Home for the Holidays

AutoGrat is back once again, minus a coblogger and no longer restaurant industry oriented. I’ve decided that it’s time for me to use this space exclusively for my own internal ramblings. Or external, depending on your perspective. PERSPECTIVE. That’s going to be the key word for this third attempt at maintaining a blog.

That being said, I’m going to skip the part where I attempt to outline my ideas going forward with this writing endeavor… I really don’t know what’s happening, I just know that I need to write. So here we are.

I just returned from visiting my family in Kansas City for Thanksgiving. My time there always offers me an alternate perspective (keywords!) on my life… It’s crazy how different your life can seem when talked about with people outside of your immediate bubble of existence. I didn’t have any epiphanies or stumble upon new understandings of self. I did, however, have some time to reflect on my familial situation and how it differs from those I surround myself with.

Most families are kind of organized into little groups based on their place on the family tree – the adult table consists of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. The kids table is usually made up of cousins and siblings in the same age group, lumped together to give the adults some time to catch up and maybe have too  much wine. Everyone at the kids table grow up together until they’re old enough to branch out into their own respective adult tables… Typical holiday formula.

Kansas City is home to the paternal side of my family. Our Thanksgiving dinner is hosted at my aunt and her husband’s home, and our usual guest list includes their children, my father and his wife and their kids, my grandmother and great-grandmother. Because I was born when my father was just exiting high school, there weren’t any cousins or siblings being added to the picture. My kid table was just me, trying to fit in with the grown-ups. Twenty-some years later, my dad and aunt have started the more traditional family experience, we’ve included some married in relatives, and the kid table is now fully seated.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my too much wine. On the flip side, I watch the kids play and bond and get older together every year and I wonder what that must be like. I hear anecdotes from peers about their own family gatherings, sneaking schnapps and sharing secrets with their distant same-aged relatives, and I get a little jealous. My cousins and siblings will never have those memories of me – I’ll always be more akin to the auncle that didn’t tell mom and dad about the schnapps I caught them with.

At the adult table, I recount the last year of my life and I talk politics and theology and economics and clean up dishes and cut pie for the kids. All the while, I can’t fully divulge my recent experiences because, frankly, they’re too old at this point to relate. Talking about partying with my friends and complaining about moving home aren’t appropriate accolades for those at higher stages in life. So, I keep all of that below the surface and I talk instead about my job and try to sound like a productive, self-sufficient, respectable member of society.

It’s all normal for me, and it isn’t until one of the cousins needs me to remind them that I’m technically on their part of the family tree that I even notice the abnormality of the whole thing. At the end of the day, though, I can’t help but appreciate the outlook I have on the family. I’ve seen the adults mature and wisen and find the lives they’ve wanted to lead and I’ve grown alongside them being in the loop, a confidante. I don’t experience the whispers or the subject changes upon entering a room because I’m usually the one being whispered to. In the same stride, I get to be the kids’ favorite adult, still young enough that I can relate to their experiences and old enough that I get to take care of them.

Pros and cons aside, experiencing Thanksgiving the way I have has given me the opportunity to see the broad spectrum of life in all of it’s stages, and in turn I’ve been able to realize fairly early on just how I want to grow into myself. If there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s that. It leaves me curious though – what are the other experiences out there? What alternate perspectives would you all like to share? Whether you’ve grown with your cousins, walked in similar shoes, or never had a Thanksgiving experience at all, I would love to be enriched by your holiday stories. Comment, message, whatever is comfortable for you to expand my view.

 

Thanks for taking the time,

Tucker

 

Serial De-Friender

I’ve had a lot of friends in my life. I’ve had a lot of best friends, mostly. And these friends I’ve had over the years have all been wonderful humans in their own respects, yet in the ‘prime’ of my life I find myself with only a handful of people I consider close friends. I can count on three fingers the people I consider dearest to me, excluding those blood-bound to love me.

I’ve been analyzing my life a lot, as I tend to do, and looking for negativity to eliminate from it. I try to be happy, as hard as it seems to be, and so I try to keep the stresses to a minimum. As these analyses usually point out, stress seeps from every corner my life, even among those ‘close friends’ I have. A pretty common trend in my behavior is distancing myself from people, whether intentionally or not, as soon as my over-critical mind catches wind of something problematic.

I could list the amount of people I’ve cut out of my life and go into detail about how I was justified in removing them and why I’m better off without them, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem must be with me. I can’t have as long a list of ex-besties as I do without some fault landing on my shoulders.

This introspective look at my serial de-friending comes, perhaps obviously, at what seems to be another of my ending relationships. I can feel myself slowly and systematically ostracizing someone in my life, consciously pushing her away but completely incapable of stopping myself. Or maybe unwilling to stop.

So as I continue to watch our connection fizzle out, I can’t help but wonder what it is that prompts my need to snip the strings of my relations. I spent a lot of time telling myself that I got bored with people easily, and it made enough sense. But the endings never really occur in a lull. Another part of me believes that it must be my depression kicking in and I’m just pushing people out as a response to the impending doom. Like a cat when her life is ending, finding a hiding place to pass on alone. I’ve been in a stellar mood lately though, so how can I blame my depression? Is it insecurity, then? Not feeling worthy of love? Is it a source of control for me, in my never-ending struggle to have a handle on every facet of my life? A defense mechanism? Or something else completely?

People who maintain close friends for years and years astound me. “You’ve been friends for how long? Wow, I’ve only known most of my friends for a year!” It’s a common statement. I think the largest period of time I’ve considered a person my ‘best friend’ was for four or five years, tops. And a less-than-best friend that I maintain contact with is even rarer. As many times as I’ve promised to stay in someone’s life forever, I have a hard time making it past a two year mark. Maybe I’m just not meeting people that fit into my life, or maybe I’m one of those malformed puzzle pieces myself, a factory defect that can’t fit into the place I was meant to go. Maybe I just have commitment issues.

“You’re a ticking time bomb. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells with you.” I’ve heard that twice in my life, almost verbatim, from two very different friends, at very different stages in my life. Further evidence that it’s me that is the problem with my friendships.

So, what am I doing? Why can’t I see myself as the countdown nears zero and the people around me tiptoe away across a sea of eggs shells? (Which, by the way, really makes no sense. Why would you tiptoe across shells of eggs? Aren’t the eggs already broken? Another time, Tucker, another time.)

No matter how many times I tell myself ‘it’ll be different this time,’ it never is. Even when I see it coming.

To all of the ex-best-friends that I’ve pushed away, however I managed to f*ck things up, I’m sorry for whatever I did (or didn’t do). And no matter how many times I promise to remedy our broken friendship and don’t follow through, know that you’re really not missing anything new.

Temporarily Yours,
Tucker

Arbor Brewing Company

Around the time we went into hiatus, I began work at Arbor Brewing Company. ABC just celebrated it’s 20-year anniversary in downtown Ann Arbor, and rightfully so.

For our first ‘endorsement’ post, I’m going to be shameless and promote my workplace.

The brewpub has been a huge deal in the Michigan beer scene, not just for it’s amazing beer (I didn’t even drink beer prior to working here) but for it’s amazing work being eco-friendly and locally supportive. The owners are probably the kindest, most dedicated people I’ve worked for in the restaurant industry. Their hearts are just as invested in the business as their finances, and I’ve found that to be a rare occurrence in this line of work. They are constantly looking for ways to innovate and expand their reach, and they do it all with their many workers at the forefront of their minds. Their most recent announcement to renovate the restaurant came with a full-staff meeting and an open door for ideas and opinions, which was met with a more positive response than I’ve seen from any staff I’ve worked with when such an announcement was made.

The management team that has been chosen to lead the staff is just as amazing. The group of women that run the day-to-day functioning of the brewpub are all huge-hearted and just as dedicated to the cause as the owners. Seeing a functioning management staff is just as surprising to me as the owners are, and I can’t express how refreshing it is to work with competent individuals that actually take the time to interact with their customers – whether it’s a complaint or just a curiosity, there is no doubt that a manager will take time out of their day to ensure your needs are met. And beyond the actual managing duties, they shine in their capacity for compassion. I’ve witnessed more hugs and one-on-one chats between managers and staffers than I can count, and the follow-ups that display the true depth of their love for their workers. I’m so used to taking care of myself – on the floor and off – that I’ve had a hard time accepting the managers for what they are, and have only recently opened up to their support, but it’s been an eye-opening experience. Is this what good management really looks like? Can’t say I’m disappointed.

As for the servers and hosts I work with, I don’t have a single negative thing to say. Though it’s a bit difficult to establish yourself among them, once they befriend you they take care of you. I’ve been shown so much support and kindness by my colleagues…it’s outrageous. And every single one of them takes their job seriously. So many beer experts in the ranks, it’s crazy. Everyone is so eager to learn more, too. I can’t even tell you how many questions are asked when a new beer comes up, or how many opinions are offered when we update menus. The way they handle customers is just as passionate – the beer savants can recommend a brew to a new guest that will almost always be exactly what they want, and they’ll have no problem explaining it to them in depth. And the pride everyone shows for Arbor Brewing is wonderful – everyone really does their best to represent it, from staying up to date on the goings on to making sure that everyone is recycling properly.

Honestly, before working here I had no idea just how wonderful of a place it was – I knew the food was good, I knew the servers seemed like ‘alternative’ people, but I just couldn’t know the depth of passion behind that. I really do recommend everyone give it a try, whether you’re a beer snob or just have weird dietary requirements (we accommodate vegan and gluten-free like no other) you’ll find something to make you smile, from a staff that strives for that smile. Employed or not, I support Arbor Brewing Company from their rooftop solar panels to their soon-to-be renovated basement bathrooms.

Shamelessly Yours,
Tucker

Full Disclosure – A NCOD Special

It’s National Coming Out Day today and while I’ve been ‘out’ about my sexuality and gender identity for quite some time now, there’s something that I’ve still yet to reveal about myself. There’s a piece of me that I have struggled to find the courage to be open about, even with myself.

I am HIV positive.

It’s a hard thing to type, harder to say out loud. The reason that I’ve decided to write this is to, if anything, help myself come to terms with it. It isn’t a new thing, I’ve known for a little while now, but it’s not something I’m fully comfortable talking about yet. It’s only recently sunk in enough for me to have full conversations about it with the people that know. Unfortunately, it isn’t a topic I can avoid forever, and I’ve realized that if I ever want to be fully happy, I need to stop letting myself hide from this.

When I first was diagnosed, my initial reaction was that I did not want to continue living with the disease, that I’d rather kill myself than let it kill me. I felt dirty, ashamed of myself and disgusted by my body. I hated myself.

Somewhere between then and now, I realized that I want to live, with or without the disease. I’ve been on medication and I’ve gotten my numbers down in the undetectable range, which is as close to being cured as those in my predicament can hope to get currently. I’ve made strides in therapy to manage the emotional problems that coincide with the diagnosis, and it’s been a process, learning not to let it define my life.

Despite the work that I’ve been doing to keep myself both physically and mentally healthy, I still find myself with this need to be able to come clean about it publicly. It’s strange, because I know that there’s no real reason to tell anyone outside of the support system I’ve confided in, but I feel like ‘coming out’ will make it easier to handle the part I still have a hard time with – disclosure.

People living with HIV are legally obligated to tell their sexual partners about the disease, which isn’t at all a bad thing. In my case, I was never made aware that I was having sex with an HIV positive person, and if I had been more inclined to practice safe sex, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. I would love to know where I contracted it, it would’ve made coping a bit easier, having someone to point a finger at and blame. Or at least I like to think it would’ve been helpful. When I found out, I immediately made a point to let anyone know that could’ve been affected, it was the right thing to do. And safe sex made a whole lot more sense to me. Prior to finding out, I’d lived in the mindset that unwanted pregnancy was the worst case scenario in sex, and being a homosexual male negated that. Health classes don’t cover gay sex like they should. Regardless, it took me a long time to find the courage to disclose my status to possible sex partners. I would avoid actual sex, get away with what I knew wouldn’t transmit and then find an excuse to end it there. That happened until the guilt started eating at me. I’d been being as careful as possible, but I came to the realization that any risk of exposure was still a risk, no matter how small the percentage, and I couldn’t be the person that changed someone’s life in that way. Someone else had put me through the same thing, whether they were aware of their status or not, and I couldn’t do that to someone else. I withdrew myself from any chance of meeting someone that might lead to a sexual encounter. I tried dating without sex and made a point to build a relationship before revealing my secret, but I always found a way to ‘lose interest’ before it could get to that point.

The first time I openly told a potential partner about my status was on my last birthday. It was hard, I cried after I told him and cried more when he didn’t look past the disease and continue to want me anyways. And since then, I’ve done my best to avoid situations where I’d risk being rejected.

I still haven’t fully come to terms with it. But I need to. I need to get this obstacle out of my way so that I can move on with my life, be happy. And I know that I’ll never be able to be one hundred percent honest about this if I don’t take a first step, do something to force myself to open up about it to people that aren’t my best friends or close family. So, National Coming Out Day is the perfect time to do this. It’s a day that has been a way for people all over to finally come clean about the parts of themselves that they’ve been afraid to expose, a day to find acceptance and support.

I’d really like this to spark some conversations, with me or just in general, about the reality of HIV and living with it in a world that looks at it through the eyes of a stigma. I’d like to post this and maybe show someone else that’s suffering with the same self-loathing that I’ve suffered through that they don’t need to hate themselves, that this isn’t all that they are. Mostly, I’d like to stress the necessity of safe sex and keeping yourself healthy.

I’d like to thank the people in my life that have been in the know and have shown me support – they know who they are, but what they don’t know is that without them I never would have been able to find the strength to fight this.

If anyone has questions, or needs someone to talk to for any reason at all, please feel free to reach out to me.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone.

Positively Yours,

Tucker

Hiatus

Hello, all!

A quick update for those that are curious about the status of AutoGrat.

Currently, Arina, myself and our roommate Lexi are in the process of finding a new home! With that being our top priority, not a whole lot of dining out has been happening. We’re all trying to save as much as we can in as little time as possible. That also means that we’ve been working our little bums off. Six days a week at work does not leave a lot of time for anything but necessary home upkeep (which we’re also slacking on, admittedly).

In addition to the moving process, I have recently quit my job at Heidelberg and started two new jobs. Being a new employee in the service industry is not an ideal thing – I have very few regulars, I don’t get the best shifts and I’m exerting as much energy as humanly possible to impress and prove myself to my new bosses. Not to mention the new POS systems, menus, policies, etc. that I’m having to learn…it’s not the best time to be Tucker.

And to top off this delicious stress cake, we have a locally made no-wifi frosting!

So, for the time being I regret to say that the AutoGrat Blog will be on hiatus until things calm down for us and we have more reliable wifi access.

We sincerely thank everyone for supporting us thus far, and we will be back as soon as we can! Please stay tuned for our next review and subsequent posts.

Thanks for Dining with Us,
Tucker

We’ve Got That Summertime Sadness

Being in the service industry is a lot like being a gambler. Sometimes you walk away feeling wealthy and unstoppable, but the majority of the time you leave work with an encumbering sense of lost time and nothing to show for it.We’ve neglected (again) reviewing this week, and the reason is very simple. We’re broke. Summer is a great time for a lot of people, but when you serve in a college town and the population has decreased by almost half you learn to hate it a little. Sure, it’s nice out and you can actually enjoy being outdoors, but forget doing anything that costs money. That includes going out to eat for your blog.

So, while we attempt to pay rent and utilities (and our phone bills and co-pays at the doctor and blahblahblah adult life) and provide nourishment for ourselves, please excuse our lack of reviews. However, if you DO have the urge to engross yourself in our reviews, feel free to write us a check! We’re always accepting donations. (We’re only mostly kidding)

Anyway, we just felt it prudent to inform you of our situation and explain our lack of restaurant excursions. Please forgive us, and even without the reviews continue to check up on our blog.

With all that being said, we’ve decided we’d like to begin accepting ideas for non-review postings. If you’ve ever been curious about the restaurant industry, or just would like to hear our (sometimes) snarky opinions on things, send us an email! It’s listed under the ‘[contact us]’ label, but we’ll add it on at the end of this for anyone that isn’t quite so tech-savvy. Also, feel free to let us know if you’d like us to explore any restaurants in our area for future reviews.

Thanks so much for your time and viewership!

Your Servers,
Arina and Tucker

autogratblog@gmail.com

For @THEMILLIONAIRES

Allison and Melissa Marie Green (MILLIONAIRES),

I remember the first time I fell in love with you. 2007, the summer before I started high school, my best friend’s Myspace page. Alcohol played on a hidden media player and I could not for the life of me figure out how to find your music page to steal you from her. She told me who you were eventually, and after that it was over.

The first time I saw you was in Pontiac at the Crofoot, ninth grade, the first concert I begged to be apart of. That was the night that really hooked me. I had been jamming to your tunes for about a year and you girls were everything that I wanted at the time. Being in the audience made me happier than I can remember being before that night. Allison grabbed my hand while she crooned to me, and I died a little inside. Then, by some magical stroke of luck (in my inexperienced concert-goer eyes) you decided to hang around and meet-and-greet. I remember Allison in her then-signature jersey, Melissa in that red dress, Dani was in a fedora. Melissa snuck away before I could meet her, but Allison and Dani and I took pictures and spoke for a while.

Since, I’ve been to every show that I could (every single one in Michigan) and I’ve religiously kept your music on my numerous phones/iPods/computers. I’m subscribed to your Facebook and Twitter updates because I’d hate to miss anything important… And then you announced your final tour.

Your music has never been just about partying or sex or alcohol to me, it’s always been about being free, being who you want to be. ‘DGAF’ was more than an acronym or a slogan, it was a lifestyle I adopted. I’ve told you both numerous times how important that was for me. I grew up in a small, republican-heavy, judgemental town as a genderqueer anomaly. Listening to you, seeing you be/do what you wanted without ever once stopping to think what people thought about you was absolute inspiration. And it never stopped.

You were the people I needed to carry me through my formative years, a constant reassuring voice telling me I could be what I wanted without fear, even if I was afraid. And when I needed someone to be there, you both were. I remember once on formspring Allison offered your backyard and a fort after I sent in an ask telling her I had been kicked out. It obviously wasn’t a realistic offer, but the fact that she took the time to show that she was supportive meant the world to me. Back when you guys were working with Marialia, Melissa contacted me to make sure I wasn’t upset after the feud because I had befriended her. What other musicians do that for fans?

I’ve never really been the best fan, I don’t send things to you or do the kind of promoting that I should. I had some drama with other fans that I’m sure you never appreciated, but even when I messaged you guys to make sure you didn’t hate me you maintained that there were no harsh feelings… And honestly, I’ve never felt like a fan. After the numerous birthday wishes, @ replies, the ease of conversation and the mutual happiness when we meet after every concert has made me feel like a friend.

Not to mention the friends I’ve gained in your audiences. So many people united by your voices. I met the only person I’ve ever truly loved at one of your shows. I never would have encountered him if it weren’t for you two, and whether it worked out or not, that piece of my heart would never have been filled without you.

And now, after eight years of backing you, you’ve decided it’s time to end MILLIONAIRES. I’m absolutely heartbroken, and yeah, I feel a little betrayed. But I don’t want you to ever feel like I’m angry about it. I want you both to know that after everything you’ve done for me, after making me feel like part of a family, after inspiring me and leading me to become the person I am today, I will forever be in your debt. And whether you need me or not, I will always, always be behind everything you girls do.

I know you have good reason to call it quits, and I have no right to question that decision. But, I love you both, and I will sincerely miss seeing you at shows, waiting for new music, bringing new friends to see this part of my life up close and personal.

So, I want to say my goodbyes to MILLIONAIRES. You will always be present in my ears and in my heart.

To ‘my’ girls : please continue to do amazing things. Together or separate, you are incredibly intelligent, strong women. I will never expect anything less than great from you. And don’t disappear altogether, I don’t want to lose the music AND the geniuses behind it.

I love you both.

Forever Yours,

Tucker.