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… truly being here is so much; because everything here
apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in some strange way
keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all.
Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Ninth Duino Elegy
Sometimes the miniscule particles that make up each and every thing, the lifeless brainless building blocks of all matter, converge for one fleeting moment into more than a mist, into something indelible and unrepeatable. That was The Sea Gull, a restaurant in Mendocino on the northern coast of California.
Forgotten now except by a few who were there, locked into memory, lessons once learned repeat over and over in endless iterations, those same elemental particles.
We are all more creative than we think, than anyone else thinks. Dishwashers, bussers, waitresses and waiters, janitors, bartenders, cook and hostess, all went on to other things, not greater things but different things. Everyone has a story.
There is always another story. There’s more than meets the eye.
We started new businesses, even new restaurants. We became airline pilots, attorneys, inn keepers, teachers, comedians, contractors, gardeners, artists and musicians.
There are no second acts in American lives.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
There are second acts. We all proved that. And Fitzgerald reversed himself a few years after scribbling the line above in some working notes. That there are second acts in no way cheapens the first act. All of us who experienced the fleeting moment that was The Sea Gull recognize the impact of that time on our lives. I certainly do.
There is a sacredness bound up with food and drink that has survived in all ages. We were so young then, naïve and optimistic, yet the lessons I learned stuck. Maybe they were inside all the time and the restaurant just turned them loose.
Treat people fairly and they will treat you fairly. It’s not an error free dictum but it’s a good way to live a life. Time and again I’ve found it to be true. Anecdotal evidence against it merely proves the rule.
No one goes it alone, we all need help. Yes, this is a version of “it takes a village,” politicized and vulgarized in our times. Doubt it to your peril.
If the Sun & Moon should Doubt
Theyd immediately Go out.
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
Everything you do sets an example for everyone else. Think before you act. The world is endlessly interesting if you watch carefully. And people are watching. Watching you. Remember, everything can change in a minute.
THEY’RE OUT THERE. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them. They’re mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they’re at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don’t see me. I creep along the wall quiet as dust in my canvas shoes, but they got special sensitive equipment detects my fear and they all look up, all three at once, eyes glittering out of the black faces like the hard glitter of radio tubes out of the back of an old radio.
Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Inspire by example, not by edict. It’s hard work. Everything worthwhile is hard work. When someone has a problem there is usually a reason. Listen. Learn. Find the open channel as Richard Feynman says.
The dream is to find the open channel. What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say today to dispel the mystery of existence? If we take everything into account, not only what the ancients knew, but also all those things that we have found out up to today that they didn’t know, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know. But I think that in admitting this we have probably found the open channel.
Richard Feynman, The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
Creative people can be incredibly generous and incredibly selfish (artists, writers, musicians). Brilliant people can be incredibly stupid (adults) and simple people incredibly smart (children). We are all capable of more than we know and less than we think.
Looking back to those days at the restaurant, it amazes me that we were able to put out over 300 dinners some nights, that customers would wait on occasion two hours for dinner, that the whole thing went on day after day, night after night. It was, for awhile, for some, the place to be. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now. It was as if some great whirlwind picked me up, flew me around to see everything at once with eyes that cut through to the core.
And then one day it stopped. Everything stops, good and bad, eventually.
Thank you David, for sharing your wisdom, your thoughts,
yours’, and other’s insights, the napkin art, and your reminiscences of our years at the Sea Gull. Truly a special place in all our hearts.
Those days won’t go away for me. Good and bad I suppose. Mostly good.
You were also very good at putting up with knuckleheads, pseudo-intellectuals, wannabee creative types, and overextended people who were building houses, raising families and all kinds of other things on the side. I am not sure what category of “things you learned while running a restaurant” this fits under, but you were good at managing these things. And we all benefited because of it.
I think these days it’s called hit and run.