What can I get y'all?

(AUSTIN, Texas) — Turkey Reuben. Voodoo Blue Cheese Burger. Primadora Omelet. This is what has been on my mind during the month I haven’t been writing you.

I apologize for the long absence. It’s lame, I know, and I hope you haven’t lost patience with me. My world has simply been an exhausting series of surprises recently. I feel like creating monologues and short stories about my entry back into real, honest-to-God ordinary life, but I find I’m so deeply vested in it that I often forget I can. Right now I am a friendly host and a new and shaky waitress at a cool restaurant in south Austin. This has been my entire world for weeks, and I don’t mind. A large part of me wants to capture every nuance of my experiences right now — from the young, Berkeley-like atmosphere of South Congress Avenue to the intimidating and invigorating experience of working amongst so many young folks — and save it for later reflection. I am in a world of neon-lit signs and music and more boys with long sideburns and snappy cowboy shirts than I can shake a stick at. Austin may be a city of 800,000, but if feels more like a hyper-cool and congested big town. It is, at once, creative, ordinary, edgy and very Americana. Innovations like movie theater brew pubs and Airstreams that offer everything from Humane Society pets to tacos are the norm, but so are annoyances like poor wages and apocalyptic traffic. I don’t really know this city, but I respect it, and I feel this is a special time for me. A pause between the notes, I think. I have this hope that in my future I’ll look back on my Austin life and get nostalgic. First though, I know I have to be here and try to live it well.

And that seems like the hard part.

I’m reminded of an article I wrote a couple of years ago for a newspaper in Colorado. It was about a girl with severe cerebral palsy who was so disabled that she couldn’t talk or run and could hardly read. But she could paint and draw, and every moment she was in an art class I observed, she looked delighted. As I spoke with her teacher, a kindly woman, the instructor kept bringing up the same point, using similar words over and over:

Being successful at something is wonderful.

How basic, how true. Perhaps it seems like a cheap shot to compare my desire to go through a day at my restaurant without spilling water on myself with the plight of a special needs girl who simply wants to express her creativity, but maybe not. We’re all just human, just doing the best we can. Doing well feels good and doing poorly feels bad, and there’s no amount of philosophizing that can change that. For years, I have been a newspaper writer and photographer, and I have been good at what I do. That sense of accomplishment and confidence about my skills has been a huge part of my personality. That just ain’t so in the restaurant world. Tomorrow, I’m going to do a five-hour shift of waiting tables (my third such shift), and if I do well, my job will be safe and my mood will be light, and the world will feel possible. If I’m terrible, I just don’t know what will happen. Things are still quite probationary with me and this job, and the need to prove myself hangs in the air as thick as Crisco in that place. Or maybe that’s just my take on it.

Ah, but if things aren’t sometimes uncertain, and you never feel crazy and and question everything about your world and feel as though failure is imminent, is anything really worth it?  Does the good stuff even matter?

I must keep those kinds of questions in mind as I fumble through learning to be a waitress again. I dearly want to succeed. It’s strange, I’m thinking now, that if I took my customers one by one and interviewed them and snapped their photos and wrote little profile pieces on their lives, that I would succeed at telling some of the truth of their existences probably more often than not. But as their waitress, when all I need to do is get their eggs to them on time, the odds aren’t so much in my favor.

Yes, Friday shall be interesting.

2 comments to What can I get y’all?

  • Chris


    Trying something new, with the possibility of failing, takes guts. Hopefully your blog will help other people (like me!) dare to take the road less traveled. Keep moving forward. Good luck.


  • In in the midst of it all, you tell your story so well. That posting is an inspiration.

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