Flavor Town USA: Excerpts from ROSE MASK, service conversations by Jared Joseph

Rose Mask is a series of transcriptions of conversations between myself and the customers I served at a cocktail lounge and restaurant in Santa Cruz, CA, during 3 months of masked service due to the pandemic. The work is further framed as an impossible-to-stage work of theater, one that unfortunately plays itself out constantly in real life.

“I love your rose mask. Is
that a Guns and Roses type
thing?”

“It’s guns or roses. You decide.”

“I assume our appetizer is
still coming”

“Dangerous to assume”

I deliver a vodka Bloody
Mary garnished with pickled
vegetables. I deliver the glass
with my right hand, and on
my right forearm is a tattoo
of a visual poem by Seiichi
Niikuni entitled kawa mata
wa shu, a series of two
repeating kanji characters
whose alternation creates the
illusion of water and a
sandbank.

“Your carrot’s a different color!”

“Artsy!”

“I like your barcode tattoo!”

“Thank you. I’m a product of my society”

“I want the cornbread”

“But honey the fried chicken plate
comes with the cornbread”

“But the small plate cornbread comes
with the bacon jam”

“Oh yeah get the small plate
cornbread then i want the jam”

“I want you to jam me”

“So you’d like one cornbread small
plate then”

“It’s our first date”

“It seems to be going well”

“It’s not really our first date”

“So you’d like one cornbread small
plate then”

“Excuse me, there’s a hair in my salad”

“You didn’t want a hair in your salad?”

“No”

“Well you should have specified”

“Okay”

“So just to be sure, you want a salad without hair”

“Yes”

“You want a hairless salad”

“Yes”

“Let me see if the kitchen has any of
those in stock right now”

“This is my daughter, she’s
lucky she didn’t get that
many of my genes”

“Which one of you would you prefer
me to insult sir”

“Excuse me”

“Hello”

Person at table of 4 points at adjacent
table of 2

“Why did they get their food before
us?”

Because there are 4 of you ordering a
4-person amount of food, and 2 of
them ordering a 2-person amount of
food, and because there’s no god, I
don’t say

“Can we get some salt?” asks person
at adjacent table of 2

But I haven’t responded to the table
of 4 yet, I don’t say

“Jared can I get a rum and soda” says
another person at the table of 4

How does he know my name and
what kind of power does this give
him, I don’t say

“Where are my prawns?” asks person
at adjacent table of 3

I don’t know let me check my
pockets, I don’t say

“Can we close out now?” asks person
at a different but somehow still
adjacent table of 2

These tables are too close together, I
don’t say

“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah
ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah
ahahahahahahaha” laughs person at
original table of 4 who mysteriously
knows my name

I wonder when I’ll have a chance to
say something out loud, I don’t say

“What’s in the cobbler?”

“Ginger raspberry plum and
blackberry”

“Does it come with ice cream?”

“It comes with a whipped cream that
we make with our gin”

“The Gin #1?”

“That’s the one”

“Like this one”

Customer points to a bag with a bottle
of the Gin #1 inside

“That’s the one”

“She’s a member of the Venus club”

“In a way I’m also a member of the
Venus club”

“But you’re more like an indentured
servant”

“Is there anything else I can
get you all?”

“I think we’re good”

“I think you’re great. Here’s the
check”

“It’s like you knew”

“It’s because I did know”

“You seem so confident”

“It’s because it’s my job to
project fake confidence”

“You’re very good at it”

Jared Joseph is boring.

Image: shaheenaflowers.com

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