Sunday
Dec052004

« The Joy of Tri-tip »

Hmm, Costco had some yummy ass tri-tip steak this week. I love tri-tip. Maybe I like it more than any other cut of beef, save for the trusty hamburger.

Eating tri-tip reminds me of once upon a time in late 1995 when I was working as whipping boy and guitar/keyboard tech (in that order) for Rockola, one of the local bands in the wedding/corporate/special event market. On two occasions we were hired out in a town called Brawley, about 120 miles out in the desert east of here. It is an agricultural town, with lots of produce and cattle ranching out in the desert. Real blue collar, to the core, not at all like the usual urban and upscale hotels and resorts and country clubs we would ordinarily work at. Anyhow, the people of Brawley were celebrating the conversion of a huge Quonset hut produce cooler being made into a roller skating/hockey facility. Outdoors, they had open pit barbecued tri-tip, baked potatoes, corn and beans for all. The band and I got the same dinner as everyone else, and it was damned tasty, with the option for nearly all we could eat. We were supposed to go on at 8 pm, but they said we should just eat and relax then go on when we were ready. We talked to some of the people. A lot of them were known for traveling out to San Diego to see Rockola at the clubs, and to do the beach thing. They knew the band and liked them, and were happy to have us there. A while later that year, right two nights before Christmas, the party was at the stockman's club. The band was given carte blanche at the local steakhouse, allegedly the best one in town.

Measure that great hospitality against the usual measure afforded us:

We'd usually do gigs at Marriotts, Hyatts, nearly a dozen country clubs and beach resorts and the like. We were effectively the hired help, there to provide a service just like the room maids who take out the laundry. We were expected to be on stage at the appointed time and perform a given type of show for a given type of audience. We'd show up in the late morning to do a gig that was at 8 pm, and would be home after 2 am once all was said and done, and sometimes later.

And then the food, often enough, was just enough to bail us out of hunger. Deli platters (we called them deli "splatters") were common. A buffet table full of cold cuts and bread and cheese would often greet us at 5-7 pm. Sometimes that was on the luxurious end of things; sometimes we were afforded a box lunch, no better than you would take to school in sixth grade. Sometimes we got better—maybe lucious salads and pastas, and other stuff that has some appeal, or maybe even the same dinner as the client would be eating—fine chicken or steaks with artful presentations. But more often than not, it was deli splatters and cokes. And we might ordinarily get sequestered to a side meeting room, or even a utility closet, not only away from the clients, but away from any other people. A lot of times, I personally didn't know the names of the clients or the corporation even half way through the shows. All I had to do was work. I was a lowly person, and sometimes I didn't even get to sit and eat with the guys. The high end wedding/corporate band market has a certain sophisticated presentation, and outwardly, there is a professional appearance, but when it comes time to do the business, the band is just an employee of the production company.

So early on, I came to find that even in a hick town like Brawley, the hospitality was genuine. Those people actually wanted Rockola to be there playing for them. They were real and genuine, and friendly. But back at home, we'd be treated like dogs sometimes, given crappy hours, mediocre to substandard food (or none, or no time to eat it), and would just generally be sheep for their events. Early on, I got an awareness of that, and often times, I found myself thinking I'd rather do the two hour drive to the desert so I could get some tasty food in the company of real people who actually wanted us to come out and be a part of their little world a couple times a year.

Tri-tip tastes that much better under those circumstances, and tonight was sort of like that, but in the company of my wife, some adult friends of ours who sort of serve in a quasi-parental role sometimes, and in the comfort of my own home. Dinner was yum tonight. I even made more cookies after last night's canine cookie heist. And they were better tonight. Ahhhhhh.

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