Smoking Bowls and Mixing Bowls…The end of the punk kitchen and Gaboors…

After nearly ten years of the same job I found myself cast aside like old newspapers. Granted, anyone who works in a kitchen can shed light on the threat of changing jobs and the lack of job security in our chosen career path. As a kid my Dad told me “learn how to cook, plumb or build houses because people will always eat, people always shit and they always need a place to sleep.” Pretty sound advice. After all his cooking expertise is what guided me on my journey in the culinary arts.

I always enjoyed cooking for myself and friends. I have been doing it since I was around 6 years old. Cooking in a restaurant is a different ballgame all together. It can be one of the worst shoes in the Food Industry to fill but it still can be enjoyable. The greatest thing about cooking for me was the free food and booze that readily flowed like water. A nice thing about knowing your way around a kitchen is the flexibility in life it affords you. Like being able to go on tour whenever you want. If the boss is a dick about it, then you can inform them about how they can fuck off and you can then go out and find yourself a new job, pretty simple really. This last job was unlike that though. It was a good one, I actually wanted to keep it and they wanted to keep me. I went on numerous tours and vacations and always would I come back to that little kitchen for almost a decade. My manager was the shit! She advanced me money and paid the money up front to fix my nasty excuse for teeth. She would get wasted with you and tell the craziest stories ever. She was a saint dammit!?! I even crashed the computer at work with porn and still kept my job. Yea, I am a real classy one, here.

I will always remember the smell of natural gas as it mingled with and hot oil born from a fryer that had seen one to many French fries in its day. For a high school dropout covered in tattoos I was doing okay. Granted in almost every hipster bar you are going to find a punk rocker or a metalhead back there making a living. There are even bands that have sung about the very subject (i.e. Slightly Less Than Nothing). I absolutely reveled in the stereotype. I was a punk cook all the way. I would feed my bros if they were hungry in exchange for some weed smoke or a few clean dishes. Even Dale Crover came into the back and puffed a couple of bowls one night.

Thirteen dollars an hour to cook food for overly cool college kids four nights a week was a righteous thing. I could drink my fill and sate my appetite completely for free. I met members of the opposite sex there and made tons of lifelong friends.  Plus I never had anyone breathing down my neck, ever. I answered to nobody. I mean I had a boss sort of but I didn’t really answer to anyone. I didn’t even have a dishwasher. So I would sit in my kitchen smoking bowl after bowl and catch up on some reading. I remembered the night the only manager, who was never there, relayed to me that I could do whatever I wanted back there. She just simply didn’t want to have to think about it. She also told me I could drink as much as I wanted while I worked but just to be careful and try not to hurt yourself. Can do, No problem! I never cut myself with a knife in 10 years. Being in charge of the kitchen gave me a chance to mess with menu a little until we had it where it was just right. The place started selling food again and it was great for about 6 years.  Then the smoking ban hit and we all thought that was going to usher in the end right there, we were going to be closed for sure. The manager decided, fuck it and we allowed people to smoke after ten at night then eventually after midnight for years after the ban, almost right up until the end. But new carpet eventually won out over smoking. New carpet is expensive and smoking stinks so the carpet prevails every time. A lot of bars did close and a lot of bars got fined for allowing smoking to go on. One thing we had on our side was that a Denver cop use to come into the bar to smoke and stare at the girls, creepy fucker. I remember one of the girls taking a picture of him puffing away on his Camel. You know, just in case we got busted. I guess it’s an alcoholic’s idea of insurance. We did get a few warnings and had some close calls. One local paper rated us as a great dive bar and in the review they quaintly mentioned that you could still smoke illegally as one of our endearing qualities. Fucking idiots destroying what they like and suffering at the hands of their own undoing.

Well as the saying goes all good things come to an end. In hind sight it was time. But that doesn’t lessen the sting any. Years ago in Denver there was a slumlord property owner named Cousins. If you drive around Denver you can see buildings that have the Cousins name inlaid in brick on the face of them. That guy died and his family got all the properties. They even had a parade for him when he died that went by all the buildings he was a slumlord over. Yea, I thought it was just a little insulting to the poor folks in those apartments or maybe they were glad to see him dead. His family decided to sell the building that housed the restaurant I worked in as well as a head shop and a beauty salon. It takes up a whole half block. Unlucky for me it turns out my boss is some prick that lives on a yacht on the East Coast somewhere with his wife who owns a wine tasting shop. This idiot fails to see the significance in the fact that this property that is home to his business is up for sale. Then when it sold he failed to fully comprehend the ramifications of his apathy towards the whole situation, as well. And the result of that apathy was him losing his business and all of us losing our jobs. The new guy who bought it is some young rich entrepreneur who in the same week that he spent a cool million on my block he also went and bought a new house in an old historic district in town where houses run $800k and up. This shit licking capitalist already owned another restaurant but he wanted a new toy and it turns out his new toy was my job.

It wasn’t surprising, the fact that my boss didn’t even try to lift a finger. He owned that bar for over 25 years and while I worked there he never made any effort to fix the place up. Except for replacing the carpet 6 months before the place got closed down. He would show up once a year and be a sleazy asshole to the bartenders and verbally assault our manager. He was just letting it go while the whole time demanding his money. I helped make that dirt bag money for a lot of years and he never once looked me in the eye while shaking a motherfucker’s hand! Shit in 10 years he took the time to shake my hand only once. I cleaned every inch of that grease pit kitchen that had once been a two car garage.  I turned that kitchen around to the point where even the Health Department was impressed.  It was hilarious at times, almost like running a bar/restaurant out of an ill cared for squat. Shit would blow up all the time. If you said something like, hey the ice machine hasn’t broke in a while. The next day you would be in for a treat for sure. Exploding water heaters, exploding frozen pipes, broken freezers, broken credit card machine, toilets fucked up, nearly everything broke at one time or another.  I worked at a ticking time bomb. The kitchen would be 105 degrees all summer and below freezing in the winter. My fridge would piss a constant stream of grey water all night long onto the cracked cement floor as soon as the weather outside turned warm.

So why stay there, you ask? My manager was truly one of the coolest people I ever worked for. And we really only had to deal with the boss once a year.  One day I woke up and had a text message informing me that there is no more work. The last hot water heater blew up, blasting a torrent of hot water across the haunted looking basement resulting in the last straw. The head honcho called from the East Coast and bleakly informed us that he was throwing in the towel. We were not going to stay open as long as we could. Plus when our patrons heard that we were going to be closing the ransacked the place and stole everything off the walls that they could.

I was relieved and fucked at the same time.  It was a strange feeling, almost like breaking off a long term relationship that I was paid to be a part of. About a week later me and a friend drove up there and packed his car with food and booze. No exaggeration, we filled his car to the top. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars in food, bottles of wine, beer, and sponges, metal bowls, ginger ale, trash bags, everything you can imagine. Gallons of bbq and Blue cheese sitting on top of bags of chili, bottles of spices and pounds upon pounds of cheese. It was the only nice thing the owner ever did for me and I took 100% advantage of it. That grocery run fed me and friends for months.

I heard that the place is about to reopen under a different name. I drove by the old block and it was completely different. Even the corner store that has been run by the same family for 30 years is going out of business as well. They had their rent raised from $1000 to over $5000 per month. I was asked if I was going to work at the new place once its doors opened again. My only reply to that is “Hell No!”  I honestly find it insulting that I have to reapply to a job I worked for ten years. I heard through the grape vine that the new guy had wanted to hire me and one of the bartenders and that he had even set money aside to help pay our rent during the remodeling. I never met the guy and he never once tried to contact me or just meet me on a human level. The bartender that was going to stay asked why I don’t call him. Respect, it’s that simple. He is the one who ended my job maybe he should have the respect to say, “hey sorry about that old chap, I will help you out until we reopen if you want to work here”. But that never happened and I won’t be holding my breath waiting for it to happen. In the reality of it all, I am glad to not be on that block anymore. 10 years was way too long to be stuck in the same kitchen, for sure. A new chapter has emerged in my life and I happily embrace in full with all my being. Plus unemployment is pretty sweet!   (Attucks)

~ by thrashpunx on May 14, 2012.

2 Responses to “Smoking Bowls and Mixing Bowls…The end of the punk kitchen and Gaboors…”

  1. Great post. Sucks you lost your job. Fucking awesome that you got to burn one with Dale Crover there though.
    I’m the token punk rock type in the kitchen where I work. It’s pretty funny. They let me and my wife live upstairs from the restaurant, so if this place ever closed I’d be fucked. It’s been open for like seventy years though, and we do about five to six hundred customers a week so business isn’t too bad.
    I don’t think I’ve ever worked in one single place where the ice machine wasn’t fucked up. Motherfuckers have the technology to build drone planes to kill people half a world away, but American free market capitalism hasn’t yet produced an ice machine that wont break down every week and a half.
    Best of luck on your next job. Hopefully it’ll be at someplace as good as your last sounded.

  2. Fuck the new guy. Stay unemployed and write a book while your at it. That was an amazing story, thanks man.

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