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Mountain Charley’s — One day closer!

March 20, 2012

Having just left Mountain Charley’s, I have to report that I never actually stepped into the Saloon.  I just looked in from the foyer.  I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way.  The Saloon must have had 20 or 30 craftsmen working all at once on everything in a sort of controlled panic, at least it looked that way from my vantage.  Everyone was intent on their particular task and nearly everyone was mute and calm.  Dust was flying up from this guy’s drill or that guy’s reciprocating saw.  On the floor, booths were being installed and overhead on very tall ladders, electricians were installing light fixtures while in the middle, sound specialists were testing coaxial cable for the amplifiers.  Detail work on the floor itself was being finished off by several other different crews.

Behind the bar, there were several guys checking the water connections in the sinks under the bar.  Still behind the bar, facing the opposite direction, a crew was affixing the cleats to the back bar which will hold up the glass shelves that are supposed to be carrying a whole bunch of liquor bottles and all sorts of drink glasses in just 48 hours.  Dig it, all this activity, and more, was occurring simultaneously, almost in silence.  It is kind of uncanny.   This was like some sort of three dimensional, syncopated ballet that had no choreographer, and didn’t need one.  These guys all knew this ballet by heart.  They’ve all done it many dozens of times in the past.  These guys are pros.

Just like the toddlers that learn the Irish jig when their ages are still counted in the single digits, or the same with ballerinas, or great baseball players who make it to the pros’, the ballet I learned so early on was on the fancy restaurant floor.  It is the dance between the busboys and waiters, the waiters floating huge, overloaded trays of streaming food between heavy bus tubs gliding down low, in and out through the same heavy, swinging doors through which everything in the restaurant simultaneously passes.  It all erupting from the volcano called the “line.”   This line where the sauciers and grillmen are on the one side of that counter, “the line,” where just prepared food is so excellently cleaned, cut and chopped  then mixed and fired just perfectly and sets for a just second or two, waiting to be excellently presented from the other side of the line by the professional wait person to the hungry, anticipating customer.

There is an old joke in the restaurant business, probably there is a similar joke in every professional business.  This joke is about the restaurant patron who tells his waiter that he has eaten in restaurants for a hundred years or so, thus, he must know all about the restaurant business.  The patron only knows what happens on his side of the heavy swinging doors.  Unless you walk through the volcano, doing the ballet in that narrow aisle in front of the line, dodging busboys, dishwashers, sweating cooks while carrying that huge tray of hot food on sliding dishes, and do this 200 time a night, you don’t know one thing about the restaurant business.  You have to know how to handle, in a very gracious manner, all of the lavas that the volcano spews. It takes years of exhausting practice to be really good at it, to be a pro.

While I grew up learning the restaurant ballet, I’ve never considered myself the same level of professional that my dad was.  What I lack is the un-ending degree of graciousness that my father had.  I am much too moody.  If I’m in a snit, I will keep it to myself, however, don’t expect me to paste a smile on my face because I’m bringing you food.  I will be civil and professional, I know how to do that, but don’t ask me to be jolly when I’m not.  It ain’t going to happen. And, if you do ask, especially if you insist, it will probably only piss me off more.   Knowing this, I never pursued a career in the restaurant business.  I went for esoteric computer stuff and, as well, image technologies, old and new.

Jim Farwell asked me to manage his place because he knew I knew it, and for my computer systems background, he wanted me to fine tune the place as he wanted to move on to other interests.  It wasn’t going to be lifelong career for either of us.

So, when I looked at this monstrous ballet inside the Saloon today, the specialized construction ballet,  which I never learned, I didn’t go in.  I’d just be a lot of static none of them needed.  I definitely understood that, I knew nothing of their volcano.

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