Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some things just don't seem fair

Four years ago, shortly after we moved into our new location, I was robbed. The criminals busted into two doors, causing much damage and stole our safe. Because of their own stupidity, they were caught shortly thereafter. Our DA called me personally regarding the case twice. The first time was to tell me that he would be handling it and the second was to tell me that he had made a deal with one of the four who had agreed to witness against the others. I agreed to the deal and the case for two of the defendants was set for October.

A week before the scheduled hearing, I received a letter. The case had been brought up to the docket early without my notification. The DA representative was unsure of the deal that was made and offered the deal to both of the defendants instead of just the one agreed upon. The deal reduced the charges to just theft.

I was livid but could not do anything about it. The third defendant was scheduled and I was allowed to be there and challenged the court but could do nothing but watch as the judge gave the third defendant the same deal because she said that it would be unfair to her if she did otherwise. The same judge apologized to me.

The fourth defendant was underage and because of his age got off.

So, three adults charged with breaking and entering and stealing my safe with $1000 in it was let off with theft charges, had to send me a letter of apology, repay the theft, and spend five days in jail. The jail time never came as the jail was too full and their reduced charges were not big enough to warrant it.

Last year, my wife's car was sideswiped. I saw the car just as it bounced off of hers. I saw the driver and car and reported it to the police. We discovered the car just two houses up from mine. We measured the height of the damage and compared it to where her car had a streak of fresh scraped white paint on it. The police and DA representative felt they had enough of a case and the trial was set. The week before the date, I was called by a rep from the DA's office and told that the person who was to do the case was no longer there and that they felt that their was not enough evidence to try the woman. The case was dropped.

A while back, one of my waitresses got into a fight with her boyfriend. The fight was physical and the police were called in. The waitress looked at her two children and began to wonder what would happen if both she and her boyfriend were both hauled off and stupidly took the responsibility. She was arrested and later her boyfriend requested that the charges be dropped and it was agreed upon.

Then someone in the DA's office took up the case themselves and went after the waitress. She was charged by the state and brought up in front of a judge who found her guilty and part of her sentence was five days in jail. I told her don't worry as they had let the burglars out with no time, the same would probably happen to her. She had to spend all five days in jail.

To me, this somehow does not seem fair. The first three who were unemployed were let off with a slap on the wrist while this employed single mother of two had to spend her entire time incarcerated even when the charges were dropped by the supposed victim. Now, I am sure that there are other things regarding this case that I don't know but our business had to replace the woman for her week of shifts and she had to miss out on her wages for that same time all and only because the DA's office had a case and did not listen to her explanation. On top of it all, she told me tonight that they are trying to give her felony probation of which will cause her and her family even more cost and more grief.

This woman is a very good employee, works hard, and does me a very good job.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Band of Brothers Spaghetti Feed

Like most events, I have trouble sleeping prior to them. To many things are flying through my head on last minute items that need to be addressed. With this one, one thing came back to my mind time and time again. I knew that I had too many helpers. I am not very good at that part of organizing and also knew that I would be the one looked at to do it. I remember hoping that they would all just find a place and leave it at that.

I woke up and headed to work with Trinity. When I went out to the car, I noticed it covered in ice. I immediately called the diner to insure that someone had put ice melt outside. The morning was brisk and all of the crew was hard at work.

Judy called around ten and asked me to come and pick her up. I knew that she had been feeling off but also knew that she did not want to miss this big event in the afternoon. We stopped at Costco on our way and picked up all of the last minute items that were needed and then dove back into the busy day.

Around 11, as I walked through the waitress station, I looked at Judy and knew that she still wasn't well. I told her that I was taking her home not giving her a choice. Her best bet, if she wanted to be with us in the afternoon was to get some rest. She didn't feel sick, just weak.

Without Judy around, the day got much harder but the crew worked well together and before we knew it, we were cruising into the afternoon. I pulled back to my office and put my feet up for a second and woke up a bit later to find that it was almost time to shut down.

Jim had all of the buffet well in hand and some of the Band of Brothers arrived to help out with last minute items. I called Judy and she wanted to come down so Vivian (one of our great customers who always wants to help) went out and picked her up.

More and more helpers started showing up and I felt kind of helpless as to where to put them all. I went out to the office to try and pull my thoughts together hoping on the other hand that they would just find their own way. Judy soon came out and got me telling me that I must get them all organized. I walked into the room and stated, "There are probably too many of you here but these are the areas that need to be addressed". I then went over the needs and told them how many people that I needed in the various areas. The Boy Scouts showed up and I set them to work, greeting people, finding them tables, and clearing the tables for more people when they finished. Dick had put other scouts to work selling bricks for the memorial. Bob, who I discovered is the owner from Lazy Boy Furniture along with his family who own the store with him, took on the task of serving the Spumoni ice cream that Bob had purchased for the event. Zin took it upon himself to sell raffle tickets and we put together a list of things that he could raffle off.

Minutes before Four many people had come in and paid their money and were waiting to begin eating. Dick was busy talking with the Bulletin and I asked him if he wanted to say something before we started. I thanked everyone for coming and turned the floor over to Dick who began telling them about the memorial that we were raising money to build. I stepped back in and told them that we were ready to serve and the feed began.

The next two hours went by in a blur as I walked around attempting to resolve any problem that arrived. I was in my element. I know that my best place in these kind of places is to be as many places as possible. Greetings, handshakes, checking the food, watching for spills on the floor that might cause a fall, looking for available seating, and just general directing of traffic, the event was going off with very few glitches. The Thank You's were many and as always, it felt good to be able to make a difference. It is one of the most fulfilling parts of the business. We discussed after the event how that part of it was what made it most worthwhile.

With the help of many, we cleaned up afterwards and closed up sometime after seven in the pouring rain.

There are so many people to thank for making this event a success. First and foremost, Jim, who worked tirelessly to put together all of the food. My buddy, Richard, who always helps in these types of functions who handled all of the money. Bob and his family from Lazy Boy who not only bought the ice cream but served it to all of the customers. Dick for spearheading the monument that we were working for. The boy scouts who worked hard where ever they were. One of them told his scoutmaster, "This is the best community service event that I have ever done.". Zin, whose idea for a raffle netted us over $200. And all of the other Band of Brothers who worked side by side doing whatever it took to get the job done.

At the end of the evening, the money was counted and handed over to Dick. $2233 was raised in all with a few more coming tomorrow as Zin wanted to sell a couple of tickets at the weekly luncheon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just an old hippy van

Back in the late seventies, I was living in San Diego. We sold everything that we owed and put the rest of it into an old 62 Econoline Van that we owned and moved up to Oregon while we waited for all the papers to go through to move to Australia. My father in law was hurting with a bad back and I was going over to help him with his business to get him back on his feet.

I loved that old van. I paid, I believe, around $800 for it. It was a window van with curtains all around and mag wheels. I purchased it from an owner in San Diego who had claimed that he had rebuilt the engine recently. It ran great and I had no reason to disbelieve his claim although I did not ask for papers.

Judy and I drove the van up from San Diego and settled here in Bend for a while scheduled to leave at the end of the year sometime. The van's clutch started to slip and my brother helped me replace it. That was the only repair that I needed to do while owning it. Knowing that I was leaving shortly, we put the van up for sale in Eugene. After all, it was a hippy van and we felt that would be the best market for it. I felt quite confident in the van that still ran well and had good tread on it's tires. I was sad to see it go when it was sold to a young college student in Eugene for around $500 or so. We then used a car that my brother owned until leaving.

A month or so later, I ran into that young lady in the Valley River Center over in Eugene. Excited to see her, I stopped her and asked her how my treasured old van was doing. With a shocked look on her face, she started to cry. "It broke down.", she said. "And I am suing you.". I was shocked. She said that she had a friend working on it. I told her that I felt horrible about the situation and asked her to stay in touch with me and I would certainly make it right.

A few weeks later, my reply came in the mail in the form of a letter. I was being sued for over a thousand dollars and to top it off, she would be able to keep the van. She had stated that I had guaranteed that the engine had been rebuilt and she had proof that it had never been done. I was mortified. I went to see a local lawyer and sat across the desk from him. I remember him telling me that she had as much chance in a court of law as I did. "It will be up to the judge.", he said, "And if she good crier, I don't like your chances.". He then suggested to me that I do nothing as I was moving away anyway.

A week before leaving, she called me. She had driven the van again and it had gotten worse. I asked her why she had driven it and she said because her other vehicle (a expensive sports car) had broken down and she needed transportation. "We need to talk.", she said, "I want to settle out of court.". I told her that I would be in town the next week and that I would meet her if she wanted. Although I did not look forward to talking to her, I was willing to tell her that I was sorry. She showed up but after I was already gone. The spoiled little rich girl was extremely angry and I must admit that I had little empathy for her. I just left and moved to Australia.

But that is a much different story than the one that I read in the Bulletin today. Jody Denton of Miranda fame moved to Australia, leaving a huge debt behind. The list was staggering. Some of the debtors had been looked in the eye and told that they would be paid but were not. Some were friends and now are not...people who trusted him. And the funny thing to me is that the article was written by a staff writer from the bulletin and not from Jody's (pen name...real name is Jet Olen?) buddy and the Bulletin's food guru, John Gothberg Anderson. I checked Mr. Gothberg Anderson's blog and saw nothing there either other than stellar praise for the former Bend Oregon Restaurant mogul. We are not talking $500 (which still bothers me by the way) but millions. And those millions were from people he knew and was trusted by.

Who else will be hurt by his mistakes? All of us other businesses who will have to pay higher prices to the various other banks and assisting businesses who were hurt by Jody's mistakes. I know that Jody did allot of good things for the community and want to honor him for that but I think it is of equal importance of the hurt that he caused by the other and saddened by it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The bond

Last evening a young man came in with his parents to eat. I watched as the waitress gave them their menus and took note that she had not given him crayons for his kids meal menu. He was wearing an Oregon Duck sweatshirt so I walked up to the table and said, "I know you want crayons.". He looked at me with a look of question and I said, "Do you know how I knew? Because you and I have a bond.". Now, he was wondering what this bespectacled bearded old grandpa was talking about.

I showed him my cell phone holder with the big Oregon "O" on it. "Just like your shirt, huh?", I stated. Then he got excited. "We have a bond with my Mom too.", he said. And then he asked his mom if he could see her keys. He proudly showed me her Oregon Ducks house key so I showed him mine. "Wow", he stated, "My mom and me and you." And pointing over to the man who I assumed was his dad, he said. "But he doesn't have our bond.". I leaned over and said, "That is OK. We let Beaver fans in here too.".

When I arrived this morning, this picture was waiting for me. I knew who had made it. My new little Duck fan friend.

A late Christmas present

Actually, I knew it was coming and did receive the tickets under the tree. Sunday morning, I awoke as usual and went off to work early but left when Judy arrived and jumped into the car with Trinity and headed off to the airport. Our destination was Portland and the afternoon game between the Blazers and the Knicks.

As we arrived at the airport, I noticed a vet friend of mine in security. He came over and said Hi asking me why I wasn't at work. I told him what was happening and with a handshake he told me that he didn't know anyone more deserving of a day off and wished us well on our adventure.

The flight up was enjoyable as I played peek a boo with a youngster who was sitting with his mother in the seat in front of me. The view flying over the top of Mt Jefferson was spectacular and the ride was fairly smooth.

Upon arrival, we stopped and said Hi to Trin's close friend, Sandy who was working one of the Horizon Airline counters. As we left, she said, "See you at the game.". As we walked outside, Trin let me know that Sandy was going to the game with her boyfriend, Scott whose parents had season tickets.

We got to Trin's car and drove down to a small restaurant that I had received a gift certificate for back in May when I was on air in a regional radio show in the Rose city. Dove pizza sounded pretty good for lunch but when we arrived, we found that the business did not open until four PM so we went downtown looking for a more local place to eat.

One of my thoughts was to try the Saturday market. We parked up on the bridge above and walked down the steps to the market only to find an illuminated sign that read "open March through October". The sign was above the covering of what would be in a few weeks the main part of the market. Today, however, it was still loaded but with shopping carts and other rolling devices filled with peoples belongings. Groups of men and women were huddled close to the bridge above's braces trying to use them as wind blocks and helps to avoid the cold. My heart immediately went out to them wondering how many had ended up there due to our present hard times. I remember thinking that they need a warm place to go and a good warm meal. As I walked back up the steps to the bridge and car, I looked across the road and saw just what they needed, the Portland outreach shelter. On the side of the building, were signs saying come on in, get warm, and have a hot meal. As we drove away, I openly discussed my thoughts with Trin and wondered out loud just how many of those peoples who were under the bridge but not going into the shelter were doing so because they wanted to or whether the shelter was just so full that they couldn't hold more. As I type, I am still wondering about how those same people are staying warm and how blessed I am that I only need this small blanket on my lap to stay warm while outside the cold is biting. It also gives me a tinge of guilt.

Anyway, Trin and I ended up in the Lloyd center food court for lunch at a old time rock and roll restaurant. I looked around and the restaurant had about ten to twelve tables full of people and five waitstaff. After getting our menus and choosing our food, I watched as our waitress cashed in her tips and talked with another waitress in an area where only a few of the diners could see but I could. I ended up flipping my menu a few times which got someones attention who in turn notified my waitress. As she came over with ticket book open, she said, "Sorry it took so long, I am very busy this morning." Now, knowing the game, I had already done the math and watched to see which waitress was going where and we were only her second open table with the first already eating before we arrived in her section of only a maximum of four tables. Trin, watching me watch, had already asked me to be good and not say anything. The manager in me wanted to but kept silent.

Trin ordered the blue plate special while I ordered a burger. We both ordered shakes to kind of fit in the theme of the diner type area. The prices seemed fair and right in line with my own but when the small burger arrived with the equally small shake, I wondered if we had made the right choice for a meal. I hate going into a restaurant and walking out still hungry. But although the burger left me lacking, the shake was just enough to top off my tummy and we left to find the sports store in the mall as Trin wanted to buy a Fernandez jersey or shirt for the game.

We didn't find what we were looking for in the first sports store but as we walked out, we saw another store just like it across the mall. After coming out of the store, we spied another, then another, and yet another. Five small sports apparal stores all in one small area of the huge shopping mall. And all seemingly having quite a few shoppers in them. As we walked to the car, we discussed what a shame it is that Bend cannot sustain an indoor mall such as this. Trin felt that it was because they cannot seem to draw the right stores. She felt that if they could get the stores like they have in the Old Mill district under one roof, that it would be a great hit in Bend.

We arrived at the game about a half hour before tip off and walked around just taking in all of the aura of the event. The stores filled with people trying to find a game souvenir, the food booths and small bars hawking burgers, hotdogs, and beer to the masses waiting for the beginning of the game, and the brightly decorated fans. One inspired man had painted his bald head with the Blazer logo surrounded by flames.

Trin got a call from her friend, Sandy, who wanted me to meet her boyfriend, Scott. We met them just before tip off and I shook Scott's hand while the two girls talked in hushed tones. We left for our seats promising to meet them at half time, I supposed for a drink or something. We arrived at our seats which were pretty nice in the second section above one of the end baskets. I could make out and identify most of the players from our loft. We watched the area where Scott and Sandy were to sit, watching them sit down, and waving back at them as they saw us. It looked like their seats were pretty nice.

The first half was quite good with the Blazers easily handling the much outclassed Knicks. With the exception of one small glitch in the second quarter, the Blazers had the game pretty much in hand. At the half, we met up with Sandy whose smile showed me that she was enjoying herself. Then Trin asked me for my ticket. As I handed it to her, she combined it with her own and swapped tickets with Scott and Sandy. "This is our part of your Christmas present.", she explained. I was floored. I shook Scott's hand and gave Sandy a hug and off we went to our new seats, Eight rows behind the center court bench where the timer sits. Off to our left was the Knicks bench and off to our right was the Blazers. We were so close that we could see the expressions on their faces and the sweat on their brows.

The third quarter was not kind to the Blazers and the Knicks quickly caught up to them and before we knew it, their was only four minutes left in the game with the Knicks up by twelve. Then, the Blazers came back to life. With only four seconds left and down by one point, the Blazers took their final time out. From our new vantage point, I could see the calm look on Brandon Roy's face as he drove the key and flipped the winning basket in at the buzzer while being screamed at by twenty thousand coaches from all angles. An unbelievable finish to a fantastic Christmas present.

The trip was capped off with a three hour trip back home with Trin in her car bringing it back to Bend so she would have transportation while on her leave of absence from her job at the airlines. Thanks Trin, I really enjoyed my present. I love you, sweetheart.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken and Waffle Dinner

OK, here goes, coming right out of my head as I think of what the girls are asking for. The only night that comes to my mind that it might work out well would be Monday.

Since I serve Chicken Strips anyway and since I have tried this and it is very tasty, I will serve a Waffle and Chicken Dinner special. Then, after you have your dinner, you can come back and say HI as I play poker in the back room. If your lucky, you might even see the monkey man too.

Any takers?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

For over two years, I was kept out of the winner circle in our weekly poker tourney for Habitat that we have aptly named Holdem for Habitat. I have come close and was often in the final table but just could not pull the cards needed to go over the top. My buddy, Frank, would often laugh as I would seemingly have a hand and then get knocked out with a bad river card. This happened far to often. But I would comfort myself with the knowledge that poker is primarily luck and it doesn't matter how good a player you are, if you don't get the cards at the end, you just wont win.

For the past two weeks, I have been getting those cards and have now won two weeks in a row. The funny thing is that both weeks, Judy has told me that I would win when I left the house. That is a statement that she never made before so of course, she is taking the credit and, I guess, rightly so.

The feeling of winning feels pretty good. Especially when I know that we have some pretty darn good players playing every Monday night. Last night we started with four tables and the nights take put us over $15,500 since we first started playing a couple of years back. has been a while since I have seen my old friend and fellow blogger, Monkey in the Box. So, while I am on my high perch of reigning winner (no matter how temporary the title), I am calling you out, brother. I know you read me from time to time so meet me on Monday at high 6:30PM. That is unless instead of a monkey, you are a chicken.....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Hypocritical Dog

Trinity really loves the show "Dog, the bounty hunter". I have to admit that it is kind of entertaining but one day she told me that he was a Christian. "Really." was all that I could say. "Yes", she went on, "Often times, before they go after a guy, they pray. They always pray for the safety of the pursued.". I stared back at her with 'Dad' eyes and simply stated that praying did not make him a Christian nor validate the fact.

Yesterday, she informed me that she had set the recorder to tape a all day Dog marathon. "Do you want to watch it with me, Daddy?", she asked. Now, when one of my daughters uses that special word, Daddy, it either means that they really want me to do something or that they are in trouble and are trying to soften me up.

I knew that I needed to watch at least one of the episodes with her so after eating supper, I went to the TV room where she was watching and watched one with her. Well, kind of watched anyway as I sat to the side and checked a few things on the computer while we watched. I will admit that my mind was more on the Blazer game down in Dallas when I heard Dog tell one of the crew to say a prayer. I stopped and listened as the young man spilled out a fairly good and seemingly sincere prayer. He prayed for their safety and the safety of the man that they were going after. I think I even heard him pray that they would be good witnesses also in the way that they would go about their business. I did hear him cap off the prayer using the name of Jesus.

With that, my attention was off of the computer and on the TV as I watched the band of hunters close in on their prey. They surrounded the criminal in a back yard of a house. One of the bounty hunters asked the man politely to exit the yard so that they could talk. The hunted, just as politely said, "No". Then the whole thing blew up. Starting with Dog, who screamed at the man and then began tearing down the fence to get to him. Now, I know that a police officer must instill fear in his pursued to take them down with less violence and that was probably what Dog was attempting to do but the words that came out of his mouth were only partially able to make it past the screeners bleeps or what has now become just silent marks in the sound of his voice. Since one can see his face, it is very easy to know exactly what the words that are uttered are. In the case of the next few minutes of the show, there was far more silence than words as Dog and his crew tore down a fence (I am sure that it doesn't matter to Dog who owns the fence since he has plenty of money to repair it) and takes the man into custody. The silent spots continue as they scream at him in the car. "This will all change in a minute.", Trin reported, "Pretty soon, they will be friends with him and will probably do something special for him before they take him in.".

I sat down on the back of one of the couch chair and fishing for the right words to say, I looked at Trin and just said, "I am sorry, but that is hypocrisy. To pray as they did and even cap it off with His name and then to use that same name in a foul laced string of words just minutes later. They would be almost better off not showing that prayer before they went in.". Her silence showed me that my point had been made so I left it at that.

And speaking of hypocritical, I feel that way somewhat myself right now. As not two weeks after I told me crew that my goal in these hard times was to get us all through without letting anyone go, I have done just that and dismissed one of the crew. Now, I had my reasons and even choose good council before making the decision and then going through with it but because of the timing and the words that I chose during the team meetings that I held, I guess I will understand when some of the crew will now doubt my sincerity.

And so, even though I know that it was the right thing to do, I am awake at 2AM wondering how they are doing. I know the person is hurt and angry. In a way, I am hoping that they are more angry than hurt for in that anger sometimes you can find more strength. It is the part of my job that I like the least. I struggle with it even when the person is deserving of it. But, my job is foremost to do what is best for the business. If the business does not survive than all of the people that are working there are out of work.

Although I have not looked at the figures, the first month of the year felt pretty good and I remain positive that if we can keep our prices reasonable, our value up, our service high, and most importantly, our attitude right; we can weather any storm that is put in front of us.