Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thanks Lilli!

I was sent a link to this in my email. It seems that Nevada and Lilli brought their family in on Memorial Day.

I appriciate the awesome pictures and the great comments.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A real learning experience

It was 21 years ago today. Jake's Diner had opened up earlier in February. Prior to that, it was a small 55 seat restaurant without a real name and refered to as Jake's Truck Stop Restaurant. Our new diner had 95 seats on the main floor and we had just finished off and additional 32 in our new back room.

Judy was in Australia with Carrie and a very young Trinity and I was doing my best to spend as much time as I could with Casey attempting to use this time away from the girls as a real bonding time with the eight yr old.

Sunday and Monday were my days off and I had planned a day of fun with Casey including some hikes and exploring down by Sawyer park. The day was cloudy and rainy (typical Memorial Day weather). Casey and I were down at the end of Division street marveling at the spray thrown up where the irrigation ditches were diverted off when my beeper went off. I thought of not calling back. After all, it was my day off. But Kim and Dale (Truck Stop GM and assistant) had taken the day off also so my sense of responsibility got the best of me. When I called, the stressed out person at the other end of the line, yelled "Get down here quick! We need help!". I figured they just had a little rush that they were having problems with so I told Casey that we would have to go down to the diner for an hour or two.

I arrived at the diner to find a parking lot that was full. On the floor was two waitresses and a waitress trainee who was handling the counter. With no controls at the door and a new set up section in the back, people had just streamed in and sat where they could. One of the waitresses looked up and saw me and ran over. "We only have one cook!", she yelled. "You need to help her!". With that, she turned around and dove back into the crowd on the floor.

I put Casey at the break table and stepped into the kitchen One dishwasher was on doing the best he could to stay up with the stack of dishes in front of him and the young cook, Laurie, was doing her best to stay up with the huge line of tickets in front of her. "Take over the eggs and fryer!", she barked. "I have no idea what I am doing.", I returned honestly. She stopped for a second and gave me one of those deer caught up in headlights look. Collecting herself just a little, she told me to start by making up biscuits and gravy. Now that was easy, just split open the biscuits, heat them up a little, and cover them with gravy. I knew that the Biscuits and toast was about the size of what I was going to be able to help her with and never even reading a ticket before (I had never needed to), I quickly learned how to read waitress short hand and began setting out plates based upon what I felt I was reading.

Laurie did her best to put out as much as she could but my stack of biscuits and gravy soon became cold on the pass bar as did most of the toast and I found myself dumping old plates of the food that I had placed up too soon. I could see the chaos on the floor with people sitting at dirty tables and other diners just giving up and leaving. Our mantra became "We are just doing the best we can.", as there was no one to call in to help since our crew was still rather small and most of who that was off were out doing something on Memorial day. We knew that we were it and that we had to do the best that we could alone.

Customer after customer just got up and left. Some angry and others just shaking their heads. In the kitchen, I had figured out a couple more things and had managed to find out what had happened to the other cook. He could not read! The other cooks had covered up his inability by calling out the orders to him but this morning with the orders coming in too fast, Laurie (a young cook herself) just did not have the time to call out to him. In a panic, he just walked out the door.

I learned allot that day. About restaurant organization and preparation. I learned new phases like "puppy dogging" as the frazzled waitresses stood at the window staring at us as if their stares could make the food come out quicker. They were afraid to look back at the customers who were staring at them, wondering where their food was. I learned that seating people was no good if you couldn't serve them. People will wait much more patient at the door than they will in the seat. I learned that we needed to staff much more on holidays. I learned that if the weather is bad on a holiday, that the diner business would be more strong. And I learned that I needed to hire more cooks and more importantly to learn how to cook myself which was something that I had learned years ago was not really my strong point. I remembered back to an earlier time in the old restaurant when I noticed that we were short on gravy. I asked Carl (we only had one cook on line) how to make the gravy and he gave me the short lesson on making rue for the base while trying to keep up with his tickets. I struggled to do exactly as Carl had instructed but when I showed him my pan of pathetic flour and oil mixture, Carl stopped what he was doing, took the pan out of my hand, and just said plainly, "Get the hell out of my kitchen.". I was smart enough to know that his demand was probably the best thing for me to do at the time.

Hours late and after dumping more food than we actually served, the flood of diners subsided and I stepped out on to the floor to find a young Casey sleeping in his chair over in the corner at the break table. He had not raised a complaint the entire time he was there and had ended up falling asleep from the boredom.

It was the very worst day that I have ever spent in the diner and for that matter in any job that I have ever held. But I attempted to learn from the experience. I had doors installed in front of the back room to block the room from diners views when it was not in use. I hired and trained more help. Waitstaff, cooks, dishwashers, bussers and cashiers were going to be needed if we were to handle the possible busy summer months ahead of us. I was determined not to be caught like that again.

What I learned on that one day was more than any class that could be taught in any school or training session. It was truly the school of hard knocks.

I thought of that day as I awoke this morning and looked out at threatening skies on this Memorial day 21 years later. But today, I will walk into a diner with a full staff. Five waitresses, two bussers, one greeter, one cashier, three line cooks, two prep cooks, three dishwashers, Judy, and myself will be ready for the day. And it is the start of another very busy week. Tuesday, we have a ribbon cutting for the new floor, Thursday is my yearly physical, Friday, Trin and I will fly to Portland and then drive back down with some of her stuff, and then Saturday, Judy and I will be back in Portland and featured on a regional food radio show called Dining out in the Northwest.

It is Memorial Day and I will remember. I will remember all of the fallen who gave their lives so that I might live like I do right now. I will remember the families who lost those who had sacrificed. I will remember that war is something that none of us want to see or experience. And I will remember that day. My day in Hell, 21 years ago.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The legend lives

A few weeks back, Carrie gave me a call and asked me if I was interested in sponsoring a team in this years kids Pole Peddle Paddle. Now, I would do just about anything for my kids and especially my grandson and I said, "Sure".
Carrie put the team together with Jay's help and Jay came up with the name, "Legend of Super Chicken Samurai". I had TShirts made up thanks to my friend, Roger at Flash Ink.
The team got together and drew names to see who would do what and Jay ended up with the bike ride. We checked out his bike, aired up the tires, and he practiced riding around the neighborhood.
Judy left work with Trinity and I was not far behind after seeing that the rush was just about over right after noon. I met up with Judy at the foot bridge and we began waiting for the teams heat. Reese had told me after the soccer game on Saturday that it was real important that I be at the awards ceremonies after the race because the team was going to say something real special.
It was finally time for their heat and I watched as the six rafts came around the turn in the river. I could see that they were way behind the other rafts and wondered what was going on since I knew that all of these boys were competitors. As the raft approached the bridge, I could see that they were not really having much fun and wondered why. We quickly moved over to the bike race area and witnessed Jay catch up to the team in front of them but most all of the teams had already had one of its laps before our boys had even gotten out of the river. The two last teams went back and forth through the rest of the race with Reese passing them up for good in his part of the obstacle course.
As we walked over to the awards stand, I discovered why they were so down on the rafts. When the horn had sounded, half of the team was still on the bank. The other teams were quite a ways down the river before they were even able to get going. I knew that their was nothing that could be done but I took it upon myself to at least say something to the PPP official before the awards. She was very gracious and when the final tally came out, she motioned for me to come up to the stage. She had discussed it with the powers that be and they wanted to apologise but to let us know that they could not see anything that they could do. I thanked them for at least listening and that maybe it might help out in the future in their planning.
Although we sponsored the team, I did not realize that we were part of the name until the Jake's Diner Legend of Super Chicken was announced. Some of the parents yelled out, "Legend of the Super Chicken Samurai" and after being corrected by the boys, the announcer finally announced them as the Jake's Diner Legend of Super Chicken Samurai. The boys all lined up and at the cue, yelled out, "Eat at Jake's". This was my big surprise. I greatly appreciated it but at the same time wondered how many parents probably looked at it as just self promotion. I took it for what it was meant for from the boys and was very happy and grateful.
We invited the boys over to the diner for some hot fudge brownies and when Jay and Parker arrived, they were carrying a big container of red licorice. It seemed that the team had won some special award and this was their prize. I wondered just how much that official had been involved in that one and was very happy for it happening as it definitely helped soften their disappointment and mine since I could see the smiles in all of the faces. We all shared the hot fudge brownies and red licorice and a couple of the boys even gave a piece to Buck the deer who is in our entry area. When you come in, you will see the piece sticking out of the deers mouth.
The boys all had a great time eating and watching the old cartoons on the TV. Today in the paper, I saw an article on a group of girls who had been in the race since the mid nineties. I hope that the legend will live on and that these boys will remain friends and competitors way into the future. And thank you boys for the great honor that you gave us up on the stage. "Go Super Chicken!".

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jake's Diner Spiders

The soccer team had their last game yesterday. They started up the season so well, winning their first three games and only giving up one point. But, then they placed them up against not one but two traveling teams. They were soundly beat twice and came into their last game without the confidence that they had shown in the first three games.

Jay was in the box in the first half and by the time I arrived had already let one by. Shortly thereafter, another one got by him and we were down by two goals. The coach put Reese up front to help us with the scoring and with Jayden blocking shot after shot and Reese coming through with two goals, we were tied by half time and at least the parents were confident in us coming through in the second half. Jay and Reese both had quite a few shots on goal but we just could not get anything in.

In the last video that I shot, Jay was up against four defenders and the goalie. He shot over the goalie and bounced off of the inside of the goal. Now, by my knowledge of the rules, if the front of the ball passes the plain then it is a goal. I shouted out, "That's a Goal!". Storming up the sidelines, I pleaded my case with my daughter and wife. A couple of parents along the sidelines asked me why it was such a big deal. "Because it bounced off the inside of the goal. That means the ball passed the plain and it should be a goal!". I then realized just how crazy I probably looked. I walked over to them and said, "Don't mind me. He is my grandson and I am just a crazed overprotective grandfather.". They all laughed and one of them said, "He is lucky to have you.". Now that was just exactly the ego builder that this grandpa needed and I proudly walked back to my grandpa coaching spot and assumed my position. Meanwhile, the other team had taken the ball down the field right after the missed shot and got their own goal. 3-2.

With the ball out just next to me, Jay went to throw it in. "You can do it, buddy.", I told him. " I know Papa.", he said. This seemed to charge him up and he threw the ball into Reese. Running towards the goal, Reese passed it up to Jay. Jay faked the goalie into thinking he was kicking left and popped it over into the right side of the goal. "Yes!", I screamed until I heard the whistle. "Offsides!", yelled the ref. I looked down the sidelines and those same parents asked me if it was. Yes, I nodded my head. The other team took the ball down the field just the same as they had before and it was soon 4-2. Just as quickly, it was 5-2 and we were hurting.

But Jay, Reese, and the Spiders did not give up. Jay broke away down the middle of the field. Seeing Reese in front, he popped it over his head and Reese promptly nailed the goal. 5-3. Almost immediately, Jay stole the ball again and broke down the right side of the field. Breaking away from the defenders, only the goalie was in front of him. Seeing the goalie come out, he calmly popped it over his head and into the goal. 5-4.

But time just wasn't on our side and a minute or so later, the final whistle sounded and the Spiders season was over. As I walked off of the field, I was still ranting that Jays goal should have stood and the score would be different. We all met at the diner for a little celebration and for the coach to give out his awards. I really appreciated the coach this year. He was extremely positive and encouraging. When placed against the traveling teams, he coached the team to keep their head up and just play fairly and smartly.

I noticed that Jay had placed a sign at the front of the diner directing the kids to the deck area. It was truely a Jayden sign.

I took the coach to the side and told him how much I had appreciated his positive attitude and then took the opportunity to plead my case with him on the goal. "Lyle, you are wrong.", he corrected. " The complete ball has to cross the plain.". I promptly thanked him and immediately stopped my rant.

The boys all chowed down on cheese sandwiches, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, and fries. And me, well I just ate a little crow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sunday Morning going down (Mothers Day Pt3)

Well I woke up Sunday Morning
With a dream that's in my head that wouldn't stop
That the mugs I'd bought for moms
Had got mixed up and they were handing out the pops
So I crawled over to my closet
Dug around and found my best Hawaiian shirt
And I brushed my teeth and combed my hair
And stumbled down the stairs to meet the day

I had racked my brain the night before
To attempt to solve the problems of the day
Cause this Sunday was different
It was special, it was Mothers Day
As I rolled up to the diner
I caught that sweet sweet smell
of someone frying bacon
I went through the door, threw off my coat
And dove into the problems of the day

For it's Sunday at the diner
But it's not like other days
We are closing this one early
To prepare a brunch for Mothers Day
But morning sales come first this Sunday
And theres nothing like this sound
It's the sound of people eating
It's Sunday morning going down

I just love Kristofferson. And I am sorry if butchered up his Lyrics a little.

I awoke Sunday morning to the phone ringing. Ricci was calling. "Aren't we suppose to be handing out mugs for Mothers Day?", she asked. "That's a no brainer.", I quipped, "Why do they think I brought them out for?". "They seem to think that they are for your brunch this afternoon.", she said. "I've got mugs put aside for that already. Please start handing them out immediately.", I ordered. It was our second Mothers Day of handing out mugs and the crew was the same as last year so I just thought that they would figure to do the same. That is what I get for thinking.

After a shower, I dug around my closet to find one of my more pretty shirts. I wanted one that the Mothers would like. Judy said the yellow one looked good so I pulled that one on. Judy was staying behind to pack her bags for her trip up the afternoon to Portland to spend the rest of Mothers Day with Trinity. I was happy she was doing it as I knew that it would help her with the blues of Casey leaving. I didn't expect to have her at the diner at all that morning.

Arriving early, I found the diner full and not all the serving staff. Fortunately, a couple of the bussers had come in early, so I quickly gave them assignments and had them come on the clock. It was not even 8:30 and we already had a line. I called in Toni to get the back room going and stepped into the main dining room. With a quick sweep of the floor, I observed what every restaurateur hopes for. Happy faces, laughter, and that sweet sweet sound of clinking silverware. I grabbed up a hand full of cups and looked for Mothers that might not have their special mug of the day.

At one table, I handed out a couple and then was told that they needed one more. The mother looked so young that I thought she almost needed a kids menu but she assured me that she was of drinking age. I apologised and went on to the next. "Are you a mother?", I asked. "I am the mother of my dogs.", she giggled. "That is good enough for me.", I quipped and gave her a mug.

Toni arrived and with a full crew, I opened up the back room and reduced the line that was now out the door into the parking lot. Large group after large group rolled in and it became quite a puzzle to fit them in. Meanwhile, I kept me ear out for the dings in the kitchen that meant that the waitresses were not picking up their food. upon hearing one, I stepped into the waitress station with the pass bar crammed full of food and tickets up for nearly every waitress there. I began lining up the food and barking out to get their food out to the diners. This is the station that my wife usually mans and the girls don't always like me there because I am a little more demonstrative than she.

As I took out one of the girls orders, I took note that there were vacant tables and knew that I needed to help the our youngest member who was manning the greet station. "Will you take out two milks to my corner booth?", Ricci asked, "And I need a coffee run. Can you handle that one also." "No, I cant.", I returned calmly, "You are on your own today, kid.".

Heading to the greet station, I found a somewhat confused Catrina. I looked at her list and told her that she needed to seat Bob for two. She said, "I cant find them.". "Go through the people that are inside first and then the ones in the foyer. If you cant find them there, check the parking lot.". I watched her as she walked right past Bob twice. Her voice was so quite that no one could hear her.
As she walked outside, I got Bob seated and gave him his menus and then returned to the even more confused Catrina. "You need to speak up.", I told her. "Now, lets find the Browns for six.". I think the only way the Browns knew that they were up was from hearing me talk to her as her soft voice could still not be heard. After seating them and returning, I asked her if she was angry with one of her sisters, did she ever raise her voice. "Well", she said, "Not my sisters but I do get angry with my Brother and yell at him.". "OK, that is the same volume that I want you to use but with a happy tone of voice. Do you think you can do that?", I asked. "Sure" was the reply and immediately, people began to hear her.

I then took note that the line at the cashier was longer than expected and realized that there was no cashier there. She had ducked out probably asking a waitress to cover her for a second and the waitress got busy so I jumped in and began ringing up sales. There are certain wait times in a dining experience that if you can reduce will make the experience better thus making a happier diner. The first is getting seated. Then getting greeted. Then getting their order. Then getting their food. Then getting their ticket. And sometimes the most important is getting their bill paid so they can leave. The cashier showed back up so I was able to break away to help out in other places as needed.

Walking through the waitress area, I heard a couple of the waitresses calling out toast that they needed. Looking into the kitchen, I noted that that particular cook was quite busy with his grill so I quickly dropped the items called for into the toaster and went on with my rounds.

I was elated when Judy showed up to help for a couple of hours before her flight and left the waitress area knowing that I would not have to worry about the food getting out for a while. I knew that the waitresses would be happy also. I think every one of them had asked me if she was coming in. Either they missed her or they were tired of my barking out orders.....maybe both.

There are usually three rushes on a Sunday. The first breakfast rush, the first service rush around 10:30, and the second service rush around noon. Those last two coinciding with the ending of church services. Today, they all blended in together. Large party after large party seemed to change the dynamics of the room making it almost a living breathing entity of its own. With the line very long, people began to ask how long they were going to have to wait. I would tell them that I had no idea but everything was moving pretty fast. In the most intense part of the morning, this wasn't fast enough for some of them and I lost quite a few groups during that time. I wondered if they would be able to find a restaurant in town that didn't have a line today.

Close to noon, Jimmy came in to begin preparing for the People to People brunch that afternoon. We were talking about what was needed when a young lady walked in the front door and asked if we had room for a party of 20. The line had worked its way down considerably and I took a quick assessment of the floor. There were two tables sitting side by side in the back of the middle section. With a small table between them that would sit 10. I looked at the two fold outs to each side of them and took note that they were close to finishing. The two foldouts could fit five each so I said, "yes, we can handle 20.". Normally about this time, the back room starts to slow down and we shut it down and get ready to have the bussers clean it up but with the large party in the front and more large groups coming in, the back room remained packed. The party of 20 grew even more and before long took up half of the main dining room.

Carrie and Jay showed up and took Judy out to lunch somewhere else before she was to take off to Portland so I was back to keeping an eye on the waitress station again. We had brought another cook in at 11 to give the three line cooks a break and the afternoon cook started at 1. So, around one, I was walking through the waitress station and noticed some of the girls waiting on things on their orders. With five cooks on the line and Jimmy off to the side making six, they seemed to be bumping in to one another and instead of speeding up the line had slowed it down. "Come on guys, there are six of you back there, can we get this food out!", I barked. "I need white toast!", one waitress called. "So do I!" called another. "Me too!" yet another. The cook by the toaster looked at me with a helpless type of look. "That's three white toasts.", I said. "And one side!" Fran yelled as she passed through. "and one side of white toast." , I added to the frustrated cook.

I ducked out to the office to get some change for the cashier when someone let me know that the people to people group had arrived. "Tell them they are going to have to wait a little.", I said. Later, another waitress came to me and said that there were kids in her section there to decorate for the brunch. "Ask them to wait outside.", I ordered.

Around 2:30, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The back room was nearly empty and I had the bussers start the clean up with the bathrooms first. As they finished and began cleaning the back room, the people to people crew came right in behind them and began decorating. I placed signs on the front doors and the main floor quickly emptied after the large party had been happily fed. Many of them thanked us as they left the building.

As quickly as they left, we began preparing for the brunch. With two of the swing crews help, Jimmy quickly cleared off the counter areas and began setting up the buffet. We moved all of the counter chairs out to the deck area. A couple of ladies were the only left over diners from the day and as I brought them cups, I told them not to rush as the brunch was over an hour away. They thanked me and relaxed down to finish their meal.

We started training the kids on what they needed to do to serve and I quickly realized that I had forgotten to get cups for the event. We had gone with paper plates and plastic silveware to make the event clean up easier. I rushed down to Costco to get some cups and when I returned, the brunch was in full swing. I walked around from one section to the other looking for any problems to solve but all was going well. So, I grabbed a cleaning towel and wiped down areas like the salad bar that was being well used. I took note that people were using our trays to carry their one plate of salad back to their table so I quickly moved the trays away to save that extra clean up.

I enjoyed talking and teasing the various kids that were working. They all seemed like such a happy group. One young lady in particular, Lacy, told me that she had never had a paying job. She was 18. "Why?", I asked. "I don't think I could hold a job.", she quipped. " I am too lazy.". I marveled at her honesty so I dove in further. "Everyone has to work sooner or later. What do you want to do?". "I don't know", she stated. "Something Artistic but Scientific.". "A scientific artist or a artistic scientist?", I asked. "I don't know", she said, "Either, both, or neither.". I later met her scientific dad and her artistic mom.

With their event winding down, the kids cleaning up, and the people to people crew leaving, I got stuck into helping out my crew with their final clean up. Jay called me up and asked me if I would come over and have a brownie with him at his house. Exhausted, I asked Jimmy if he was OK with closing up and he said sure.

I drove over to Jays house and walked in as my little buddy Carlos and his sister Carmen were leaving. "Hiya Hippie!", greeted Carlos. "Hiya Carlos Santana!", I greeted back. They both grinned and giggled and Carlos came back in when Carrie invited him to look at the pictures that she had done of Jayden when he was the guest of the Blazers. Carlos had a Greg Oden Tshirt on. "Who is that?", he would ask. "Greg Oden.", I would say before Carrie had a chance to tell him who it really was. "And who is that?", he asked again. "Greg Odens brother.", I said. Carlos gave me one of those funny quizzical looks. Carrie assured him that I was just teasing. "Who is that?", Carlos asked of a young man who was sweeping off the floor. "Greg Odens son.", I answered. "Really?" came Carlos's question. "Yup and that is his Mom and Dad right there.". "You are teasing me, Hippie.", came back Carlos.

Jay and I shared a brownie and I headed back to the house. On the way, Nancy from People to People was trying to get a final count on the tickets so I detoured back to the diner and arrived just as they were leaving. A quick count of what we had sold for them and a quick sweep of the building, and I was back on my way home.

I cracked open a beer and began to watch "the Office" on TV. I awoke an hour or so later and drug myself back to bed. Sunday evening was going down.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Saturday Revisted (Mothers Day Weekend Pt2

I woke Jay up around 7 and asked him if he wanted to take a shower. He asked if he could use the one in Nanny and my bathroom so I set him up there. I got ready and dressed for work and then noticed that the shower was still on. Sticking my head in the door, I asked, "You OK, Buddy?". "Do you have any soap, Papa?", came the reply. I showed him where the bar of soap was. "Do I just rub this on my body?", asked Jay. Now, Carrie, dont tell me that you dont use bar soap? After finishing his shower, Jay announced that he an his mom might move over with us as he loved the shower.

On the way to work, Jay asked me if I had some other job than greeting or bussing that he could do. "I cant think of any.", I answered. "Maybe I could work out in the office.", he thought out open. "Doing what?", I asked. "I could work out on the computers.". "What would you do there?". "I could check out Monster Truck dot com.", He giggled. As we walked in the door of the kitchen, one of the cooks, Shelley, asked Jay if he wanted to work with her. Jay gave me those eyes and I said, "Go wash up.".

Later, as I sat down with breakfast, Jay came out of the kitchen with his white apron on and carrying a tray of freshly baked brownies with Shelley in tow. He said he was hungry so one of the line cooks fixed him up some bacon and eggs and we ate breakfast together. "Do you think maybe I could take one of those brownies home?", he asked. "Maybe.", I replied.

Business got brisk and I jumped into the fray. Judy was running late and I had to run between the kitchen and out front. I noticed while setting out the plants on the deck that there were clouds in the sky. I grimiced knowing that the open house was in few hours and I wanted those mountains to be shining out.

With a little slow down in the pace of the sales, I retreated back to my office to do Fridays receipts. A small knock came to the door and there was Jay. "Are you finished?", I asked. "Yes, did I earn my monster trucks?", he asked. "Sounds good to me.", I replied. As he turned on Summers computer, he turned to me and said, "Papa, you would have given them to me anyway.". "How do you know that?", I asked. "Cause you love me.", he plainly stated and went about his surfing on the net. I thought that one over for a second and then said, "If you dont do the work, I shouldnt give you the trucks, right?". "Yup", came the reply. I marveled at how adult that kid thinks at times.

With another rush up front, Judy showed up to help. Carrie showed up to download some pictures that she had shot for a couple of grads and just before one, her and Jay headed out for his soccer game. Shortly thereafter, Judy and I headed that way also. As I walked across the field and looked at the team that they were playing, i knew that they were in trouble. They were obviously up against another traveling team as all of the jerseys had their names on the back. Jays parks and rec soccer team is called the "Jakes Diner Spiders". For a parks and rec team, they are awesome and had won their first three games only allowing one score against them. Then, in the fourth week, they were placed against a traveling team and got killed. Now, they would face another. I think that is so unfair. Traveling teams should play traveling teams. Park and Rec teams should not be fodder for them. It just demoralizes the park and rec teams. Towards the end of the game, the coach put Jay and Reese back on defense and that slowed them a little but they still managed to score a couple more. I think I need to call the park and rec guys and see if that can be changed.

After the game, Judy and I drove over to see Tarris. The clouds had almost completely socked in the mountains so needless to say the showing did not go well and we still had no offers. We talked a little about how the house was in the middle of the bussiest section of the market right now that had the most houses to choose from. We brainstormed a few ideas outside the box. In this market today, you must be thinking of all of the angles. I will be making up a banner to put on the fence that will talk of the outstanding mountain views and placing a wanted sign up at Jakes and other bulletin boards in town offering a $5000 reward for finding someone who will buy the house at listed price and a $1000 reward for just finding a buyer. This is something that I can do but the broker can not.

I dropped Judy off at the diner and dug out all of the coffee mugs for the give away on Mothers day. I then drove out to my Moms house and set up a record player for her (I also gave her a hug and told her that I would not see her the next day as I knew that it would be a big one). I then drove over to where Jessica had left her truck to get a PS2 out of the back of it for Trinity, stopped by Walmart to get an even stronger hook, stopped by the diner and visited with Carrie who had brought in Reese and Carlos along with Jay for dinner. Carlos had seen a picture of me when Carrie was a baby. My beard and hair were both very long. "Hiya Hippy!", he greeted me with that big Carlos grin. Carlos lives in front of Carrie and is a great young man.

Arriving back at the house (once again after dark), I finally got the fountain up on the wall. I turned it on but the water did not come out. Playing with the pump, I ended up breaking it so I jumped in the car and went out and got a new pump. After hooking it up, I found that it still didnt work and realized that the line was clogged. An hour later, I had it up and running and back in place. Judy came out to see it and said, 'Sorry, sweetheart, but I think I need it higher. Just about that time, the water line broke off of the back and the water started pouring down the wall. I unplugged it and took it back down off of the wall. Looking at the hook that was so hard to place, I shrugged my shoulders and called it a night. By now, it was after 10 again.

Mothers Day Weekend

My weekend actually started days before but by Friday, I was rolling strong. After solving a few small problems, Judy and I jumped into the car and drove to Lowes to buy some of the hanging flower plants that they had on sale for $10 to put around the deck. The weather man had predicted a warm weekend and we figured that it would have its first good use of the year.

Tarris called to let us know that he was having an open house in the old house on Saturday and I thought that was great. With the weather nice and the mountains out, the house should present itself well. "We are going to sell this weekend.", I boldly stated.

As I drove, I called the post office. I still had not received any mail in my new house. It had just stopped a week or so before for no apparent reason. I had called on Wednesday and they had promised a call back on Thursday that had not happened. The uncaring government employee on the other side of the line said that he would put in another incident report and when I asked him about the first, just said that it was being worked on. I mumbled under my breath, "Is this really what this country really wants, more government which means more uncaring government employees.". I asked for a supervisor and was placed on hold for what seemed like days.

While on hold, Judy and I walked into Lowes and could not find the sale plants. I went to the register to ask about them. The register had a tarp over it to help block the sun and thus make it easier for the cashier to ring up the sale. The cashier, who was full inside her handmade tent, peeked out and told me that they were out of those plants. I found some girls putting out new items and asked them. "They are on the truck that we are working on right now. Come back in a couple of hours and we will have them for you." We walked back out past the tent lady who took no notice of us. I took note, however, that all she could of seen of us was the lower part of our bodies since that was all I could see of hers. I could have had my arms full of stuff and she would have never noticed.

By the time that I arrived back at the car, the supervisor had been found and I was off of hold. In the same uncaring tone, he told me that the only thing that he could do was put in another incident report. "How can I check on the first?". I asked. "You can't.", He returned. "And you don't care!", I challenged. A silence went out on the line. Finally he said that he could give me the number of the local Post Office to try and follow up myself.

I wrote down the number and dialed as we drove back to the diner for some lunch and a meeting with the People to People girls who were putting on a lunch buffet for Sunday. They had called me on Thursday to let me know that they had sold over 80 tickets for the event. I asked for the meeting knowing that we had needed to be better prepared to handle the event. After all, I only have around 130 seats in the entire restaurant. In the back of my mind, I was formulating how we could handle all of the people along with our normal customers. I had a plan B which was to just shut down the diner for the evening. After all, Sunday evening is the quietest with us closing normally at 7PM.

As I pulled into the diner lot, I finally got a person on the line only to be informed that they were not the ones responsible for delivery in my area. They were gracious, however, and gave me the number of the ones responsible. A quick call to them did not answer the question though. At first, they could not even find my address on their data base. Fortunately, my street is only a block or so long and they were able to at least find the man responsible for the area. They informed me that I should have my mail in my box that day.

I was informed by Lana, our cashier on the way in the door, that we had sold nearly all of the tickets for Sundays event that we had. I then began to wonder just how many tickets were out.

After a very quick lunch with Judy, Nancy from P2P arrived and let me know that the count was nearing a hundred. "We only have four tickets left here.", I told her. She seemed shocked so I asked her how many tickets she had made all together and she thought that there were around 130 out there. "We might want to stop selling them.", I informed her, since we are fast going beyond the capacity of the diner. I knew plan B was our only option now. We decided to close the diner at 3PM. Since the usual Sunday base slowed down by 2, they were going to begin coming in around that time to start decorating for the event.

Judy and I then jumped in the car and drove back up to Lowes. We walked by tent lady and over to the crew that was still putting out new product. When asked about the sale product, they informed me that what was left was on the end of an isle. I wondered just how many had been put out as I found only three of the plants remained. "I guess we will have to make up our own.". I said to Judy. "And just when to you intend to find time for that.", she coyly announced. Judy has the patience of Job. Between me working in the diner, handling paperwork, working on future projects, talking on the phone, and all the other things that I do, it must be kind of frustrating getting my attention. I recall purchasing something from the tool store last week and as we walked out, I found this really cool fold up hammock with a built in pillow and a slot for your drink. "This is so cool.", I announced. "And just when do you have the time to lay in it?", she questioned. She was right and I didn't even check the price.

We found a bunch of starter plants and placed all of our items in the cart. In my mind, I was going over all of the other things that we needed to handle along the way and noting that it was fast approaching the time to pick up Jay from school. I rolled up our cart and got in the long line at check out. As I got closer to the cashier, I took note that the people using the visa machine were having problems seeing the screen. Tent lady was shaded well inside her topping but they had left the customers machines out in the sun. As I rolled up for my turn, I made another observation. The tent Lady's covering was so low that you could not see what she was ringing up. I finally got to see the bored Lady's face as she leaned down to scan the items on my cart and I made a mental note of how much I was going to have to spend. "That will be $67." came the report from the now once again shaded face. Confident that she was right, I began my part of the transaction and found that I could not see a thing on the screen. Judy helped me as we blocked the sun just enough to make out where we I needed to sign. Tent lady had to lean out and help me push the OK button that I could not find and we finally were on our way.

While driving down to pick up Jay, we stopped at various spots along the way including Best Buy to drop off Judy's computer that still was not working properly. I wont get into that story as it would take chapters more but they promised to have it ready on Saturday. We also discovered that we still had not gotten mail at our new house.

Along the way, Casey called to let us know that he was in Anchorage and it was beautiful there. He sounded very happy and with his cell phone battery going fast, I quickly gave the phone to Judy knowing that she wanted to hear his voice.

We picked up Jay and stopped by a place on the way back to the diner that Judy had wanted to stop at. It was a outdoor place that had a sale on discontinued items such as deck equipment, statues, and fountains. Judy found just what she wanted in the "make an offer" area. Meanwhile, I am on the phone again with the post office while Judy is talking to them about the fountain. "How much do you want?", she asked. "Make me an offer.", he returns. "I wouldn't have a clue.", Judy responded. I was on hold at the time and barked out, "20 dollars". "Sold!" came the return and Judy smiled as we walked to the car with her new prize that I had seen in stores for well over $100. I finally got the post office guy on the phone and was informed that someone had placed a hold on my mail. "I assure you that you will receive it on Saturday." came the reply from a man named Mike. "If you don't, just call us. We are open until noon.". "My mail does not get delivered till afternoon.", I replied. "Well then, just call me on Monday but that wont be needed as you will receive your mail on Saturday." Mike informed me.

Arriving at Jake's, we began fixing up our hanging plants and realized that we would be out of potting soil. Judy was beat and headed home while Jayden and I headed back out shopping. While at Walmart, Jay found some monster trucks that he liked. "Are you ready to earn them." I asked. Jay was spending the night with us and would be going into to work with me early on Saturday. "Sure!", came the reply. On our way out, we picked up a vacuum for Judy and then headed to Bimart for more potting soil and a hook to put up Judy's fountain. I got the most heavy duty hook that they had and headed back to Jake's where I finished off the plants, hung them, watered them and then headed home. I then drove over to the old house and mowed the lawn for the open house before I headed home.

By now, it was dark and in the light of the porch, I prepared to hang the fountain. Judy wanted it in a particular spot. "Are you sure you don't want it higher?", I asked. "No, that is just right.", she replied. I got out my new heavy duty hook and began screwing it into the wall. The screw broke so I fished out the second hook only to have it break also. Giving up, I went back into the house and put together Judy's vacuum while watching monster truck videos on the TV with Jay. It was now after 10 and putting Jay to bed, I crawled over to mine. The first day of the long weekend was done.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Casey is gone.....again.

The one person that has left the most in my life is my son, Casey. The free spirit in my family, he has moved to more places and returned than either of the two daughters. Now, he along with his girlfriend, Jessica, are bound for Alaska for the summer.

Shortly out of high school, Casey had a desire to go somewhere and experience some place different. We helped him get a job in Cannon Beach and drove over with him to see him get started. I still recall leaving him there standing next to his car as he watched us drive away. Judy looked out the back window grasping for that last look at him as the tears streamed down her face. We all openly sobbed for miles as we drove the road towards Portland. An emptiness seemed to envelope our lives that lasted for days. This was different than just seeing him off to camp.

Towards the end of the year, Casey returned and lived in Bend for a short time before announcing that he was going to join the Navy. That separation seemed to be the hardest for me. Maybe because that was when I really cut the strings of home when I joined. I struggled the morning of his leaving to find something to occupy my mind. I ended up watching the movie, Rudy. I thought I was doing quite well until the part of the movie where the fans are all cheering for Rudy and Rudy's dad stands and joins in with the chant. Unaware of just how much it was affecting me, I actually heard the sob and felt the water dripping off of my chin before I realized that I was sitting there, crying like a baby. When Casey was ready to leave, I walked him out to his car and watched it drive down the road. Standing there in the middle of the road, I watched to see that last glimpse just as Judy had done when we had left him on the coast. With knees shaking, I struggled to find a place on my property where no one would see me in my grief. Finding the spot, I dropped on my knees and fell into a fetal position as my body wretched in open sobs of grief. I wondered if I would ever see my son again.

Then, before I knew it, he had returned home again. And we had his presence for a while longer. Then, it was off to Wyoming. He spent a winter there in one resort and then a summer in another. Judy and I attempted to stay in close contact and relished the various conversations. When Judy would answer the phone and hear that distinctive, "Hey", her eyes would always light up.

Casey stayed this last time for a couple of years. He worked with us at the diner and eventually began to serve as our first male server. Our customers and fellow employees came to know him and he was respected and loved by just about all. His kindness and great personality overcame his sometimes somewhat shabby appearance as he let his hair and beard grow.

Judy and I took him and Jessica up to Portland yesterday. We drove to his favorite haunt up there, the Edgefield in Troutdale. For anyone who has not seen it, I highly recommend for you to check it out. There is so much there to see with the buildings, grounds, and gardens.

Leaving him at Trinity's apartment, I watched Judy searching for that last look again as we drove off. It was easier this time but will never be easy. We know we will see him again in a couple of months. By the time we reached Mt Hood the tears and red eyes had cleared but the drive back was pretty much in silence as I believe we were both going over memories in our minds of a skinny little boy with big ears who had grown up in front of our eyes to a broad shouldered good strong man. We struggled to fill the emptiness left by his leaving with those memories.

And so, my sleep tonight is interrupted with thoughts of him still. So much so that I needed to write some of them down so that I could get back to much needed sleep. Casey, if you read this, I know that there are things in this life that we may never agree upon but know this. I am extremely proud of the man that you have become. A man who is strong and can be counted on. One who respects and is respected. A man of character, strength, and kindness. Traits that any man would desire to see in his son. I love you dearly, buddy, and look forward to the next time that I will once again see you face to face.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ouch, it is already May

I cant believe how fast this year is going by. And we are already in to what will be a very busy month for the diner. Business is brisk and other than higher operating food and gas, we seem to be having a good year. I remain very grateful to the locals who continue to support us.

We celebrated Cinco De Mayo today with Mexican feast, Jake's style. The waitresses all wore Sombreros to promote the buffet that included such things as Fajitas, Chile Relanos, Chile Verde, Nachos, and the like. It seemed to go over pretty well even though we are not that style of restaurant. I am sure that every Mexican restaurant in town today was packed.

Mothers day is coming fast and we will be giving away free coffee mugs again this year to the first 250 mothers. It was a hit last year and this year the printing on the mugs is pink. On Mothers day afternoon, People to People will be having a Mothers day tea with a buffet created by Jimmy and music by Richard and Ted Taelour. I got word today that over 60 people have purchased tickets so far. It should be very interesting seating them as our back room only seats 40. If it is a nice day, they will be flowing over on to the deck but I still see many of them having to sit in the main floor (which is now far and away the better place to sit anyway).

Coming up fast will be this years version of Race Day. This will be on the Wednesday prior to Memorial Day. The speedway and drag cars have already promised to show up and if it is good weather, we should easily fill the parking lot with them and our local cruisers. Jimmy will have his first big BBQ of the summer and our local band, "The Taelour Project" will be entertaining once more.

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally one of the busiest of the year and heralds the beginning of the busiest season, Summer.

To top off the month, we will be featured in the Dining Out in the Northwest radio show produced in Portland on May 31st. Judy and I will go up to Portland that day and at noon, we will the main part of their hour long radio program. I am wondering how they will find enough stuff to talk about to fill up an hour but my plans are to just answer questions and let the DJ worry about the content.

We are still trying to sell the old house along with my parents, Casey is moving to Alaska for the summer, Trinity looks to be moving home real soon from Portland, our grandson, Jayden, is right in the middle of spring soccer season with the "Jakes Diner Spyders" and will be a part of a Jakes entry in the Pole Pedal Paddle of which they have named their team, "Legend of Super Chicken Samurai" or something like that. So it sounds like a very busy month on the home front also.

Someone told me that the roses will be blooming here shortly. "Don't you think you should stop and smell them a little.", he quipped. Maybe in June as their is just no time this month.