June, 2004

Self Expression

My new favorite thing to do at the pool, besides the elementary back stroke, is to lay in the sweltering heat until my heart is beating uncontrollably and I’m on the verge of passing out. Then jump in the pool, float on my back and listen to my heart beating under water. It sounds like someone knocking on the door!

I went to the Guggenheim last week–what a wonderful exhibit they have!! It’s called A Century of Painting: From Renoir to Rothko and houses the perfect number of paintings–not so overwhelming that you get bored or feel the need to zoom though, but enough to keep you interested. Plus, so much happened in the world and in art during that period (1860s through the early 1900s) that you learn/refresh your memory with an amazing amount of information–both aesthetically and historically. (You can view the exhibit online too, and though it’s not the same as seeing it in person, it could be a fun thing to do!).

Gauguin’s Haere Mai (which means “Come Here”) was very moving. The artist painted this scene from his memories of time spent in Tahiti (“immersing himself in virgin nature”). He uses many symbols in the painting to relay his feelings about the modern world, which, as a Primitivist, he was trying to free himself from. I love the wild boars in the front and the sunburst of yellow trees in the center of the painting. Oh! And he painted this on burlap not canvas!! You can actually see the brown rice-bag-like texture around the edges of the scene. Perhaps this was another of his attempts to escape modernity?

A few other paintings jumped out at me:

Monet’s The Palazzo Ducale, Seen from San Giorgio Maggiore–the touristy perspective and luminescence intruiged me here. I haven’t seen the Palazzo in real life yet, but Monet was visiting Venice and painting what he saw from a foreigner’s point of view (something I relate to very well right now as a foreigner in this new city). I’m not sure if he had seen this building before, but he seems to paint this landscape so that he’ll remember what it feels like to be there. (And though I’m sure the Palazzo feels different for everyone who sees it, he’s trying to share with the future how Venice feels to him. As a soon-to-be-European tourist, I appreciate this effort as it will allow me to compare Venice Then with Venice Now and get a more in-depth understanding of the city). We see the Palazzo from where Monet saw it; that little triangle of stone in the bottom of the picture from where he painted this picture really makes the painting for me because it puts Monet-the-Tourist in the painting; I could go to Venice tomorrow (that sounds like a good idea) and stand where he stood and share the exact same experience that Monet had 96 years ago.

Gino Severini’s futurist Red Cross Train Passing A Village so reminds us of the Cubist movement that came before Futurism. See the houses fragmented in the smoke and the speed of the train? I’m still trying to figure out what the numbers are all about–right now I think they symbolize the modern world… Severini painted this during World War I, so I think they’re a reminder of the significant role that science and medicine play in (any) war. What’s your take?

kandinsky.jpgI enjoyed the motion and sightlines in Robert Delaunay’s Eiffel Tower With Trees. And am in love with Vasily Kandisky and Mark Rothko‘s work–what great color in their abstract expressionism!! (“The inner vision of an artist translated into a universally understandable statement.”)

If I was a work of art (well, I know I’m a work of art [hahaha], but I mean literally, if I was a painting), I would be one of the pieces from this period when Cubo-futurism was morphing into modern art and there was so much going on socially, economically, artistically, and historically–everywhere in the world. I like to think that I’m vibrant, courageous, somewhat aware and reflective of what’s going on around me, innovative, y una mezcla del pasado y that which has yet to come. Whether all that is true or not is another situation entirely, but I’m working on it at least. Which work of art would you be?

It’s Saturday night and since everyone I know (all two people) are either working or out of town, I’ve decided to start a huge painting for the large bare wall in my room. You’ll be able to view this grand work of art in my own mini-Guggenheim soon!

Come to Vegas

All of you people out there who have been wanting to visit me (and I know there are hundreds of you!!) need to check out expedia’s specials right now. Don’t delay!
Why not book your flight today?? Ding!!

The Fuzz

I got pulled over today. What a heart-stopping experience that is. Jen (who was in the car with me) keeps attempting to comfort me by recalling that it was an absolutely classic pull over.

So we were on our way home from outlet shopping in Primm (and though it wasn’t a very successful shopping experience, it was still good to get out). I’d never been on that road before, but it was just another of those endless, straight, in-the-middle-of-the-desert roads (or so I thought). No Nevadans ever obey the speed limit on those roads, which is usually 75 anyways, so when I got stuck behind this guy who was going wicked slow I (after shouting “Dude, why don’t you go a little slower!”) pulled into the other lane to pass him. A Beach Boys song comes on and I crank it up really loud as I look in my rearview mirror to see if I’m far enough ahead of Mr. Turtle to get back in the slow lane. There’s a pickup truck behind me with lights on it. I point this out to Jen and comment that maybe the copper is the reason why that guy was going so slowly, but think to myself it’s probably just a volunteer ambulance guy, because police cars are usually cars and not pickup trucks.

Then his lights go on. MAN. Isn’t that just THE worst feeling in the world?!!?!? (Okay, well I can think of a few other feelings that might be worse, but getting pulled over makes me feel totally ill inside).

So I pull over, planning out what I’ll say in my head and silently sending prayers heavenward (though why anyone up there would even listen to a heathen like me, I’m not sure). The officer asks the standard questions: do you know what the speed limit is blah blah blah. He asks how long I’ve been here; I lie and say one week. He asks if I’m working; I lie and say “oh, for a couple of days now”. He tells us he’s on his way home for a two week vacation and then adds up the tickets I deserve for all the violations I’m commiting: 20mph over the speed limit=$300 fine plus two points on the brand new Nevada license that I need to get (in my spare time between work and night drivers classes that I’ll need to take), and driving without a valid state license in an unregistered, uninsured car would earn another $100 in fines at least. Oh Billy. That’s all I need right now.

All I have to say is: Thank God he had some serious R&R lined up.

He didn’t give me any tickets, just a warning to be a good Nevadan citizen and get all that car stuff taken care of and slow down. What a relief (not that I wasn’t tremoring violently as he walked back to his truck).

But I have to ask: what state has police officers who drive pickups?! I think that’s kind of shady right there. And B, he totally peeled out of the shoulder and zoomed at least 80mph down the road after thouroughly reprimanding me for going too fast.

But I’m not complaining.

A Peek Inside Bouchon, and Some Tips for Survival

Pictures from Sean & Erica’s Wedding.

bouchon_napkin.jpgOur walk-in refrigerator is seriously impressive; a gleaming food library of shiny beveled steel and smart plastic containers. It surpasses by 200% every restaurant refrigeration system I’ve ever seen in terms of organization and cleanliness. There is a place for everything and everything MUST go in it’s proper place.

All products are stored in brand new plastic cambros with color coordinating lids or in deli containers–no other container is acceptable for storage. These storage containers must be properly labelled, dated and initialed with green tape, and this label placed approximately one inch from the top of the lid on the front side of the container.

We categorize the shelves, so there’s a shelf for herbs, a separate one for vegetables, yet another for lettuces, condiments, prepared foods, etc., and a separate walk-in entirely for seafood and meat, another for beverages, a third for dairy and one last for bakery products. Everything is alphabetized from top to bottom, left to right. Heaven forbid one of the upper-level chefs (in our complicated hierarchy of chefdom) should find your initials on an improperly stored product!! If you see something in the walk-in that has been improperly stored or that has not been consolidated, you fix it. Even if you’re not the one that screwed it up in the first place. It is the responsibility of each chef to take the walk-in’s sanitation personally.

There are blue aprons and there are white aprons at Bouchon (I’m a blue apron). A white apron means that that particular chef is an intern or recent hire on a probationary period. And though you treat everyone with the utmost respect, blue always outweighs white. It is important to make the rounds every morning when you arrive and every evening before you leave. This involves saying hello/goodnight and shaking hands (when possible) with everyone (from dishwashers to Executive Chef) in the kitchen, and thanking them for their help at the end of the day. Always address everyone as Chef (Insert First Name Here), or you are in breach of the Bouchon Code of Inter-Personal Communications (read: not giving your co-workers the Respect they deserve as employees of this fine establishment).

Question yourself endlessly. Consider why everything is where it is. Does it belong there? Is there a better home for it? Fix it. Clean it. Do it the Right Way.

Never have idle hands; there’s always something else that needs to be done. When in doubt, clean, organize, consolidate.

Bouchon is an upscale French bistro, but it still amazes me how many people speak French in the kitchen! On the line during service if something goes especially well, one of the chefs will exclaim “Viva la France!” and the rest of us enthusiastically echo it down the line. If a Chef asks you to do something, most often the response is “Oui, Chef.” Several of the waitstaff communicate in French and a few of the chefs regularly thank me (“Merci, mon cher”) in that musical language (I envy their beautifully perfect accents).

On a slow morning we serve breakfast to about 180 people, on a busy day up to 300. At dinner they do about 220 on a regular night, so all in all, we’re doing at least 400 covers a day–that’s where all of this militant organization comes in handy! Even though it may sound like kitchen bootcamp, everyone is extremely friendly and the kitchen emanates a positive, upbeat aura of success; it’s not quite as intimidating as it sounds!

In other news, the weather man changed his mind about it only being 98 degrees on Thursday. That’s right folks, triple digits all week long. Yippee! I can’t wait until monsoon season starts.

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