Food. By Russell Eberts

We here at The Octopus Bar are pleased to present our first blog written by one of our
colleges, Russell Eberts. With ONE DAY left to go with our Kickstarter campaign..
it seemed like a good time to share…  Enjoy!
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24 hours left to hop on board!
Dive in and join us on this voyage!
Having worked in the food service industry for the better part of the last decade, I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of good things, and just about as many bad things, but what stand out the most when I think back on my experiences are the people. There’s something about being thrown into the often beautiful, often frustrating milieu of the restaurant industry that has a tendency to really bring out the essence of a person. When you work in the same kitchen, share duties on the floor or behind the bar, and try to turn a dollar under the same roof, there’s a laying bare of a person’s true self that is hard to come by in this day and age. You get to know people, for better or for worse; I’ve found that it’s been mostly for the better. Sure, there’re quite a few forgettable faces that come and go along the way, and I’ll never forget some of the worst co-workers I’ve had over the years, but these are far outshone by the many friendships I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of these last eight years.
Sometimes there are co-workers that you absolutely love when you’re working with them, but who you don’t much care for outside of the job. A lot of them, though, end up becoming a bigger part of your life than, even after having job after job, you could have imagined when you first walked through the door of that new job.
Many of these relationships can be deep, resonant. I met my current roommate when I was 19, a sophomore in college at Indiana University; I’d just been hired on as a line cook at a buffalo wing’s place just across the street from campus. Apparently—and I only found this out later—I’d been hired because the middle-aged African-American fellow who was the general manager of the joint thought I was cute. Well, that might have been the case, but I didn’t know a damn thing about cooking. I learned. There aren’t food handler’s permits in Indiana, so I learned everything I needed to know from the aforementioned manager, Jeff. How careful you have to be around raw chicken, and how much it sucks (I’ve hardly had raw chicken in my kitchen in the past couple years; mostly because rotisserie chickens are fucking awesome). How to kick ass in a kitchen, and still make sure that you’re being safe and putting up quality food (I swear the only times I ever fucked up were when Jeff was looking over my shoulder). How much white girls love their salads (Jeff, who was a large man, was a former opera singer and had a Master’s in music from IU, which is a very good music school. He had a deep, resonant voice; these are two of my favorite quotes from Jeff: “These damn white girls and their salads. It never fails. White girls love their salads.” And, after being asked what sort of a bagel he wanted, this response: “I’ll eat anything except for three things: mushrooms, onions, and pussy.”) And, most importantly, how to make really good fried chicken.
I met Joe, my roommate, on my second or third shift at BuffaLouie’s. He was one of the managers there, and we both did a double-take: we had also just started playing ultimate frisbee together on an intramural team, literally three or four days earlier. We ended up striking up a friendship, his roommate and fellow co-worker (who had been given the affectionate moniker of “Schlitz”, which, looking back on it, was quite appropriate) taught me how to be a badass at washing dishes, I played poker and partied at his house (and probably dated one of his good friends, who, I am reluctant to say, was from Pittsburgh; I may or may not have watched the Super Bowl in 2006 with her and may or may not have been cheering for the Steelers. I have since atoned for whatever sins I may or may not have committed in that regard) and, when we both separately moved to Seattle, we got back into contact, started playing ultimate again, and now we’re roommates, eight years later.
I’m still working in the food industry, though only part time, and am still making friends I never would have made otherwise. There’s a balancing out of folks in the food industry; it doesn’t matter what your background is, what your family life was like, how big your dad’s paycheck was when you were a kid. There’s a separation that goes on when you’re in school, be it high school or college, that just doesn’t exist in the food industry; while I value all of my friend’s from college greatly, I’ve learned more about life and the world from the people I’ve met in the food industry. They’re not all middle-class white folk from the Midwest with good family situations, plenty to fall back on, and dreams big enough to throw shoes on and parade in front of all of your friends. I love my college friends, and they’ve taught me a lot, but they’re all pretty similar to one another (from an outside perspective, anyway), and they all come from a similar background as the one from which I came. Folks in the food industry, though, are often times a whole helluva lot more interesting: they’ve suffered and struggled in ways that make my own troubles seem small in comparison. They have stories that make my high school suburban childhood seem like something out of a shitty 90s sitcom, without any of the good humor. They make me realize what it really is to live in this country, to dream and struggle, to work your ass off for pennies on someone else’s dollar; they are the backbone of America, the folks who, for good or ill, really represent the cross-section of this nation, with all of its odd differences and (oft-forgotten) shared similarities. I’d be a totally different person if my mom hadn’t suggested I get a job my freshman year, and I can only imagine that I’d be much less interesting, much less understanding of people, and a whole lot more of an asshole than I already am. I can’t imagine having lived these past eight years without the experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve formed.
In the end, we’ve all got to keep on working, keep on dreaming, and continue to surround ourselves with the good people we’ve found who can add something positive and interesting to our lives. The folks opening up The Octopus Bar are doing all of those things, and here’s hoping the best of luck to them in their latest adventures!
Russell Eberts is a University of Washington graduate who has
workedand lived in the Seattle area for the last eight years.
He currently works at a local non-profit.

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