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service

a love affair

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restaurant 1978tango 1979

the year was 1977. i was 19 years old and had been a  gogo dancer at a gay bar in chicago and transitioned to bartender at that place. i worked with a guy who was dating a server from a french seafood restaurant in the belmont hotel called tango and got a second job as a coat check boy there. the manager “nadia” moved me to service bartender within a couple of months. there were over 200 wines on the winelist which often needed to be waded through with the help of the gritty and classic frend sommalier “gerard” the chef  “henri coudrier” had also emigrated from france and set up residence in the windy city. the bar area was slick and uber modern. you walked in and were greeted on the right by an elegantly dressed host and the left was the entrance to the bar which was flanked by a large smoked sturgeon on crushed ice and a wedge of gruyere. the martinis were served with blue cheese stuffed olives. the food was au-courant.

i worked at badonsky’s brewery and le bastille as well. all were amazing training grounds and ignited my romance with fine dining and intersting cuisine. but it was the life behind the scenes that truly captured my attention. the mechanics of putting on such a beautiful and memorable show each night was instantly fascinating. and the art of service has been a passion of mine these almost 40 years. the owner of tango (and several other popular eateries in chicago passed in mid-december of 2014. his daughter jessica even found a blog post of mine about the restaurant just after that time and left a sweet comment- she was about 5 or so when i worked there. this article came out in the chicago sun-times and a co-worker and friend from that time posted pics with that article on facebook.

it was like a big warm hug and brought back sweet memories and i realized that i have lived a lifetime dancing in the glow of that same food-service choreography i learned at george badonsky’s restaurants those decades ago. i love the backstage element. i love the entrances and exits from stage left and stage right. the applause is quiet, but somehow the satisfaction that producing a memorable dining experience has become like a japanese scroll painting for me extending and shifting and rolling out and in over these years. i continue to do this work to this day. and i still find joy and satisfaction. friendship, love, and fulfillment. the feeling of a job well done. and i still feel at home in the kitchen and at a dinner party.

bon appetit!

 

here is the article reprinted from the chicago sun-times..

George Badonsky, 78; restaurateur ‘was ahead of his time’

Posted: 01/12/2015, 08:15pm |

George Badonsky was sued by Italian couturier Pierre Cardin, had a hand in two of the biggest garage rock hits of all time, and ran some of the hottest restaurants in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Badonsky, 78, died Dec. 14 at his Harbor Country home in Stevensville, Michigan. He had had bypass surgery at the end of August.

“He was found in his kitchen, where he would have wanted to be,” said a friend, Leigh Jones.

When Chicago was still a meat-and-potatoes town, Mr. Badonsky started restaurants that were a mirepoix of tasty food, entertainment and events. On Bastille Day, he closed down the street for wine-carrying waiter races at his bistro, Le Bastille, 21 W. Superior.

“He was ahead of his time,” said chef Jean Joho of Everest, whom Mr. Badonsky recruited from France to America to polish the jewel of his restaurant realm, Maxim’s on Astor Street. “He had five restaurants, and they were all hip and modern. . . . He loved food, and he was what you would call a bon vivant.

“He was a pioneering, iconic restaurateur in Chicago who brought wonderful new restaurants to the North Side,” said Larry Levy, founder of Levy Restaurants. “I admired him a lot.”

His empire started in 1969, when Mr. Badonsky opened the Brewery, an upscale burger joint at Broadway and Briar. Then came Tango, an airy, romantic room in the Belmont Hotel decorated with Andy Warhol’s Mao and art by Peter Max. It featured fresh fish, “all flown in from the East Coast,” said Joho.

In the 1970s, he launched Le Bastille, an authentic French bistro. “If you were at Le Bastille,” said Joho, “you were in France.” Before anyone in Chicago made much ado about the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau, “He created a festival” tied to the wine, said John Banks, who with Garret Eakin of Banks/Eakin architects helped build  his restaurants. “That was just a great event and party.”

Later in the decade, he opened George’s, a 220-seat cabaret at 230 W. Kinzie that was one of the first places in the city to showcase Northern Italian food. It presented hot comedians and stars including songstress Etta James; Ruth Brown, the R&B dynamo who appeared in the 1988 film “Hairspray;” nightclub legend Bricktop, who ran with Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris; jazz greats Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Donegan and Blossom Dearie; blues chanteuse Alberta Hunter; drummer Buddy Rich, Harry Connick, Jr. and singer Bill Withers, known for “Lean on Me,” “Use Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “A Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us.”

Mr. Badonsky bought and reopened the elegant Maxim’s on Astor in 1984. It featured rich fare like Burgundian snails in ravioli and quail eggs with fresh foie gras. Cardin, who owned the Maxim’s de Paris name, wound up suing him over licensing rights. Mr. Badonsky prevailed by adding his own name to the restaurant to differentiate it, said his ex-wie, actress Pat Bowie.

He got out of the business for a variety of reasons. Extended restaurant martini lunches were becoming a thing of the past. Some thought Maxim’s opened at a time when diners wanted simpler options. George’s required attention to the entertainers, in addition to the menu. A devastating fire occurred at George’s in 1984.

And as Mr. Badonsky’s father took ill, he devoted himself to his care. “Instead of putting him in a rest home, he took a lot of personal time in Michigan with his dad, and had his dad move in with him,” Banks said. “He took care of his dad 24-7. He did it by himself, really. That just really impressed me. That’s the kind of person he was.”

“He wasn’t the kind of dad that read stories at night,” said his daughter, Jessica Jolie Badonsky. “But he introduced me to food, and [performers] Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Dorothy Donegan and Jessye Norman.” Her father bestowed her middle name, French for “pretty.” He doted on his two grandchildren and enjoyed babysitting, she said.

Mr. Badonsky had a whole other life before becoming a restaurateur. He worked at record companies and co-produced two 1960s smashes that came out of Chicago, “Gloria” by the Shadows of Knight and “The White Ship” by H.P. Lovecraft. He also had a hand in the hit “Bend Me, Shape Me” by American Breed,  Bowie said.

His curiosity contributed to his success, she said. “He would talk to someone on the phone and the next thing you know, he’d be on there an hour, learning about how to buy the best meats.”

Mr. Badonsky was born in New York. He told the Sun-Times in 1988 that his father, Andrew, was a custom tailor who had to add $22,000 in gold braid to Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s clothing, an extravagance that taught him to equate simplicity with elegance.

He also is survived by a sister, Elizabeth Ecoff. A Chicago memorial is being planned.

 

thank you george… for the gift that has lasted a lifetime… you don’t know how glad i am.

 

Sutton gets a gift

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GERMANTOWN (WITI) — Holidays are a time for giving and one local family is more than grateful for the community support.

As lights twinkle on one Christmas tree, one decoration stands out.

“A dog print with the puzzle pieces inside of it. It’s a stunning colorful ornament,” said Jay Kleba, helping raise funds for family.

The ornament was created by Jay Kleba and a friend of his, in honor of a 9-year-old Sutton Lindgren, who was diagnosed with autism at age 2.

“He’s a fun loving affectionate child which is very rare for a child with autism,” said Heather Lindgren, Sutton’s mother.

But Sutton does deal with his fair share of challenges — Heather, says safety is her biggest concern.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a couple of incidents where it’s really been scary for us as parents — one time he ran into 4 lanes of traffic and just escaped from the house, he learned how to unlock the doors. At that moment I knew that day, that I could have lost my son,” said Heather.

Worried, Heather searched for a way to help stop him from being able to wander off.

“I found this great place called 4 Paws for Ability that actually trains dogs for children with autism and other children with special needs,” said Heather.

The price of protection is hefty.

“As a family, we’ve committed to raise $14,000 4 Paws for Ability, so they will give a free autism assistance dog to Sutton — so we’ve been doing fundraisers,” said Heather.

Kleba, whose son in Sutton’s classmate, wanted to help as part of a service project for Cub Scouts. He’s raising money by selling specially made ornaments.

“Every penny of it goes to his family,” said Kleba.

For just $10 supporters have a tangible memory of helping a vibrant carefree kid who awaits a gift — that for him, is priceless.

“I couldn’t ask for a better community. There are people out there that will help you in your time of need,” said Heather.

Sutton’s family has also held its own fundraisers. So far, they are already at the $12,000 mark and only need $2,000 more to reach the goal….reposted from fox6now.comhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwXKxgF8Dfw

a tale of two sissies

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"She had laid her head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned out--she had a fear of my going, though I had none--and when I was brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. 'You will leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they may in the spirit.' Those words I said. I remember them very well.'" - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities,
“She had laid her head upon my shoulder, that night when I was summoned out–she had a fear of my going, though I had none–and when I was brought to the North Tower they found these upon my sleeve. ‘You will leave me them? They can never help me to escape in the body, though they may in the spirit.’ Those words I said. I remember them very well.'”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities,

just emerging from a 4 day wrestle with a sinus infection and it does not escape me how spiritual illness really is. it is humbling. it is direct. it is right-sizing. it is a part of the process. it is a levelling.

funny- how different a person is when they feel well in contrast with how they are when illness pervades. two separate people- the healthy and the sick. tow people in one. or at least two sissies.

one wants to dance and explore, while the other reas quietly during hibernation. they inhabit the same frame but conduct life’s music with different orchestras. uptempo and still in unison.

I hear her voice in the morning hour she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away.
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads.
Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.
West Virginia, mountain momma, take me home, country roads

 

was that all it was…… woooooooho…….oohooo

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There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth...not going all the way, and not starting. - Buddha
There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting. – Buddha

it is strange how my own nature can be so damn bewitching. i am in the process of a pretty major transition and although it has been simmering for several months, it actually moved onto the front burner rather recently.

i have had the good fortune to work with people who can use help. and they allow me to try to help them. this is the part of my daily life that i love the most. i don’t fix anybody ever. i just try to help them see themselves as ok. heaven knows that it took me nearly 50 years to get there- so i have lots of travel information about that journey.

so i am leaving my current format for offering assistance and looking for another. i wonder if i will ever tire of trying too hard or taking it too personally. i don’t know about that. i doubt it really. my emotional vibrations often influence my decisions. i don’t think i like this. i am pretty sure i’m not proud of this.

(yeah-ah was that all it was)
(wooooooho)
(oohooo)
Was that all it was
A way to pass some time
momentary thing
not worth the memory
in the morning
must it be could be cold
something bought and sold
was it just a game
would you recall my name
if you saw me
I wanna be your one love
if we ever meet again (meet again)
now that I’ve been your love
Is this how it’s gonna end?
Will we ever be just friends?
Run to me every now and then
whow-whow-whow-whow-oh
was that all it was
night out on the town
an excersise of will
or what you needed filled
did you use me
I wanna be your one love
if we ever meet again (meet again)
now that I’ve been your love
Is this how it’s gonna end?
Will we ever be just friends?
Run to me every now and then
whow-whow-whow-whow-oh
was that all it was
when you close the door
passion left behind
out of sight and out of mind
gone forever
was that all it was?
was that all it was?
ooh tell me
did you use me?
huh?

 

 

wishing on a star

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The Bandit     Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimal.      "Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish," said Buddha. "Cut off the branch of that tree."     One slash of the sword, and it was done!  "What now?" asked the bandit.     "Put it back again," said Buddha.     The bandit laughed. "You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that."     "On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal."
The Bandit
Buddha was once threatened with death by a bandit called Angulimal.
“Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish,” said Buddha. “Cut off the branch of that tree.”
One slash of the sword, and it was done! “What now?” asked the bandit.
“Put it back again,” said Buddha.
The bandit laughed. “You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that.”
“On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are mighty because you can wound and destroy. That is the task of children. The mighty know how to create and heal.”

2014 has been a hella tough year so far. i feel as if i have been through an entire 12 months and it’s only march. i have recently awakened from a dream like state to realize that i am a glass half empty right now. this is not to say that i am defeated or it is over or any other tragedy-oriented scenario. it simply means that perhaps i have plateaued for a minute- or two.

i came to know a woman within the last year who, at 74, has been struggling with pain and addiction issues, along with health issues and mobility issues. our meeting and my subsequent dance with knowing her has been as faceted and as inspiring as any encounter i have known. i have been made aware of just how resilient the human spirit can be and how forgiving and hopeful that i can be.

as time has moved foreward she has talked of some neglect she has endured from her family. she transports herself with her walker around the metro area on a bus. she has had at least 6 hospitilizations over the last 6 months and she is discharged from each of those episodes to take a bus by herself back to her daughter’s home where she resided.

about 3 months ago she appeared to begin to decline more rapidly. when i would see her she looked dissheveled, sometimes dingy, almost always unkempt. when asked about her daughter and the support she was given, the stories given flitted to and fro like a hummingbird at a feeder.

i was numbed by the unveiling of the fragility and the resistance that my new acquaintance was engaged in. she captured me by surprise one afternoon with auto-flow tears saying “you don’t know how hard it is sometimes” and ” i have barely eaten in about 3 days” which pierced my core with the cold steel of helplessness that i felt as i surrendered to the truth that i couldn’t solve this for her.

it became obligatory to discuss the situation with adult protective services. in the process of this action, i was informed that aps was familiar with the parties involved and re-activated the case. this brought some comfort as well as some anxiety to me as i have never had to ask for government intervention and it numbed me.

i began to inquire more regularly about the specifics of her situation and the intimacies of her support. her fear of change and her denial of need consistently boggled my mind. i have come to understand the need to feel integrated with control in our own lives on a new level. she is delightful, and creative, and crafty.

but her health has continued to unravel as her journey continues. i learned to day that i most likely will not be seeing her with the same regularity as has been. i have to let go.  this is such a good thing because she will transtion to an assisted living situation that will not require her to take 3 buses round trip daily with her walker in tow as the pain in her lower legs and back gnaw at her body like termites on framing. her daily challenges no doubt will shift as will her focus.

i cried today, not with a sense of loss, but more with a microburst of relief. i don’t have to hold a sense of worry so close to my chest any longer. i feel blessed by this experience and i feel spent too. i don’t get to choose my blessings and i don’t get to start and stop them at will. she has been a blessing in my life. i am humbled by this experience. i trust it will keep me right-sized in some of the years to come.

I’m wishin’ on a star
To follow where you are
I’m wishing on a star, whoa-oh
And I wish on all the rainbows that I see

I’m wishin’ on a star To follow where you are I’m wishin’ on a star

….Rose Royce

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