Saturday, September 26, 2009

Left Behind

Back in June, I made some moves that I believed were risky, brave, and eminently forward-looking. I hired myself a chef/kitchen manager, and a pastry chef. With the idea of taking the café to the “next level.” Knowing full well that some of the precious long-term employees I had clung to would not be going to that next level with us. You stop, you think, you swallow your trepidation and you take that big forward step. You know there will be consequences.

Now that I think about it, the fallout was already falling when I made those momentous hiring decisions. It was, in fact, one of the things that pushed me to make the moves I did. One by one, the backbones of my crew were themselves making decisions. To move on. To kiss us goodbye and leave us behind. In truth, I decided to take us to the next level because it was that or…I don’t know what. Run the restaurant by myself, I guess.

In May, the Good and Faithful “D” informed me that she would be going back to school in the fall. And of course, it couldn’t be a normal school, where you could take classes AND work, and get your degree or certificate in, maybe two or three years. No…it had to be one of those “career” schools with the intensive programs that eats up the students’ every waking hour, transforms them and releases them fully accredited and thoroughly exhausted into their chosen field of endeavor after a mere 6 to 8 months.

Time and time again, my “girls” remind me that I am their boss. I am not their friend, or their mentor, or even someone whose feelings matter, or whose opinion they value. I have so utterly failed to make that connection with the girls who work for me. And it feels like shit. What do you say to someone upon whom you have depended heavily—probably much more heavily than was wise—when they up and decide to move on? “Bye, see ya…have a nice life?”

And, yet, I could do that, if it looked like the parting was going to be a smooth and amicable one. But that would not be “D.” Her personality is such that, when she decides to move on, she completely emotionally disassociates from whatever she is moving on from. She's no Audrey Hepburn, but her personality is every bit "Holly Go-lightly." She wants to project the impression that there are no bonds, no chains, no attachments…everyone (meaning SHE) is free to walk away from any relationship at any time, no hard feelings, no regrets. The more serious the entanglement, the more aloof she becomes at the dissolution of it. Untouchable. Unreachable. Gone.

The end result of this is…though she will not actually start school for another two weeks, and she plans to continue to work part-time during the first ten-week term, “D” is already gone. The amazing young woman whose trust I thought I had won, and whose loyalty I believed I had inspired, at least in some small way, has disappeared. In her place is a disrespectful petulant malcontent with a serious case of “short-timer’s disease.” And it just…hurts. Deep in my heart, it hurts.

It will be a sad chapter in the history of the Old Town Café, and in my personal history, if the time comes—as it appears that it will—when I am relieved that “D” has finally walked out the door, never to return. She has been my right hand, my go-to…the Good and Faithful “D.” It will be hard…SO hard…to watch that relationship end in such a sad and ignominious way. But it honestly looks as if I have no choice. I have been pitched out of a taxi into an alley, in the rain.

Unfortunately, I don't anticipate "D" suffering a change of heart and coming back for me...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello, Journal...

Coming To Terms is coming up on its sixth birthday. Six years. Wow.

I love this little blog. I do. It means so much more to me than anyone could ever imagine. Even sans the readers and the community out of which it sprang (or into which it sprang…) I love it too much to let it go. But I’ve come to realize, without the community, I have a lot less to say here than I used to. Truth to tell, a lot of what I wrote for five years was more playing around than real writing. There were the memes and the getting-to-know-you games (remember “100 Things About Me…?) There were the bitch and moan sessions, and the “poor me” wallowing—all of which had a place and a purpose, because part of the blogging experience consisted of…well, venting. Discovering that there were others out there like me, or who appreciated or sympathized with my trauma du jour.

Now, when I want to vent, this is not the first place I come…it doesn’t seem as satisfying anymore, somehow.

Of course, some of what has been recorded here is real, solid, creditable writing. Writing of which I am inordinately proud. Writing that would never have existed without this place. And that is the thing that keeps me here. Knowing that I have done it. Knowing that I can do it still.

But here’s the thing: I feel like I can only post the ‘real’ stuff now…because there’s no one around to read or appreciate the fluff. And with so much of my life force and creative juices being consumed by the restaurant, I have so little left to invest here. I want to write. I need to write. But I’m so used up that, even when I have the time and an idea, I turn on the laptop, type a few sentences, and then just sit and stare at the screen…so tired…and I save the sentences, close the document, and go play solitaire instead. Good writing simply takes more resources than I have available, most of the time.

I’ll admit I’m in one of those “are-we-having-fun-yet?” places when it comes to the café. It doesn’t seem like we have made as much progress as I would like to see. I’ve spent a fortune overstaffing the place, and I still can hardly get a weekend off, or feel confident that if I shell out a bunch of money for tickets to a show or concert that I will actually be able to get the time off to use them. This is not the place I wanted to be after three years. If I can’t pay myself, the least I should be able to do is take a freaking day off when I want it.

As of this week, Cooks #1 & 2 are back in school, Cook #3 has taken herself out of action for a month by cutting off the tips of two of her fingers (eeewwww!!!); and my chef’s grandmother died, so he’ll be gone to California for the funeral for four days. Overspending on labor by 30%, yet, once again, I am the ONLY cook available to work on a Saturday. What do I have to DO to catch a break??!?!?!

And so…I blow a kiss, with a mist of tears in my eyes, to “Big Red” (my concession trailer) as it goes off to its next adventure with its new owner; and I think that maybe being semi-retired, running my little seasonal concession business, might not have been the worst place I was ever in. I think back to how easy (and exhilarating!) it was to put together great essays when I had the time and the wherewithal. I really, really miss that. And it doesn’t go too far toward making me feel any more satisfied with my present lot in life. Chronically exhausted, challenged often to the limits of my abilities to cope, and completely dried up, creatively. (Do I detect a “poor me” coming on?)

Perhaps one should not endeavor to count the cost of “living the dream”—as I so often find myself doing. It behooves one to just shut up, press on, and spend more time dwelling on the positives. Yes. I’ll do that, now. Can’t promise I won’t fall off the wagon a few miles down the road. But I’m done whining, for the time being.

At any rate...

Happy Birthday, “Coming to Terms….”