Haibun: March 6, 1984

For Amaya’s prompt at dVerse, Mardis Gras mambo.  Let me tell you cher, the times were wild in restaurants back then.

Krewe of Zulu Throwawy Coconut

March 6, 1984
“There’s a thing I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’ll be damned if it don’t look like it’s about to come true — to be King of the Zulu’s parade. After that, I’ll be ready to die.” — Louis Armstrong

The restaurant was empty of customers. They were all in the streets getting wilder and crazier. My sous chef looked at me askance as I was a little bit high myself. One only one waiter and two runners had come into work along with one dishwasher.

I looked at them and said, “Hell, let’s close it up and go outside.” My sous laughed and pulled a small brown vial from his pocket and laid down a line. The dishwashers pulled out their vials and a joint and we all had a party, right then, right there. The noise outside ratcheted it up. “We are missing Zulu Krewe. Y’all go. I’ll close it up. Tell Carl the place was locked when you got here.” Mardis Gras in the Crescent City. Zulu Krewe was lambasting past. I laughed and shook my hips. I threw my apron on the counter, did a couple of more lines,turned the security system back on and headed outside. If I ran, I could catch up to Zulu Krewe. Who knows? If it took off my shirt and shook my tits hard enough, they might just throw me one of their prized coconuts. Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!

fat Tuesday rolls hard –
sex sin and dirty dancin’-
tomorrow we pray

Krewe of Zulu

 

 

43 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Frank J. Tassone
    Mar 12, 2019 @ 19:23:13

    Sheer awesomeness! An iconic moment so wonderfully, and iconically, told!

    Reply

  2. msjadeli
    Mar 12, 2019 @ 20:37:08

    You nailed it, Toni.

    Reply

  3. Frank Hubeny
    Mar 12, 2019 @ 21:42:19

    It almost makes me want to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And Krewe of Zulu.

    Reply

  4. kim881
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 04:01:52

    I enjoyed your memory from1984, Toni, and I’ve learnt something new about Mardis Gras in the Crescent City. I’d never heard of Zulu Krewe and I love the haiku! Booze and sex seem to fuel carnival all over the world.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Mar 13, 2019 @ 06:25:50

      Yes it does. I bottomed out a couple of years later and started growing up. Lol. Not that I ever did wholly grow up.

      Get Outlook for Android

      ________________________________

      Reply

  5. Brendan
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 04:46:14

    It would figure you cooked in N’Awleans. And isn’t that party fare the backbone of the late night kitchen … What a rich gumbo of memory, and a reminder that there is no holiness without holy shit-ness.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Mar 13, 2019 @ 06:24:24

      Yeppers. You got that right. Than I God I bottomed out a couple of years later, in DC of all the cold places.

      Get Outlook for Android

      ________________________________

      Reply

  6. Jane Dougherty
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 06:00:38

    Great rollicking prose poem though it sounds like my idea of hell!

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Mar 13, 2019 @ 06:21:10

      Those were the times in the restaurant business. It was also Mardi Grad. Times have changed and I have changed. We all grow up.

      Get Outlook for Android

      ________________________________

      Reply

      • Jane Dougherty
        Mar 13, 2019 @ 06:24:19

        Well…some don’t ever change. Here we call them idiots 🙂 Reminds me of what a friend told me about working at the Café Royal in London.

        Reply

        • kanzensakura
          Mar 13, 2019 @ 11:57:35

          Yes. But the Cafe Royal has the most delicious cafe mochas in the world. And here, we just hope they will change. We are not so harsh in their judgement. Knowing checking as I do, I can only compare it to juggling 29 glasses at once in a cage of hungry tigers.

          Reply

          • Jane Dougherty
            Mar 13, 2019 @ 15:30:56

            The ‘idiots’ are generally people who never change their ideas, not specifically restaurant staff 🙂 My son works as a waiter, sommelier and I’m hoping he’ll turn to a more restful occupation soon.

            Reply

            • kanzensakura
              Mar 13, 2019 @ 15:32:07

              Waiters and runners are among the most valued employees in a good restaurant. Maybe he likes his job?

              Sent from Mail for Windows 10

              ________________________________

              Reply

              • Jane Dougherty
                Mar 13, 2019 @ 15:45:22

                He does actually, but the hours leave him no time to do anything else. When he’s not working he’s eating or sleeping.

                Reply

                • kanzensakura
                  Mar 13, 2019 @ 16:22:37

                  That sounds like true restaurant work. If it isn’t a passion, then it can get boring fast. I loved it personally. I didn’t mind having a life for basically 20 years but between the drugs, the alcohol, the pain in my back and in my feet, I burned out. But it was a good run while it lasted. Some of the waiters I started out with ended up buying their own restaurants, mangaging them, or cheffing. It is a hard life. If your son doesn’t mind, I wouldn’t. Some of us are born for it and others are not. I can walk into a restaurant now, twenty years after retining from it and get into the old rush easily. It is a hard addiction to shake.

                  Reply

                  • Jane Dougherty
                    Mar 13, 2019 @ 16:35:44

                    The drugs and alcohol sound familiar. Maybe because I’m his mother I’d rather he laid off that side of things, but he likes the people and enjoys being in demand. He doesn’t have to look for jobs, he gets jobs offered. Better than being unemployed.

                    Reply

                    • kanzensakura
                      Mar 13, 2019 @ 17:19:27

                      I totally understand about the drugs. I was 21 when I graduated from culinary school and started life as a dishwasher. Talk to him about the drugs. Let him know you are concerned about them. He’ll probably go, oh mom, I know what I am doing…and he probably does. Kids are wiser than we often give them credit for. And with him being in demand, it means he is good. Have faith in him. My parents were clueless about my drug use until I bottomed out at 45. I was always good at hiding it. LOL. One time drugs were in rare demand and I actually didn’t do any for a week. My mother asked me if I was on drugs and I told her honestly, I was not. It took me a few years to get my balance back and learn how to behave without them. I think your son will be fine. Of course, you are his mother but….trust him after having a small non-judgemental talk with him.

                      Sent from Mail for Windows 10

                      ________________________________

                    • Jane Dougherty
                      Mar 13, 2019 @ 17:33:58

                      He doesn’t hide it and laughs about it. The drugs, I think is only for recreation and since he doesn’t have much time for that it isn’t a regular thing. Whenever he comes to eat with us he doesn’t drink. He usually says he’s off it for a while because he was on a blinder recently. He bottom out, like you, I shouldn’t wonder. He seems lever-headed enough.

                    • kanzensakura
                      Mar 13, 2019 @ 19:08:54

                      I was perfectly level headed. I still am. a product of my mother.

                    • Jane Dougherty
                      Mar 14, 2019 @ 04:59:16

                      She must have been an artist too then.

  7. sarahsouthwest
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 08:24:14

    Was it as much fun as it sounds? It sounds exhausting – but great to be on the “inside” of something like that. The story’s so good you don’t notice the writing – or maybe the writing’s so good you only see the story. Whoop whoop! anyway.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Mar 13, 2019 @ 11:59:23

      It was a wild ride. Aftwr 20 years I burned out and went back into engineering, a nice safe sedate profession

      Get Outlook for Android

      ________________________________

      Reply

  8. Charmed Chaos
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 11:32:51

    Toni- what an incredible experience for you! BTW- Have you read Sweet Bitter? I wondered how close it was to what goes on in restaurants behind the scenes. I love to cook and once dated a chef when I lived in Philadelphia. When I saw how hard he worked, I knew I never wanted to go into that industry. Kudos to you for doing so- that takes true passion!

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Mar 13, 2019 @ 11:53:44

      Thanks. Yes, many people do not have a clue how hard the work is. I must admit that when someone says something like, I love to cook, maybe I should be a chef, I have a tendency to sneer…really???? I read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential when it came out. He nailed it, rest his soul

      Get Outlook for Android

      ________________________________

      Reply

      • Charmed Chaos
        Mar 13, 2019 @ 12:42:59

        Yes, he did.

        Reply

      • Charmed Chaos
        Mar 13, 2019 @ 12:45:07

        The chef I dated owned an Italian deli and the only way I could spend time with him was cooking with him in the kitchen or helping out at private affairs. Crazy long days, not for the faint of heart.

        Reply

        • kanzensakura
          Mar 13, 2019 @ 13:43:05

          No it isn’t. I think that is one of the reasons for drug and alcohol abuse being so prevalent in the restaurant industry. The long hours, the lack of proper socialization, the strain and pain the back, neck, and feet…it all adds up. It is easy for people to judge but unless they have lived the life, they need to shut up.

          Reply

  9. Jane Swanson
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 15:50:38

    That was definitely carnival time!

    Reply

  10. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 16:22:12

    What a great story… and how good to be able to shut the restaurant to join the fun. My brother in law is a chef in Boulder Colorado, I know that the long nights was hard on him. Now he cooks at an upscale retirement home… no long nights anymore.

    Reply

  11. Gospel Isosceles
    Mar 13, 2019 @ 21:35:14

    I don’t think the restaurant life has changed much, at least not when I was working them at the turn of the millennium:) Did Satchmo ever become Zulu King? Probably, since they named their airport after him. More interestingly, did you ever catch that golden coconut? Do I want to know? Haha, thanks for the throwback,Toni.

    Reply

  12. merrildsmith
    Mar 14, 2019 @ 07:27:08

    Sounds wild, Toni, but I love your vivid description here. I was reading comments above. It’s not a life I’d enjoy (not the wild Mardi Gras or partying), but I certainly respect all the hard work that chefs, servers, and the rest of the kitchen staff do.
    I’ve read about Michael Solomonov’s problems with addiction, but I think he started before he opened Zahav.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Jane Swanson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: