Changes. Changes everywhere. As Doctor Herald promised, Mac’s seizures are under control. Myrna’s fears burn off like the summer mist. The Frolic Cafe thrives in the new building. The boss says business is up fifty percent.
Separate, rinse, load, dry, stack … Mac is happy back in his groove. Many from the old crew return and there are some new faces. Henrietta is gone. Jeanne is the new baker. She lives on Skipper’s land with some others who work at the Frolic.
Jeanne and Skipper arrive early. They get a pot of coffee going and get right to work. Jeanne bakes and Skipper does everything else. Mac helps.
The key to getting the orders out quickly is organization and preparation. Skipper knows this. He peels and grates the potatoes the janitor steamed during the night. He pre-bakes a tray or two of sausage and bacon and places them by the potatoes. He sets out a few flats of eggs for easy access. He whips up a large stainless pot of pancake batter. He makes sure the ingredients for the various omelets are grated, chopped and ready. He does a visual inventory of the different breads stored by the toasters. He checks the Hollandaise sauce, butter, oil and spices. As for the side dishes—fruit, oatmeal, cereal, etc.—he leaves these for the prep cook and the waitresses to prepare. They usually arrive half an hour before opening.
If he is lucky, Skipper has time to read the newspaper with his cup of coffee before the place opens. Sometimes the janitor forgets to turn off the steam pot the night before and the potatoes are burned. Or, there might be some essential item missing. He sends Mac to the store up the street to buy it. If someone calls in sick or doesn’t show up, Skipper has to find a replacement.
The customers know nothing of these daily routines and trials. They simply come to eat. They want quick service so they can head off to school or a job or some other pressing engagement. They tend to be unforgiving if their eggs are over or under cooked, if there are lumps in their pancakes or if the restaurant is out of their favorite type of omelet.
The morning routine builds like a crescendo. First to arrive are Mac, Skipper and Jeanne. Then the others trickle in, prep cook, waitresses, busser. Everybody gets busy doing their thing, making more coffee, cutting fresh fruit, making soup, and a 100 other tasks. It’s busy but mellow. Everyone chats and laughs and carries on. The energy starts to build as the customers arrive and the tickets come in. It gets loud and busy and more intense until a peak is reached. It gradually dies back down until once again Mac hears chatter and laughter. Sometimes there is an informal debriefing by Skipper of what went right or wrong and how to do better. The same crescendo builds for the lunch rush then things slow down. During the quiet time in the afternoon the night cooks come in to prep for dinner. It’s exciting and exhausting and part of the special magic of the Frolic.
The contractors who called in the building inspector to shut things down embrace the new Frolic. Two of the regulars at the round table leave their wives and shack up with a couple of Frolic waitresses. Building inspector Donald Uhr says he’s “going to bulldoze those hippy shacks in the hills” but the boss says the inspector is on his way out. How the boss knows this is a mystery but the boss knows.
The boss tells Mac: “The world is ugly and cruel. I don’t want to add to that. I want the Frolic to be a place where everyone feels welcome. The coffee shop has always been a sort of melting pot where people of very different points of view can mix and eat together. I want to keep it that way but I can’t entirely ignore politics. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the downstairs space now that the bar is upstairs. I’ve decided to hold a benefit for one of the candidates for supervisor. It’s going to be an Art-In where all the local artists are invited to come and paint pictures that will be auctioned off to raise funds for the candidate. I’m taking a chance. I hope it works out.”
“It’s a good idea,” says Mac. “You hired Clayton because he’s an artist. The new Frolic is a work of art built by artists. There’s nothing wrong with asking artists to support a supervisor who supports them.”
The boss calls the downstairs space The Attic and the upstairs space The Cellar. “The real world doesn’t always adhere to logic,” he says. “Sometimes down is up, sometimes up is down. Sometimes when you’re lost, you’re found.”
Mac knows what the boss means. Since his arrival on the coast and especially at the Frolic he feels more at home than ever even if he can’t remember what “ever” was.
The fundraiser is a success. Lots of artists participate. All the paintings are sold. It goes so well, the boss decides to open a gallery in the space, The Attic Gallery. The boss asks three Frolic employees, Salkin, Weinie and Tinfo, to put the shows together.
“I’ve never run a gallery,” says the boss. “I feel if we do this thing I want the artists to take the major role in running it.”
“I just want to see things flower into something,” says Salkin. “We have the potential for a rebirth in this community. There’s so much new art out there.”
Weinie; “Artist gallery attendants may be able to help the public by giving them some sort of explanation, maybe trying to keep the people on a path, if they’re on a path.”
Tinfo: “People are curious about the processes. They want to know how it was done, what they mean.”
Fuente explains: “An artist tries to work for himself first. Then, if someone likes it, that’s where he gets his strokes. I think the first impression is it. The rest, what it means and so on, is justification.”
“It’s an educational thing,” says Salkin. “We get artists together and they fertilize each other.”
“You realize you’re not the only one who’s crazy,” laughs Hap. “My work is funny. It kind of enters the world between painting and sculpture. It’s an invite to join in.”
Maxwell: “The air off the ocean, rich with possibilities, the embrace of the redwoods at my back, the amount of space to move about free from congestion, all these let me live out some dreams. And, there is the light, particular to Mendocino. Light to a painter determines his attitude. It is the base note that harmonizes to their well being, their inner resonance to the world around them. It, light, creates the conversation a plein-air painter has with nature. Painting nature is how one can heal themselves from the injuries of not finding beauty in the day-to-day workings of humanity. Me, and a lot of painters are of this ilk.”
The boss tells Mac life is art and art is life. It doesn’t matter if it’s the building, the food, the bar, the coffee shop, the people. Everything is a composition, a piece of the whole. Even Mac when he’s washing dishes or Micah when he’s sweeping the floor or Black Joyce when she’s taming the Hell’s Angels. The boss says Clayton’s building is art. Everything inside must also be art, the coffee, the food, the wine, the lights, tables, walls, bar—everything. All the people who make the Frolic work. Even Mac.
Mac is driven back into his past. There is so much space, so much silence, so few distractions that the past feels much closer. The world is full of small and almost imperceptible occurrences, some of them good, some of them bad. All serve to obscure his vision. But here on the coast at the Frolic there is a peeling away of the layers. If there is some essential truth, he will find it.
Mac walks home to the apartment. From the look on Myrna’s face it is clear that something has happened.
“Remember those two men who walked out on their bill in the coffee shop before the fire? The ones Big Tony scared away? They were here Mac, looking for you. What’s going on? They say you have something. What do they want? I don’t like them. They’re dangerous.”
Mac sits down. “There are things I haven’t told you. Things I’ve tried to forget. Things I did forget.”
“What things Mac? What things?”
“The less you know the better. I’ll take care of it,” says Mac.
“No Mac, I need to know,” says Myrna. “No more of this amnesia shit. Tell me or I’m leaving.”
“If you want to leave that’s your business but I’m telling you it’s all going to be okay. I want you to stay,” says Mac. “You’ll know everything but not yet.”
Myrna loves Mac. She wants to trust him. But those two guys are a wake up call. She’s very much afraid.
“When, when will I know Mac? And what if they come back? What will they do to you, to me?”
“They won’t come back,” says Mac. “Don’t fall for their bullshit. That’s what they want. To scare you into forcing my hand. I don’t know when but you’ll know. Stay Myrna. Stay.”
Danger turns Myrna on. She’s loathe to admit it but it’s true. They make love and she climaxes quickly. Mac is distracted. He’s awake most of the night.
It’s a long night. They wake up side by side. Between skin and skin there is morning light. Mac tells himself things will be ok. If he says it often enough it will be true.