Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Speed Post

I have a few minutes before I have to get ready to go to the café, and I haven’t posted for awhile. So I decided that I would just sit down and start typing, unedited, and write as much as I can about…whatever.

I lost an employee last week. This is the kid I have referred to as "the last piece of dead wood on the schedule." She was an eighteen-year-old with lots of issues, not the least of which was that her mother up and moved out of town without her scant months after she graduated from high school last June. She was pretty much given the choice to go with Mom and live somewhere she was not familiar with, with a man, by the way , whom she despised, or figure it out on her own. I’m mystified that a mother could just throw her kid to the wolves like that. Poor kid ended up shacking up with a boyfriend she had been seeing for only about a month. THAT relationship didn’t end well. And, since, she’s been casting about for SOMEWHERE to live, with SOMEONE, anyone…

Trouble is, she is just not mature enough to handle this whole mess. She can’t seem to buckle down and get the idea that she is going to have to work, full-time, and make money if she’s going to live on her own. She would complain that she couldn’t live on the number of hours I gave her, than totally flake out when I scheduled her for more than thirty hours in a week. She maxed out at about fifteen to twenty. Can’t really live on your own if you’re only bringing home about $200 a week.

I felt sorry for her, so I really tried to make it work. And she was one of those frustrating kids that could do the job when she wanted to, and unfortunately would do it once in a while, so the cat was out of the bag on that one. Nothing makes me crazier than someone who CAN do the job but, for whatever reason, WON'T. Anyway, her life "got unbearable," and she suddenly had to upsticks and move in with a relative, too far away to work HERE. Can’t say I’m sorry to see her go…but I did try to help her, and I always feel bad when I try to help someone and they aren’t helped. Which is how it works out 90% of the time, n’est ce pas?

Let’s see…I don’t even want to talk about the primaries. Neither party is advancing a candidate that is worth his/her weight in horse manure, so I just can’t go there. I keep telling myself that whichever one of the current cast of characters ultimately ends up on the throne, he/she can’t do as piss-poor a job as the current occupant. I keep telling myself that. Over and over. ::sigh::

The weather has been funky here in Ory-gun. The sun came out for a whole week (just in time…I was about to turn into a mushroom…) Since then, we’ve had snow, rain, ice, sun, often all within moments of one another. I guess it’s more exciting than the constant drenching rains we’d been experiencing since November. And I like snow well enough…it’s pretty and all. But it has been doing a number on the last few days of what had started out as a good business month. People stay home in droves around here when it’s snowy or icy. Which is just as well, because they can’t drive worth a damn in clear weather, much less in dicey conditions. We’ll still have a good month, but not as good as if the damn weather had cooperated for one more week

Oh, well, that’s all I have time for. Going to spell check, copy, paste and head for the shower. Have a great day, all!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cafe Chronicles

In case anyone was wondering...

Feast or famine is the name of the game at the Old Town Café. It’s just the nature of the place.

We’re either packed or empty. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between. If there’s such a thing as a nice, steady flow of customers, you wouldn’t know it by looking at our dining room at any given moment.

And when it comes to personnel, I’m either over-staffed or desperate for help. No happy medium on that score, either.

November and December were nice. From a staffing standpoint, anyway. Perhaps The Universe knew that I was going to need to attend to other matters. We were over-staffed; so there were plenty of people to tend the restaurant while we were away. And even afterward, throughout the holidays and a week or so beyond, we had more help than we really needed. Crew members were starting to complain that they weren’t getting enough hours, but they continued to call in sick and request days off with wild abandon. Yet, there was enough slack in the schedule to be able to accommodate all the germs, drama and personal indulgence. For about a month and a half. Yay.

Unfortunately, I’ve since had yet another employee bug out on me with no notice, and one more who informed me that she will only be able to work weekends from the end of January until the end of softball season. And a third employee, one of my most steadfast, had a house fire on Christmas Eve…and while neither she nor her husband were injured, and the house was not a total loss, it has thrown her completely for a loop. She has been a bundle of tears, pouts and general high-maintenance ever since. I love her and I wish I knew what to do for her…still, it’s one more headache that I really did not need.

So, though I feel like I’ve finally come out of the overwhelmed, chronically sleep-deprived fog through which I attempted to function for the first fifteen months after my entrepreneurial baptism, things have not yet found a completely solid footing. And when it comes to staffing, I’m afraid they never will. It looks like I’ll have to get as much done as I can while I’m employee rich, but accept that I will still have to don the apron and grind my nose into the stone when such is not the case. ::Groan! ::

But here’s the really good news. I don’t know if sales were more atrocious last year (winter of 2006/2007) than I realized, or if we really have turned a corner and are headed upward for good, sales-wise. After an almost flat October, we had sales increases of 27% for the month of November, and 24% for December. And, unless something really dire transpires in the next eight days, we’ll probably see at least a 20% increase for January. So maybe all the blood, sweat, tears, and years off the end of my life are actually getting us somewhere…

Raise a glass with me, my friends!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Dignity "Dialogue"

I received this comment on my second "dignity" post over at Blogspot.

Who are you hanging around with and what are you watching on TV? I wouldn't describe the people I associate with in the way you describe people. I think dignity is alive and well.

It's not that I'm unaware of bad stuff going on in the world every single day. But that's because this is a fallen world. It won't be all put right until the end of time when Jesus comes back.

But I am very blessed in my part of this world. I am always spending my time around good people. And I don't pay too much attention to the news, because it's depressing

Posted by BloggerDonna | 1:31 PM

I read it last night when I was really, really tired. And I thought, "Yikes! You’ve got to be kidding me."

This morning, as I was frying eggs and flipping omelets, I thought about it again. Charitably conceding that no one could be that hopeless, and be cocky enough about it to leave such blatant evidence thereof, I convinced myself that of course, obviously it was tongue-in-cheek! I would log on this evening and find that this person had a wonderful, thoughtful political blog somewhere and was just poking fun at the clueless right wing masses.

No such luck. Couldn’t find a link to any blog. I suppose I could email her, but I really don’t want to get too close. Maybe she has some dreaded brain-devouring superbug, and I don’t want to catch it.

Seriously. Maybe I do hang around with the wrong people. Maybe I do watch the wrong stuff on TV (HGTV and Food Network…?)

But I’m not about to slough off my possible accountability for some of the uglier aspects of modern American society by blaming the situation on "God." Or some mystic battle between good and evil, where my only responsibility is to sit on the sidelines and wait to see who wins…

More frightening is her parting line, almost as an afterthought… "I don’t pay too much attention to the news, because it’s depressing."

Oh. My. God.

Most terrifying? It's a cinch this vapor-brain votes.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

This Month's Blogging Rant...

I’m feeling a little peevish about blogging today.

I know blogging was (is) a technological fad… Subject to the short life-span of the genre. Even I had to curb my involvement for several months while my physical life (I don’t like to refer to it as my "real" life...my internet life may be ethereal, but it is still real) demanded more of my body and soul. But I never stopped writing, and I never stopped clinging to the community of which I was a part, even as it dwindled. I always assumed that when I regained enough of my wits to go back to writing about the things about which I was most passionate—instead of just shooting off messages of frustration and venting about my "new" life—the community would be there, just as it was at the beginning. And it’s not.

In the beginning, when there were only a few of us, part of the beauty of blogging was that you got to read and "know" people from vastly different realms of experience; from stay-at-home moms in West Virginia to brain surgeons in Boston. It was fascinating to see life through eyes so different from one’s own. Now, the blogosphere has become so huge that it has had to specialize. It’s not just blogging anymore, it’s blogging about… The days of a big pool where everybody swam are over. Now, you have to find the little pool where the people who are most like you swim.

If anyone has a line on where the Politically Disaffected Agnostic Baby-boomer Christmas Freak Nature Loving Small Restaurant Owner pool is located, could you point me in the right direction?


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More On Dignity...Point and Counterpoint

I double-posted this entry into my "Better Terms" journal on blogspot. I received this comment. He makes some good points, and I would like to open up a little more dialogue here:

One of your bottles washed up on my beach [a reference to my introductory blurb on my other blog...] and I must say I've rarely endured such a tongue lashing re: dignity. Yes, I am a baby boomer, aged 54 years as of yesterday. I grew up in the deep south, Birmingham, Alabama to be exact and had it not been for iconoclasts like those you condemn as the source of our cultural decline I dare say we would still have white and colored water fountains. Granted, you seem to make an exception for opposing racism and antisemitism but then make sweeping generalisations about the negative impact my generation has had on subsequent generations. True, there were excesses but that is true of any cultural change. You mention the "greatest generation" and their sacrifices during the depression and WW II but go back and take a look at prohibition and the "roaring twenties". I suspect there were more than a few of those paragons of virtue you describe that drank untaxed liquor and danced in a speakeasy. I could go on but I think the one that needs to practice moderation is you, before you throw all the boomers out with the bath water, like so much sewage.

Arguing that a return to the values of our elders is the only chance of saving the planet must be one of the most grandiose things I've ever read. As the father of two daughters, that would be anathema.

Sometimes, in order to be treated with dignity, one must DEMAND IT!


Randy Johnson

You are right, Randy. I did make some sweeping generalizations. But in-depth treatment of this particular subject would have required a book…perhaps several. In trying to keep this short enough to make a point in the space of a decently readable journal post, I omitted a lot of the peripherals.

Yes, history is, to some extent, a parade of generations, each rebelling against and rewriting the rules of the previous one(s). Without that intrinsically human desire to stretch the envelope, civilization would have stagnated and disappeared eons ago. But I think that we boomers and our parents faced some unique challenges that caused some rather larger blips on the civilization meter than have transpired in a long time. Or perhaps it’s simply that since I am a part of this particular generational schism, it seems like a really big deal to me.

The "Greatest Generation" (our parents) attained adulthood to find a World War—against a true evil—staring them in the face. Fighting that war, and then reconstructing their lives afterward, kept them from doing too much rejecting of the values of their elders. I suspect that after the upheaval of the war years, they actually craved the relative calm and ease of their parents’ lives, and set about trying to emulate rather than break free of it. They settled down and gave birth to—the post-war baby boom. And because many of them had also faced the deprivation of growing up during the Depression, they wanted to make sure we had all the things they couldn’t have when they were kids. Which may have been one of their biggest mistakes…

The Boomers were presented with a very different set of rules. First of all, we were (here comes another of my infamous generalizations…) spoiled. Our parents, rich or poor, did everything they could do to make our lives better than theirs…because they could. To a point. Unfortunately, we also grew up in the shadow of something our parents gave us that I’m sure they wished they could take back—the mushroom cloud.

Perhaps we believed that if we were going to make changes, we’d better hurry up before the world exploded around us. Perhaps we felt betrayed that our parents not only didn’t contrive to leave us a better world; they created the means by which our world might be snatched out from under us at any moment. I think it’s safe to say that could make anyone a little bit crazy.

Too, as we came of age, many of us were sent halfway across the world to die in a war that we were told had direct bearing on whether that mushroom cloud would indeed explode in our faces. When we figured out that was a lie, I don’t think we had a whole lot of patience left to pick and choose what parts of our parents’ social codes to reject and which ones to keep. We just picked up the whole mess and heaved it.


My argument is not that we need to return to the values of our elders. My point is that we need to understand that some of the things we threw away were not "values of our elders" at all, but things basic and necessary to the survival of a society. What makes dignity one of those things? To have dignity is to be "worthy, honored, esteemed." Respected. What does our society, as a whole, respect anymore? We don’t respect each other; we don’t respect ourselves. Respect, compassion, empathy, charity—these are the things that keep us from annihilating ourselves. As we reject these concepts, we move closer and closer to the brink.

The question is, how does a society go about recouping when it starts throwing away the basic building blocks of its very survival? I don’t know the answer to that. There must be historical examples; then again, how successful could they have been, as it seems that every great society in human history has eventually gone down to decay. Are we there now? Are we on the brink of that extinction? And since we—the Boomers—took such an unusually large step down that road, can we discipline ourselves to take a giant step back? Or is it too late?

…And as to "DEMANDING" to be treated with dignity… One can demand to be "treated with dignity," but if one is not dignified, one would be demanding acknowledgement of a trait one did not possess. That would be like McDonald’s demanding to be treated like a fine dining establishment. (President Bush’s handlers have demanded that he be treated with dignity…but since he hasn’t an ounce of dignity in his body, at least none that he has ever demonstrated to the public, how can he realistically expect to be "treated with dignity?" For that matter, Bill Clinton’s exploits demonstrated his lack of dignity as well). Dignity is no longer cultivated, even in the highest echelons of our society. For whatever reason, our generation branded dignity a stuffy and outdated concept, and we set about not only throwing away our own, but making damn sure no one else had any, either. A glance at any of our highfalutin 21st century media will leave no doubt about that.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

On Dignity


Main Entry: dig·ni·ty

Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural dig·ni·ties

Etymology: Middle English dignete, from Anglo-French digneté, from Latin dignitat-, dignitas, from dignus

1: the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed

Lately, I’ve contemplated the concept of dignity. We argue and wrangle and orate, these days, about "death with dignity." For whatever reason, it’s of profound importance that we die with our boots on, with our heads held as high as our failing faculties can hold them. But apparently death is the only activity upon which our society will confer the blessing of dignity. Perhaps that is because such a large block of us—we, the ubiquitous baby-boomers—step closer to that eventuality with each passing moment.

Yes, we boomers demand Death With Dignity. But aren’t we also responsible for the death OF dignity? Worth? Honor? Esteem? Haven’t we contrived, since we were old enough to brandish protest signs and burn our bras, to tear down everything our parents—indeed, everything every American generation before us—esteemed, honored, or thought worthy?

Much as we would like to assign the blame for the state of our society to those generations that came after us—to gen-x or –y or Little Cat "z"—the fault is ours. It was our generation that scorned our parents’ etiquette and social behaviors, creating a nation of inconsiderate boors committed to "looking out for number one." Our generation that spawned the shock jocks and the foul-mouthed comedians and the gritty violence of modern cinema. Our generation which threw off the sexual constraints of our forebears, creating a societal obsession with all things pertaining to below-the-waist relations. We were too cool, too hip; too busy cultivating our infant world vision to be constrained by our parents’ "hang-ups." And now, as our parents die and we step into the role of matriarchs and patriarchs, we wonder why our children, and their children, wouldn’t know dignity if it bit them in the ass.

Dignity is an old-fashioned concept. Our grandparents were dignified. And a little bit scary. They mostly didn’t straymuch outside the communities into which they were born. They walked tall through adversity—and they walked through adversity that we can’t even imagine. They kept their personal business to themselves. And yet the community always rallied to stand behind a member or a family in need. Quietly. Without fanfare or hullabaloo, they went about the business of life. With dignity.

Our parents were born into those communities. And the monumental events of the Great Depression and The War changed and molded them. But still, they understood about dignity. They had it themselves, and they allowed for it in others.

Then, along came the Boomers. We didn’t understand the social codes that were handed down to our parents from their parents, and we were in too much of a hurry to take our places as the movers and shakers to learn. While our parents’ society was heavy on loathsome concepts like anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, it also embraced the injunction to care for those less fortunate; the mandate to protect the weak; the obligation to fulfill the needs of others before looking to one’s own needs. The softer and nobler concepts that differentiate humans from lower animals, and that keep a society from destroying itself from within. But we….we were so eager to throw over the outdated prejudices of our parents’ society that we didn’t take the time to sort the good from the bad. Wholesale change was the order of the day. And we threw out the baby with the bath water.

Why is it surprising to us that our children, and their children after them, took our selfishness, our carelessness and our impatience, and ran with it? It’s unfortunate that our progeny did not wholesale reject us as we did our parents, and turn in the opposite direction: toward mercy, compassion and…dignity. Unfortunate that the downward path—toward corruption, self-centeredness and anarchy—is so much easier to tumble down than it would be to clamber up a road to a nobler, more liberal plain.

Life, now, has to be lived at fever-pitch and light-speed. Everything is exaggerated. We all live as perpetual adolescents, where there is no happiness, only ecstasy; and sorrow can only be utter desolation. The measured, circumspect concept of dignity has been utterly forgotten.

I don’t knowabout you, but I’m too old for this…this world that we have created. What should we do now? What can we do now? Do we bug out of the 21st century? Fade out and live our remaining decades in the quiet shadows of the world we wish we had created? Or do we rouse ourselves, become the critical mass of which we are capable, and foment one more colossal change? Can we all—all xxxx-million of us—drop our feet off the side of the merry-go-round and slow it down, just enough for society to shake its head, get its bearings, and find the stuff that we threw off thirty years ago?

I think the future—of our nation, if not the planet—depends upon us doing exactly that.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Where's the Sun?

No one has to sell me on the concept of global climate change. I’ve seen the bizarre meteorological manifestations in the past few years, here in the US and all over the world. Just two days ago, a tornado laid waste a neighborhood in a town about thirty miles from here. A tornado. In the Pacific Northwest. In January.

This morning, another universal anomaly took place. I could swear that the earth has reneged on the solstice. Some great celestial thumb has come down on the cosmic "pause" button. Or maybe even "Rewind." The week before Christmas, I would arrive at work at 7:30 am in the twilight of a rising sun. This morning, it was pitch black when I got to work. What gives? Did the world somehow stall on its journey around the sun? Or start going the other way?

I’m crazy desperate for a sunny day. I need to go sit on a rock like a lizard and absorb the vitamin D. This malady afflicts me more and more as I grow older.

Two years ago, I wrote this poem on the solstice. It’s been in my mind lately…

Winter Solstice

hand raised in shield and salute
I’ve watched my retreating love
disappear southward
his warmth a mockery
his smile weak and distant
the cold of his absence
claims my world

each day sees a larger plot
of my heart in shadow and frost
as he grows smaller
and now the rain
has washed away
the consoling memory
of his wink and grin

someone tells me
he has turned
reconsidered his leaving…
tomorrow and tomorrow
will he be nearer?
will his closeness thaw my heart?
when will I know?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

So Little Time...

Here we are, already more than a week into the new year. I SO have not been feeling like writing. I get an idea or two in my head, I turn on the computer, and I just sit and play solitaire. It seems like way too much trouble to think hard enough to write any kind of an engaging essay. Life is not too bad right now, either. I think I just have the mother of all cases of the winter blahs.

The weather has been absolutely miserable. When it’s not dark and rainy, it’s dark and icy. Either way, it’s dark. I know the days are supposed to be getting longer. It’s hard to tell if the sun is showing up earlier or sticking around later when the clouds are so heavy you have perpetual twilight. Ugh! I REALLY need a sunny day right now!

I have a stack of things a mile high (as usual) to accomplish at the café. We just got the last Christmas tree taken down this evening, took the wreaths off the doors and peeled off the rest of the decorations. All that’s left are the poinsettias I bought from one of the local school fundraisers. They’re still alive, still beautiful, in fact. I can’t throw them away, and I know if I bring them home they will become garbage almost immediately. And there is the added concern that we don’t want the cats eating them. Not good for them at all. And I clean up enough barf around the house…I don’t need poinsettia puke added to the mix.

At least de-Christmasing has been accomplished. The million and ten other thing I need to do are still weighing heavy. I have to re-do the menu. I did a rudimentary cost analysis last week and found that the price WE pay for provisions has increased over thirteen percent since last January. So if I don’t raise my menu prices, we’ll be going to the poorhouse fast. And I just hate to raise the prices. People are very price-conscious out here in the sticks. I’ll have them bitching and moaning for months; saying things like, "How come your prices are so high? This isn’t Portland, you know." No, it’s not Portland. But my damn food comes from Portland, and they don’t charge me any less just because I do business in the boonies. If anything, I pay more. Why don’t people get that? Duh!!!

AND I have to plan our Valentine’s special, create the menu, design the ad, figure out the decorations, try and guess how much of what to order, etc. etc. ad infinitum. This one has me kind of intimidated. Last Valentine’s Day, we didn’t do anything special, and we still had a pretty good turn out (overflow from the local restaurants that DID do something special, I imagine…) This year, I want to try to actually make the most of the day (it’s supposed to be one of the top two or three days of the year for dining out…that would make it an opportunity I can not afford to pass up!) So I’m feeling some pressure, here…shaking in my boots and cultivating my ulcer.

There are times when I’m concerned that I take this all too seriously. And times when I worry that I don’t take it seriously enough. Either way, I worry. And I hate worrying. It takes all the fun out of it…