August 3, 2011

Idea + Paper + Stapler

Here's a story I did for my day job at METRO magazine on Twin Cities zine culture--a subject about which I'm pretty stoked. I'm really sad not to be participating in Twin Cities Zinefest this year, but I just don't have the time anymore. (Which reminds me: Microcosm, I still owe you another order of zines...). Lacey Prpic Hedtke is organizing this year's Zinefest (September 24 at Powderhorn Park) and I think it will be great.

Read it online for now, and I'll upload a PDF in a bit.

That's some of my embarrassingly extensive collection there. Dude, some of those zines are from high school! Hello, hoarder! SMBHBD is on the left, about halfway down the page.

Server dreams

My first zine, No Rest for the Wicked, was about insomnia, a disorder with which I've struggled on and off since I was about 5 years old. In it I wrote about dreams that used to plague me in my early 20s, while I was a barista. I would dream that customers would be surrounding me on both sides of the coffee bar like zombies, that the cream pitcher wouldn't stop leaking or that the industrial-strength blender wouldn't stop whirring. I'd wake up feeling like I'd been at work all night, then would have to get up and do it all over again for real in the morning.

I used to have similar dreams when I started my first job as a bagger at a natural foods co-op--I'd try to fall asleep, but my brain wouldn't stop strategically placing groceries in bags--and when I was a kid and would play a lot of Tetris on our first-edition, black and white screen Gameboy (this one--ah, that makes me feel old!).

Keeping in mind that I've struggled with insomnia for years and have sought out doctors and alternative practitioners galore to try to figure it out, imagine my surprise when a co-worker told me about Hypnagogia.

This particular co-worker has also struggled with insomnia and we've compared notes once in a while on our respective sleep idiosyncrasies. I was telling him about some severe, disturbing hallucinations I had recently (par for the course in insomnialand, unfortunately) that were paired with paralysis, and he immediately said "Hypnagogia." It's a phenomenon mostly related to when you're falling into and out of sleep, which is when most of my sleep problems occur. Take a look under the Sensory Phenomena heading (and yes, I realize Wikipedia is not the place to diagnose yourself, and I do see all those "citation needed"s in the article) and what do you see? For one, the "Tetris Effect":

People who have spent a long time at some repetitive activity before sleep, in particular one that is new to them, may find that it dominates their imagery as they grow drowsy, a tendency dubbed the Tetris effect. This effect has even been observed in amnesiacs who otherwise have no memory of the original activity. When the activity involves moving objects, as in the video game Tetris, the corresponding hypnagogic images too tend to be perceived as moving. The Tetris effect is not confined to visual imagery, but can manifest in other modalities also.

For another, "server dreams":

This is very common amongst new waiters or waitresses in busy restaurants where they report having "Server Dreams" and restlessly wait tables in this state of mind, sometimes jolting them fully awake or preventing them from transitioning into actual sleep.

This definitely explains a lot. In fact, I've experienced nearly all the phenomena--sleep paralysis, strange vibrations, hallucinations, visions, apparitional experiences, insight, amnesia, phosphenes--of Hypnagogia. I've involuntarily written entire screenplays in my head while in a state of sleep paralysis before. 

Luckily, I don't really have server dreams anymore (but Amy Poehler does!). Occasionally I'll have a work-related stress dream, but I'm very thankful to have a job that doesn't intensify my (apparently) already cray-cray sleep issues. 

April 7, 2011

Submit your stories!

Hi friends,

I'm back. Sort of. But I need your help!

Have you ever been a server, cook, barista or otherwise employed within in the food service industry? Just have some observations to share as a customer or server? I need submissions for the ol' blog. Send your materials to shemustbehavingabadday[at]

Microcosm is all sold out of SMBHBD zines right now, but I'll be restocking them this week. In the meantime you can pick them up from Atomic Books.

February 21, 2011

Zines now available at Atomic Books in Baltimore!

Good news, zine-loving friends! She Must Be Having a Bad Day #1 and 2 are now both available at Atomic Books, a really cool store in Baltimore with a John Waters connection (ZOMG!) that, should I ever find myself down Maryland way, I am totally going to visit.

Buy the zines from Atomic here, or purchase some of the freshly printed copies that my old friends Microcosm are selling. 

November 16, 2010


Hello, blog-readin' friends,

I just want to give you all the heads up that the SMBHBD blog is going to be taking a brief hiatus. Between work, freelance jobs, some serious health issues (and no insurance, natch), plus the recent loss of a dear friend, I'm sort of treading water here (goddamn Saturn return!). I promise to be back at it soon after the new year. You can still feel free to contact me at shemustbehavingabadday [at] gmail [dot] com. I'm only an email away.


P.S. I'll leave you with this gem in the meantime.

October 31, 2010

From the back of the house

By Bryan Riek, cook and zinester.

Why are cooks such assholes?

It can sure seem that way a lot of the time in a lot of restaurants. I have witnessed it and perpetuated it myself numerous times. To answer that question, we have to look at the types of people this work environment attracts: drunks, drug addicts, students doing homework instead of work, artists, child support-dodging trash,
single moms/dads struggling to get through the day for their kids, immigrants with language barriers, entitled family members, the undereducated, overly educated but surprisingly bad culinary school graduates - everyone and anyone who just cant take the regular 9-5 routine.

I wound up in a kitchen due to flexible schedules and later hours. I was a huge drinker and loved to shovel anything that came my way into my system. I did finally kick my bad habits mostly and realized I was not skilled to do anything else besides write and paint things no one reads, so, over ten years later, I'm still shoveling food onto plates. Hey, these things happen.

So back to the why. Well, looking from the list I must say #1 and 2 dominate, so the well can be a bit tainted, so to speak.

Add to that the fast-paced, sometimes non-stop, environment with long odd hours and a design that is set to pit front of the house with back by exchanging pressure back and forth from one another. Pressure to get the order in the kitchen, and then the cook has pressure to cook it up to standard in a timely fashion, then get it out the door while its still hot, a minute behind on either end could have a waitress staring down a cook for an order she wants, or a cook yelling for a waitress to take the food out before they have to remake it! That's just one of many traps a restaurant worker has to avoid in a night - not to mention how it's also all set up in a big brother-like fashion with everyone making sure everyone else is working up to par. It can bring out the worst in ya sometimes and its not hard to see why a front vs. back mentality is established.

As I stated, I have been guilty of this, but have tried to actively combat this infection of a work place. When this aggression rears its ugly head I try to turn to the person and ask, "Why and where does this come from?" Sometimes a base question can knock someone into seeing what they might not even perceive as negative in such an environment, just part of the job right? Well, no, it's certainly not. Let's not sink the boat we are all in.

As workers, we can try not to let what are essentially minute mistakes and problems that seem worse get worse due to being amplified by pressure. As customers maybe we can give that waitress/waiter a break next time your steak is a bit underdone for your tastes or that side of ranch that was forgotten. They might already be getting it from their co-workers.

After all, it's only food.....right?

Email Bryan at: thinkcreep [at] yahoo [dot] com

I've recently been chatting with Bryan about the whole front vs. back of the house mentality and how detrimental it can be. In the SMBHBD zines, I do my fair share of complaining about back-of-the-house coworkers (namely, creepo dishwashers and unstable line cooks), but I think it's important that it be known that there are some great cooks and dishwashers out there...and that servers can be, and often are, the crazy ones. 

October 24, 2010

Amy Bezunartea turns serving into art with 'Restaurants and Bars'

The lovely and talented Amy Bezunartea will be releasing her debut album Nov. 2 on Brooklyn-based Kiam Records (a label founded by the equally lovely and talented Jennifer O'Connor). "Music? I thought this was a blog about waitressing!" you might be saying. And you're right. But Amy's album, called Restaurants and Bars, is quite pertinent to the plight of the female food service worker. Amy spent years waiting tables (in fact, she still does), and she's managed to do what I've tried to with the zines and blogs, and what I hope all former service industry people eventually can: to turn her FFSW experiences - good and bad - into a source of creative inspiration.

Amy was kind enough to answer some questions about her service industry experience and her music for us. Make sure to support her by buying Restaurants and Bars - check out the player after the Q+A to stream the title track if you'd like a sneak peek (Kiam also has a couple free downloads from it on their blog).

SMBHBD: Tell us about your history working in food service. Which came first, the music or the desire to write about the subject matter?
Amy Bezunartea: I already played music when I started working in the service industry.  I think writing about work just sort of happened naturally.  Working in restaurants was all I did for so long and it was all my friends did and all we talked about- who worked where, how much money they made.... So it just sort of seeped into my songwriting.

Do you still work in the service industry now that your music is at the forefront? 
I still work as a waitress.  I have tried many times to get out of it, but restaurant work always saves me.  I'm able to work less than I did when I was younger and supplement my income with other odd jobs and music, but 2 or 3 nights a week I am still running around waiting on people.

It seems like people who work in bars and restaurants many times are also
writers, artists and musicians. Do you think there's something inherent that draws creative people to this industry?
I do.  It's not a conventional world or way of life.  It allows a lot of flexibility and freedoms that a regular job does not. There's also a lot of fast money to be made in restaurants, so people can move, travel, make records, take the winter off, buy fancy clothes, etc....

What sort of specific topics about the industry does Restaurants and Bars address?
Well,  it's a rough job and you can really get stuck in that world.  It's hard to break out of and into something else and you're not really working your way up any sort of ladder.You just get older and more beat up.

What positive effects do you think working in food service has on a 
creative person?
The nature and the pace of the work leads to all kinds of odd and hilarious situations.  Waiting on people is so fascinating.  It's a great opportunity to observe types of people and how they act.  It's also a job that you can move from city to city and do.  You can travel, do more of it, or less of it.  It's a good tool in that way.

What is your worst experience from working in food service?
Worst?  I currently work at a German beer hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 
and I've never really experienced anything like it before. I've worked I've worked there for almost a year and I've seen enough vomit to last me a lifetime! People vomiting into their beer mugs, on the table, on each other, people walking out on their checks, fighting, crying, falling asleep, making out. It sort of wipes out all my other waitress horror stories at the moment.

What will you do once the album is released on Nov. 2? Any plans for a 
I am doing a Fall mini-tour with Winston Troy.  She's this great one-woman band with looped guitar tracks and effects.  We're playing 5 East Coast shows. [See the dates here].