Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
My partners and I bought a brewery. We renovated the dining room and kitchen, moved our current restaurant into it with plans to open the brewing operation soon. We sold our old building with eyes set on future plans to move our banquet venue here onto our new premises and eventually re-open my craft bar here as well.
Then Covid happened…
We all hid here, after months of hard work, eager and anxious for the glorious release to yell SURPRISE, but the party never happened. The decorations faded and fell. We stayed in the dark, too scared to go outside. Just us, our empty dreams, meandering through a giant dark building, a building that had long forgotten the sound of laughter and the feeling of warmth that it was promised.
After sulking for a while, we decided to make the best of what life had served us. We used the extra time during the quarantine to finish all of the little things that we never seemed to have time to do at our previous location. I focused on décor. I painted and stained and varnished. I tackled the new need for extra safety measure with enthusiasm. I found unique and exciting ways to meet Covid head on. And as we moved forward, our venue actually beamed with the improvements. Old doors installed between tables to protect customers from their neighbors added an extra feeling of intimacy and privacy that the dining room was missing before. Hand sanitizer dispensers and catchy signs reminding customers to be safe added an extra feeling of purity and kindness that was missing in such a commercial space. All in all we were making improvements in every direction. I felt like I had a purpose. I enjoyed being busy, and even more I enjoyed being busy doing something that was important, not just to me but for every person that would eventually grace our door here. Soon Covid rested, and we opened the doors. While there was not a giant party, the buzz was back and I felt happy.…
The buzz… let me explain. If for no other reason than to allow me a precious moment to rest in its memory.
There is a feeling and a sound of a working restaurant. If you aren’t used to it, it can, in the words of my mother, scramble your brain. It is a constant rumble of a commercial hood vent. The clanking of metal on metal. The spray of the dishwasher. Falling ice that crashes from ice makers. The roll of hot grease when it meets cold food. The click of the soda machine. The phone ringing. Broken dishes. The whirl of mixers, blenders, slicers. Slamming cooler doors. Knives rattling on plastic boards. Loud music. The infamous scream of a kitchen printer. Cooks yelling back and forth as they play the team sport that is kitchen life. The echo of laughter. The hum of conversation.
Sound simmers constantly.
Even the most trained ears can need a break from this occasionally. Picture the disheveled cook, sitting on a bucket in the alley behind the kitchen. Cigarette lit between fingers. Eyes closed. Soaking in a few minutes of rest, not just for the body, but for the mind. Tom once commented on how hard it can be to ride home from work with me. I don’t talk. And I don’t really like any sound at all. Some nights I get home, head straight to the bathroom, I strip off the smell of food and grease, and I settle into hot water. I let my ears fall below the surface, and I breathe in the quiet. That is how I recharge. That is my medicine. Complete and total silence.
At the beginning of this move I could feel the energy pulsing through me. I was fueled by excitement to get my new ship in the water. I was buzzing. But we didn’t even make it out of the harbor before I had to return her to the dock.
After a spike in Covid cases in our county we’ve made the decision to once again close the doors to the outside world. We’re back to serving take-out only here. Yes, the kitchen is still running. Food is still being served in boxes and brown bags. But the buzz is missing, and this time my stresses outweigh my reward. I had already brought our cooks back from unemployment once, so I’m trying to keep as many as possible on staff right now. That really isn’t financially ideal, but I’m trying to focus on the long game, because as depressed as I feel in this moment, I’ve got to remain optimistic. I know there will be a tomorrow. I know our tomorrow will be good. But today… today I’m left sifting through saw dust covered boxes of my art bar, a dream that didn’t pan out and never will. The price tag is too high to get the room that I had hoped to use for the new bar up to current code. The return on a business like that wouldn’t cover the cost of creating it. And so, here I sit surrounded by boxes of arts and crafts tools and materials that I’ll probably never use again. I don’t know where to store them, and I don’t quite have the heart yet to get rid of them. When that gets too painful, I move over to catering and banquet space items… again…. things that have no current use… and at the pace of Covid and people’s attitudes toward precautionary measures, combined with the cost that will be required of us to get our banquet room up to code, I fear it will be a long time before that room is ready to host people too.
The restaurant is quiet again. The silence has returned stronger than before.… Covid has taken the buzz from me once again, and my healing has now become part of what ails me. The silence, compounded I’m sure by the recent passing of my father, is now deafening. The quiet is crushing me. I’m obsessing over the fix I need, one more week of noise followed by that release of silence. I want to feel that reward.
Every job is a combination of parts you don’t like mixed with parts you do. If you only choose a job based on the parts you like then you’ll never find the right job for you. Why? Because a job free of difficulties is not actual work. That’s fun, and that you pay admission for. Jobs mostly suck. There’s always something you’d rather be doing than work, and that is precisely why you get paid to do it. Our challenge is to find the bad stuff that we can most easily endure. This, in a nutshell, is exactly what guidance counselors should be telling young people. Find the work you hate the least. For me, it’s this restaurant world. I can handle the hours, I can handle the reviews, I can even stomach the employee drama that for some reason resonates in the restaurant world. I can handle the heat. I can handle the noise…. But I cannot handle the silence. I did not sign up for silence. Cake is good, but if all you ever give me is cake I will no longer want it. I want to want the silence. And so, I need the noise. I need the perspective the bad parts provide to truly feel balance. Without it, I’m lost. I don’t know how to operate in this new formula, but I’m not ready to give up yet. As I’ve always waded through the sound, I will wade through this silence. I will somehow someway stay the course. Because as I always preach the importance of perspective, I must now consider my own advice here and see the possibility that I’m just being dealt a dosage of perspective I’ve never experienced before. In that case, the reward that will follow promises to be equally outstanding.
So, today, I choose hope.
I choose to believe that tomorrow will be better.
I choose to accept this quiet now.
But be warned.
I’m coming out of this more determined and more ready for my future.
Bring me the noise, and I will revel in it.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.