Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A protected place

I showed up around four or so Sunday afternoon to help Casey close up. We did the walk through, set the alarms, and were locking up the door when I heard a sound. Looking down into the corner, I found a whole family of ducklings right where their mother had left them. Evidently, she felt that was a safe place to leave them.

I left for a while but came back to see if the babies were still there. I figured that if they were maybe something had happened to the mother. When I arrived I found the mother coming through the raised garden in front of the entrance to the diner.

I sat down on the bench and watched as the mother duck came over and called for her babies. The babies perked up and headed over towards her.

Try as they may, the babies could not jump up to be with their mothers. So, while I sat there, the mother duck jumped down and collected her chicks. I videoed that part but it became too big of a file to upload effectively. It became a very enjoyable finish to the day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Race Night

I was up rather late on Tuesday night after renting the movie, Valkyrie, and watching it after the game with Casey and Jessica. What actually took longer was the fact that we paused the movie in the middle to talk about it a little and how it relates to modern day. I might write about that a little in the future but I just want to preface right now that I didn't get to sleep until the early hours of the morning.

I slept hard and well but was still quite tired when I was awoke early in the day. Judy was getting up early to serve her favorite group, the High Desert A"s. We have a Model A coming sometime this summer and have joined this group. Other than church, this is the first social group that we have ever joined and Judy is anxious to go on some short trips with them after we get our car.

While Judy got ready, I drug myself out of bed and began to make ready my day. I took the daily household chores of feeding the pets so that she could spend more time getting ready. I let Mia, our miniature Pom, out in the back yard to do her business while I fed the cats. Upon letting Mia back in, she rushed up the stairs to go and visit her favorite person. I noticed her running a little weird and she stopped at the top and looked back down at me like something was in trouble. Then I looked down and realized what it was. Mia has rather long hair and some of her business this morning had grabbed a hold of that long hair. A small log lay at the bottom of the staircase. Shaking my head and wondering if this was a sign of problems for the day, I scooped the small dog up and carried her rather gingerly into the bathroom where Judy was making ready. An effective cleanup over the toilet and then a follow up in the sink were needed to freshen up our little girl with Judy making sure that I had not put the hot water on to high for our precious little girl. It was not exactly what I had in mind to do first thing in the morning still dragging from lack of sleep.

Judy left and after a good cleanup myself, I was off to join her. We both had breakfast with the group and then I went through my list of things to do to get ready for the day. I checked with Jim on how many watermelons to get and he said that six would do us quite good. I had Summer start making our sign to go out on the road. She came to me and told me that the tape had ran out so I jumped in the car to buy some tape. While I was out, Judy called me to let me know that the Microwave in the waitress station had gone out. I decided to make the trip a multi task trip and picked up my ten watermelons at Cash and Carry, a local store for a small microwave, and a final stop at Ace Hardware for the tape. I figured that I would get some other things there that I found in their ad that came out on Monday. I asked for some of those things and was informed that the ad was not in effect until Friday and was only for Memorial day weekend. I wondered out loud if the items would still be there on Friday. The very nice lady said with a grin, "We open up at Eight AM.". She then went on to tell me that she would be at the BBQ that evening if her and her husband could get their car a running.

With everything picked up, I backed up my rig to the back door of the diner. While I opened up the microwave box, the crew unloaded the ten watermelon. Jim came up with a smile. "Did you get a really good price on the melon?", he asked. "I think so.", I returned. "How many did I ask for?", he questioned. " Six" I had bought nearly twice the amount that we needed as Jim figured that we would need five and asked for six to insure that we had enough. "We will have watermelon on the salad bar for a while.", he laughed.

Summer finished off the sign and I wheeled it out to the road and found a good place for it. Returning to the shop, I made ready the deck and Jim and I looked for a place to put his BBQ set up. We decided to put Jim out front where all could see him cooking the BBQ. That way, everyone could get the full effect of the experience.

I did the daily from Tuesday plus some other needed paperwork and business phone calls in my office and before I knew it, Judy was saying that it was time for lunch. She had been busy helping out the girls on the floor who were having a very brisk day of their own. I met her and Vivian (one of our customers who always wants to help out on our events). Vivian asked if she could help us that evening and I said sure. She asked me what i wanted her to do and I told her to help out Judy on the buffet line. A call to Richard secured my other big helper for the evening while I wolfed down my lunch.

Carrie called me to remind me that I needed to pick up Jay from school in less than an hour. He was to be in the Hersey track meet that evening with some of his buddies in a relay. I headed out to the bank, post office, drop off the movie, and to get Jay (once again multitasking) but was called by Casey to let me know that he was picking up Jay and taking him out Frisbee golfing. I instead headed back to our house to pick up a couple of other things for the evening.

The house was so quiet that I dropped on the couch just for a quick second. I was awoke an hour later by Jessica coming home after work. I jumped up and headed back down to the diner for the last minute affairs. Judy and Jim had done the buffet line beautifully. Every time we do this it seems to get just a little easier with everyone knowing what they need to do. I had the garbage cans placed out at various places on the lot and then helped Jim bring out the food to be grilled.

Some of the dragsters had already arrived with their rigs and I surveyed a empty lot hoping that we would fill it up in the next couple of hours. The speedway cars began to arrive and I told them where to set up. I looked over and noticed a couple of local cruisers were already snatching the prime spots next to the apple trees (best shade). The band showed up and I brought out needed things for them to set up with.

The last hour before was a little blurry with last minute decisions and problems to be solved. Jimmy was in full swing with his BBQ and the smell was tremendous. I had the cashier put out the signs with the cost and informed him on how I wanted him to handle the transactions. The lot began to fill up and I took the time to take a couple of pictures of the event.

A lady had called me earlier in the week and asked if she could come to the event to paint faces and make balloons for the kids. I helped her and her son find a place to set up their face painting area. I smiled realizing this would be something new and that it really added to the carnival air of the event.

By now, it was five o'clock and the lot was packed with cars and people. I could see that it was going to be a good night. Jimmy was ready so I went over to the band, got on the hot mike and officially started the BBQ. My plan was to have three waitstaff in the front room to handle customers who just wanted to eat off the menu while the rest of us worked the BBQ. Casey and Trin were there to help us out there also.

With the event now fully going, the lot became overfull with cruisers not able to find spots to park their rigs. They began to park on the outskirts of the lot. I was walking around talking to the various car buffs, thanking the reps from the Madras Drags and Madras Speedway, and looking for spots for more cars. I moved a couple of the crews cars out behind the building so more could park. Carrie and Jay showed back up after Jay was disqualified from his team because he was born ahead of the rest of them. He was born in Sept of 96 while they were born in early 97. They were all in the same class, however. Jay was really bummed so I gave him a hug and said, "You know how to feel better about this. Go get yourself a Hersey bar.". With a grin, he headed into the building and the candy rack. He then joined the cashier and helped him out while Carrie brought out her camera and took some pictures which I will attach to this in the morning.

A mass of people moved in between the cars and the BBQ. I spent much of my time just talking with them and asking if they were enjoying themselves. I was walking through the main floor and I asked a couple of friends how their food was and they said cold. At first, I thought they were joking but then found out not. I quickly went to the buffet line and found that the candles under the chafing dishes were expended. I quickly replaced and re lit them, grabbed Laura (our cook who was assisting Jim) and had her replace the food with fresh hot ribs and chicken.

The front room filled up and I was not sure if they really understood that we had a BBQ also, so I placed Trin at the front door to explain the options to people as they entered. Jessica showed up and her and Casey went out to the front room to help out the other two wait staff there. I noticed that they both were taking tables so I knew that the others must be overwhelmed.

Judy had been very busy on the buffet line and I asked her if she had seen one of the Model A guys truck that he had brought in on it's maiden voyage. I grabbed her hand and took her out into the packed lot for a couple of reasons. I wanted to get her away from the busy line for a break, show her just how successful the night was, and get her together with some of our friends from the "A" group. I left her talking and laughing with a couple of them and headed over to the tree line as I saw two police cars pull up.

One of the cars stopped under the trees while the other drove past the lot into the mobile home lot beyond. I crossed over past the trees and walked up next to the parked police vehicle. I asked him if all was OK and he said yes. I then asked him if there had been any complaints and he said no. I realized he was doing some computer work and was just listening to the band. Happy that their was no problems, I returned to the lot.

There is a new bank being built just down the hill. The landscapers have been putting some pretty smelly stuff out on the grounds and with the wind shifting, the smell was beginning to waft back up the hill to us. I noticed a couple checking their shoes. "Do you think you stepped in something?", I asked. "Yes, it smells kind of like dog poop.", the lady said. I showed her the bank and explained and we laughed at the problem and I openly hoped that the smell would go away soon. It did not.

The night started to slow and the cars began to leave. I busied myself with clean up in various spots while talking to happy customers. Judy was beat and decided to go home while the rest of us sat down and ate some BBQ of our own. Casey commented on us doing pretty good for the evening. I looked up from my ribs and said, "The evening is a success but not from the till. It is successful because people are enjoying themselves. All of those happy people will come back at a future event or maybe just on Sunday for breakfast. There is the true success of the evening.".

With everything winding down, I began the help of cleaning up. I pulled in the garbage cans from the now empty lot, and washed down the tables on the deck before bringing down the flowers, unplugging the water features, folding up the umbrellas, and securing the deck. As it all winded down, so did my adrenalin and I began to get quite weary.

With the diner almost to closing at Nine PM, I thanked the remaining crew, climbed into the van, and headed home. I drove by Frank's office and saw his light on so stopped for a second. A couple of people had asked about him at the BBQ. He had been at a doctor apt with his girlfriend and had not been able to stop by. He drove through the lot but did not see me and just headed back to his store to finish off the paperwork of the day. He said that he had seen the sign out on the road earlier. I realized that I had not taken it back in. I said that I should go back and move it in but I was beat up. I could always take it back in in the morning.

With that, I drove back home, drew a bath, and soaked, letting the warm water wash away the sweat and BBQ sauce. Drying off, I didn't even bother going back down stairs. I just pulled myself under the sheets and was out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Thank you to all of you who showed up and made this event the success that it was. Especially those who parked way out by the highway and had to walk in. Any body up for some watermelon?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I could not have done it without them

Five years ago, I first learned of the pending sale of Jake's Truck Stop. On the Second of September, it became public knowledge and created a sort of media firestorm.

When I decided to go ahead and take the diner over, the media picked up on that also. The night of the closing of the truck stop, a photographer from Bend Living showed up to take pictures of a up and coming article.

A documentary was produced and shown at McMennamins last year of the fall of the truck stop and my struggle to keep the diner alive. It was shown only once and sold out in five minutes but was shelved because their was no written contract with the former owners to show the film. The film brought much interest from a variety of media.

The biggest media interest came when I moved the diner to it's new location. It seemed that week, like I was being interviewed at least once a day. I remember fielding calls as I drove from one building to the other. I think every media available had something to say about it with the biggest piece coming from Bend Living which was titled "A Phoenix rising from the ashes". The electronic age of blogs was at it's beginnings and various people wrote of how I would be gone in less than six months as I was moving into the worst location in town.

As I began to set up various events, it seemed that the media was always around in one form or another. KTVZ has ran many pieces including doing their weather from the parking lot last July during our Fourth of July Vietnam Veteran's BBQ. They were there also last fall when I was robbed which drew the interest of the Dept of Justice which in turn brought the media back.

KTVZ cameras showed up last Thanksgiving to document the Seniors Thanksgiving meal. I remember KOHD showing up minutes later. When I told them that KTVZ had already been there, the camera man told me that he needed to talk to his producer. He never came back leading me to believe that KTVZ had out scooped him.

I have even had media call me on various occasions to ask me what special things that I was doing at the time thus fishing for stories. Everywhere I turned, it seemed the media was there often times in force.

Last week, the pinnacle of my efforts was achieved. Jake's Diner won the distinguished small business of the year. What greater award can one receive than one given to them from their peers.

I still remain humbled by what all happened but this is so big in my eyes that I want to cry it out from the rooftops. And yet, that same voice that brought us to the attention of the community for the various things that we do went very soft. Two radio stations had it in their broadcast, KBND and KSJJ (a big shout out to my Buddy, RL Garrigus) and the Bulletin had it hidden in the middle of a piece at the bottom of the local page the next morning. Many friends and my own parents did not know of the award until I told them. I have had quite a few who knew of the dinner and watched the news on TV looking for the results.

So, for now, I have placed the plaque on the wall next to the cashiers station. I stepped back and looked at it with a smile. There is still a lot of work to be done but for now, I have fulfilled a promise that I made nearly five years ago. I promised the Wolfe family that I would not let down the good name of Jake's and I would not make them regret giving me the name. To me, this award validates that promise.

I am very grateful to the businesses and business people in the community that voted for us and to the community that supported us and continues to support us through these trying times. And even more grateful to the media who brought our struggle and then our events to the eyes and ears of that same community.

Thank you all so much!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We Won

I spent most of yesterday just trying to keep my mind busy.

The day seemed to take care of that for me leaving me not really much time for contemplation. I drove out and purchased Hawaiian shirts for Casey and Jim. My good friend, Mike Schmidt, who was sitting at our table and I had come up with a sort of alternate dress for the guys at our table. I am not very good at ties and was not sure what to wear when Mike stated that I always had a ball cap on so why don't we all wear black Jake's hats. I said if we do that, we should also wear Hawaiian shirts. So, our dress code was set. I did worry a little that this change from the norm in a sort of formal type setting might lose us some votes but decided that it might be more right to just be me.

I ate lunch around 2 or so and then Jim and I delivered the evening meal to the Volunteers of Medicine. Upon returning, Jim had one more buffet to prepare for another group that was meeting at the diner that evening. I left around 4 to try and just rest a little before going out. That didn't happen as the Bulletin called to ask for some pictures to use for our race night event and I ended up going back down to the diner which probably was best as I needed to just keep going.

We all met up in the entrance around 6:15 and got seated around 6:30. I looked around at a sea of tables with most men in shirt and tie. I was happy that we were situated right next to CORIL and found a nice surprise with Eric Bernarbo there. Eric has worked at the diner on Thursday mornings for the last eight or nine years. He loves to walk amongst the customers and talk with them as he buses and sets tables. Also with CORIL was Rachel Sedoris and her father. We save our trimmings from the steaks for her dogs and have her picture up on our wall.

The event started with videos of all of the three groups: Organization of the year, Small business of the year, and Large business of the year. We were very impressed with the video of Home Care IV and Judy and I talked openly that we both felt that their chances were the best at winning. I must admit that at first my nerves were getting a little to me and I was kind of hoping not to win just so I would not have to go on stage.

The program started and it was set to the TV show, American Idol. Carrie and Jayden watch this show each week and both of them seemed to really enjoy the enactments of the various celebrities especially the woman who did Paula Abdul.

CORIL won the organization of the year and we all jumped up and clapped. Watching Jim Lee as he walked up to the stage and seeing Eric and another girl up their with him and my mind kind of changed. I began to want this award. I felt that I could go through with it all. Especially with our close relationship with them. But, both Judy and I felt that Homecare had a very good chance and Judy leaned over as our category began and said, "Well, at least we had a good dinner and time with our family and friends".

Our singer did a rendition of the Bee Gees song, "Staying Alive" with the words changed to "Eating at Jake's ". I felt it so fitting as the Bee Gees came from the same area of Australia as Judy. As a matter of fact, her sister, Gaye, once dated the original drummer from the popular band.

The announcement came and I heard chants from tables around me, "Jakes Jakes Jakes". It felt very good just to hear that but when they called our name, the feeling was one of probably a cross between elation and shock. Judy started to cry with happiness and I hugged her as we walked to the stage. To our surprise, Eric ran up to join us. It was all quite perfect except my first words of acceptance......."Uh, Wow!".

I had thought of what I might say if I was to have won but knew that the night was going by faster than I had figured so I just went to a straight up thank you. I went to acknowledge the people at my table and all of a sudden my brain started to scramble with names of my own kids. I kind of stuttered and just said how thankful that I was that my entire family was there with us. I stared through the lights at the table and collected my thoughts as I acknowledged the rest of the people started with Jimmy and his wife Char, Mike Schmidt, and Vivian Gulley who had joined us. There were others that I wanted to thank that had been so instrumental but I turned to Judy and told her that I was losing some of the names. She gave me a hug and I was able to come up with the ones that were the most important. I had intended on thanking God first and foremost but the thought at least came to my mind so I was able to make that needed statement of faith in time before stepping down.

Eric wanted to say something so we gave him the microphone and in typical Eric form he told them that he loved his boss meaning both Judy and I. I was proud of Judy for at least leaning forward and saying "Thank you". I knew just how hard that was for her and how if it was not for Jakes, she would have never done anything like this. Her time as business owner has really helped bring her out of her shell.

My mind was swimming as we exited the stage and were taken out to the hall on the side for pictures and an interview with KBND. Eric joined my family there and when I was interviewed asked if he could speak also. Eric said, "I work at Jake's. I come to work at 8:30, 9 oclock. I start work at 10 and when I see my boss, I say, "Hi Boss, how are you.". And he says, "Great Eric, how are you.". That was all that Eric had to say as he grinned at the newsman.

Pepsi won the large business award along with a distinguished businessman award going to one of the founders who has passed away with cancer. Then, our friend, Taffy Gleason, from the Bend Community Center won Citizen of the Year.

We ran into Taffy and a companion as we both were leaving. Her friend came up and shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, good job.". "Thanks", I returned. Then he said, "By good job, I met staying true to yourself." And he pointed to the way I was dressed and I thanked him once more feeling almost as good at the acknowledgement as in the award itself.

All in all, it was one crazy wild night and I slept real well for a change afterwards. It was an award from our peers that I will not likely forget the rest of my days.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Today is the day

I am awake early in the morning. Tonight is the Chamber dinner at which I have been nominated along with my business as Small Business of the Year.

Most people would be anxious for an award such as this and I must admit that I am very honored to be nominated.

But, most people are not me and I am just anxious for the day to be over.

I have not felt anxiety like this in a while. Believe me, it is not fun.

I pray that God will grant me a busy day so that I can keep my mind off of it and that He will grant me the courage to enter the building and sit at that table.

Somehow, I don't think that I will be able to eat much today.

10AM Feeling better. Was able to get back to sleep and then went down to the gym and worked out with Judy. My plans for today are to keep as occupied as possible so that I can just keep my mind off of the whole thing.

When I got up to go to the gym, Casey was on the computer. He asked me if I had been able to get some sleep and when I asked him why, he said that he had read my blog. One thing is for certain; I am glad to have him back and am very happy to have my entire family with me at the table tonight. And Casey has even agreed to where an Hawaiin shirt of which I am just about to go out and buy for him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Zone

I have called it by a few things. My place, my spot, or my zone. I have even joked about it from time to time. "Some call it scatter brained, I call it multi directional.".

I had to learn the ability early on in the beginnings of the diner. It is the ability to step into the busy diner, calmly access the situation, and do whatever is needed at the time. Often times, you will have many people asking you many questions. You must focus on one, solve it, and answer it then go to the next. Once it is solved, you must put it out of your mind because you need to make room for the next. Whatever you do, you cannot let one problem get to you, there will be a time later when you can fret but now is not the time.

You will see it in a good golfer when he goes up for a good hit. He sees the ball and the pin....nothing more. Or a baseball player at bat. He sees the ball coming at him and watches his bat hit it. He is not distracted by the yelling crowd. Another good example is a basketball player in a big game shooting a foul shot while the home teams crowd tries to distract him with waving arms. He is aware of his breathing, even his heart rate, and his mind sees only the ball and the hoop.

I think I refined the skill by working Christmas days at the old place. It was by far the busiest day of the year there. It was also the day that the most problems would arise. I made everyone work short shifts that day and put all on the clock sometime during the day. I was given that day off but I always worked it because they (my crew) had to work it. My family learned to wait until after the rush at work for me to come home before we would open the gifts. It must have been hard on them especially when they were young.

The funny thing on Christmas was that many of the customers would not have that "Christmas" spirit. I kind of put it off to a variety of things. Some of them might be lonely and have no place to go. Some of them may have not gotten what they wanted under the tree. Some of them had loved ones that were far away and longed to see them. And then some others had something tragic happen to them during that season sometime in the past and it brought back those memories. That along with a crew that didn't really want to be there made for a very hard and hectic day.

But, I could not be frantic. I had to be in control. There was no time for emotion other than up beat. I would often control my emotions by singing or humming. I would go about my business while softly singing Christmas carols. I made it a point to touch all of my employees on the arm or shoulder. I would attempt to laugh or make fun of any stressful situation. The important thing was to laugh at the situation not at the person.

Problems were always plenty but the hardest was attempting to resolve an angry customer. Sometimes you were able to defuse the situation while other times there was nothing that you could say and your best defense was no defense. Just take it and walk away.

Two of my better diffusings that I recall came on busy Christmas days. One time a very angry woman who did not like her food blurted out, "My husband could cook better than any of your cooks.". I stopped and said, "Is he busy? Do you think that he would like to make some extra money?", I asked. "He is not working today.", she said, "It is Christmas.". I looked her in the eye and said, "Exactly". She seemed to understand immediately and allowed me to handle the problem of the food that she did not like. The waitress later asked me what I had said. When I asked why, she said that the lady had given her quite a healthy tip and asked her to please share it with all of the cooks.

Yet another was angry about how long it was taking to get his food out. It did take longer on Christmas as I did not have my best team on all together at one time. I asked them to watch the kitchen and see how fast the cooks were putting out the meals. "Right now, we are putting out around 120 meals per hour. That means that one will go up every 30 seconds or so.". I don't think that they had ever seen it that way and it seemed to calm them down and even fascinate them as they watched the cooks put out the food. The man at the table made it a point to stop me and thank me before he left.

Now days the two busiest days of the year are Mothers day and Fathers day. And, as you all know, yesterday was Mothers day. The last two years, I have given away coffee mugs. I have always tried to give something away on those two days. In the old diner, I gave flowers to the mothers and golf tees to the fathers. This year, with the economy being harder and costs up, I changed and decided on pens for the mothers. But not just any pen, I wanted a pink pen. The cost of the mug was not the problem this year, it was the cost of the shipping. The man who I got my pens from told me that he is still looking for any mug manufacturers on the west coast but has not found any.

I got up early around 7AM, showered, and began to dress for the day when the phone rang. A frantic waitress said, "We need help.". Judy and I both began to work on getting people in quicker and I knocked on Casey's door and told him that we needed to move quickly. I left the house with Casey on my heels. Upon arrival, it was not quite as bad as I had imagined but I could see that we did need help. I quickly retrieved my box of pens from my office and loaded up my pocket with them. The first two that I gave away, I made the mistake of grabbing my own pen and handing it out only to retract my hand with a laugh and given them the special pen. I moved my pen over to the left side of the pocket as I realized that I was instinctively pulling from the right.

As the day got busier and the rest of our crew arrived, I think I actually felt when I was going into my zone. The room was loud but I only heard what I needed to hear. I was acutely aware of my breathing and my heart rate. Both were calm and under control. I scanned the floor and my surroundings looking for any problem that I could solve. I grabbed towels to dry a wet spot that I had seen to keep anyone from falling. I took a bus tub around and bussed dirty tables following up with a towel and settings for the next customer. I looked for empty glasses or cups that needed to be filled. I looked at all of the customers, looking for anyone who might need something or have "the look". I found one halfway through the morning. She was sitting with the two others at her table. I noticed that they menus were now down on the table and she was staring at us. It did not matter to her who's section she was in. She was ready to order and was tired of waiting. Her waitress was walking by me at the time. "Table six is ready to order.", I told her. She said OK but grabbed some silverware as she went out and began to set some tables along the way. Judy stepped up just about that time and I said to her, "What is the matter with that waitress, doesn't she see what I see?". Judy asked me where and I directed her vision to the table. "She has the look.", Judy returned. I smiled as I realized just how far Judy has come along in the last few years. She is learning the same things at sometimes a much faster pace. We both watched and grimaced as we saw the waitress tell the woman that she would be right with her and then laid out the silver on the table next to her first. I logged it in my brain to chat with her later about priorities.

As I walked through the crazy floor, talking with friends, and insuring that people had gotten exactly what they wanted, a man stopped me. "How do you do it?", he asked. "Do what?", I returned. "Remain so calm in all of this craziness.". I smiled and told him that it was just something that you get used to.

The day was wild with at one time a huge line. People were waiting in various places and we had to often go outside and yell out the names of the parties. Only a glitch or two there with at one time we seemed to have two parties named "Sandy". I wondered if the one that came at the first call of "Sandy, party of five" were just another party of five who conveniently used her name to get in quicker when she did not return our call. A few minutes later, the real Sandy came to the podium. We were fortunate that a large table had just opened up and we seated them immediately.

People would constantly ask us how long. I have instructed the greeters to never give a time in numbers. The problem is that you never know just how long a party of people are going to linger after they eat. Some like to eat and leave while others like to take the time and talk as they digest their food and drink their coffee. A deaf man tapped me on the shoulder. He pointed to his name, then to his ears to show me that he was deaf, and then to his watch. He was asking me long. I thought for a second and shrugged my shoulders. I made a sign like I was eating food and then shrugged again. He smiled and motioned like I should just shove them out. I grinned, happy that he had understood what I was trying to say.

The kitchen was rocking the house today and I made it a point to tell them so. I have seen few times when they were on as much as they were today. One time, as we had just seated three huge parties, I stepped into the kitchen to survey how many tickets they had up. They were down to just a couple of tickets. I called over that I had just seated three big parties and Ted yelled back, "Bring them on!". Judy made it a point to make them all smoothies to help them deal with the heat of the kitchen. She later shared with me that it became quite hard as the food was coming out so fast that she was not able to get the smoothies all made at one time.

The day was steady and solid until sometime between one and two. As I rounded the corner up front, Kara (the greeter) called out, "Clear". I smiled and retreated to my office to handle some paperwork. As I sat down and began to come out of my zone, I realized just how much it took out of me. I was physically exhausted and drained. I stopped and dropped my head for a second and closed my eyes. I awoke a minute or so later as Judy unlocked the door to ask me if I wanted some lunch. The few minute rest had refreshed me and I joined her on the deck for a bite to eat. I love the peacefulness of our deck and it to helped to refresh me along with the needed nourishment.

After lunch, I drove down to my parents house to see my mom, then off to Costco for some supplies, and then returned to the diner to find them all finished and gone for the day.

The whole family was at the house for a BBQ supper. We sat around talking of the day as we ate. Judy told me that she had asked our cashier if anyone had complained at all. He told her only one. The man was quite angry that we did not take personal checks. He had even used the 'F' word in his rant. As he bolted out the door, his wife apologised for him, however. "He should have told the man that he would get the owner. I would have loved to talk with him.". "Or maybe the owners son.", Casey quipped. "I would tell that guy a thing or two." I smiled and said, "That is what I would be worried about.".

Thursday, May 7, 2009

35 years and counting

We met on a blind date in San Diego. Neither one of us wanted to go on that date. We did so, however, on the request of a mutual friend on her 21st birthday.

My first impression of her was that she was very pretty. Her eyes were captivating and she was kind of shy. That was until her and her sister, Gaye had just a little too much to drink while we waited for our tables at the Charthouse on Shelter Island. Then, at the table, with two more flagons of wine, she ended up stealing much of the items on the top of the table including heavy glasses and ash trays. As we left, I put my arm around her and under her rabbit fur purse to keep it from jingling from the items inside knocking together. Both of us were not impressed that evening and welcomed the end of that first date.

A week later, our same group of friends decided to go out to the fresh snow in the foothills outside of San Diego. This was not something that happened that often so there was somewhat of a traffic jam getting to those hills. I was stuck in the back seat of that same girls car with Judy and her sister. They giggled and laughed along the way as they had some fun with the police that were directing traffic in one of the areas. I remember her sister leaning over and whispering in my ear, "If she says that she is all knocked up....she is just tired, OK?". They both laughed at that description of the differences in our two countries words. You see, she was and is Australian. Her and her sister were working their way through the US and were bound for the UK.

That day was the true start of our relationship and we dated and saw each other as often as we could in those coming months before I departed on my first Westpac cruise on board my ship and she went off to the east coast and eventually England. We wrote each other quite often and both of us had tales to tell of events and happenings along the way.

A year later, she came back to San Diego on a fiance visa. We had three months to decide if we were meant for each other. We rode a train together to Oregon where she met my family and one evening while driving into Bend to see my brother and his girlfriend (of whom he is still wed also), on the hill going up towards the entrance of Sunriver, with tears flowing down both of my cheeks, I garnered the courage to ask her those words......"Well, do you want to marry me or what?". She said "Yes" and we celebrated that evening with Rudy and Roxanne.

We were to be married aboard my ship with my captain doing the service. It was to be held on the helo deck with all hands in Dress Whites. But, as things go in the Navy, we were given orders to go out to sea trials to prepare us for another rather rushed Westpac. The Vietnam war was making a turn and our ship was being called up.

Instead, we were married in a small chapel in East San Diego by a rather gay man with bad breath. For years, we had the tape of that service where he stated "Just as this ring goes round and round indefinitely, so shall your love go round and round indefinitely". At the end of the tape, while our witness and best man, Bob Smitherman, who had first introduced us attempted to take pictures, you hear him in the tape saying, "Come on Lyle, Smile!".

We spent our first evening in a dirty motel somewhere in the south of Los Angeles. We had very little money but did have a pass to Disneyland, a free night at the Disneyland motel, and an Arco credit card for gas. On our way up to LA, a police cruiser pulled up next to our marked car which said "Just Married" on the back. They turned their speaker towards us and asked us how long. We told them just a few hours and they congratulated us as we drove down the freeway.

Later, as we were sitting at a light in Anaheim, a man in a flower truck behind us jumped out and gave Judy a dozen roses. Still later in our honeymoon as we drove down Hollywood Blvd, a man in a large convertible drove up next to us and passed me over a rather large cigar.

Our day in Disneyland was fun but without much money we purchased some popcorn and that was about all that we ate that day. That evening on the way to our plush room, I noticed some lidded plates outside other rooms. I snuck back out and grabbed one bringing it back into our room only to find just fully eaten crab shells. We were rather hungry that evening but that was nothing for two young people in love.

The day after our honeymoon, I left for two weeks at sea. This was to happen quite often as our ship prepared to deploy. We were given leave just before that deployment and Judy and I drove all the way from San Diego to Gilchrist in one day. After a visit with my family, we took what was to be the most memorable road trips that we have ever taken seeing many national parks in just a few days. In Yosemite park, we nearly ran out of gas on a dark rainy stretch of road through the forest. In Las Vegas, the only room that we could find was in a gay motel somewhere close to Circus Circus. We were put in the straight part of the motel back in the corner next to another straight couple. The patrons of the motel were very friendly but they did watch us rather oddly as we walked into the lobby holding hands. Our final national park was the north rim of the grand canyon of which I did something that other men only dream of doing......I peed into the grand canyon. Judy and I giggled about that as we drove back to LA and her departure for Australia. I recall the drive into the LA basin and both of us crying as we approached the airport. It was one of the hardest times of my life saying those goodbyes and I felt so empty as I drove back to my base in San Diego.

In the middle of my deployment our ship visited Taiwan where I and a few others were shown around Taipai by some college students who wanted to practice their English. We went to a temple there and a priest told my future by reading my hand and throwing some wooden pieces up in the air that looked somewhat like bananas cut the length way. He said that I would remain happily married, have three children, live a long and rich life, and be very sick towards the end. I can still see his face and hear those words.

Our departure into the war zone was top secret and none of the crew were allowed to notify our families. Our orders were to help evacuate civilians to safe haven in a more southern part of Vietnam. Our initial goal was to pick them up in the northern part of South Vietnam but the Vietcong were moving so fast that we were sent to an area in the more central part. Judy first heard about it as she watched a news program in Australia that showed three ships steaming towards Vietnam. She knew the number of my ship and worried for my safety. As the lead person in the Navigation dept on board my ship, I read all of the top secret messages and was able to know things of what was going on that others did not. I wrote about that time in my life and that story was posted sometime last year in my blog. I spent our first anniversary there, just off of the coast of Vietnam in the middle of the pull out of Saigon. Judy spent it working in a school for abandoned kids in Australia.

And thus, our first year ended as one but apart.

Our ten year anniversary was one of probable turmoil of sorts. The first few years of our marriage had ups and downs. Two people being married from two different countries is much harder than most can imagine. I was working for Jake's and was new in my management of their restaurant. I was also going to college full time at COCC. I must admit that I don't recall what we did on that milestone.

But, I do remember the twentieth. We had won a trip to Acapulco through Sysco foods who sold to the diner. The diner was going strong and was gaining in popularity. Judy and I almost did not go on that trip as our youngest, Trinity was struggling with asthma. Our doctor and friend, Paul Johnson and his wife Sue agreed to let Trinity stay with them and thus have a doctor right there in case she had any problems. I will always remember the kindness of the gesture.

While in Acapulco, we decided that we were going to eat lunch at a local Mexican restaurant so as I traded for pesos, I was happy to meet a man who had what looked like official clothes on and who said that he would find us a cab who would take us to one. We got in the back of the cab and were shocked as he climbed in the front. I was beginning to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. I took most of our money and shoved it into my shoe and winked at Judy trying to assure her that I was in control when I knew that I was not. He found us a small restaurant in the middle of the old part of town. While he was in the back of the restaurant talking to the proprietor, we snuck out and headed down the road. A block away, he found us again and we told him that we were not hungry yet and had decided to do some shopping first. He drug us into a shop and got us a bottle of beer. I watched as he took the storekeeper to the side and when he was not watching, I put down my beer, grabbed Judy by the hand and told her, "Run!". We darted out of the shop and down a small ally that seemed to lead to another small ally. All the time we were being stared at by eyes that did not see many white people in that part of town. When we finally found a street, I hailed the newest cab that I could find. "New Acapulco.", I stated, remembering our warnings to stay only there during our visit. "No comprendo.", came the reply. I thought for a second and said, "McDonalds.". "Se", came the reply with a smile and we made our way back to the safe part of town.

Our thirtiest anniversary was spent on the Oregon Coast. I had just been warned of the pending sale of Jake's and was a little concerned of my future but was bound and determined to make this milestone a good one. On the morning of the anniversary, I stole out of the room with my golf club seemingly to go out for an early morning round of beach golf. Instead, I drew a rather large heart in the sand of the beach in front of the room. In the bright early morning sunlight, I wrote both of our names in the middle and put the date of our marriage. "Thirty years and still in love." were also written. As I stood back to look at my masterpiece, hoots and claps were heard behind me and I turned to see many women in their nightgowns and bathrobes clapping from their balconies and congratulating me. I smiled, bowed, and returned to my room to awaken my bride and show her my art.

Last Sunday was the 35th year. We were going to go away for a couple of days but since it was raining, we stayed and worked what turned out to be the busiest day so far this year. Trinity was the cashier and before she started had made a banner to go across above her to be seen by all as they came in the diner. We worked with the congratulations making the fact that we were working much easier. Afterwards, tired and not really wanting to go out. We bought some takeout from the China Doll, rented a movie, and cuddled on the couch then dragging ourselves to bed from what was a tiring but happy day.

Thirty five years later, we remain in a very elite club. The club on one spouse. We have many friends and customers that are also in that club and I can only hope that we make it as far as the two that we met the other day who were celebrating their 60th.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Strange Monday Morning

As I proof read my last post and sat there staring at the screen, I wondered two things. Did most of the people at that event agree with me? And, if so, why was the media not talking about it?

I decided that it was my duty to contact someone in the media who might bring the issue up and Lars Larson's name came to my mind. So, I sent him a quick email and went back to sleep.

I ended up sleeping in that morning and was awoke shortly after nine by my bookkeeper, Summer, who had a question for me. As I put the phone back down, it began to ring again. I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was a 503 number.

I answered and to my surprise, it was Lars himself. I was quite shocked as I expected a crew probably put his show together for him. I lay there and talked to Lars about what I had seen and heard and how it had affected me. Judy could hear his voice and catch some of what he was saying. Since she had already heard the story from me, she (for some reason) thought the Governor himself was calling me to try and explain why he had done what he had done. She thought, "Oh no, what has he gotten himself into now?".

Lars asked me when the show was on in Bend and I told him that I thought it was noon. I think he had already talked it when his show actually aired around 12:30. Judy and I tried to listen but only caught a phone call that he received from someone who was there. From what we heard, there seemed to be quite a few more people who felt the same way as I did. It was kind of an interesting way to start the week off.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Support our Troops

I am sure that you all know my feelings regarding the military and veterans. I have supported and am a part of many veteran organizations in our area. Because of this, I was invited to the deployment of our local National Guard last Saturday afternoon at Mountain View High School.

I was very proud of the support from the local community as the gym was packed even more than you would find for the local basketball team when they were in the state tourney.

Now, I have been very careful regarding my political views and have made great pains to insure that I have not stepped on any one's feet regarding theirs. I honor our differences and our diversity. That is a part of what makes us great people.

I listened to the speeches given by the various politicians attending. I heard many promises to the troops and to their families. I heard them promise them the very best of support and equipment to do their jobs and that would not have to worry about their families here as they will not want for any of their needs. If half of the promises of half of those leaders come true, I believe the families and loved ones of the departing troops will be satisfied.

But, I was saddened and somewhat embarrassed however by both of the speeches that our Governor gave.

In his first speech, he went into a bit more detail than I felt was needed regarding their deployment.

He told of how they would be separated into small groups upon arrival in Iraq. He seemed to attempt to encourage them a bit by saying that even though they will be separated that they will be together in spirit.

He then went on to tell these same people how we will be going into one of the most dangerous times of the war and how they might very well be targeted even more as we attempt to pull out from the country.

In my humble opinion, the danger of the war need not be restated in a way that brings more fear to the families. We need to be sensitive of that fear and not to exasperate it. Is this not a time for encouragement?

But then, when he returned to the podium for the official send off, he seemed to go to the bizarre. He told the troops that normally, he would go down the line, shake all of their hands, and then look them in the eye and tell them how proud we are of them.

He then went on to state that he would not do that because of the pending danger of the swine flu epidemic. He raised a bottle up in the air and informed the troops that he was giving them all a bottle of hand sanitizer and encouraged them to use it to help stifle the spread of this impending danger.

He was sending them off to a war zone and possible death but would not shake their hands for fear of the flu?

No one would have noticed if he would have slipped on a pair of white gloves. We would have all felt that it would be a part of the ceremony.

He might have very well been better informed to check with the local health departments. They will discourage the use of hand sanitizer due to the fact that they feel that with the use of them, people will be less apt to do what will protect them better which is to merely wash their hands.

Once again, I state that my viewpoint here is not meant to support or put down any political party. And I might add that I was greatly stirred by Senator Ron Wyden's speech of which he is a part of the same party as our Governor. Senator Wyden told the troops that now was not the time for political speech but to merely say that we love them, support them, to wish them Godspeed and await their safe return. I heartily clapped my approval to that.

We should all be very proud of our local young people who are there to stand in harms way to serve and protect our way of life. And to be fully aware of what their sacrifices give us.

Thank you to all of you and to your families. If you stop by the diner, I will not hesitate to shake any of your hands.