Sep 16, 2006

Baby Alex


This is my mother's new puppy, Alex.

Sep 3, 2006

Sunday Morning Breakfast


Capriotti's Banquet Hall
Maple Street - Tresckow, PA
I had a very nice Sunday morning breakfast with the family today.  It was very good.  I hope that we get to come back here sometime.

Sep 2, 2006

Burger King Memories



Toy Story Kids Meal Toys
Burger King (1995)
Writing about my first job yesterday brought back a flood of random memories that I haven't thought about in years, so I thought I'd spend a few minutes documenting them while they're still fresh in my mind.

There were different toys in the time that I worked at Burger King, but the ones that I remember the most vividly were ones that promoted the first Toy Story film.  We must have had a few hundred of those Sheriff Woody plush dolls at the restaurant when I was there.



Throughout my life, I have unintentionally created mental soundtracks for the people I meet and the places that I go.  I rarely realize it's happening at the time, but years later when I hear one of these songs, the memories of that time and place in my life immediately come flooding back to me.  If I were to create a playlist for the Burger King chapter of my life, the first track would be Roll To Me by Del Amitri.  I don't know anything at all about the band, but we had a little radio on the stainless steal prep table in the back corner of the kitchen where many of us would take our break and have something to eat.  This song was hot at the time, so it played at least twice a day during my shift.  Sometimes a song will start to annoy me if I hear it that often, but this one never did.  It's a catchy and pleasant song, and I always smile when it comes on - and get a craving for a Whopper.



My time working at Burger King was over a decade ago, so I don't remember exactly what days I worked or what shift I worked on those days.  However, I am absolute positive that I worked the night shift on Saturday, October 28th, 1995.  That night, on the same radio I just wrote about, I listened to Game Six of the 1995 World Series when the Atlanta Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians for the only World Championship that they won during their run of dominance in the 90's.  I love baseball, and even though none of my co-workers really cared too much for the sport, one of them found the game on the radio so that I could listen to it while working.  That act of kindness meant a lot to me.



In the days before DVR, if you wanted to record a television show that was airing when you weren't at home so that you could watch it later, you would have to buy a blank VHS tape, and set the timer in your VCR to record it.  I probably had 100 tapes in my dresser drawers and in a tray that slid out from under the bed, and I recorded all kinds of things.  One show that I recorded completely by accident was an episode of a science fiction show I had never heard of called Sliders.

The show was about four inter-dimensional travelers who traveled to different parallel worlds.  The over-simplified way to explain each of these worlds is that something different happened at some point in the past, which created a domino effect that drastically changed the world as the travelers knew it.  The episode that I had accidentally taped was called Last Days, in which an asteroid was headed for the earth that would cause a mass extinction.  As it turned out, this world had never invented the atomic bomb, so the heroes of the story worked to hastily invent a nuclear warhead to shoot down the asteroid before it could strike the planet.

So, assuming anyone on earth is actually reading this and gives a damn, you might be asking yourself what this has to do with Burger King.  I was in 9th grade at the time, and I was even more of a social misfit back then.  There's a reason that I don't have comments enabled on this blog or any contact information, and that is that I'm not the kind of person who makes or keeps friends easily.  I start out with good intentions, but then something happens (which is usually my fault) that makes it all go wrong.  If you touch a hot stove enough times, you eventually wise up and learn to keep your hand away, which is why I mostly keep to myself these days.  However, back in 1995, I was still trying to make friends, so I mentioned this quirky sci-fi show during a shift at work to the folks that I was working with.  One dude, who I would guess was about 10 - 15 years older than me, instantly looked up and knew exactly what I was talking about.  He was as excited about the show as I was.  He had every episode of the first season recorded on tape, which he brought in for me to borrow, and we quickly became friends.  His name was Darwin Jarrett, but he often went by his Native American name, which is Nitehawk.



This is Nitehawk.  I lost touch with him over the years, which again is entirely my fault.  I strongly doubt he would remember me at all, let alone know what a positive influence he was in my life.  He was a funny, creative person who was just an all around good dude, and he taught me that it's ok to be a nerd and to embrace the things in my life that made me happy, like science fiction.  Although our areas of interest didn't always overlap (he's more into the Dungeons & Dragons scene, whereas I've always been more into retro arcade and console games), we had tons of interest in common and spent many shifts making burgers and fries and talking about Sliders, Star Trek, Star Wars, Nowhere Man and different ideas for Geocities sites that we had.

At the time, he ran a sci-fi fan club called The Drakmärian Alliance.  I signed up for it, but social anxiety and general awkwardness kept me from really participating, as it often does.  This dude bent over backwards to make me feel welcome.  I only wish I could have just relaxed and allowed myself to become a part of it.

These days, he runs a company called Nitehawk Interactive Games, which publishes tabletop role playing games and expansion modules to AD&D, among other things.  I'm not knowledgeable enough about the scene to do justice to their work, but if you happen to stumble upon this blog and you enjoy RPGs, I strongly encourage you to check them out.



Last, but certainly not least, I will always remember the food at Burger King.  Of course, I could go to a Burger King any time I want and have a Whopper, but as anyone who has ever worked at a restaurant can tell you, it's different when you work for the place.  Our managers had a pretty liberal policy of letting the employees eat whatever they wanted.

The main thing that most of us snacked on throughout the day was a piece of cheese from the prep table wrapped around two of three french fries or a chicken tender.  For lunch or dinner, I usually made myself a bacon double cheeseburger (with an absurd amount of bacon and pickles), or one of the many chicken sandwiches we had on the menu.  At the time, there was a series of international chicken sandwiches available, including the American (with lettuce, tomato and American cheese), the French (with mayo, ham and Swiss cheese), and the Italian (with marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese).  My favorite one of all was the BK Broiler, which was a thick, unbreaded chicken patty sandwich.  It had a smoky flavor and to this day is one of the most delicious fast food sandwiches I've ever eaten.  I used to make mine with bacon, pickles, lettuce, tomato and a little bit of mayo.  It was discontinued a few years ago and replaced with the Chicken Whopper, which isn't bad, but it's just not the same.  Finally, for desert, we had these little individually boxed slices of Oreo Cookie Cream Pies that were to die for.  They were even better if you ate them right from the freezer.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about them.

Sep 1, 2006

My First Job



Burger King
N. Broad St. - West Hazleton, PA
The first job I ever had was at the same Burger King restaurant that my grandfather and I used to walk to on Saturday mornings to have breakfast when I was a kid.  To this day, it's one of my favorite job experiences that I've ever had.  It was a group comprised of mostly high school students with a few adults mixed in, and everybody was extremely friendly to me at a time in my life when I really needed it the most.

I started working here in the Fall of 1995.  It was the end of a very unstable period of time in my life.  In the first half of the 90's, I lived with four different sets of relatives in six different houses across two states and had spent time at a juvenile detention center twice.  I had just moved back to Pennsylvania to live with my paternal grandparents that Spring, and life was just beginning to settle down a bit.

My friend Jen and I were hanging out one evening when we walked to Burger King to grab something to eat.  We noticed a pile of job applications sitting on the counter when we ordered, so we each took one to fill out.  Neither of us really expected to get the job because we were both 15 years old, but we figured no harm could come from applying.

They must have been pretty short staffed because the manager came over to our booth while we were eating.  We hadn't even finished filling out the application and she was telling us about the job and asking what hours we could be available to work after school.  Then came the moment of truth.  She asked Jen how old she was, and when she answered, the manager said in a disappointed tone that the minimum age to get hired was 16.  The manager then turned to me and said "you're 16, right?", to which I quickly agreed.  Thankfully, I hadn't gotten very far in the application yet, so when I got to the birthdate section, I wrote in a year that would have made me 16.



Look at that handsome son of a bitch.  That dude looks sixteen, especially with that suave mustache, right?  Well, the manager of Burger King bought it.  My grandfather took this photo before my first day of work, and I can't begin to express the embarrassment I feel when I look at it.  Dear god, no wonder I got picked on as much as I did.

Fifteen is too young to have even had a learner's permit in Pennsylvania at the time, so I didn't have a photo ID.  Burger King accepted my Social Security Card to fill out my paperwork.  If they needed any other documents, they either overlooked it or I had something that was good enough.  The one thing I do remember is that I had to promise that I would have the school district fill out and sign my working papers as soon as possible.  From that moment, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I got caught.  I had seen school district working papers and they clearly list the kid's age and the restrictions for work (which are very different for a 15 year old compared to a 16 or 17 year old), but I figured that I'd ride it out for as long as I could and make a few bucks.  I thought if I was lucky, I could fly under the radar and work there long enough to make a few hundred bucks.  

What I didn't expect is that I would be able to keep this going for six months.  Every so often when the manager thought of it, she'd ask me if I had my working papers yet, and gosh darn, wouldn't you know that I forgot 'em.  Since I didn't work every shift with that particular manager, and since she didn't always remember to ask me, I kept this going through the rest of the year and a few months into 1996.  I think it was around March when the manager finally got wise and called the house.  My grandfather knew I had fibbed about my age to get the job.  I think he kind of got a kick out of the fact that I wanted to work that badly, but while he wasn't going to run down to the restaurant and rat me out, he wasn't the type of person who would lie to cover for me either.  He answered the phone that day, and when the manager asked, he told her that I was only 15.  She was pretty pissed off at me, but not so mad that she didn't offer to hire me back the day that I turned 16.  I showed up to work on time, did what I was told, and didn't cause trouble... except for putting her at risk for hiring an underage kid.

I remember that later that year, my class took a trip to the high school to take a tour of the place.  I was in 9th grade, which was still considered Junior High School in our district at the time.  Some of the older kids who I worked with at Burger King and got along with really well bumped into me and busted my balls a bit.  If I had managed to hang in there for just a few more months, I would have actually turned 16 and it would have been a moot point.  As it turned out, I never did go back.  Before my 16th birthday, I had found a job as a busboy at an Italian restaurant.  The hours and the pay were a little bit better, the food was good, and best of all, they didn't care one bit that I was 15.

So, that's the story of my first job.  Burger King is the Home Of The Whopper whose motto was "Have It Your Way", so I told them a whopper and did just that.