Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love Hurts

Today was our day off.  It was a lovely early fall day, warm and bright as summer.  I had it in my mind to take a little buying trip out to one of the wineries south of here.  We stopped in at the café for breakfast, and almost immediately got into an argument…over something stupid and insignificant, as seems to be our habit of late. 

We finished our meal in silence, got into the car and drove in that same cloud of anything but amiable silence.

Eventually, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I racked my brain for a lead-in line…wondering just how to start the conversation without starting a fight.  Finally, I asked him.

“What one word would you use to describe our relationship these days?”  More silence.  I had nearly decided he had chosen not to respond.  And then…

“Strained,” came the answer at last.  And I couldn’t argue.  Because the word that had been circling round my head was…similar.

We drove on.  But I was determined not to let that silence close in on us again.

So we tore it open.  We argued.   We accused.   We laid blame and we took blame.   We thrust and parried, ducked and wove, and each landed a few really good (verbal) punches.  We arrived at our destination, stayed in the car and kept dredging it up and dragging it around for another good half hour before I think we were both just too exhausted to go any further.  And nothing, I think, was resolved.  Except that we’re still married.  For now, at least.

It has been a long, hard two years since we strapped on our armor and sallied forth onto the danger-fraught path of business ownership.  Yes, we did arm ourselves…or we thought we had.  It turns out the dragons and demons we are facing are not what and where we imagined they would be.  We find ourselves pitifully ignorant of, and therefore perilously exposed to, the actual threats we smack into head-on.

We thought we at least knew how to physically run a restaurant.  (Turns out we did once, but we had forgotten a lot of what we knew and had to learn all over again.)  We thought we could work together as a team to accomplish what one person alone cannot do.   (Turns out we can’t, andI’m not sure why “we” ever thought we could.)  We thought that, with thirty years of shared history under our belts, we would know each other well enough and love each other deeply enough to be the support system we would each so desperately need.  (Turns out that we had no idea how thin our bond would be stretched by the exhaustion and the stress of our endeavor, and that in its current emaciated state it couldn’t withstand an attack by an angry gnat.)

And tonight I’m sad and incredibly tired and…lonely.  I’ve had one friend I could count on for more than half my life.  And right now, we just don’t seem to like each other very much.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The One Senior I'd Like to See on Tuesday

As I prowled the dining room last night looking for tables to bus and patrons to schmooze, I accepted the lavish compliments of the old folks.  Tuesday is Senior Night, and they love my meat loaf.  They say it’s the best they’ve ever had at a restaurant.  Who knew a humble concoction of ground meat and secret ingredients could be such a hit? 

I smiled to myself.   Who knew, indeed?  In spite of all my thirty-five years of restaurant experience, my food tends more toward the homemade than the institutional.  The forms and flavors run to rustic and comfortable, rather than edgy and haute cuisine.  As I swiped a damp towel across a table peppered with the particulate remains of a satisfied patron’s feast, I suddenly thought about my Dad.  I thought how strange it was that, though I hadn’t learned to cook, as my sisters did, as an apprentice at Dad’s elbow in our family kitchen, the food upon which my café is building its reputation is very much from the tradition of that kitchen.  Simple, rib-sticking fare, jazzed up just enough to make it interesting. 

What I wouldn’t give to have Dad sitting at one of my tables, tucking a napkin into his shirt front and digging into my meat loaf or homemade lasagna.  He’d be 89 this year…but I’m convinced that if he were still with us, that’s exactly what he’d be doing on some Tuesday night.

I wondered, my eyes welling with stupid, out-of-the-blue tears, what he would think of my little place.  I think he would have gotten a kick out of it.  I think he would be proud.  He had this way of secretly beaming when one of us did well.  He was not a man given to effusive praise or outpouring of emotion.  But if you caught him when he didn’t know you were looking, you would see the pride and the praise in his eyes.  You could read it in the set of his tiny, satisfied smile. 

It was only after he died, I think, that I realized I lived for that smile.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Today the city of Scappoose held its annual festival. Which bring the entire community to the blocks right outside the door of my café.

But what we learned from enduring the past two years' Sauerkraut Festivals is this:

Yes, the entire city parties right outside the doors…but they bring their own food.

So, this year, we decided to just…be open. And let the citizens of our fair town feel obligated to buy a cup of coffee so that they can use our bathrooms. Sigh!

Business being what it was, husband and I had the opportunity to "do" the festival. Which took all of about ten minutes. We did, however, come up with one incredible find.

An original oil painting, entered into the fine art contest at the library: 

Look familiar?

Probably not.

Hint: The painting is titled "Café in the Heat of the Day."

My café. On the right. Tables on the sidewalk and all.

Very cool.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


A lady came in for a coffee this morning, carrying one of those little mini-animal carriers made out of cute print fabric with little doggies on it.  I assumed she was carrying a…little doggie.  Some kind of purse dog, like an itty-bitty Chihuahua or whatnot…you know, the ones that cost $100 an ounce.

It crossed my mind to tell her she could not have an animal in the restaurant, but she seemed inclined to leave it in its little crate, and I didn’t think it was hurting anyone, as long as she didn’t take it out and let it run around. 

Eventually, I became overwhelmed with curiosity, so I walked up and asked, “Who do we have in here?”

She looked at me kind of sheepishly, “It’s my rat.”

Yep.  A rat.  It was, in fact, a “rex” rat—like as in it had steely grey, curly fur.  Like a “rex” cat.

It was a really cute rat.  But it was a rat.  Lady got her coffee, zipped up her rat carrier and went on her way…

A short time later, a girl walked up to the counter and asked, “Do you eat snake?”

“Uh, what?”

“Snake.  Do you eat snake?”

“Noooo…can’t say as I ever have.  Why?”

“Well I have some great pieces out here.  Really cheap.  About three dollars a pound…”

“Um…  No thanks.”

“Okay!”  And she turned around with a big smile on her face and went her merry way.

No shit.  A door-to-door snake-meat salesperson.  I guess.

I thought the full moon was next weekend…