I was a cook at the Pour House in early 1975 , and if Al Capone’s daughter did not have a piece of that joint, well... I was lied too. I believed then. I was just eighteen, and had already decided that I did not want to tend bar. They tried me as soon as I turned 18, but I hated it.
I was a cook at seventeen after starting with pots at fifteen. I was running the kitchen at the Pour House ...part owned by Dave Monieer, but I did not know that until he came into the kitchen in his trench coat and introduced himself.
I had quit another one of his eateries six months earlier, on principal. His crew had over fifty joints, all skimming the crap out of the SONJ. The SONJ did nothing about it. They stole with military precision, and gave us jobs in the places they sucked up like an anteater.
I was a prodigy, already a legend in my small very rich white town. I did nothing to deserve this except not study, and not play football, or own more than three shirts. I partied. I ran parties, and good ones. I knew the hospitality business...it was what I did for a living.
I had committed to Signal Corps at fifteen, not knowing then that Dave Monieer had done two years at West Point before trading up to Cornell for hospitality. I was already washing pots at fifteen under a retired Army chef after a summer of fish killing on Charlie’s Lazy Bones...his “retirement” project after being head of civilian HR for the GSA’s massive secret procurement operation that was attached to the fort...Charlie was a D day Bronze Star winner...Signal Corps.But I did not know it then.
I had never heard of Mary Elizabeth Bowser, nor did I know that Grant was an artist, but I did know wig wag, but not well enough to have passed the course that I had passed and never wagged again. Morse code was beyond me too.
Billions and billions of dollars...Cold War Dollars, kept both the bar and table service of the Pour House full, and earned me a cheap ride to Daytona Beach in 1975 not long after putting on a tie and eating at the Surf Club on my eighteenth Birthday with a fellow prodigy who was already managing a busy Italian place on Ocean Avenue at seventeen.
Paterno and I went to Daytona in 1975 to look at Clemson, or so that was the story. It was in Datona that we saw The Sting. I learned more watching that movie than I did in two and a half years of Spanish. Paterno did not get it, as he did not have to. His father had been a MASH surgeon, was running our little hospital...and was soon to also be Mayor of our town. Paterno was his oldest son, and a good kid. I had his back in school, and he had a car that the restaurant bought him. We were a a force like that town had never seen. Neither one of us played football.
I got The Sting becuase I was a story guy. I love stories, campfires, songs, and skits. I was also bullied and passive aggressive. I was a planner. I had to be. I got even, or planned to.
Little people need big plays...hope, dreams, and plans. We toil away at the sink and stove dreaming, imagining and then the pot boils and we get back to it, but we never give up, and always show up...unless we are in Datona when we are supposed to be at Clemson.
Paterno did graduate Clemson. I did own a restaurant, but of course the long play plays on. I was not The Entertainer but I was learning how to be stand up as the MIC made me all they thought they could, because they could. I was not a doctor’s son. I had said yes to Signal Corps...but wound up in the private sector. I’ve been stung a lot harder than I would have liked, and learned the ropes from the bottom, on the bottom. I kind of like it here. I have friends in low places; dreamers, planners...all weathering it out; not driving.
The long play...It’s Jazz. Some of us read music. We mostly play by ear, and cue by eye. We practice, we love, we bleed. There is no script, but we all hope for a just and happy ending, you know...like The Sting.