Please, No Sensitive People

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By Ed Staskus

There’s an old-school saw that says if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. That’s exactly what most people do, assuming they’ve stepped foot into the kitchen in the first place.

Restaurants have one the highest employee turnover rates of any kind of business. Voluntary turnover across all businesses, according to the Department of Labor, is about one of every five every year. In the food service business, the voluntary turnover rate is more than one of two every year, never mind the involuntary rate.

But before there can be turnover there has to be staff. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 both hoagie shop and fancy restaurant owners have seen more and more vacancies for positions from part-time hostess to experienced sous chef.

From San Francisco to New York City there are not enough restaurant staffers.

“It’s become a much tighter and more competitive work environment,” said Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, in 2013. “The economy is on the road to recovery and the talent pool is thinner.”

“If he’s a dog we’ll figure it out and we’ll get rid of him in the first week,” said Jeff Black of the upscale Black Restaurant Group in Washington, DC. “But we need bodies. We need people that want to wait on tables.”

The recruitment problems big restaurants in big cities have are not any different than the problems small restaurants in small towns have.

 Still looking for experienced staff for front and back of the house. This will probably be your best job ever. Liquids and Solids on FB.

Liquids and Solids, a small, edgy new wave gastropub in the Adirondacks, in Lake Placid, New York, opened on June 6, 2010.

“When we opened it was just us,” said Keegan Konkoski, co-restaurateur and owner with Tim Loomis. “Tim would be in the kitchen all day and I’d be at the bar all day and we had two servers.”

One of the servers was Keegan’s sister, Jamie.

“Before we opened, we thought Tim would have no problem staffing his kitchen. He’s a culinary graduate of Paul Smith’s, a lot of their students will want to be here and work with him, do a little internship.”

An alumnus of Paul Smith’s College in nearby Paul Smith, New York, Tim Loomis interned in France and has worked at, among others, the Wawbeek Lodge, Lake Placid Lodge, and the Freestyle in Lake Placid.

“We thought finding him help would be so easy, but we are picking bones.”

Looking in from the outside work done by other people can sound easy. How hard is it to cut carrots and wash dishes? But, working in a restaurant, being on your feet all the time, is physically demanding.

“The business, it sucks. It’s hard,” said Bryan Dayton of OAK at Fourteenth in Denver, Colorado.

“It can be back-breaking work,” said Keegan.

Dishwashers are unsung and underpaid and it’s easy to overlook how important they are, hunched over and hidden away in a steamy back corner, until you don’t have one.

We are looking for a special guest sanitation engineer for Thursday night. All you can eat and drink! Liquids and Solids on FB.

“The worst days of service that I have had, both as hourly employee and as manager, have been when there was no dishwasher,” said Matthew Stinton, beverage director at several New York City restaurants and wine bars. “Not having a dishwasher will fuck your world up and make you rethink the way you do things.”

One of the predicaments Liquids and Solids faces every year is that it is a seasonal eatery. It is open year-round, but has to deal with summertime spikes, which complicates staffing and inventory levels.

  Need summer help, both departments, liquids and solids. Liquids and Solids on FB.

   “We definitely have our downtime,” said Keegan, “so we try to make as much as we can when we’re busy because it slowly depletes after that.”

   “We try to bang it,” said Tim.

After Columbus Day Liquids and Solids cuts its hours, closing Sundays and Mondays, refreshes itself for several weeks during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and then sits back on its haunches waiting for spring.

When spring comes the snow melts, birds sing, and the heavy lifting starts.

L & S needs some strong bodies tomorrow to help move some equipment. Volunteers will be rewarded! Contact Tim if you want to help. Liquids and Solids on FB.

A challenge all hands-on restaurant owners face is the amount of time their restaurants demand of them.

“If you are not prepared to never see your family, never have a holiday, then you are not prepared to be in the restaurant business,” observed Cory Bahr of Nonna in Monroe, Louisiana.

Tim Loomis’s day starts at 8 o’clock in the morning. It ends 14 or 15 hours later.

“One of the main guys I’ve worked with over the years, as soon as service was done he was out,” said Tim. “I don’t like doing that. I try to be there and help clean, but if it’s not clean by 11 o’clock, I’ve got to go.”

No one can do everything. While Tim is in the kitchen with his crew, and Keegan is behind the bar, and the hostess and servers are at their stations, the bathrooms at Liquids and Solids are left unattended.

Largely a relic of the past, bathroom attendants who clean the facilities and dispense mints, mouthwash, chewing gum and cigarettes, are today usually only found in big-time night clubs and restaurants, although in Japan they are being replaced with ladybug robots.

It isn’t a bathroom attendant who’s needed sometimes so much as a bathroom bouncer.

L & S is seeking a full-time bathroom attendant due to recent acts of vandalism on the bathrooms. Three air fresheners have gone missing, pennies are dropped in the toilet daily, and stickers from the paper towel dispenser have been removed. A picture was ripped off the wall and thrown into the garbage can! Two screws were holding it up. It had beautiful boobs on it. Who does not like boobs? Please apply in person. Protect against prudes. Liquids and Solids on FB.

Recruiting, training, and retaining staff is one of the toughest jobs most restaurant owners have. They are always, especially if they are small businesses, at the mercy of unforeseen absences, such as sick leave or a family emergency. They don’t have the back-up staff to provide coverage.

“Food may rot and burn, but at least it doesn’t run off to Alaska with an oil-pipeline worker before lunch. Help will do that, and much, much more, creating an anarchy that acts upon the kitchen’s atmosphere like a handful of sand thrown into a spinach salad,” wrote Kimberly Snow in ‘Why You Don’t Want to Run a Restaurant’.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics almost 370,000 people are employed as dishwashers nationwide. And they aren’t just the dish crew. They clean and mop, take out the garbage, and unclog toilets. They are sanitation engineers.

L & S is looking for a guest sanitation engineer for Saturday night, no experience needed. A good grasp of 80s movies is helpful. $60.00 plus food and beverages. Must be 21. Contact Tim. Liquids and Solids on FB.

The position has been filled by Ryan MacDonald, who will be making the trek from East Burke, Vermont, just to make a guest appearance in the pit. Liquids and Solids on FB a few hours later.

“We generally don’t have any problems early in the morning,” said Keegan. “We have our meeting between 9 and 10 and everything is usually copasetic.”

After their morning meeting Keegan does the books, goes mountain biking or cross- country skiing, and then returns to work in the early afternoon, where she remains until the end of the night.

“Hopefully I don’t get a text from Tim about a catastrophe,” she said. “But, there’s always something, the air conditioning broke, someone’s dog died, and they can’t come to work, it could be anything. Every week there’s something.”

Sometimes that something is a chore most restaurants don’t have to contend with anymore in the 21st century.

   Well, here we are lookin’ for help again. Winter wood is being delivered tomorrow and we need help moving it. Start time around 11. Dinner to all volunteers. Liquids and Solids on FB.

“We do our own town dump runs, too,” said Keegan.

While hostesses and servers are charming, and bartenders are patient and accommodating, working in a hot kitchen, a very hot kitchen, where you are not supposed to drop anything no matter how hot the thing is, dead-lifting heavy boxes on a floor that is slippery and slightly pitched for drainage reasons, on your feet for 10 hours straight, where it’s not OK to not have whatever you’re cooking ready when the chef says it has to be ready, in a tight space where there is no personal space, is another matter.

“When it’s busy, in the heat of service, Tim’s awesome, but he can get ornery,” said Keegan. “We don’t need to sugarcoat that.”

Kitchen staffs can be thick as thieves and at each other’s throats at the same time. That’s why so many off-color jokes are bantered in restaurant kitchens.

“They would make every inappropriate joke in the book,” said Marla Gilman, who worked the line at Liquids and Solids for a year, about her colleagues. “But it wasn’t real. There were never any hard feelings.”

Team Kitchen is now seeking a sanitation engineer for 2 – 3 nights a week. Must have a strong background in 80s and 90s pop culture and appreciate both punk rock and classic country. If this sounds like you, walk right into the kitchen and talk to Tim. Please, no sensitive people. Liquids and Solids on FB

The eatery at the bend coming and going is a laid-back gastropub in a small town on a quiet street across the street from a lumberyard. Like all businesses they have their own standards. Unlike many businesses, especially those that are seemingly laid-back, those standards are first-class.

“The farm-to-table cuisine at Liquids and Solids wins rave reviews,” wrote Diane Bair and Pamela Wright in 2013 in the Boston Globe. “Creative plates like beef heart ragout with gnocchi. Among the liquids, the sinus-clearing ‘maple and spice’ bourbon cocktail gets its kick from cayenne pepper.”

Although being the best may be a false goal, measuring success by doing your best is certainly a true goal.

Servers and wait staff are said to be the front of the house and cooks and chefs the back of the house. Some restaurants, especially those with a reputation for great food, employ expediters, the middle of the house, who make sure that orders are cooked and plated in a timely fashion.

Looking for an exciting Friday and Saturday night from 8:30 – 10 PM? We need an expediter! Pays money, food, drink, and time with Tim. If you don’t know what an expediter is, don’t volunteer. Liquids and Solids on FB.

“We try to create a fun atmosphere because we know it’s hard work,” said Keegan. “But it has to be professional. We have to make sure everything gets done correctly.”

“At the end of the day that needs to go there and that needs to be cleaned,” said Tim.

All of which is easier said than done unless you stick to it all day long.

“This job will consume you,” said Bryan Dayton of OAK. “We work long hours. Yesterday I worked an 18-hour day. On a Wednesday.”

Attention to detail means restaurant owners often have little in the way of a social life. Their husbands, wives, boyfriends, and girlfriends have to be saints because their loved one is the one who unlocks and locks the doors every day and night. Not only that, your loved one is always on call. Personal time for holidays becomes a thing of the past.

Need someone to spend Valentine’s evening with? We need a dishwasher that evening. In fact, we are looking for a full time or part time person. Liquids and Solids on FB.

“Restaurant work is a hard life,” said Keegan. “One of the things that burns us a lot is when someone working at a restaurant says, oh, that’s not my real job.

“Say it’s not your real job one more time…”

Busy restaurant kitchens are not just intolerably hot rooms full of people in fire resistant white jackets. They are fast-paced pressure cooker rooms in which you don’t want to be wearing glasses because they soon will be clouded by oily steam, keeping you from keeping track of your fellow cooks and chefs who might or might not be in a bad mood that day, but who are certainly armed with sharp knives and cleavers.

“I attacked the last croissant with a cleaver, not stopping until I’d mashed every little flake of pastry into a greasy mass,” wrote Kimberly Snow, describing how “something snaps in you.”

“It’s tough,” said Tim. “Our guys work hard, so it’s hard to walk away, to not be here.”

hiring IN KITCHN. don’t NEED TO BE SMRT. JUST HARDWERKIN. Liquids and Solids on FB.

Commercial restaurant work is not for everyone because it is hard work. It is the kind of hard work that has to be done even though you are dog-tired from already working hard all day. There is the laundry issue, too. When kitchen staff does their wash, it is always very smelly laundry.

Restaurants don’t pool tips for the back-of-the house dishwashers, cooks, and chefs like they do for wait staff. But, at Liquids and Solids, just like you can add an egg to a menu item for a buck, you can add a buck to your bill at the end of the night for the kitchen’s beer fund.

“One thing we had no idea about when we opened was how much employees cost,” said Tim.

“When it’s all said and done, though, when they’re worth it they’re worth it,” said Keegan. “Besides, you can’t show up and not have them be here. Everything here is truly made from scratch.”

It is shortly after Columbus Day, when their summer season has drawn to a close, that the beer fund at Liquids and Solids comes into play. That’s when the hardwerkin’ staff takes some time off and leaves the country.

Bye, bye blackbird for a long, long weekend.

And for all of you that bought a beer for the kitchen this summer, they totaled $887.00 in earnings and will be in Montreal celebrating soon thinking of you all that made it possible knowing they be appreciated for the daily grind. Thanks!

Tim and Keegan the dried-off dishwasher the gassed kitchen staff posted on Facebook.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Summertime Blues

By Ed Staskus

“Well, I called my congressman, and he said I’d like to help you, son, but you’re too young to vote, there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”  Eddie Cochran

“Mom said you’re not leaving and you’re coming to my birthday party this year,” Maggie said, putting down her ear of corn, her lips peppered with flecks of salt and smeary with butter.

“That’s right,” said Frank Glass.

Vera Glass’s brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece, Frank’s sister and her new boyfriend, a policeman who lived nearby, were visiting on the Fourth of July, in the backyard, a breezy sunny day in the shade, crowded around a folding table-clothed table doing double duty, food and drink and board games.

Independence Day has been a federal holiday since 1941, but the tradition goes back to the American Revolution. Since then it’s been celebrated with festivities like fireworks parades concerts big and small and family barbecues. This year the fireworks parades concerts were scratched.

Maggie was born seven almost eight years earlier. She was due to officially come to life the third week of September, four five days after Frank and Vera expected to be back from Atlantic Canada but was born on the first day of the month.

She was a once in a blue moon baby. To do something once in a blue moon means to do it rarely. It is the appearance of a second full moon within a calendar month, which happens about once every three years.

“Where do you go in the summer?” Maggie asked.

“We go to Prince Edward Island, a small town called North Rustico, but we stay in a cottage in the National Park, a family owns the land, they’ve been there for almost two hundred years. We leave in mid-August and stay through the first couple of weeks of September, which is why we miss your birthday party.”

“You always send me a present. I like that. But last year you sent me a sweatshirt with a red leaf on it that was ten times too big.”

“You’ll grow into it,” said Frank.

“Maybe I will, but maybe I won’t,” said Maggie. She was a genial child but could be a testy cuss. She thought she knew her own mind rounding out her seventh year, although it could go both ways.

“Do you like it there?”

“Yes, we like it a lot.”

“Why aren’t you going? Is it the virus?”

The 20th century was the American Century. The United States led the way socially economically brain-wise learning-wise and in every other wise way. In 2020 it led the way in virus infections, far outpacing the next two contenders, Brazil and India. The flat tires in charge nowadays can’t get anything right, from building their useless wall, all three miles of new wall, to securing a useful virus test.

North Korea and Iran keep making atom bombs, there’s no China trade deal, the deficit has skyrocketed, and race relations have gotten worse. All that’s left is for the other shoe to drop. On top of that, Hilary Clinton still isn’t in jail.

“Yes, the bug,” said Frank. “The Canadian border is closed, and even if we could get into Canada somehow, the bridge to the island is closed except for business.”

In May President Trump said, “Coronavirus numbers are looking MUCH better, going down almost everywhere, cases are coming way down.” In June he said the pandemic is “fading away. It’s going to fade away.” On July 2nd he said, “99% of cases are totally harmless.” Four days later, on July 6th, he said, “We now have the lowest Fatality Rate in the World.”

John Hopkins University subsequently reported that the United Sates has the world’s ninth-worst mortality rate, with 41.33 deaths per 100,000 people. It was a bald-faced report. They didn’t capitalize the numbers.

“Are you sad that you can’t go?”

“Yes.”

“They built a new bridge to our house. I know all about it, we drove over it two weeks ago. Mom was so happy. It’s a big bridge, too, the other one was small and always breaking.”

“You know the bridge you go across from downtown, when you go up the rise past the baseball stadium where the Indians play ball, on your way to Lakewood?”

“That’s a long bridge.”

“It’s called the Main Avenue Bridge and it’s two miles long. The bridge that goes from Canada to Prince Edward Island is almost 5 times longer than that. It’s as long as the distance from downtown to our house.”

“That’s far!”

“That can’t be,” Frank’s nephew Ethan blurted out. “That bridge is too long!”

“How do you know, Bud, you can hardly count,” said Maggie. She called Ethan Bud. They were buddies, although they didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

“I can so count, I know all the dinosaurs, there are a million of them,” said Ethan.

“I’m going into third grade and we’re going to learn division. You’ve been learning to finger paint.”

“What’s a million plus a million?”

“2 million.”

“OK, what’s the biggest dinosaur ever?”

“The Brontosaurus.”

“No! It’s the Argentinosaurus, and he weighed a million pounds.”

“That can’t be,” said Maggie.

“My math is my math,” Ethan simply said.

“If you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough,” said Albert Einstein.

As of July, there were more than 300,000 cases of the virus reported in children since the start of the pandemic. The Executive Office of the Federal Government has repeatedly maintained it poses almost no threat to them. “The fact is they are virtually immune from this problem,” President Trump said.

“How do you know about the virus?” Frank asked.

“Everybody knows about it. The whole world knows.”

“They even know in Antarctica,” said Ethan.

“Do you know anybody who got it?”

“A girl in school got it from her mom,” Maggie said. “I took piano lessons with her.”

“That’s too bad,” Frank said.

“Are there going to be fireworks tonight?” Maggie asked.

“No, the city cancelled them.”

“Where we live, too.”

“Here there were fireworks last night, we sat on the front porch, until after midnight, but it was just people in the street or their yards. There were some big pops over there by Madison Avenue. I think they were shooting them off from the empty lot. We could see bottle rockets over the trees.”

“Wow!”

“You said you knew about the virus, but how do you know?” asked Frank.

“The news about it is on every day on TV,” said Maggie.

“That’s right,” said Ethan.

“We have a TV, but we don’t have TV,” said Frank. “We only have a couple of streaming services for movies.”

“We have real TV,” said Maggie, “and it’s on all the time. The news is on every single hour every single day and all the news is about the virus.”

“Do you watch TV all the time?”

“We don’t watch TV, but we watch it all day,” said Ethan.

“We don’t really watch it, but it’s always there,” said Maggie.

Parents are urged to pay attention to what their children see and hear on radio online television. They are cautioned to reduce screen time focused on the virus since too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety in kids. Talk to them about how stories on the web might be rumors and wildly inaccurate.

“That’s OK, it’s all in your head, anyway,” said Maggie.

“All in your head?”

“That’s what dad says.”

“Well,” Frank said, “your father knows best.” He wasn’t going to get into a no-win argument with his brother-in-law. His sister’s boyfriend was a policeman at Metro Hospitals. Frank didn’t want his ears pricking up. He wouldn’t understand it’s all in your head.

“Are you worried about the virus?” Frank asked.

“Would that help?” Maggie asked, biting into a burger. “This is yummy good.”

“No, it would probably just make you crazy.”

“Dad said your name wasn’t always Frank Glass.”

“Yes and no,” said Frank. “My given name has always been Frank, which is short for Francis, like we call you Maggie even though your name is Margaret, but my family name, what they say is your surname, used to be Kazukauskas.”

“What happened to it?” asked Maggie. “Why is it different now.”

“When my father came here, to America after World War Two, the immigration people said he should change it to something other people could pronounce, that they could say without too much trouble, so he changed it to Glass.”

“Where did he come from?”

“Lithuania, a little country, north of Germany.”

“That’s a nice name,” Maggie said. “I like Glass.”

 “At least he didn’t have to climb another brick in the wall once he got here.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’ll tell you when you’re older. Are you staying home more because of the virus?”

“Yes!” both of them exclaimed.

“Do you have to wear a mask when you go somewhere?”

“We cover up,” Maggie said. “My face gets hot, my head gets hot, and my hair get hot. It makes my glasses fog up.”

“I have a tube mask with rhino’s and bronto’s on it,” Ethan said. “But I can’t breathe, so I just rip it off until mom sees.”

There was a box of Charades for Kids on the table. “Three or More Players Ages Four and Up.” Frank pointed at it.

“Are you ready to play?”

Maggie rolled around on the lawn, flapped her arms, rolled her eyes, and hugged herself. Nobody had any idea what she was doing.

“Going to bed!” she yelped.

Ethan did a somersault.

“Somersault?”

“Yes!”

Maggie rolled on the ground holding her head and grimacing like a mad chipmunk. Everybody watched with blank faces, stumped.

“Headache!” she blared.

Ethan slashed the air with his hands.

“Karate?”

“Yes!”

Maggie jumped, waved her right arm in circles, flapped it back and forth, and licked her lips. As the one-minute hourglass dropped the last grain of sand to the bottom, she fell down on the grass. Everybody was stumped again.

“Frosting a cake! I can’t believe nobody got it.”

Ethan got on all fours like an anteater, pretended to be eating something with great chomping motions, and clomped to the driveway and back.

“Argentinosaurus?”

“Yes!”

Summer signals freedom for children. It’s a break from the structure of school days, a time for more days spent at the pool, a time for more play, for exploring the outdoors.

One day his mom asked Ethan if he wanted to go out on his scooter.

“So much,” he said. “I have got to get out of this house.”

“Every single day I see the Amazon truck and the FedEx and the white trucks go past me,” said Maggie. “They turn around at the cul-de-sac thing, they just rush back, driving crazy. I run to the backyard.”

“There’s a big field and woods past our backyard,” Ethan said.

“We’re stuck at home but it’s summer, it’s nice outside, the sun is shining, and we all go for walks,” Maggie said.

She hadn’t been to school since April, studying remotely. Ethan hadn’t been to pre-school for just as long.

“Are you going back to school in the fall?” asked Frank.

“I hope so,” said Maggie. “I miss it.”

“I’m supposed to start first grade,” said Ethan.

About two months away from hopes there will be a return to school, many parents were looking to new findings which suggest children are less likely to get and spread the virus. In late June the American Academy of Pediatrics, which advocates for “having students physically present in school,” published reopening guidelines. They stated that children “may be less likely to become infected” with the coronavirus and to spread the infection.

Living and breathing in-person face-to-face time is what makes school a school. “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher,” is what a Japanese proverb says.

“I want to play something else,” Maggie said. “Can you teach us how to play Pictionary?”

“Sure,” Frank said.

They put the never-ending news of the pandemic away, cleared one end of the table, and unfolded the game board, setting out the pencils note pads special cards. “Quick Sketches, Hilarious Guesses” is what it said on the yellow box, and that is what they did the rest of Independence Day, the clear sky going twilight, lightning bugs flashing on off on off, and neighborhood kids shooting off Uncle Sam Phantom fire flowers in the alley behind them.

There wasn’t a dud in the caboodle, not that they saw. Uncle Sam got it right, rockets red glare.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Feet to the Fire

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By Ed Staskus

The first summer Doug McKinney joined the staff at the Landmark Café in Victoria, on the south shore of Canada’s Prince Edward Island, he joined at the bottom. He was a busboy. One of the first times he cleaned a table in the newer back dining room of the restaurant, he miscalculated the ceiling.

“I was clearing a mussel dish off a table, stood straight up, and hit my head,” he said. “It was like somebody hitting you right on the top of your head. I blacked out for a second.”

Doug is slightly taller than six feet eight inches. The ceiling is slightly shorter than six feet six inches. Something had to give.

He didn’t make the same mistake twice, although there were several more close calls. Almost knocking yourself out one time is often the charm, never mind any more times.

“I’ve always been the kind of person, if I don’t know how to do something, I’m going to ask, or I’m just going to go ahead and do it. Maybe I do it right. Maybe I do it wrong. If I do it wrong, I’ll probably only do it wrong once.”

An only child, Doug grew up on the eastern end of the island, near Montague. The small town is known as “Montague the Beautiful” for its river, tree-lined streets, and heritage homes. His father was a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer. In 1993 his dad was struck by a fatal heart attack. The boy was 7-years-old.

The 33-year-old man has a tattoo on his chest honoring his father.

The following year his mother and he moved to Charlottetown, the capitol city of the province.

“The RCMP relocated them, bought them a house,” said Rachel Sauve, Doug’s fiancée.

“They are good for that,” said Doug. “I went from living in a rural community to a brand new suburb. My mom spoiled me a lot, for sure. There were lots of kids my own age. I was playing sports, basketball, and we had more than two TV channels.”

By the time he was 15 he was growing more and playing more basketball. He spent early mornings and late evenings at hoops. You can’t do it by loafing around. Practice makes it happen, not just wanting it to happen, and his growth spurt, which can’t be taught, took him up a notch.

As much as basketball was becoming his life, life and death came knocking.

“I was playing in the Canada Games in 2001 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer,” he said. “I came back home, and even though she had only been given until Christmas, she made it until April.”

An inking honoring his mother joined his father’s tattoo on his chest.

“When I lost her, I put more emphasis on basketball.” Not yet grown up, he had to grow up on his own. It was get up stand up for yourself on your own two feet. He treated every day on the hardwood like every day was his last day draining a jump shot.

“Basketball was developed to meet a need,” said James Naismith, the inventor of the game.

Doug played basketball at university and professionally until he was thirty. A graduate of Charlottetown Rural High School, he played five seasons with the UPEI Panthers. Later he played internationally in Lebanon, and after returning to Prince Edward Island, played four seasons with the Island Storm of Canada’s National Basketball League.

He had his ups and downs fast breaking crashing the boards shooting floaters, like every player, since even the superstars barely shoot 50% for the season, but he knew how to recognize his mistakes, learn from them, and then forget them. He never let an opponent try harder than he did.

”It’s basically grown men who do this for a job,” he said when trying out for the Island Storm in 2011. “Everybody is strong, everybody is athletic. I just try to play hard, sweat as much as I can every day, show that I’m willing to work.” Going nose to nose with grown men means proving yourself every day.

He was named to the NBL All-Star Second Team the 2012 – 2013 season.

When his team needed him to score, he scored. During game seven of the NBL Canada Finals in 2014 he went 7 of 8 from the field, 4 of 4 from the 3-point line, threw in an assist, a steal, and three rebounds, and set a playoff record that still stands for most points scored in the fewest minutes.

Basketball is a team game, to the extent that even the best basketball players, like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, could never have won multiple championships without solid teams around them. Doug McKinney’s pro career as a power forward was solid on getting it done.

Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates. Make the extra pass.

After retiring from the pro game he has continued to work with the sport. Last year he was the Minor Basketball Advisor for Basketball Prince Edward Island, helping players and coaches of grassroots programs in PEI communities.

In the meantime, he re-connected with Rachel Sauve.

“We first met in 2002-or-so,” she said. “I was dating one of Doug’s teammates at UPEI.”

Years later they ran into each other at Baba’s Lounge in Charlottetown.

“One of my Storm teammates texted me that he was there, and even though I usually never went there, I went,” said Doug. “I saw her, she gave me a big hug, we hung out for a little bit, and after I left I couldn’t stop thinking about her.”

“I don’t think either of us were looking for a relationship, but we didn’t want to pass it up,” said Rachel. ”We both are islanders and want to be here.”

“I think we both knew there was something other than the fact that I’m really tall and she’s definitely shorter, something special about our energy together,” said Doug.

Rachel was working at the Landmark Café, her family’s homemade soup signature quiche traditional meat pies hot-off-the-press seafood all made fresh daily sit-down in the heart of their small town. The produce is local organic and they make their own salad dressings. Her father, Eugene, and mother, Julia, had staked out the restaurant, several times expanded since, excavating a new basement for storage and coolers, building new dining rooms, and adding an outdoor deck, twenty nine years earlier in what had once been Annie Craig’s Grocery Store and Post Office, kitty corner from the Victoria Playhouse.

“As kids my brother and I were always helping, doing stuff at the restaurant, washing dishes, running to the freezers for ice cream,” said Rachel.

Her father’s entrepreneurship rubbed off on her.

“I sat out front at a picnic table and sold stuff,” she said. “ I was 11, 12-years-old.”

She sold wood figurines, creating faces and outfits for them. She sold bootleg Anne of Green Gables straw hats with red braids. She sold wax jewelry that she and a friend designed and molded out of leftover wax from the café.

“We had a problem with it, though, because the wax would melt in the sun. We put it in boxes so it wouldn’t start melting until the tourists had left the village.”

The family has worked together at the Landmark from the word go.

Shortly after Doug and Rachel had gone from an encounter to a thing together, the restaurant posted a “Help Wanted” for the summer season sign.

Once Doug got the parameters of the back dining room’s ceiling right, he went from busboy to server to integral part of the roster, picking up vittles in the morning, working long into the night cleaning up and closing down.

“It goes back to growing up and playing on teams,” he said. “I’ve played on good ones. I’ve played on bad ones. I’ve always prided myself on being a team player. The Landmark is the kind of place, you’re either going to swim or you’re going to sink.”

“You either do the dance or you don’t do the dance,” said Rachel.

Working for a family business is a dynamic unlike other work. Your mom and dad or grandparents started it from scratch and you’re never going to be one of the founding fathers. Sometimes it’s one big happy family at the dinner table, but sometimes it’s like the Mafia. Whatever the big cheese says is what goes, and you have to come to grips with it.

Doug spent four years at the Landmark Café.

“I was actually the tallest server east of Montreal,” said Doug. “I didn’t want to just serve anywhere, except the Landmark.”

Their lives took a turn toward the end of last winter when they came to a fork in the road and took it. They had just come back to Prince Edward Island from several weeks in Cuba. “That was our last hurrah before the summer,” said Rachel. But once at home, instead of going back to work at the Landmark Café, Doug and Rachel took jobs with Fairholm Inn and Properties.

The collection of archetypal inns in downtown Charlottetown, including the eponymous Fairholm Inn, the Hillhurst Inn, and the Cranford House, share the same grounds, gardens, and outdoor fire-pit. The Fairholm Inn is a National Historic Site, originally a large family home built in 1838 for Thomas Haviland, a many times mayor of the capitol city.

Doug and Rachel are the Jack and Jill of all trades at Fairholm.

“I do the front desk, maintenance work, a little bit of everything,” said Doug.

“They wanted me to learn how to edit websites,” sad Rachel. “Now I know how to edit websites.”

“After Rachel got hired, they needed more help on their team, and thought I could help them out,” said Doug.

“He’s been building cabinets there,” said Rachel.

“It’s awesome working together,” said Doug “We’ve found that even when we’re not working, we go golfing together, go places on the island, have adventures.”

Fairholm Properties schedules most of their days off at the same time.

“It’s evolved into us realizing we work well together. After five years we’re at a spot where we’re trying to figure out our next life,” said Rachel.

“Our next play,” said Doug. “I’m adding stuff to my tool belt, but at the same time, we want to work for ourselves.”

“It might be a tabletop, food truck, catering, something,” said Rachel. “We’re lucky on this island. We have the best local seafood and meat. I can’t see myself being out of that line of work. My dad taught me. All my cooking skills are from him. I’ve got his cooking style in my blood.”

Her father and his Landmark Café have long made the list in the independent guide ‘Where to Eat in Canada’. He is known for his fusion of Asian, Cajun, and native PEI foods, and was once known as a pioneer for his never fried and healthy fare. He is still known for his tasty healthy never fried fare.

Doug’s mother had been a manager at Myron’s in Charlottetown, which was one of eastern Canada’s biggest and most popular sports bar restaurant nightclub concert venues of its time.

“I grew up in the industry without even realizing it,” said Doug.

There isn’t much needed to make your life. It’s all within you, in your way of thinking, in knowing what you want. Being an entrepreneur is a mindset. What it takes is taking the plunge, putting everything you’ve got into being your own boss, exploiting your opportunities when you get them.

It’s jumping off the Confederation Bridge to catch a flying fish. You might go splat in the Northumberland Straight. It will test your risk aversion, but it is, at least, one way to start swimming. You might, on the other hand, land in the fish market, show you’re worth your salt, because you saw something and built your wings on the way down.

No risk no reward.

“We have ideas for our own food venue,” said Rachel, “We’re not chefs, but we’re both great cooks.”

“We eat like kings at home,” said Doug.

“I want the lifestyle, the lifestyle I’ve been living all my life,” said Rachel.

“I’ve gotten to love it, too,” said Doug. “Grind all summer and then find summer somewhere else.”

“I’m not going to sit at a desk,” said Rachel. “That’s not going to happen.”

Whatever does happen, the two of them are undeniably hand to the plow. When they were with the Landmark Café they often worked seven days a week, twelve and fourteen hours a day, most of those hours on their feet. Restaurant work is hard enough, but seasonal restaurant work is getting down to business, not a moment to lose.

“We know many people in the food industry on the island, and some of them want us to work for them, but we want to have our own thing,” said Rachel.

Although raising capital is always a problem for new ventures, especially those related to food enterprises, Rachel Sauve and Doug McKinney are willing to work steadfast persevering to achieve their ends.

“I’m not too good to wash dishes, to do whatever it takes,“ said Doug. “There are a lot of opportunities to capitalize on the food scene on Prince Edward Island in the summertime.”

“When I do a post-up of something we’re cooking at home at night, and I see the reaction, I know it’s something I should be doing,” said Rachel. “We’re trying to mold our future.”

Rachel and Doug may be on a small team at the moment, since it is only the two of them on the roster, far from first place in the standings, but they are on one another’s side, both of them no ifs buts or maybes, their minds made up to make it happen.

“That’s the difference maker,” said Doug. “When you know what you want, you can make a difference.”

Everything’s on the front burner, pots and pans, the kitchen sink, plans goals around the corner, their feet to the hot bright side of the fire.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

 

Shoot the Moon

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By Ed Staskus

“Where’s the moon now, we’ve been lost for days, we’re on a trip around the sun, food and drink for everyone.” Leningrad Cowboys

The red and white sign in one of the paired windows slanting toward the road said “Help Wanted”. It was morning, prep time at eateries.

“I had gotten out of culinary school, was living down the street, and riding to P-town to look for work,” said Tony Pasquale. As he passed by he got a look-see at Terra Luna and a glimpse of the bright sign. He turned around and rode his bike up to the front door. Raina Stephani, the owner, and he introduced themselves.

They sat inside at a table next to the front door.

Terra Luna is a restaurant on the Shore Road of North Truro on the Outer Cape of Cape Cod. The two-lane road with sand shoulders is Route 6A, in parallel with Route 6, which interconnects most of the peninsula’s towns. The Shore Road was once called the Old King’s Highway.

“When can you start?” asked Raina, who opened the restaurant in 1993, starting the job interview.

“I can start tomorrow,” he said. “But, don’t you want to see my resume?”

“No,” she said.

He went to work in the kitchen in 1997, as a line cook, then sous chef, and finally kitchen manager. Fourteen years later Raina told Tony, ”I’m done. I don’t want it anymore.” Tony Pasquale bought Terra Luna in 2011. Today he is still in the kitchen, the chef, but at the hardware store, too, the handyman, and the office, doing payroll and the books.

“I’m on the line six days a week,” he said. “Everyone contributes, Paul, Marlene, Carla, who is Raina’s mom. She does the baking. But, I do everything.”

It’s old-school style, the owner’s manual written by the skipper.

On the high rise of the Shore Road, before it dives down to sea level on the way to Provincetown, Terra Luna is an Italian Mediterranean Portuguese cottage-style restaurant. It is a seasonal eatery, open roughly mid-May to mid-October. “Our menu, we call it neo-pagan,” said Tony.

“It’s a funky eclectic fun busy small intimate place, fish very nicely done,” said one diner as last year’s season wound down “They feature Absinthe specials and Sazerac rye cocktails, a real treat.”

“It hasn’t changed much,” said Tony. “It looks like it did in 1997, except we built the bar. The landlord has owned this building forever. Sometimes it needs some sleight-of-hand.”

The northwest corner of the floor is slowly sinking. The large painting on the wall, as a result, began to look crooked. “I put a tack under the bottom left corner of the frame, to hold the painting crooked, so it would look straight.”

The building was once the common room for the Prince of Whales cottages on the other side of the parking lot. Inside, the floor is wood, the walls are wood, and the pitched trestle ceiling is wood. There is plenty of coastal air by way of screened windows and doors. Paintings and glassworks by local artists, who moonlight in the busy summer, serving food, pouring drinks, are on the walls.

Two years ago he donated a dinner to the Sustainable Cape Farmer’s Market. “They asked me if I would do a dinner with Mark Bittman. I said, sure.”

Mark Bittman is a food writer, a former columnist for The New York Times, and author of more than a dozen books. His ‘How to Cook Everything’ was a bestseller and won the James Beard Award.

A year later Terra Luna got a phone call. “OK, they said, it’s for July 5th. I asked them, are we cooking together?”

“No,” said the other end of the line.

“That’s what I want to aspire to, be so famous that the thing I donate to charity is you get to take me out to dinner,” said Tony.

They started with their on-again off-again Bait Plate. ”My friend Jason and I had come up with it as a special. It’s all trash fish, smelts, razor clams, squid, sardines.”

Atlantic cod and lobster were long the dishes of choice in New England. But, overfishing and environmental changes have led to sharp declines in stock, especially of cod, and a shift toward more abundant species, like scup and spiny dogfish.

“I’ve complained for years that Cape Cod restaurants don’t strut the Cape’s stuff,” Mark Bittman wrote after the dinner.

“I was served a pile of what were once considered trash fish, all sourced locally. The cooking happened to be perfect, kudos to the kitchen, although that’s the easy part. It’s making the effort to deal with local fishers and ensure the product is genuine that’s tricky.”

“He told us, I will definitely be back,” said Tony. “Which was great, because he can be cranky.”

A native of Montclair, New Jersey, Tony Pasquale attended Syracuse University, graduating in 1990 with degrees in English and Cultural Anthropology. “That basically left me prepared for nothing,” he said.

He came to Cape Cod as a lad in the mid-70s when his family started vacationing in North Eastham. In 1988, at the start of summer, he came back. “There was nothing in Brewster, nothing in Eastham, college kids were still coming here to work. I ended up in a dumpy cottage in Truro. I ended up getting my first restaurant job. I got hooked.”

His first job was frying fish at the Goody Hallett, named after a young woman who turned to witchcraft for revenge in the early 18thcentury after being abandoned by the freebooter Black Sam Bellamy, believed to be the wealthiest pirate in history. Even though the restaurant has long since been torn down, replaced by a bank, sightings of Goody’s ghost are still spun by eyewitnesses in Eastham and Wellfleet.

Three years later he enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. “I wanted to go west and they were accredited.” Instead of the two-year program, he chose the accelerated one-year program. “I didn’t need anymore spring breaks.”

The cooking school opened in 1983, the brainchild of Horst Mager, who was a local chef and restaurateur. It has produced many acclaimed cooks over the years, including Matt Lightner and Homaro Cantu.

The program was part kitchen work, applying skills and techniques, and part classroom work, studying food science, as well as concepts in baking and pastry. “The instructors were great when you got into the kitchen, but sucked when they did lectures,” said Tony.

“One day it would be, we have a piece of fish. How can you cook it? You can grill it. You can poach it. You can bake it. The next day it would be, we have a piece of chicken. How can you cook it? You can grill it. You can poach it. You can bake it. I remember turning to one of my friends and saying, fuck it, are we really taking notes?”

After graduating he interned in Seattle, at the Alexis Hotel’s multi-star restaurant. He learned the business of making real food for real people in real time. He also learned he didn’t want to work for a corporate restaurant. “They never tell you in culinary school how many meetings and how much paperwork you’re going to have to do. The head chef got great reviews, but it was a nightmare, super competitive. She used to lock herself in her office. She lost it.”

He divided his time for the next several years between the east coast and the west coast, finally settling on Cape Cod in 1997, the summer he spied Terra Luna. “I love it here,” he said. “It’s still relatively unspoiled, even though it’s getting developed more and more. But, it will get to the point where it can’t be developed anymore, and that’s pretty soon.”

He works in Truro and lives in Wellfleet, both once whaling towns, both towns in woods of pitch pine and black oak, both towns the better part of them being the National Seashore.

Although vegan and vegetarian grub is served at Terra Luna, the menu is largely home on the range fare, pork chops, beef, and fish. The so-called neo-pagan larder keeps its cupboard doors open to organic close to home free-range livestock farming. Tony Pasquale supports environmental issues and organizations.

Not everything is neo-pagan, though. Some of it is closer to pagan, like Terra Luna’s Smoked Bluefish Pate. A neighbor spilled the beans about the unique recipe.

“Top Knot was sketchy, lived across the street, in what we call Cannery Row,” said Tony. “He had a peg leg and eye patch, except he switched the eyes. He came in one day, gave me his recipe, which was a special way of reducing shallots with wine, and it was incredible.”

Pirate’s booty isn’t always silver and gold. Sometimes the treasure chest is full of pate. Eat up me hearties!

The small restaurant is usually busy. In the summer they are even busier. “We were brutally busy last year,” said Tony. In the kitchen there are a chef’s table, two stoves, ovens, sinks and fridges, a salad station, coffee and espresso machines. It is a factory-like space, stainless steel and tools of the trade and exhaust fans, making fine delicious food. “It’s tight, streamlined, and we’re all close together, three of us cooking, and the dishwasher.”

Everybody rarely gets a day off. The hours are early Industrial Age-style. It is hard work. It takes a toll. “Some mornings I get up and, Jesus, that’s not working. You’re on your feet 15 hours.”

In common with many employers on the Outer Cape, especially seasonal employers, Terra Luna faces labor shortages. “When I was in college, I came here every summer,“ said Ken Smith, vice president of Red Jacket Resorts. “Me and three other guys rented a small Cape. For whatever reason, it doesn’t happen today.”

Housing, or what little there is of it, has grown prohibitively expensive, there is the dilemma of making money that in the end goes against your student aid, and the no-status summer job has become a resume non-builder. At the end of the day even the close-to-hand are hard to find.

“It’s extremely difficult to find locals anymore,” said William Zammer, owner of Cape Cod Restaurants, Inc. When Terra Luna lost its sous chef at the last minute it had to buckle down. There wasn’t a replacement to be found, not for love or money.

”There was no help,” said Tony. “There was nobody. We all know each other, the other owners, we’re talking all the time, but everybody was getting ready for their opening weekend. Eric Jansen at Blackfish was opening late, so he sent some people over.”

I need them back next weekend was the caveat.

“I did Craig’s List, the whole BS Internet thing, nothing,” said Tony. ”Finally, I put a sign up, ‘Help Wanted’. A guy going by on his Vespa, who was looking for a night job, stopped. He didn’t have a resume. I said, screw it. He’s from Mexico, a trained chef, and he did specials all summer. He was great.”

Even though motels hotels cottages resorts restaurants advertise for American workers, “we get virtually no response,” said William Zammer. Many of Cape Cod’s seasonal workers are from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Jamaica. They are allowed to work in the United States on a temporary basis as a result of the H2B visa program, which is tailored for entry-level jobs in hospitality and retail.

Tony Pasquale’s dishwasher, Marlene, is from Jamaica. “She and I have been here the longest. She’s the rock, holds the kitchen together.” She comes to Cape Cod in the spring and goes home in the fall. On the peninsula she lives in Little Kingston, which is what the Prince of Whales cottages are known as up and down the Shore Road. She cleans rooms for a hotel in Provincetown during the day and takes a bus back to Terra Luna to wash dishes at night.

When the Jamaican reggae singer Beres Hammond was booked to play at the Payomet, Tony asked Marlene if she wanted to go to the show.

“No, I have to work.”

“We’ll get Roy to work for you.”

“How am I going to get there?”

The Payomet Performing Arts Center is on the other side of North Truro, on the ocean side. They stage professional theater productions and host live music, from Ruthie Foster to Southside Johnny, in a big, big tent. There is an outdoor dance floor for high stepping to the Genuine Negro Jig of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

“We’ll get you a cab.”

“I don’t have tickets.”

“We got you front row.”

Sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and no ifs ands or buts lay something at someone’s feet.

Terra Luna barters for tickets, as well as catering some of Payomet’s events. The night the rhythm and blues gospel singer Mavis Staples was on stage the kitchen prepared a shrimp plate for her. “I was in the second row when between songs she said my name,” said Tony.

“Boy, you can burn!” said Mavis Staples. “I didn’t finish my shrimps, but I got a microwave up in my room. I’m going to throw that in and have myself a midnight special!”

Although Terra Luna’s haddock and oysters are sourced locally, all of their cod and shrimp come from far away. “There are a lot of licensed fishermen here, so my oysters come from Wellfleet.” Salmon, a staple on the menu, is not indigenous to North Truro’s neck of the woods. “There’s no shrimp here either. I get it from Chatham Fish. Sometimes people ask me if it’s Gulf shrimp. After BP, I tell them, yeah, Gulf of Tonkin.”

The sardines come from Portugal.

The first time Terra Luna fed a band the band was the Zombies. They are a British Invasion rock group from the 1960s, still going strong. When asked in 2015 about the name, Rod Argent, founding member, organist, and still the lead singer, said they all just liked it. “I knew vaguely that zombies were the Walking Dead from Haiti.”

“They were great,” said Tony. “It was an after-party. The problem was, they announced it from the stage. I left during the encore.”

Back at the restaurant he gathered the staff. “We might be a little busy.” A half-hour later close to a hundred people walked in. The bartender got into the weeds almost immediately. Tony ordered the menus be put away. “It was rum and coke and gin and tonic after that. One of us did wine and one on the tap.“ The kitchen fired up all of its burners, all hands on deck.

“It was awesome. The Zombies hung out all night.”

Sometimes singers stop in by themselves.

“I got a call last minute about Judy Collins,” said Tony.

“We need dinner for her.”

“She’s not on my list. I’m not donating.”

“We’ll pay for it. It’s just her by herself.”

“She came in and ordered the Porterhouse.” The Porterhouse is doubling your dining delight. It is the King of the T-Bones. “She put it down. I eat a 16-ounce steak and I have to take a nap. She went and did the show.”

Sometimes it isn’t a singer.

The Truro Vineyards, one of a handful of wineries on the Cape, is two or three miles away on the downside of the road.

“I know you don’t take reservations,” said Kristen Roberts, who with her mom and dad are the winemakers. “But, my parents are coming, three people at seven.”

“I don’t know. Three people?”

“My dad’s friend, Al Jaffee, he’s 93.”

“Al Jaffee? From Mad Magazine?”

“Yes.”

“Come to dinner.”

Al Jaffee is a cartoonist who has drawn satirical cartoons for Mad for more than sixty years. “Serious people my age are dead,” he said. Between 1964 and 2013 only one issue of Mad was published sans one of his cartoons. ”I grew up with Mad. He did the back page fold-in,” said Tony.

“We’ve got to do something special,” said Luke the bartender. He mixed up a new drink and called it The Fold-In.

“Al Jaffee rocked the pork chop and two Fold-In’s,“ said Tony.

The next day Dave Roberts stopped at Terra Luna with a copy of Mad.

“I know you did this for us,” he said. “I went out and bought the new issue. Al Jaffee signed it.”

At other times it isn’t a singer or a cartoonist. Some people, including Tony Pasquale, believe the building that houses Terra Luna is occasionally haunted.

“The jukebox didn’t work for weeks,” he said. “One day, getting ready for service, we heard woooooo all of a sudden. It was the jukebox turning itself on. It started playing ‘I Put a Spell On You’ by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. We all stopped what we were doing. Everybody was freaked out.”

Another day Tony was in the kitchen in the middle of the day, alone, prepping for the dinner crowd. ”I had music cranking, doors locked, when all of a sudden I got that feeling that someone’s staring at you. I looked up. It was an old lady. She smiled and I smiled. I went back to work. But, then I thought, oh, fuck, there’s someone in here. When I looked up again there was nobody. I’m a hairy dude. All the hair on my body stood straight up. I had to go sit outside for a while. At least she was friendly.“

In the spring Terra Luna is smudged. “My buddies come in, burn some sage.” Sage means to heal and when burned it’s believed to clear away all things negative real and imagined, a balm and seal for the mind and spirit.

Cape Cod is the chin of New England, sticking its neck out into the Atlantic Ocean. When hurricanes roll up the seaboard the peninsula takes it on the chin, taking the brunt of high wind and high water.

“I see a bad moon a-rising, I hear a hurricanes a-blowing, I know the end is coming soon,” Credence Clearwater Revival, guitars jangling and drums steady as a heartbeat, sings out loud and clear in a backwoods yowl on the Provincetown radio show Squid Jigger’s Blend.

Route 6, about a mile from Terra Luna, is the Hurricane Evacuation Route. In 1996, in advance of Hurricane Edouard, state officials declared a state of emergency. An eight-hour 40-mile traffic jam ensued, stretching from Orleans to the bridges crossing over to the mainland.

The peak of the New England hurricane season is early September. If a hurricane were to blow in on any day except Monday, when they are closed, a good place to wait out the end might be Terra Luna on the high side of 6A, rather than 40 miles of gas fumes on Route 6. They have candles in case the power goes out, the roof might leak, but probably won’t blow away, there are ghost stories to go around, and they always have plenty of food and drink.

Terra Luna on the Shore Road, on top of that, has a skipper at the ready who makes the moving parts happen – the self-made year-roun-dah in the black chef’s coat so the blood won’t show when he steps out of the kitchen – who is more than capable of staying the course, help when wanted, foul weather and fair.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Down Dogs and Buffalo Wings

Down Dogs and Buffalo Wings

By Ed Staskus

Very few, if any, men or women finish doing down dog pose at the yoga studio, roll up their mats, and that night eat the family dog for dinner. Some might have Buffalo wings, which have nothing to do with buffalos, and someone might even have a buffalo burger, which are actual buffalos made into sandwiches.

Although cats and dogs are out of bounds, many people eat an animal of some kind for dinner, mostly a bird, a pig, or a cow. When they do, it usually looks like something it wasn’t when it was alive. Sometimes it’s invisible, hidden by sauces and batter.

Whether they practice yoga, or not, almost everyone eats animals. In the Western world 97% of everyone eats them, according to Vegetarian Times. In the birthplace of yoga, however, which is India, close to 40% of the population is vegetarian. The remainder, for the most part, eat meat only occasionally, mainly for cultural and partly for economic reasons.

Many people who practice yoga today understand the conservative underpinnings of the practice that forswears eating animals. Most of them, however, sit on the farm fence about it. They don’t want to pick a bone about it.

Old-school yoga masters like K. Pattabhi Jois, the man who made vinyasa what it is, and B. K. S. Iyengar, the man who made alignment what it is, eschewed eating animals.

“A vegetarian diet is the most important practice for yoga,” said Pattabhi Jois. “Meat eating makes you stiff.”

“If animals died to fill my plate, my head and heart would become heavy,” said B. K. S. Iyengar. “Becoming a vegetarian is the way to live in harmony.” He had the sense of what bolt guns sound like.

Some modern yoga masters like Sharon Gannon, the founder of Jivamukti Yoga, believe a strict adherence to not only a vegetarian, but a vegan diet, is a vital part of the practice. She calls it the diet of enlightenment. Ms. Gannon regards today’s flesh food choices as not only harming animals, since they end up being killed, but harming the physical health and spiritual well being of people, too.

She says it endangers and degrades the environment, as well. She might be right on all counts.

Eating animals raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, hardens blood vessels, is directly linked to heart disease, increases the possibility of stroke significantly, and triples the chances of colon cancer.

In short, eating them shortens life spans, theirs and yours.

There’s also the animal cruelty factor, which can be, literally, sickening. Factory farming is “by far the biggest cause of animal suffering in the world” according to Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society.

The factory farming of pigs as it is practiced in the 21st century is as wholesome as toad’s juice. No disrespect to toads is intended.

The meat business is responsible for 85% of all soil erosion in the United States and according to the EPA raising animals for food is the #1 source of water pollution. It takes 2400 gallons of water to make 1 pound of beef. Every vegetarian saves the planet hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a year.

The consequences for the climate are also freighted with a dark brass tack, which is that more than half of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal husbandry, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

But, everyone’s got to eat, because everyone’s continued existence depends on food. What’s for chow might be an existential choice for some people, but eat you must.

Killing animals and eating meat have been elements of human evolution since there was human evolution. Meat was part of the diet of our closest ancestors from about 2.5 million years ago. Nobody for those several million years could be a vegan because it isn’t possible to get Vitamin B12 from anything other than meat, milk, eggs, or a supplement.

Like food itself, it is essential to life. B12 protects the nervous system. Mania is one of the nastier end results of a lack of it. Humans became human by eating meat. In other words, it was meat that fueled human brain development. The “meat-eating gene” apoE is what boosted our brains to become what they are today.

That doesn’t mean that anyone necessarily has to eat meat, then or now. There have always been vegetarians, just as there are today. Their brains and bodies have done just fine.

Many athletes are all in on plant-based foods. Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic snowboard medalist, Bill Pearl, a five-time Mr. Universe body building champion, and dozens-of-times winning tennis star Serena Williams are all vegetarians. Walter “Killer” Kowalski, a former Canadian pro wrestler, was a vegetarian.

Today even vegans like UFC fighter Mac Danzig and Iranian strongman Patrik Baboumian succeed at their sports. In 2013, after hauling a yoke weighing 1210 pounds a distance of more than thirty feet, Mr. Baboumian roared to the crowd, “Vegan power!”

It gives the lie to the myth of animal protein.

Yoga is a growth industry everywhere. It’s been estimated more than a million Britons practice it, 30 million Americans, and as hundreds of millions of waistlines swell in China, it is spreading exponentially there. At the same time that yoga is expanding worldwide, global meat production has more than quadrupled in the past 65 years. More people are eating more animals than ever before.

Even though the rest of the world is trying to catch up, in the United States meat is eaten at three times the global average.

Yoga is made up of 8 parts, often called the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which range from the discipline’s golden rules to breath control and exercise postures to meditation. Non-violence, or ahimsa, is one of the central tenets of the practice. It means non-harming all living things

Living things include animals like birds, pigs, and cows.

At some stage many people who practice yoga think about going vegetarian, or even vegan. They usually have one-or-more reasons for changing their diet. Among them are health, non-violence, and karma.

Since most people benefit by eating less meat, and since much of today’s yoga is about fighting stress and keeping your body toned, the healthy halo of going flexitarian, or better, dovetails with the practice.

The do-no-harm principle behind going vegetarian is stoked by the inescapable harm done to the animals we eat. We raise them in pens and cages, kill them, and chop them up into pieces for our pots and pans. Since violence is a choice, and since eating animals isn’t necessary to stave off starvation, ahimsa strongly implies vegetarianism.

Sri Swami Satchidananda, the man behind Integral Yoga, believed being vegetarian was imperative to achieving self-realization.

“Because when you eat animal food, you incur the curse of the animals,” he said.

It’s like ending up in a cheesy bad B movie, “Dawn of the Dead,” for example. “They kill for one reason. They kill for food.” The zombies can’t just pull up at the golden arches drive-through because they never have any money.

At the crossroads of yoga and yummy, what he was essentially saying was eating meat is bad karma. It means taking in the fear, pain, and suffering of the animals you are eating. It obviates the benefits of poses, breathwork, and meditation.

“The law of karma guarantees that what we do to others will come back to us,” said Sharon Gannon about eating animals. In other words, beware becoming stew meat yourself one day!

But, the goal of yoga is to change yourself, not specifically your eating habits. Whether it’s turkey or tofu on somebody’s dinner plate is not as a matter of course going to buff up their yoginess. Not eating animals doesn’t make anyone a good person in the same way that walking slow doesn’t necessarily make everyone a patient man or woman.

Besides, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you don’t have to become a vegetarian to practice yoga fully.

“Nowhere in the Vedas or in the ancient teachings is it said that you must be a strict vegetarian,” said T. K. V. Desikachar. He is, nevertheless, a vegetarian, and his father, Krishnamacharya, modern yoga’s founder, was also a vegetarian.

Eating animals is in our blood, or better yet, our DNA. Other primates are mostly vegan. People have been going carnivorous for a long, long time. We are always eating our way through Noah’s Ark.

However, it’s unlikely any of God’s creatures survived the world of the life-threatening Great Flood with the intention for the bright new future of ultimately ending up on somebody’s plate of hash.

It wouldn’t hurt anyone to give the birds and animals of the world a break by eating either fewer or none of them. In 1940 the average American ate about 80 pounds of meat. Today the average American eats about 170 pounds of meat a year. Our herds would surely appreciate another sunny day of home on the range, not the fluorescent lighting of the supermarket cooler.

And no one, after all, ever said a hot dog a day keeps the doctor away.

A version of this story appeared in International Yoga Journal.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Cooking Up the Landmark

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By Ed Staskus

There are thousands of moving parts to restaurants, from sourcing good food for the larder to wage and safety regulations to clearing the tables. Keeping the doors open is an exercise in controlling chaos. That’s why Calvin Trillin, the New York City food writer, has said he never eats in a restaurant more than one hundred feet off the ground.

It can be a way of life, a labor of love, and Dante’s Inferno all rolled up in one, especially if you are the owner and chef at the same time.

Restaurants are fine dining with a reserved atmosphere and noisy gastropubs and clam chowder shacks on the beach. All restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, need stoves and ovens and grills to prepare food. And no matter what kind of a restaurant it is, unless it’s a street takeaway or a food truck, it needs chairs, tables, and booths.

“There was a neighbor of mine up the road in Crapaud, a farmer, who had built tables for a little church fair,” said Eugene Sauve, the owner and chef of the Landmark Café in Victoria, a seacoast town on the Northumberland Strait side of Prince Edward Island. “I asked him if he would consider building tables and a whole bunch of chairs for me. A week later he said, I’ll do it for two thousand.”

A dozen some tables and forty chairs were made. It was 1988. “I didn’t have a formal plan, but it was all visually in my mind,” said Eugene. “I knew I wanted a big round one. The tables and chairs in the front and back dining rooms are still the originals. The big round table is still in the front.”

The Landmark Café, in the centuries old building that had once been Craig’s Grocery Store, opened on the day long-time Victoria resident Hope Laird drove her three-wheeled bicycle through the grand opening ceremonial ribbon. Almost everyone in town was there.

“When we were kids, we used to call Craig’s Store the Landmark,” she said. “Say meet you at the Landmark and all the kids would meet you there.”

“So, that’s what we called it,” said Eugene Sauve.

Restaurateurs open eateries because they are conversant with the business, are self-motivated, and are usually people with people skills. They are foodies who want to match a menu with what they love to do. Sometimes they are people who just like getting their hands wet and dirty, like to be on their feet all day, and like to work long, long hours.

Opening your own sit-down means pulling up your pants, pilgrim. It takes gumption and hard work the spread-out hours you are on your feet. It takes nerve, too. 50% of all restaurants go south inside of three years. After a decade more than 70% have closed their doors.

Why do friends let friends open restaurants?

“I remember having nightmares opening this place,” said Eugene. “All my friends were saying, you’re crazy, you’re wasting your money.”

What Eugene Sauve’s friends didn’t know was that he had worked in restaurants since he was 16-years-old, and had an outsize appetite, to boot. A business centering on an all-you-can-eat business plan made all the sense in the world. “Growing up I played a lot of hockey and I was always hungry,” he said.

“My father was very formal. He was a banker. He would come home from work, go upstairs, get out of his suit, come downstairs, sit down, and only then was supper served. So, I volunteered to help in the kitchen. I had three sisters, but they weren’t interested. My mom was an amazing great cook. One night, dinner would be Japanese, another Italian, another French.”

He helped her and helped himself.  “Every time my mom turned her back in the kitchen I was eating.”

In the early 1970s Euene Sauve’s father, Eugene, Sr., was transferred from Quebec to British Columbia. He was the first French-Canadian to become vice-president of a major bank in western Canada. Eugene’s sisters, as they grew up, went into banking, too, following the lead of their father.

“I was the only one who got away,” said Eugene.

Before his father was a banker, he was a football player in high school and later joined the Canadian Navy.

“After his military service he became a loan officer in a bank. Sometimes loans would only be ten or twenty dollars and he would literally hound guys for fifty cents. It was right after the war and every penny counted. Since he had also once been a boxer, he was an ideal debt collector.”

After leaving home in the mid 70s Eugene was on the road and staying in a small coastal town in Portugal. It was where he found out for himself what good food was, the kind of food he describes to this day as something that “snaps and cracks.” It was the kind of food three decades after opening the Landmark Café he continues to procure and make and serve.

“When I was in Portugal the fishermen would come in, take a little nap, get dressed up, and walk around the plaza, drinking coffee and booze. Their women would go to work, sardines on the barbeque, dipped in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, with a big crusty roll. Those are my images of good food, good simple food.”

There’s a difference between good table manners and good food. No one needs a silver spoon to eat the best food.

By the 1980s, although his wanderlust had not, and has not to this day abated, he found himself living, working, and newly married in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. “Julia was from New York, performing in a modern dance company. That’s how we met.” He was soon working in the performing arts and the father of the first of two children.

But his children didn’t grow up in PEI’s capital city. Charlottetown is the province’s largest city. They grew up in Victoria. It is one of the province’s smallest communities. “Erskine Smith, the director of the theater in Victoria, phoned me in April one day, out of the blue,” said Eugene. “He said, I’d like to have you at the Victoria Playhouse, would you come out to talk?”

The seaside town that is Victoria, once known simply as Lot 29, was founded in 1819. Besides landing fish, its livelihood was shipping potatoes and eggs to Europe and the West Indies. Today there are some year-round residents, but not many more than a hundred. Summer is what animates the former seaport of family-run fine and folk-art galleries, artisan chocolate and coffee shops, and the Victoria Playhouse. The Landmark Café is kitty-corner to the theater.

The town in April is quiet wet cold.  “I had a half-hour, I walked around, and I instantly felt something here, something about this place. I got the job, and a month in someone at the theater says to me, there’s a house on the corner. I think the guy wants to sell it.” By the end of the summer Eugene Sauve and his nascent family were living in Victoria.

Two years later he approached Annie Craig about renting her grocery store to him for a new seasonal café to serve the theater’s playgoers.

“She had the post office, a bit of pension, although she wasn’t making a living at the store. But she said no,” said Eugene.

Two months later he approached her again. “This time I asked her if I could buy it. She said no, again.”

Annie Craig spent winters knitting sitting in a rocking chair in the back corner of the store. “Under our carpet you can see where she wore the floor out, rubbing her feet as she rocked,” said Rachel, Eugene’s daughter. “She wore through the tile and into the wood.”

The Craig’s Grocery Store building was almost two hundred years old. It had been gambled away in a card game and had once been sold with the bill of sale hand written on the back of a pack of cigarettes. Before it was a grocery it had a history of cobbling, butchering, and bootlegging.

Annie Craig called back the next spring. “You know what, I will sell to you,” she said.

“How much?” asked Eugene Sauve.

“Twenty thousand. I’m going to be firm on that,” she said.

“You got a deal,” he said.

“20 grand,” he thought after hanging up the phone. “Where am I going to get $20 grand?”

Entrepreneurs need capital to get going, but banks don’t like lending to start-up businesses. “They have no historical income,” said Tom Swenson, chief executive of an American bank. “If you are proposing a start-up business, you are de facto proposing something that doesn’t meet typical bank underwriting standards.”

If it’s a food-related business, they like it even less, because restaurants have high rates of default, no matter how much people like eating the food or how well known the chef might be. A healthy dose of skepticism is the default setting of most banks, or at least it should be. Many start-ups look to their families for cash. Eugene Sauve looked to his father, who was family, and a banker, too.

“My father lent me the $20 grand, since I was determined to open it for exactly that amount of money,” he said. “But I had to bring him in as a partner. It cost me 50 for 20 the six years he was my partner, which was pretty darn good for him, which explains why he was a banker.”

He stuck to his budget by buying end-of-the-roll carpeting on the cheap, cadging no cost paint that had been returned because it was the wrong color, and doing a lot of the heavy lifting himself. “A buddy of mine was an electrician. I worked with him. It was hard work, but It all fell together.”

His first stove was an old 4-burner Enterprise. The galvanized range hood came from a bakery going bankrupt. He was the dishwasher, sous chef, and chef. The kitchen had no air conditioning. “It used to be so hot in here it was unbelievable.”

The Landmark Café in Victoria opened in the summer of 1989.  In the movies they say things like, “If you build it, they will come.” In real life not everything is scripted. “The first day was really scary,” said Eugene. “I wasn’t sure if anybody was going to walk in.”

But if you build something good somebody is going to pay good money for it.

“The best Caesar salad I have ever experienced. The flavors were amazing. And the seafood pasta was melt in your mouth delicious,” said a man finishing his seafood pasta.

“I had been searching for a great seafood chowder,” said a woman in a print skirt. “After four other places this was the very best I’ve had on the island so far, just delicious.”

“I usually go with the flavorful Acadian meat pie, but yesterday I tried the special, a fish burger,” said a frequent diner. “It was delicious.”

When you’re serving people delicious food they don’t complain.

Not much beats delicious. Sunshine and fresh air are delicious. Kissing is delicious, tastier than sex. You don’t have to think about rotisserie chicken to know that it’s delicious. Authentic fresh yummy ingredients like island beef, island fish, and island produce are what make the Landmark Café a landmark when Eugene Sauve prepares and brings them to the table.

A decade-and-a-half after opening, in the mid-aughts, the family, son Oliver and daughter Rachel having joined the labor force, expanded the Landmark Café. “We lifted the whole building, since we had a problem with storage and there was no basement, which we needed to grow as a business,“ said Eugene.

“We added 40 seats and that changed everything, since we were turning people away. The air conditioning in the kitchen got done, too. I’m the chef here, anyway, and I need to stay cool. That way we serve more food and everybody’s happy.”

For all the changes and renovations, the original chairs and tables built by Crapaud farmer George Nicholson thirty years ago are still what many diners sit on and eat at in the Landmark Café. In the course of time, however, things happen, chairs and tables sometimes taking the brunt of it.

Opening the restaurant one morning after a stormy night Eugene Sauve found a note addressed to him.

Dear Eugene,

Please accept my sincere apology for the disorderly behavior I displayed last evening. Enclosed is a cheque that I hope is sufficient for the purchase of a new table. It’s been awhile since I’ve let myself loose like that and I’m only sorry it was at your expense.

Signed, Pam

The next day he wrote back.

Pam, the table is going to be fixed with a little glue. There’s no problem. You are always welcome here.

Love, Eugene

Who doesn’t want to stop and eat and drink and kick back somewhere where the chairs are time tested and sturdy and the table is always set for you?

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Deconstructing Chocolate George

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By Ed Staskus

“Chocolate George is at my house now because Keegan hated it,” said Tim Loomis, co-restaurateur and owner with Keegan Konkoski of the gastropub Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar in Lake Placid, New York.

“Let me just say something,” said Keegan, laughing and leaning back on her bar stool.

“I don’t hate anything, but whenever we talked about the theme of our artwork we always said at some level it had to be about food and drink.”

“You’re right, it didn’t totally match,” said Tim.

What Tim Loomis tactfully didn’t point out was that the framed print that eventually found its way to his house was Chocolate George’s Funeral, not Good Old George or Hells Angel George, which is what George was when he wrecked his motorcycle in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco in 1967 at the tail end of the Summer of Love.

“So, when I got our last piece of artwork, I don’t even know what it is, but I was, oh, Tim, I have to move Chocolate George. There’s just no room for it.”

“I told her I would put it in the butcher shop in the meantime.”

Tim took Chocolate George next door, literally next door to Liquids and Solids, to the Kreature Butcher Shop they had opened in 2013. Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar opened its doors in 2010.

Charles George ‘Chocolate George’ Hendricks was a Hells Angel in the San Francisco chapter who was hit by a car while swerving around a stray cat one sunny August afternoon almost fifty years ago, was thrown from his motorcycle, and died later that night from his injuries.

He was known as Chocolate George because he was rarely seen without a quart of his favorite beverage, which was chocolate milk.

“He drank chocolate milk because he had an ulcer,” said Mary Handa, a friend of his in the 1960s. “He spiked it with whiskey from time to time.”

“We got the print when we opened,” said Tim. “We had no artwork, but we had a very old, very dear friend of ours who had followed both of us around to multiple restaurants. He was a lithograph teamster, from the city, and he had a lot of vintage stuff, stuff by Ralph Steadman, and he had Chocolate George.”

Chocolate George’s Funeral is the Holy Grail of biker posters, and although neither Mr. Loomis nor Ms. Konkoski are bikers, at least not in the sense of the Hells Angels – Keegan is an avid mountain biker – it found a place in their restaurant on the back wall just outside the swinging door into the kitchen.

“The walls were pretty barren,” said Tim about their first year.

“There’s never been a restaurant like this here before. Nobody would come in, not nobody,” said Keegan.

“Our friend came in about a month after we opened and gave us the print,” said Tim. “He was a great guy and he loved us, always really supportive. He was a portrait of unhealthiness, but a great guy.”

George Hendricks was a strapping 34-year-old when he died and a favorite among the hippies in Haight-Ashbury because he was funny and friendly. Sometimes he sported a Russian fur hat, making him look like a Cossack.

His mustache and goatee were almost as long as his long hair, he wore a pot-shaped helmet when riding his Harley, and his denim vest was pockmarked with an assortment of round tinny pin badges.

One of the pin badges said: “Go Easy on Kesey.”

The writer Ken Kesey was the de facto head of the Merry Pranksters. Much of the hippie aesthetic can be traced back to the Merry Pranksters.

“The artwork came one by one,” said Keegan.

“It’s a hodge-podge, but that’s how we got started. It was the same with everything, we slowly got more and more ingredients, built up our larder, and the bar.”

“We had a pool table originally, and originally I wanted to play up the whole laid back feeling, so we kept the pool table,” said Tim. “I should have known better. It just attracts children and takes up seats that people could eat at. But, when we got rid of it rumors started floating around, there goes the pool table, they’re already going out of business.”

Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski were novice business owners introducing a new dynamic of craft beers and creative farm-to-table cuisine to a small town popular with travelers, but still, essentially, a small town with well-established tastes.

“When we opened we decided we weren’t just a door with a light on that anyone could stumble into,” said Keegan. “We thought you either have to have a little bit of knowledge or a little adventure in you to make it work.

“We didn’t want to hold hands or educate anyone. We always wanted people to appreciate what we had to offer, and if they were as passionate about it as us, then yeah, we’ll get to know you and chat, answer as many questions as you want. But, some people, they come in here and, I don’t want to sound judgmental, but they just don’t look like they’re going to like it here. All of our hostesses know to ask, have you been here before, you might want to check out the menu, it’s really different.”

“We’d rather have them leave and not sit down and be unhappy,” said Tim. “Because once they sit down and it’s gone south there’s just no fixing it.”

Five days after George Hendricks’s death more than 200 bikers trailed a hearse and the family car up and down the city’s narrow streets, pausing and revving their engines at the Straight Theater, near where he had crashed. The funeral ceremony was performed at the Cypress Lawn Cemetery, Mr. Hendricks was cremated, and his ashes scattered over Twin Peaks, which are in the center of the city, overlooking it.

Two quarts of chocolate milk slowly got warm in the back of the hearse.

The funeral procession then became a motorcycle parade, parading to Golden Gate Park where, joined by hundreds of hippies from Haight-Ashbury, a daylong wake erupted. Big Brother & the Holding Company and, appropriately, the Grateful Dead were the live music send-offs.

“Sometimes the lights all shining on me, other times I can barely see, lately it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it’s been.”

There was free beer courtesy of the Hells Angels and free food supplied by the Diggers.

The Haight Street Diggers were characterized at the time as a “hippie philanthropic organization.” They used the streets of San Francisco for theater, gatherings, and parades. The organization fed the flock that made the scene in the Panhandle with surplus vegetables from the Farmer’s Market and meat they routinely stole from other local markets.

Two months after Chocolate George’s funeral the Diggers announced “The Death of the Hippie” by tearing down the store sign of the Psychedelic Shop and burying it.

“Our reputation in Lake Placid is really mixed,” said Keegan.

“We’re the weirdo’s down here,” said Tim.

Not everyone agrees.

“This gastropub with Western saloon flare has the best beer selection – both draft and bottle – in the Adirondacks,” wrote Lauren Matison in Thrillist NYC. “Also awesome, their next-door butcher shop churns out rillettes, pates, cured tongue, sausages, and cheeses.”

“Much credit is due to chef Tim Loomis and his business partner, Keegan Konkoski, the competent and adventuresome mixologist,” Walter Siebel wrote in his review in the Watertown Daily Times.

“I’m definitely probably known more as the bitchy bartender than anything,” said Keegan.

“If you want a macro brew I say we don’t have that and suggest the bar across the street. I don’t pour shots and I say no to drunks. I don’t serve them. They’ll look at me and say ‘You don’t want me here!’

“After we opened I had to do a lot of weeding out and getting rid of some people who just wanted to come in here and get wasted.”

The craft beer and craft cocktail-focused bar at Liquids and Solids is more in the vein of the Experimental Cocktail Club than it is Happy Hour, of which there is none, although since the drinks are fine and delicious it could easily be said that any time at the Handlebar is a good time.

When asked why they were having such a big party for George Hendricks, Henry ‘Hairy’ Kot, his best friend, said, “George loved be-ins and happenings, so we thought we’d have a happening just for him.”

The wake had been advertised as George’s Wail! on psychedelic-style posters hung in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The next day a photograph of the funeral cortege stretching away on a long loping street ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, along with a story titled “The Gang Gathers.” The photograph was taken by Bob Campbell and later printed as a poster by the Print Mint in San Francisco.

The words Chocolate George’s Funeral at the top of the poster are in brown and gold. The rest of the photograph is in black and white, except for the funeral car, which is a bright fluorescent pink.

“We never knew what the pink was about,” said Beth Hendricks, George Hendricks’s second-youngest daughter.

Three years after struggling out of the red and pushing into the pink Tim and Keegan collaborated again on the Kreature Butcher Shop next door to Liquids and Solids. Tim found a new favorite t-shirt emblazoned with Meatatarian.

“We have a counter guy there, but he’s not the butcher,” said Keegan. “Tim is the butcher. He takes the whole animal and breaks it down.”

“When we started Liquids and Solids a good friend of mine and I went and got our first pigs together,” said Tim. “When we talked about it later we remembered how long it took to break that first pig down. Man, it took six hours.

“I can do a pig cleaner in an hour now than I did back then, no problem. It’s partly just knowing what I’m doing and partly having the right tools. We didn’t even have a saw then. We still only have a hand saw, but at least we can saw through bone.”

“We prefer to get our animals whole,” said Keegan. “Then we can use everything. We try not to waste anything. The whole sustainability, consumption thing is important to both of us. Wastefulness really irks us.”

Kreature’s beef comes from Kilcoyne Farms in the St. Lawrence Valley and pork from several different suppliers in the North Country. Their yogurt comes from North Country Creamery in Keeseville and their cheese from Sugar House in Upper Jay.

“They keep doing more and more plots up in Keeseville every year, some cool stuff,” said Keegan.

“No one can hold a candle to Margot’s cheese,” said Tim.

“But, just because it’s local doesn’t mean we carry it,” said Keegan. “If it’s good and local, two thumbs up. We try to support them in anything that’s delicious, absolutely.”

“We always get our beef from Pat Kilcoyne Farms, which is grass-fed and finished on grain,” said Tim. “I’m not a huge meat eater but, wow, sometimes I have a steak and it’s phenomenal.

“We were approached by Asgard about taking one of their cows, which are all grass-fed. When Pat asked me if we needed a cow in the next couple of weeks I said, not this time Pat, I’m getting one from Asgard.”

“Well, have fun chewing on it,” said Pat Kilcoyne.

“I tell beer makers, if you brew something and think it’s dynamite, bring it down,” said Keegan. “The ones that are well-done and are great, awesome. It has to be good. I’ve made mistakes before, put something on the menu and, oh, my God, it’s horrible.

“There are so many young passionate people that are part of our restaurant lives right now.”

It’s the passion of people who act because the energy is in the action, not just the thought or feeling. Even though it’s the thought that results in the act, it’s action that sets priorities.

“I remember the day I met Lucas at Fledging Crow,” said Tim. “I had no idea who they were. I was, like, I’m opening a restaurant and I need some vegetables.”

Every day is the day that time opens its door, never a minute too late, never waiting for the next minute, sometimes leaving a shadow behind.

On one level Chocolate George’s Funeral is a moment in time, an historical document of something that happened in one place on one day, but on another it’s an unsettling existential document, a ripple in the veneer of everyday life, so that its black and white truth seems suddenly illusory.

The signifiers in the picture are the street and medians, the flat-fronted buildings, and the receding line of electric power poles. A single person in white shorts stands at the corner of one of the crossroads in the deep focus photograph, either watching the funeral procession of black-clad bikers or simply waiting to cross the street.

What makes the picture unstable are the other, contrasting signifiers, the motorcycles and their riders. There are hundreds of them, a restless band bound together by their outcast and yet conservative ideology, riding Harleys which are both engineered and emblems, parsing an age-old ceremony as they rumble slowly up the street.

They are in rows and lines as orderly and mundane as the street, the rows of apartments, and lines of power poles. Even still, they are troublesome men.

“The Hells Angels try not to do anything halfway and anyone who deals in extremes is bound to cause trouble,” said Hunter S. Thompson, author of Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.

“Our friend who gave us Chocolate George used to bring us moonshine-soaked cherries, the real deal, not the stuff you buy from Old Hickory, or whatever,” said Keegan.

“But, he was a weirdo. We got a tour of his bomb shelter once. It was full of serious stuff and more canned food than you could eat in a year. The guy was ready.”

“He had gone up to Au Sable to live, escape from the city,” said Tim.

“He’s now deceased,” said Keegan.

The poster they had been given stayed at the far back of Liquids and Solids, gracing a wall above a small round two-chair table next to the kitchen, for more than three years.

“Tim liked it,” said Liz Yerger, one of the gastropub’s servers. “He never said why, exactly, except that a friend had given it to him.”

“Maybe we were too scared to take the picture down all that time,” observed Keegan.

Maybe that’s when Keegan Konkoski broke out a bottle of spirits and mixed up something strong – her own Maple & Spices – a heady brew of bourbon, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon and apple juices, and after all that time all that long strange trip took leave of the spirit of Chocolate George.

A version of this story appeared in Literary Heist.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Big Ass Bowl

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By Ed Staskus

There is plenty of good better best seafood chowder on Prince Edward Island, since there is plenty of seafood on all sides of the crescent-shaped province. There are cultured mussels and lean white halibut and wild-caught lobster. The chowder comes in cups and bowls. Some of the bowls are bigger than others and can be meals in themselves.

There is only one Big Ass Bowl, however.

“We had a large bowl of chowder last year, but I don’t see it on the menu anymore,” said Frank Glass to the young man who was putting glasses of water down on their table.

“We have a really good seafood chowder,” he said, pointing to the menu.

“Is it a big bowl?” asked Frank.

The young man sized up an imaginary bowl with his hands.

“No, the chowder we had was in a bowl about twice that size,” said Frank.

“Oh, you mean the big ass bowl.”

“The what bowl?” asked Vera Glass, sitting across from her husband. They were at a table at one of the windows overlooking the Clyde River. On the far bank the red roof of the PEI Preserve Company, where jams and jellies are made, glowed in the roll-up of dusk.

“That’s what we call it in the kitchen,” the young man said. “We don’t call it that on the menu, obviously. If you want it, I can ask, and I’m sure we can make it for you.”

“You’ll just clear the decks and whip it up, even though it’s not on the menu?” asked Vera.

“Sure,” said the young man.

“Sweet,” she said.

Vera and Frank Glass were at the Mill, a snug as a bug up-to-speed restaurant in New Glasgow on Prince Edward Island.

It is neither a small nor big roadhouse, seating maybe fifty diners, right on the road, on a zigzag of Route 13 as it runs south from coastal Cavendish through New Glasgow to Hunter River. There is a performance space on the second floor and a deli case just inside the front door full of pies and meat pies. The building is blue, two–story, and wide front-porched. It is kitty-corner to the bridge that crosses the snaky river. The Mill describes itself as “carefully sourcing seafood, steaks and entrees served in a rustic yet refined space with scenic views.”

That’s hitting the nail on the head.

It was the night before Hurricane Dorian slammed into PEI, even though it wasn’t a hurricane anymore when it did. It was a post-tropical storm, which is like saying you took it on the chin from a cruiserweight rather than a heavyweight boxer.

“Under the right conditions, post-tropical storms can produce hurricane-strength winds,” said CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland the day after the storm. “Dorian serves as a good example that the difference between a hurricane and a post-tropical storm is more about the storm’s structure and not its intensity.”

On Saturday morning, moving north, it sucked up energy from another weather system moving in from the west. The winds spreading over the island grew to hurricane strength during the day and the storm unrolled over a larger area than Hurricane Juan, the “storm of the century,” had done in 2003.

“Look who’s back,” said Vera, looking over Frank’s shoulder.

“Who?”

“Michelle.”

“Good, maybe she’ll be our waitress.”

“She looks better tonight, not so spaced.”

“Didn’t she have to go home the last time we were here?”

“I think so.”

“Hi, how are you?”

“Good,” said Michelle. “I see you two have made it back again.”

“This is our third time here in three weeks, although we’re leaving for home on Sunday,” said Vera.

“So, you’ll be here for the storm.”

“It looks like it.”

“Where’s home?”

“In Ohio, Lakewood, which is right on the lake, just west of Cleveland,” said Frank. “We get thunderstorms that come across Lake Erie from Canada, but nothing like what we’ve been hearing is going to blow up here in your neck of the woods.”

Hurricane Dorian hit home like a battle-ax.

“The result was much higher rainfall and more widespread destructive winds across PEI with Dorian compared to Juan,” said Jay Scotland, the weatherman.

On Monday Blair Campbell, the chief executive officer of PEI Mutual Insurance, said they logged the most claims ever on Sunday, the day after the storm. More than four hundred policy holders called in property damage.

“These are damage claims in the frequency and magnitude that we have not seen before,’’ he said.

Fishing boats from Stanley Bridge to Covehead were smashed submerged.

“Sobeys in Charlottetown this morning was worse than Christmas,” said Michelle. “You couldn’t get anywhere with your cart. Everybody was buying dry cereal, canned fruit, ready-to-eat, and cases of water.”

Frances MacLure was stocking up.

“So far I have just bought batteries,” she said.

“I have two radios and I’m just going to make sure one of them is going to work. It’s always nice to be able to keep in touch if the power is out for any length of time,” she said.

There were water and sandwich makings on her list, as well.

“Just for a quick bite if the power goes off.”

“Everybody was buying batteries,” said Michelle. “The last time a hurricane came to the island, power was out for more than a week.”

“We are very concerned, we’ve certainly spent the last three days in readiness, in going through all of our checklist and checking our equipment,” said Kim Griffin of Maritime Electric as the weekend approached.

“There is a lot of greenery and foliage on the trees, that is a concern to us. So, we are really asking our customers to make sure they are prepared and ready.”

“When was that?” asked Frank.

“About fifteen years ago,” said Michelle. “Summerside has its own power, but if it goes out in New Brunswick, this whole part of the island won’t have any power.”

“Do you still have that moonshine cocktail?” asked Vera.

“We do,” said Michelle.

Vera had an Island Shine and Frank had a pint of lager.

“Are you going to have the big chowder?” asked Vera.

“Yes,” said Frank.

“I’m going to have a small bowl of soup and the ribs,” said Vera. “What about going halves on the lamb and feta appetizer? It’s good with everything.”

“Sure,” said Frank, agreeably. “You can’t go wrong with the ribs, and the mac and cheese they come with. That cheese from Glasgow Glen, it’s good. I had it the last time we were here.”

“I hope Emily has the sweet potato curry soup tonight,” said Vera. “Curry is my number one favorite thing in the world.”

“What about me?”

“You’re close, maybe third or fourth.”

“That close, huh?”

“You don’t like curry, which is a problem. I think Emily is a curry person, like me. She probably does a great Fall Flavors menu.”

The Mill’s owner and chef Emily Wells was born in England and lived on the continent before coming to Prince Edward Island in 1974 when her parents bought Cold Comfort Farm. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Canada, committed to healthy local food and ethical food production. She has worked in restaurants in PEI and Ontario for more than three decades and is a key contributor to the River Clyde Pageant.

The pageant, four years running, is about the tidal river, and features great blue herons, trout puppets, schools of dressed-up jellyfish, bridge trolls and mermaids and fishermen.

“I love it when you put curry in things, but then all of a sudden you don’t taste anything else. I feel like you can taste everything else in her soups.”

“It’s like her chowder, it’s chock-full, but nothing’s drowned out, all the parts stand out,” said Frank. “It’s not too busy.”

“Everything here is always better than I expect, even though I always expect it to be good,” said Vera.

“My boyfriend is a chef at the Blue Mussel in North Rustico, and it’s hard for us to get a day off in the summer on the same day, so we hardly ever eat out,” said Michelle.

“After eating here and at the Mussel, we don’t always want to go, anyway, but we ate out in Charlottetown a few weeks ago, and the chowder we got was mostly a milky liquid, with so little fish in it. We poked around for whatever we could find but ended up asking for another loaf of bread. We got it to dunk into the chowder, because there were hardly any pieces of anything.”

From one end of PEI to the other pieces of preparation were coming together.

“We have been busy as a team,” said Randy MacDonald, chief of the Charlottetown Fire Department, the day before the storm. “Our team has been making preparations for tomorrow’s storm.”

He said chainsaws and generators were on hand. “We may see trees down, branches down, large branches taking down power lines, that sort of thing.” Rapid response cars, trucks, and ambulances were gassed full and staff was on the alert, ready to go.

While the tempest was rolling up the coast, Michelle didn’t just rush to Sobeys. She took matters into her own hands, in her own kitchen, in her own house.  “I live just down the road from here, next to the Gouda place. I send my son there for pizza, since he can walk over.”

The Gouda place makes artisan cheese.

“I’ve passed my name and my expertise on to Jeff McCourt and his new company Glasgow Glen Cheese,” said the former Cheese Lady, Martina ter Beek.

Glasgow Glen Farm slaps out skins from scratch, down the line doing the dough to sprinkling homegrown veggies and meats on the pie, featuring their own made from scratch gouda, working behind the front counter at two long tables just inside the door, wood firing the pizzas in a brick oven.

In the summer there are picnic tables alongside the gravel parking lot, a grassy field sloping away from a pile of cordwood.

“I made chowder,” said Michelle. “It was a fishy stew, like Mel does. I ended up using cod, clams, and scallops. I made everything else, clam juice, potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes out of my garden. Once the potatoes were almost completely cooked, I took the pieces of cod and sat them on top. I put a lid on it and all the flavor, yeah, of the cod went into it.”

She didn’t need any bread to help her chowder out, either.

While Vera pulled gently at her baby back ribs, Frank started scooping out his large bowl of broth and seafood.

“How’s the sinkhole?“ asked Vera.

“So far so good,” said Frank. “It’s sort of like a Manhattan clam chowder, like the Portuguese make, and like a seafood goulash at the same time.”

“Like a cioppino.”

“Like a what?”

“That’s the official name of it,” said Vera.

“Anyway, I can taste bay leaves and thyme, and there might be some oregano in it. It’s loaded with stuff. She must have hit the motherload at the fish market. There are mussels, halibut, lobster, a chuck of salmon, and mini-shrimps.”

“Emily probably uses whatever she has on hand,” said Vera.

“On top there’s a red pepper rouille, almost like a pesto, which gives it a kick,” said Frank.

“Are you going to be able to finish it?”

“I’m going to give it my best shot.”

Halfway through their meal, when Vera spotted a plate of maple mousse walking by, she said to Frank, “That’s what I want to try for dessert tonight. It’s frozen mousse, like ice cream. I thought it might not be good for sharing, but that thing is more than big enough.”

“All right,” said Frank, “since that Anna kid is a wizard. First, we eat well, then we face tomorrow, no matter what happens.”

The Mill was almost vacated evacuated when they paid their bill of fare and left.

“You wouldn’t know a hurricane is blowing in,” Frank said to Vera as they lingered in the front lot after dinner, leaning against the back hatch of their Hyundai, watching the no traffic on the quiet road, the starry northern sky quiet above them.

When Saturday morning rolled around, it started getting dark, and by noon it started raining. It got windy and windier. The Coastline Cottages and the Doyle houses on the other side of the park road lost power in the late afternoon. Churchill Avenue in town was closed down. The Gulf Shore Parkway east from Brackley was closed down. Roads in all directions were closed down, as utility wires and branches blew away. Fences were flattened, roofs torn off, and hundred-year-old trees toppled.

The damage to the Cavendish Campground, seven-some miles away from where Frank and Vera were staying, was so bad it was closed for the rest of the year. An arc from Cavendish to Kensington to Summerside was walloped. Islanders tarped roofs, sawed up tree limbs, and hauled away debris for days afterwards. On Sunday morning all the trails administered by Parks Canada everywhere on PEI were shut down until they could be assessed.

After their cottage lost power, Frank and Vera packed for their drive home the next day and tidied up while there was still some light. “At least we know the mondo bridge is as sturdy as it gets,” said Vera. When it got dark, 19th century-style dark, they popped open the remains of a bottle of red wine and spent the rest of the night riding out the lashing all-out rain and gusting big ass wind.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

One-Dog Night (Hot Joe)

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By Ed Staskus

Backstage at the Winchester, a former bowling alley made over into a music hall, Anne DeChant reviewed the play list with her band. Then she double-checked one last time with Kelly Wright, her longtime back-up singer, and the show was a go.

Outside the hall it was wet and windy and November in C-land. It was the North Shore. It was Lake Erie. It was a doghouse night. Onstage the band was in fine form, by turns soulful and jamming, playing a mix-up of old and new material. Most of it was from Anne DeChant’s emotive ‘Swing’. It was a honky-tonk medley of blue-collar country songs. One of them was about losing your trailer to a twister.

If music is a river of sound streaming to the soul for the fostering of its virtue, then the Winchester Bar and Grill on the blue collar border of Cleveland and Lakewood, Ohio, was transformed that Friday night into a chapel of goodness.

“Now there’s a woman with a fire in her belly,” is how the Cleveland Plain Dealer has described DeChant and her band.

LA-born but Ohio-bred, Kelly Wright was both the mirror to Anne’s lead and expansive in her own right. Sometimes the best mirrors are old friends.  ‘Swing’ was her third collaboration with Anne, a collaboration stretching back more than ten years.

“I have lots of choices as far as vocalists go,” said Anne, an Avon Lake, Ohio, native transplanted to Music City and back. She is a 5-time winner of Cleveland’s Best Singer/Songwriter award. “But, my choice for support vocals is in Cleveland.”

“It was supposed to be a one-gig thing,” said Kelly.

When the Cleveland-based folk group Odd Girl Out broke up in the mid-90s, its lead singer Anne DeChant embarked on a solo career. When she needed someone to do backing vocals on her ‘Something of the Soul’ in 1999, one of the former singers in the band recommended Kelly Wright.

“I knew her in high school, so when she recommended me to Anne, it all came full circle,” said Kelly.

Kelly Wright’s father hails from Pennsylvania and her mother from Michigan. They met in California in 1967. “They both wanted to go to California to get away from their families. My dad joined the army and my mom went to nursing school.

“But they always wanted to come back to the Midwest. My dad learned how to weld in the army so when he ended up in Cleveland he opened a welding shop.”

Lakewood-raised since fifth grade, Kelly was a freshman at Lakewood High School before breaking into song. She commuted to school with a neighbor. “This girl started picking me up to take me to school since she lived right on my block.” One morning she tagged along to her friend’s audition for Roadshow, the school’s Downbeat Magazine award-winning vocal jazz ensemble.

“I was just sitting there doing the homework I had sloughed off the night before, and the director asked, aren’t you going to audition, and I said, no, no, I only know campfire singing. But, in the end I auditioned, and I made it, and my friend did not. It was the last time I got a ride from her, but it was the start of music for me. It changed my whole life.”

She never stopped singing in high school.

“It was a great program, I got to travel with Roadshow, and we made a record every year.” She later attended Akron University on a music scholarship. “I was not very good at the scholastic, so I never finished college.” She went to a broadcasting school and became a DJ. But, she gave up spinning records and singing to open the Borderline Café in 1994 with her culinary school-trained sister Carrie.

“This is all I did for a long time,” said Kelly “Even now I still wait the tables, pour the coffee, and pretty much do all the talking. I’m exactly like my dad, hell, yeah. I tell everybody what to do. I think I’m the boss, but Carrie is really the heart and soul of Borderline.”

Kelly’s younger sister Carrie is a graduate of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Two women founded the school in 1914. They had one student and one typewriter their first year.

The culinary program was created in 1973. Since then the school has graduated Emeril Lagasse, Michelle Bernstein, and Tyler Florence, among others. It has been featured on the Food Network and recently three of the school’s alumni challenged and beat celebrity chefs on the Iron Chefs television series.

The Borderline Café is a breakfast-only diner on Lakewood’s west end. Outfitted with ten, maybe twelve, tables, the walls are painted a peach yellow and “suns coming up, I got cakes on the griddle,” among other John Denver lyrics, gambol over the walls.

It’s been said breakfast is the most important meal and skipping it might be the worst thing anybody can do first thing in the morning. The good thing about having a hearty breakfast is you’re not going to be starving by lunch. The eggs Benedict and pancakes at the Borderline are famous for keeping hunger at bay.

Scene Magazine has voted the Borderline Cafe one of the ‘Best Pancake Spots in Cleveland’.

“It’s the best breakfast place in town and all immediately surrounding towns,” said one patron, washing his stack down with coffee.

“The two of them are good together,” said Colleen Wright, their mother who commutes from Marblehead more than an hour away and pitches in at the diner on busy weekends. “Kelly remembers everybody’s name. They all come to talk to her.”

“I’m always the one goofing off,” said Kelly, “but I’ve come around as I’ve gotten older.”

“She’s a brat, but she’s got a heart of gold.”

“Thanks, mama, that’s nice.”

Kelly Wright was bartending and singing on Kelly’s Island, a Lake Erie vacation destination west of Cleveland, and her sister Carrie was finishing up her degree at Johnson & Wales, when their father, Don Wright, offered to help them buy the greasy spoon that would become the Borderline.

“He wanted to get both of us closer to the family, maybe so he could keep his eye on us,” said Kelly.

“My husband thought we’d never see that money again,” said Colleen Wright, “but they paid us back every penny. They work hard at this.”

Noted for its fresh food, inventive seasonings, and Southwestern-inspired twist on traditional morning fare, the cozy and often overflowing diner is roundly considered to be more than worth the wait.

“The food is some of the best I’ve had anywhere,” said a man from Ravenna, fifty miles southeast of Lakewood. “The first time we ate here we went right in. The second time we waited in a line outside.”

“If there’s a wait you have to stand in line,” said a local man standing in line. “They don’t take names.”

“Not your ordinary breakfast,” said a woman visiting Cleveland from Pittsburgh.

“Everything Carrie makes is fresh,” said Kelly. “Nothing comes out of a zip lock bag or frozen. There are as many local products as we can find. Those eggs are cracked exactly when you order your omelets.

“The people who eat here are a lot of everybody, mostly from the neighborhood. They know it’s going to be real food made exactly the way they like it. They’re very patient, too, because sometimes you stand out there, finally get a seat, and we still have to get you your breakfast.”

Kelly lives a stone’s throw from the Borderline. “The older I get and the more gigs I play, I had to move closer to work because I was getting here later and later. I could throw a rock from our dumpster out back and hit my house.”

A single woman twice over, she lives alone. “I was in a gay relationship for nine years, but I lost that gene. I don’t know what happened. I stopped being gay.” After breaking up with her partner and selling their house, she married a man she had known in high school.

“But I was not good at that,” she said. “It lasted for about three weeks, although we’re still friends.”

Performing with Anne DeChant has taken Kelly coast-to-coast, from New York City to clubs in California. “I’ve played everywhere with Anne,” she said. “It was a weird late-in-life kind of youth, joining the band when I was thirty-three. I thought I could be a kid again. It has led to many great things for me.”

Although she still tours, her priorities have shifted back to her family and the Borderline Café. “That was a bump in the road for this place,” she said, “because it put a lot of responsibility on my sister. I risked the wrath of my dad, too. I don’t take every gig out of town anymore. I try to be a good partner to Carrie.”

Nevertheless, Kelly continues working with Anne DeChant, recording in Nashville, as well as playing guitar and singing in an acoustic combo at summer spots. She is also the voice of a jazz duo often heard at Brothers Lounge on Cleveland’s west side.

In addition, she is involved with the Ohio City Singers, an all-star cast of Cleveland-area musicians including a choral group and sometimes featuring more than thirty vocalists, musicians, and their family and friends.

“It’s all the guys from local indie bands, like Chris Allen of Rosavelt and Doug McKean of the Stuntmen,” Kelly said. ”They write original rock-and-roll Christmas tunes and we do a big show every year.”

The Ohio City Singer carols aren’t the kind of carols Bing Crosby sang, nor are they the kind heard in the background at shopping malls. More than 300 revelers packed the Around the Corner Saloon in Lakewood on an icy afternoon when the group in Blues Brothers-style steamed up the windows. They have brought their raucous holiday jams to Cleveland’s Stone Mad Pub, Music Box Supper Club, and House of Blues.

“How I got started in music was an accident, like many of the things in my life,” said Kelly. “Music was a great part of school for me and I am forever in debt to my first teacher. I never actually knew I could sing. It really did change my life.”

At Christmastime the Ohio City Singers and Kelly Wright perform at several outdoor venues, like the Holiday Circlefest on Wade Oval in University Circle and Light Up Lakewood. Even if it’s cold and blustery, or some flakes fall, or there’s a snowstorm, as will happen in winter on the North Coast, Kelly doesn’t mind.

“I’ve bopped around a little bit, although I don’t travel very much anymore. I’ve lived here my whole life, for the most part,” she said. “I love this neighborhood. I’m not good with just two seasons. The Midwest is better for me. I’m a big gal. I like to layer, so I love it here.”

And at the end of the day, after belting out tunes on a December night at Light Up Lakewood, on a night barely fit for a dog, she can always slip back down the street inside to the Borderline Café, strip off the layers, and wrap her hands around a cold gal’s best friend, a steaming cup of hot joe.

Ed Staskus posts feature stories on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com. Click “Follow” on a site to get the monthly feature in your in-box.

Making Liquids and Solids

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By Ed Staskus

It is a tough road to hoe starting up a new business. More than 30% fail within two years, 50% within five years, and less than a third survive ten years, according to the Small Business Administration. The numbers for restaurants are even worse.

Within three years of opening 60% of new restaurants close, says Randy White of the White Hutchinson Leisure Group. Business Insider calculates that 80% of New York restaurant start-ups fail within five years while American Express puts the number at a scary 90%.

It’s a wonder anyone ever opens a new restaurant at all.

When Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar, an edgy gastropub, opened five years ago across the street from the Lamb Lumber Yard on the quiet side of Lake Placid in the Adirondacks, in northern New York, the odds were stacked even higher.

Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski, co-restaurateurs and owners, had never been in business for themselves, had no marketing or financial experience, and were an ex-romantic-couple-to-be.

They had almost no capital to get their restaurant off the ground, either. “Our financial backing was family members,” said Keegan.

“We bare-boned it. Every time we made a dollar, we put it back into the restaurant. We couldn’t even afford to buy bar stools with backs.”

“We lost some customers who said the stools didn’t have backs,” added Tim. “Nothing about the food and drink, just the stools.”

Anyone stumbling into Liquids and Solids its first year had to locate the stools first.

“We only had two floor lamps, so nobody could see,” said Keegan. “It was funny, but frustrating, so every time we made another dollar, we bought a new lamp.”

Their building at the bottom of the curve on Sentinal Road across from the Chubb River for which they had signed a seven-year lease was also a problem. Several previous restaurants had already failed in the same space.

“We knew it was tiny and needed a lot of love,” said Keegan.

“Really, it was a total piece of crap.”

Mr. Loomis and Ms. Konkoski plowed ahead and opened in June 2010 on Tim Loomis’s birthday.

“We were young and dumb and didn’t know what we were doing,” said Keegan. ”But when we talked about it we thought, let’s just try it.”

Their first special was grilled chicken thigh with tarragon, creamed spinach, goat cheese, arugula salad, garbanzo beans, baby beets, and preserved lemon, followed by what they called their painkiller dessert, caramelized pineapple, orange scented coconut ice cream, nutmeg tuile, and dark rum sauce.

It was a taste of things to come, but then the roof fell in. The New York State Liquor Authority held up their liquor license for two months.

Gross profit margins on food are usually 32 to 38 percent, according to John Nessel of the Restaurant Resource Group, while gross margins on liquor are usually 60 to 80 percent. No one sat on the backless bar stools for the first part of the summer even if they had wanted to.

“When we finally got liquor that helped,” said Keegan. “But Lake Placid is a tough place to open something like this.”

What she meant was a place whose menu is printed on reused paper, but which features avant-garde small-plate finesse. A place which is often crazy creative, combining ingredients like oranges, ‘chic’ peas, and licorice on the same plate, but which sources almost all of its ingredients locally, most of them from the off-the-beaten-path town of Keeseville in an off-the-beaten-path corner of the Adirondacks. And a place whose plates would stand out at any restaurant anywhere, but whose food wizard, Tim Loomis, keeps understated and, in his own words, modest.

“I use very simple ingredients,” said Tim.

Although the name suggests the basics of food and drink, solids and liquids, it is with artless grace anything but basic.

“Don’t be fooled by its dive-bar façade and no-frills interior,” wrote Lionel Beehner in the New York Times in December 2011. “This recently opened gastropub boasts an inventive ‘solids’ menu, combining farm-to table dishes like Utica-style chard and rabbit confit gnocchi.”

“What we offer is the kind of cuisine we like ourselves,” said Keegan. “When the Spotted Pig in New York City came on our radar way back when I thought, gosh, that’s more our style, more our speed.”

The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village, which like Liquids and Solids is small, doesn’t take reservations, and serves what has been described as “heroically satisfying” food, was one of the first upscale gastropubs, opening in 2004, and setting the standard since.

“I did a short stint at the Lake Placid Lodge and that was the undoing of fine dining for me,” said Tim. “I just wanted no part of it. It wasn’t fun. It should be a celebration, not just sit there stuffy with linens.”

Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski are both from the North Country. Tim is from the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont and Keegan is from Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks, although they came to Liquids and Solids by different paths. Mr. Loomis trained in the culinary program at Paul Smith College and interned in France while Ms. Konkoski graduated from the school of hard knocks.

“Interning in France was pretty phenomenal,” said Tim. “I learned more there than I did at culinary school.”

Keegan plied her trade at the Foot Rest Café in Saranac Lake, a small town fronting on Lake Flower.

“I was always a cook there, since I was 16,” she said.

They met at the Wawbeek Lodge, a late19th-century Great Camp on the Upper Saranac Lake that is no longer there, which, until it closed in 2007, was renowned for its Adirondacks-style cuisine. The restaurant, with a stone chimney that split to let a double staircase pass through, was in a building perched on a bluff of boulders.

A large blank-faced moose shot and killed and beheaded by President Theodore Roosevelt looked down from a wall of the Moose and Bear Lounge upstairs from the restaurant. Craft beers were served there before there were craft beers.

“It always had a great reputation and chef,” Tim said. “I worked there the whole time I was in school.  It was my first introduction to good food.  It was at Wawbeek that they met. “I was dating one of Tim’s co-workers,” said Keegan. “When the Wawbeek closed everybody went to work at the Freestyle, which was opening in Lake Placid. I was at North Country College then, but I told them, hey, I don’t have a day job, do you want me to help paint, schlep chairs, whatever.”

Schlepping led to bussing tables to eventually becoming Freestyle’s bartender, while Tim worked on the line in the kitchen. “We dated for a long time,” said Keegan. “We were together romantically for eleven years. Tim says ten, but it was eleven.”

When the first incarnation of Freestyle closed Tim and Keegan moved on to Lisa G’s, a longstanding casual dining restaurant popular with both locals and out-of-towners. It was across the street from the Handlebar, which would become Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar.

“We knew we wanted to own a restaurant one day, and we loved the area,” said Keegan.

Lake Placid is one of the gateways to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, a range of 46 mountains. Canoeing and kayaking in the innumerable rivers and lakes, hiking, and mountain biking are popular in the summer. “Mountain biking is my passion,” said Keegan.

Skiing and snowboarding are go-to’s in the cold-be-damned winter. It is the kind of cold that warps snowflake crystals so that they sparkle.

One week in 2013 when Liquids and Solids was having a bad week, they posted a notice on their Facebook page that they would be closed that day because of a broken sink.

“We did have a lot of broken stuff that week, but the sink wasn’t broken,” said Keegan. “It was just a great, beautiful day and we were, like, let’s go snowboarding. But we said to everyone, the only way we’re going is if everyone who works here goes to Whiteface. We all went to the mountain.”

By the spring of 2010 Tim and Keegan were ready to abandon their social lives, work harder than they ever had before in their lives, and be paid a salary starting at $0. They opened Liquids and Solids.

“When we left Lisa G’s we told Lisa we are not going to step on your feet,” said Tim. “It’s going to be completely different.”

It was completely different.

Liquids and Solids is a haven of craft beers and creative cocktails and an upscale, irreverent kitchen. ‘Put an egg on it for a dollar’ is one of the options on the menu.

“People would say, what, you don’t have Budweiser? You’re never going to make it,” said Keegan.

“Or meat and potatoes,” added Tim.

The Liquids and Solids menu reads as a list of items and ingredients.

“They would read the menu and say, just give me that, but without those things,” said Keegan.

“That’s when we decided we don’t show up for our 15-hour days for someone to change what we care about. We don’t do any substitutions, except if it’s an allergy.”

Their legs went slowly white the pasty repercussion of long hours working at the bar and in the kitchen. Their friends told them they had to get out more. They got out less.

A part of Aida Management’s ‘10 Ways How Restaurant Failure Can Be Avoided’ is the admonition to customize offerings to guests: “The restaurant menu should be adapted to the needs of your guests. It is not as simple as cooking what you love to cook.”

“Liquids and Solids was born whenever we went out of town and found cuisine we liked,” countered Keegan.

“I try to showcase everything that’s going on in Keeseville, everything I like, from the vegetables and now all the cheeses that are coming out of there,” said Tim.

A take it or leave it attitude can be the death knell for a business, except when it isn’t. Sometimes it’s better to have a hundred people get what you are doing than a million people who can take it or leave it.

“The irreverence so clearly in evidence at this restaurant is the irreverence of an artist who with passion and integrity offers his voice for the sake of the art itself,” was how Pete Nelson described Liquids and Solids in the Adirondack Almanack. “They have a deep understanding of excellent cooking, of the ingredients they use, of balance.”

In 2013 Tim Loomis was a semi-finalist for the prestigious James Beard Best Chef in the Northeast award. The New York Times in 1954 characterized James Beard, a pioneer foodie, author, and teacher at his own cooking school, as the ‘Dean of American Cookery’.

“Wow!” the staff at Liquids and Solids posted on their Facebook page. “Tim’s always telling us he’s awesome, we always believed him, but just never told him.”

By then, their 4th summer, the bar stools had backs, the pool table next to the bar had been removed to add more tables, and the word was out.

“World-class innovative cuisine and drinks,” said Jon Deutsch of Philadelphia. “Seriously, I hope you don’t go because I don’t want a longer wait.”

By their 5th year Liquids and Solids had not only survived, but was prospering on its own terms. It’s when you’ve beaten the odds that the odds don’t matter anymore, not that they ever seemed to matter much at Liquids and Solids.

For all that, Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski had transitioned from doing all the dirty work to doing all the dirty work. It continued to consume most of their waking life.

“When it’s 10 o’clock and it’s non-stop, and people are still coming in the door, sometimes you lose it,” said Keegan.

“The board will be full for four hours, and I’m just trying to whack the food out, but sometimes you can’t get a pan hot enough to sear a scallop properly, there’s no time,” said Tim. “That’s when I get frustrated. “But, when you’re having a good night and it’s just that perfect amount of busy and you can get that pan hot enough, I mean it’s nice.”

“I like the groaning,” Keegan laughed.

“When you ask people how everything is and they can’t even tell you in words and they’re just saying yummmmm, I like that a lot.”

There are many different kinds of success. Sometimes the best success is being able to spend your life your own way, even though it may preclude monetary gain. Although everyone wants to get ahead, it can be difficult finding success working just for money.

“Success is having to worry about every damn thing in this world, except money,” said the country singer-songwriter Johnny Cash.

“When we started this, we said we wanted to hopefully become thousandaires,” said Keegan. “With our size and low budget, we’re still trying to get there.”

One of the reasons they are still wannabe thousandaires is the large inventory they maintain of craft beers and complex array of specialty drinks, as well as the integrity of their food.

“At the bar I try to make my drinks as delicious as possible and as big as I can,” said Keegan.

Although their suppliers are largely local, from the Sugar House Creamery in Upper Jay to Kilcoyne Farms in the St. Lawrence Valley, Liquids and Solids chooses its suppliers carefully. From the crème fraiche to the Brussels sprouts, the duck prosciutto to the ham, quality is of paramount importance in the kitchen.

“Taste is the first thing I look for, absolutely,” said Tim. “It’s the fundamentals of everything.”

They don’t 86 anything when they’re running on empty, either, at the bar or in the kitchen. “Nine times out of ten nobody would even notice,” said Keegan. “It’s just me being me. I would know I cheated.”

Having reached the high-water five-year mark, in the meantime setting standards for plain deliciousness in Lake Placid, Tim and Keegan are less certain about Liquids and Solids’s future than its present. Their lease expires in 2017 and they have talked about downsizing.

“When we talk about the future, we definitely use the word small a lot,” said Keegan.“One of my favorite places I’ve been to is LePigeon in Portland,” said Tim. “With the entire bar, and every seat filled, there are 36 seats. The bar is around the line and food comes plated right to you. You get to see everything, it’s a little more intimate, and I really enjoy that.”

“When we talk about leaving, the lease, not the area, I get a pit in my stomach,” said Keegan.

Whatever the future bodes for the making or unmaking of Liquids and Solids, Tim Loomis and Keegan Konkoski, who remain good friends as well as business partners, will be a part of that future, which is not any more uncertain than the present.

“We get to do amazing things because we want to do them. Nothing is set in stone. It might be a different story,” said Keegan.

From the Foot Rest Café to the Wawbeek Great Camp to Liquids and Solids, on foot bike car, white legs and all, food and drink never change until they do.

Ed Staskus posts a feature story monthly on Red Island http://www.redislandpei.com, Paperback Yoga http://www.paperbackyoga.com, Lithuanian Journal http://www.lithuanianjournal.com, and State Route Two http://www.stateroutetwo.com.

 

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