Tag Archives: expensive

Black mold? Come on.

I had this leak coming from somewhere behind the kitchen wall. After putting off getting it taken care of for much longer than I should have, I made an appointment to have a plumber stop by and take a look. Hopefully it wouldn’t be anything too serious, because I really didn’t have the cash for anything more than a quick-fix repair job.


The plumber took one look around the kitchen and suspected that the problem might have something to do with the dishwasher.

“Is this appliance a plugged unit or is it hardwired in?” he asked me.

And just the way he looked at me when he posed the question, it was like he was expecting an answer out of me. I had no idea what he was talking about, but in that moment between his question and my eventual non-answer, here was a man, a professional plumber, treating me like, well, not like an equal, but definitely not like someone who doesn’t know at all what he’s talking about. I should have just said something like, “I don’t know what that means,” but I didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t want to let myself down, to diminish my assumed level of basic appliance know-how.

“Well,” I kind of fumbled around, trying to say something, what exactly, I didn’t really know. “It’s a … uh … it’s a standard unit …”

“All right,” he cut me off, I could tell he was a little disappointed, not in me so much, but in himself, he gave me the once over, he sized me up and took it for granted that I’d have maybe a base level of handiness. And now he was back at square one, or lower than square one.

He pulled the dishwasher out, revealing a puddle of dirty water. The cabinetry was wet on both sides, as was the drywall just behind, crumbling off where it met the tile, everything slightly warped from having been damp for who knows how long.

“Jesus,” the plumber said, which wasn’t really a reaction I was hoping for.

“It’s a leak,” I don’t know why I said that, because it was obviously a leak.

“Is that a direct line?” I don’t know why he asked, because I didn’t know what that meant either.

“A direct line?” I threw the question back at him.

“Look, we have to turn the electricity off before I can check out the pipes. You’ve got a lot of water damage here. And it looks like there’s mold growing.”

“Mold? So what do we do?”

“You got to get a mold guy, I’m not licensed for that sort of stuff.”

“A mold guy?”

“Yeah, look, and do what you got to do, all right, but this is something you got to take care of, all right, black mold is no joke.”

“Well, can you fix the leak?”

“And an electrician. You got to get an electrician over here, because I’d bet anything that the wires need some looking at, I’m just saying, you know, based on how these pipes look, and the mold, you got to take care of everything here.”

“But the leak?”

“You listening to me kid?” he called me kid, and I knew right there that whatever technical benefit of the doubt he’d given me when he walked in had evaporated.

“Yeah, I’m listening to you, I’m just … I just, I don’t know, all right? One thing at a time, right? Can you fix the pipe, or whatever it is that’s causing the water to come out?”

“All right, look, you’ve got extensive damage here. All right, you’re going to need a complete reworking of probably all of the plumbing here. You’ve probably got faulty wiring, and even though I’m not a mold guy, so this is like some off-the-books advice here, but it looks like you’ve got the beginnings of what could be a pretty nasty black mold problem. Now like I said, you do what you got to do, but this isn’t something you’re going to want to let go for too long.”

I said to him, “OK, but for right now, for today, what can you do for me?”

“I can patch up and reinforce the sides of the water main, right, and that’s going to buy you maybe a few months, maybe more, maybe less, again, I don’t know the extent of this damage, right, if this pipe’s corroded here, I’m sure the damage goes way back. So that’s today. And then tomorrow, well tomorrow’s Saturday, but Monday I suggest you call an electrician, and a mold guy, and then the three of us will figure out where to go from here.”

“How much are you thinking this is all going to cost?”

“Look, I’m in absolutely no position to give an estimate right now. I’m telling you, there’s a lot to do here.”

“But like what, a thousand? Two thousand?”

And the plumber just shook his head.

“What about for today? What about for that pipe patch or whatever you were talking about?”

“One forty.”


“But look, I’ll give you some contacts, some guys I know, guys I’ve worked with before, or you can shop around, your call. But listen to me …”

“Yeah, I got it, I’ll take care of it.” I told him.

He patched up the pipe or whatever it was that he did, and the water stopped. And after he left, after I mopped everything up and scrubbed the tiles and the walls with one of those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, I have to say, I know that I’m not a plumber or an electrician, but it didn’t really look that bad. And there wasn’t any more water.

And black mold? Come on, it didn’t look any worse than the black mildew upstairs in the bathroom or in the basement. And the Magic Eraser works fine on that too. Besides, I’m thinking of repainting the whole place, just giving everything a couple of fresh coats. Because I really don’t know, that guy, ready with his trusted associates, maybe I’m not a plumber, but I can tell when I’m getting squeezed.

Black mold problem, please. I try not to use the word problem. I see it as more of a black mold opportunity. Because look, now I’m almost positive I’m going to paint. Maybe like next weekend, or the weekend after that. And who knows if I would’ve gotten around to it if it weren’t for that mold or mildew or whatever it is. Yeah, a fresh coat of paint is going to solve everything.

But man, I should get into plumbing. That guy was over here for what, an hour? And he charged me a hundred and forty bucks? Talk about a good gig. I’d love to make a hundred and forty an hour. And then I could tell all of my friends about it, my electrician friends and my mold friends, and they could hook me up when they get house calls. “Gee, I don’t know, you better let me get my friend Rob the plumber over here to take a look at this.” What a racket.

Advanced wine service: wine lists, decanters, tasting notes

In the year and a half or so that I’ve been working at this current restaurant, I’ve learned a fair amount about wine. About our wine list at least. Definitely the popular wines that we sell, the stuff that we serve by the glass. Everything else, well, it’s probably from California, or near California, and if you ask me about the year, I’m pretty confident that it’s from sometime between 2009 and 2012.


Around six months ago, when I really started becoming familiar with at least the basics of our wine list, I had this mistaken idea that I actually knew something about wine, like in a more general sense. I got tricked. By working day in and day out at my restaurant, I just sort of started to absorb these random wine facts. It was totally unintentional, almost like osmosis.

And so I’d be out at a restaurant and I’d hear a familiar phrase or word used to describe a wine that I kind of thought we maybe had at our restaurant, and I’d be like, wow, I’ve got this. But that false sense of knowing what I was talking about would unravel as soon as I’d look at the wine list, bottle after bottle of something that I’d never heard about, and then whoever I’d be with would see me studying the menu intently, maybe they’d throw me a wine question. I’d just have to pull something out of my ass, “Hmm, yeah, this is definitely very … oaky. Uh … dry. Yeah, classic … uh, that’s definitely a classic California … you know what? I think I’m just going to have a beer.”

I’m at the point now where I’m at least somewhat self-aware of what’s going on, that even though I don’t know much about wines, like I said, at work I can deftly maneuver our list to the point where, when mixed with my natural ability to bullshit about pretty much everything, I can at times give the impression that I actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to wine.

Which isn’t to say that I’m immune to occasionally showing my true colors. Like the other night, I had this party of four, and one of the guys went straight for the wine list. I saw him looking way past the typical cheap stuff, and so I got a little nervous, prepared all of my nonsense qualifiers in case I was questioned, “high acidity, very tannic, old-world style,” but he didn’t ask me about anything, he just pointed to a bottle and said, “This one.”

When I got to the computer to ring it in, I noticed the price, it was like over a hundred and fifty dollars. So I started freaking out a little, I mean, I serve wine on a nightly basis. I rarely if ever make a mistake handling the bottles, but just knowing how much this stuff cost, just imagining me having to go to my manager and be like, “OK, try not to get mad …” it was enough to put just the right amount of added pressure into the mix to make me overthink the situation, to do something unnecessary.

For some reason, I thought, OK, this is an expensive bottle of wine, I should decant it. Decanting a wine is when you pour a whole bottle into a decanter, a large wide-bottomed glass jar with a thin spout for pouring. I think that the idea is to allow the wine to react with oxygen faster, or something, I don’t really know, and I couldn’t tell you if it actually did anything besides showing off to the rest of the restaurant that you ordered a bottle of wine worth decanting.

Anyway I got to the table with this heavy glass piece in addition to the bottle and four glasses. The uncorking went smoothly enough, which, if I were going to make a huge mistake, I would have expected it to be here, the cork not coming out right, or me splashing a little as I popped it out. But it was fine.

Then I started dumping the contents into the decanter. And as soon as I did, I realized, there are four people here, that’s basically the entire bottle of wine in four glasses. Why am I decanting this? I’m pouring it into a receptacle that’s then going to be immediately emptied.

I looked at the host and said, “So, should I pour now or do you want me to let it breathe for a little while?” And he was polite, he didn’t try to make me feel bad or anything, but it was obvious that he realized just like I did that this whole process was a little awkward. “No, you can just pour.” And so I poured, four glasses, grabbed the empty bottle and the decanter and disappeared into the kitchen.

Halfway through the meal, the guy ordered a second bottle, and I knew I’d just pour straight from the bottle this time. But he didn’t leave it to chance, telling me, “and don’t worry about the decanting.”

And so yeah, like I said, he was nice. I’m probably making a bigger deal out of the whole situation than it actually was. But it was a humbling experience, a reminder that, just because I might get away with pretending to know what I’m doing ninety-five percent of the time, I need to always be prepared to confront that other five percent, those times when it’s obvious that, just because I can name three glasses of Cabernet, I really don’t know anything about wine.

All of my music is on minidiscs and LPs

When I was fourteen or fifteen I got my parents to buy me a Sony minidisc player for my birthday. It was cool for about a month or so, I felt like I was on the cutting edge of the future. I remember taking this trip into the city to shop at the Virgin Megastore, one of the only places that actually sold music on the minidisc format. And yeah, there was a minidisc section, half a wall really, right next to the collection of LPs.


I looked through the artists, there wasn’t really anybody that I had ever heard of before. But I went there to buy minidiscs, so I settled on Pearl Jam Vitology, even though I already owned it on CD, it didn’t matter, now I could listen to it on minidisc.

This was right around the time of Napster, when I could dial-up to the Internet and hope that nobody would pick up the second phone line for the six or so hours it would take me to illegally download “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit. Multiply that process by twenty, and bam, I could make my own minidisc mixtape.

They were just like cassettes, but digital. What did that mean? I had no idea, and after a while, the whole process of taking the expensive minidisc player out of the velvet pouch it came packaged in, just so I could listen to the same twenty or so songs over and over again, it began to feel like a chore, one that I couldn’t avoid, because I had asked for this expensive piece of equipment. If I didn’t use it, if I didn’t at least put an effort into getting some sort of satisfaction out of it, then what did it say about me, about my choice in cool presents, in my vision of the future?

It’s like, if I weren’t a little kid when Nintendo’s Virtual Boy came out, I would have been one of the first suckers in line at the video game store. I guess every once in a while some new technology comes out and, even if it winds up failing, there are always going to be a few people stuck with a bunch of leftover useless pieces of hardware.

Years later, somewhere toward the end of college, I decided to swing in the opposite direction, to get into records. It started when I walked past some record shop in the city, I found a bunch of used LPs in a box and I thought, OK, this could be a pretty cool hobby. I think I might have bought Vitology again.

But this was even worse. Instead of limitations, there were way too many options in a still niche field, record collecting. I bought an old record player on eBay. Right after I made the purchase, I found an old turntable in my parents’ basement. Neither of them worked right. I tried opening them up and changing the belts. It was useless. By the time I finally got something to play, I found that if the volume was up too loud, it would cause the needle to skip and mess up the playback.

For a couple of years I had this whole setup just collecting dust in my bedroom. Eventually my parents packed everything up into boxes, who knows, maybe someday my future kids will throw them away after I’m dead.

I don’t even have all of my old CDs anymore. Everything’s online. And it’s so much better. Every once in a while I’ll read an op-ed online, something about how digital music is terrible, how we’re losing so much audio fidelity. I couldn’t care less. I don’t have time to play with manual settings or figure out how to operate all of these different mediums. It’s so much easier to click and play. And besides, all of my headphones kind of suck anyway, so I doubt that I’d be able to even tell the difference anyway.

If I ever get my hands on a time machine, well, I have a list of things I’d like to go back and stop myself from doing. And numbers thirty-seven and forty-two on that list are, “Stop myself from asking for that minidisc player,” and “Don’t walk past that record shop,” respectively.