The Days of Our Pandemic Lives. By: Clark Kent

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

My sister Sara keeps calling me Angry Chef or AC and I don't want to admit she is right so I am going for a more uplifting tone on this post. Now eat a bag of dicks.

I have written a ton about the hustle, a hustle here and a hustle there, and my fingers are tired. All dad jokes aside, most of us have been living that way for much too long. That frenetic pace can be exhausting even in the best of times, but with Covid, most of us working stiffs are spending our energy running like a rat on a fucking wheel, if we can even get the wheel to move. The more I hustle, the faster the wheel goes, but just like our friend the rat, I never seem to get anywhere. My side hustle became my main hustle and my main hustle left me like Sancho leaving through my bedroom window; like sand through the hourglass, these are The Days of Our Pandemic Lives.

If the hustle seems monotonous to you, it's because it is, really fucking monotonous. Kind of like a tv show that you have watched for years where nothing really happens, but at the same time it's action-packed, so you keep watching, yet you really have no idea why. Not to mention the fact that no one really ages on the show.

Monotony comes in many forms, for me it starts when I wake, it ain't called my morning routine for nothing, and ends when I kiss my significant other good night and lay my head on the pillow. Everything I do has a rhythm of familiarity to it, like personal mise en place. I take comfort in the routine and it makes me feel safe. But inevitably, the day comes when I wake up tired, tired of the same old. Tired of the new shit (covid) tired of the old shit (cooking for people that have no appreciation for my skills; if you ever want to feel like a number, work for a large international hotel chain, but I digress.) But I am seldom tired enough, because for some reason I still get up every single day and put my feet on the floor.

We all put up with a lot of shit being in this business, I do because at the end of the day I live to serve. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. I still joke that I am the least hospitable person in the hospitality business, but in reality I really love this shit. I wasn't always like this, it took years to figure out how to navigate the murky cesspool that is my true personality. I tell my students who struggle with self-esteem and speaking to strangers to think of themselves as actors and this is just the role they play….for now at least, until a new and more juicy role comes along. The role I have chosen is Superman, of course. My mild-mannered chef jacket holds the power of my super alter ego where nothing can hurt me and everything I do is great. This trick has worked for me for over 30 years. I even marked the occasion around 15 years ago by installing the Superman theme music as my ringtone after I had honed this act to a delicate but razor sharp perfection.

I love the hustle and I hate it just the same, one of the million little ironies that make up my life. I love it as it gives me purpose. It keeps me going to put food on the table and a roof over my head. I hate the hustle as it has kept me from important social engagements and family milestones, and trust me, experiences like these, you will never get back. I have missed enough of them to know this truth as deeply as I know food.

I love the hustle as I love cooking. It is in my blood, and I am thankful for my life and the many wonderful, painful, and sometimes ridiculous kitchen memories I conjure each and every time I pick up my French knife. My knives have their own energy and have been with me since the beginning, they know as much about cooking as I do. They have all of my kitchen memories stored in their steel, kind of like the sword in Highlander. They are my friends and trusted allies; if I am Superman, they are the most potent of my Super powers.

I hate the hustle as my body slowly breaks down and my basic motor skills slowly deteriorate, like sands through the hourglass. It's like Ferris said, "life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." My life, at least for a short time, gets exponentially better when I stop hustling, when I take a break and get off that wheel. It's crazy though, sometimes I am scared to stop because I fear that whatever momentum I have painstakingly built up hustling will dissipate if I stop and rest. But that fear is unfounded- no matter what, I am always glad that I stopped, even if it is only for a short while.

Superman has learned to change the game up and do things outside of his comfort zone.

I take time to recognize things that are going on around me. I used to miss a lot, even with Ferris’ wise words of warning. When I look up, and put the fucking phone down, I almost immediately notice unrecognized or underappreciated beauty. (It's not as hard as you think if you put your mind aside and really look at something.) I take the time to consume art that isn't consumed orally. I will go out of my way to experience art that evokes a strong emotion, whether good or bad, it doesn't matter. That is what art is there for. I am now always on watch to see or experience anything that might inspire me to feel something different. Feel something painfully beautiful, or feel something painfully painful, I figure that both will help in the long run. I make it my business to always do something besides standing behind a stove to get my blood flowing.

I’m always searching for new music that moves my soul so much that I want to jump out of my skin and simultaneously stand still with wonderment. I’m not ashamed to admit that I hug trees. It feels wonderful and trees have souls, I know it because I have felt them. If you don't believe me about the tree bit, just go to the Olympic Peninsula, it will change your mind and most likely your life, and you'll thank me later.

Look at something so beautiful and let it take your breath away, like a gut punch.

I am in many ways the person I used to make fun of in my youth, and in this, I believe I have done what any human should; grow beyond the bounds of what I once thought were possible, just like Superman. I have learned to partake in the beauty of what is around me, to invent my own fun, and in this practice have found that most true joys in life are free. If any of this sounds extreme, slightly embarrassing, or a little crazy it is because the times we are living it demand as much. Extreme? Yes. Slightly embarrassing? Yup. A little crazy? Yea, you betcha!

I like things to move me at either one hundred MPH or zero, that's because I am a cook at heart and in practice. What cooks do, we do full bore, so I go out and enjoy without reservation and, sometimes embarrassingly for those around me, with wild abandon.

Learn from my example, if you can, even just a little bit. Take time for yourself, no one else is going to do it for you and the things you do outside of the hours you are in the kitchen will set you free when you step back behind the warm comfort or your friend, Stove.

The labor pool water is not being filtered nor will it be getting any cleaner any time soon, so live a little and experience something new. Your cooking and your mental well-being will thank you for that time off. Make the pandemic days of your life better because even in the most challenging of times, it is up to you to make your life extraordinary. Expose yourself to new things and all the old things will seem new again.

Until the next installment, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.


99 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All