J.T. Hilltop… (From Zen and the Art of Culinary Maintenance)
The freaking manager and Maitre D’ of Cavarleiri’s Restaurant ran off with the Payroll and my hopeful culinary career was cut short. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t used to the fecal matter hitting the rotary oscillator but Cavalieris closing was a lot to deal with. I thought I had found my calling in the restaurant industry and the furthest thing from my mind was not being part of the gastronomic cosmic enlightenment enhanced with copious amounts of weed. No longer was I an apostle to a culinary madman, no more waitresses to flirt with, no more free beers, no more sneaking joints in the basement. I was now saturated with disappointment and disillusionment. I guess that’s how my Dad felt about me, but I’m not here to wallow in self pity, I’m here to tell my story. No money meant no weed and no weed meant I needed to seek another avenue of employment. Fast! I needed to shed the dry burnt out snakeskin of the restaurant industry and turn on to some other form of capitalism. I needed to get far away from any kitchen, any Chef or any sexy damn waitress. I need a sacrificial rack of lamb so to speak. I should do what James did when he was here, some fast money landscaping. So it came to pass that I had became the new landscaper for James olf boss Muncie at Muncies Field of Dreams. More accurately put, I had left the bottom rung of dishwashing to join the bottom rung of lawn mowing leaf raking topsoil carrying shit spreaders. I had chosen to become a hard working laborer and have my skin scorched everyday by burning threats the summer sun makes good on while enjoying the hearty aroma of freshly decayed organic manure. Enough about the perks though; let me tell you about the downside. Everyday ended the same, my arm and back muscles pound out a rebellious beat building to a painful crescendo. As I reach to cool my aches and pains with a cold beer it seem as though all my muscles tightened up into ball of overworked subdermal tissues and tendons screaming at every movement. My skin radiates a pinkish aura from hours spent unprotected by those relentless threats of the harsh sun. It left my neck and shoulders feeling like James gave them an Indian neck burn adding to my misery. As if that weren’t enough, the omnipresent stench of decaying crap had implanted its neverending stink carousel deep into my nasal cavity. Olfactory nirvana! Out on the field one of my less enviable jobs, if that’s even possible, was to take compost which was Muncies name for decayed animal shit, and spread it across a field. At first the smell of evaporating morning dew so earthy and rich comes rising up off the ground like a wisp of warm steam in a tease just waiting for its vile replacement. Breathe deep and enjoy the best of nature while it lasts because within seconds comes the dank aroma of compost. Its a blend of some of the most offensive smells I could ever have imagined. Horse shit, cut grass, worm infested leaves, and decaying matter are the less offensive stench. Once dumped on the ground the aromas of a horse stable had a meeting with a quarantined rest stop bathroom, and then joined forces with spoiled milk and dead mouse body to create a cacophony of disgust that slowly crept up my nasal passage and made an all out assault on all five of my senses. There it would stay to hang out for hours even after my day was long over. A rank reminder of my newly acquired hopelessness that was eased, but not eradicated by the beer. With a cannabis chaser of course.
Partying had come to a new intersection as well. Turn right and head up the morphine highway that was one step away from the dreaded H. Heroin, horse, dope. A dangerous path to be sure but as long as we kept just to the pills it seemed okay. To the left was an array of uppers and downers that had become much too routine for us. From the ritual of lighting up to the ritual of popping pills. Ken the salesman was in big demand and was spending way way too much time with the low life dealer Arthur. As for me I was required to wake up early 6 mornings a week and work my body into a pile of mush. But I had every night free to do whatever I chose. I had begun spending more and more money on drinking and drugs, supplying not only my head but Carries as well. And many evenings I took care of Sue as well because my best friend Ken was always out copping drugs to sell. I had begun doing diet pills every morning to keep me awake and give me the energy to bust my ass out in the shit fields and then popping downers to take off the edge of diet pills so I could sleep. As if that didn’t suck enough on days when it rained I would be sent home and not make any money for the day. I quickly went through my head money after a week of solid rain. The summer was coming to an end and I was making less money. Soon it would be too cold to do landscaping and I would be out of work again. Fuckin A man! I couldn’t remember how the fuck I got here but I knew I needed to get the fuck out real soon.
As if on cue that week of rain and crappy weather had set me in search of a new destiny. Again fate reared its ugly head and out of the blue came an offer to become an assistant groundskeeper at a local Nursing Home. How cool to be able to use my newly acquired skills on three locations and get paid even if it rains. That’s how it was that I became something different. Now I was a shit spreader with a title. The assistant groundskeeper with a special attribute. I was in charge of manure movement. Whatever, I was working and making money on a regular basis again. And the work wasn’t nearly as exhausting. Life was good again. Now I could concentrate on saving up my money. I began working in the yards of the three nursing home properties at Vierno’s Nursing Homes Inc.
To Be Continued