NOTE: This is the beginning of Part II.
In the days after the fire, like everyone else Mac wonders what’s next. Is the boss going to rebuild? How long will it take? What changes will there be?
The boss tells the employees he wants to rebuild. That will require a plan, money and speed. It is essential the new restaurant be up and running in time to capture the summer tourist season. Construction and all preparations must be completed in less than six months.
The boss hires Clayton. The day after the fire Clayton and the boss climb up on a ladder through the rubble to the highest point they can reach on what’s left of the roof. Clayton takes pictures.
“We’ll convince the bankers the new restaurant will have an ocean view. You have a proven record of success. Business will be even better if we move the bar upstairs and expand the customer space.”
Clayton is more than an architect and builder. He is also an artist. The boss says a restaurant is like a painting or a sculpture.
“People don’t come in just to eat and drink,” he tells Mac. “They come in for an experience, to be entertained, to see life differently.” Clayton is not a contractor and his crew is not the usual crew. The boss tells Mac an owner/builder can be his own contractor. “It’s a lot cheaper,” says the boss. But, it causes problems. Some of the regulars from the old coffee shop are local contractors. They want the job. They feel entitled.
At first there is a lot of cooperation. The whole town wants the restaurant back. One local woman tells a reporter the Frolic is “the mandala of Mendocino, the spiritual hub.” Another asks “what are we going to do for cheeseburgers, cheesecake and pumpkin pie?” An old timer and member of the local historical review board says“I think building back will be a betterment and not a detterment to the community.”
One contractor who frequents the round table group in the coffee shop offers his crane to lift out the largest pieces of debris. The worst of the charred wood and bent metal is gone in a couple of days.
Everyone feels good even though it’s a sad time. The community rallies around the Frolic. “What will we do now for that nameless feeling that was the Frolic?” people ask. We will miss seeing all the regulars—workmen, business people, the senior ladies who gathered for lunch in the coffee shop every day, the teacher, the pastor, the street people.”
One local woman encapsulates a common feeling. “May I suggest that the friends of the Frolic (FOF) join together in offering labor, time, money, beautiful artifacts, and knickknacks, all toward the rebuilding of this landmark in our town. We can’t have it back exactly as it was. But we can have it back, maybe, if we pull together NOW. I don’t have any money. But I would spend a few days hammering nails, would give some of the lovely things that gather dust in my closets, would do anything I could to help. I’m sure many of us feel the same. Let’s do something about it. Maybe we can rise out of these ashes, like the Phoenix, with love.”
The Wolf ranges and the stainless steel dishwasher and shelves are salvageable. Lorna and Marla and a few other now unemployed crew scrub and scrub until they look like new.
Volunteers arrive and offer to do anything, sweep, haul trash, pound nails even if they don’t have the skill. Mistakes are made. It’s an unorganized mess but it’s something Mac sees and feels the good of. Clayton has the difficult job of keeping those who don’t know what they’re doing from screwing up the project without offending them. One local man who says he’s a carpenter ruins two rough-sawed vertical beams leaving hammer marks all over them as he secures them to the floor. Clayton walks away seething and shaking his head. The boss steps in to cool things down with strategic precision. Beauty and chaos in equal parts.
Mac, Rick, Skipper and a few others tackle the floor. The floor of the old Frolic was built layer upon layer. At the bottom is old growth redwood still strong and solid. Three layers of plywood and vinyl on top must be scraped away to get down to the subfloor which is still usable. It’s an exhausting job.
Paul is one of the helpers. He works part time as a dishwasher with Mac and Rafan. Paul’s real interests are writing and theater. He’s a smoker and not accustomed to physical activity. After about an hour he falls down, rolls onto his back, and gazes up at the sky. The half burned walls of the restaurant bolstered with plywood scraps block the view outside. Weinie and Doug, two cooks also working on the floor, burst out in spasms of laughter at the sight of Paul, red-faced and struggling for air, his blue eyes wildly scanning the heavens above. Sheldon, another dishwasher, comes to everyone’s aid. He carts in a keg of Anchor Steam just delivered on the Greyhound bus.
“I guess they weren’t informed … about the fire,” drawls Sheldon. “This place is a mess … hold on there boys … we might just as well drink a few beers … otherwise this keg is gonna go to waste … no way to keep it cold with all the coolers burnt up.”
Mac looks at the boss. He’s been dead serious since the fire, anxious to get the place back up and running.
“Sure, why not,” smiles the boss. Let’s knock off for the afternoon.
After everyone has a beer or two, Paul revives and joins in.
“Okay if I pour myself a beer,” says Paul with his deadpan smile. “I’m a little parched.”
“You go right ahead Moonface,” says the boss referring to Paul’s character in Anything Goes currently at the Helen Schoeni Theater.
Weinie and Doug crack up again while Rick and Skipper size up the stacks of vinyl covered plywood piled high on the old redwood floor.
“It’s down to the base,” says Rick. “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Skipper laughs in his deep, throaty voice, looks like a bear with his wild hair and bushy beard: “Let’s finish the keg. Tomorrow’s Sunday. Monday the real work starts.”
“We haven’t got the permits yet,” says the boss. “Clayton is still working on the plans and we have to go to the bank. But, I’m going to push as hard as I can. Getting done in time to catch the summer rush is essential. If we don’t do that, we’re doomed. So, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, permits or not.”
The party gets out of hand. People come by all afternoon to share a beer and encourage the clean-up crew. By days end everyone is pretty drunk. The wives come by to pick up Rick snd Skipper who are the last to leave. Brin dumps a bucket of cold water on the boss and pushes him into the house which hangs like appendage onto the gutted restaurant via the walkway between the two.
We are in proximity one to another, thinks Mac. We are interconnected. Whether or not this always pleases us is irrelevant. It’s a fact. As he stands outside his apartment across from the burned out shell of the Frolic thinking of the incomprehensible loss, he fears that, lurking not so far beneath the cooperation and goodwill he sees now, there are divisions and abrasions that are being primed to competition, violence, and territoriality. There is a gulf between the old timers and the new comers that the Frolic somehow miraculously spans but the miracle is fragile and without guarantee.