The countdown to takeoff is officially on. We have fewer than 30 days now until our departure from this fine Valley, and I am officially in the weeds. I have less than a month to pack up the house, get a new job, finish training my replacement at the old one, and hire and train enough staff to handle the expected up-swell in business for The Season here in Napa, which is imminent. On June 12 we will pack the dog, the cat, and the daughter into the Highlander, and drive off into the sunset (actually, we will be driving away from the sunset, as we are going East, Young Man!). We plan to roll into Atlanta, and our new home, somewhere around the 20th.
It’s definitely a bittersweet time for me. On one hand, I am “pee my pants” excited about the move back to the South; on the other hand I am saddened by thought of leaving so many close friends and family. The real bummer is leaving a job that I have put so much time and effort into, just when it is finally starting to get fun.
Work has been an up (mostly) and down experience for us over the past almost-two years. There have been many good, a few bad, and the occasionally ugly nights at the restaurant. I have had Neil Young in the dining room; done a James Beard Foundation Legends of Wine Dinner for the Barrets of Chateau Montelena with some of the biggest names from the restaurant and wine business in attendance. I have had drinks thrown on my newly cleaned and pressed suit by drunks I had to cut off; and we had the “Night of A Thousand Drunks” when Naked Steak Guy and his crew dropped in. We have endured the longest Winter in the History of Mankind with so many ups and downs in business volume since we opened, we have made the Dow look like a rock by comparison.
Attrition is a fact of life for start-up restaurants and hotels. Having been in on quite a few openings, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the people who are there at the beginning, getting all the nuts and bolts nice and tight and establishing the systems and procedures that make like so much easier are seldom, if ever, the ones around to harvest the fruits of all that labor. When things finally smooth out and people start making some money, it’s always someone who just started that profits. It’s just like moving into a fixer-upper house, working on a remodel for almost two years and getting the place just how you like it; then you turn around and sell. I have gotten all the metaphorical books on the shelves nice and straight, replaced the flooring with shiny, new hardwood, gotten the new appliances in and working, and remodeled the baths. Even though I can’t take credit for the entire remodel, my contribution to the restaurant has surely been the equal of, say, picking out the new tile for the bathroom, or re-doing the landscape for curb appeal. We have gone from struggling to do 80 covers truly well, to being able to do a hundred-plus standing on our heads on nights like last Saturday, without so much as a single plate returned or a significant issue of any kind. So, much as the Gun Slinger in an old Western says “So long ma’am…” and rides out after cleaning up the town, I’ll be packing up my guns and moving on, little doggies.
The Westin, where we are located, has a tendency to attract oh, how shall I put this?, the denizens of the hotel-guest-underworld. If we were a St. Regis, or even a “W” hotel, we would have far fewer demanding weirdos doing stupid shit like the people last Saturday. And, just because I’m heading out soon doesn’t mean there’s not still adventure and excitement to be had. Last Saturday night saw the debut of “Naked Man” (no relation to “Naked Steak Guy” or at least I don’t think there is.)
Naked Man made his initial appearance in the hallway near the restrooms. He had emerged, alone, from his guest room and was walking toward the lobby bar. Naked Man was not, at this early stage, truly naked; just exposed from the waist-up, wearing no shoes and just a bath towel. We have people in the lobby all the time wearing bathrobes and flip-flops on their way through to the pool and hot tub, so we are kind of used to seeing skin, and were not entirely shocked by his lack of apparel. Fortunately for us all, he was not a bad-looking guy and was even in decent shape; so no one had their eyes burned out of their skull from looking at hairy man-breasts. He proceeded to the bar to order drinks to take out to the pool. As he reached for his key-card to verify the room number for his tab (and come to think of it, where the hell was he keeping this card, anyway? Eewww!) his elbow dislodges the knot on his towel and drops it straight to the floor, leaving Naked Man standing there living up to his name, in a bar filled with around 70 people at 10:30 on a Saturday night.
After such a splashy debut, Naked Man made his way on out to the Hot Tub and was joined by some friends (no definite reports as the whether they were Naked Friends or not, but one can only assume) who had all the good taste and decorum of a frat party. Reports filtered in of kegs floating in the pool, and of guests that were so insulted that the cops were called. Two police cruisers clogged the valet circle in front of the hotel for the better part of an hour, serving as welcoming committee for a couple of Wedding Parties returning from their respective receptions. Now we not only have Naked Man and his buff buddies and floating kegs, but a bunch of drunk bridesmaids carrying their shoes and groomsmen in rumpled tuxedos, stumbling in to join the fun and games.
Fortunately, the presence of uniformed Police Officers kept this Fellini-esque scene from getting much wilder. Things settled down, no one was injured, and Naked Man took his place amongst all the other Stuff of Legends that will be my legacy here.
Trizzle, trazzle, truzzle, trome…