Friday, May 29, 2009

A Barman No Longer

My very brief career as a Barman in New Zealand is about to come to an end. My happy hour shift starts in about an hour, and I've decided it will be my last one.

I took the two-shifts-a-week job pretty much for the hell of it in the first place. I didn't really need the money, although every little bit extra certainly helps. But it turns out that bars and the people who work in them are not that much different in New Zealand from anywhere else.

The manager is the worst type of human - the kind of guy who was the coolest, nicest dude ever when we first met, but once I started working for him, he didn't speak to me for about 3 months. No hello. No goodbyes. He didn't even look at me. I've come to find out that it is nothing personal, as he pretty much treats everyone like shit.

Dickface suddenly started being real nice a couple of weeks ago after he very seriously stuck his foot in his mouth at me. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that he really pissed me off and I let him know it. The fact that he is now suddenly saying, "Hello" and "How ya goin' mate" in the Kiwi way makes it all even worse. So to hell with him. I don't want to see him anymore, and I am over the bar work. Sometimes it is actually kind of fun, but most of the time it's pure drudgery.

And someone needs to teach these people how to drink. My God. There is a reason we put ice in cocktails - no ice means that the drink is watered down and doesn't taste like anything. People in Christchurch seem to think that ice in a gin and tonic robs you of tonic water.

I can't decide if I should go out in the proverbial blaze of glory (see the first post on this blog) and tell Dickface what I think of him, or if I should just finish my shift and go home, never to be seen again. The red-blooded Texan side of me that was partially raised by a gun-toting, liberal bashing, 300 pound uncle who went nuts at waitresses in Denny's if his pork chop was overcooked wants to make sure Dickface knows not to fuck with bald Texans ever again. It would be kind of fun to tell him off and, if nothing else, just embarrass the crap out of the guy in front of the other employees who can't stand him. But on the other hand, the mature adult hiding somewhere inside me knows I'll probably just reinforce everyone's already negative stereotypes of most Americans.

But what the hell . . . it's been a long time since I've truly and completely burned a bridge. Might be time to light one up . . .

We'll see what happens . . .

Don't you hate ellipses . . . how lazy is that . . . either form a complete thought, or come up with another way to indicate incompleteness . . .

This blogger sucks . . .

Friday, May 8, 2009

Arabs and Meat

I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of life in New Zealand, so I suppose I should do a bit of a recap. I can't be bothered at the moment, so I'll write that up tomorrow.

Some Saudi guys my wife and I know invited us over for dinner the other night. A fairly dreary Wednesday evening that followed an 11 hour/4 different jobs day turned into a completely surreal gastronomic bizarre of nearly unrivaled proportions.

One of the Saudi guys is a chef. He and his buddies are in NZ to study English. They decided last week to buy a sheep, so they contacted a farmer, agreed upon a price, and drove out to the farm. They agreed to pick out the sheep, and even physically, uh, gathered, the sheep, running around the farm chasing the most attractive victim. Apparently the sheep pretty much acted like I would if I saw five hungry Arabs running after me, which it to say that it hauled ass and did everything in its power to prevent the jihad. It lost. Saudis 1, that sheep 0.

After about 20 minutes the chef (who by the way looks exactly like Lou Reed circa 1978) pinned the sheep down long enough for everyone to grab a hoof and transport it back to the farmer for halal slaughtering. Lou Reed had never killed and quartered a sheep before, so he was given the honours. It took him a good hour, which everyone else found to be hilarious. Blood and fleece filled the air as they all dreamed of how the dead ball of fluff would be turned into a week's worth of dinners.

Our invitation was for Wednesday; as far as I know the guys had been eating the mutton for the previous four days. We hadn't brought the customary bottle of wine, making sure not to offend Islamic sensibilities. It turns out we had nothing to worry about. Fortunately, Lou Reed and the gang have adopted a when-in-New Zealand-attitude to drinking alcohol, so as soon as I sat down I had a beer in one hand and a tequila shot in the other, with the salt and lime on the table right in front of me. I am all about the when-in-someone's house-drink-whatever-they-give-me attitude toward social drinking, so off we went. For guys who aren't supposed to drink, they have pretty good taste in beer, providing a seemingly endless supply of Speight's Summit (a "pure" golden lager that is pretty much the best beer made by NZ's biggest beer company).

Saudis eat very late. By the time we finally sat down at the table it was almost 10 pm, and I was bloody starving, even after a few beers and an appetizer of dates and Arabic coffee (which tastes nothing like coffee, doesn't look like coffee, and doesn't even have any caffeine, but I was assured that it is actually coffee. Whatever.).

Lou Reed sat down along with a dude who's name is pronounced like Knife (spelled differently, but it's more fun to just call him "knife" so that's what I'll do), a guy wearing a large coat made of the fur of many, many rabbits (rabbits, if they could talk, would refer to this guy as "Hitler"), and a very, very happy man who came to New Zealand with his wife and young son (so we'll call him Family Guy). A tall, skinny guy called Abdullah (and yes the others do have real names that I know but I don't want anyone getting their hands cut off on account of my blog . . . ), in whose apartment we were eating, was the waiter. He absolutely refused to sit down to eat until everyone else was done. He wouldn't even sit down anywhere. He brought water, coffee, beer, bread, rice, or whatever anyone wanted. Dude was literally a waiter in his own house. He even folded his hands behind him like a waiter would.

Abdullah the Waiter placed three huge ceramic dishes in the middle of the table. On my right was the mutton, huge chunks of meat on large, curved bones that would have been my vegan youngest brother's worst nightmare. I didn't even care if it was gonna taste good - I remembered my friend Ben saying once that even if a piece of meat didn't taste all that good, the thought that somewhere a vegan hippie was upset about it made the whole meat-eating enterprise worthwhile. But once I grabbed onto a sheep rib and stuck my face into some seriously tender meat, I realized I didn't have anything to worry about. Rabbit Hitler said it was okay to eat with my hands, so I grabbed a gone and got down to business. Mutton doesn't have the greatest of reputations as meat goes, but I suppose if the Arab Lou Reed chucked damn near anything into an Arab pressure-cooker for long enough, added enough garlic and spices, and allowed me to eat it off the bone cave-man style, I'd be pretty satisfied. This was not "mutton dressed as lamb" (the Kiwi version of the Texas expression "all hat and no cattle"). It was mutton that was proud to be what it was. This was meat that was meant to be eaten outdoors by men seated in a circle around a fire, naked, speaking in grunts as they reminisced over the morning conquest of Atila and/or the Huns. Meat that filled me with enough manliness to wear pink for the rest of this year, or to put down every toilet seat I see. I'm still blissing out over this meat, and this all happened about two weeks ago.

[Disclaimer: I don't have anything against hippies or vegans. I do have something against white people with dreadlocks, and there are shitloads of white people with dreadlocks in New Zealand - I'll never get used to it, and I always assume they are either hippies, vegans, or both. It's just not right. Anyway, I imagined that the angry vegan hippie who would have been horrified at all the meat I was about to consume was the guy I met at a pub quiz night who was a, very white, and b, had a perfectly trimmed accountant/mortgage broker style beard, and c, had dreadlocks down to his ass. Dork.]

The dish in the middle of the table was filled with sauteed vegetables and the tenderest chicken wings I've ever had.. Family Guy challenged Knife and I to a contest to see who could produced the cleanest chicken bones after one bite. I think we tied. The meat fell off the bone and melted in my mouth as soon as the wing hit my tongue.

The dish on the left was filled with rice, which Abdullah the Waiter insisted on scooping onto my plate every time I got anywhere near finishing the rice that was already on my plate. We also had some pitas to scoop any remaining meat or veggie remnants up.

And I think there was a salad at one point.

Rabbit Hitler pointed out again and again that I couldn't stop eating. "In my country, ....." I've learned to be weary when an Arab begins a sentence with this seemingly innocent cultural entreaty. What comes next could be anything from a defense of polygamy to why Hitler (the German one, not the rabbit guy) is a great hero. In this case, though, the "in my country" phrase led to nothing but pure gluttony. According to Rabbit Hitler, Family Guy, Knife, Lou Reed, and Abdullah the Waiter, to refuse food was something akin to pissing on the Koran. So I kept on eating. And when the cinnamon schnapps came out for dessert, I went for it in the name of cultural understanding. And even though I was really full and had to get up early the next day, I couldn't help but have another beer or two as we all sat in the living room watching the Daily Show. They didn't understand it, but laughed anyway.

If only they knew Jon Stewart is a Jew . . .