Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Revelation 2:25

At 1:30 last Friday morning, as I lay down on the hard, wooden bench at the back of Black Trumpet’s dining room, head propped at an unnatural angle against a pile of kitchen towels, and attempted to sleep, my thoughts bounced almost audibly from Nostradamus to the Mayan calendar to the Book of Revelation.  One reason for this was the upside-down waterfall that had been surging through the front door of my restaurant, mirrored by the torrent of water cascading over the ancient eaves above the front window.  Behind the wall of water, I could barely discern occasional windborne UFO’s, some as large as chubby schnauzers, flying past like cows in “Twister.” At one point, I half-expected to witness Revelation 13 unfold before my eyes on the Piscataqua: “I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads,” etc. It was that dramatic, believe me.  And I’m not a Bible-quoting kind of guy.

To calm my nerves, I had popped a short shot of Herradura tequila at around midnight, perhaps explaining the ten-horned, seven-headed beast of Revelation.  Gilligan’s Island also came to mind when I peered out the window at the harbor boat across the street.  The hull of said harbor boat, labeled “PILOT,” is only visible when a perfect storm—Biblical winds, Great Bay snowmelt and swollen tides--converge on the scene.  We have only seen weather of such magnitude once before in this lifetime: Mother’s Day, 2008.  You may recall the cats-and-dogs onslaught.

Earlier that night, around the time attendees of our highly successful Spanish wine dinner had begun to file out the door into the deluge, I had laughed aloud at the storm’s severity: the almost comically contorted poses people with umbrellas assumed as they braced against the 70 MPH winds and walked to their cars.  Perhaps my laughter elicited an immediate karmic coda, because soon I was racing down the street to recover our planter and trash can, which were racing away in some clumsy dance, like a drunk Laurel and Hardy skit.

To grasp the true nature of portent that seized me in my postpartum wine dinner depression, we must also consider the two earthquakes that shook and shocked the world this February, bringing unthinkable tragedy to us at a vulnerable moment in world history.  And, of course, there’s the general state of the economy, the environment and the world at large.  Blecchhh.  Yet, as we sandbag ourselves from the horror, we must also embrace the gift that is beauty, and find happiness in the little things we so often take for granted.  I look at my kids when I need that boost.  Or I think about the heaps of praise I hear from people dining in my restaurant for the first time.  Or I think about the fact that Denise and I have just allowed our third anniversary as restaurant owners to pass quietly by.  The morning sun reflects off the puddles left in the wake of the storm.  That’s kind of where it feels like we are with our restaurant.  Whether or not the worst of the storm is behind us, there is between Denise and me a new zen understanding of the ebbs and flows of the business.  To find peace in chaos is a milestone, I think.  If not, then it’s a sign that we have both finally plummeted over the edge of our own waterfall, into the blissful abyss of insanity.  I prefer to go with the former, though.

Later Friday morning, when I awoke from a surprisingly sound sleep with two numb legs and a linen hemline on my cheek, I stumbled through the dining room, past the mirror reflecting a monstrous specter, to the front window, where Revelation 22 came to life: “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb through the middle of the street of the city.”

Indeed, water had breached the banks and receded while I slept, and at 6:00, dawn’s bright sun reflected off every surface of the city.  The detritus-strewn aftermath, illuminated for all to see and marvel at, was kind of beautiful in its own way.  The dirty linen bags and flattened cardboard boxes I had used to mop the floor had absorbed most of the flood, and the steady window waterfall had been reduced to a drip.

Four of my seven kitchen employees, including sous chef/linchpin Mike, were away on vacation or on medical leave, and last-minute changes in childcare had caused a scramble that Thursday.  Fortunately, kitchen workhorses Carrie, Gabe and Sam—along with talented guest chef Gregg Sessler from Cava—pulled together a difficult menu for Thursday’s wine dinner.   The event was spectacular.  The restaurant remained intact, despite natural forces way beyond reckoning.  And I was not a Herald headline, “Restaurant Captain Goes Down with Ship,” or “Restaurant Owner Found in Yummy Rubble.”  All in all, just another day in the restaurant business, I suppose.