Forsooth! Shakespeare does Star Wars?

Do two great tastes taste great together? Is William Shakespeare mixed with Star Wars the literary equivalent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? That is the question I put before myself when I picked up William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher. What immediately comes to mind for most people is who? Or more grammatically, whom? For whom was this book written? And I suppose the answer would be me. After all, I consider William Shakespeare the greatest writer who ever lived, bar none. The guy could write everything exceedingly well: drama, comedy, tragedy, historic fiction, you name it. If there’s a genre out there, it likely originated with him. He has been credited with inventing the modern fantasy genre—A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and common words we use today like eyeball and knife (as in to knife someone in the back). He is the only writer I know that cannot be edited. Just try changing a single word from one of his sonnets; you can’t do it without making it worse. People unfamiliar with the bard think he’s high-brow entertainment, a writer for the educational elite, but William was a populist, the Tolkien/Martin/Rowling of his day, and I have no doubt that if alive in ’77, he would have adored Star Wars. If people aren’t flocking to bookstores to read Shakespeare today, it’s because he wrote nearly 500 years ago, between 1564 and 1616. Let’s see how popular Game of Thrones is in the year 2513. Also, the bard and his audience loved melodrama, poetry and philosophy, three big no-no’s in the modern publishing world, things I am forced to omit or hide in my own writing. So, you could say I am a fan. Let’s call him peanut butter, really rich homemade peanut butter.

On the chocolaty side of things, there’s Star Wars. I have gone on record defending the oft hated The Phantom Menace and was brokenhearted when Lucas sold his soul to Disney. While I cannot stomach the Extended Universe (I could not, without pissing off a lot of fans, review Heir to the Empire) among my guilty pleasures is Star Wars and Philosophy, Star Wars Psychology, The Science of Star Wars, The Star Wars Encyclopedia and the Star Wars Atlas. Naturally, when I found William Shakespeare’s Star Wars on Amazon, I risked a speeding ticket driving to Barnes & Nobles. But to my great disappointment, William Shakespeare has not come back to life to try his hand at a Star Wars novelization, nor has any baffled archaeologist found a five-hundred year old manuscript for the Sci-Fi epic. And here lies the problem. The real author, the very much living and not of the Renaissance age Ian Doecher, does a great job emulating the language of the period, but the whole thing comes across as a needless translation. I am certain the people of the time would have loved Lucas’ story, although they might have struggled to imagine the Death Star trench run, but what need do we have today of an old English Star Wars?

What makes peanut butter so delicious is not the language (let’s call that the bread) but its creamy goodness. You can enjoy peanut butter on a cracker, a celery stick or right off your finger (sorry, I’ll stop with the metaphors now!) Here’s the rub: what makes Shakespeare great is Shakespeare. He was an amazing/brilliant writer. It would be as if, hundreds of years from now, someone tried to rewrite a popular movie as if Stephen King had written it. This isn’t to say that the effort was wasted. I understood what Ian was trying to accomplish, but his focus was on the wrong things, on the language, rather than on what made the bard great. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars shines whenever new material is added to the original screenplay, the clever play on words, the asides (when a character speaks directly to the audience) and the soliloquies (when a character speaks to himself). In one clever line, Han says that he’ll never tell who shot first, him or Greedo. R2D2 bleeps and bloops throughout, except when he is talking to us, at which point he admits to feigning stupidity. I also enjoyed Vader contemplating his nature, from the dark path he has taken to his robotic arm, or Luke pondering the death of a Storm Trooper:

Act IV
Scene 6.
Enter LUKE SKYWALKER, holding stormtropper helmet.
LUKE Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not,
Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life
From thee. What manner of a man wert thou?
A man of inf’nite jest or cruelty?
A man with helpmate and with children too?
A man who hath his Empire serv’d with pride?
A man, perhaps, who wish’d for perfect peace?
Whate’er thou wert, good man, thy pardon grant
Unto the one who took thy place: e’en me.

While not on par with Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be, it’s still unfortunate there were not more of these internal monologues to take the reader beyond the story. It would have added a much needed dimension to the Star Wars screenplay. I cannot imagine, for instance, Shakespeare neglecting to give Leia a speech, and a long one at that, after the destruction of Alderaan. Her entire world is gone in a blip and everyone she has ever known is dead, and she has nil to say about it. Even in the film, I always felt the scene to be lacking emotional depth, probably because Lucas’ was imitating his pulp Sci-Fi inspirations, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. But in Shakespeare’s day, glossing over mass murder would be inexplicable.

What you have in Ian Doecher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is 70’s Lucas channeling 50’s Sci-Fi as filtered by an author from the 2000’s in a language from the 1500’s, and the result is one mixed up cookie. If you’re a fan of either things, you’ll definitely be entertained, but it’s shallow and unworthy of the bard. On the plus side, the artwork is great. While I cannot wholly recommend giving it out for Halloween this year, it’s a very small bite (at around 200 pages) with very wide margins, so you can read it in an afternoon. Now if only someone could make Hamlet in Space that would be something.
 

Amanda Todd, Bullying, and the Power of Naked Shame

amandatoddvideo

Just yesterday, I posted an article relating naked shame to the suicide of a young teen, Christian Adamek, who went streaking at his high school football game. Today, another tragedy came to my attention, after a girl at my daughter’s birthday party shared a YouTube video about Amanda Todd, a teen who was bullied to the point of suicide. The video was definitely not age appropriate for my child or the other kids watching it, and my wife and another mother were quite upset by it. We ended up having a long talk with our daughter about bullying. But when I sat down to watch the video myself, I was dismayed to discover yet another correlation between suicide and naked shame.

According to Wikipedia:

Todd writes that when she was in grade 7 (2009-2010), around the same time she moved in with her father,[11] she used video chat to meet new people over the Internet and she received compliments on her looks. A stranger convinced Todd to bare her breasts on camera. The individual later blackmailed her with threats to expose the topless photo to her friends unless she gave a “show”.[12]

After two years, Todd returned to live with her mother in March 2012.[11] Todd wrote that during the next Christmas break,[clarification needed][when?] police informed her at 4:00 a.m. that the photo was circulating on the Internet. Todd wrote that she experienced anxietydepression and panic disorder due to the experience. Her family moved to a new home, where Todd later stated that she began using drugs and alcohol.[12]

A year later, the individual reappeared, creating a Facebook profile which used the topless photograph as the profile image, and contacting classmates at her new school.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that Amanda would be alive today if not for this photo. Her suicide was the result of depression and prolonged emotional torment, and I have no doubt that her tormentors would have found other ways to abuse her. Bullying is an act of evil akin to murder and rape. Throughout middle and high school, I was victim to similar cruelty, and can identify with the sense of loneliness and hopelessness she must have felt before her death. I know what it means to have no one and to feel worthless. I, too, was driven close to suicide, and if not for my writing, may not be here today. If social media was a part of my childhood, I also might not be around. So, if anything, I mean no disrespect to Amanda or her family. She seemed a wonderful person and I am certain is deserving of all the love in the world.

But a big part of her story has to do with naked shame. Her topless photo was used to blackmail and humiliate her, and she suffered extreme anxiety as a result. Bullies make the case that the fault was hers, but teenagers lack the foresight that comes with age. Girls often fall into relationships with terrible people who post photos taken in private on social media sites. At the most vulnerable stages in their lives, it is common for teens to take risks in order to fit in and become popular, to smoke, use drugs, or have sex. But while smoking, drugs and sex are largely accepted in our society, even among teens, nude photos remain taboo. In rare cases, a girl’s body may be uploaded to the Internet through no fault of her own, due to hidden cameras in bathrooms and changing areas, or after being raped.

Images, in and of themselves, are harmless. They are neither toxic nor poisonous. They do not emit radiation and do not pose risk of bodily injury. But in a world that delays live broadcasts for seven seconds lest someone sees a breast, an image can have great power. As a society, we have agreed that the human body is shameful, an object of lust, and anyone caught with their pants down is considered a victim or a whore. With technological advances like camera phones and social media, teen suicide is at an unprecedented high, because the power to bully has grown a thousandfold, just as the ease with which images can be shared and accessed, so that a moment of embarrassment can cause a lifetime of humiliation. While we may never eliminate bullying, just as we can never rid the world of evil, we can rob bullies of the tools they use to torment. By changing our views on nudity, by accepting the body as innocent, people like Amanda Todd need never fear humiliation again.

Why the Nudity Taboo is Unethical and Must Go

I have always believed in the fundamental right to be naked. Outside of protection from the elements, from cold and physical hazards like thorns and broken beer bottles, clothing is entirely unnecessary, a matter of custom, of adornment, nothing more. I see no reason to wear clothes at home, at the pool, on the beach or at the park. Wherever bathing suits are acceptable, nudity should be also. Clothing has nothing to do with morality. Anyone who believes that society cannot function should people expose their genitals has only to look at the Bororo, Pataxo, and Xerente tribes of the Amazon, where complete nudity is customary. Going natural was practiced in Ancient Sparta, among Celtic tribes, and remains a common form of recreation for many Americans. Just visit NudeState. The image collection of families and friends sharing “naked time” together is simply beautiful. This is why it breaks my heart to hear about Christian Adamek:


      “Christian Adamek, from Huntsville, Alabama, hanged himself on October 2, a week after he was arrested for running naked across the Sparkman High football field during a game. The teenager died two days later from his injuries and on Wednesday, friends and family gathered at a memorial service as they struggled to comprehend the beloved student’s death. A video of Adamek streaking during a game against a rival team was posted on YouTube hours after the event and students took to Twitter to call him a ‘legend.’ ‘Sparkman’s new slogan is gonna be “Welcome to Sparkman High School, Home of Christian Adamek,”‘ one student wrote. But school staff did not treat the situation so lightly.  Sparkman High Principal Michael Campbell told WHNT a day before the suicide attempt that the teen could face major repercussions because of his actions. ‘There’s the legal complications,’ Campbell said. ‘Public lewdness and court consequences outside of school with the legal system, as well as the school consequences that the school system has set up.’ In Alabama, indecent exposure is linked to the state’s sex offender laws, meaning that he could have found himself on the sex offenders register due to the streaking.  Campbell added that that the incident was not just a prank and needed to be treated seriously. Sparkman High administrators even recommended that Adamek face a hearing in the Madison County court system to determine if formal charges would be filed, WHNT reported.  Adamek had also been disciplined by the school district but the details had not been made public.

The day before the suicide attempt, the principal had confirmed that Adamek was not at school and the teenager’s sister suggested on Twitter that Adamek faced expulsion, AL.com reported.

Campbell declined to comment on Adamek’s death but the Madison County school district issued a statement saying it had ‘received word that a Sparkman High School student has passed away.’Our prayers and thoughts are with the family during this time of bereavement,’ the statement read. The messages on Twitter have now turned from congratulatory to somber. ’Praying for the Adamek family. Christian was so funny and nice. He will be missed by so many,’ one girl wrote. ‘He was one that brightened the room when he walked in. That’s what I’ll always remember about Christian.’” —-”Boy, 15, kills himself after ‘facing expulsion and being put on sex offender registry’ for streaking prank at high school football game” by Lydia Warren, The Daily Mail


I would never go so far as to suggest that the reason for Adamek’s suicide was the shame of nudity, or even the extreme punishment he was threatened with, placement on the Sex Offender Registry List, where he would forever be associated with the worst of sexual deviants. More than likely, Adamek suffered from some form of depression. One does not choose suicide on a whim. But I do believe his streaking was a way for him to cope. I often find nudity to be cathartic and more than once have contemplated freeing my body about the neighborhood. Perhaps Adamek felt the need to draw attention to his existence. Whatever the case may be, his actions should have been celebrated. Incriminating him could only have damaged his already fragile psyche, and this is the shame of this story, the intolerance of those who cling to outdated and meaningless taboos. If we continue to treat people who choose body freedom like rapists and child molesters, we pervert the very meaning of what it is to be a sex offender, and by association, belittle the evils of rape and molestation. People who commit sex crimes cause lasting psychological wounds. Nobody who sees a human body has ever been harmed by it.

Anti-nudity laws are unethical in that they criminalize a state of being. There is no precedent, no comparable law, and worse, no rationale for it. It is entirely rooted in archaic religious traditions. But while we no longer justify beating our wives or stoning adulterers, we must also accept that the human body is not an object of sin, nor can it be considered lewd, indecent or obscene. Unlike public sex or masturbation, nakedness is not an act, and for children innocent to sex, does not arouse. While some people unused to what humans look like may feel awkward, the feeling stems not from some fundamental aspect of nature, but a society that teaches children that their bodies are something to hide, which can often have devastating consequences. When I was twelve, I needed surgery around my “private” parts, but what had been so very private went on display for nurses, doctors, surgeons and family members. At the time, I felt violated, but realizing it had to be done for my health, my rage turned toward society. If raised among the Bororo, Pataxo or Xerente people, or as my great Spartan ancestors were, I would have never felt violated (although I probably wouldn’t have had the surgery either!).

The only case anyone can make against social nudity is that it is offensive. While this may be the case for some people, and honestly I cannot imagine how something so common to us all can be, it is irrelevant when it comes to what is legal. At the risk of sounding like a Fox News pundit, the First Amendment guarantees Americans freedom of expression. No matter how offended I am (and often am) by people driving around with giant Confederate flags on the back of their trucks, I know that it is their right to do so, and that it would be unethical of me to criminalize their expression, however racist and hurtful it may be. I can legally burn a Bible, a Koran, even an American flag. I can hold a sign at a gay man’s funeral that reads, “God Hates Fags”; I can tattoo myself with a swastika and wear a T-shirt with Hitler’s face on it; and I can put a bumper sticker on my car comparing the president to a terrorist. And yet, the one thing I am never free to express is that of my humanity, my belief that the body is an inherent good and innocent thing, and that the only real shame is to hide it, or to fear that some neighbor might peer over a fence and be offended by it. I have only to take one step beyond my front door, and should I feel the sun on my surgical scar, I become a criminal. For the remainder of my life, I am barred from schools and playgrounds and anywhere children gather. In essence, I am treated worse than a Nazi, because a penis is a greater offence than a swastika. This is what Christian Adamek was faced with. No doubt, he was hurting inside, more than his friends and family could imagine, and our society failed him. A society that treats streakers as criminals, that bases a legal system upon outdated religious taboos, fails us all.

To learn more, head on over to Felicity’s Naturist Blog.

For the Pataxo, nudity is customary.

Dear Editor: Query for "Skyclad Warriors"

Dear Editor,

Skyclad Warriors is Avatar meets H.P. Lovecraft meets Homer, a high-fantasy adventure with ancient rivalries, time-traveling historians, naked primitives, and a machine that moves planets, at c. 170,000 words.

The back flap might go something like this:

To escape the slums of Hedonia, Thelana climbs into the pyramid temple of Sargonus to steal the giant pearl eyes from the Sea God, only to be caught and imprisoned in a dungeon beneath the city. Now, as amphibious merquid storm the walls of the last great human capital, seeking to avenge long forgotten genocide, Thelana’s salvation rests in the hands of Xandr, the last of her people. 

They are Ilmarin, a race clad only in sky, but to the eyes of civilization, they are little more than animals. For untold millennia, the Ilmar have guarded a terrible secret, knowledge of a second cataclysm, as prophesied in the history, the Ages of Aenya. But while the world rejects them and their kind, Xandr and Thelana must race to save it.

Why you should consider a partnership with me: From age six, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and that was to impress you, and lovers of great fiction. When I was nine, my reluctant father took me to New York City to solicit my Red Panther comic series. In 2000, I earned my BA in English Fiction from the University of South Florida, where I helped as a tutor and a freelance editor. I continue to write essays, reviews and short fiction on my blog, The Writer’s Disease, while perfecting my craft as a novelist.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Nick Alimonos
E-Mail: alimonosnick@gmail.com
Home Phone: 727-XXX-XXXX
Cell Phone: 727-XXX-XXXX

I am Walter White (and so are you)

Walter White is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to write this article. He wants me to justify his story, so that people will understand why he had to do all the awful things he did. At least, that is how I am feeling right now, after watching the finale of Breaking Bad, arguably the best show on TV, if not the greatest ever made.

While I do not write about TV shows often on my blog, Breaking Bad has been plaguing my dreams, and I must say, it is the finest piece of fiction I’ve seen in any medium lately. Rooted in the tradition of Ancient Greek theater and Shakespearean plays, Breaking Bad is a tragedy in the classic sense, and Walter White is our modern day Hamlet. As in any tragedy, White is forced to confront a truth about himself (his imminent death) makes a series of choices (produces and sells crystal meth) and must then deal with the (often tragic) consequences. For people unfamiliar with Macbeth or King Lear, the character may come across as totally unique, because he neither falls into the good guy or bad guy category. Of course, for some viewers, Walter transforms himself into a pure villain, becoming entirely irredeemable, but I don’t see it that way. While the show shifts focus between Jesse, Hank and Skyler, Breaking Bad is ultimately Walter’s story, and as the protagonist, we see the world through his eyes and walk in his footsteps. It is difficult, if not impossible, to follow a character we are unable to relate to. This is not to suggest that he remains a decent human being throughout, nor do I propose that we allow ourselves to relate to any character no matter how heinous his actions, but Walter is neither a murderer, a rapist or a terrorist. Rather, he walks a fine line between sympathetic father figure and ruthless drug lord, and we, as viewers, are challenged by how to feel about him. Breaking Bad moves us out of our cliche-ridden comfort zone without becoming entirely alienating. Sometimes, we root for Walter, and at other times we wish we could, but we never completely abandon him. He never becomes the villain of the show, because, despite his moral failings, he maintains his humanity, caring for his wife and children, and even going out of his way to save Jesse, the guy who orchestrated his downfall.

What truly makes this story so compelling and brilliant is that we see ourselves in Walter White. Breaking Bad is our mirror and what we see in it often scares and horrifies us. If I have one gripe about the show, it’s that nobody ever puts themselves in Walter’s shoes; no one asks, “What would I do if I were in his situation?” It isn’t just his having cancer, which is a common ailment for many people, but the much worse condition of having lived a failed life. Despite the fact that he is a brilliant chemist, he works a menial job far beneath his talents, and any chance to achieve his hopes and ambitions are dashed at the time his cancer is diagnosed, while his closest friends, just to rub it in, have become billionaire successes. Walter is confronted not only with his imminent death, but with nothing to show for having lived. His unborn daughter will not remember him and he will leave his family in crippling debt. In short, Walter can choose to die in obscurity or he can become something and leave a lasting mark, using his God given talents to achieve those ends. While it may be easy for us, sitting comfortably in our living rooms, to judge, and say, “I would accept death and obscurity long before joining the criminal underworld,” to get that thing we’ve always dreamed about, to protect our families, or to help a loved one, what moral lines might we be willing to cross? This is a theme that runs throughout Breaking Bad and is not merely symptomatic of Walter. Jesse and Skyler and Hank are all guilty, at certain times, of doing the wrong thing to get what they’re after. We must all acknowledge that, on some level, our ethical boundaries are tenuous. Given the right set of circumstances, we might all be Walter White.

UPDATE: Apparently, I am not the only one to have made the Shakespearean/Greek tragedy connection. This is a fan letter written by Academy Award winning actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins:

      

Why My Job is the Worst in the World

Pizza isn’t easy . . . 

Many of you who frequent my blog know that my other, er . . . profession, is that of restaurant manager, which continues to be a huge roadblock to my writing career. When I was born, my father looked at me like a queen bee and planned out my entire life. I would work in the family business and make his dreams come true. Listen up, would-be parents, disregarding your kids’ talents and aspirations is child abuse. It may have been a good system during Feudal China, but not anymore. Growing up, I never knew my dad. I mean, I knew who he was; I could pick him out in a crowd, but that’s about it. His life was pizza and he expected mine to be also. I suppose if I had been a bit more confident, I could have said to him, “Screw you, dad, I’m going to New York to be a writer,” but alas, twenty-five years of subtle persuasion led me to this mental prison. Leave now, you say? I could . . . if I want to sell my home and pull my three year old out of daycare and my nine year old out of dance and all the expensive things she loves to do. The recession hit us hard and writing for a living is anything but certain. In short, I am trapped, and I never saw it coming. It wouldn’t be so bad if my father had been a doctor or lawyer or coal miner, but no, he had to own a restaurant, and after two-decades, I’ve concluded that restaurateur is the worst fucking job on Earth. Here’s why:

1.) Your employees hate you. If your job is to tell others what to do, set their hours and pay their wages, they will eventually end up hating you. The reasons are numerous, but in my case, my co-workers are convinced that I do not deserve my position. This plays into their sense of fairness. Americans abhor nepotism, but cannot see how unfair it is to me, because no matter what I achieve on my own, I can never escape from under my father’s shadow. Many of my coworkers are under the impression that my role is that of Superemployee: guy who does everything better than anyone, even though my job is to delegate and organize and do marketing, things they don’t know shit about. For decades I’ve fought for their respect, and like Lion-O in the Thundercats, have had to cook as well as the cooks, deliver pizzas, wait tables and wash dishes, all to prove my worthiness to lead them, to earn a position of authority I never wanted in the first place. But wait, you say, most people hate their bosses! True, but in the restaurant business, there is no upward mobility. Cooks can never hope to become anything more than cooks, or servers servers, or drivers drivers, so that with their day to day duties comes a sense of fatalism. As the years roll by, their resentment for me grows, until they quit or threaten me with a knife (yes, it happens). In extreme cases, someone might be promoted to manager, but the job pays less so most opt out. I have tried every tactic to make my employees happy. When I am strict, they resent me for being an overbearing tyrant, and when I am friendly, they lose respect and resent me for not doing my job. It’s a lose-lose situation. What is especially depressing is when someone I thought was a friend quits and I never see or talk to them again.

2.) You’re an emotional punching bag. Is the bank foreclosing on your home? Can’t afford your medical bills? Feel like you’re getting ripped off by the mechanic? No problem! Just blame your local restaurant manager. You see, the restaurant business is the most competitive in America, which is why if you wait more than 2 minutes without instantly being greeted at the door, you can behave like a toddler with a temper tantrum and nobody will bat an eye. Try complaining to the receptionist the next time you wait an hour and a half at the doctor’s office (even with an appointment) while your medical needs are being pushed aside by a drug rep. If you’re a manager, people can yell and scream and even curse at you, and since the customer is always right, you just have to suck it up and smile and be polite and pretend you don’t want to jump across the counter and punch them in the face. Even for something as minor as forgetting a pizza topping, a customer will behave like you murdered his family. Why? Because banks, doctors and mechanics will just call the police and have you escorted out. People have threatened to get me fired (now how fucking cruel is that?), close my business, and cause me bodily harm. And for what? It’s dinner, motherfucker, not your firstborn child. Short of intentionally poisoning someone, no restaurant employee deserves this kind of treatment.

3.) Only in restaurants is stealing OK. People are deluded into thinking restaurants are these magical places where food is conjured by elves and leprechauns, so they can eat half their plate and insist on their money back, and most of the time, they get it. Just try that shit someplace else. Go to Best Buy, get a 55″ Samsung, watch NFL Football for a month, and return it with a big crack in the screen demanding a refund. Food costs money, not only to buy from vendors, but to have made. That pizza you didn’t like? Yeah, that took days planning, and about two to three cooks to manufacture. You might think I am exaggerating by calling it stealing, but I’m not. A local Florida restaurant went to court after a guy skipped his bill. The reason? There were too few shrimps on his plate. He didn’t pay for anything, not his drink, not his guest’s food, nothing, so the manager got the license plate and called police. You can probably guess who won that case. 

4.) No Pay + Zero Benefits: Sure, the restaurant business has its share of stress, but doesn’t every job? At least it pays the bills, right? WRONG! Almost on a daily basis things are breaking down. Those two leaky faucets in the kitchen? $500. Storm blew the sign away? That’ll be $5000, thanks. A/C burned out? $7000. The bank made a clerical error and realized you need wind insurance? $4000 per year. It’s like a game of Monopoly where you always land on Chance but always turn up a bad card. And if you’re the owner, you may work a forty hour week and not get paid. Unlike any normal job, the harder you work, the less money you’re making. How is that possible? Well, if the restaurant can’t pay its bills, guess who has to make up for it by working more? If I don’t pay my employees overtime, I get fined by the Labor Department, but where is the department that ensures I get paid? I sometimes go weeks without a check . . . oh, and guess what, the IRS charges me 15% more taxes. Since I cannot consistently pay myself, I fall into the self-employed bracket. My sister had to get a second job applying makeup at the mall because managing a pizza business didn’t cut it. Pensions? Severance pay? Health insurance? I don’t even know what those are.

5.) Holidays? Weekends?: As far as I know, there are only two holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving. I’d be working them too if we made any money. Labor Day? Superbowl? Those days I just work harder, typically with disgruntled employees who wish they could be home with their families. While everyone with a normal job spends time partying, guess who ends up providing food for all those parties? Also, I am getting pretty sick and tired of people wishing me a happy weekend. WTF is a week end? Until recently, I could never spend even a single day with my family. Society cleverly planned school hours/days so that when Mr. Doctor is working, the kids are in school, and when Mr. Doctor comes home, he gets to have dinner at the table and help with homework, which is just peachy-keen if you’re not a social-outcast restaurant owner. Sometimes these nine-to-five families bring their families in to dine as if to rub it in my face. I still suffer from insomnia because I always waited up until 2:00 in the morning just to catch a glimpse of mom, and mostly slept through school, for which I was punished repeatedly with detentions. Heck, God himself set the Sabbath aside for man to rest, except of course, if you’re damned owning a restaurant.     

6.) Succeeding is damn near impossible and often beyond your control: Ninety-percent of restaurants close after the first five years. I have watched place after place open and shut its doors. Whenever I see a new sign go up, I just want to scream, “Don’t you realize what you’re getting into? Turn back or abandon all hope!” The rest of the mom and pop places you see are hardly scraping by. This is not to say that no restaurants can succeed. The big chains and fancy sports bars owned by bored ex-football players do well. Again, to make it work, you need enormous capital, because the expenses are absurd. Just watch Restaurant Impossible sometime to get an idea. Owners of restaurants are the only people you see on TV consistently in tears, and you would be too, if you spent half your life working your ass off, only to end up broke and owing the bank millions. When I was a kid, my parents took me to Canada to meet uncle so and so who was also in the business. I distinctly remember him mentioning, “Sometimes I want to cry . . .” and I had to wonder, how can a restaurant make a grown man cry? Everyone I have ever met who owned a restaurant gives me that same glassy eyed stare, like their remembering a war story. But wait, you say, maybe you and these other people suck . . . perhaps a smart operator could rake it in. While that may be true, our pizza has been awarded best in Tampa Bay on several occasions, by Fox 13 and AOL. We’ve closed every place selling pizza to pop up near us (about four or five) including a fancy Chicago based company with oodles of marketing cash and a list of awards (they lasted two years). Seeing how busy we were on a Friday night, one customer suggested I diversify my portfolio as the FDIC only ensures $250,000 per bank. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had only seven dollars to my name. Recently, a customer was furious with me because I did not have tens or twenties for his hundred dollar bill. I told him I had received too many hundreds that day, to which he replied, “I own a pawn shop and keep thousands in change!” Honestly, if I had thousands sitting in the register, I’d go fix the urinal that won’t stop flushing. Being a pawn shop owner (Jesus, my dad should have been a pawn shop owner!) he simply could not imagine my financial struggles.

7.) People are Morons: OK, just forget everything you’ve read so far, it doesn’t matter. Employees hate me? Customers are rude and insulting? I never see my kids and there’s no possibility for a better future? Fine. Ce la vie. But what I absolutely, positively, cannot endure is the level of stupidity I deal with on a daily basis. Let me show you how a typical order comes in:

Me: Pizza Palace (not our real name) may I help you?

Customer: Pepperoni . . . ah, uh, m-m-mushroom . . .

Me: Hold on, will this be for pick-up or delivery?

Customer: Sausage, ground beef, banana peppers—hey, do you have banana peppers there?

Me: Sir, I need to know if this will be for pick-up or delivery first.

Customer: What? Hey . . . do you deliver?

Me: Yes we do. Would you like a delivery?

Customer: I don’t know. Hey honey . . . honey? . . . HONEY!

[Ten minutes of arguing.]

Wife (sounding pissed): We’ll have it delivered.

Me: Great. Can I have your address please?

Wife: Um . . . I think it’s Warner Street, or is it Warbler Street? I can never remember.

Me: You don’t know your address?

Wife: Well, we don’t live here. We’re at a friends’ house.

Me: Can you get their address?

Wife: Hold on a sec. Hank? . . . HANK!

[Five minutes of noise.]

Hank (Hank is drunk): Hello?

Me: I need your address for a delivery.

Hank: Oh? Sure. Its 2341 Warbler Ave.

Me: Great. Now what would you like to order?

Hank: Eh? What? Hold a sec . . .

Wife: Half supreme, a quarter anchovies . . .

Me: We don’t have supremes here, but we do have—

Wife: Do you have drinks there?

Me: Yes, of course, but . . .

Hank: Beer? Can you deliver beer?

Me: Sorry, we’re not allowed to—

Customer: What about dessert? What kind of dessert do you have?

Me: Hold on, people, I need to get your pizza order first . . .

Customer: I already told you what I wanted on my pizza! Don’t you listen?

Me: Yes, but, everyone is talking at the same time and you need to give me a chance to—

Customer: Y’know what, you’re being rude.

Me: I am sorry, sir, I was only trying to get your . . .

Customer: Have you ever heard the phrase, “the customer is always right?”

Me: Of course, but I just needed to . . .

Customer: So now you’re arguing with me?

Me: No, it’s just that—

Customer: Let me talk to your supervisor.

Me: What?

Customer: I want to talk to your supervisor.

Me: Well, I am the owner, so . . .

Customer (shocked): You’re the owner?

Me: Well, yes . . .

Customer: And this is how you treat people?

Me: Look, I apologize for any inconvenience, but I got three other lines on hold and need to . . .

Hank: Look, buddy, you just lost yourself a customer. [CLICK]

Still not convinced? Try this: The USA Today ran a poll to determine the top ten most depressing jobs. Nursing home care ranked #1. Guess who’s #2? If you said the restaurant industry, you’d be right! Of course, it’s not all bad. At least I get free pizza whenever I want. Suckers.