When I was 12 or 13, my older sister went to a "Born Again" bible camp. I was annoyed by the Born Agains, being that I was Catholic. Born Agains seemed a little too serious, a little too mono focused for little Danny Klecko.
But, eventually all that changed, and I ended up loving the "BA's", but for me, my conversion couldn't of happened, wouldn't of happened, unless I respected the participants in its cause.
One afternoon my sister introduced me and my friends to some young ladies that she was going to camp with. I think they were all going as councilors.
Shelly Gilbertson was one of them. O-M-G.....LOL, I still crack up when I think about that initial intro. Shelly had long-long thick - black, silky horse mane hair (which was soooo Born Again in the 70's) a dark olive complexion and dark brown eyes that said "I'm so what you want, but you are only 13 so you don't know quite what that is, but if you did know, you'd know that was me!"
Then there was the "Bad Girl" allure that was attached to Shelly that made that her that much more in demand of every Christian "Thug" in our region.
Christian "Bad Girls" are way different than secular bad girls....I think we all have a pretty good idea of what kind of fun secular girls participate in, but Shelly's claim to "Born Again Controversy" was that she worked at a liquor store.
Hah!!!! my boys couldn't have been more impressed if she was smoking cigs with Farrah Fawcett.
A couple weeks roll by and I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant called the Town Crier. Each day when I went in to start my shift I'd take over for a retarded guy who cleaned up for the morning shift.
With retarded people, there are different levels. Most of the mentally challenged people working in the hospitality industry are level 3 retards, you've seen them. they can take the bus to work by themselves and are just a little slow.
But the cat I worked with, who I'll just call Danny F, he was a level 6, and every time I'd go to punch in, I'd noticed he'd stolen my apron.
Dude was such a culprit.
I'd complain to my manager but all he would do was walk onto the line a SCREAM out
"Mo Rat's picking on Danny F again!" and then all the short order cooks would laugh and file into my workspace which was fondly known as "The Swanp" where they would proceed to give me fist shots to the shoulder and advise me to.......
"Stop picking on the F-ing tard" or "Keep it up Mo Rat, and we'll crush your skull to the point where they'll ship your a** off to Courage Center."
I took the beatings, because that's what you do when you are 13.
After I tied my soggy apron on, one of my attackers would run me an omelet or burger off the line to reaffirm that they were just giving me grief.
But then a nightmare of nightmares occurred.......Shelly Gilbertson came on staff as a server (but back then she'd be called a "Waitress" and I recoiled in fear at the thought that the #1 hottest chick in the Contemporary Christian world was going to witness me engaging in the soggy apron swap with a retarded kid everyday.
It's funny, I didn't stand a chance in heck of vying for her affections. At 13 I was pretty realistic I knew my place in courting principals, but none the less, I've always lived by a simple principal, if you can't have what is most coveted....just make sure they don't find out that your life's work becomes visible to your "Crush Demographic" as being "that guy" who grabs the figurative baton from retarded dish rat.
In many ways this story could serve as a parable for what it is like to choose the Hospitality Industry as a career path.
As mentioned in previous blog postings....when I jumped into the "Food Show" years ago, I paid attention to the people I worked with.
The first observation I made was nobody grows up wanting to be a cook,chef or baker, the people who feed you typically were folks who were poor, high school drop outs, void of mentor ship or a strong parental presence. Many of my colleagues had even come out of the prison systems.
So as you'd go through your life it was kinda like the caste system thing. You'd be off the clock, at a social event, and somebody might ask what you did for a living, and if your response was....
"I am a line cook at Embers." or "I bake bread at SuperMoms for the Super America gas stations."
Let's just say that women would almost always whisper to her husband to keep an eye on their kids and make damn sure they didn't get to close to you.
But all that has changed now, after a little creation called the Food Network, chefs and bakers are kinda like rock stars. A couple years ago I was preparing to go speak at a regional baking conference when my phone rang and I was asked if I wanted to do a demo at the Food & Wine show. I explained I was strapped for time and possibly I could do it the following year.
The woman on the other line kinda panicked and informed me they didn't have a baker, so she tried to seduce me with money, I still said "No", but then she said
"How about if I send a limo over to get you, bring you to the event, you give me a hour and the limo will take you home?"
I started to laugh. Just 5 years ago a guy would of had to flip a carton of Marlboro Reds and a 50 spot to some cat to even have a chance to attend the event, now they are sending limos?
But, being a guy whose been burnt one too many times I extended the conversation
"Listen lady, if I've learned one thing,PERCEPTION is a funny word. Now, when you say limo, you better not be talking a van airport limo. I want to hear the word STRETCH come out of your mouth."
There was a momentary silence until "STRETCH-STRETCH-STRETCH, now will you just agree please?"
I did it, and if I recall I didn't want to attend alone, Sue McGleno rolled her eyes and told me I was a monkey-diva to turn down cold cash,and it showed my vanity that I could be so easily duped by a station wagon with velvet seats, so I took my cheesecake girlfriend Tami Cabrera (Muddy Paws Cheese Cakes - which i served at my daughters wedding, but that's another story) instead and we had a splendid hour.
So for the first couple years of the Food Network, I was completely digging that trickle down effect, but what did Bugs Bunny always say? To every action is a reaction......well then with exploitation always comes along "The Natural Progression."
Andrew Zimmern (who also resides in the Twin Cities) got a show where he eats pig testicles, drinks monkey puss and if you watch closely he always seems to be using his peripheral to scope on 3rd world nation Cabana boys.
Then there's the legend himself Anthony Bourdain.That guy is a great story teller, but after all the numerous mentions of whose "doing it" in the walk in cooler, or tales of chefs and servers dumpster humping.....it's such a Judas, and especially from peeps who worked in the show.What good is it to declare yourself king over a minion of turds?
Now the first thing some of you might be wondering....
"Well Klecko....could it be that you are a little jealous?" Absolutely, but still if I had my own show, I wouldn't want to represent my guild by having to become some silly Culinary Uncle Tom, I'd show the beauty and honor that exists in the hospitality field.
You can be cool, you can be savvy, you can move ratings w/o eating bull penis and chain smoking while reliving sexual conquests.
I don't know who will go to their own guild hell quicker....Bourdain for rehashing all the sexual content of a world he hasn't worked in for what is it now....a decade, or Bruce Springsteen for being 100 years old and wailing away about unbridled passion in a Camero with a 16 year old blond....sigh
And these peeps just scratch the surface. I could run down a list of the people who insult the integrity of today's Food Service Worker, but I won't bore you with it.
All I will say is I would rather have The hottest Born Again chick watch me fighting a retarded guy every day to get an apron.........
Oh yeah,,,,,BTW.......after 30 years, Shelly Gilbertson came to the bakery yesterday. She was in the company of her daughter who was close to the same age she was when I first met her, As the 2 of them mingled with customers of my 1st annual Amish Bake Sale, I was thrilled, but I got to tell you, and you might not believe it but........Danny Klecko was actually kinda nervous, and yes.....she was still totally MEOW.
It was awesome!