Sunday, April 15, 2007

Here's to Don Ho

I was a dishwasher at M's Italian restaurant in Corvallis for a couple of years during high school, a job several friends also ended up with by association during my tenure there, ensuring that it was usually a semi-enjoyable though smelly and damp experience.

While it wasn't the best job ever, I have fond memories of drinking shakes and spraying prep cooks who got too close to my station while slinging traysful of glasses into the excellent Hobart dishwashing machine.

Some of the waitresses were bitchy and some were friends, but almost all of the cooking staff were down with the dishdogs. They would make us signature pizzas or let us make our own, and we'd joke around in the parking lot on breaks.

The cooks had a record player in their area with a crateful of crappy old LP records. We'd play Creedence and Lynyrd Skynyrd and a host of other classic rock dinosaurs. None was more welcome, though, than the sweet strains of "Tiny Bubbles".

It would start with that swaying guitar riff, and then Mr. Ho's velvety voice: "Tiny bubbles... in the wine..." This was how we knew the night was over. T. would put the record on when the last order had gone out and no more were coming in, as we were breaking down the grill and bussing the tables. This was a moment of such glee that often the whole staff would sing along, full throated: "make me happy... make me feel fine!"

Of course, the end of the night for the cooks was only the beginning of the end for the dishwashers. We still had to clean all the cook's tools that were brought to us, the grills and utensils and sometimes, horribly, the huge sausage roasting pan, utterly repellent to a vegetarian such as myself. And the last order meant there was still at least a tableful of dishes waiting to be subjected to the merciless stream of my sprayer.

"Tiny bubbles... make me warm all over..."

Still, though, it meant the end was in sight. People were starting to clock out, to have a winding-down drink at the bar. During this time, T. would let the record play fully, and I got to know well all the songs on it. "Beautiful Kauai", "E Lei Ka Lei Lei". But inevitably we'd cycle all the way through the record, both sides, while finishing up the trays of silverware and lasagna boats with stuck-on cheese. And as the dishwasher (or two, if it was a busy weekend night) was finishing up, we'd put the song on once more. "Here's to the golden moon", I'd hum along, running the disgusting rubber mats through the Hobart. "And here's to the silver spoon", I'd croon along, pulling the last tray of silverware out of the machine. "And mostly, here's a toast to you and me!" as the last tub of wine glasses came through.

Finally, after spraying down the sink area and slinging my sopping wet, tomato stained, smelly apron into the laundry bag that also resided in my station, I'd grab some bread rolls and clock out, to go into the night and teenage adventures. Still humming Don Ho.

"With a feeling that I'm gonna love you til the end of time."

Don Ho, you will be missed.

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