It's been long enough, this pandemic business, that we're all starting to play the "what was I doing right now last year?" game with ourselves. One year ago seems like forever, so different because we'd never have been able to imagine a day like today.
Today I did something... Am about to do something, that I've done countless times, but never in this exact way, and never in times like this.
I put on a Byways T-shirt and chef's clogs, and I'm going to work, in a kitchen, like I've done my entire adult life.
I'm going to work in someone else's restaurant.
A year ago, we had just announced Byways would be closing at the end of the year, and the collective pain and panic felt like the entire building would disintegrate just from the rattling heartbeats and tremors within it's already crumbling walls. Our customers were trying to be heroes, our saviors, loudly insisting they needed the landlord's number, they would call, what could they do? How could they save Byways?
There was no saving Byways. Twenty years is a lifetime in the Portland restaurant world, and I was tired and my anger was at a slow constant roll from the moment I woke up and started to imagine my day ahead. Prep lists, shopping lists, specials, broken equipment, health inspections... I look back on this, a year later, and can't understand how I didn't realize how badly I needed it all to stop.
So now, I'm off to work in someone else's restaurant, where the hardest thing I'll have to do is remember I'm not the boss. I'll enjoy some kitchen chatter and take pride in my still respectable knife skills. I'll think, "this time last year I had no idea how happy I could be today." Maybe I'll write about it.