Sunday, June 22, 2008

Background on the Leftover Chef

I used to think that my worse nightmare was being assigned to cleaning up Times Square after the ball had dropped on New Years Eve. No one there but me with piles of shit. But then again when I thought about all that overtime, maybe it wasn't such a nightmare. First I'd round up a homeless crew. I'd have to do that before everyone started drinking, scope out some of the older kids on skateboards. They'd know how to maneuver. I figure I'd need about tops, 80 people. I'd hand out a bunch of freebies to restaurants and leftover crap from marketing promotions. Then we'd go at it, sweeping up tons of confetti, plastic cups, gold streamers, and water bottles.

Sure, we'd have to work through the night but what do I have to do on New Years anyway? So when it got to be share time about "Hey, what'cha doing on New Years Eve?" I'd know exactly. It might make recruiting easier too. How many New Yorkers get to say they've been part of a Times Square cleanup? I'm not talking here about the Sanitation Department. More like regular subway stiffs. Now I'm thinking it might be real easy for me to put together a group of people as long as they weren't half drunk, which would be the real stumbling clock. Maybe I'd recruit people a few weeks in advance from Craigslist. Sure, I think people would want to sign up. It would be a lot cheaper than throwing away a couple of hundred dollars on booze. Anyhow, think about all those those AA members roaming around, a goldmine of people. I'd print up about 100 stickers saying something like, "I Swept the Square." When anyone on the street saw you wearing a sticker they'd pull you aside and ask, "What year, man? I was there in 2008." It would be a conversation piece like having a dog. I could even win a MacArthur for doing community service. Then I'd be able to take off from work for a year and do anything I wanted.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not even a New Yorker. I don't even work in New York. The whole idea started as a nightmare that got me my own television program. It only happened because I was bored. Working all day in Central Dispatch with the phone constantly ringing? I may as well call up the Neptune Society and tell them to come and get me. No, I'm not naturally a morbid person. At least I didn't start out to be. Anyhow, my mother always used to say that "If you're bored, you've only got yourself to blame." What she didn't know, bless her soul, was that sometimes it can be middle management, upper management and everyone in between.

So here's the thing. Take one middle-aged, slightly balding 6 foot 2, white guy who buys his pants at Wal-Mart and eats at Chevy's, and tell me what've you've got? A demographic, right? Wrong. I don't want people to actually know who I am because I've gotten into deep shit playing in that sandtrap. I could tell you stories. Like the time I wrote my boss a helpful little note, I mean it was polite and everything, explaining that she didn't need to bless every freaking thing moving out of our department. It took months to get a single letter to the customer about why a bus didn't show up on time, and there's a stack like this piling up on my desk. And what do I get? A written reprimand "for overstepping my authority." Someone please draw a chalk circle around me now. Plus the usual crap about not respecting a woman's authority. Which is about when I can trace my first glimmering as the Leftover Chef, except I didn't know it then.

Every evening I had to listen to the neighbors' television and music turned up to mega disciples. Now it wouldn't have been so bad if we actually liked the same thing.

"Can you please turn it down a little?" I'd ask them in my best groveling voice whenever I saw them in the laundry room, roommates going to community college or something. I think one of them was taking business classes, and the other was dealing outside the apartment building. And they'd say, "No problem, man. Sorry about that." Nice kids. Then they'd go back to their place and turn up the volume even louder.

By then I was in my early thirties and had already served in the military and worked as a nurse. I knew I had to keep the job. But how do you stay in one place long enough to qualify and then pay for a mortgage? I pondered that question nightly until I arrived at a solution. I just had to find a way to make it interesting.

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