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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Oh Frank Fairfield, you magnificent vaudevillian bastard, how I love thee!

The musician Frank Fairfield looks like a gangster from the 1950s. His hair is greased back. His smile is knowing. He seems like a man capable of great violence, if the situation called for it. Luckily for me (and everyone else in attendance at Monday’s $3 “budget rock” night at the Jambalaya in my humble town of Arcata), ol’ Frank chose the life of a musician, rather than a life of crime.

Frank had the soul of a vaudevillian, it seemed. When I strolled into the practically deserted venue around 9:45pm there sat Frank, alone on stage, a single spotlight shown on him. His face was lowered as he strummed his guitar. He was dressed in a simple button up work shirt, with gray wool pants and a tattered old sports coat that looked like it had seen just about every weather known to man. Frank’s voice reminded me of the 1930s blues musician Robert Johnson, who, legend says, sold his soul to the devil to become a better guitar player. His voice quivered dramatically as he played, tapping his worn leather shoes in time to the music. After a few songs about life on the road, women he had loved, and great regrets, he set his guitar down, took a drink of water and stared out into the audience. It was now well after 10pm and more than 30 people had arrived since I had been there. Frank smiled and picked up his banjo, hopping into a tune that would make Steve Martin smile.

A tap on the shoulder jolted me out of my blissful trance. There stood my friend Pat, smiling at me. Beside him were Zachary, a bearded fellow who dresses like an English Lit. professor most of the time, and his long-time girlfriend Darlene, whom I tend to go to for advice in regards to my perpetual “girl problems.” They’re a  couple whom I am proud to call my friends (awwwww!).

“Did we miss much?” Pat asked, looking a bit panicked.

“You’ve only missed the greatest half hour of white man blues of your life!” I informed him with a laugh. “This guy’s fucking fantastic!”

As Frank plucked away diligently at his banjo I hopped over to the bar, ordered a tall PBR, and was back in my former spot in no time. Zachary looked at my beer choice and laughed. We both fancy ourselves to be beer enthusiasts, who usually favor the darker side of beer (the darker it is, the more I love it). I defended my choice, saying “I always buy PBR at shows, man. It’s a tradition.”

I buy PBR at shows for the same reason I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunchtime. It’s cheap, it tastes good, and it gets the job done. So there. Now I’ve defended PBR. It’s a whole lot better than Bud Light, Steel Reserve, or Natural Ice, let me tell you!

My eyes gazed back at the stage, where Frank lovingly set down his banjo and picked up his fiddle and started playing. I was pretty much in love with the guy at this point. What’s not to love? The man played 3 instruments, and he played them well!

As he played an old-time jig furiously on his fiddle a few horse hairs from his bow went flying across the stage.

“That’s how you can spot a good fiddle player, by the wake of broken bow hairs,” I whispered knowingly to Pat, who nodded solemnly.

I used to play the violin, as some may recall. I took lessons when I was a shy and sensitive high school student. I never really got good enough to brag about it, but I rather enjoyed myself. My brother Matthew was taking trumpet lessons at the time, and I felt it would be good for me to attempt to learn an instrument as well. Why not? I was too shy to actually talk to other people (read: most girls), so why shouldn’t I use the free time that I had for good, rather than for evil?

I didn’t stick with it, sadly. I enjoyed playing, but my instructor’s insistence that I “practice for at least an hour every day” didn’t sit with me very well. I retired my violin to be returned to the music shop and I walked off into the sunset, never looking back. Except when I come across a violin/fiddle player who can actually play, then I get more than a little jealous and curse myself for giving up on my musical dreams. But fret not, gentle reader, for I purchased a banjo as a graduation present to myself not too long and I’m getting pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I sipped my beer thoughtfully, gazing at the stage while Frank blazed through another fiddle number. I stood as if in some kind of trance. “This guy’s good” would be an understatement.

I hopped back to the bar to grab another brew and my thoughts turned to my brother Matthew’s wedding. We’ve always been close, Matthew and I. “Thick as thieves” some might say. For as long as I can remember Matthew has been in my life. I mean sure, there have been times when I wished he’d never been born (such as that instance in the 90s where he slammed the car door on my thumb and then laughed at me as I burst into tears), but for the most part I rather enjoyed the little bugger’s company. And now he’s married and gone to live in Oregon. I’m happy that he found someone to be with, naturally, but I miss him at times. When the minister said “I now pronounce you man and wife” my entire childhood flashed before my eyes and it took all of my willpower not to fall on my knees and weep like a baby. We’ll always be brothers, I know, but things won’t be the same, and I’m still working on accepting that fact. The times they are a changin’ Bob Dylan once sang, and he was right. It was such a bittersweet moment.

I paid my $3 for the beer, left my usual $1 tip and headed back to be with my friends and enjoy Frank’s musical prowess.

After the show ended I headed over to the corner of the joint to buy Frank’s LP. I have a record player now (thanks Max!) and it’s been really fun slowly amassing a record collection for myself (as if I didn’t collect enough stuff already, what with the comic books, movies, and literature and all that jazz!).

I took my newly purchased record on stage and introduced myself to Frank, who turned out to be one of the shyest, must humble musicians I’ve ever met.

When I told him how much I’d loved his music he could barely look at me, his eyes fixed to his shoes while he muttered “Oh really? You liked it?…. Wow…. Thanks.” As if I were doing him a favor by liking his stuff!

“Yeah man, you were great!” I shook his hand and asked him to sign the record, which he did (in itty bitty writing, which I found to be strangely endearing).

I walked out of the joint to find my friends waiting patiently for me.

“Bought yourself some wax, eh?”

“Yeah! I’m pretty excited about it!”

I hugged Zach and Darlene goodbye and me and Pat hopped into his car and sped off to my friend Joanna’s bonfire, talking all the way about our love of blues and all things soulful and beautiful. It was a good night.

Dear Batcave Listeners: A Love Letter

Dear Batcave Nation,

Parting is such sweet sorrow. I’ve been emotional all day, due in large part to the existential crisis that is my impending College Graduation, but also due to the knowledge that a very special part of my life is coming to an end: my life as a college DJ.

After tonight’s show, “The Batcave” becomes another Chapter In The Legend Of Nate, a chapter that has been very near and dear to my heart. I’ve been hosting “The Batcave” on KRFH for the last 3 years or so and I am being completely honest when I say that it has been one of the most encouraging and delightful college experiences of my life. I love you guys so much! I relish all the silly Facebook conversations and text messages that I have received while “On Air.” You guys have made my experience as a DJ such a joyful, amazing thing, and I am forever in your debt. After all, if it wasn’t for your support over the years I would have just been a man in a studio giggling over his stupid jokes all by him lonesome, but with your help you made my show one of the most listened to shows at the station (not to brag or anything, hahaha!).

Bam! Pow!

I made a little list of people who have listened to my show over the last few years (“Batcave V.I.P.”s, I call you) off the top of my head. Let me know if I’m forgetting anyone and I’ll add their name to this bad boy!

All my love and affection for my loyal listeners: Hannah, Seth, Tara, the Amandas (all 5 of them), Scott, the Ochart clan, Brian, Tom, Max, Darlene, Shannon, Sonia, Sofia, my loving family, Alex, Ross, Michelle, Amy, Tiffanie, Beno, Nels, Ben, Becca, Christa, Sean, Anthony, Zach, Darlene, Steven, Meagan, Grant, Deanna, Icarus, Debbie, Lizzi, and many more!

People who I’ve shared my booth with over the last few years and have made my show all the better with their bantering skillz: Max, Ben, Ross, Amanda, Seth, Evan, Brad, Matthew, Beno, Tom, and Nels.

I’m going to miss being your DJ…. You guys have turned me onto so many great bands over the years, I don’t know how to begin to repay you, other than saying “thanks” from the bottom of my heart. I’ll never forget this.

All my lovin’,

Nate

Confessions of a Conan O’Brien enthusiast: Where our hero sets into motion plans of seeing his red-headed idol in person!

How long has it been since Conan O’Brien graced the airwaves? Days? Weeks?!? Months?!?!!? YEARS?!!?!!?! It feels like an eternity since I saw that lanky Irish bastard and I miss him! There. I said it. I, Nathaniel Ochoa, miss Conan.

My life hasn’t been the same since Conan was unceremoniously kicked off the air. I mean, sure, I still go about my day as I always do. I still over-eat. I still drink too much coffee. I still work out (so that way I can eat and feel no shame). I still love comic books. I still watch movies and then talk about them for hours. In most regards, my life is the same as it ever was, except for one thing: No Conan. This makes me sad.

I’m a night owl by nature. I stay up late every night, even if I know I have to get up at 7 a.m. the next morning. I can’t help myself. I could never be a baker or a butcher (do candlestick makers offer evening shifts?). This means that when midnight rolls around I’m still wide awake, usually reading, or Facebook stalking my friends. But still, when the clock hits 12:35 a.m. I (until recently) would grab my remote and flip on my TV and laugh myself to sleep watching Conan’s antics. Alas, that is in the past now (until November that is, thanks TBS!).

Luckily for Team Coco (that’s what us Conan-loving types are calling ourselves these days), Conan is taking his show on the road!!!! And better yet, I’ve tickets to see him live!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a little excited.

Conan announced last month on Twitter that he was going on tour (The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour), causing quite a stir amoung his faithful followers. I checked his tour dates and decided then and there that I had to see him. I instantly thought of Seth, a beloved friend of mine and fellow Conan-enthusiast, as the ideal man date for this occasion. His fiancee (!!!) Tara is coming along, to serve as our caretaker while we both become rabid with excitement and glee for this historic event.

As of the publication of this, Conan’s tour is already officially underway and I couldn’t be happier about this! More Conan news as it transpires. Stay tuned, faithful readers (all 7 of them… I love you mom!).

The date of the performance: Thursday, May 6th in Sacramento! Then I graduate college on Saturday, May 15th! May is going to be the best month EVER!!!!!