fredag, februari 17, 2006

"My 8th Avenue Kings" Part 2

At the entrance to the restaurant is the bar, and that’s were the Greeks hang out. At the back of the place, the Bangladeshi waiters are standing, and the basement is Spanish territory, workplace of José the chef, from Santo Domingo. His assistant Felix keeps him company, as do the dish washers from Puebla, Mexico. The kitchen is the heart of the restaurant, warm and sweaty. A trapdoor opens onto the sidewalk above. This is where the groceries are taken in. A steep staircase leads up into the daylight on 29th Street. On aluminum shelves sit boxes of cucumbers, artichoke hearts, lemons, mushrooms and tomatoes. There are also fresh herbs: parsley, tarragon, coriander, rosemary, garlic paste and bottles of wine, olive oil and vinegar. José is resting on a stool with his head in his hand. It’s four o’clock. Lunch is over. Dinner starts at six. He just got one of his rare phone calls. José’s father, who’s 80, has been taken to hospital. But there is no time to go visit him. José has to prepare dinner. “I’m really tired. Muy cansado.” “You work pretty hard, huh?” “Oh yeah, very hard. But it’s OK. Six days a week, seven sometimes. Twelve hours, Monday to Friday. Saturdays, I start later in the afternoon. We open at four.” “How much are you making?” “It’s OK.” “I mean, how much does George pay you?” “Don’t wanna talk about that.” José doesn’t like my questions. He likes to talk about love and love making, which he calls chici-chici. According to José, Hispanic women are muy caliente and incredibly good at chici-chici. American women on the other hand are “too mucho frio”, and not as good at the art of love making. José and I used to be friends, but now after I have finished college and become a writer, it seems that I have become someone else. I feel sort of like a representative of the authorities, asking him about salaries and taxes. I take José’s picture. Absolutely no full-figure shots! “My apron is too dirty”, he says. When I tell George that his kitchen staff isn’t forthcoming with answers to my questions, he grins. “That’s right”, he says, “I cut their tongues out when they started working for me.” “But you should tell them to give me some answers.” “No! Why? If somebody works for me, then they need to pledge silence. And if you’d start working here I’d cut your tongue out too!” “OK, but how much do you pay José?” “500 dollars a week.” “Can he get by on that? I mean, he’s got two kids and the older girl is at college.” “Really? Well, that’s more than I know.” “But he’s been working for you for fifteen years!?” “Yeah, but I don’t talk to my employees, ha ha!” “How much does the dish washer get?” “200.” “Isn’t that a bit low?” “Heard any complaints?” “No, can’t say I have.” “Well GOOD! What do I know, they’re probably on social security too. Not my problem. If I can get a dish washer for 200 a week then I’m happy. They’re happy and I’m happy.” To be continued... (translation by Martin Rundkvist) Andra bloggar om: ,


Blogger monica said...

hej jenny. vad roligt att du hittade mig!

2/17/2006 10:40:00 em  
Blogger Martin said...

Jag hittade en radda väldigt vettiga skrivtips på John Scalzis blogg.

2/18/2006 03:16:00 em  

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