This was posted earlier this year, but remains pertinent - let's hope someone is listening!
Republicans have Democrats right where they want them on this issue and they can't afford to lose this time. Winning this issue now makes 2014 all that much worse for the Democrats. Here's some insight Republicans need to keep in mind and it comes from a guy who grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico.
Oh, and there are other types of immigrants other than the ones from down south, but we all know what "immigration reform" means and it's not aimed making sure more Germans can move here.
1. "Hispanic" is not a term anyone likes to be called. Why? Because it's a very general term that describes a wide range of very different people who happen to share a common language (or two) and have roots in locations that are somewhat geographically grouped (not really, though).
Mexicans, El Salvadorians, Cubans, Columbians, Bolivians etc. et al are all unique to their own heritage. Lumping them all together is like calling the Scottish, English and Irish "British" - not accurate and not appreciated.
I'm not trying to be some politically correct asshole here. There are major differences between Cubans and Mexicans and when you are pandering to one group thinking they are like the other - you lose both. Just imagine you're in France and they start referring to you as "Canadian." Hurts, doesn't it? So stop doing it to these people.
If you don't know where they are from or what they'd like to be called - ASK. Where I'm from they prefer "Latino" with some identifying with "Chicano" for reasons we won't get into here. The key being that I know that information because I ASK people how they prefer to be labeled. You'd be surprised how many simply say "American."
2. The most popular method of entering this country illegally is not over a fence in the barren deserts of Arizona or a swim across the Rio Grande. The vast majority of people in this country illegally entered legally through a port of entry and overstayed whatever temporary visa they had.
Continuing this myth that 11 million illegall aliens got here because we don't have tall enough fences or deep enough rivers to keep them out is not in your best interest. The 11 million people who waltzed through a port of entry and never went back know better, and think you are dumb. Ditto goes for all of their friends and relatives who are here legally and know the truth as well.
Much of the middle of the night border jumping is related to smuggling (both drugs and humans). While it is a problem and should be dealt with, it's not the path that most illegal aliens take to get here.
You can lie to your friends and I'll lie to mine, but let's not lie about this anymore - okay? Good.
3. Life will not end for white people when brown people out-number you. The media likes to throw this out there as if something drastic will happen the second Texas is 49 percent white and 51 percent not white. Nothing will change (I'll get to why in a minute).
I'm from a city that is 80 percent Latino. It's by no means a small city - 700,000 people live there. It's been a white minority for 50 years and the sun still rises and the chickens still lay eggs - life did not end.
When a reporter points this out - say "great, glad we're growing." Any other answer is unacceptable.
4. Given a couple of generations to assimilate into the American political system many Latinos head toward the right. In Texas, Latino Republicans are making inroads everywhere. It's the big secret the liberals don't want you to know.
As our Latino friends put down roots in America they start to be able to focus on the many issues that conservatives have the right answers on. In the beginning they're much to busy just trying to figure out how to get along in their new surroundings to have any time to figure out what political party they belong to.
Democrats have done a phenomenal job of making sure the first person who speaks to these new immigrants about politics is 1. a Democrat 2. someone of their culture that seems trustworthy (there's a whole science to this). It's an ugly racket than many Hispanics are emerging from with a bad taste in their mouth.
Republicans need to be patient and help the community grow. As they continue to realize the American dream they will come our way. Being the party that really delivers on their dreams of citizenship will hasten their growth into the conservatives they will one day be.
Also, as their population grows they get less attached to identity politics. It's just a factor of numbers.
5. Understand that not all Hispanics have immigration reform as their top issue. Millions of Hispanics have been in this country for generations and share the same concerns about illegal immigration that you have. Assuming all of them are fixated on this issue is like lumping them all together as one group (see my note on "Hispanic" above).
Be aware that there other issues that are specific to this community and health care is going to continue to be a huge one.
6. Amnesty is a realistic method of eliminating labor unions. It also allows 11 million people to start paying taxes, contribute to all levels of society and love this country as loudly and proudly as you do. More importantly - it eliminates the existence of modern slave labor and removes the cover the illegal population provides for the criminal underworld (ask a police officer about this).
7. H1B visas are not a solution for those coming to America to join the manual labor ranks. Throwing out an increase in H1B visas to impress this population is like perpetuating the myth in the second item I listed above. They all know what a H1B visa is and who is generally likely to qualify for one. It's not what they have in mind.
A modified and modern version of the Bracero Program is what would do the most good for the bulk of the people who are here illegally. It would also bolster American manufacturing while creating the base for our next middle class boom.
Those are the high points. Keep all of them in mind as you move forward on immigration. If we play our card right, the Democrats will lose their immigration carrot and their hold on the Hispanic vote. That would make the next few elections cake walks... assuming we stay away from boring rich white guys who have the charm of a table leg.
I love Uber, that’s no secret. I have a long standing inebriated relationship with the coolest car company in the world. They are one of the few companies that keep me saying “I like the hitch in your giddy up” time after time. Just kidding – I would never say “I like the hitch in your giddy up” because I have a full set of teeth. However, I’m not kidding about my love for Uber. Unfortunately, there are people out there trying to bring Uber down and this is a story about them.
It was just last Sunday night that I arrived to Reagan National from Birmingham Paris at around 9:00 PM. I waited for my bags rare paintings to emerge from the carousel of impatience and disappointment and mashed the “set pickup location” on the Uber app as soon as I had eyes on them. I headed to the door.
Outside I reaffirmed my good decision to use Uber when I noticed that the cab lines were impossibly long. I don’t know why the cab longs suck so terribly, but it may be because people being asked “DC or Virginia?” stare at the guy like it’s the hardest question they’ve ever been asked. It proves there’s an intelligence gap between cab users and Uber users. If you’re in a bar trivia league – grab the guy who showed up in a black car.
Kwame, my Uber driver, rang me as I made it to the island of anxious anticipation where people with loving friends and family are retrieved. I told Kwame that I was at door eight and what I looked like all the way down to the distinct burnt orange Longhorn hat I was wearing. Kwame told me he’d have his emergency flashers going and to wave him down just in case. Everything seemed perfect as I watched his little car make its way cartoonishly past Terminal A on the Uber app.
Soon I saw a black Town Car with its emergency flashers on approaching and I was confident I would be home in time to be turned down for sex by an exhausted, underappreciated Janis Kanus (her description of herself, not mine – exhausted people don’t watch Project Runway until midnight while chatting with their sister on the phone... in my opinion). Then everything went to hell.
At about door four Kwame ducked into the lane near the curb and appeared to pick up someone. Seconds later my little Uber screen went from white to purple meaning the meter, so to speak, was running and I was paying for it. I was pissed and called Kwame to ask him how my ride was. Kwame was confused and I explained to him in the calm collected voice of a Marine Drill Sergeant who just caught Private Pyle leaving an upper decker in the latrine that my ride was not going well because I was not the asshole thief sitting in his back seat. Kwame hung up on me and probably had a good laugh with the two shitheads enjoying my Uber scholarship. Well, I canceled the trip before he got out of the airport and was charged $25 for canceling. I do not know if things were so cheery after Kwame and his new friends came to the realization that Uncle Brad was no longer picking up the tab on their little joyride.
I dialed up another car and Blaize in a Chevy Suburban rumbled up a short time later. Now, Blaize was awesome and his Suburban was too. Town Cars are pimp for pulling up to your dilapidated mud hut in Clarendon, but a Suburban is better. Ask a four year-old boy and he’ll pick the truck over the car every time – and we know four year-olds have impeccable taste in luxury transportation.
I didn’t have time to chit chat with Blaize because I had to get an email off to Alex over at Uber (@Uber_DC in the twitosphere) and my hands were shaking with so much anger I could barely type. At this point I had even lost the desire to be turned down for sex by Janis Kanus – shit was real. I was nice and didn’t blame Alex – it wasn’t his fault. It was an FYI with the hopes he’d get me my money back and have Kwame sent to a never ending toddler princess tea party in room lined with tile.
The good news is that I got my money back with an apology from Uber. They are awesome like that. Kwame, from what I understand, was not sent to a princess party. No solution in life is perfect, I guess.
Here’s the scam as it was played on me and likely a ton of other people who are way too drunk to know what’s going on.
Every time you get in an Uber car there’s a little process. He stops, you open the door and he says “Brad?” It’s crazy, but they ask everyone if they’re name is Brad. I love it. Just kidding. They identify you so that they know they have the right person. The only problem with that – they’re opening themselves up to be tricked.
The only thing an Uber driver knows is that you’re a little blue pin waiting for them on a map and your name. Last year during the clusterfuck they call “after a Nats game” I saw a way to be a dick and steal someone’s Uber. All up and down the street were people waiting for cars. I had three little chickadees I picked up at the game and was attempting to send them on to my single homies waiting at Cap Lounge. Black cars kept pulling up and I’d open the door and they’d say “Fred?” I’d say “Nope” and close the door. What was keeping me from just saying “yep” and getting in and being on my way? I’m an asshole, but I’m not a criminal.
Unfortunately there are a lot of assholes who are also criminals in DC and I think Uber Hijacking happens way more often than is known. I chatted with my other Uber friends and they each had “a-ha” moments from drunken nights where their car never showed up and the screen turned purple and they eventually canceled thinking the driver bugged out. The multiple emails and texts from Uber can all run together and some of the upper income folks don’t really notice $25 or $30 extra bucks missing after a night of heavy drinking.
One friend told me exactly how the airport scam works – the hijackers stand down by door 1 and just wave down Uber cars as they come by and jump in agreeing that they are whoever the driver implies they are. Once they are on the way into DC, the car with the asshole thieves will be out of the airport with nowhere to pull over (no man’s land on the parkway if you can picture it). If the ride is canceled and the driver sees there is a problem, he has to drive them all the way to Roslyn or DC to let them out. It’s a free ride to a cheaper ride in the city and it’s criminally brilliant. It’s also a dick move. Pelase stop doing it or you'll ruin Uber for everyone else.
Ride on people, ride on.
We Americans have made a mockery of lunch. Spain started a lunch in 1352 and it still hasn't ended. I'd like to give you an insight as to how it goes in DC. If you disagree, feel free to make an ass of yourself in the comments section below.
Stage 1: You bring your lunch every day because you are a poor kid just out of college working for sweatshop wages. You are heavily reliant on admins to tell you when and where office lunch leftovers will be available. You go out to lunch almost never and only if someone else is paying. You actually have an outfit on reserve for the day you get invited to go to lunch at a place like McCormick and Schmick’s (think department Christmas lunch).
Stage 2: You still bring your lunch to work and pick through the post lunch meeting leftovers, but you've figured out that there is such thing as a "free lunch" in DC. You now know that there is often free food served at little seminars on random topics all over the city. All you have to do is sign up, show up, eat and try to listen to whoever is speaking. You're living on a very carb heavy diet at this point and know exactly which sandwich place has the best catering options. The cheap beer you consume after work isn't helping your ever-growing waistline.
Stage 3: Something changes - you've either received your first big raise, stopped giving a shit about paying off your credit card each month or decided to move into a more rent friendly situation with nine of your soon-to-be ex-friends. You start to eat out at lunch. You don't go to Morton's or Ceiba. You eat at little sandwich shops and those buffet style fat factories where they weigh your food so you know how much it costs and exactly how much you'll gain consuming it. You only care to hear from the admins when cookies are left over from an afternoon meeting. Depending on who's catering the event, you still go get some free lunches from time to time - the Press Club is always worth it. You mainly go to see old free lunch friends you met in stage 2. Napkin in lap type lunches are starting to become a little more common, but not even a monthly thing yet. You become a restaurant week asshole and even save your money to go eat over-priced specials cooked by the kitchen's b-team twice a year. You order the Filet because eating at these places is still a novelty. You now know that some people have a glass of wine or a beer with lunch and do not get fired. However, you're not sure how a person pulls this off yet.
Stage 4: Much like Stage 3 except you have found someone with a corporate card that can supply a napkin in lap lunch every few weeks. You have a glass of wine with your filet and live to tell the tale. You decide that all other life goals are now second to eating at a fine restaurant every day for lunch. You're even more of a restaurant week asshole than you were before - you photograph your food. You scoff at the free lunch crowd.
Stage 5: Major change has come. You eat out every day. Sometimes it's just a quick stop at Devin & Blakely, but you have regular lunch dates at nicer places. You're ordering from all over the menu with confidence now and not worrying about missing out on that filet. You frown upon consuming office provided lunches and judge those who do partake in them. You skip eating it when you’re required to be there for a lunch meeting and go out afterward. You and your old free lunch buddies get together at Morton’s once a month to laugh at your former selves.
Stage 6: You've really hit your career stride and lunch is no longer yours to have. Lunch is when you meet with the people you couldn't meet with for coffee, at the office or at dinner. Sometimes you have two lunches a day and all you really want to do is workout because you're getting fat from all the lunching. You eat part of an appetizer and have soup at the first one and a salad at the second – you can’t be rude, right? Lunch has turned into a monster that has made you despise it. Lunch is work. Work is lunch. You have dinner with your old free lunch buddies because lunch is not where happy things happen. Your original lust for a lifestyle of great lunches has come back to bite you in the ass.
Stage 7: You are the top dog now. You are near retirement. You eat lunch at 11:30 and brag to the waiter about how you used to have two lunches. He does not care. You order what you can pass easily and won't make you so gassy. You’d have a glass of wine with lunch, but you already had too much champagne with breakfast.
Stage 8: Die. Depending on who you lobbied for you might be in hell with eternal lunches to attend.
I was thinking about these people in preparation for a new post and thought I'd share it again. I'm sorry if it's garbled, it's late at night and I'm too tired to edit.
Twice a year when the city's class of diners who can afford the best of DC's culinary offerings leave town on vacation a festival for wannabes takes place. In January and August every year DC's best restaurants meet DC's lamest diners in a celebration of mediocrity - Restaurant Week.
Years ago when I first moved to DC I was sucked into Restaurant Week by a bunch of girls at work who were hopped up on "Sex in the City" and found the reduced prices at the fine restaurants their best shot at recreating the nauseatingly fantastic world of Carrie Bradshaw and friends. Their plump asses set upon chairs usually reserved for DC's elite class and for a meal or two twice a year they felt special. Even if "special" meant being stuck with some prix fixe menu reminiscent of an above average banquet setup at some three star Capitol Hill hotel. I was less than impressed with the "bargain" and even less thrilled with my new status as an interloper - something the staff made perfectly clear with every interaction.
I remember one lunch at Occidental where the waiter was so faking it that I actually pictured every word he wanted to say as he spoke instead the words that wouldn't get him fired -
"Hello there, douche bags. This is our menu for today. Don't even open our regular menu, you can't afford anything on it. I'm sure the prix fixe concept is way too much for you to grasp since you're idea of a night out is Applebee's so I will explain this extraordinarily simple concept to you very very slowly so your tiny unsophisticated brains can decipher it. You get to choose ONE - a single item from each category starting at the top and going down. You can not substitute anything from the real menu for anything on this bullshit menu. It doesn't matter how many times you ask, what stupid faces you make or what lie you're willing to tell - you can not substitute our real food for the shitty food we've pre-cooked and stored under heat lamps for the lunch rush today. I assume you all will be having just water to drink - we do provide that free. And let me guess - six separate checks? Of course. I can't wait to see how you guys tip - the maitre d' is betting you guys are six percenters. Please feel free to linger for as long as possible sipping water so that I can turn fewer tables today and make next to nothing in tips. May I suggest the risotto? It's exceptionally shitty today having been cooked an hour ago and left in a huge pot to be treated like a garnish. You'll love it because you don't know any better and we'll all have a good laugh at your expense over at the waiter's station."
I really did feel for the guy because the room was packed with 25year-olds who were acting like they'd never been out in public before. The 34 year-old me really hates the 25 year-old me and I hope you feel the same way (about you, not me... although if you hate me at either age, that's cool too).
Back then the list of restaurants was much shorter than the list now. I don't think there's an eatery in DC or surrounding area that isn't on this LIST. Just by skimming the first page I can see American Tap Room is on there and that is far from fine dining and easy to get out of dinner for less than $35.12 a person. The most expensive item is a $29 ribeye that is severely over-priced (they changed chefs and the place really sucks now, by the way). You could do a salad, entree and glass of wine for $35 every day of the week. I'd rather have the wine than the shitty frozen spoon-sized dessert any day.
Where was I? Oh, the list is big and decidedly undistinguished these days. If you have to wait until Restaurant Week to eat at most of these places - your life really sucks. And for the love of God - if you're going to go out at least miss the one week where the restaurants admittedly mass produce shit to feed the masses! If you want to watch good football and never have the chance to do it, don't go to the preseason games because they're cheap. Pay the money and go to a playoff game. Do it right.
I guess some of you are pretty offended by now. That's okay - it's the reason there's a comments section below and you don't even have to put your email address in. Call me an asshole if it makes you feel better. Just remember, I may be an asshole, but I'm not a sheep.
I've also written some things that have piqued your interest, haven't I? Let's go through them.
The top end restaurants don't think you'll become a regular after a Restaurant Week test run. They know anyone who chooses Restaurant Week as their time to try the place, can't afford their regular menu and won't be back anytime soon. That's fine with them. Restaurant Week helps them generate some revenue during a notoriously slow August vacation season. The vacation season hurts them because, believe this or not, some people are regulars at the Palm or Floriana. They keep those places alive by eating there all the time. Just because you only go to Morton's for birthdays or anniversaries, doesn't mean their mainstay clients are like you. I know many people who make Bobby Van's a bi-weekly stop for dinner and they are the ones who are truly valued. They get what you'll never get.
With that said, you should know that most of the nicer restaurants aren't bringing their "A Game" when it comes to their prix fixe menu. I know for a fact several big time places let their top chef vacation during Amateur Week (Restaurant Week). No need to beat him or her up for a week when the clientele is what it is during Restaurant Week. Better to let them off so they're fresh when the regulars come back from their villas in France expecting a top notch experience nightly.
And with the top chef out, the menus only really have one common theme - be cheap and easy to make. Restaurant insiders I have talked to in DC over the years have told me that losing money during Restaurant Week in the hopes you'll make it back when the diners become regulars is ludicrous. They aren't coming back, so you better make sure you cover your ass like any other day.
One gentlemen used the famous Nordstrom "Anniversary Sale" and "Half Year Sale" as an example. Those events draw a very different clientele on those specific days than they do any other day of the year at Nordstrom. It's an inventory clearing mechanism that generates revenue, not an effort to convert those shoppers into Nordstrom guests who pay full price for items throughout the year. His point was well made.
I hate to ruin it for you, but you're not getting anything near their "best" or even an idea of what they do well all the time. The formula for Restaurant Week in the beginning was simple - let the masses have a look at how the better half lives and maybe they'll come by on their birthday. When it became popular and restaurants were consistently packed the whole week, the business side of the restaurateur's brains kicked into gear. Knowing that they're going to have a full dining room with a fixed price point on a fixed set of deliverables for a week allows the savvy owner to optimize his profit. The variables that usually keep them up at night guessing all become known and it's only a matter of plugging them into a well known equation that tells you if you're going to make a profit or not.
An owner knows for six days that he or she is going to have a packed dining room. The people will be there and they only need guess the number based on seating, and estimate of the tables they can flip (some do "seatings" that make it even easier to nail down the number of customers for each service). Knowing down to the penny what the known number of people eating will spend at a minimum gives them an operating budget. Think about it this way - if you know you're going to have 100 diners spend a minimum of $35.12 a piece, you know your haul will be at least $3,512 for that service. If you want to make 15 percent profit, you know your food costs etc. must be less than $2985.20.
So, instead of trying to guess what an unknown quantity of people will order off of a 30 item menu so that they are properly stocked (not too much, and not too little), they have a nine to twelve item menu to stock up for and an exact budget to follow. Ingredients, prep and portions can all be strictly controlled to maximize profit (you'll find the portions are quite small at most places). Their captive audience (Restaurant Weekers) is on the receiving end of a well budgeted meal where quality and quantity are likely to take a backseat to profit margin. Don't expect to see a lot of backfin crab meet this week. Ditto for the better cuts of lamb and a whole range of fish. And you'd be surprised what escolar can stand in for in the fish world (locate the bathroom on your way in, trust me).
So why did I tell you all of that? Well, the restaurant business is a very tough business. When an owner isn't banging the host staff or breaking up fights between wait staff who are banging each other, he or she is trying to bang out a profit in an industry with an extremely high failure rate. If you think you're getting one over on the restaurants this week - you're wrong - they're playing you. And you deserve it.
You don't get the top notch life at a bargain price. Pretending is always cheaper than "being" although you never really quite pull off who you are pretending to be. Just ask any of the hard working waiters out there who abhor Restaurant Week. All of you have established that you're cheap - you go out twice a year when it's the least expensive. It's not all that shocking that your 15 percent looks a lot more like six percent in the real world. And that's just the monetary crap the waiters have to put up with.
People who dine out at fine restaurants only a few times a year tend to be the ones who become exceedingly picky during those rare visits to quality culinary institutions. All of a sudden a few thousand Gordon Ramseys descend on DC's better restaurants turning back food they shouldn't and bitching about the amount of ice in their precious water. For some reason Restaurant Weekers feel that the experience is only complete if they turn their asshole knob to 11. It's truly a shame how bad Restaurant Weekers behave. However, it's not unexpected.
My buddy over at the Hamilton gave me a tip last Friday - "next week is a good week to bring your lunch and make dinner at home - it's not going to be any restaurant's best week." I'm sure he wasn't talking about the profit side of things - I expect them to make a mint off the unenlightened masses.
Feelings hurt? They should be. The truth is like slamming your hand in a car door - it hurts and it's almost always of your own doing.
If you're still going to go - don't be an asshole. And don't think for a second that the VPs in your office suffer through whatever Charlie Palmer's offering during Restaurant Week - it's ten times better next week.
See you in January, amateurs.