at 27 different restaurants about town I have spent my time doing a great number of things so as not to go completely insane. This is my list of how I spent my time:

1) Sleeping!
Yeah, I know, I sleep all the time no matter what the state of my finances are. But seriously, I’ve never slept so much in my life as I did during my month of unemployment. Let me tell you why…

In the restaurant business there is really only a 3 hour window of opportunity to go into a place and met with the manager or check on your resume: 2PM-5PM. Why is that? Those 3 hours are a slow time for most restaurants. The lunch rush has just ended and the dinner rush has yet to begin. It’s the perfect time to stop into restaurants if you want to met with managers.

This left me with 21 hours of the day to do with as I saw fit. So I slept a lot. Why not? It was free to sleep and it’s good for you. Which brings me to number 2 on the list….

2) Hit the gym!

I went to my local gym 6 times a week during my month of unemployment. Why? I needed the exercise, frankly. Waiters do a whole lot of running around during their shift and I was used to being exhausted after a long day of work. Suddenly I was sitting on my ass all day, which made me feel fat and useless.

I really didn’t want to gain weight during my unemployment, and considering the drop in quality of food that I was eating to survive (read: mac and cheese, rice and beans, ect.) I thought it might be a good idea to take my gym membership seriously. Plus the exercise helped me feel good about myself. If I had been sitting around all day I would have sunk into a great depression and I really didn’t want that for myself. I had to think positive if I hoped to get a job that required quite a bit of smiling and joking on my part. Working out kept my energy level high through my whole ordeal.

3) Podcasts!

I’ve never really had time for podcasts before and suddenly I found myself with 21 hours to kill in my average day and I could only spend so much time sleeping, eating, and working out. I hit the podcasts pretty hard. I listened to everything that I had always wanted to listen to but I had been too busy to do so before.

Which ones did I listen to? A lot of comedy related ones. When you’re unemployed a laugh or two is much appreciated. Here’s my Top 2:

“Doug Loves Movies.” Doug Benson’s movie podcast saved my life on more than one occasion. After going to a restaurant and being told that “my services were not required at this point in time but we’ll call you if a position opens up” I would sink into some very dark thoughts. This was my go to podcast to get me laughing again. Thank you Mr. Benson, I’m in your debt.

“Nerdist.” Chris Hardwick’s podcast features interviews with a lot of interesting people in the comedy and entertainment world and I spent many a happy evening curled up with a cup of tea and this podcast.

4) Reading!

I did a whole lot of reading during my Month of Free Time! I mostly read essays and biographies, with a giant splash of Hunter S. Thompson for good measure.

I love reading and so it makes sense that I would find comfort in books in my time of need.

5) Family and friends!

I’ve never called my mother so many times as I did during my period of unemployment. I must have called her every day to tell her about my job hunting progress or lack thereof. My mother and I have always been close and this whole experience strengthens my belief that I could never survive with out her kind words when I’m feeling blue.

I also spent a lot of time confiding in my friends who stuck by me during my moments of depression and bitterness. Thanks guys! I couldn’t have done it without you!

6) Baseball!

I’ve always loved the San Francisco Giants but have never been able to actually watch the games because I would always end up working on the nights that they would play. So I embraced the opportunity to get outside of myself and stop focusing on how miserable and broke I was and cheer on the Giants like there was no tomorrow.

The fact that the Giants ended up winning the World Series during the year that I was actually able to watch their games made it all the more sweet! 56 years and they finally won! I’m not saying that my unemployment had anything to do with it, but still, it was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating time in my life. So thank you Giants for giving me hope for the future.

So there you have it. That’s my list of what I did during my month of unemployment and heart ache.

Thankfully it’s all over now. I recently was hired to work as a waiter at a new restaurant opening up in town this coming Friday. I’m really excited to be able to get out there and work again! All this free time has made me realize how much I miss being social and being able to go out with friends and enjoy my life.

That’s what I’m thankfully for this Thanksgiving: Employment. And the Giants winning the World Series. But mostly employment.

“No Middle Seat” Episode 2!

The people have spoken! You demanded more of Anthony and I talking about movies!!! Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. Give the people what they want, I say!

Our second podcast focuses on the films of Clint Eastwood, specifically “Hereafter.” We also discuss the new Spider-Man film, our thoughts on the Coen brothers evolution over the years, and the new film “Black Swan.” I also talk about my unabashed love of Bill Murray, and many other fascinating things! Give it a listen! I dare you! It’s the rainy season, you know. What better time to have a cup of tea and cozy up to your laptop or iPod and listen to my podcast? The Universe wants you to. Trust me.

As an added bonus to the listeners of our last episode who were kind enough to comment and shower their praise upon us I added a little “on air” thank you at the end of the podcast. Listen to this one all the way through and leave a comment or two and I’ll do the same for YOU in our next podcast.

I’m rather enjoying this foray into podcasting. The back and forth between us and our listeners has been especially enjoyable for me. Thank you for that.

Let us know how you like the podcast!
“No Middle Seat” Ep.2 by No Middle Seat

P.S. If the link doesn’t work just hit “refresh” or go back to my home page. That should do the trick.

Belle & Sebastian = Happiness

I first heard of the band Belle & Sebastian from a John Cusack movie. I know. I can practically see the expressions of shock and awe on your face.

The movie was called “High Fidelity,” a Cusack film all the way from the year 2000. I first saw the movie in high school. Junior Year to be exact. It was the same year I had somehow convinced my mother that I was of proper age to start watching R-rated fare that I had been dying to watch for years but had been unable to watch because I was “just a kid.” The fact that I was in the throes of puberty, and all the joyous awkwardness and heartache and squeaky voiced goodness that that entails didn’t help my righteous cause of proving to my mother that I was no longer a boy, but rather a man. Specifically, a man who Needed To Watch R-Rated Movies In Order To Figure Out How The World Worked. It was that simple. If I was never allowed to watch Terminator 2 I don’t think I would have turned out to be the same man I am today. I would have been weak. Squeamish. Faint of heart. I would have never been able to Get Shit Done unless I was exposed to the wonders of R-rated cinema, I felt. That was my argument I presented my mother. I begged. I pleaded. Finally, she consented.

Woooo hoooooooo!!! I quickly raced to the local movie rental establishment and stocked up on all of the Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Willis movies my young brain could handle. After a few months of frying my brain on images of violence I finally decided to go for some “lighter fare.” I rented “Rushmore,” and quickly fell out of love with explosions and started tracking down movies with things like “character development” and “witty dialogue.”

One of the first films I rented after my cinema awakening was “High Fidelity,” which tells the tale of an unhappy record store owner named Rob Gordon (played by John Cusack) who, in an attempt to figure out The Meaning Of It All, decides to look up all of his ex-girlfriends and figure out What Went Wrong. Somewhere in between all of the existential angst his character actually manages to play some really good tunes at the record store, Championship Vinyl, that he owns and operates with his two employees Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (pre-fame Jack Black), the “musical moron twins,” as he refers to them.

During one of the scenes at the record store Dick plays Rob “the new Belle & Sebastian record,” which they both listen to quietly for awhile before Jack Black comes in an starts yelling at them for playing such “sad bastard music.” Sad bastard music or not I really liked what I heard. After the movie was done I grabbed a pen and some paper and sat close to the TV intently watching the credits to figure out who that band was that I liked so much. The song was “Seymour Stein” from the album “The Boy With The Arab Strap” by the band Belle & Sebastian.

I hopped on my bicycle and peddled over to the nearest record store and combed the isles for the band. They had one album: “If You’re Feeling Sinister.” I liked the cover a lot. I payed for it and hopped back on my bike and peddled home, locked myself in my room and listened to the album. Then I listened to it again. Then I listened to it a third time. I was in love. I quickly got my hands on every Belle & Sebastian album I could find and listened to them consistently for the remainder of my high school experience.

The band has remained a cherished staple in my musical library ever since. When the rain is coming down and all I want to do is sit on my couch curled up with blanket and a cup of tea, I listen to them. I listen to them when I’m driving and the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

They remain one of my favorite bands and when I learned that they were finally on tour in the United States (for the first time since 2007) my heart skipped a beat. I was finally going to be able to see them live! They were playing the Treasure Island Music Festival in San Francisco this year, I learned. I had been to the festival last year and had seen many great bands, including Beirut, Grizzly Bear, The Decemberists, and headliners The Flaming Lips. It was an incredible night and I really liked the venue. Belle & Sebastian was a natural fit for San Francisco, I felt. Plus so many of their songs took place in the historic city.

The concert took place over the weekend of the 16th and 17th, and lucky for me my friends Pat, Adrienne, Steven, and Katie were planning on going and were nice enough to let me bum a ride. Road trips by yourself are not nearly as much fun as road trips with your friends. I know I’m not really blowing anyone’s mind with that Truth Bomb, but I felt like it had to be said.

We were set to depart at 8am sharp on Saturday morning, which is about 4 hours earlier than I’m used to being awake so I set the alarm on my dresser and the alarm on my phone so I wouldn’t oversleep. I didn’t sleep well that night for two reasons: 1) I never sleep well when I know I have to be awake early 2) I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. So I spent much of the evening watching Louis CK stand up clips on YouTube and giggling to myself. I have a pretty loud laugh I’ve been told, so my neighbors must have thought I was going insane or something. Oh well.

When my alarm finally rang I hopped out of bed in a crazed daze. I looked at the alarm and it read 7am. Awesome. I did some mental math. Awesome. I’d got 2 whole hours of sleep! This was going to be an interesting trip. I hopped in the shower, blasted myself with hot water, and then I gingerly packed a bag to last the weekend. It was going to be cold as the Dickens in San Francisco this weekend, I reminded myself, so I packed 3 extra sweaters and my bomber jacket, just in case.

The drive to the Bay was beautiful. It was foggy and wet for most of the morning, which made the Redwoods look all the more majestic as we drove south down the highway, singing along to Belle & Sebastian along the way. Everyone in my group was pretty sleep deprived, which made for great conversation as we all tried to outdo each other in a contest of Who Was More Exhausted. We all tied for first place.

We pulled into San Francisco around 4pm or so and stopped at Trader Joe’s and picked up some snacks, all the while marveling at what a magical wonderland Trader Joe’s was. “There must be something in the water that makes everyone who works here so manically cheerful,” I mused while we stared thoughtful at their vast array of hummus.

Pat and I both bought 6-packs of beer for $2.99 because we’re classy like that. Besides, I’d heard that their lager was pretty damn delicious, especially when you factor in the price. Not all cheap beer is bad, I have come to realize. Besides, I was on a bit of a budget because I was “in between jobs” for the first time in over 7 years and I had to be very meticulous about what I spent my money on if I hoped to survive the experience.

After Joe’s we split up into two groups: Team Steven and Katie met up with Steven’s brother and went back to his dad’s place, and I joined Team Pat and Adrienne and we ventured into San Francisco proper to go vintage clothes shopping and meet up with her sister, who was kind of enough to give us food and shelter for the evening.

After spending a good 20 minutes or so looking for parking we finally found a spot to park and proceeded to have a lovely time waltzing around and commenting on the vast array of humanity that is San Francisco. We meet up with Adrienne’s sister at one of the many vintage clothing outlets in the Haight-Ashbury District and went back to her place, which her and her boyfriend shared with two other guys. It was a really nice spot, complete with a backyard in which they raised chickens. I’m being completely serious. Fresh eggs. It was awesome.

We spent the night drinking beer and watching the Giants game. I used to play baseball when I was younger and have always enjoyed the sport, but I realized while watching the Giants beat the living tar out of the Phillies how much I enjoyed the game! The fact that I was actually in SF to watch them win only added to the experience. Plus Brian Wilson’s beard was a sight to behold! “That man is completely insane,” I was informed. Fantastic. I like crazy pitchers. It adds to the drama of the game, I feel.

After the game we talked for awhile and then decided to watch “Hot Tub Time Machine,” which is a hilarious film which just so happened to star John Cusack (it’s interesting how everything is connected, isn’t it?). After the film and it was declared that is was in fact “late,” so we promptly passed out.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of my cell phone ringing. It was Steven letting me know he was outside and politely asking to be let in. It was quite cold out. I yelled at Pat from across the room and he groggily got up and let them in. We sat around for awhile in the comfortable silence of people who not quite awake yet. We had some coffee and a shot of vodka, which seemed like a good idea at the time. “It’s a Russian blanket,” Pat told me with a smile. “Why not?” I said, downing the shot and shuddering a bit. “You only live once, right?”

We piled into Adrienne’s car and she drove us to the shuttle bus, which took us the rest of the way to the island. Once on the island we were greeted with the glorious sight of hipsters in all shapes and sizes. “Wow! I’ve never seen so many ironic mustaches in one place before!” I declared. My group nodded in agreement. “It’s pretty impressive.”

Half of the bands that were playing that Sunday I had never heard of so I was excited to expand my musical taste. Also, I was excited to see the band She & Him play, because I’ve spent the last two years of my life head over heels in love with Zooey Deschanel. Ha. Right. Me and half of everyone else in hipsterdom.

The day passed quickly and before I knew it Belle & Sebastian took the stage and I started screaming like the fan boy that I was directly into Steven and Katie’s ears. Sorry about that, guys. I just got a little too excited for a second there.

The first song they played was the single “Write About Love,” which was from their new album that I hadn’t heard yet, so I was experiencing it for the first time live, which is a blessed thing that I will never forget. Most of their set consisted of their older, better known tracks though, and the crowd loved it. I decided then and there that Belle & Sebastian was like the Rolling Stones for indie kids. We love seeing them live, but we really want them to play the older songs that we grew up listening to. I was especially pleased when they played “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” which is one of my favorite tracks of their “If You’re Feeling Sinister” album.

I teared up a bit during front man Stuart Murdoch’s tender rendition of “Lord Anthony,” not going to lie. Actually, in all honesty I was teared up through most of their set. Tears of joy, really. It had been a life long dream of mine to see them live and here I was, freezing my buns off in San Francisco doing just that. At that moment there was no place in the world I would have rather been than right there, huddled en masse with my fellow Belle & Sebastian fans. It was a moment that I will always remember with fondness.

The band played for over and hour and a half and when they left the stage I felt completely euphoric, as if all was right in my world. It was a precious feeling that I dwelled upon during the drive home, even though Pat and I were blasting 90s gangster rap in our effort to not stay awake on the drive home. Pat was driving and I volunteered to serve as his co-pilot, offering helpful suggestions such as “please don’t crash into that car that is ahead of us.” Everyone else slept peacefully in the back while we told stories of our childhood and pondered our own mortality.

We arrived back in Humboldt around 5:30 in the morning. I thanked Pat for getting us home in one piece, and told everyone that I loved them and thanked them for such a special road trip. I grabbed my bag and headed up to my apartment, barely managing to lock the door before I slumped into my couch and promptly passed out until noon. It was a good night.