I can’t let this date pass without pausing to consider things that might have been – for this is the day, for the past several years, when we’d pack the car, pick up our three month supply of meds from the drugstore, and begin the journey down the west coast of Mexico, where we’d lay in the sun for the next two months. We will not be going this year.
The reason why we’ll be suffering through another mid-winter depression bender here in Oregon is known to all, for all – in one way or another – are experiencing the same reactions. We are under the influence of the economic downturn, and like it or not, we will be sitting quietly here waiting for the cycle to reverse. Am I concerned that perhaps the cycle may NOT reverse? Not really. Mostly, I can feel this way because the people who now suggest we may never recover are the same folks who a while ago were saying the boom would never end!
Yes, I’ll miss the Mexico experience this year – I loved everything about going down there, well, maybe not everything, but … I love the cultural difference between the U.S. and Mexico – for two countries so close to each other in so many ways, the cultures are amazingly different. And we’d stay for two months, which for me is a good amount of time, because at the end of two months, I’d find myself being annoyed about some element of Mexican life, or begin to miss not having access to some common NOTB resource. But mostly, it’s the warmth I’ll miss – and the sun too. Cause, when you get right down to it, the temperatures in SW Oregon in the winter are not really cold most of the time – it’s the depressing rain and lack of sun that make it so bad – and sun and warmth is just what the west coast of Mexico offers in spades.
Yeah – I’ll miss all that.
Now, where is that stack of books I’ve been saving?
My daughter, Melanie, who still lives in Jacksonville, FL – our previous haunt – was recently telling me about a tiny restaurant there, run by a guy that is obviously driven by spirits unknown to the rest of mankind. She describes magnificent food, much of it cured, processed, and created on site, served at nominal cost, in a venue with 5 small tables, and an owner-chef who frequently circulates among diners sincerely seeking their reactions, and amazingly, giving out his recipes and techniques to any who ask – a rare sequence in today’s restaurant world. I told her to do her best to support him in his efforts – she would anyway – because sadly, we live in a world that hasn’t – for the most part – developed a love of good food, and who have absolutely no idea of what this guy is all about.
I know this because of a myriad of everyday experiences that shout it out daily. Two particular personal memories reinforce the concept very well. Years ago I remember meeting a restaurant investor from Miami at a convention hospitality suite, and we talked for quite awhile – I was very interested in his business, and in his opinions – and I told him that my dream was to one day open my own restaurant and share the foods I loved with the world – my new friend laughed at me and said, “That’s a recipe for failure – you can’t run a successful restaurant based on what YOU like, you have to find out what the PUBLIC likes, and give them that!” For many years, I rejected his thought as simply wrong, but today, sadly, I know he was right – and that what the public demands is cheap and not much else.
The other memory is of a time I was working with a local newspaper on a fund raising project – I had suggested to the editor of the Entertainment section that we conduct a public opinion contest to find the best “fine dining” restaurant in Jacksonville. I remember her reply well – she said, “If we do that, will you be ready for Red Lobster to be the winner? Believe me, we’ve done this kind of thing before, and the general public doesn’t understand what fine dining is! It’s that simple.”
Will success ruin Melanie’s new find? Perhaps – but the most likely scenario is that the experience which Melanie has described above is simply not sustainable – and that change will occur. If our star chef is sincere in his desire and his spirit, then it’s unlikely that he will succumb to a weakening of his product, but more likely that eventually he will be forced – just as many before him – to raise his prices in a defensive move to counter a growing popularity. Astute businessmen know that success is as much a problem in business as is failure – not unlike the coach of a winning team worrying about how to get his team ready for the next game!
So Melanie, luxuriate in the experience of discovering a rarity of the restaurant world – and support his driving spirit all you can – enjoying the hell out it all the while.
My regret, understandably, is that I cannot join you.