Tuesday, February 25, 2014


February 25, 2014
A few years back, I was approached by Dick Tobiason, a local retired officer and head of the Heroes Foundation, to assist in raising funds for the Honor Flights.  The Honor Flights are trips to Washington DC for WW2 veterans to see the Memorial there.  It is actually more about honoring the veterans than it is just getting them there.  All along the way, they are acknowledged and honored.  I have talked with many of the men and women who have gone and all seem giddy with excitement afterwards.
I told Dick that I could not help with what I would call a large fund raising situation but I could certainly put together something that the local every day person could get involved with and could help raise funds.  This sort of event does two things.  It raises funds for the donor and allows people who want to help and yet cannot afford to dole out $50 or more a plate to be a part of the event.
After talking it over with Jimmy, I suggested a Spaghetti feed and allow Jake's to be the venue and the first Spaghetti feed was created.  The cost was $10 per head.  It made the math much easier.  If I brought in 100 customers, than we would raise $1000 dollars.  That became my goal.  The first year, we raised a bit over $2000, if I recall.
It was so successful, that I had other groups coming to me and asking me to run one for them.  I knew that having too many would just dilute the mix, so I decided that the Heroes foundation would be the only recipient and that we would not do more than one per year.
That was six years ago or so.....I tend to lose count.
I awoke Sunday morning a little unsure of myself.  It is typical for me on days of these sorts of events.  All the last minute thoughts of what can go wrong and the anxiety that I battle began to wrap my mind a bit.  But distractions help me with that and I had one this morning in my grandson, Jayden.
Jay had spent the weekend with us as his mom was over in Eugene attending the Justice conference there.
Jay had LaCrosse training this morning and so we got up early and drove down to the diner to have a bit of breakfast first.  One of our waitstaff was sick so we did some shifting around which always causes a bit of distraction in the flow of things.  We began to get busy just as Jay needed to go to LaCrosse.  He asks me on the way over if I would stay and watch.  My heart sunk in telling him that I could not.  I wanted so much to watch him but knew that I was needed back at the diner.  I figured that I might be able to get back to watch a bit towards the end, especially if Judy was there watching the diner.
But, as it was, Judy was a bit late as she also had an extra mouth to feed at the house with Carrie and Jay's dog, Lola who was at Grandma and Grandpa's resort and spa.
I actually tried to get out a bit early, but a full pass bar of food held me up.  I arrived just as Jay got finished and ended up taking him back to the house so he could shower up.  I told him that I would come get him at lunch.
I then headed back to the diner where all was in full force.  Judy was helping at the pass bar so I did what I normally do, pour coffee and put out fires.  I suddenly began to feel weak as if my blood sugar was down so I grabbed a cheese sandwich and downed it.  I also exited the pressure and went out to the office and the unending stack of paperwork that is always needed.
The next few hours became a blur of sorts with the office work, helping out front, picking up Jay and bringing him back down, and all the other parts of running a fast paced diner.  Judy and I sat down for a little lunch and a dark chocolate but I soon ejected back to the office to finish things there.
I got a call from my mom asking me to help her with a jar.  Dad wanted some juice and she could not get the top off.  I drove over and helped her.  Even I had a problem with one of the lids so I wondered how she could be expected to open that bottle of juice.  I asked her if she wanted me to bring her some spaghetti later.  "Shh", she said, "I want to go to the potluck tonight".  She felt that Dad would not want to go if he knew about the spaghetti.  I smiled and headed back to the diner.
I was really feeling tired and weak so I just stayed in the office as things began to wind down for the day out front.  Judy and I talked and I put my legs up on the trash can and was soon off to sleep.  Judy left the office quietly and I probably would have been there for a while except the door swung open and in walked Jimmy.  He wanted to go over last minute details and thoughts of how to make the flow better.  We had no idea how many were to show up, so I had Jimmy prepare for around 300.  Last year, we had prepared for 150 and actually had to take some of our stock out to finish off.
The restaurant closed and people began to show up as volunteers for the spaghetti event.  Judy helped to coordinate them so that sort of freed me up and I was still feeling a bit weak so I went back to the office.
Judy came out and got me as there was one table left in the diner who was still sitting after their meal.  We needed to cash them out so we could get the diner closed and ready for the event.  I came out to find the door crowded with customers waiting for the big event.  Nothing could happen until we got that last table done.
One of the waitstaff was already talking to them and she secured the payment.  I helped Sam, our cashier close out his till and made the area ready for Richard, our volunteer cashier for the feed.  What seemed like hundreds of eyes stared at us as we readied the counter to receive their payment and stamp their hands.  Some pleading, some angry, some frustrated, some happy, and others just staring and watching.
Soon, the mob was released and the diner began to fill with customers.  I spent my time helping organize seating and letting people know that they would not be able to sit just two to a table.  Others would be there sitting with them.  That is the only way this event could be pulled off.  Most were happy with that idea.  It even changes the whole atmosphere.  It is about getting together, having fun, and raising money for a good cause.
As the room filled, I checked all exits to insure that we had all of our bases covered in case of an emergency.  As I walked through the room, I looked for WW2 guys who I could talk with of the up coming event in April.  The Oregon Ducks are going to open up one of their practices to us again.  Last year, that happened and it was quite an event.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snowed In

February 10, 2014
I was to speak in Crescent at the church that I grew up in on Saturday evening.  I was both excited and scared.  It was where I met the most influential man in my entire life in Ned Landers and it was where I spent much of my time as a youth so you might imagine how I felt.
I awoke and looked out the window to a heavy layer of snow and it was still falling.  My telephone rang and it was Kim, my bookkeeper who's kids and their friends make up the bulk of our buss people.  Kim was snowed in and could not get one of them to work.  So, I told her that I would go over and bring them in.
I plowed through the deep snow in Judy's rig, driving through the back streets to her house.  I felt that I dared not stop for fear of getting stuck.  Many people were already out shoveling their driveways.  I spied a small black thing sticking out of the snow off to the right.  It moved and as I looked closer, I realized that it was the black head of a mallard duck.  It was down in the snow with it's head looking around, I guess trying to figure out where to go.
I picked up Matt and got to work around 8:45.  My entire crew was there and in place.  2 dishwashers, 2 prep cooks, 3 line cooks, 4 servers, 2 bussers,and 1 cashier.  I took a quick look around the room and found 7 customers.  It did not take much math to realize just how much money I was losing.
To add to the matter, my lot was plowed but the area coming into it was not.  People would have to come through the deep snow to get to me.  As I waited for my breakfast, I looked out towards Costco and saw a car stuck in the snow at our entrance off of Purcell.  I grabbed a couple of kitchen crew and headed that way.
A man had gotten stuck driving over the curbing that you could not see from the depths of the snow.  He told me that he was on his way in for breakfast.  We pushed him off of the curb and he drove around to our Hwy 20 entrance.
I contemplated closing when a few more customers showed up.  One of them stated that other restaurants were not open so I figured that just as long as they came in, I would stay open.  I knew that it was not going to be a stellar day but no one said that you would make money every day.  That is a part of being in business.
I knew that I was not needed so I looked at other things that I needed to do.  I stopped up at the hospital to see my friend and brother, Jack Cooper.  Jack is 89 and had a quadruple bypass on Monday.   I looked in his room and found him fast asleep so I just left a note stating that I was there and drove off to my house to shovel snow.

I cleared out my driveway and shoveled off my car.  The snow was still piling up and I felt it's 4 wheel drive might be needed.  I finished clearing the drive and fired up the car, letting it warm up before I took off back down to the diner.  Judy asked me if I would wade out into the back yard and bring in a couple of bird feeders.  We had spied a woodpecker in the neighbors yard just sitting down on the cross bar of their fence and looking over the top.  By the time that Jay and I were ready to head down to the diner for lunch, she was busy taking pictures of the mass of birds that were using our deck for protection and food.

Judy let me know that she was concerned over me driving all the way down to Crescent.  I told her that I had committed and was not sure what to do.  So, that was tugging at my thoughts as Jay and I got in my rig and headed out.  Immediately, I struggled in the snow and ended up throwing the car into 4 wheel drive low.  It went through the deep snow with ease.  We saw car after car in the ditch and off of the road as we made our way down to the diner.  I spied my buddy, Frank, shoveling at his place of business, Printer Resources and drove in to say hi.  Frank had been a youth pastor once and was up on the etiquette of public speaking.  He said that I should call my brother up and leave it to him since he was my contact in the church.
Before lunch, I did just that and Marvin told me that he would let them know that I was not able to make it because of the weather.  I found out the next day that the event had been postponed so all was well there.  It took a load off of my mind however.
The diner was pretty full.  Casey had sent a couple of workers home and he asked me how I felt about shutting down early.  I felt it was a good idea so he began preparing signs stating that we were shutting down at 3.  I drove Jay back to the house and made a discovery on the way home....my car had stuck in 4 wheel low.  It seemed to be ok for the time being, however, as I could not go very fast anyway.
I drove back down to the diner, stopping at the shopping center down below to purchase another shovel to take the place of one of ours that had broken.  The store was sold out which didn't surprise me a bit so I figured we were just going to have to put up with a broken shovel.
A lady called in looking for someone to plow her driveway.  I laughed.  "You are calling a diner to find a snow plow?".  "You do so much for the community", she said, "I knew you would know who I could call.".  I looked it up in the yellow pages and gave her a few numbers.  I chuckled with the cashier over the conversation.  "Makes sense to me", he stated, "you know pretty much everyone in town.".
The crew still did not need me so I found work out in the office paying bills while Casey ran the diner.  Around 2, Casey came in and asked if he could just close.  Only a couple of diners were inside and it seemed like the right thing to do so we shut her down.  As I continued to work on the bills, the crew shut down the diner.
Terry, our 2 oclock wait staff showed up.  Someone had forgotten to call her up and tell her she was not needed.  Her and her husband had driven 2o miles to get to the diner.  I apologized knowing how angry that I would have been if it had been me.
By 3, they were ready to go.  The cashier had gone out and swept off the wait staff cars and we all watched as Kevin, the cook got stuck trying to get out of the lot.  We all pushed as he struggled to move his car.  Cindy, one of the wait staff ended up pushing him with her car.  Between us and her car, we finally managed to get him on his way.
A lady in her Subaru had gotten severely stuck just outside our lot, so we went over and pushed her out also.  I slipped and fell as we pushed and noticed a twinge in my right shoulder.  I shrugged it off and we got her going.
I was the last to leave and I set the alarms and drove back to the house.  As I got to my turn off of Bear Creek, I found a SUV blocking the road.  A man was shoveling it out.  I stopped and he stated that he lived back in the subdivision.  I got out and we both pushed as his wife drove.  Once she got it going, she did not stop so the man ended up walking in with his shovel.  I got back in my rig and headed in myself.  The man walked down the middle of the road so I drove slowly behind.  Eventually, he got off to the side and I drove past and into my driveway.  As I popped up my wipers, he walked past and to his house.  I looked over and smiled but he did not even look up.  I then realized that he had not even said thanks.
I told Judy that I would not be going to Crescent and that made her quite happy.  I went out and re-shoveled the drive that now had another foot or so on it.  When I came back in, my shoulder was hurting pretty bad.  Judy said I should draw a bath and soak in it and that seemed like a good thing to do.  After the bath, my shoulder felt better and I lay down on the couch while Jay and I watched the Olympics.  I woke up 2 hours later with it dark outside.
Jay thought roasted chicken sounded pretty good for supper so I headed down to Safeway.  I got my stuff and got into a huge line at the self check outs.  5 more lines were open and one looked pretty short so I bounced over to it.  But, as things go, the checker had problems with her order and I watched as customer after customer went through the self check.  I figured it would be a better bet so I changed lines back with a smile.  It always seems to happen to me that way when I try to get out of the store faster.  I wondered if the chicken and french bread would still be hot by the time I got home.
Supper was great as Jay and I watched the Blazer game.  Then we put the Olympics back on.  As was the case in the afternoon, I dropped back off asleep.  Jay woke me up telling me that he and Judy had seen some unusual lights over towards the diner.  He said they were like spot lights.  I got up and looked for myself but the lights had stopped by then.

So, all tuckered out from the day and with my shoulder still aching, I took some Ibuprofen and headed off to bed.  I lay there contemplating the day.  The duck, the drives in the deep snow, the many people that I saw out on cross country skis and snow shoes, the stuck cars, the business that might have broken even for the day, the lady on the phone looking for a snowplow, the waitress who drove in 20 miles only to have to just go back home, the many stuck cars, my car stuck in 4 wheel low, the woodpecker in the back yard, the talk that I had prepared and was not needed, the unfriendly neighbor.....roasted chicken and french bread......time with my grandson......happiness......sleep.