I had forgotten the German-Turkish-American server’s name at my local biergarten, DSK. She feigned being upset. I said, referring to the Mexican-American server/busboy standing next to her, “I have known him longer, and I still forget his name.” She replied, “We call him Doughnut.” I looked at him and asked, “Why is that?” He just smiled, and she explained. “He went to a house of pleasure, and instead of giving out dollar bills, he handed out doughnuts.” The Colombian-American bartender said that it was a strip club near a Costco. The Mexican-American server/busboy had bought the doughnuts at a fancy neighborhood shop, and he had given them out to the strippers. He would not tell me what kind of doughnuts they were—I thought that they should have been Boston cream–but his English is limited, and he might not have understood the question. A few minutes later, however, he looked at me with his perennially sweet smile and said, “Now I am a VIP.”
He seemed to be working every time I went into the biergarten, and I talked with him more. I think his name was Michael. His girlfriend worked, as he put it, for “a Jewish family” in the Sunset Park region of Brooklyn. Their dream was to save money and move back to Mexico, but I never understood his English or Mexican geography well enough to know where.
On the evening before a Thanksgiving, I asked him if he celebrated the holiday. He nodded, but with slight tone of disgust said, “No turkey.” He clearly did not like that traditional bird and carefully asked me if I liked it, as if he could not imagine anyone enjoying it. He told me that instead his family of aunts and uncles who resided in Brooklyn had a barbecue and would do so on Thanksgiving even though the temperature was going to be in the 20s. Clearly it was a big gathering. He told me that there would be pork and beef and chicken and salmon. I asked if the food was going to be spicy, and he said, “Oh, yes,” but then revealed that there was, as there are at many Thanksgiving dinners, a controversy. He told me that an uncle worked in a Japanese restaurant and had access to teriyaki sauce, which he was bringing for the salmon. Apparently, this was not part of the family tradition and not everyone approved or even liked teriyaki sauce. But Michael concluded, “It is a day for the family to get together and that is good.” I asked if they would discuss our president, or immigration policies, or other politics. He said that they did at other times but not on a family holiday.
I saw him a week after Thanksgiving and asked him how the day was. It was great. I asked him how he liked the salmon. It was terrific. I said, “Oh, you liked it with the teriyaki sauce.” He paused and smiled. “No teriyaki. We had it without teriyaki.”