A week ago the world was almost normal. Not so anymore. “Ball of Confusion” is the song on the turntable now. It is streaming in our blood too. People are actually considering a world without neighborhood restaurants in our collective future. I say that is impossible. The carnage will be awful … but the need for what they bring humanity will endure. It must. We just don’t know how yet. Winston Churchill had many quotes for tough times. One attributed to him is this; “If you are going through Hell … keep going”. The time he lived through is thought about now as it is necessary to find the moments in history where we responded to disaster with a steely resolve. A long as I’ve been alive there has been nothing to compare to this pandemic. There has always been a place to escape to. So we must not try but to flee what we cannot … and to accept the fact that we have to deal with a lot of solitude in the short haul or have it for eternity.
It is a time of hyper awareness regarding our own health and those we love. The slightest sniffle or cough now brings on a kind of concern unimaginable a few short weeks ago. They say that I’m of the age that will be most likely to contract the virus and have it worse than the young. I have had my ailments in a body I’ve asked a lot out of … but not nearly so much as many. I’m lucky.
Yesterday I watched an interview with the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. She was saying that she relies “very much on letters and diaries to reconstruct her historical novels”. I wonder what future historians will do to find the daily truths of our lives. I think some will research blogs. So if you write in one too you might be writing for a greater purpose than imagined by some. The priceless diary of Londoner Samuel Pepys which he wrote in the latter half of the 1600’s, provides us an eyewitness account of life then. And oh what times they were! Fraught with tragedies, scandals, fires, and, yes … plagues. To read his words are a balm in that it illustrates what humans have survived. And if you are a close reader you will also see how he deals with sex … and other aspects of human behavior.
But my friends … what is mostly centrally on my mind as I write today is this. It is about the folks just a decade (or two, or three) younger than me that have been working as hard as I was when I was their age trying to make a go of it in a business that, more often than not, doesn’t survive a full year before collapsing. And that is without a world wide health crisis. I know they don’t want pity … but I imagine they want understanding. To have to tell your staff that they are out of work is one of the hardest things I ever went through. Our savings was wiped out too. Restaurant operators across the globe are going through that nightmare now. We had a restaurant in Key West where that happened in the late 1980’s. We thought we had it all figured out and that we were going to bring beautiful cuisine and service to the Island town. But we went under. I’ll never forget it. And now it is happening to legions of small to midsized restaurant groups at a pace that is dizzying. I feel like some of them are having their ‘brass ring’ stolen from them just before it was in their hands. It is hard not to feel defeat but the spin of the events that were clearly ignored by the present administration is what failed them first. Like the survivors of WWII they will find a way back to a life that might not be as it was before … perhaps something greater. I pray so. I have a granddaughter that I want to dine with in their places with. And I’m not done cooking and serving yet either.