Had a busy day today, given that I finally had a day off of work-- I got about 102 of the approximately 106 errands on my list done.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I ended up working a double yesterday. Another server and I worked a party-- a bunch of airline pilots-- members of the pilot's union who'd watched the Democratic Party debates that were held in Soldier's Field last night.
The big news yesterday, though, was when I finally met the restaurant's Executive Chef, Dirk. My jaw dropped when I saw him. It was the same Dirk who was a buddy in my old punk rock clubbing days. He was a bouncer at the Cabaret Metro, which was, from the mid-eighties to early nineties, one of the best venues to see great punk and "alternative" (whatever the hell that is) bands. I saw the Ramones, Iggy Pop, Naked Raygun, Fetchin' Bones, Galaxie 500, Dead Milkmen, the dB's, The Replacements, Black Flag, the Slammin' Watusis, Reverend Horton Heat and about a hundred other bands there back in the day. And I got to see those bands with The Elk, Atwood, Tim, Andreas and a few other of my favorite people.
To the best of my recollection, in 1989 or 1990, Dirk was working the door of the Metro, which was also the entrance to the Smart Bar (or the "Stupid Bar" as we dubbed it) and I was going in with friends Dana, Mark and college friend Dennis (Dennis' real name was Diana-- she was nicknamed after Dennis the Menace-- you remember, Elk-- "Nice shoes!" That's a whole other blog post). Dirk and I had some kind of miscommunication-- what it was is lost forever in the haze of the years-- and almost came to blows. This would not have been a good thing for me. Tangling with bouncers is never good. Dennis knew him, and made us sit and talk and in true guy fashion we bought one another beers and were great friends ever after. Friends were always impressed when I got waved through a crowd waiting to get into the Metro or Smart Bar without even showing ID.
Over time, I lost touch with Dirk-- obviously, he took another road in life, as did I. Hanging around or bouncing in four o'clock bars is a game for young guys.
We were about to start a busy lunch shift, so we only had a couple of minutes to play catch-up. We talked about Bobby Scarpelli, who was my son's godfather (yes, he was Siciilian!), who was the bouncer at the Gingerman, next door to the Metro. Bobby, a Chicago legend, was the nicest guy in the world. He died in 1998 at the age of 49. More about him in another post. Dirk and I talked about where a couple of people were now, and then had to cut it off as the crowds started coming in.
There were a few servers who overheard our conversation and word quickly went out. The "new guy" was an old buddy of the Executive Chef, who used to be a bouncer. People were in disbelief. Dirk seemed to get a kick out of it all-- it added to his reputation as a badass, which is not necessarily a bad reputation to have in his position. And of course the irony is that he's actually a really nice guy.
The new job is going well. This place is great. Most of the people there are very good at what they do. Most of them are also very nice. I've had trouble with one person, but quickly discovered that she's got a problem with everybody. I think she's a problem I can manage.
As I've mentioned, the place got three stars from one of the respected restaurant critics in Chicago last week. The place was already doing well, but they've rocked since the review. I arrived there at a good time.
The family that owns the place are great. They have extensive experience in the business. The patriarch of the family, the owners' father, a gruff, enormous, but sweet Irishman, came up to me Monday, told me "I don't believe we've met," shook my hand and introduced himself.
I had a moment last night when I realized just who I was working for as I got ready to work the party; Billy, the owner, who knew I (like most of the rest of the crew who were on last night) was working a double, stopped me and asked me how I was doing and if I'd had a chance to grab something to eat. Of all the places I ever worked in this business, I can count on one hand where that would have happened. This is a place that is probably grossing nearly $2 million a month, yet also buys its produce from organic sources, and locally as much as possible.
Earlier today, Adam and I were talking on the phone-- he'd read my last post, laughed and said that it was funny how you can start out not liking someone, and things end up differently. He knows that my best friend Jim-- who is one of his favorite people-- thought I was an asshole and hated me the first time we met.
I guess the thing that struck me about running into Dirk again in my life is that it illustrates the nature of our lives-- or at least my life in the last year and a half or so. An old friend had the tagline, from an old proverb, one I've mentioned in other posts, "Do you want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans." So much of the unexpected has happened in the last year and a half of my life. I've buried a friend who I assumed I'd be friends with until I got old; I walked away from a career I thought I'd work in until retirement; I've gotten back in touch with people I'd given up hope on finding (that's you Kringle); I've buried the hatchet with an ex- whom I'd assumed I'd be at war with until my son turned eighteen; I've enjoyed parenting both my son and my stepdaughter in ways I never thought I was even capable of. And I've felt joy like I feared I'd ever be able to feel again after my friend Mark died. Between the things I have around me that I know-- two lovely kids and wife, great friends, living in a great neighborhood filled with nice people, art, culture and, of course, baseball, a couple of jobs I enjoy-- and the wonderful things that I have no idea are coming, it gives, as the late, great Tim Hardin sang, "Reason to Believe."