Archive for Food/Restaurants

One Life to Live…

I’m a big James Taylor fan. I own most of his music, recorded, printed, and filmed, but my favorite song is undoubtedly the one whose first and last lines are “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
Any fool can do it
There ain’t nothing to it
Nobody knows how we got to
The top of the hill
But since we’re on our way down
We might as well enjoy the ride

The secret of love is in opening up your heart
It’s okay to feel afraid
But don’t let that stand in your way
‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road
And since we’re only here for a while read more

My Bookish Friends…

Our living room is lined with bookcases. Reading the spines will take you on a journey into our psyches. There are fairy tales, history books, classics, references, art books, biographies, adventure travel, modern fiction, Eastern and Western philosophy – books we had as children, college texts, anthologies, and many we haven’t read…yet. They comfort us, old and new friends, reminding us of our history, our aspirations, and what we love. 

I’m especially inspired by the books my friends have written. The stack in the picture shows some of them but doesn’t begin to include all their titles. Some of the writers are older and some relatively young. Two or three are “retired” but writing full time, and the rest all have day jobs that may or may not involve writing. There’s a neurologist/geneticist, an executive recruiter, three lawyers, two university professors, two journalists, a retired energy consultant, a retired Boeing speechwriter, a former Pan Am Captain and two graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. read more

Two Degrees of Separation…

I didn’t know Albert Finney, but when he died two days ago, I felt the loss personally. I’d admired him as an actor since first seeing him as the randy Tom Jones (1963) and again as Audrey Hepburn’s husband in Two for the Road (above) in 1967. He was nominated for an Oscar five times, but never took one home. He was an actor’s actor, but it wasn’t his acting chops that made me feel his loss.

Finney and I were only a year apart in age. Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, but I know he was an avid horse racing fan who followed the ponies from Saratoga to the Triple Crown and on to Santa Anita in the fall. In a tangential way, it was his interest in racing that provided our connection.

Mr. Finney was friends with Karen and Mickey Taylor. Two friends of mine. Two degrees of separation. The Taylors purchased Seattle Slew for $17,500 in 1975. Slew went on to win the Triple Crown and made the Taylors very wealthy. I knew them because they were customers of mine at Piccolo, the little Italian café my wife, Abby, and I owned.

Running a small restaurant is a labor of love – especially in a seasonal resort like Sun Valley. I made the pasta and bread. Abby ran the kitchen. Our small operation was either wildly busy or empty depending on the season. Christmas holidays were especially chaotic, and one Christmas week Mickey and Karen stopped in for lunch. The café seated 44 but there were probably 50 eating lunch on that particular day. Abby and the kitchen staff were cranking out the pasta dishes and I was up front seating customers, making espresso drinks, and busing tables.

At a particularly chaotic moment, with all the tables finishing at once, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a grinning Albert Finney. “Hello, Jack. I’m Albert. It looks like you could use some help. Let me give you a hand cleaning up these tables.” I was nonplussed. I didn’t even realize he was in the restaurant, but for the next 30 minutes Albert Finney and I were the busboys at Piccolo. He couldn’t have been nicer or more natural, and that’s the reason I was personally touched when I heard of his passing on Thursday.

Sun Valley was founded by Averill Harriman in 1936 and always had celebrity appeal, but it was years behind Aspen and Vail in becoming a “scene.” When Abby and I moved there in 70’s it was very sleepy. In 1987 when we opened the restaurant it was becoming more popular but still a one-story, log cabin kind of town and quiet escape for some celebrities. Jamie Lee Curtis used to bring us loaves of bread from the La Brea Bakery in LA, and Edie Baskin (Baskin & Robbins/SNL writer) brought us fresh mozzarella from Dean and DeLuca in New York.

Piccolo was a place celebrities with a local connection could come for a dish of pasta and not be bothered. Carole King, Scott Glenn, Adam West, and Jack Hemingway were lunch regulars while Jamie Lee and husband Christopher Guest, Brooke Shields, and Peter Cetera were often there for dinner. It was a few years later that the one-story log cabins were replaced with two-story banks, galleries, and glitzy boutiques. Change is a given, but I feel fortunate to have been part of it before the change.

Albert Finney’s passing reminds me of those times. I left Ketchum after 25 years. Piccolo has closed its doors and I’ve lost touch with Karen and Mickey. Even so, Abby and all three of my children are there and it remains a special place for me. Tomorrow I’m planning to settle in with a cocktail and watch a couple of Albert’s films – maybe Murder on the Orient Express or Annie – just to keep this memory fresh. My day busing tables with him is the perfect reminder that in this time of megalomania even a rich and famous celebrity can be modest, friendly, and helpful.

RIP Albert Finney (1936 – 2019)

Survival…

On Sunday, the Seattle Times had a front-page article about crime, drugs, trash and human excrement in SODO (Seattle’s stadium/industrial area) from an influx of RV dwellers who park there because police have given up trying to control the area. The last time M and I saw these conditions was during a garbage worker strike in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Then, this morning, our friend Laura called to tell us a midnight marauder had broken into and ransacked her son’s car, reclined the seat and slept in it. This was in a quiet residential neighborhood. Was it ballsy or just desperate? I sympathized with Laura and her son but felt sad for the perp at the same time.

And, tonight, coming out of our local market, we were met by a young woman selling Real Change, the non-profit Seattle newspaper sold by homeless or near homeless vendors. ellers pay $.60 for each paper and resell them for $2. Our girl was smiling and grateful when I gave her $3, and though it was nothing to us it meant a meal for her. I should have given her more. I will next time.

Are these examples of the new normal? 

Today is the 32nd day of the longest government shutdown in our country’s history. 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed and/or working without pay. Most are struggling to find a survival strategy until this nightmare is over… but government workers are not the only Americans thinking about survival.

Those of us who are privileged need to stop fooling ourselves.

Marilynn and I are in a couple’s book group, and our most recent selection, Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, is a study in how a growing segment of older Americans is coping with their survival.

Nomadland chronicles the lives of a growing band of older, mostly white, Americans who have been downsized out of jobs, lost their homes to foreclosure, can’t afford an apartment, were ruined financially by a medical expenses, or lost a wage-earner spouse who left them with nothing but a small monthly Social Security check. Their survival strategy is to embrace the “vandweller” lifestyle–living in small older RV’s, working seasonal jobs as campground hosts or “Camperforce” workers at Amazon distribution centers, moving from part time job to part time job as they travel around the country.

They have learned to adapt to a subsistence level of personal comfort and to survive by sharing tips on jobs, mechanical repairs, RV improvements, parking places, and how to avoid police harassment with their vandweller compatriots. These modern nomads live by forming friendships, coping strategies and support systems based on shared experiences. I find their vandweller lifestyle both sad and inspiring, unimaginable and creative, unacceptable and another iteration of the new normal.

Ms. Bruder followed them, formed friendships, and camped with them for three years. She ended up admiring their grit and creativity and her book tells their story. Read it!

From the Gold Watch to the Pink Slip

In my adult lifetime I have seen America…

  • Drift from a thriving economy where companies bargained with employee unions and both sides prospered to organized attacks on unions and the enactment of state right-to-work laws that strongly favor employers.
  • I’ve seen good manufacturing jobs give way to automation without a national plan for retraining.
  • I’ve seen the funding for public education gutted by ballot referendums like California’s Proposition 13.
  • I watched as traditional employee-centered companies surrendered to Wall Street’s shareholder value model resulting in layoffs for well-paid older workers and the hiring of, less expensive younger replacements, where the savings were funneled to skyrocketing executive salaries.
  • I watched as my defined benefit pension plan, like so many others, was “stolen” and replaced by a much less to generous 401k.
  • I’ve seen company paid insurance plans given up in exchange for a patchwork of state directed insurance offerings through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.
  • M and I grew up in strong, healthy middle-class families but lived to see our children’s two-income families struggle because Congress chooses to reward a few gold-plated 1% families.
  • read more

    Celebrating a Long Friendship…

    I’m not a fan of surprise parties, but when Bonnie Moon called me to say she and daughter Taylor were planning a surprise party for husband Ed’s 80th birthday I knew I didn’t want to miss it.

    I snapped this on Saturday night as he was arriving at the party.

    Ed and I met on January 2, 1967, our first day as Pan Am pilots. Ed was the third African-American pilot hired by Pan Am. We’ve been friends for 52 years. Through work, marriages, divorces, the birth of children, bases in New York, Berlin, and Miami, promotions, furloughs, stolen pensions, a company bankruptcy, illnesses, and unwanted retirements we’ve stayed connected. On Saturday night I saw Ed through different eyes – in his other world – surrounded by friends I had never met. read more