Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bread Bakers VS Pastry People

I got a request from my friend Marina Sophia Schlesinger. If you have never met really should. She is young,energetic,pretty and has very good taste.
Currently she is over at French Meadow bakery where she cracks the whip while creating wonderful product lines.

This afternoon she requested that I list my observations when it comes to pitting Bread Bakers VS Pastry, and BTW.....any of you can feel free to correct me or add on thoughts of your own.

Pastry People drink wine
Bread Bakers drink from cans with Blue Ribbons on them

Pastry People go to the Opera
Bread Bakers go to the Roller Derby

Pastry People drive cars
Bread Bakers drive trucks

Pastry People think of their art
Bread Bakers think of their paycheck

Pastry People had other options in life
Bread Bakers didn't LOL

Pastry People are intrigued by bread
Bread Bakers are not

Pastry People have large family's
Bread Bakers suffer a obligatory divorce

Pastry People live with cats
Bread Bakers own a dog

Pastry People listen to MPR and watch the BBC
Bread Bakers watch Friday night HBO

Pastry People hate in their minds
Bread Bakers hate with their mouth

Pastry People have tattoo's of roses
Bread Bakers have tattoo's of skulls

Pastry People ride a bicycle
Bread Bakers ride the bus

Pastry People are DFL
Bread Bakers are GOP

Pastry People dare to dream
Bread Bakers live a reoccurring nightmare

Pastry People enjoy Bollywood and IFC
Bread Bakers enjoy the 3 Stooges

Pastry People get yelled at
Bread Bakers get slugged

Pastry People shop at Byerly's and Lund's
Bread Bakers at Cub and Aldi's

Pastry People wear sandals
Bread Bakers wear Red Wing boots

Pastry People got A's and B's
Bread Bakers got D's except for that one A in math

Pastry People read the New York Times
Bread Bakers read the StarTribune

Pastry People get ill
Bread Bakers puke out their mouth and nostrils in unison

Pastry People are New Age
Bread Bakers are Old School

Pastry People Hate Rap Music
Bread Bakers Hate Rap Music

Pastry People talk to Jesus in the light
Bread Bakers talk to the Pope in the dark

OK, you get the Idea. did I get this right Sophia?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hmongs-Serial Killers & West 7th Street

Last night Klecko was wiped out from sleep deprivation. he doesn't like to pull this card all that often, but yes....he hit the NyQuil Bottle and he hit it hard. At the point when the fairy's started to dance across his Temporal Lobe a commercial on AMC aired to announce that they were going to debut a movie on the Zodiac Killer.

So Klecko is drifting, but has the ability to post one last message on his Facebook page (via his Droid) making mention of the long lost serial killer who never was caught, and how it tripped him out.

When one wakes up off a a NyQuil jag, it never hurts to take a mental inventory, so this morning as I peeled back layers of mental fog, i remembered my post from last night, laughed, and went to see if it was received well by the KleckoNation.

Dear God in Dallas, I had people replying with French verse from Talking Heads songs, people fighting over which serial killer was better.....think about that. Like one serial killer is "BETTER" than the other?

One woman who comes from Australia boasted of living next to a couple who brought in young women, loved them....and then, well yeah, killed them!

Dude, sometimes it's dangerous to start a Facebook rant prior to passing out. While you are asleep, the entire world tugs on that thread.LOL

So when I think of serial killers, I think back to Jeffrey Dahmer. I was working at Custom Bakery at the time on West 7th Street. Each day when I strolled into work, his exploits were always a topic of discussion.

This era predates the Hispanic take over of the Twin Cities commercial baking industry, back then, most of our bakers were Hmong.If you are unfamiliar with their culture, go on Google because I am sure I would misrepresent them by not explaining them with the level of fervor that they deserve.

The Hmongs splashed hard in the Twin Cities, I think the deal was that they got to live here tax free for 8 years and the hope was that they would work hard and become a lucrative cog in our cities money making machine. They did and have.

Many of these folks used the Hospitality Industry as nothing more than a cultural pit stop. Most of the Hmong's I worked with were very entrepreneurial, and ended up becoming small business owners.

Hers just a few of the things that make me smile when I remember working with the Hmong people. Chai Toa, he told me that the Hmong boys didn't cut their hair because if they went 100 years w/o a haircut....they would gain super powers and topple China.

Now I've got nothing against China, its the homeland of Jackie Chan, but how bad a** is it to have century long hair goals and then want to mix it up with one of the worlds leading super powers?

Also if you ever had an ailment, all you had to do was talk to Mai Vang.....

"Hey Mai Vang, I have a headache!" or "Hey Mai Vang, I have gout, herpes, cancer" just did not matter LOL, that woman kept a bag in the trunk of her Fiat that had pills and powders for anything that had the ability to bring a person back to physical harmony.

The Hmong community has a strong-strong connection to their departed ancestors. They don't just recognize them, but they communicate with them as well, but for the most parts....spirits freak them out.

Behind the bakery we had a cluster of pine trees that were so tall that they'd reach low level clouds, and at the foot of this mini forest rested the companies big green trash dumpster.

The packing crew would have the building to themselves after the closing oven guy would take off. when that from their homeland blasted throughout the shop and 1/2 the packers would finish servicing accounts, while the other 1/2 did bulk cleaning. they would gather bags of singed baking parchments, bread crumb remnants that surrounded the bread slicers, stuff like that.

The Hmong crew I worked with were organized and meticulous. You could bank on it that one of them would start hauling trash out within a 1/2 hour of my departure.

With that knowledge, I would go out and lay down under the low laying pine tree branches and smoke cigarettes until the first packer brought out a hefty bag of junk.

"Booooooo - Whooooaaaaa" I would moan in a low guttural wailing, and those poor guys would simply drop that bag in run in to report ghost sightings to their colleagues.

After awhile the packers just stopped bringing the trash to the dumpster, instead they left the bags lines up in a hallway at the back of the building and the early morning cleaner had to do their dirty work.

So this all took place during the Dahmer era. Sure, I know....Jeffery was targeting victims in the Milwaukee era, but let's face it, Saint Paul would have been a short road trip for a guy who wanted to increase his mayhem radius, and Saint Paul is closer to him than Mpls.

I'd think about stuff like that, as would you if you had to walk 5 miles home at 3 a.m. each morning.

One night I got off and snow was falling heavy. As I strolled out of the bakery, it was kinda like plunging into a snow globe. The first leg of my journey was a clip just under a mile on West 7th.

West 7th is one of the streets that reminds of of Vegas because peeps are always traveling it no matter what day of the week, hour of the day, or season of the year it was.

But on this particular night.....there was no traffic, none - zero.

The moon wasn't out either, and the sky was unusually black, and the snow kept falling, and falling, and falling. The flakes were as big as apples. part of me felt liberated, like I was a vampire that owned the night....but the other 1/2 remembered watching National Geographic as a kid.

When you watch National Geographic growing up, you learn 3 things......

#1 - there is nothing sexier in the world than a woman who lives with monkeys

#2 - those Jane Russell "Cross your Heart bra's" needed to be implemented by Pygmy chicks

#3 - when there is silence in the jungle, you make book that s*** is about to hit the fan

There was no noise, no movement, nothing but flickering street lamps on West 7th, and the light it radiated was creepy because it was getting eclipsed by the mega flakes of snow.

So sure enough....enter stage left, a creepy sedan starts trolling in the same direction as Klecko, but on the other side of the street. Snow is breaking away from the tires, like wakes from a speed boat that you are water skiing behind.

The car is now at cruising speed. The driver is matching his accelerator foot to my walking's official. Klecko is Creeped out.

So now the drivers window lowers halfway and i see a thin haired man, he's big, has broad shoulders and an overall meaty face. The freakazoid asks me.....

"Would you like a ride?"

I look ahead, not a single car, I don't want to look behind me because the guy will know that I am afraid, but I open my ears up, and set the tone to "bat sensory", but I don't hear anybody from behind who might aid me in staying alive.

"No guy....I'm safe." I say in a make believe voice of confidence.

So as I keep moving, dude keeps trolling. His window is down and the hunter is watching me. I would have run, but I was walking through a Super America parking lot. There was no bunny sanctuary hiding hole.

"C'mon, get in my car. I'll take you wherever you wanna go!"

So now Klecko's heart is racing, he's been hit on dudes many times, but there is a difference between a gay man asking out hetero guy, and Homo-Prevo looking to disembowel the village baker and serve him at his own personal feast, what was I to do?

w/o hesitation, I turned and walked towards the guys car. I was careful not to move to fast, that would come across as an attack, and for all I knew....Daddio might of had an Uzi in addition to his meat hooks and mail order surgical tools.

So when I'm 8ish feet from dudes ride he stops. he has a creepy-demonic grin on his face. I remember thinking how I had never-ever witnessed a car stop dead in it's tracks on West 7th.

I don't even think I thought about it, i just smiled like a lark and said

"Well, if you could take........."

Then with ninja quick hands, I grabbed dude by his thinning hair and started bouncing his head across the dashboard and back towards the opened drivers side window like a greasy pinball. The window kinda spider web cracked.

I was completely tweaked.

Have you ever seen one of those Joe Pesci movies when he hits people and keeps going until De Niro drags him off (I think he's recycled that concept 1/2 dozen times LOL)?

That's exactly what happened, but my stalker buried his foot into the gas pedal and his sled swerved down the street. For the next 4 miles of my journey it was as if I was hopped up on meds. Its weird how one second a person can live in fear, but once their (what shall i call it) their reptilian response kicks in, they race towards the roar. At this point, I was hoping the guy would come back.

Serial killers are weird, and I know I am too.

I think Klecko needs to stay of the NyQuil for a spell, just saying.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wine Tasting,Catholic Bookstores & the Scone Widow

One of the best ways to raise your personal visibility in the "Food Show" is to put yourself in positions of authority. Not in the work place, but in the media.

I have a theory that if you want to be taken seriously, you cannot afford to go more than 8 weeks w/o "splashing" or showing up in the newspaper, television or the radio.

I have gotten pretty good at this over the last decade, in part because I have followed a formula that subscribes to the....

"Eventually the World Will Get Tired of Looking at J-Low's A**" theory.

That's right, no matter how compelling a focal point is, sooner or later people will tire of it, you have to present your brand with different options.

So for me, I can't just talk about bread, I have to discuss other matters, or other angles which revolve around bread.

One of the "Klecko Outlets" that got some good bang for the buck was writing different columns.

I have written for baking publications, restaurant guides, newspapers, and even a wine rag that dropped monthly.

Klecko doesn't know squat about wine,but like many things I can fake my way through it if surrounded by novices, but this publication basically went out to hardcore wine enthusiests.

So my column was called "Klecko....Man Around Town", and I would report on events across the Midwest (and occaisionally further) and I would discuss trends and gossip. I found out what celebs were drinking, the whole dealio.

During this period of time I started to enjoy wine a little bit, so I kept my eye open for classes and tastings that took place in my area.

One evening I got a phonecall from Jill Dahl A.K.A. the Widow Dahl, A.K.A. the Scone Widow, and she told me that Haskell's Spirits was having some "Drink Yourself Around Germany" tasting the following day. So Sue McGleno and I decided to meet her over there. It was in the dog days of summer, and the temp was close to triple digits. Everybody in the entire city was moving like zombies, zombies with multi layers of sweat.

When we walked into Haskell's, we saw that that had a "Tasting Table" set up right next to the area where their refridgerated cases were. Sweet Jesus of felt so-so good. As if pretty angels were blowing wisps of cool air across your body.

The Scone widow was already present, I think thats why I got along with her so well, she was always punctual.If I am going to be friends with you....puntuality is critical, but then theres Sue McGleno and.....

So about a dozen of us sit down in nice wooden chairs. Chairs much to nice to be in a liqour aisle. Also there were a boat load of exotic bottles opened and baskets of crackers, cheese and deli meats that were provided to cleanse our palate, and maybe help maintain our sobriety just a bit.

Our instructor was a young bird who started off telling us about her perceptions on how wine had changed her life, culture, blah-blah-blah.....

Nobody cared, we just wanted to tilt bottles, but beggers can't issue "Shut Up" orders now, can they?

When you looked at her presentation table, you might of guessed that the process of emptying it would be a 1/2 day commitment, there was just that much stuff, but I don't know....maybe it's because she got paid by the hour that we had that table trashed and vacant within 45 minutes.

If you don't know much about wine, let me make one reccomendation, don't ever mix Rieslings and Alsace, in addition to obtaining a peyote trance, you'll also walk out to your bread truck with a shopping cart of booze products that you are unfamiliar with, and you won'y be able to drive for a couple of hours.

So now me, Sue McGleno and the Scone Widow are in the Haskell's parking lot. The sun is beating down on us without mercy. I havent even opened my vehicle yet and I'm "just took a shower" sweaty.

Sue McGleno knows that she is the clostest thing to responsible in our trio so she "Eye Spies" a Bakers Sqaure across the parking lot and suggests...

"I'm kinda drunk. I don't think any of us are safe to drive. Lets eat Pie!"

My head was swimming so I wasn't going to argue, but I will confess that it did irk me that Sue McGleno once again was able to insert pie as a soloution to one of lifes problems.

The Widow Dahl on the other hand surprised us totally. She assured us that she was wicked sober and needed to get home, but dude...I sat next to her and she was pounding like a salt dog sailor. It's hard being in this sitch, cuz you know that your friend my appear compitent, but their blood levels are more than enough to plop them in the DUI Tank. time to think about it though, the Widow split. so Sue McGleno and I reclined in a spacious booth where she took down a Chocolate Berry slice while I chipped away at Key Lime.

I know we were in there for at least an hour. Our server was giving us that "Hey Plop A**, if you are gonna stay here, you better order a cheeseburger or tip the crap out of me" look.

Eventually we got home, I unloaded 2900 bottles of things I no longer recognized and just as I was about to power nap on my couch my Son told me that we needed to go to the mall, and I had promised. He was right. I did, and now I regretted that promise and the day of his conception with every fiber in my soul. I WANTED TO TAKE A NAP!

My kids love nothing more in this world than when my Klecko codes of conduct can be used against me.Its like going to bed on Christmas night, realizing that you won't get another gift until your birthday, but then your mom pushes open your bedroom door and drags in a huge present that she can't believe she forgot to give to you.

But anyway, Sonny boy had a big smile on his face while mocking me with reassurance.....

"Don't worry Father, we'll be home in a couple of hours, but won't it be fun navigating our way through the Rosedale parking lot? It's Saturday....I don't imagine it will be too busy, and hey...maybe if we are real lucky, we'll have the sun in our eyes."

The little jerk was bursting with delight.

I so wanted to choke the punk, but at the same time, I so respected him. I totally would have used that kind of ammo against any of you if I felt your code had been broken, and better yet, that I would annoy you.

So the 2 us hop back into the bread truck and head north down Hamline Avenue so we can turn left on Randolph, but as we sat at the stoplight, who cruises through the intersection but the Widow Lindahl?

Her face has no expression,in fact she looked like one of the teen age movies were the protaginest makes a dead person drive the car, I don't know, like "WEEKEND AT BERNIES" right?

I started laughing and filled Sonny Boy in on the days earlier events and he laughed without making an audible noise, just like teen age boys will do.

So lets fast forward past the mall and other events. It's now Saturday night, and I called the Widow Scone Lady and asked her what happened? I mentioned I thought she was dead, and asked if she was OK.

"Yes,dead I was. At least for awhile. when I left you guys I really was fine, but when I got 3 blocks away. The angels showed their disapproval and struck me down. I ended up pulling into that Catholic place, what is it? Saint Patricks book something? Well it is never comforting to be drunk with priests walking around you, but it was my own damn fault for getting myself in that condition. so I grabbed a Bible and went over to the kids area and sat in a beanbag chair and pretended to read the scriptures, but I got so tired, and a little sick. So now I completly laid back in my bean bag, covered my face with the Bible and just intended to close my eyes for a couple of seconds."

Now there is a pause and I hear the Widow making a noise, but I can't tell if she is laughing or crying. It was the former.

"I passed out for over an hour and a half. When I woke up, I was disoriented.But then I heard a kid ask somebody why the woman was snoring. My face was still covered with the Bible,but I was pretty certain he was talking about me.But then I got nervous. I didn't want to move and I was afraid to take the Bible off my face. I imagined dozens of Nuns were standing over me by now."

By her voice I could tell that the Widow has embibed further since she'd gotten home. Now her explanation finishes amidst bursts of laughter.

"Just as the crucifixion robe congealed to our Savior's body, so too did that Bible stick to my face. I'm not kidding you, I was fearful that the book of Psalms had bled onto my eyelids.So when I finally pryed it off of my head, there was a small audience, just standing there looking at me."

I've never-ever-ever-ever laughed at a story so hard in my life, so now I asked how she got out of there, and if she was able to maintain even a shred of dignity during her departure.

"Of course there is no dignity left, but these people were Catholic, they don't care about things like that. It's money they want. so I just walked over to the counter and bought the Bible that I sweated on and got the hell out of there."

I truly miss the Scone Widow,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heroine, Pomeranians and the Scone Widow

When I teach baking classes, I prefer to do it for free. As a kid I grew up in a house that didn't have enough money to give me oppurtuninties that the majority of kids did.

I was one of those 4 kids in your 3rd grade class that got pulled aside by the teacher each Monday morning to collect your goverment issue lunch tickets. The thing that sucked about that is everybody else was so chill about it.

Often times you'll hear mothers sitting over coffee exchanging "Oh Georgina....can't children be so cruel?"

But I'll tell you what, even 3rd graders kinda get the whole karma a** bite thing.When you get something that you need, an essential, and you can't afford is shaming.

Some people bury the shame and turn to making a career out of mooching, but most others who were raised in circumstances simular to mine seem to aqquire a special sensitivity to those around them that have not.

So theres Klecko, around 2004, he's tall, handsome, fit and w/o any silver hairs. around this time in my life I would do close to 100 free Baking Demo's a year.

Sure 48 of those were done at the State Fair, but none the less, I got to meet many people.

Baking is so different than cooking.

Cooking pulls in the crowd made up of hot chicks and metrosexual guys who seem to find more value in the BlackBerry app's than the previously mentioned hot chick.

Baking on the other hand will tend to throw magnetic pull out to people who have had some experience. People who aren't nessisarily Patton like confident, but typically they've experienced more in the past than they will in the future.

It's hard to be a Master Baker while you are young. You might have the chops, but your mentality really needs to be worn a bit.

I'd be willing to bet you a dollar to a monkey that Klecko has more 60 or older girlfriends than any other man in the state of Minnesota.

The guys who gravitate towards baking are not into fads or rep. Usually they were plaid shirts and ask questions about biscuits or sourdough.

Think of the favorite food in your life, or the best meal that you've ever had. Go ahead.....I'll wait ------------------------

Alright, if you came up with something, is that food attached to a certain person, place or event in your life? Often times it is.

Can you imagine what an honor it is for Klecko to meet 1000's of these people every year and have a chance to help them obtain or continue....who knows, maybe even improve that tradition?

I can't think of anything I'd rather do, and I wonder...did that seed get germinated in me because I was so-so shamed by taking hand outs throughout my youth?

Eventually I started getting middle aged groupies LOL,and one of the first was Jill Dahl, who now goes by the name "Thw Widow Dahl" or "The Scone Widow."

Jill had been coming to numorous events and asked a lot of short bread questions at first. So there goes Klecko...BLAH-BLAH-BLAH spewing his Greek God wisdom all over the place.

So next I tell the Widow Dahl to make a sample batch and bring it to the next bread club meeting, tick-tock goes the clock, and 3 months go by. The bakery doors open. Its early summer and Jill crosses my threshold cradling armfulls of disc shaped short breads, each one about the size of a 45 record. They are topped with pearl sugar, cross tied with satin ribbons and have small flowers, the the size of baby's breath slid between the ribbons and the crumb wall.

"The flowers are from my garden you know, its always good to find an excuse to pick those things. They end up cluttering a persons yard you know."

Next, she cocks her head at that angle that you use when you are going to wink with emphisis, but thats whats so cool about the Widow....she didn't wink. Instead she just flashed you just one of a full range of whimsical looks.

So now club members are filing in, and of course everybody is raving about how tremdous Jills short bread was. I was wicked embarrassed that I even dained to issue advise. It was like telling Ali how to punch, or Hitchcock how to make a film.

From that time on we became friends.

The statement "WE BECAME FRIENDS" can come across like white noise. It seems so typical, but when or if you've ever worked 3rd shifts for a decade, and ended up working in Hospitality, often times you aqquire an a** load of aqqaintances, but very few actual friends.

The Widow also obtained what few dare to dream for, she pierced the Sue McGleno bubble of trust and actually became a friend to my entire family, you come over to our house for Thanksgiving kind of friend.

So now the next logical step of course was to sign the Widow up and take her on the road! For several years I dragged the Widow with me everywhere. While I did quickbread demo's, she would do scones. If I did yeast breads she's do intresting Romainian cookie recipes.

The chemistry was great, and as you can imagine, she was the star of the show. When we'd turn off the microphones 136 people would come up and ask for her recipe or further explanation on one of the techniques she utilized.

Klecko was stuck with that creepy old dude who wore a mustard stained T-shirt and wanted to know if bakers liked isolated fishing holidays.

Did I mention that the Widow had a lust for the grape? At first I had a tough time picturing her needing to turn to the hooch, she was so on the ball, so full of life. but the more she let me into her life, the more pain I saw exposed.

Years ago she was married to an artist, a man she paints as a tyrant, but you'll never see an ounce of sorrow in her face when she mention his suicide, sometimes I've even detected a smirk, and I know its not right, but I laughed and encouraged her hatred.

But now for the tough part, and I don't want to report this, not so much for you, but for me, I hate when my friends are subjected to pain and shame.

The Widow bore 3 kids,girl-boy-girl.

The eldest daughter died of a heroine overdose. Dead....and in some ways kind of forgotten. The Dahl house is open to pretty much any topic that you can think of, but they don't like to discuss the suicide, and I get that.

It's not that they didn't like her, I think they worshipped her, and years later they still have not found a way to process things.

One time the widow and I were cruising junk stores looking for religous trinkets and the 2 of had split up to scour the area in 1/2 the time, but when I came back....the Widow was crying, and crying just was'nt a trait attached to her. I could tell she was embaressed when I spied her, so I strolled up and whispered in her ear.....

"If somebody in this room is "F"ing with you'll, I'll crush their skull."

So she starts laughing but the tears don't stop flowing. She pointed to a picture, and then she tried to explain to me in those broken cry baby sentances that you are forced to use when you can't control your countenance......

"that-that.....picture, its my daughter. It looks like my daughter used to."

OMG, I got tears welling up in my eyes as I remember this because I felt so helpless.

Her son is an interesting cat. When you meet him, he has Bill Clinton charm. He's one of those people that has a gift on making everybody feel loved and welcomed, but the counter balance is 10 minutes later, he'll ask for your wallet, or grab you car keys, or pay this months (and last months) rent with a check that he pinched out of your checkbook.And when you come home from vacation, and you return your suitcase to the basement the following morning, don't be surprised if you have a nice miarijuana crop crowing next to the washer and dryer.

It got to the point where restraining orders were filed and for a couple of years, the sole male presence in the family was forced to stay away.

The widow doesn't attach fault to the actions of her offspring, instead she looks through you and explains......

"Its all genetic, they have that b****** DNA in them. There is really nothing they can do."

The youngest is Nico, and if Jesus asked me to name 10 people for him to come down and hug, she would be first on my list. I didn't mention that the Dahl's surfaced from NYC. In the heart of the beast. Their family shopped in the same Deli as Woody Allen.

Nico (like her departed sister and father) is an artist. In their little kitchen in Saint Paul you can see some of the most stunning art work ever displayed. Nico had a strong vibe going in Midtown. In a frame next to their front door is a cover shot from the New York Times Sunday editions insert. bit Nico too. It didn't kill her, but it scarred her for life. As she continues living alone with the widow and seeing to her mothers needs, attention will first have to be pointed at her self. Daily trips to the methadone clinic will remain mandatory until the day she dies.

About 2 years ago the Widows mental facultys started slipping hard and fast. It seems like it all happened in about a 3 week period.

In the past, everytime I saw the Widow we would embrace and do one of the Eastern Euro kissing rituals. You've seen it on PBS or the BBC. Your kisses are dispenced on the right cheek, left cheek and finish back on the right.

We still do this, but now I have to direct the kisses instead of her, and when the process is completed, she doesn't finish it by squeezing me.It was always a hard squeeze. I think that was her way of telling me how thankful she was for me w/o having to use words. I too like to communicate in speechless codes.

I really hate being touched though. Fact. But there are several exceptions to this and that was one of them.

So a couple days ago I went over to the Widows house. Nico's dog Quee Queg recently died. Sometimes the Widow and Nico would decide to return to the coast on a last minute notice, they would call me and tell me to set up camp at their house.

Typically I wouldn't dig the arrangment because they don't have cable, but, you know...I didn't mind it. I would turn on the radio, and bring a chess board and ditch my family for a couple weeks. Me and Quee Queg would walk around the neighborhood,both of us would bark at small kids and I swear to Caesar you've never seen anything with a soul piss on so many inatimate objects.

Now that I think back, it was always winter time when they went home searching for ghosts, and the part I enjoy remembering the most is that cold air blasting my lungs. And their neighborhood.....totally blue collar. Have you ever noticed how neighborhoods that are poor or below the areas fiscal average sport more flag poles than the well off hoods?

Dude....every other house or yard had a Betsy Ross dangling off of it.It started to get me all Ronald Reagan patriotic! and BTW....before you diss my political views on this blogs comment board, just remember your snipes would have more power if you launched them off your own blog....just saying.

But as usual I digress. I digress because I so enjoy that period of my life.I don't want this story to end. I loved that family so much, but like I was saying, a couple of days ago I stopped by and Nico had gotten a new baby Pomeranian.

She named it Deedle (which is one of the 14 names of my chihuahua)and the things weighs like 6 ounces but ran back and forth-back and forth, zip-zip-zip-yap-yap-yap.

I'm telling ya, it burnt me out.

So while this took place Nico's boyfriend Matt has flown in from upstate New York. Matt deals with that thing where he scrubs his hands for an hour at a time or showers for 90 minutes.

He kinda has some of those Howard Hughs issues, he knows it, he's awesome.

He has to talk with his theripist each day that he's here for at least 60 minutes over the phone, but he never complains. Dude inspires me to the core.

And while these young lovers are doing their best to hold on, just to get through one more day.....

There sits the Widow. Her mind is 95% gone now. She kinda indacates she might remember you, but I don't think she does. While I visited, it was discovered that she was sitting in her own piss, and Nico had to stop what she was doing to resolve that.

As all of this whateverness took place, I was overcome with a wonderful feeling. All the consequences of circumstance had made this family live in a situation that might freak some people out, or maybe it makes the Dahl family feel an element of shame, like I did.

But they allow Klecko into their world, and they share their secrets and pizza with him.

All these treasures cast at my feet, just because I talked to a woman about her short bread.

For free.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Klecko's Global Gypsy Tribute

Today is the day.

Or I guess it would have been the day if the tradition still took place. Every year when the snow was on its last melt, the gypsy's would stop by the bakery.

They didn't knock on the door like most people, instead they just camped out in our back alley and waited for an out coming smoker to notice them.

The gypsy's I witnessed never seemed to be in a hurry. How cool would it be to live your life like that?

Their trade was tinning mixing bowls. More often than not they worked with Hobart models, 20-60-80 & 100 quart versions.

Their artisan skills were usually displayed outdoors. Tinning bowls is kinda a messy business.

They always traveled in groups of 2-4 guys. I don't think women tagged along with them while they worked. On the few times I snuck a peek, it was one guy working while the rest sang, swore or smoked cigarettes.

Sometimes one of their crew would ask if they could come in and use our bathroom. We'd let them, and on every one of those occasions they would rifle through the employees belongings and snatch a cigarette or your pocket change.

They never grabbed or opened a full pact of Marlboro's though, and they never cracked your wallet either. The just helped themselves to a nominal pittance that you left behind. their was an honor or code of respect attached to their thievery.

These guys knew that we were Food Service workers, and basically their soul mates on the loser scale, but you know.....never once did a baker b**** about getting jacked. I don't know if theres even are gypsy's in the Twin Cities anymore. I have not seen them or heard of them in decades, but even if it is un-PC to say, I don't care....I kinda felt cool knowing that I got took by a gypsy.

Klecko will never be "mechanical aptitude" guy, some I'm not sure why the gypsies vanished. I think for us at least it had something to do with steel-alloy's and mixing bowl technologies, or who knows, maybe they just got smart and decided to stay in a warmer climate.

As a storyteller, I do regret that I didn't get more time to watch those cats spin their yarns, those guys were hardcore, but back in those days, I was the new guy. I didn't do what I wanted, I got chained to a machine. Being young in the food industry just isn't like working in Cooperate America, you can't sit on Facebook, surf the web, laugh at You Tube videos or eat your luch odd site....dude, you just think that you're wicked slick if you get away with sneaking 1/2 a cigarette.

By the time I obtained a position where I could cut away from time to time, the gypsy s were long gone, just like a mist. They didn't say "Hey....this is our last tour." or "We'll be back in 12 months." They were gone, and there were no witnesses to tell you were they went.

It was, what it was.....just another world mystery that only I cared about.

But you know how Polish Jesus is, when Klecko wants.....Klecko gets. I'm guessing out of gratitude, P.J. gave me a once in a lifetime treat. I was off to partake in a government scope in the Asiatic Arctic, but if you've ever worked with Uncle Sam, you know what I'm talking about.....he never takes you from point "A" to point "B".

I was placed in a hotel in Novosibirsk (which I found out was an official Sister City to Saint Paul.)This pit stop made no sense whatsoever, but sometimes it's best to just go Marine and adapt to your situation.

When I flew into the airport, I was met by a professional looking man holding a Land "O" Lakes sign. The brand name was written in Syriac characters, but my name was displayed in English.

The guy was a Russian Government translator who told me he was only committed to get me to my dwelling, but the coolest thing about Russians is that they LOVE to negotiate.

"Amer-I-Cone, for the price of several beers, perhaps I can show you some sights of interest."

When in Rome huh? I agreed to the idea, but before we delved into adventure, we had to plop our a**** on bar stools where several rounds of vodka and beer chasers were set up.

Directly in front of us was a huge store front picture window which framed a large brick building that might have been built before my country had even been discovered. My new friend told me that it was a mafia headquarters where people of the city would go to voice complaints against businesses or the police. At the time I did not know it, but in the Motherland.....the mafia runs everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.

During our 2nd or 3rd round, my companion was explaining to me that his official second language was Japanese and that he would.......I was already distracted, on the steps across the street at the mafia building was 4 or 5 woman that looked so pretty that you just knew that they weren't together by chance.

I asked if they were shooting a video or preparing for a fashion show.

The interpreter grew a stern look and explained......

"No-no-no, these woman that you see are gypsy women, they come here to have a situation with the man. It is not good because they can control you with their minds. I was with such a woman once. she used such magic on me, and when I came out of her spell, my watch and wallet were gone!"

When you are a stranger in a strange land, you have to be careful. I was ready to LMAO, but realized dude was 100% believing that these woman had such powers. At this point I had been away from Sue McGleno for 60 hours and the Klecko LoveTank was almost on empty. As we sat in silence, I gulped my shot and wondered if I could write off infidelity with a hot gypsy woman to being under a spell, but as I worked on that beer chaser.....that famous Sue McGleno quote floated through my thoughts....

"Don't forget husband, eventually everybody has to sleep!" LOL

How creepy is that? Images of ice pick justice have kept this baker on the straight and narrow, so maybe its a good thing, but on a serious the evening went on, I was thrilled to see these gypsy's, not just because they were pretty, but because it made me remember how intrigued I was by them in my youth, but also because I was at a point in life that if I ever had a chance to share a campfire with them, i too would have stories of merit to share.

Yep, as I look out the window right now, the snow is in it's last melt, and this reminds me to hope that all is well with the gypsy people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Promo's-Chefs and the Cohen Bros. Fargo Lady

Bakers often times gain clients like drug dealers. we lure you into our den, give you the first hit for free, but after that........

This process is called "Promo", short for promotional as you might have guessed. If you are an active bread pimp, you'll canvas the entire city.

" you want to stop by my place, or should I come out to you?"

Its always better if they come to you, that way you can take them into the production area and romanticize their "drug of choice."

I'll bet the break down is 50-50.

In 20 minutes I am off to a road promo, over by the Twins new ball park, but today I already had 2 home promo's the first one was a man and a woman who own restaurants in small towns outside of the Twin Cities.

Each week they act like a cowboys, or minors and come into town to stock up on provisions. For years they have worked together baking their own bread at one of their raunt sites, and end up splitting up the bounty, but their mixer recently broke, and in addition to having difficulty finding a Hobart mechanic, they struggle finding proficient bakers.

Dude was maybe 56ish and had a thick German accent. He explained that most of their bread was used for toast. He told us (as if we never left the Metropolis) that small town folks demanded toast.

Now the woman, who I am guessing was 42ish, she was pretty in a small town kind of way. I so don't mean that to come across as a diss, I mean it as an ultimate compliment. Her face,hair and clothes were simple, but her personality was outgoing. She was kinda the voice piece which was going to represent this tandem.

At first I will confess, when they met Klecko. The thought of meeting anyone, or anything that would allow itself to be addressed as a "Klecko" befuddled them. I could hear them receiving instructions from our Office Manager as I sat in my office.

When I joined them...yeah, they recoiled....just a bit, but I get that every year on the first day of Little League when parents of 10-12 year olds see me. You know they drive home thinking "That man will NOT have an influence on my child's life if I have anything to say about this!" LOL

So we go out into the shop, the tour starts and the woman starts talking loud so she can be heard over the droning of the production equipment. On the rare occasions when she over compensated by tossing to many decibels my way. I wanted to laugh, respectfully of course.

This woman had the exact-exact-exact same voice as the Prego Sheriff chick in the movie FARGO, what was her name...Francis McSomething?

As we talked, the German dude was so swept up, You could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice....he did not want to leave. he LOVED bread and just wanted to soak it while in its presence.

I can't type in a German accent, but if you can imagine it, apply it to the following paragraph.

"You know, when I come into the city, or go to a nice restaurant. it makes me sad. Most times the staff will bring me a popover, fresh from the oven. They are tasty, but then they don't give me any bread. what ever happened to dinner rolls. Do you remember when the dinner roll was an entitlement?"

I wanted to hug the guy (but not) because I know what world he is talking about. I lived in that world, and I use to service that world. Back in the day I used to knock out over 1000 dozen per day. Now I'm lucky to push 50.

After these kids slid out, promo #2 showed up. It was a young looking guy who is looking to open a concept at a busy location in Saint Louis Park. I thought he was 25ish, but when he mentioned Sous Cheffing at the Mission American, and dropped some Saint Paul Hotel names, I realized this guy had to be older than I originally anticipated.

Meeting with seasoned chefs that you've never worked with before is about the best part of my job. 9 out of 10 times you'll get to hear an epic story about somebody you love or hate.

It's a lot like having the "Fox at Yellowstone" puzzle. I'm sure you can relate to this, you spent an entire day and night on it when you were 11, but when all you needed was that last piece to fill in the Foxes hind quarters, it wasn't there. So at first you get pissed, throw a tantrum, but you you realize it simply doesn't change surrender to it, but then maybe a week later when you pick up a bag of Meow Mix to feed your cat, you see it under the bag. The puzzle means little if nothing to you by this point, but you do march upstairs just to insert it. Just so you can have one last Ariel view of how completion was meant to be observed.Why is that such an important factor in life? do we always need some kind of closure?

So the old-young looking chef guy says some cat in banking wants to bankroll a concept where things are healthy, a concept that "buys local" and he makes a reference to Lenny Russo who is the king of that genre in the TC's.

So I took him over to meet our Pastry Chef Gilson and explain to him how she worked at Heartland with him, and open the Guthrie with Lenny as well.

So now old-young chef and Gilson are jabbering on, and on, and on about pastry.

I respect that scene, but I don't understand it, or its rules....kinda like hockey I guess.

But, the one fun part was when the 2 of them starting talking about Shariff. He was a French baker way back in the day. He ran a place called Napoleons for awhile, after getting burnt out he shut down, got antsy, and then opened a newer concept called Josephines.

Gilson laughed while explaining to the chef that she worked there for a brief stint, and how people would drive across town to lay accolades at our cities finest French baker, but it wasn't enough......he walked away and worked as an instructor at a local looking academy.

The old/young chef said he had Shariff as an instructor, and the guy cracked him up.

"We'd be in class and Chef would have us on our hands and knees scrubbing residue out of the tile grout. he was hard core, but boy was he good."

Now as this kid is reflecting he starts to laugh and looks at Gilson and shares that "puzzle" piece I mentioned earlier.

"I'll never forget the chocolate tempering unit. some girl asked if her chocolate was too hot, so Shariff walks up to her, and before she can react...he stuck her hand into the pot. She screamed, and then she cried. Shariff just walked away and said if it makes you cry it is too hot."

I never knew him, but I could tell by the look on Gilson's face, the 3 of us had just contributed to keeping yet another food icon alive.

I gotta fly - later

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipes VS Formulas

So my friend Kim Ode gets a cookbook deal with the Minnesota Historical Society right? This was a couple years back, and she was commissioned to write a book filled with stories and recipes told to her, and submitted by the members of the Saint Paul Bread Club.

I'll never forget the conversation that ensued after I e-mailed her my entries....

Kim Ode - "Hey Klecko, thanks for sending these recipes over" pause-pause-pause "But I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but they don't have mixing instructions, bake times or any helpful hints that will explain the process to the reader."

Now I love Kim Ode as Christ loves the Church, but "recipes" have always been a sore spot of mine.

Klecko - "Yeah, I know....I gave you the formula's, not recipes."

The only way you can detect when Kim Ode gets pissed off is through silence, and she was currently displaying a full jag of not saying a word.

Klecko - "Seriously, how do you expect these people to get any better if we water down every last component? Do you want me to place it in their oven as well?"

Still....more silence.

Klecko - "Think about it, my grandmother, and yours too never needed weights or measures in their recipes, just an ingredient list, and they knew how to turn it into something you could build traditions around. Furthermore my granny wasn't even considered proficient by her click, but she understood how to cook and bake from repetition."

More silence, and more........and more - lol, now I was getting a little scared.

Klecko - "Today's generation is getting jipped Kim. Woman who were born in the 60's lost their connection to food for the first time in history because they needed to emancipate their gender. Now this is a good thing, but part of that meant that they had to feel liberated, and part of that liberation came from stepping out of the kitchen. they didn't want to be Stepford Wives, the modern woman could outsource through fast food and Swanson's frozen meals. She could be a "player." But alas my friend, now we have an entire generation od soccer moms that is repentant because they can't bake a single loaf of bread for their kids PB&J's or a sheet pan of brownies for the church basement.....ARGH, don't get me started on church though, kids don't know their scriptures anymore....this entire nation is Biblically illiterate. The only way you can master anything thing in this world is through repetition and assessment of failure."

The silence continued as you can imagine, and hit the same levels as the Edgar Allen Poe's heart in the "Tell Tale Heart"

Like the stories protagonist, my logic, my train of thought, my own voice droning on...well it too almost drove me to insanity!

Kim - "Shut up and send me the recipes."

I did, and her book "Baking with the Saint Paul Bread Club" ended up being nominated for book of the year.

Sigh.....I LOVE Kim Ode

Monday, March 21, 2011

Job Interviews During Robberies

Every City has a FOOD column in their local newspaper. In the Twin Cities we actually have several options, but the reality is anyone who is not a savage just reads the StarTribune "TASTE" section every Thursday morning.

I think the reason the "TASTE" section has pulled ahead of the numerous hack publications is because it doesn't curtail to fads, instead it does what a good food pub needs remains current with the times, while being steeped in tradition.

Rick Nelson does the restaurant reviews, and most of the locals in the Food Show love him. Each week he selects a different location and finds reasons why we should make the place a destination spot.

Or if he gets a sense that the place is weak, Rick often times will shout a few of the things that are being done correctly. Now if you have ever worked in the public eye, you know that everybody has their own opinion, and typically the ones shared are not flattering.

I've always felt that any buffoon can walk into a joint, put their head on a swivel and proceed to throw darts. My issue with that is its a waste of time. People are not stupid, if your concept sucks....they'll throw it to the wayside.

On a few occasions I've heard some of the "Hipsters" diss on Nelson because he's never an A-hole. Twin Cities Hipsters always like to pull statements out of the air like "In NYC if a concept doesn't meet specific standards, a good food critic can have that dump shut down."

Other times you'll hear these people whine in their shrill voices that if we are ever going to compete on the same level as our big brother Chicago, we're going to have to get tougher, acquire a little more grit.

NEWSFLASH!!!! The Twin Cities will never be a heavy hitter, we won't pee in the tall grass with San Fransisco or New York. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are either the biggest small towns in the nations culinary world, or maybe the smallest big town, I dunno you can choose, but the fact is we are never going to become confused with Paris....just saying.

If fine dining is your Mendoza line, just look at the James Beard Awards. Each year the top prizes go to the coastal concepts, and sure....every once in awhile somebody from the 651 or 612 will snatch an obligatory prize,but remember....even the Academy eventually gave Randy Newman an Oscar for song of the year after going 0 for 18.

But seriously, do you wanna be the woman or man who gets that pity award?

With that said, that's why I respect the "TASTE" section and Rick, they know who their demographic is. We are a city of nice rubes and there is no shame to that.

Nobody understands this better than the "TASTE" sections Editor Lee Svitak Dean. In fact, I have probably formed many of my opinions, about not only the Twin Cities dining scene,but people in general from how she lays out her weekly section.

It's my belief that Lee does something that a lot of one trick pony's forget now days. She writes for her audience, not her ego. How novel is that?

The balance is so very delicate, and you won't see the maximum value of her skill set unless you follow her baby each Thursday morning when the paper hits your doorstep.Reporting a life style or a vibe is a marathon, not a sprint.

One week she will tell the tale of an unusual occurrence in our midst, but the following week she might tell you a story about a local family, and she'll masterfully pull a thread through them and a relevant culinary topic that will make much more sense to her readership than angry rantings like her competitors do.

I recall one article she wrote,and I cherish it. The piece was about Christmas at her house when she was a child. She took us on a tour of her family's holiday feast,sharing their traditions and aspirations. I really don't think you can paint a more intimate landscape than that.

Now if an editor from the Boston Globe's Food section wrote something about Christmas, you know half their comments would be filled with cynicism,or you'd have to hear stories about the one bad uncle, or the sister who said she wasn't going to attend, but when Papa went to take out the garbage, we'd find the homeless daughter scrounging in the trash for leftovers.? but you'll never find these over played dramas being penned by Lee Svitak Dean, why? Maybe its because she is a reflection of the type of person most of us want to be in Minnesota, maybe its because she is NICE.

OK, now that you have just read the worlds longest intro, let me tell you about a story that took place a little while back. Lee Svitak Dean has a son and his name is Eric.

How do I say this without sounding conceited? I like Eric a lot, because he reminds me of me. And even though I get sick of myself each day by 5 p.m., if it's before noon, I can't think a better way to pass time than hanging out with my clone.

With that said, I should reiterate that he is close to my sons age so when I say we are a like, it might be more accurate to say that he is a younger version of me.

Every time Eric and I had discussions, everything was said in a Hip-Hop vernacular. The first way to impress me is to be confident and welded to street slang.

So at one point when young Mr. Dean was checking out places for jobs, we decided that he should swing by here, if he didn't like the place, it still never hurts to interview...right?

So we played phone tag, back and forth - back and forth.

Now it's 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I see him out in our business office. I was really glad to get this meeting in because both of us were running wicked-busy schedules.

So I flag the kid into my office where I like to do the stand up and shake hand thing. One thing that impressed me about Eric is that although the kid is clever, although the kid has mad-street smarts, he didn't give me one of those thug hand shakes, you know....sometimes the kids will try to drop that hippie hand shake, or the modern kids do the pull close - shoulder smash deal.

Nope, not this kid. Eric just gave me a crisp-firm hand shake that would make a Baptist preacher proud.

So as we sat down, and I mean the very second my a** hit the chair, my cell phone went off. Usually I don't pick up during meetings, but the prefix indicted long distance so I momentarily excused myself.

"Hello this is ADT security, somebody is in your house. do you want us to call the police?"

All my years of being a Production Manager have really helped me multi task. In about a seconds time, I slowed the entire world down.

My first thought was, whoever is in my house is going to get a Polish A** kicking like they have never had, but then i looked at Eric, he was sitting there, acting all cool, being excited to do this interview, and I wasn't sure how hard it would be to hook up again. so this vortex of thought in my mind closed up immediately, and I answered back to the ADT guy.

"Call them, I am on my way."

So now I told Eric that were going on the road, and to hurry up and run. He started laughing, but I could tell he was a little more than intrigued by this odd demand.
Typically it takes me 15-18 minutes to get home, but I think on this day we reached it in 8-10. I swear it would have made a great movie scene, if it was printed in Hollywood, you simply wouldn't have believed it. maybe it was more of an IFC thing.

Yeah, I tell Eric to buckle up because my house was being robbed. i drove up 35E like Popeye Doyle in the French Connection, and as this whole thing was unfolding...Johnny Cash was playing in my bread trucks CD player, the cut was a cover of "Your Own Personal Jesus."

And as the 2 of us swerved around like a cork in a jacuzzi, Eric was so chill, he was basically just talking about bass lines LOL. How can you not love that about a kid.

In all my years of interviewing, I never took an applicant to a robbery, but I liked Eric, I trusted his sensibilities.

So now we pull into my alley and as I was taking off my seat belt Eric jumps out of the truck looking to see which house was mine. I actually had to stop to laugh.

"Whoa Tonto" I declared "If anybody is going to get shot, that person better be me, if I put you in front of a pistol, I get the feeling your mother would destroy me."

I'm guessing that we envisioned this in unison because we both started laughing.

The robbers left without robbing, but they knocked TV's on the ground and pissed off my dogs. I was only in the house for 90 seconds before turning around and seeing Eric heading in anyways.

I like courage, even if it is stupid...LOL

Several minutes later Johnny Law showed up, and imagine this....they had a strong suspicion that me and home boy were the thieves, but after producing identification the whole matter was cleaned up.

My boy Eric has gone on to bigger and better things in his life, but life is made up of moments isn't it. When Lee Svitak Dean reflects about what is important to her, the scenario usually involves precious moments spent with her family.

With me on the other hand, on the day that Klecko is about to shed his mortal coil, and his life flashes before his eyes, you can be certain that one of his highlights will have been chirping about Johnny Cash bass lines with Eric while the Hartford Avenue estate was being plundered.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Klecko - Sherlock & the Dog Whisperer

I am about to embark on a family reunion.

Not the kind with uncles who sport obvious false eyes, or cousins that fart into those PlaySchool barn silo's and then place it over your mouth and nose until you gag, no my reunion consists of a linebacker from Iowa, Sue McGleno, my Omaha Daughter, her husband and my Granddaughter.

Everybody told me that having a granddaughter would be grand, but to be kids irritated me until they stopped crapping themselves and could talk.

But the collective voice holds it's majority opinion for a reason. It is backed by experience. Why is it that I think I know more than an entire generation that has gone on before me?

Granddaughters are so important to a father. they give you a second chance to show your daughter that you loved them, but were just to stupid and inexperienced when you were younger.

I went out to buy "stuff" for my granddaughter. she will be 2 in a couple of weeks, but she acts more like she is 29.

I wanted to get her something epic, and I labored in the quest. I toiled through every toy aisle in the state of Minnesota today, but then I saw it. The heavens opened and the answer was revealed.

Pink rake, broom, spade, gloves and rubber boots. I am going to promote gardening to my granddaughter. I also bought her two packs of seed that will sprout 10 foot sunflowers and I should mention I also tossed in a gnome stake.

My thought is my daughter and her husband will help little Madison plant a mini garden in their backyard. Then big sunflowers will grow to Jack & the Beanstalk proportions, and every time that kid sees a sunflower from there on out....she will think of me, and love me the most lol.

I got my son a couple days ago. I had to travel to Iowa. What civilized young adult thinks that they will make babies, but one distant day down the road....they will have to travel rural landscapes to see them. and the boy went to the movies, and on the way home we passed that intersection on Snelling and Summit avenues. It is on the north end of Macalaster college and more often than not the students hold signs on the corners promoting their Lib views.

My blog could care less about politics, but by now you may know that Klecko is a Republican and so is his All American sonny boy.

For years now we have drove across that small tuft of asphalt, and almost every time we see who can make the best sarcastic remark against whatever the hippies are pimping.

And I know right now you guys think that is awful, but c'mon....don't be a hater when you and yours do the exact same thing lol.

So today they have signs that say "STOP FUNDING ISRAEL!!!!"

I didn't even notice it, I was basking in the presence of my son. But all of a sudden I see a huge grin surface on his mug.......

"Damn dad, those hippies are never going to quit" then a dramatic pause before he continues......

"But at least these guys have a cause that's new."

The 2 of of laughed, and laughed. You can only enjoy that kind of experience with family.

So as we are driving homeward. I saw a woman walking a big Doberman Pincher.It was a sight to behold, but my mind raced back to an event that happened a couple of years back.

I was hanging out with Tami, the Muddy Paws Cheesecake lady. I love her to death, and even served her wares at my own daughters wedding. Tami and I were going to an animal shelter that she supported.

The ride was lengthy, and we even had to cross state lines. When we arrived, we pulled up to a large iron gate, it was like Michael Jackson's Never-Neverland Ranch. Later I was told that this security was needed because people would troll their facilities perimeter in the middle of the night and dump their unwanted pets on them.

When we got in, the facility was grade "A" stellar. The buildings were clean, the staff was friendly, the whole 9 yards, but then I saw some helpers working with a big Doberman that was laying on the ground.

I couldn't figure out why he wasn't moving, that is until they volunteered the information that "Sarge" was paralyzed!

I wanted to cry. The women smiled bravely and explained that some demonic crime was cast upon this once noble creature,and now he couldn't move from the neck down.

They also kept a stiff upper lip and tried to sell me that he had a high quality of life and even had 2 different girlfriends.

I wanted to put a bullet through his brain at that moment. I am a guy, I have had some noble moments, but if I can't move from the next down...Holy Polish Jesus, take me home!

When you go to animal shelters, I'll bet over 90% of the staff are woman. They have a more caring nature than men. I get along with girls pretty well, so in a short period of time I was part of this establishments "Event Crew." My job was to actually co host charity events. The better 1/2 of my tandem was a Jack Russell Terrier named Sherlock. That dog was old, blind, beaten and worn. Nazi like crimes had been commited against that dog. but he liked me, he let me hold him, in fact during most events I kept a microphone in one hand and Sherlock cradled under my other arm like the Christ child.

But, the downside to our relationship is that he didn't have long left in this world, and every time I saw him, in the back of my mind, that secret spot, I wondered if this would be our last frolic.

Often times they would do fund raisers at the Mall of America or other places, the founder of these events was/is very shy, her comfort zone is with animals.

So she would ask me to emcee different fundraisers, and I would show up dressed in my formal baking whites (equipped with my chef Boyardee hat)and try to get people to support this noble organization.

Then, it had to be 3 or 4 years ago, it was just after my dog biscuit cookbook was launched by the Minnesota Historical Society. Klecko was probably as hot as he ever would be back then, a real arrow people at the shelter found out they were going to have access to Cesar Millan, you know....the Dog Whisperer come to do an event, and I got to emcee it.

Cesar was arguably at his peak as well.The gig took place at the International Market Square. This space is fricken fab, but the only downside is that when you walk up to the entrance, they have a semi circle of 100 foot flag poles which have flags of exotic countries from around the world.....and yeah, they don't have Poland, are you kidding me?

France,don't like it, but I get it. Britain...I understand that too, but Austria and Chili (and this was pre minor accident Chili), I just don't buy it.

I got there early, Sue McGleno was so excited she even dropped a couple Benji's to attend.

Like busy bees in a beehive, this army of female volunteers buzzed around like chickens with their heads cut off, was like Christmas Eve morning when Whiskey Willie would wake me from slumber so we could go to the bar and stay out of my mothers way. We wouldn't return until an hour into the holiday party,this strategy was employed during my teenage years, each Christmas Eve morning we'd just continue the cycle.

But yeah, they had women screaming as to where the celebrity dog houses should go, girlios were wigging on how long the slide show should be, and then there was the setting up of the silent auction items.Let me tell you, I'd rather ride in a Chevy Vega from L.A. to NYC with Hitler and Judas than work the silent auction table again, lets just say claws with "fish hook" sharpness thrashed through the air.

Other than our special keynote celebrity speaker, there was another highlight to this evenings event. The dog rescue parade. they took all these dogs and ushered them through the event. some had no eyes, others had ony 3 legs, there was also a few dogs that had chariots attached to their a** because they couldn't walk.

I won't lie, on that night, there was a part of Klecko that not only yearned for celebrity, but desired it, I don't know if this will make sense, but I really don't think Klecko wanted to live amidst celebrity, but he wanted to obtain it, so he could walk away from it, kinda like that Brit King who abdicated the crown for a smoking hot bird.

It's dark out now, Cesar is in the green room, I have a chance to meet him but first I wanted to go out into the parking lot and see if the dog parade were out there. The custom was that they would hang in a single file line for about 20-30 minutes and shake out nerves or get used to their handler(s).

As I stood on at the loading dock, I peered across that ocean of concrete, and I spied my best friend. Sherlock the JRT!

I hopped down and ran to him. It had been 7 or 8 months since I saw him. He had aged a century in that time. As I picked him up and held him, he slowly wagged his tail and offered up kisses.

I knew that there was no getting around it, this would be our last night together.

So I took him into Cesar's green room and me an d the mutt just hung there. You know you see people on TV and you think, bulls***, this person can't be that nice.The Dog Whisperer is.

I didn't approach him,this guy...a guy with enough swag to me mimicked on Southpark, he came over to me. He made polite conversation asking about Sherlock and Minnesota, but then I saw the thumbs up, and I said.....

"OK's time for us to go."

Cesar was totally befuddled....

"Go where, what are you talking about?"

Then I laughed and apologized that I forgot to tell him that I was the event emcee. He was was confused than ever.

"I do not want to be rude, but I have never been to an event where the hotel's chef was the emcee."

I didn't take it personal, and I simply informed him the truth.

"Cesar, first off, I am NOT a chef, please...I am a baker, and I'm really huge in Minnesota and Japan."

Now the Dog Whisperer laughed his a** off, he put his arm around my shoulder and said that he liked this place, it was fun.

I wanted to know what words of hope, or inspiration he was going to offer this crowd.What could he say that would give these people bang for there buck.

His speech had the innocence and reminded me of that Linus dissertation in that Charlie Brown Christmas special. You know, where he tells Chuck the meaning of Christmas.I always thought the show would of even had a plot line if Charlie Brown had taken Prozac, but I regress, Cesar walked sheepishly to the mike, panned the audience and said something like........

"I will answer any questions that you have tonight at your tables, but to be honest there is only one truth that we need to remember about dogs, we place ourselves in there presence because this makes us better people."

That was it, simple, straight to the point, and after years I still remember it. As I thought about this P.O.V., I had Sherlock in my arms.
Cesar walked by, thanked me and stopped to pet the old rascal.

But now that this moment is in my memory. The 2 epic moments that took place that night were Sue McGleno had to go home from illness. In addition to barely being able to drive, she was broken-broken hearted to miss Cesar, she loves him, and just knowing that I am lucky enough to have somebody in my life that has complete power over me,a power that crushes me when they are subjected to such disappointment. I think that is better than carrying secret notions of celebrity.

Then the other thing is that was the last night I saw Sherlock. He died soon afterward, funny.....when I hit my minds rewind button, I don't remember much what the Dog Whisperer really looked like or what he was even wearing that night.I can't remember a single networking pitch I made.

But I can remember every tail wag, facial expression and kiss that Sherlock tossed at me.

There is nothing better than a loyal family.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Break - Klecko Does America

Yesterday was a great day.

After finishing a quick 1/2 shift at work, I went into my caffeine laboratory and measured out the perfect levels of 5 hour energy, espresso, Diet Mountain Dew and Suda Fed.

After imbibing in this specialty cocktail I pointed the bread truck SE and headed for Iowa to go pick up my son so he could leave that corn field on Spring break.

The drive is 2 hours and 17 minutes long. This is a perfect period for a jaunt, provided that you don't have to encounter rain, snow or illness.

As I merged onto Hwy 52 for the 92 mile highway stint, I realized that the Twins had a Spring training game broadcast on 1500, and Joe Mauer's knee had recovered and he was inserted into the line up for the first time.

My caffeine pharmaceuticals were balanced exquisitely, I was jacked with energy, but not so much that I would end up in convulsions lol.

As the Twins plated a few runs, my mind started drifting back to the only Spring Break excursion that I had embarked on.

If you didn't know it, in Klecko's multi decade tenure in the Food Show, there was a semester where he attended private college. It was a Christian school. Klecko had some thoughts of the professional ministry, possibly a stint as a Cardinal, or who knows, maybe even a Pope.

The only problem though was I simply liked women too much. I figured God would understand this better than anybody.

So like a thief in the night, I left the campus and didn't tell a soul what I was going to do with the present, or my future.

I had this friend named Sime, he is a high level shrink of some kind, somewhere now days, but at the moment I left college, he hadn't started a single class. I think he was depressed because he never liked to make decisions, and choosing a lifetime vocation / career can be pretty numbing.

Sime lived in the basement of his mothers house. Like me, he was reared in a single parent household.

I used to snag chicks sympathy by explaining to them that I lived in a cinder block basement and slept on the floor in a sleeping bag, but Sime would just roll his eyes.

He slept in a basement laundry room on a cot that rested next to an octopus furnace that rumbled demonic noises. the only privacy he had was from sheets that were hung from ceiling rafters, and if a breeze passed through the basement, they looked like ghosts making merry.

The only other item of material wealth he possessed was a folding card table that held Bibles and other religious materials,it also propped up large shards of a broken mirror that had scriptures written on them with magic marker.

Sometimes when I was at his house, if he was eating or taking a shower. I would look up the scriptures. Sime was a King James guy, and if you tried to convert him to NIV or another translation he would get pissy and inform you that if the word of God had held true since 1611, there was no reason to stop now, but anyways....all his scriptures on his mirror fragments were based on fleeing the Devil.

You never saw anything about embracing the Christ, Sime just liked ditching Satan,and you know....that's why I dug that cat. He had an interesting P.O.V. and wouldn't sway for any man, woman or system.

So I walk into his basement and explain to him that the following morning, I was going to pack a duffel bag and head down towards Corpus Christi.

It was bone cold out that winter, and even though Sime had never done anything on the spur of the moment in his life, he had no reason not to join me.

A friend of our had dropped us on 35 and within 5 minutes the State Troopers tagged us and gave us each a $25 citation.

Sime wondered if it was an omen, but I told him there were only good omens and bad omens were for the weak.

I could write an entire novel on how we crossed the entire country like Bohemian Nomads, but that will have to wait.

By the time we made it to Corpus, we were drained. We rolled out our sleeping bags in amphitheater and passed out for 45 minutes.We we woke up, we declared Corpus Christi sucked and made our way home. We had been on the road, slept under bridges, in truck stop restrooms, been seduced by Emmy Lou Harris's back up singers as well a middle aged medical rep dude in Blackwell Oklahoma.

There were rides where people would pay for you at cafe's and other guys who'd pull over and boot your a** out just for saying "John Lennon didn't have anything original to say."

But the coolest guy was Robin, but before I tell you about that, you have to understand "The Rotation Principal". When 2 guys are crossing America, you have to have a system.

Me and Sime devised a plan where on one ride he would get to sit up front, and I would hop in the back and sleep. On the next ride I would rotate.

Both guys are not allowed to sleep because people are weird and the world is not always what it was created to be.

So Robin drove a crappy little Volvo with all of his belongings in it. This was the early 80's and all of America was heading to Houston. It was the land of opportunity, and the fastest growing city on the continent.

I think he picked us up 50-80 miles north of Austin (I could be wrong) and for over an hour he was OK. Usually people pick you up for one of three reasons.

#1 -They are tired and want somebody to talk to. this makes the process of travel seem quicker and more enjoyable.

#2 -They want drugs.

#3 -They want to have sex with you and kill you when they are done.

I think Robin was a #3. After being cool for awhile, after building our trust....he kept looking at Sime in the rear view mirror, and he periodically rotated his sight line in my direction.

We were on a long stretch of nowheresville. It was kinda creepy. So being in the front seat my job was to bomb his plop a** with dialog, but Robin had his own agenda.

He slinked his hand into a plastic box while asking me / us ...."What kinda weapons ya'll carry?"

I just stared at him. I wasn't sure if Sime was sleeping (he wasn't, but if I turned around Robin would know I was scared, that would be bad).

Robin asked again "What kinda weapons y'all carrying?"

So this time I answered, actually I laughed lightly, not too much, that would denote fear, but just enough to throw out some F.O.F. (Freak Out Factor.)

So I lightly laugh and respond "We don't need weapons Robin."

Dude pulls out a big Buck knife like "Hunter Guy" always has attached to his belt, and he does that wrist flick thing and the blade pops out and was pointed in my direction.

"Why wouldn't you boys want to protect yourself?" he asked in a voice that was more creepy than inquisitive.

But I realized my life rested in his hands, when you have no punt.

"We don't need weapons Robin, we travel in the midst of angels, and I am certain that you can either see them or feel their presence. I am a child of GOD and if you so much as raise a hand in our direction a legion of angels will smite you!!!!!"

So now I realize Sime is awake because he starts laughing in a powerful, but sinister laugh, and I chimed in, both of us staring down Robin like our life depended on it.

Robin folded the knife up and put it away. He didn't utter a peep for a 1/2 hour. Sime and I kept "The Stare" welded on him.

Finally he saw a gas station and told us he was stopping to get some stuff. He popped the trunk cuz one of the duffels was back there (the other was in the back seat).

So when he walked in Sime started to gather up his stuff so we could high tail it out of there, but I was kinda pissed off, kinda thrilled to not be dead, and just flat out jacked.

"F him Sime. we're not going anywhere. Let's make that dick take us farther down the road.'

Sime was tripping, he argued that we shouldn't tempt fate. I told him he'd need to start standing up when he went pee, cuz I was staying,and to Simes credit....he said "F" Robin, and Sime never swore.

So our scaredy cat killer was looking out the big picture windows that gas stations have. He seemed to be taking an extra long time. I told Sime that was because now he was wigged and was hoping we'd get out.

A couple minutes later ol boy stuck his head in the window and informed us "I bought y'all some Coca Cola's."

So lesson of the day, when somebody considers murdering you,and you are not packing, toss out the LEGION OF ANGELS dealio,if you use it with confidence.....and whose to say that maybe some of, well you get my point.

But I regress, and if you buy me a drink sometime, I'd be happy to tell you a million more hitch hiking stories. I traveled that way for years.

So now I turn off of HWY 52 and have around 55 minute through back roads in Amish country.This is the best part of the trip before I get to Brandt Hall to pick up the kid.

My Droid goes off and a woman on the other end doesn't intro herself, she just starts getting authoritative with me and is asking for cup cake price quotes.

She looking at ordering 40 000 over 10 days. The chick smelled so confident I assumed she was from a huge catering company, but when I asked when she needed the product,she said during the State Fair.

Then she went on to say she was quoted 3o cents per unit by a competitor, but if I wanted to, I could make unfrosted cup cakes and she could have them done on site.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to my world. welcome to P.O.H. 101.

P-O-H is short for prisoner of hope, and if you talk to anybody who works in food production, they love to swap P-O-H stories.

I've had guys want me to make dinosaur head hamburger buns, Hawaiian hot dogs, Eucharist with wine mixed into the dough, that way the soldiers could consume Christ's flesh and blood in 1 mouthful instead of 2.

And the beat goes on, so I asked the woman if she had even been accepted by the State Fair yet, because crunching the numbers she needed and pricing out the options would take a couple hours, maybe 1/2 a day.

She said "No, no I haven't....but it's my dream."

You would be fricken amazed how many P.O.H.'s are really intelligent, nice people. cornerstones in the community I guess, but I kid you not....they've been drinking Rumpelstiltskin's Kool Aid and think that if I spin straw for them they are going to create gold.

If you are a nice person, the P.O.H. will suck more blood from you than a vampire. They don't know shame because they are not starting at the dollar sign and working their way back.....they are starting with the dream, and that my friends is why you need a Polish Deity, nothing else makes dreams come true.

If you are going to succeed in business, your concept has to start conservative and grow with prudent care.

There are zero lucky jackpots out there, every fortune is scripted.

The concept is almost to simple. People don't want to attach tedious to profit, but there really is no other way.

So I pull up in front of my kids dorm, I'm early of course, so while I'm officing in the bread truck, running the bread empire through my phone, Decorah's prize linebacker sneaks up behind me and says

"Let's go, Spring break starts now!"

After loading his stuff, he hops in with a huge smile on his face. I asked him what sonny boy was going to do on break and he flashed a dopey look on his face and said....

"I'm going to spend all my time with Papa!"

I knew he was full of crap, but I won't lie, it made me feel good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Klecko's 5 sisters....from 5 Different Mothers

I don't know a lot about my Father. I only saw him twice in my life. The first time was in the second grade when he to me to the Met (where the North Stars used to play) to watch the first Ali VS Frazier fight on satellite.

The second time I saw him was years later when I was in baking school. Somebody, I don't even remember who, revealed to me that he was working in a casket company which was less than 5 mile from my house.

I never kept tabs on him, he was a deadbeat, but I had assumed that he was still living in L.A.for reasons unknown.

My fathers went by the nickname Pal, it was suitable I guess. He really liked women and ended up marrying 5 of them.

Each woman bore him a daughter. I was the only son from the first wife.

From the moment Klecko came into this world.....the Devil knew your favorite baker was going to have impact and tried to destroy him asap - LOL, as I was sliding out the birthing canal, I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my throat.

In fact it was so bad, so tight that a medical staff employee ran outside of the Inglewood hospital to find my old man. Eventually they spotted him by some shrubs smoking a joint, but that wasn't really an issue that morning.

"Mr. McGleno, there's not much we can do, but we will try to save your wife." lie, Klecko was written off for dead, but those Polish angels must have done something. I didn't escape unscathed though. If you ever watch my hands and eyes, you'll note that they quake a bit.this is the result of some nerve damage I'm guessing.

So I decided to go to the casket company, I walk in and introduce myself to the receptionist. "I'm Pal McGleno's kid."

From the expression on her face she seemed shocked and over joyed. she gave me directions, and just before I opened the door to the plant, I wondered how I would notice him. 15 years had passed.

Within seconds, I was pretty confident I had found my Pops, over by a big a** casket that was the Cadillac of it's line. the thing had every bell and whistle on it that you could imagine.

As I approached, I thought how much this big lout resembled Jackie Gleason. when I was 5 to 10 feet away. He seemed nervous.The first thing he said to me wasn't a greeting, or confessions of regret, it was "They'll bury me in this son of a "B"." I'm guessing he was wondering if I came to find love, or if I came to punch his lights out for being such an awful father to my sisters and I.

Actually the answer was neither. I was just a little curious and thought since the situation fell in my lap, I should check it out, but if I had to travel like 15 or 20 miles, I seriously doubt that this homecoming goes down.

Pal grabs me by the shoulder and says "C'mon kid, let's go to Jax and I'll get you some of that Pollock food you like so much"

So as the both of us wolfed down sausages and orange soda, the discussion between estranged family focused on how Rocky was the greatest film ever, and how the sequels were just crap.

Then he told me he was married currently to a Native American woman and had a daughter that was less than a year old.He wasn't bragging, but yet it didn't seem like an apology either, the whole thing was surreal and queer.

As lunch wrapped up he pulled a 5 spot out of his wallet and slid it across the table, telling me to take it.

This gift was kinda insulting when you realize that he jipped me out of 1000's of dollars and a strong role model throughout my formative years.

A hard a** might of slid the cash back in his direction, but I could see it in his eyes. His pain was greater than mine, so i just shoved it into my pocket.

Two weeks later, it was 8 p.m. and my mom (wife #1) called. she woke me up cuz I was working 3rd shift. she told me that my father was dead.

I jokingly responded by telling her that I was heartbroken, and we both started to laugh. When I asked how he died, she said he was in an auto accident. his chest slammed into the steering wheel and even though the doc's cleared him, he had a massive heart attack 2 days later.

I hung up, and then I got ready for work earlier than usual. Then "BOOM" as if out of nowhere.....something hit me. I was stricken with sadness, and I wailed like an Old Testament prophet.

I wailed for what should have been, and I wailed for what never was, but it's hard to know how your emotions can become tilted by somebody you don't even know.

I worked the night before the funeral. when I got off I drove over to the under keeper joint. The service hadn't even started and all the Native American and Mick's were already pouring whiskey.When I walked into that chapel room I started laughing, people looked at me with scrutiny. I told them to chill cuz I wasn't being a jerk. i was laughing because the old man was getting buried in that pimp coffin he had just shown me 2 weeks prior.

All 5 wives attended.Drama flooded the place. My sister-sister (the one I grew up with) ran out of the ceremony because of all the pent up hatred she didn't know what to do with.

The Native American chick rocked sister #5 in her car seat. I was pretty messed up because I had been up for a lot of hours by this point. The religious part was Catholic, so you had to kneel-stand-kneel stand, and I fell asleep several times when the event forced me into a position of prayer LOL.

So the deal is over and we head over to the Vets cemetery. Pal was a Marine, so he got the full Monty. The burial was interesting. While all this was going on, I was with my first wife, but I was just kinda eying a young blond (like young husbands do at times), but I must of stared to long because my mother slugged me in the arm...hard.

"Don't even think about it kid, that's sister #2, she's Jo Ann's Kid!"

I laughed, went home took a nap for a couple minutes and went off to work. I never revisited the moment in my mind.

But then in 2006, when the wheat prices were out of control. The StarTribune business section called me to ask me to offer advice as to what would happen.

I thought it was bizarre, they'd be better off talking with a miller, but I think bakers make for better photo op's. And since we are on that topic, shooter came into the bakery with a camera that looked and sounded like an A-K 47 and shot around 24 000 shots.

If you know Klecko, you know he has a full facial range, and poses with the best runway models. so why is it that they selected a photo, an image that would cover the entire top fold,an image were I possessed no neck what so ever, and it ended up making me look like Jabba the Hutt?

Well the article means little to me now for it's content or vanity purposes. what is really cool is that Sister #2 saw it while at work and was prompted to call me.

Her and her mother came into the bake shop, and sister #2 (Shelly) reached out her hand to greet me, but as a big brother, I bear hugged her. her mom loved that and smiled hard.

There is something to be said for genetics, dude,,,,I never met this woman, my sister other than scoping her out at the cemetery, and I gotta tell you. she's a lout like me. Sue McGleno stares at us in disbelief when we get together and goes scoreboard as to who will interrupt the other the most.

So after that whole dealio, sister #2 Facebooks me and says she found sister #3 or #4, we weren't sure. her name is Jen, and she is married to an American Top Gun pilot guy. They are stationed in Norway or Sweden.

Jen has a Jack Russell like me,but she seems to be the quite stable one in the family,she's a vegetarian lol, but I just found out today that she is on American soil and is about to pass through town.

So the 2 of us are trying to think up a fun reunion of sorts.

BTW.....sister #5 lives on the Rez and periodically toys with moving to the big city to launch a poetry career, and then there is one more sister who remains a mystery.

#2 says she hopes we find her, but I don't know.....maybe in good time, but sometimes Klecko likes things just as they are.

I hope you have enjoyed my family.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Last American Baker's Audience Stats....


#1 USA 3527
#2 CANADA 88
#5 FRANCE 39
#9-A SPAIN 23

Other fun factoids........
We have had 1 hit from the Isle of Man -
France is posting harder than any non American country in the last 10 days -
China,Poland, and Libya would be 11-13

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Moby-Maui & the Ham of Shame

Call me Ishmael,

One year ago to this very day, Danny Klecko was swimming with the whales. The whole thing started out 3 1/2 to 4 years ago when Klecko was in his early 40's.

Your favorite baker realized that he was just around the corner from becoming an empty nester, and decided that perhaps it was time to work at taking Sue McGleno on a once in a lifetime experience.

Up until this point the Klecko clan had - had some interesting adventures, but in every single one of them the kids were brought along. Nobody loves their children more than Sue McGleno, but even she thought it was more than neurotic that I had to constantly be surrounded by my offspring.

I was alone I think more than I would have liked to be when I was a kid, and during those times I (like most young minds) developed formulas and strategies as to how my life was going to be played out.

My principal plan was to have 8 children and sit at a long table each evening with them much like the Walton's did each night (OMG....I hope this rant won't be compared to one of John Boy's weekly epilogues), but after #2 came along Sue McGleno embraced medical technology to ensure that our family would stay at 2 adults, and 2 kids.

The next thing on my list was to take my family to Disneyland. I know- I know....some of you are Disney World types. You might argue that after the day at the amusement park you'll have more to do in Florida. In Anaheim, the only other entertainment options are betting cigarettes on who can throw empty beer bottles the farthest, or haggling over rates with prostitutes.

With that said, during those years of childhood solitude, I had this Disneyland postcard. I don't know how I got it, but it was in my bedroom and had the "Tea Cup" ride on it.

Let's face it, the Tea Cups are w/o a doubt the sissiest ride on the 160 acre plot, but that postcard was evidence to me that there was at least one place on this planet where people or family's could be happy. a space where only nice,clean and normal people were allowed.

In my head I think I even had it manufactured like heaven, so if some dirtball from Oklahoma City passed into Walt's creation, he/she would be transformed pronto....Johnny on the spot.

Sometimes when you are young, it's easier to hope for miracles and quick fixes. Improving your human condition takes a lot of work LOL, and even if you finally do it, often times if you review that journey in a rear view mirror you'll wonder if the entire process was worth it.

So let's get back to the Sue McGleno deal.I decided that I would need ten thousands dollars to secure her dream experience. for several years I clawed, scraped and pimped my specialty skills to secretly amass this post marriage dowry for her.

Now for those of you who work cooperate gigs or come from family money, I don't know if you can understand this, and hear me well. I'm not dogging you for receiving opportunity, I'm just saying poor people, or lower middle class wouldn't even dare to dream about participating once in what you take for granted as a seasonal respite.

They would fear that God and their Civic standing would drop through the floor for blowing away 3 months of security.

So I had all this money stashed in a secret account right? 10K, w/o a doubt the biggest squirrels nest I ever had. So I sit Sue McGleno down at a table and tell her that I am grateful for letting me take my kids through our life together everywhere we went. At this point she lovingly rolls her eyes. Then I tell her that I have in my hands a key that will allow us to go anywhere on God's planet for 2 weeks.

We won't have to stay with friends to defer the cost, we won't have to search for value. We can go fricking liberating is that to a once blue collar family.

I was more excited to give Sue McGleno this gift than I was was to give her an engagement ring. To accept the ring, all she had to do was put her faith in me, but to receive the dream vacation....she had to bust her a** for decades, live with a lout, and be her chidren's main outlet to plug into (as all mother are), all while maintaining a career where she takes care of cancer patients each day.

I relived this gift giving moment in my mind, over-and over and over again. In my minds eyes I could see her wrestling over Paris and London as destination spots. Then perhaps several hours later she might change her mind and choose Holland during the Tulip season. Would Sue McGleno surprise me and decide for something a little more unpredictable like a cruise along the shoreline of Greece, or sushi in Tokyo?

I can't tell you how much fun I had, thinking about the enjoyable torment I was serving her.

So I toss the bankbook to her, she looks at the balance.One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six-Seven......that was it. seven seconds of silence,seven seconds of joyous tension.

After seven seconds elapsed, Sue McGleno closed the bankbook, slid it across the table back to me and informed me "Book Hawaii" and went into her sewing room for the rest of the night LOL, I'm telling you when interaction between a Pollack and Russian Jew takes place, you're never sure what the outcome will be.

Date Line Maui -

On the west end of the island of Maui is a huge pink hotel called the Ka' anapali Beach Club. The place is right on the shoreline and you are surrounded by palm trees and an ocean view that forces you to believe that God has a blueprint for paradise.

My fear has always been that if I am lucky enough to make it past the pearly gates, how out of place will I be? Don't get me wrong....Klecko is confident in his own personal gifts and skills, but I won't lie. I am intimidated by money. I am uncomfortable in the presence of extreme decadence.

Over the course of my life I have been nothing short of blessed to be able to be attached to some of the bigger world events that have crossed my part of the planet......

But, I've been able to participate in the ventures from the safety of my mouse hole while wearing dirty aprons and uniforms.

So each morning I'd go down to this ground level area where they served breakfast to people who wanted to dine. It was an exotic buffet experience (if such a thing can be possible LOL). You sat amidst rock formations that made homes for parrots and formed ponds with crossing bridges. The bridges were actually a necessity because in the water were coy that were large enough to swallow Jonah.

The K.B.C. also came equipped with another outlet for people who were on the fly. It was constructed in a horseshoe shape, and as you walked into it you became overwhelmed with exotic take out options that simply couldn't be offered anyplace else in the world.

To the left was the cooks line, and each morning I'd peer through the narrow serving window. In some respects it looked more like one of those slots that are provided for tank drivers to look through.

On my 4th or 5th day, an older guy popped out extending his hand and issued the obligatory "Aloha" and asked me what part of the world I was cooking in.

When I explained who I was, and what I did for a living, a second body popped it. It was a young man, I'm guessing in his early 20's. He seemed dumbfounded in his mentors special mental ability's or ESP " did you know this man was a cook? He could do anything for a living."

The older guy looks at the younger man and laughs "Brah, look at those tats. You don't have to many cooperate guys in here with a monkey inked across their back."

The kids was still confused so the old man explained "Yeah, I can see the tat's, but I've watched him every morning for a week. Haven't you noticed that he kinda walks around here as if he's a little bit out of place, but then he hangs out even after getting his coffee. He's checking us out brah, he's watching our system. I think it makes him feel a little bit of comfort.I did the same thing when I was in New York back in 02."

Then the battle worn cook smiled and handed me a bowl of fresh fruit and offered up some sage advice, both were free of charge.

"On the Island, all of us are in the service industry. Sure,we get a lot of wealthy people who pay our bills, and we are grateful for them. But we know when one of our own is coming to visit, and we realize that chances are this is the only time in their lives that they'll be able to afford to get here, so we do are best to cover their backs. We gottcha Brah."

That entire conversation was so unnecessary. The guy had his own job, list of tasks, people and projects that needed his attention, but he took the time to step away and become an ambassador for his island and his profession. I can't tell you how....I don't know how (validated?) that conversation made me feel. On TV, on the Food Network most of you are subjected to Chef's that are pompous pricks. People who only care about themselves, but the thing that gets missed out on is every neighborhood in the world is filled with Food Service Workers. Less than 1% of these people will have opportunities to get rich, be on television or even get to see the appreciation of the people they are serving.

But I believe, in fact I know that their is a different DNA strain in the soul of Hospitality workers that understand the value of their trade. they are such a noble crew, and they will exhibit a loyalty that knows no boundaries.

The climax of the Sue McGleno once in a life time vacation tour came on the day that we went out snorkeling in the ocean. We went on a charter where a boat about the size of Skippers and Gilligan's buzzes you up and down the coast and out to some close islands.

Periodically they toss you over the side and let you snorkel in places where the current is safe and the visuals are superb. From spot "A" to spot "B" you get to see schools of flat nose and spinner dolphins. I swear to Caesar they are the monkeys of the aquatic highway.

But, as the day went on, whale sightings became not only common, but pod activity was way above average. True, we were in whale season, but even Captain Ken seemed surprised at the numbers.

Each bay has a number of these charters, and each of the vessels captains will share sightings with one another over their C.B. radios, so on a good day patrons might experience up to a dozen sightings.

We had over 30. I was in awe.There's nothing else to say. If you have ever seen a whale. the experience is pretty hard to describe in words huh? That's why Herman Melville's epic novel gets my vote for best book ever written. Now that I have seen what I believe to be the equivalent of God's angels to the animal kingdom, I'm thinking I should shut up and never pray for anything else for myself again.

If you get to go to Siberia and Maui in your lifetime, you might as well pray for the dirt nap. Your life has hit it's peek, and you'll never see anything cooler LOL.

So now that this blog post rivals Moby Dick in length, I might as well finish off with the memory that flooded my mind as our ship headed back into shore.

After witnessing all that we did,all of the passengers pretty much rested on the deck numb and in silence, in addition to being drained from all the sun and swimming, the sight of those whale pods punctuated a miracle.

Klecko rested off the Starboard Quarter with a can of Diet Coke and for what ever reason his focus shifted to remembering working as a rat (I.E. dishwasher) at Byerly's when he was....I dunno 15-16-17?

The head line cook was a man in his mid 20's not named, but I guess referred to as Moby. The leader of our culinary army was given this tag because he rivaled the fictitious antagonist in not only girth, be cunning and bravery as well.

Byerly's was/is a large-big raunt in the Western suburbs of Mpls, and all the peeps with big money and limited food expertise would swarm the grill to order one of a dozen entree's, but the trademark was a wild rice soup that might of put wild rice soup on the map.

When you have a raunt this size, the staff is larger than what you are used to seeing in the movies. A concept of this stature could never stay afloat with one rat, you actually need 3 in the back of house and well as 3 or 4 busboys.

The 3 back-rats had different titles and specialties. The quarterback if you will is called the Feeder. A Feeder collects the bus tubs and and sorts glass from silver.

Silverware is tossed into a soaking bucket that has soap and water to break down things like hardened egg yoke or crusty spaghetti sauce.Then the glass or "China" as the rat call it gets rinsed off and placed in racks and run through the washer.

There is a fine art to doing this, because you want to clean as much as you can, but if you over pack a have to run it through a second time. On a Friday can't imagine the pace or the stress levels that rats go through.

A rat is the lowest on the totem pole of a guild that was/is? the lowest in the hierarchy of positions that receive paychecks.

The guy who takes the scalding hot dishes out of the holder and takes them out to the numerous stations is the "Runner." for this position, it isn't just foot speed that are valuable. First off you have to touch scalding objects every 72 hours or your hands will begin begin to retain feeling and will recoil at the pain that is involved.

The Runner also must have inherent organizational skills. Let me see if I can remember all the different china I had to handle. have
#1 - Large Plate 10"s used for entrees
#2 - Small Plate 8-8 1/2"s used for salad bar
#3 - Cream Saucer
#4 - Coffee Plates
#5 - Soup Bowls - also doubles for house salads
#6 - Soup Cups
#7 - Coffee Cups
#8 - Malt Glasses

The Runner needs to keep a mental inventory of the China counts of each station and distribute the items evenly, you'd be amazed at how pissy servers can get if their station is being slighted.

Klecko was a runner and often times would carry a stack of 40 some saucers out to the counter and stations. I still remember management screaming threats.....

"God "D" Mo Rat, if you drop a single saucer, it's coming out of your check!"

BTW...for trivia purposes,before I was Klecko, my original Food Service moniker was MO RAT MO.

Last but not least is the pot scrubber.

In Hell, God will punish his naughty children with 3 things. They will either be pot scrubbers, doughnut friers or be forced to listen to Celtic music.

So one day a cooperate big wig was auditing our raunt. Everybody was on their best behavior. Most of the action was taking place in the front of the house so our Feeder, a guy called Tippy Canoe comes out of the walk in cooler with Gerbil cheeks mashing away with a screwed up grin.

Minutes later when he swallowed he alerted me to some freshly cut ham that was to die for. Now typically employees are not allowed to help themselves to food in the walk in, but the chefs and the rats had a unspoken rule.

Employees were all entitled to a free meal during each shift, and if your break came during rush hour, a rat was allowed to go into the cooler and take care of themselves.

This system was totally honor bound and in my 2 year employment, I never saw it abused.

So wouldn't you know it. I go into the cooler, get some ham. pack it into the back of my jowls like a cowboy preparing to hit the trail, but when I step out....the auditing guy was standing there.

"Open your mouth." He demanded.

I just stood there kinda freaked out by his request.

"Young man, I am not going to repeat myself. Open your mouth this moment!"

So I did, and the guy got to view a pile of chewed up ham. He pulled out a small note book and started to take notes. Tippy Canoe began laughing really hard and the guy got wicked pissed and rebuked him loudly.

So now the guy starts screaming, I mean level 10 screaming at me. Veins are popping off his neck road map style and him complexion is turning shades of boiled lobster.

Now the cooperate Nazi starts demanding of me to go to the register and pay for my ham and the repercussions of my actions would be dealt with later.

Like the little drummer boy, I had no gift to give to him, not a penny, so I don't know why I asked "How much do I need sir?"

So now the guy starts screaming for Moby, OMG...I was fearful.I didn't mind pissing off the Nazi, but I was ashamed that Moby was going to get in trouble and pass the lashing down on me.

So now Moby busts off of the line, he's agitated and in a hurry.

"What-what-what's so important?"

The Nazi tells him what he has witnessed and want the price of a serving of ham so I can go pay the register. Sweetest mother of Mary and all the Vatican Cardinals, I just can't express the shame that was running through me.

All the commotion had created such a stir that everybody abandoned their battle station during crunch time to see what was taking place. Within moments the whole deal had turned into the Judgment at Nuremberg, or the dispensement of the verdict of the OJ trial.

When the entire crew assembled, I just stared into the immaculately grouted floor tiles.

To my surprise, Moby defended my honor.

"Are you "f"ing kidding me. you're going to call me off the line at 6:30 on a Friday night over a piece of ham? Do you know who this kid is. It's the God "D" Mo Rat Mo, he's the best "F"ing runner in the history of this joint. The stupid little s*** has never once, not once placed a free meal request in his time here.Mo Rat, don't you dare pay a penny. Then Moby started to untie his apron.He pulled it off and handed it towards the cooperate auditor. Make a choice right now cuz the orders are backing up. apologize to Mo Rat or I walk off right now."

the Nazi didn't know how to respond. He wasn't even pissed now. he was confused. As the guy began (to my surprise) to issue an apology, Moby interrupted him to bark out his instructions......

"God "D" Mo Rat, the man is going to apologize to you, don't be such a p**** and stop staring at the floor. You need to look him in the eyes."

I did. And the man did apologize. for the rest of the night I wondered if Moby was gonna kill me when the night had finished, but when the Nazi finally left. I entered back onto the line and sheepishly told Moby how sorry I was.

Moby just kinda laughed and swore nice things at me. I wanted to ask why he stood up for me like that. The guy never talked to me or any of the rats, he just screamed at us.

But I gotta tell you, as I headed back to the shoreline after witnessing one of the greatest sights in my life. I became impacted how one persons actions and confidence in me changed the course of my life.

Up until that point I had never had anybody risk anything on my behalf before. It seemed illogical, but I won't lie.

After experiencing something like that. I really hoped that one day I would be in a position to demonstrate such conviction in courage in an industry where so many people are beaten down and have lost hope.

Call me Ishmael.