Day four: August 9, 2005
I’m not sure I know exactly how this day has changed my life, but I know it did. I was working my night-job, as I did 6 nights a week. (Because of working 2 jobs, 75-hours a week, the entire summer, I had 3 days off. Tuesdays were never days off, but some Tuesday nights I had off...this wasn't one of them.) Per usual, I had the closing shift at the restaurant. However, it wasn't a busy night, so there wasn't anyone in the dining room when we stopped seating at 9 o'clock, so I could get my cleaning done and be out of there by 9:30...kind of. I had the dining room clean and was punched out at 9:40, but when I went to the bar to say goodbye to Craig, the owner, he started talking and just said, "sit down; have a drink with me." So I did. He started talking and telling me about his life. He led a fascinating life that led him to own a restaurant. He went to law school because he was a huge nerd and loved to study and it made sense to him as a scholar. He loved law school but hated being a lawyer. So he only did that for a few years, but kept up (and still keeps up) his license. He then went into the world of finance and stocks and whatnot, and somehow did quite well for himself.
After 15 years of that, he decided on a whim, "I want to own a restaurant." So he managed to convince his wife of that and, boom, they owned a restaurant. Her family's Sicilian recipes, his management skills, a loan, and there you go: Italian restaurant on Cape Cod. But on this particular night, Craig was asking me all about my life and my music. He was trying to convince me to work for him full-time and give up music school. He knew it was a futile attempt, but he wanted to plant some seeds and ideas in my head about life and how to go about things. He told me about challenges he's faced and said that when he goes to reunions, if someone says that they have a life of "no problems at all," he thinks "how sad." To Craig, life isn't worth living unless there is some sort of conflict or adversity to overcome.
I guess that is something that has changed the way I look at things and helped fuel my desire to be uncomfortable in my own music and learning. I want to have problems so I can get out of them and grow. But I digress.
I knew the restaurant was in financial troubles, but I never said anything about it. Craig looked at me, knowing I knew, though, and with a fire and passion oozing from him, told me that "No matter what anyone says, I'm going to make this work. I will do everything in my power to be a success in whatever I do, and this is no different." Much like Mark, who 13 months earlier, sat and ate dinner with me on my last night working for him and said "I'm telling you my life story so you don't make the same mistakes I did," Craig had decided to take me under his wing and give me mentor-like advice on how to live life. He told me that, regardless of what people told me about my passions and my music, to keep doing it...to do whatever I could to make it work and be happy with it, but the first time I realize I'm unhappy, get out, and don't let someone make me second-guess myself. That if I become unhappy, it isn't jumping ship, it's being honest with myself.
He then repeated that he was going to do whatever it took to keep the place open. Less than a week later, the restaurant closed. It was that Saturday. I go in, and the head waitress looks at me. “Wow...didn't think you'd show up today." she thought I wouldn't be there because I had to call in the day before because I couldn't walk. (I had some scar tissue floating around in my knee that got into a bad place that made me swell up and not be able to walk. It still happens every now and then.) I looked at her and said, "I wouldn't miss my last day!" She looked at me, her face dropped, and she somberly said, "it's all of our last day." They'd decided the night before that they didn't have enough money to keep the place open through the weekend.
The last day was a great night. It was bitter-sweet. We were so busy that the bar ran out of glasses. Craig was drinking a gin and tonic out of a mason jar. I couldn't bear to leave. I stayed until almost midnight, despite the fact that I was going off-cape right from work and wouldn't get to where I was going until 2 in the morning because of how late I stayed. Craig came up to me before I left. As I was standing there, at the kitchen door about to hop into my car, we stopped and shook hands. We had an intense silence, and then we hugged. A large, sweaty embrace. We had both been running around like maniacs -- him acting all happy, me getting things closed and running glassware between the bar and the kitchen -- and also serving alcoholic beverage one-after-another to Ginny, Craig's wife and 51% owner of the business. (She didn't like me at the start of the summer, but I quickly won her over and was one of 4 people on staff she actually liked...) After we hugged, he looked at me, with either a tear or a bead of sweat streaming down from his eye. (Hard to tell, but if it wasn't a tear, he was definitely fighting off tears.) He looked at me and said, "I meant EVERY word I said to you the other night. Don't forget any of it." I looked and said, in a mild whisper, "I know. And I won't."
We had a party the next week of all the employees who were on staff the night the place closed -- minus a few who couldn't make it. While Craig and I had no notable interactions that night beyond the fun personal interactions that we all had, as friends not co-workers, the notable experience of that night was the Chef's last words. As Rob left, he looks at us and goes, "Drive fast, take chances." and left.
So I guess there you have it -- the four days that have changed my life.
I know it is slightly oversimplified and juvenile to narrow down life to four acute experiences, and I always feel silly when I place such superlative labels on anything so finite, but it seems accurate in many ways. I'd like to think that looking at these four small pictures has helped me look at the big picture in a new, better light.
And since I can't seem to find a closing fitting for the content, I'm just going to end with a quotation from a show I once liked, but it got worse as it became more popular, "Judging Amy."
"Never wear fire for a hat... I haven't any idea what it means. I read it in a bathroom stall once and it stuck with me."