The Beginning of the End
Covid: A Retrospective
Three years have nearly passed since those awful early days of Covid, days that required bold decisions with no history or experts to turn to for guidance. Nobody knew too much about the deadly virus, our invisible new enemy that could not be contained and could only be detected after infiltrating the troops. Its target appeared to be all of humanity, yet belief in its very existence became a choice and divided the entire world, making it impossible to conquer.
In December 2020, CNN published a story I wrote detailing the final days of Tastebuds Restaurant and how we found a way to close with grace and dignity, which allowed me to end that chapter of my life and begin to focus fully on finding a way to remain in Ireland. After a long and hard-fought battle, we finally received Permission to Remain last month. With our future seemingly secure, I suddenly find myself journeying back in my mind to the unprecedented events of 2020 and revisiting all of the decisions that have led us to this point.
While I have never been happier, as I look back, I can’t help but feel the heartbreaking loss of Tastebuds all over again, because that was never part of my plan. Until very recently, a tiny piece of me held out hope that this was all just a dream and that I was going to wake up to the sound of a delivery vehicle backing up to our truck dock, bringing me fresh produce, fish, and chicken. I’d rush over to pay the driver before helping myself to a freshly baked corn muffin and a hot cup of coffee, compliments of my morning prep chef! Then I’d wake up Ari and get him ready for kindergarten at Campus International Life was good then, no question!
Reading my old journals, I am just fascinated by how quickly the restaurant became insolvent and how urgently I needed to take action. When you hear about steep margins in restaurants, consider that each month we would spend anywhere from $20-$30,000 on raw ingredients which we would pay for the following month, after turning them into beautiful salads, sandwiches, and entrees, then selling them at a markup.
A complete and unexpected shutdown of production left us with no way to pay the previous month’s invoices. Add payroll, rent, utilities, and maintenance of a 7100 square foot restaurant and we sunk so fast that the story of the Titanic began to feel autobiographical! I truly believed we were unsinkable and when the unthinkable happened, we were stranded with no one to save us. There was no plan in place, not enough lifeboats, and saving the rich took priority.
In the next few newsletters, we will journey back to the Beginning of the End of Tastebuds Restaurant and Life as We Knew It. It’s been rather emotional reading these journal entries, but I feel it is important to share them with you, unedited, with only the addition of a note or two, if I felt clarification was needed. Brace yourselves for an emotional rollercoaster! It’s a lot! I suggest reading one entry per day!
"Spring is the time of plans and projects." -Leo Tolstoy
February 2020 began beautifully! All of my exciting plans were coming together and progressing well. During our two-week winter break, I had spent $40,000 upgrading Tastebuds equipment and air conditioning and had just installed a state-of-the-art security system, ensuring that all would go smoothly in my absence.
This was the year I’d been planning for some time and had been dreaming about for decades, this was the year I was going to move to Ireland to become a writer! My sister Erin had been training to take the helm of Tastebuds since August 2019, and I was confident that I was leaving my baby in capable hands.
Since it had been rather difficult to secure an apartment in Ireland and to enroll Ari in a school stateside, I decided to take a quick trip there myself, leaving Ari in Erin’s care so that I could cover more ground, more easily. My flight was booked for March 15th-24th and just my luck, I had asked so many Customers at Tastebuds if they knew anyone in Cork, that I found somebody who not only had family in Cork but their children actually attended the school I was hoping to get Ari into, and they offered to show me around Midleton!
What Could Go Wrong?
February 26th, 2020
Not having a television connected to anything but a DVD player has been wonderful. I have been a happier person hearing all of my news when I ask others for it, which is seldom. I stopped listening to the radio on our 5-minute commute to school when Ari said, “Awe…He said STUPID!” After hearing the President of the United States of America using language even a kindergartner knows is wrong and offensive!
I used to pride myself on my knowledge of the world and current issues. News became vulgar and infuriating and like anything I find toxic, I rid it from my life. When I first heard about this Corona Virus, I thought to myself, ‘China is testing it out on its own people before it unleashes it on its enemies. I’ve always thought they were dangerous and that we put way too much trust in them.
We’ve given them all of our intellectual property so they can produce our goods with slave labor. We’ve given them all of our manufacturing jobs and now everything we own and eat comes from China. Why? Because it wasn’t enough to be millionaires, company owners, CEO’S and Shareholders had to be billionaires. It wasn’t about putting fellow Americans to work making a product they could take pride in, it was about getting rich using cheap materials and a cheaper labor force to increase profit. Let China pollute their air and water making our fidget spinners and cars.
Interestingly, Erin and I were driving past all of these large abandoned warehouse buildings on East 55th Street yesterday. She asked ‘What’s Richman Brothers?” A sign was still visible on one of the biggest buildings. I told her that this was the Garment District and that Cleveland used to make almost all the clothes in America, second only to New York. There were hundreds of businesses and practically everyone working in Cleveland worked in the industry.
We gave it all to China and China has the virus, a deadly virus that cannot be contained. How could it? They make everything and they ship it everywhere in the world. I had to laugh back when it wasn’t so serious, back when I was naive. We were quarantining human beings who traveled to China, but still gleefully accepting deliveries of products- don’t wanna hurt that bottom line or disrupt the stock market.
Well, I started by saying I was glad I didn’t allow a steady stream of news into my psyche, but there is of course a downside. I catch up with my news when I just can’t ignore what’s escalating out of control and then it hits me like a ton of bricks and just crushes me. I remember having to sit down and catch up on the police shootings of unarmed black men, mass shootings at schools, churches, and concerts, and now this- the spread of Corona Virus throughout the globe.
Part of me wants to grab Ari and get to Ireland ASAP, but then I wonder how well-equipped they would be in an outbreak. I mean, I’m sitting pretty here in Cleveland, 40 blocks from the Cleveland Clinic- the absolute best hospital in the world. And what if Ari and I leave and the US doesn’t let us back in? Also, I wonder if Ireland can sustain itself- actually…can the US? Ireland’s agriculture has much more of my faith and trust.
These are scary times. Even before the Corona Virus took center stage- this year I noticed that everyone I know has had the flu or strep throat or both multiple times. Schools have been closed because so many kids have been sick so often.
I was just staring out the window wondering if our business is slowing down because we are in Chinatown. Or, are people working from home more, or not wanting to leave the office? Interestingly, yesterday was dead in the dining room but our to-go orders were huge.
I have a grim vision of the future- the only sign of life will be drivers delivering UberEats or Amazon and everyone will be afraid to leave their house. I’ve got my books, my paints and canvas, my writing, and some money to weather the storm if it comes. My house has not sold and I got my money out of the stock market just in time, seemingly.
I should get some classics for Ari to read like Treasure Island, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Outsiders, Harry Potter, A Separate Peace, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Lord of the Flies, Lord of the Rings, etc.
Bridget McGinty's Newsletter is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
March 10th, 2020
Wow! YESTERDAY I decided to start looking at condos again. I love The Carlyle amenities but they ain’t cheap! They are the only condo on the Gold Coast that has gas cooking. I had to ask myself what I am willing to pay just to have flames under my pans and my answer was ‘whatever they were asking!’
So! TODAY I own a condo at The Carlyle!!! Number 122. They were asking $159k in February and dropped it to $152. My beautiful realtor said to offer $135, they countered $142 and…SOLD!!! I have $118k in the bank but I feel like only putting 20% down- I miss the tax break I guess, and if the world is ending, I want cash on hand to live it up. And if the world is going to continue, this condo fits nicely into my travel plans and living in Ireland. And what a summer place to come home to; two pools, a restaurant, the lake, sunsets, a balcony, downtown skyline, safe & secure!
This Corona Virus may hurt the restaurant badly, but…it made this condo seller jump at an offer $17,000 less than what he initially asked.
With Ireland being uncertain, I only know I want to leave the Loft (see note). It’s not good for my health mentally or physically. I’m too involved with Tastebuds. I haven’t gotten any writing done. I Do NOT want to move back to Tremont- Fuck No. It’s too built up. It has lost everything I loved about it.
This is just another in a series of purchases that has less to do with the object and more to do with the experiences the object offers; the memories, the good times! Erin, Ari, and I are already thinking about the Fourth of July and The Air Show and sleepovers with the kids! Drinks poolside while the kids have a blast. Cookouts on the picnic tables by the lake. Ok, I’m going to bed to dream about what fun this summer will be.
(Note: The Loft was the massive living space and party room next to the restaurant.)
March 14th, 2020
I’m trying to keep my chin up. Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine addressed the Corona Virus in a press conference where he made special orders to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mass gatherings are prohibited: No more than 100 people, indoor or outdoor, does not apply to religious gatherings, restaurants, stores, factories, weddings, or funerals, but people must be an arm’s length apart. Also, anyone who can work from home should, and any non-essential employees should stay home. All schools are closed until April 3rd (three weeks).
Great time to be a leader and a decision-maker, eh? I lost sleep over my decision to fire an employee who had been with me for six years but who just kept making careless and costly mistakes and showing zero remorse, then I lost sleep over my decision to cancel my trip to Ireland which would have started tomorrow. And now, this massive boulder has been placed on my shoulder, whether to close the restaurant or not. Many restaurants have closed- saying it was a moral obligation and best for the safety of their workers. Brendan Ring of my beloved Nighttown closed- understandably. His clientele is old and his jazz shows were probably canceled by the musicians themselves.
I know from past experience- it’s easier to shut it down than to grapple with how to predict sales, what to order, and who to staff. Nothing is more soul-crushing to an owner than watching employees standing around doing nothing as you lose money on a lack of customers, perishable already prepped foods, high rent, utilities, etc.
My writing is sloppy today because Ari won’t leave me alone. His tablet isn’t working and I won’t give up my phone.
Anyway, I don’t need to worry too much about Ari and me the way others need to worry about themselves. We live in a restaurant and I’m guessing we could survive over a year on our stock. I worry about our safety if supplies at grocery stores ran out completely. I’ve had this instinct to buy an ax and a hatchet in case we need to protect ourselves or chop wood or ward off intruders when we run out of bullets.
(Note: More on this madness at the end!)
Ok, I know my mind is all over the place and my imagination is running wild, but nobody knows what’s going to happen.
Thursday, after hearing DeWine’s speech, I cried. I was driving down Clifton Boulevard, just feeling it all coming crashing toward me. So, I took Erin up on her offer to use the babysitter they had lined up for a dinner that Erin and Rick had planned to attend but was canceled.
The three of us went out. I pulled out of the condo purchase at 5 pm and felt a tug to go to The Carlyle’s brand new restaurant, Summerhouse. Ho Lee Smokes! We had the most incredible night! We were treated beautifully by the staff, but all the tables facing the downtown skyline were taken. No problem! Suddenly we were the celebrities and everyone was coming over to our table to say hi!
March 15th, 2020
Restaurant owners are banning together, closing their restaurants using words like morality and safety and concern, making it seem reckless to stay open. The list includes a lot of higher-end restaurants which I would consider a luxury item people can do without, but we provide lunch to hardworking people.
Well…what if I’m wrong? I’ve got to look at this from all angles. It would be a relief to simply close, but how will my staff cope? How will they pay their rent, mortgage, car, and school tuition?
But…If we have no customers, how will I pay my rent, payroll, utilities, etc?
Ok, tomorrow I need to work on a letter to my staff telling them they won’t be fired if they chose not to work but to stress no one with any symptoms should come in. Safety and sanitation will be STRICTLY ENFORCED!
The tables should be more spaced. Our line needs to be spaced out. Our website and Facebook should say please- encourage take out and one person picks up for the whole office. We can take large orders and ring them separately. The entire condiment counter needs to be removed. Salt and peppers need to be taken off the counter, microwave too. Gloves need to be worn at all times and replaced often.
FUCK!…I’m seeing why it’s just easier to close!
If we close for the month and I gave everyone $500 to get by, that’d be $3000. But our rent is $3000 and last month’s invoices need to be paid and that’s probably over $15,000 Ugh!
St. Patrick’s Day…
However, downtown is deserted and many pubs and bars are take-out only. We made the decision to close Sunday night after the Governor’s press conference that banned restaurants and bars from doing anything but carry out as of 9pm Sunday night and encouraged everyone to just stay home.
Erin and I made the decision together when we fully understood how Corona Virus is passed- we decided to do what’s best for absolutely everyone. I realized that I could have my staff wearing hazmat suits but it wouldn’t stop the spread- deliveries coming in the back door and customers coming in the front door exchanging currency that’s been God knows where.
We are so fortunate in Ohio that we have a proactive Governor, Mike DeWine and we have a rock star Health Director, Dr. Amy Acton MD. who was not afraid to say that her advice to her own daughter was not to go anywhere; no restaurants, no bars and to give up her plans of spring break in Florida.
We made the decision to close Sunday, March 15th.
Gino and Oscar (see note) came in Monday to freeze things we could save and throw out things we could not. There was $360 in the cash register and I divided it equally among them. Erin came down with the kids and kept Ari and them entertained in the Loft while I made an action plan in the restaurant. We made up boxes of produce and delivered them to other staff with envelopes containing their final paychecks and a hundred dollars each from cash that I had stashed away for emergencies.
(Note: Gino and Oscar were my chefs.)
March 19th, 2020
I can’t help but think that nature found a way to fight back. We have been abusing land, water, air, and animals for so long.
Today Ari and I walked down to Sterling Recreation Center to throw a football and get some exercise and I swear, the birds sounded exuberant! I was inspired to crumble all of our stale bread from the restaurant to feed them tomorrow. Maybe the birds always sounded like this but we couldn’t hear them over the daily grind of traffic, airplanes, hood systems, and sirens. The Earth is getting much-needed rest. The canals of Venice are clearing up without tourists, I heard dolphins were even spotted!
I wonder if the smog of LA has vanished. It’s a good time to remember how to live simply. Ari and I are really really lucky. My plans for Ireland prompted me to get out of the stock market in October. We have plenty of money, food, and weapons to see this nightmare through.
I tried to secure some movers, to move half our stuff to Tremont. I want to be prepared. If there is any disruption in the supply chain of food or if banks freeze accounts and credit cards, I’ve got to have another place to go in case there’s looting. I hate that I don’t know my neighbors anymore in this building. I know tons of people in Tremont.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about Ireland. What does this pandemic teach me? I live 40 blocks from the best healthcare in the world, but what does that matter if we have a president who tells us lies or critical information when it’s too late?
Other countries were quick to battle this virus, our president spent precious time blaming the Democrats and calling it a hoax. However, the thought of something like this happening and me being over 3,000 miles from home scares me quite a bit. So, I’ve been thinking, maybe I just summer in Ireland.
No! Let’s not put an end to our dream of moving there just yet. Let’s see how this all plays out.
March 19th, 2020
It’s only 48’ but the sun is shining so I opened the sliding patio door to my deck in Tremont. Ari and I are mostly moved in and so far the decision to move back into my house has been great.
In this time of self-isolation, hearing the glorious songs of Spring that the birds all sing is so necessary to my mood and sanity. I swear, self-isolating in February would have definitely raised the suicide rate.
The Governor issued a stay-at-home order that began Monday at midnight. Everything I’ve done to prepare for what might happen seems to have been in the nick of time; pulling my money out of the stock market, closing the restaurant, stocking up on supplies, renewing my driver’s license, renewing Ari’s passport, getting lots of cash out of the bank, to this move to Tremont.
As of today, 19,677 people have died from the Corona Virus; 804 in the US, 3281 in China, 6820 in Italy, 3445 in Spain, 181 in Germany, 2206 in Iran, 1100 in France, 149 in Switzerland, 126 in South Korea, 422 in the UK, 356 Netherlands, 30 Austria, 178 Belgium, 14 Norway, 43 Portugal, 26 Canada, 42 Sweden, 8 Australia, 46 Brazil, 5 Israel, 44 Turkey, 32 Denmark, 19 Malaysia, 5 Czechia, 7 Ireland, 3 Chili, 42 Japan, 8 Luxembourg, 27 Equadore, 8 Pakistan, 13 Poland, 4 Thailand, 13 Romania, 1 Finland, 58 Indonesia, 10 India, 5 Slovenia, 20 Egypt, 27 Ira
Ok, well it’s bedtime now. I was interrupted earlier by Ari who wanted to call his dad. I was sure he wouldn’t answer, so I dropped everything and dialed. To my astonishment and to Ari’s delight he called us right back after we got no answer.
The two of them had a great chat and then I chatted a bit, despite my horrible appearance. Social isolation does strange things to a girl. I wanted to feel something for someone, and I felt love for the father of my son, especially seeing what effect he has on Ari. I think less is more when it comes to fatherhood, of course, I’m speaking from my own experience.
Being in this house again, of course, Ari and I can’t help but think of Abaz. Life was good here for a long time. Abaz and I lived here long before Ari was born. He fixed everything. He made a lovely garden of rose bushes and other beautiful flowers. He seriously broke his back and a few of his friend’s backs making this into a lovely home for us, and for his girls when they would have sleepovers.
I have to remind myself who Abaz really is and why we broke up and why he was deported, but if I’m being honest, if the world’s coming to an end, I would definitely want Abaz here, protecting Ari and me, teaching us how to hunt and how to survive. He is capable of God-awful things. Who knows what will come or how things will be in the future? He has already lived through hell.
(Note: Ari’s father grew up in Kosovo and fought in the brutal, hellish war with Serbia in the late ‘90s before America helped to end the war and liberate his country. As for why we broke up and how he got himself deported? That’s a story for another day my friends!)
I felt real joy today. Ari and I went to the restaurant from 4-6 pm, so I could fill out everyone’s unemployment claim verifications. There was a card from my Aunt Cindy containing a check for $500 and a note to use the money to help my Tastebuds family. I am still in shock! I just can’t believe the sentiment and the generosity.
My first reaction was to send it back, considering I have my Ireland money. But then, I thought about how good it feels to help someone and I didn’t want to take that away from her, plus it wasn’t mine, it was for my staff. Tomorrow Erin and Oscar will be at the restaurant. I’m going to call her and we are all going to thank her!
The bank account is at $9k. I would be out of business if it weren’t for my plans to move to Ireland. My accountant was dead set against it, but I insisted that he pull my money out of the stock market in October. My $100k would be worth $20k at the most right now. Unbelievable luck! I don’t see any other bars and restaurants being as fortunate. I should keep my house on the market. I don’t want to spend the money to update everything. I like living here, but everything is shut down, so it’s misleading at the moment.
I am a bit lonely. I can tell that Ari is too by the way he will yell ‘Hi’ to anyone he sees from our yard, no matter how far away they are! I’ve been eating the craziest stuff; cold cuts, pickles, Campbell’s soup, bagels, and pasta. I panic-shopped! I have more beverages than I can drink in a year; Gatorade, Capri Sun, Pineapple juice, and cran-grape juice. Lots of snacks too. For 19 years, I’ve had Tastebuds, and I’ve hardly ever had to make 3 meals a day and I certainly never had to wash all of my own dishes! Glad I don’t mind!
I guess it’s been 11 days of full-time Ari and me, and I’m kinda diggin’ it! I know I’ve got to start teaching him to read, he’s just struggling so badly. I’m lost on how to begin and I’m stunned that Campus International has left him so far behind. Ari is so damn creative though!
March 27th, 2020
Global Cases: More than 595,000
Total Deaths: 27, 300
Top Five Countries:
United States 103, 342. Italy 86,498. China 81,897. Spain 65,871. Germany 50,871.
Day 13- I’m settling into this self-isolation thing just fine, it’s the homeschooling of Ari that’s got me troubled! I thought of something brilliant today- I downloaded Harry Potter on my Audible app and we listened to 8 chapters! I was mesmerized but Ari fought against it for a while. After dinner, we studied sight words. For every word he got right, he got to jump from one couch to the next!
Erin sent me shocking news yesterday- the owner of Joe’s Deli in Rocky River tested positive for Corona Virus. Well, that woke everyone in the restaurant business up, everyone that was still holding on, trying to do take out only. Joe’s is the most popular restaurant on the west side. They were so busy with curbside pickup the last couple of weeks that they had police directing traffic! He could have infected so many people. I was finally 100% sure that we did the right thing closing down.
March 30th, 2020
Dreams will die too from the Corona Virus. The president advised self-isolation for two weeks. Just days ago he said all would be back to business by Easter. Today he extended the advisory through April 30th and said the economy would get back on its feet by June.
Tastebuds would not survive if I hadn’t withdrawn my retirement fund in October. I’ve already tapped into it for new coolers and a security system. Days ago, I transferred $20K into Tastebuds account just to keep the lights on and the rent paid.
It’s the middle of the night and I can’t sleep because a horrifying thought has just occurred to me. I may lose everything to keep a restaurant afloat that I am not 100% sure I want to keep afloat.
I mean the last year of Tastebuds has been horrible. I’ve lost control of everything and I don’t know if I have the strength to pull it back together. I’ve lost so much, and so many loved ones, including Jen and Peggy.
(Note: Jen was my best and most loyal employee and was with me longer than anyone and Peggy was a terrific employee who went on to open her own restaurant Cha'firo.)
The restaurant business has changed so much. Like ‘No Country for Old Men,’ I feel that there is no safe restaurant environment for an overly sensitive perfectionist like myself. Cell phones and a labor force that couldn’t care less whether they have a job or not, combined with the existence of Yelp and add in the fact that no one wants the hassle of picking up or paying for anything in person, makes me lose all of my passion for the business.
19 years is a long time. I’m thinking of asking Bruce to simply let us out of our lease in exchange for a fully equipped turn-key restaurant that he could lease for triple what we pay.
It's heartbreaking of course, but Tastebuds will end eventually. This would be understandable. I mean, it would solve a lot of my problems. Number 1: I really can’t sell it in good faith considering we never obtained an occupancy permit and that’s all because of Bruce. He should have to be the one to deal with it.
Erin’s already warning me that she’s gotta jump ship. The kids are not going back to school till fall. No schools will be open even for summer programs either. I know my kitchen crew does not want to leave me, but how can I afford to pay them if our customers start working from home or are forced to quit because they need to be home with their kids?
Ok, well, I just crunched some numbers. There is no way I can afford to close Tastebuds. I hope to God that that new hire still wants the job at $10 per hour when we get back to work.
Work your ass off, Bridget. Fix what’s broken. Re-paint. But, sell your house.
To Be Continued!
I love how casually I say in my journal, “I’ve had this instinct to buy an ax and a hatchet in case we need to protect ourselves or chop wood or ward off intruders when we run out of bullets.” and I wish I could tell you that I was kidding, but I wasn’t. Ari and I drove to Sutton hardware on Prospect Avenue the next day and I bought an ax for me and a hatchet for him that was light enough for him to swing easily! It sounds MAD to me now, especially after all this time spent living in a safe and virtually crime-free city, but my instincts are almost always dead on, so I seldom ignore them.
Upon hearing what I had done, Erin suggested that we maybe just consider getting the hell out of downtown, which had become so desolate and dangerous that thieves rather loudly kicked out the glass of a neighboring restaurant, casually entered, and left completely undeterred, a full fifteen minutes after my 911 call. I decided soon after to move into my house in Tremont.
I had already learned my lesson about confronting an intruder with a loaded handgun, one dark and stormy night that I spent at Tastebuds, worried that we might become vulnerable to looters. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy was heading up the East Coast wreaking havoc on everything in its path and causing severe weather and power outages as far west as Michigan. I needed to protect my business, but also track the time of any outages and the temperatures of my coolers to insure food safety. Spoiler Alert: It was a total loss, everything perishable had to be thrown out.
The high winds rattled the giant panes of old glass that ran along the entire front and back of the restaurant and living space. Rain pelted the windows and I saw an evergreen tree take flight and sail passed. I lit candles when the electricity went out and tried to calm my nerves, by playing the piano in the private dining room with my back to the chaos outside.
I wasn’t living there at the time, but I had a nice comfy couch and at around 3 am, I tried to get some rest, lounging for a bit with my gun in my hand, but the storm kept me awake. At 4 am I heard the unmistakable sound of the front door of the restaurant opening and closing. Without thinking, I jumped into action. Figuring that the intruder would be drawn first to the cash register, I decided to sneak around and catch them from behind, but there was no one in the restaurant. I could feel though, that someone was there. My heart began pounding fast when I saw the rear door to the employee bathrooms open. I started walking fast trying to catch the person in that narrow hallway before they could reach the sprawling living space. I saw the glow of a cell phone and I aimed my gun. Just as I was about to fire I heard “Bridget, Bridget, Bridget, Bridget” in rapid fire, “It’s Me!”
It was my prep cook, who usually comes in at 5 or 6 am. We were both so startled and so upset. I lunged at him, hugging him, crying and shaking. It was dark, but the whites of his eyes lit up his nervous but relieved face. I said, “Gino! My God, I almost killed you! How did you know it was me?”
He pointed down at my feet, “Your shoes! Your Chef Shoes! I know the sound of your shoes!” We burst out laughing, a fit that included nervous tears as well. Our laughter lasted minutes and took all of our fright away! I thought I was being so clever, sneaking up on an intruder, and he could hear me coming a mile away!!!
(Note: Years later I took the training required to legally carry a loaded handgun and learned invaluable information that has probably saved lives including my own and kept me out of jail.)
Days later at Carney’s Bar, where I had been spending most of my free time drinking and delighting in the most interesting & exciting man, I’d ever known, owner Mike Carney, I retold the story and had everyone in the bar in hysterics. Carney let out a raspy scream before laughing his signature wicked yet jolly laugh. Moments later, he leaned in, quietly offering sage advice as off-the-wall as you’d expect from someone who had truly done it all and seen it all in his seventy-plus years and survived being shot five times!
Raising his finger and shaking his head disapprovingly, he said point blank, “You should’ve gotten out of there! And you, with a gun in your hand, aren’t going to scare anyone. You’re too nice! You can see it in your eyes that you are not gonna pull the trigger and everybody knows that. Now… you… with an ax? That’s different. That means you’re crazy, and that’s pretty scary!”
He said that when he collected money for some pretty dangerous loansharks in the ’60s and ‘70s he learned quickly that a gun did little to convince people to pay, adding that no debt was ever settled by a dead man. So, he started carrying a small hatchet inside his jacket. “People are more afraid of losing their finger than their life!” he said laughing that crazy boozy laugh of his. “Even the toughest guys and hardest criminals would weep at the sight of it and they’d have no trouble finding a way to pay whatever they owed!”
Moral of the Story…
Don’t fuck with me and think twice before asking me to lend you money! Ah, common…I’m only joking! I had to end on a humorous note after all of this emotional drama!
Thank You for Being Here With Me My Friends!