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11:55 a.m. - 2013-10-18
A visit to my kid's kitchen and his future.

When in doubt just start typing.

'Hart of Dixie'. Having watched up all the good stuff like 'Call The Midwife', 'Downton Abbey', 'Orange is the New Black' and the latest season of 'Grey's Anatomy' (twice!) I went shopping for a show. Sick of police procedurals (I am CSI-ed right out) and not in the mood to take up any sort of sci-fi since I got spoiled by 'Lost Girl' and the all too brief 'Firefly' I figured I'd take Netflix's recommendation and try 'Hart of Dixie'. The jury is still out. No 'New York doctor in a quirky little town' show will ever top 'Northern Exposure' so I'm willing to cut 'HoD' a bit of slack on that one. The cast is amiable enough. (Except it's still weird to see that guy who played Jason Street on 'Friday Night Lights' out of his wheelchair.) The town is pleasantly goofy and the southern accents aren't too grating. (This isn't a slam. I'm sure my juicy yiddishkeit New Yawk accent is just as jarring to folks outside the NYC metro area as southern accents are to me.) My iffy-ness about 'Hart of Dixie' comes from dopey stuff like how all the women wear those horrible hoof-like shoes and that the town's cafe/bar is the same goddamn building as Merlotte's from 'True Blood' except they stuck a big old ugly neon sign on it. (The 'Rammer Jammer', if you please!) And we're not supposed to notice. Plus I'm not a big fan of the endless "Will they, won't they?" story line. It's the Wile E Coyote of plot devices. Almost every episode is a build-up toward the big moment when somebody's finally going to kiss somebody and KA-BOOM! It blows up in their faces. Hey, I understand this is the basis of almost every show not involving pretty young women who end up dead and posed in gory voyeuristic S&M positions, but I find it too precious and coy to deal with for too long. All I'm saying is somebody better get laid soon or I'm consigning 'Hart of Dixie' to the scrap heap.

Went to Open House at Wolf's culinary school. I'm used to Open House being a well-orchestrated evening of info packets and sincere tap dancing by teachers trying to assure stressed-out uber-parents that their kids are being as educated, mentally stimulated and culturally enriched as humanly possible. PowerPoint presentations. Classrooms festooned with posters of book covers and savvy quotes by Important Historical Figures. Folders stuffed with evidence of the kid's academic prowess. Personal anecdotes. You know, the crap ALL parents want to hear.

Culinary school? Not so much. Open House at culinary school was basically a confused scrum at the door to the wickedly overheated kitchens with parents being vaguely waved toward one of four chefs. Once identifying my kid's chef I stood around sweating waiting for something to happen. Aside from some snacks being doled out by the senior students there was nothing to see or do. At least in Wolf's chef's section. Across the vast kitchen sectioned off by half-walls I could hear some of the other chefs engaging the parents- making jokes, explaining the program, enthusiastically describing what was to come. Wolf's chef stood there cringing against a countertop and flinching when any parents dared speak to him. When I introduced myself Chef Z looked a bit confused and then muttered, "Oh yeah, Wolf. He's...uh...a nice kid." Then he scuttled off to oversee the doling out of navy bean soup. WTF? It's not like I expected Bobby Flay juggling knives or anything, but jeeze. My kid is stuck with the dud chef. The evening wasn't a total wash-out, I made chat with several of the parents and had a great convo with one set of parents whose kid had actually mentioned Wolf at home. Turns out the mom is the sister of a guy I know Jeff McBride and we had some laughs about Jeff's earlier years when he was dragging around Podunkville in a samurai outfit before he took off for Vegas and hit the big time.

Aside from Wolf's chef having the personality of a turnip and getting no useful information from him I'm glad I went. The kitchen itself is very nice. The work stations are cleverly laid out, the equipment is adequate, and now I have a mental picture of where my kid spends his afternoons. It's not like I expect my son will be coming out of that program primed to jet off to Paris and the Cordon Bleu. My plan is for him to get his associate's degree from the culinary and his high school diploma in 2015 and hopefully he'll sit for the civil service exam and land a job working in the kitchen of the county nursing home, a state prison, or the cafeteria of a local school district. Perhaps the hospital. Some solid institution where he can be in the union and get benefits and start paying into the retirement fund. Someplace with structure, good hours and a decent wage. It's all well and good for those with drive and flair to dream of owning their own fancy restaurants or scoring a gig on the Food Network, but Wolf will need a place to be that's less chancy. I've spoken with him about maybe finding a job on a cruise ship. Or Disney. It'd be great if he could get a berth at one of the Disney parks. I know they're reputed to have draconian worker policies but a big kitchen with structure and defined roles and duties would do my kid all kinds of fine. I know Wolf would be comfortable doing buffet prep on a Royal Caribbean mega-ship or piping icing onto mouse cookies.

I know most parents dream big for their children. And trust me, it wasn't easy for me to scale back my own grandiose visions of my son's future. Perhaps it sounds boring and mundane and a bit quashing for me to be planning on helping my son to find a job no higher than being a cog in in some unionized wheel, but for every Mario Batali there's a hundred thousand guys running hot dog carts and roach coaches. I want better for Wolf. My whole working life has depended on tips and commissions. Crappy hourly wage jobs with zero security. No benefits. No health plan. It still gives me the willies when Mick uses a sick day, I never had such luxury. With me if I don't work I don't eat. Being a creative entrepreneur sounds like a great thing. Personal freedom! Creative expression! Be my own boss! But the reality is that it's scary and hard and doesn't pay for shit.

I want more for my kid. My sweet son who finds so much about life confusing and unstable.

To me work is a means to an end. Work isn't who you are, work is what you do to pay for the rest of your life. The real parts, the good parts. A job is the barter medium. I give you 40 (or 60) hours a week. During that time I do whatever. Stock shelves. Ring up customers. Bring someone a bagel. In return I get X dollars and the other 128 hours a week are mine. I use the money I bartered my time and effort for to pay for the rest. A place to sleep. Food to eat. Internet. A car to drive and things to do when I get there. Books, movies, tampons, paints and canvas, hair products. After a lifetime of shifting sand beneath my feet, the instability of freelancing, my big want is security. The bone-deep knowledge that the basic needs will be covered and I can put an easy head on my pillow at night.

So it's not so crazy or quashing that I hope Wolf can get a job that provides those things. A job with a union at his back and a contract bound by law and the surety of a continued paycheck. Health insurance so he can go to a doctor when he needs to and still has a job waiting when he gets better. A decent living wage so his off time can be spent on things he enjoys. A Saturday at the amusement park with his kids, maybe. Utilities that stay on. A car that starts in the morning and doesn't die at stoplights. Food enough. A roof that doesn't leak.

The American Dream used to be much larger than that but 30+ years of Reaganomics and the ascension of the "Got mine, fuck you!" economic policies and social beliefs of the Right have ground us down to this. Work without hope. Get by (barely). Do not expect more.

No pithy summary or tie-in to the start. Just an honest assessment of how it is and the truncated view of the future by a former believer.

Sighing, ~LA

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