June 24, 2009

this is how I feel

this is how I feel

6 am: Ignoring alarm, rolling over for 5 more minutes of being Big Spoon to A’s warm, snuggly Little Spoon, wishing the day wasn’t starting.

7 am: Unpacking boxes of broccoli. Wanting to drink coffee but fearing it will make me more tired later in the day.

8 am: Washing and stacking 10-day-old locally grown, organic Red Oak Leaf Lettuce. Drinking coffee. Shaking off the aphids crawling up my wrists.

9 am: Still stacking lettuce despite Market now being open. Hoping customers don’t notice a) aphids or b) date on the box. Thinking about when I’ll take first break, and if there will be beans in any of the cafe soups today, because I love eating beans for breakfast.

10 am: Texting A. from employee bathroom. Happy coffee boost has curbed hunger.

11 am: Gobbling cafe chili out of cardboard cup in Market Breakroom on 15-minute break. (Disappointed in black bean to ground beef ratio). Reading review of Real Housewives of New York City, thinking Heather Havrilesky is only a little funny.

12 pm: Picking wrinkled organic jalapenos out of display basket, wondering if A. will be over soon to take lunch break with me.

1 pm: Full of tuna salad and garbanzo beans and warm fuzzy love feelings. Cutting watermelons and cantaloupes in half and wrapping them in saran wrap because I think the melon display looks better with some color in it. Also thinking people like to see the insides of melons before they buy them. Also thinking that even if I liked watermelons, I’d still rather buy a half of one because it’s less of a commitment.

2 pm: Replacing handmade signs in produce department with shiny new printed ones. Happy to be leaving Market in 30 minutes.

3 pm: Collapsed pantsless on bed, inwardly seething as housemate prattles on about having finished book 1 of Don Quixote in only 3 days and how she intends to read the entire Panchatantra next. Wishing I could have some peace before I go to next job.

4 pm: Still pantsless in bed, watching episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, shocked that housemate would suggest I use my invaluable 2-hour reprieve between jobs to wash the vegetables from our farmshare when I’ve spent the past 8 hours washing other people’s vegetables.

5 pm: At second job at Divey Music Venue. Cowboy Junkies doing their sound check as I’m scooping canned hot fudge into empty sour cream container to be microwaved. Getting plasticky fudge all over self, as usual.

6pm: Running up and down stairs carrying trays of beer and cocktails, trying to cheerily explain to impatient customers why 200 people can’t be seated at the same time and all expect to have their drinks delivered to them simultaneously.

7pm: Making sure everyone has enough ketchup and margaritas and napkins and alcohol to keep them happy before I can dash outside to get some fresh air, sit on a milk crate and cradle my head in my hands. Marveling at how my body continues to climb stairs when my mind is so vehemently opposed to the idea.

8 pm:  Trying not to stare as grey-haired lesbians make out soulfully at the table closest to the computer. Disturbed by the idea that I could become one of them some day. Counting down the minutes til I can start passing out the checks.

9 pm: Wiping down tables, resenting the one couple who is still lingering and hasn’t signed their credit card. Take small comfort in reminding self that the longer they take, the less time I’ll have to spend carrying tables and chairs down into the basement.

10 pm: Sweaty and exhausted, arriving at home with 1/2 pint of Jack Daniels clutched in hand, hoping to get in a cold shower before A. comes over. Considering calling Parents tomorrow to admit defeat and telling them I’ll apply to grad schools to get that whole “real career” thing going as soon as humanly possible.

11 pm: Snuggled in bed with A. watching another episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, sipping Jack Daniels on ice, feeling peaceful at last.

12 pm: Passed out. Dreaming about walking to the Island from California, whereupon we find A’s nephew swimming under the dock with fish as big as he is.


this is what 6:30 am looks like

this is what 6:30 am looks like

Locally-grown goodies have been rolling into the Market for a few weeks now. They are a splendid sight—tender lettuce heads, vivid green spinach and crates of just-picked asparagus. So fresh, so good.

People are all about the locally grown-ness in these parts, but still, at this time of year I’d say only about 25% of the produce on the floor is actually from this area. Most of the rest of it comes from California, and I always feel a mix of pride and longing when I grab a box of something that grew up in the same little corner of the world that I did. Green beans from Fresno! Plums from Kingsburg! Carrots from Bakersfield! Melons from San Diego! Reading the labels on the boxes, its so easy for me to picture the orchards and fields the food was grown in, the people that picked it and the towns they live in.

It makes me miss home. I’m happy to now be living in a place where people are so deep into the locally-grown green movement that they’ll ride their bike to the Market every Saturday to pick up local organic lettuce compost to feed their own locally-grown organic chickens, but still. When you live in California, it seems like everything is locally grown and no one makes a fuss about it. Or else they were making a fuss and I wasn’t paying attention.

Green Beans from Fresno, you were the most perfect green beans I’ve ever seen.

 dont pack heavy things in wet lettuce boxes

a satisfying morning in the organic case

a productive morning in the organic case

Been working produce at the Hippie Market for about a month now, and am starting to appreciate the challenges of the job. Keeping the department fully and freshly stocked is a bit more difficult than I first understood, especially with only two or three people on at a time. I like that there’s a challenge involved, though, or else I think it would be too monotonous.

The walk-in cooler is like a puzzle: orders come in several times a day, and you have to always be looking for creative ways to find space for them on the shelves. At the same time, you’re always trying to keep the shelves on the floor as full and plentiful-looking as possible. Each box moved out of the cooler, emptied on the floor and then broken down in the prep room is like a little victory, except it doesn’t last long. The orders just keep coming and the food on the shelves just keep going.

At least we hope the food on the shelves just keeps going. The Market has only been open a year, is more than a little overpriced and is in competition with farmers markets, Whole Foods and a number of other natural foods stores in the area. Produce perishes quickly, and there have been times where entire baskets of potatoes and cases of green beans have had to be tossed because they just sat out there and got nasty. That’s kind of depressing.

Its even crazier to me to pull perfectly fine vegetables just because they have a slight imperfection or two. Any kind of wrinkling on a bell pepper or minor abrasion on a zucchini and the vegetable ceases to be worth eating in the eyes of the consumer. To be fair, though, I guess it just ceases to be worth purchasing. If they’re going to spend $2.50 on a head of locally-grown organic lettuce, it’s expected to be the most vibrant specimen available.

At least the offending vegetables don’t go completely to waste. They’re put back into boxes in a corner of the cooler, where anyone who works at the store can help themselves. Whatever’s left over gets picked up by a local survival center, where the bruises are cut away and the food gets cooked up into food for the homeless. This is indeed a consolation, but it still makes me a little ill when I see people turn up their noses at perfectly healthy, organic produce just because it doesn’t look like a plastic model.

Maybe I should force one of those people to eat one of these cucumbers we found behind the conventional display: Read the rest of this entry »


May 6, 2009

produce in my sink

produce in my sink

In mid-march, I quit my dreadful waitressing job at a place I’ll call The Pasta Shack. I was so over the Shack. The chef was a sociopath, the owners kept accusing their best servers of stealing, I kept having to cover shifts for the people getting unustly fired, and then having to train a whole new set of degenerates to replace my friends. The longer I stayed there the more the place seemed to me like a sinking ship, and the day I quit I pictured myself a flea jumping off the back of one of the drowning rats on board.

Myself-as-flea remained suspended in that jump throughout  most of April, while I lived off my much more tolerable second waitressing job and contemplated my options. My strongest feeling was that I needed to stop waitressing full-time. Serving had rendered me bitter and resentful, perpetually spiteful and annoyed. I needed a job where I didn’t have to kiss ass all day defending crap food I wouldn’t even eat. I wanted a job that I believed in, a job that would reflect who I really am, something that that would align with my values. And now I work at a grocery store. Read the rest of this entry »