I Need to Open a Restaurant

The painters came yesterday. Three of them. Father and two sons. One of the sons is the man in charge. Our front door is no longer bubble gum pink; it is belligerent red, an aggressive tone that cautions all visitors to accept the supremacy of the residents or face the ugly consequences of a bad decision. Most of the work yesterday involved taping. But there were some actual painting. Some of the ugliest scarred baseboards were coated with white paint, white paint that matched the trim color before scuff marks obliterated it.

The painters will be back today, perhaps. But that’s not a sure thing, as snow coats the roads and temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing.   I will not blame the painters if they don’t return today; instead, I will open their buckets and paint in their stead. No, I won’t. You know I won’t.  My knees won’t stand for it.

While the painters were mussing with our house, we went to Hot Springs to buy groceries. But before groceries, we had lunch at SqzBx (you can call it Squeeze Box), the new brewery/pizza joint on Ouachita Ave. It is my kind of place; I told my lovely wife I would call it my “Third Place,” except I do not have enough money to spend every afternoon there, eating pizza and drinking beer. But if I did I would. Beer was decent, pizza was excellent, atmosphere was (for inexplicable reasons) perfect. Oh, then we went grocery shopping. We bought all sorts of things, but not enough. I want to go out again soon and buy more; fish, pork, chicken, vast quantities of vegetables. Oh, and a chest (or upright) freezer. We need this thing—you know, to store the vast quantities of stuff I will buy.

Today, more than ever before, I want to open a restaurant. Not the typical style. No, I want to open a restaurant with a very limited menu and with a requirement that patrons share their stories. I want people to laugh and cry and stumble into the real world simply by eating in my restaurant. We would serve beer and wine, but hard liquor only if patrons bring their own. And we would require a signature before being seated: “I agree to lift myself up in this establishment, and to do my level best to lift up the other patrons. I will sing, I will dance, I will giggle and howl at the moon if asked. I will become a child again but I will not behave like a child when my meal is placed before me. I will eat what I am given without complaint.” People who break that very last rule will be served at the next seating.

I’d like to continue this diatribe. Because I might be able to extract from it some tiny fragment of decency, some minuscule piece that mattered, for a novel or a play or a short story. Won’t I probably won’t, will I? No, I probably won’t.  But I’ll wax philosophical later about that fantasy restaurant.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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