Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

arched-window-overlooking-stairway

Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

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Color Your World – Update 1
March 12, 2011

This is day two. I woke up with the feeling that I exercised. Subtle aches throughout my body. I repeat yesterdays scenario, but find I have to cut the exercise bike time by three minutes. I developed a charlie horse cramp in my left foot and lower calf. I’m jumping around the room to get rid of it. You must remember, I’m sixty-two, not twenty or thirty-two. I manage to get rid of it and follow-up with my other exercises. I do one-hundred counter push-ups and forty crunches. I also increased my leg and arm exercises by twenty each. I manage ten minutes of exercise before I go to bed.

Day 3. I don’t feel like getting out of bed to do the exercises. I feel a few more aches today, but they are muscle aches. My body is resisting. I can’t let my wishful thinking stop me. I get out of bed and climb on the bike. I watched an exercise infomercial program on TV last night called ‘Insanity’. I picked up a few pointers, and when I was biking today I held my core stomach muscles tight during the complete exercise. I also tried some of the moves I saw on the program, but I didn’t use the intensity that was shown. I plan to work up to it, in a short while. I managed my fifty minutes and as I finished I looked in the mirror. My butt still has two droopy wrinkles and my chest has not hardened yet. But, it does seem better and I definitely have more energy in the mornings and during the day. It makes me feel happy.

Day 4. I’m laying in bed and my arms feel like they are going to fall off. My lower abdomen is also hurting. Yesterday I did leg lifts where I pulled my knees right up to my chest. Fifty on each leg. I guess they worked.

I’m in Palm Springs today and the setting is different. I don’t have an exercise bike, so I will have to adapt and do my fifty minutes of exercise without any external machinery. They do it on ‘Insanity”, so why not here. I’m going to try to do regular push-ups today and a few other things I want to try out. I’ll let you know how it goes when I’m finished.

Well I managed to put in my fifty minutes, but it was more difficult. I did manage twenty-five regular push-ups and more upper body and leg work. However, when I looked in the mirror later, my body looks somewhat lumpy. Worse than it did before. I’m trying to even out top and lower body work outs and times, but maybe it’s the fat layers that are different in different places. Anyways, I’m still sore, but still happy.

Day 5. I ache all over, but I get up anyways. I do some warm-up stretches. That seems to help. I feel strangely quiet on the inside today, as I do my exercises. A lot of the excitement of starting this routine is ebbing. I know I have to keep going, but I’m quiet about it to myself. I look outside and there is a lot of sunshine and a brilliant blue sky. It helps me. I continue. I’ve been good with my food intake. I switched to a lot of fruit and vegetables and very small portions of meat or fish. About four to five  ounce portions. Little or no carbs right now. I drink more liquids. Yesterday for lunch, I made myself a salad sandwich. It was really quite good. Cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, whole wheat bread and some non-fat dressing. It filled me up and made me feel healthy after I’d eaten it. Breakfasts have been whole grain cereal or oatmeal (a small portion really fills you up), or lo-fat yogurt, or a hard-boiled egg, or fruit. Lunches overall have been generally a salad with a small portion of meat of some kind, or depending, no meat at all. Dinners have been small portions of protein with a vegetable and small portion of carbs. If I snack, it’s been a handful of nuts or some kind of fruit. Last night Eberhard and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant and had Mongolian beef and Wor Won Ton soup. I kept my portions small on the steamed rice and beef. I felt full even though I didn’t eat a lot. The soup helped.

I didn’t increase any of the amount of exercises today. I kept the status quo. I did manage twenty-five more regular push-ups and fifty sit-ups, plus my other routines. The exercises felt very hard to do today, but I did them.

Fine Food
February 4, 2011

Anything described as ‘fine’ has depth in character. It transforms  a thought form into reality. Somehow the essence of ‘simple’, and it has to be ‘simple’, has to be purity. Hard to achieve in a world of imperfection. But, it can be done. Most ‘fine’ work is not recognized in its purest form. It is usually discovered too late or after a passing of an individual. In rare cases it can be experienced here on this plane. Thank you, to those trying so hard to live what they feel.

You’ll know it when you experience its soul. It comes from the person preparing or making it happen, behind the scenes. Their very being is allowed to leave their body and become part of what you’re eating or experiencing. As a book is only as great as its writer, food is only as great as it’s creator. Nuances are only appreciated if you have yourself experienced the same life changing experiences as the food’s creator. That’s what makes it all encompassing and memorable. You get to re-live your life experiences through what you’re tasting, feeling and consuming.

It’s not just with food. It happens in all aspects of life. Look for the purity in simple things. You’ll touch the source.

Canadian Thanksgiving
October 13, 2010

In America its Columbus Day. In Canada it’s Thanksgiving. A little earlier than in America, but the growing season is much shorter in the north and if they waited till the end of November, everything would be frozen.

I miss the celebration of family. In earlier years I took it for granted, and now that I’m older, it’s an impossibility. Our parents have passed away and emotionally, life has driven the family into unchangeable cubicles of assorted beliefs.

Mom was a great cook. I’ve never been able to cook like my mom. Maybe I came close a few times, but her energy and love were different and whatever vibration she transferred to the food always created a different taste and feel to mine. Maybe that part stemmed from her youth. She was raised by her aunt. Aunt Bertha. Also known as Aunt B or Auntie B. From stories and my recollection, a severe person. Demanding in every aspect from obedience to cleanliness to perfection. Maybe it was that upbringing that made Mom so demanding on us kids.

When Mom was a small child, her father held her upside down, outside a seven story window and threatened to drop her. Details are sketchy to say the least, because no one ever talked about the incident.We were all told as children that Mom’s parents were killed in a car accident. It wasn’t until I applied for my green card that the history came out into the open. It’s still unknown what happened to Mom’s mother and her father’s relationship. What is known for sure, is that Mom’s mother took Mom to Hamilton from Chicago, to be raised by Auntie B.

My only memories of Auntie Ber were vague, and what I know of her were incidents revealed to me later in life. Mom and Dad had moved to Edmonton to get away from Aunt B and begin a new life. Aunt B used to park outside their apartment every night after they were married and would stalk them on a regular basis. When I was two or three years old, Aunt B came to Edmonton for a visit. There was only my brother and myself as family at the time. During that time, Mom and Dad took a weekend getaway and Aunt B said she would look after us kids for the two days. Aunt B did not like me. Maybe with my dark hair and whatever personality I revealed at the time, I might have reminded her of my mother. When my parents arrived back from their holiday, they found my brother had been decked out in all new clothes. I, on the other hand, had the same clothes on that I’d been dressed in when they had left. Aunt B hadn’t even changed my diaper. We never ever saw Aunt B again after that incident, and I really can’t remember what ever happened to her. But, I digress.

Fond memories arise when I think of Mom’s food. I know that when I’d been away for any length of time, upon my return, she always cooked my favorite meal. I looked forward to it. And I remember so well, her Thanksgiving meal was always outstanding. She would begin days before, and start with the shopping and preparations. She gave endless attention to every last detail. The day of the feast she would get up early, make the dressing, and then stuff the bird. While it was cooking she’d prepare wonderful accompaniments. And, I remember, when I was younger, she even made all her own pies. Finally when everything was cooked and ready, all nine of us would sit down, say Grace and start in with warm glee. Until that is, someone started a fight. Eventually, Dad would step in and calm the waters of discontent and we’d all have dessert.

As I think back, I’m so grateful for the memories. Even though, I can never be part of those past events again, I’d give anything to sit through one of those childhood fights, just to be able to taste Mom’s food again.

The Ice Man, The Garden and The Fruit Cellar
July 12, 2010

It was a different time. Yet, it wasn’t that long ago. You loved to live and life was for living.   

I remember, we had moved into our third house. Our family at that time consisted of myself, my older brother, my first and second younger sisters, mom and dad. It was a large craftsman style house with a second floor and a basement sitting on a larger than average  plot of land. In the front yard was a cherry blossom tree and a large Mountain Ash. The back yard had two levels. The first level had a lawn with side areas for plants and flowers and the lower level was a vegetable garden.  

My brothers and my bedroom was centered over the front porch on the second floor and when we moved in, to my amazement, the owners before us had left two large balsa wood airplanes hanging from the ceiling in our room. Someone had taken an enormous amount of time to paint and construct them to scale. They had working propellers and even a pilots steering wheel on the inside of the planes. The rudders moved and they were able to fly, when thrown into the wind. 

There was a large walk-in closet in our room with upper and lower cabinets and shiny chrome handles that locked, like you’d see on a doctor’s office medicine cabinet. We use to play hide and seek in these cupboards, or just hide from mom when we’d done something wrong.  

our family at the time

The trees in the front yard attracted endless birds. Yellow warblers, cedar wax wings, red orioles, red breasted robins and blue jays. I use to climb the cherry tree and perceive whatever scenarios my imagination could muster. A few years ago when I was in Edmonton, I re-visited the house to see it again. That very day someone had cut the cherry tree down and the pieces were lying on the lawn. I went over and picked up a piece for a keep sake and the memory.  

We had an ice box in the kitchen. It consisted of an upper section and a lower section. The ice man would come every other day and place a huge block of ice in the top cabinet. Slowly it would melt over the next day or two, into a tray that was emptied from time to time. The food was kept below. In the summer, my brother and I would always wait anxiously for the ice mans arrival. With his ice pick he’d chop a piece of ice off the block for each of us. It was our popsicle.  

In those days, work places and offices would close on Wednesdays. It changed over time to half days on Wednesdays. Dad would come home around lunch time and mom would always have a special lunch for him. In the afternoon, mom and dad would work in the garden. We grew all sorts of vegetables. Cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, rhubarb, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, English peas, carrots and potatoes. Just about everything we could use, preserve and pickle for the winter months. I remember during the summer or late in the fall, ladies from the neighborhood would come over and bring whatever fruit was available. Either from their own gardens or inexpensive fruit from the store. They would spend all day preserving and making relishes, jams, pickles, fruit and vegetables. At the end, they would divide up the canning jars equally. We had a fruit cellar in the basement and by the end of autumn, just before winter, every shelf was filled. There were barrels filled with carrots or potatoes, carefully layered in sand. Pickled beets and parsnips, and neighbors who had plum or crab apple trees traded their preserves for containers of vegetables from us.  

There was nothing like my moms strawberry jam on her freshly baked whole wheat bread. You broke through the wax seal on top of the jam to bring out large whole strawberries full of the best flavor. Sometimes for breakfast, she made stewed prunes with sweetened egg white, something you never see anymore. We’d have the best pickles and home-made relishes, preserved peaches and apricots, apples and pears. 

When I retire, I’m looking forward to reproducing some parts of this era. After all, life is for living, not striving.

Reunion
March 11, 2010

The best was on the inside.

When Beans and Barley first opened, I had hired cooks from the local technical school. They were trained and had graduated, so I assumed they knew about food and how to cook. I reviewed the menu with them, gave them the recipes and went over the details of  how I wanted the food presented. Since I wasn’t a cook I figured they’d cook like my mom (she was a great cook) and we’d have good food. We had a great opening during the first few months with hundreds of customers visiting the restaurant, but unfortunately, just as many complaints. After so many burnt and undercooked items and just poor food quality, I initiated new controls.  It was too late, the damage had been done. Business dwindled to a snail’s pace.

At this point I figured I couldn’t do any worse than these “cooks”. I fired all of them and decided to step into the kitchen and cook. With no practical cooking knowledge behind me it became a new learning experience. I had to do numerous jobs. I was host, waiter, cook, and bottle washer. Business was so bad I couldn’t hire anyone else except another server. The first thing I learned was how to “cook clean” and the second was not to burn any pots. Since I was host and waiter, I’d greet the customer, take their jacket or coat, seat them and hand them the menu. Then I would take their order, place it in the kitchen and come back with their beverage. Next, I’d take my jacket off, tuck my tie into my shirt, put on an apron and begin to cook the meal. I had to cook without spilling anything, otherwise it would show up when I re-entered the restaurant with the customer’s meal. Also, there was less to clean up at the end of the night. The same went for the pots. I spent many an hour laboring over burnt food at the bottom of a pot. Time I could have spent sleeping. My hours were long. Usually 6:00 am till 1:00 or 2:00am.

My palate was sharp, so I knew good food when I tasted it. Some recipes were puzzling to me. They didn’t seem to have the right ingredients or amounts listed. I began more and more to rely on my feelings about the food, than what the recipe said. I came to the conclusion one day when I asked myself “who taught the first cook?” that relying on my feelings was a much better approach. I would be cooking and think “something’s missing?” I’d throw the thought out and wait for an answer to come back to me. It always did. My cooking skills continued to improve daily.

I was twenty-two when I started this venture, with more guts than brains. My parents had refused to visit the restaurant, because they had other plans for my career. I was just doing what I felt and I had a lot of opposition. But, things in the restaurant continued to improve, slowly but surely. Actually to the point that one of our customers went into my dad’s office and said “you must be so proud of your son to have such a great restaurant”. Dad had never been in Beans and Barley, but that comment opened the door. He came to visit me and told me the story. We hadn’t had communication in over five years. It was soon afterwards that both my parents came to visit and have a meal.

A View from the Pantry
March 3, 2010

The following is a description of one of many strange evenings I had while living with Jorge. Some parts have been embellished for your reading enjoyment.

It was a Friday night and I was going out to meet friends after work  and have a happy hour cocktail with them. Jorge had mentioned that he’d be bringing a client home that evening and he would need the apartment. For simplistic means, let’s call his client John.

I returned home around 8:30pm and there was no one in the apartment. I assumed Jorge had finished early and gone out. That was somewhat normal. I was in the kitchen getting myself a coke out of the fridge, when I heard voices outside the front door, and a key in the lock. I wasn’t suppose to be here and I didn’t have time to get out. There was no escape. I quickly jumped into the pantry and closed the door as well as I could. I thought I’d stay there until they went to the bedroom. Then I would quietly let myself out of the apartment.

Jorge and John came into the kitchen and began to up-pack some groceries that they’d brought with them. John uncorked a bottle of wine and poured two glasses. Jorge put the groceries on the counter as they talked about making dinner. After a few kisses and a sip or two of wine, John began to put pots out and started to prep some food for their dinner. I could see this through a narrow gap in the pantry door. My heart was racing and I was afraid to breathe.

John began dinner. He put water on to boil for pasta and cut vegetables. Soon after, he prepped chicken breast while Jorge talked and began to pull some of his clothes off. He unbuttoned John’s shirt in between kisses and caresses. John kept cooking away as best he could, between more sips of wine and the removal of the rest of Jorge’s clothes. Jorge kept tugging away at John’s clothes. Soon, both were naked. John tested the pasta. It was hard. They’d have to wait a few more minutes. Then John asked Jorge if he had any garlic. “Yeah, I’ll get you some, it’s in the pantry”.

Jorge opened the door and saw me standing there like a scared rabbit. “What are you doing in here?”, he asked. In a very sheepish voice “H i d i n g”, I replied. After I explained the situation, they retired to the bedroom to finish their dinner.

I guess the moral of this story is, don’t get caught with your pants up in the pantry. Participate. Get involved in your community events. You could be missing out on a new experience, while helping others out.

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