It Feels So Good When I Stop

In this excerpt, the protagonist recalls his post-college years, in which he worked a crappy job at a restaurant owned by a racist.
By JOE PERNICE  |  July 22, 2009

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Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2009 by Joe Pernice.

In this novel by the acclaimed singer-songwriter behind the Pernice Brothers, Joe Pernice tells the tale of a 25-year-old slacker who flees New York City and his one-day-old marriage and heads for Cape Cod to ponder his arrested adolescence. In this excerpt, the protagonist recalls his post-college years, in which he worked a crappy job at a restaurant owned by a racist.

In the winter of 1994, I graduated from UMass after four and a half years with a BA in English. I did pretty average; a lot worse than I might have done if I had given the tiniest of fucks about school. I decided to dick around until the summer and not think about my limited prospects, my withering University Health Insurance, and the looming crush of student-loan repayment. I picked up three shifts waiting tables at a mediocre Italian restaurant in Amherst called Esposito’s. I ended up working there for almost two years. 

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Richie could be charming as all hell, whether he was sober or not. Being decent-looking didn’t hurt. He was decidedly closer to a Dennis than a Randy Quaid. He’d been a waiter at Esposito’s for a couple of years when I got there. I shadowed him my first week. I liked him right off the bat. We both played guitar and were into a lot of the same music. Neither of us gave a fuck if it was Doris Day or the Frogs. If it was good music, it was good music. On my first night we made tentative plans to do some four-track recording together. He said he had written a ton of songs and already had the best band name: the Young Accuser. He said he’d gotten it from a newspaper article he read about Michael Jackson. All he needed was a band.

“No shit,” Richie said as he showed me how to fold a napkin into a swan. “I’ve read more books than any professor I ever had.” I never would have made a statement remotely as bold. I knew my education was held together by large fugues and obvious holes. “I’d go toe-to-toe with any of them and win.” Such braggadocio made Richie rub as many people (men) the wrong way as it did (women) the right. I sensed almost immediately that his whole “I couldn’t conform to the bullshit academic mold” claptrap was mostly a smoke screen because he couldn’t hack it. It was one of his flaws that made him approachable to me.

The owner-chef at Esposito’s was a prick named Lello, whose entire personality can be extrapolated from the following: 1) he loved cocaine even more than he appeared to love himself; 2) literally minutes into my first shift, a black waitress named Suzanne called him on his racist, sexist shit and stormed out. The restaurant was going to be packed because it was Valentine’s Day weekend. Lello was so furious he nearly blew a testicle. He ordered the entire staff into the kitchen, grabbed the biggest, blackest iron skillet off the rack, and screamed, “From now on, whoever calls this pan something other than Suzanne can get right the fuck out.”

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  Topics: Books , Michael Jackson, Patti Smith, University of Massachusetts Amherst,  More more >
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