Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pilgrim in Paradise #5

Today I feel stronger, steadier - more grateful.
Grateful for the work, for the moment - lighter and moving with more purpose.
Phone calls to the family help; the music I crammed into a 500G hard drive is proving to be a balm for sore nerve endings. How can it be that music, for some people, is an incidental pleasure - like supermarket muzak; emotional wallpaper that merely dresses and not defines the moment?
Today I feel like I can make a difference, I can sense another shift within; one that will support me in breaking through all my doubts and fears.
A Food & Beverage Director without the title, a Chef with not one kitchen but 4 - a leader without an expectation of followers - I can see the right in it and that will be enough for me to take some small action, every day; in order to make the lives of these people a bit better - if only for this moment.

That will be enough.

I must take a moment and give my thanks to those in my life who have stepped in to show me another way of being, and by their clear example have given me something to grasp onto, in order that I might pull myself up - one rung at a time.


Stand Tall & Frosty My Brothers and Sisters because we all stand together - even if apart.
Never Doubt It

Blessings, Beloved

Monday, November 7, 2011


Well, I've been on island for about 3 weeks and I wish I could say that it's been smooth sailing - I find myself missing my loved ones, my family and friends very much. I'm working on making new friends but no one can ever replace the family that I've been blessed with.

Work is a good remedy for my weakness and I'm reminded of a story that I know well but was reminded of by my mother:

My father, after discharge from the Coast Guard, got a job with a meteorological company in Boston. Little did he know that once hired, the company would send him packing to 1957 Cuba. After a couple of weeks he called his mother complaining that he was lonely, couldn't eat the food, couldn't speak the language and the water had him running for the latrine every half hour.

The Grand Dame, freed from a selfless life with a demanding man who had done the only right thing by dropping dead, was living her life large and didn't really want her youngest son around to dampen her groove. She told him, I'm sure in the kindest way, to suck it up - be a man, stand up and step in.

He did, and in the doing, found a love - several really, that would define his life and fill him with a joy of laughter, that he would change the course of his life in such a profound way that it;s impossible to think of the ole man any other way.

So, with his example in mind, I'll quit my pining and bitchin; and look forward for a change - forgetting for the moment what lay behind me; after all I don't want to fail to recognize any opportunity for joy that may present itself in this moment.

And, in doing so, may I serve as an example to my children and my friends that life is worthy of risk.
Lord knows I love you all so.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pilgrim in Paradise #3

   Waiting, waiting, planning, revising the plan, going to sleep with no other thought bouncing around, excpet the plan,  only to wake up in mid conversation about how this could all go wrong, and, how it all could go so massively right.
  Unable to take another step forward because of government bureaucracy there seemed to be a new path layed out in the apartment every day as boxes and bins started to fill the space where furniture had once sat, given gladly away to anyone who would brave the three flights and forty stairs to retrieve it - what would come, what would go and what could stay, at least for the time being
  An essential question started to be bandied about - jokingly at first, then as each day passed the answers took on more urgency, more introspection, more stress but the rationale offered were no less any clearer:
  What does one REALLY need in order to make an apartment feel more like a home than a vacation rental? How far is the trip to the nearest big box store and how much toilet paper should be used as stuffing against the fragile items placed in the bins?
  Heated arguments spilled over into unsuspecting conversation where it became apparent that asking the question felt more like a critique - a judgement then simple physics.
  There's only so much room to ship, to store and to display; how can one make a decision based on a space sight unseen?
  Certainly comfort is not too much to ask for when one senses that the job at hand will require much mental and physical effort but really - what is important - non negotiable?
  A great pair of shoes, check
  Monkey Butt Talcum Powder - how does one survive a kitchen shift in the tropics, neat the equator without it?
  Iron, spray starch - purely mechanics; what about something that feeds the head - art, music, incense, yoga mats - how are they any less necessary than your favorite fruit mix or pictures of family and friends?
  In the end, I felt like having a good old fashion bon-fire because once the flames consume old menus, song lyrics that don't make sense any more or reams of notepads, calculations, inspiration and solutions - surely they worked once, couldn't they be counted on again in the another, yet unforeseen crisis -there would be nowhere to go but forward, the fire having consumed the past.
  Or was it all just clutter?
  Maybe the real treasure, the one worth keeping, feeding and building was what resided in my mind, my spirit - my soul, all of which could be counted on to come up with a new solution, to a new problem, in a new age.
  Boxes were unpacked and rearranged - some begrudgingly, even bordering on the bitter - some because it didn't make sense to fight over one more box of memorabilia. There would be battles ahead that would require much more effort than this - this was, after all, not really important.
  Our health - now that was important
  Our spiritual quest, our daily sharpening of the saw - that was really important
  Nourishing our body and our spirit - at last compromise was met
  The path through the apartment changed daily, really confusing the cat - me, I just wanted to make it to the bathroom without a minor mistake occurring.
  That's how time was spent, waiting.
  And then came the call; several really - one right after the other along with blazing scenes of deja vu; so strong I had to turn my head in the moment and question whether I was imagining it or not - but I knew better.
  And then, there was no more waiting; time, it seemed, was a premium - and one not to be wasted on trivialities - now I had to get moving..
  After a month on craigslist.com I got an email from someone making an offer on the Vibe
  My first response of any kind - email, phone call - or shout over the back fence for the entire time it was listed
  My trusty blue 2005 Pontiac Viberator GT, who had sat dormant  - unheeded and uninspired in the want ads for a month with nary a bite, nothing, zitch, bubkuss - suddenly had become a hot property.
  It sold in a day.
  I had three payments left
  6 years and 16% interest and suddenly - it was gone
  And so was my last key

 Those of you who have been following my progress as a Pilgrim in Paradise know that, by now, I have winnowed down my possessions to a single key.
  One last key remained of my attachments to the life I had previously known, and lived and now when  I had given it away, willingly I might add at my asking price, I felt...
  Relieved, at the reality of no more car payments - no, I had gotten good at budgeting
  Jubilant at the end of 6 years of usury - not exactly, I had signed on the bottom line after all

  Mainly I just felt......
  That's what I felt, completely and utterly naked -
  Not the nakedness of someone stripped and laid bare without their consent; this was a freeing nudeness - one taken on willingly, joyously, one to be celebrated with a romp, a dance and maybe even a song
  Well maybe not yet - I have one or two steps left before I jump this rock and emigrate to a new and exciting land - one where an apartment awaits although I have no idea what it looks like or what's in it.
One where a car awaits for me, although I have no idea what make and it didn't seem too important to ask; I, after all, now need a car - and right now, any that works will do
  I have a job waiting for me to fill with enthusiasm, intelligence, good humor and the energy of a novice.
  Yes, this time, I'm going in celebrating that which I do not know, reveling in that fact that there is much to learn and I am an eager student.
  All that awaits me but for now I have several more days to love my friends and family up and make the most of the moments I have left here.
  Stay Tuned my Friends - tomorrow I promise to tell you where I am going - your gonna love it!
  Tall & Frosty now
  Yes - all my love

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pilgrim in Paradise #2

"I fare well in stormy weather"

Fact: I've spent nearly my adult life in the Hospitality business, working mostly as a Chef
Fiction: I am what I do for a living
Fact: I've been let go twice in my career
Fiction: Neither time was for "unsatisfactory work performance"
Fact: Each time kicked me in the gut and had me foundering for some sense of 'why'
Fiction: I was lessened by my loss

Quite to the contrary, each loss has fortified, steeled me to myself in a way that all my successes couldn't

Fact: I have 1 key left on my key chain

It's for my 2005 Pontiac Vibe GT, which I have faithfully paid despite a vicious interest rate and some lean earning months.
I have 3 payments left.

In a sense it is the only thing I really "own" at this time.
I have some books, tools, pictures, tapes, DATS, albums, a 500 G hard drive, some clothes and a box that contains one monogrammed Chef coat from every job I have ever held.

In the past month I have had to leave a job, that although paid well, asked much and took even more.
I gave up my key card, Pcard, access codes and keys

Ended the lease on my apartment in a city I once questioned why anyone would go
Gave away or left behind most of the furniture, fixtures, and anything that wasn't nailed down
I gave up my key card, apartment key, storage key.

Moved what little was left to my girlfriend's parents house, interspersed in closets, unused bedrooms and the garage.

So, now I have 1 key left to give away.
Carmax will have that soon enough when it's time, and time is getting very short now.

I've been offered a job off this rock, on a British Protectorate that requires a very vigorous Work Visa application process.
There is a one bedroom apartment waiting for me to bed down in
There is a car waiting for me to drive on the left side of the road
There is work waiting worthy of the sum total of my experience, skills and all the guile that my mind can conjure
There are other keys to gain
New perspectives to witness
New opportunities to capture
New gains to be made in this new, quite radical, chapter of my life
And yet -
I feel that there is a deeper process at work, a more profound change than merely latitudes and attitudes

I'm not quite clear on what exactly it is; it's something near enough to grasp but far enough way to elude articulation but my intuition is calling it out for me to pay attention to.

I'll let you in on it when I make sense of it but for now, know that I place my face into the wind and one foot in front of the other because the past is dead and standing still is not an option; entropy is an ugly way to go.

Stand Tall & Frosty my Brothers & Sisters - Jonathon Livingstone Seagull is on the job

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pilgrim in Paradise #1

A dear friend asked me just the other day, 'So, Adam, what would it look like, feel like to not judge yourself?'
The question dumbfounded me, primarily because I've spent my life and career, as a judgement machine. Sometimes because our particular craft continually intrigues, beguiles and bewitches us with time lines, best practices, hot young upstarts, crafty masters and the daily dance of getting through the day successfully and with some form of, if not self satisfaction then at least the esprit of a job well done.

So "Judgement" always seemed valid and indeed necessary.
But when that judgement extends into the darker recesses of our self  assessment, self perspective and self esteem then that can lead one to some lonely, and stark assumptions of one's self.
And sometimes the places where those thoughts can lead, plant a hook so deep that no amount of pep talk is gonna dislodge it from the place where the pain emanates.

But what I think really think my friend meant was that we are our own worse enemy when it comes to "Judgement"; Jungian philosophy has always held that, in our own hearts and minds, there are the ever present specters of the Judge, Jury and Accused, as expressed by the id or our own egos.

The First is always quickest to Judge any particular thought, action or consequence
The Second is always ready to pronounce judgement, and
The Third is always ready, willing even to embody and internalize the Guilty verdict - almost as if it knew it was guilty from the start and wanted, needed, to be punished which only perpetuates the cycle again and again until any real self confidence or self reliability has been worn down and one is left with the only real thing that they know for sure:

That they suck
That I, in particular, suck

But I mean that in the most affectionate manner because at any time, in a moment's notice - that can all be changed and be free of the bondage of 'Judgement"

I know, because I've lived it.

My mother just recently wrote me an email where she told me that she knew that since I hadn't been in touch with her that I was living in the past and not yet looking forward, into my future.
I was still stuck with feelings of guilt, anger, betrayal and, more often than not - sorrow about how my last employment ended.
Try as I might, I just couldn't shake off the feeling that I had let everyone down, my associates, my family and not to mention myself.

Dont'cha just hate it when Mom is right?

So you see this email from a friend suggesting a different way of looking, no strike that, feeling hit me in my head like a hammer and after pondering this particular way of viewing myself in my world I've come to the conclusion that she has given me a precious gift.

One which I will not squander.

So, as a preamble, I'm about done.
Over the next several months I'm going to be taking some time and letting you in the metamorphosis that is occurring within me as I shed my place of residence, most of my belongings and most of all my internal baggage because the "Me" that is forming inside is already feeling a bit more free, especially from the doubt and - and here I have to be careful to be clear and honest without any heavy handiness - self hate; c'mon you the kind I'm talking about - the one the "Accused" in our head loves to feel when the 'Guilty' verdict is handed down, and, with which gives him license for all kinds of self destructive behavior. 

Poster Child for Bad Behavior?
Nope, not me - I've got finer places to fly

Getting what you wish for is sometimes the straightest path to finding out what you really want because as Abraham says, when you get what you don't want you're already setting up your intentions for what you do want; remember - nature abhors a vacuum (my words, not his).

Stand Tall & Frosty my brothers & sisters; next time the particulars of our shared journey.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

And so it goes;

  Or more appropriately - there it went!
  After all, it was only a job
  Still I fell hard, crushed under the weight of a slightly inflated ego and delusions of grandeur.
  I actually dressed for work and left the house for a week before I could swallow my shame and guilt and admit that I had 'lost' my job.
  Lost my job? It was only lost to me - to another it might be a perfect find
  But after going through my grief - "The only way out is through" a friend once told me - I find myself cleansed.
  Well, almost.
  So, the wheel has turned - but strangely I sense that the worm has turned as well; the one at the core of my spirit that has started a transformation of how I view myself in the world, my place in it - my responsibility to it and my actions within it.
  There's something big happening behind the scenes but I'm not allowed to part the curtain quite yet; I've a few more contracts with fellow souls to satisfy - for whatever the reason.
  I've been presented with an opportunity, for the second time,  with someone who I thought lost to me - and a chance to regain my own self respect.

 I'm going to take it, and run like hell

 'The meal', and the act of producing it is a sacrament dedicated to those that partake of it - and a blessing to those that cooked it that nothing else in this world can compare to.

 Be Proud, my brothers and sisters; and take good care of those in your care, even if for a moment.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You get what you get

 Especially if you do what you've always done.
It's been about 4 months since I last posted and the absence has been a planned one, albeit a bit longer than I anticipated.
 For those of you who've followed me for a while you'll remember that my personal and professional story had been written in the daily headlines as the recession affected millions of people, myself included.
  For those of you who haven't followed me, my recent history was as challenging as it was unremarkable from those you may know more personally and whose details you may be more intimately familiar with.
  I passed a billboard the other day which read, "Recession 101, it's a test, not the final". The first time I saw it, the message stung like hell because at the time it felt like a death sentence; certainly not the motivating message it was meant to be or that which I would come to view it as. Two years ago I had lost a very good position with a start up company - the job had everything I could have wished for but when the housing market collapsed, and the subsequent credit crunch ensued it became clear to my employers - and to myself that, a company has little use for a Corporate Chef with only one unit and with all other deals either on hold or dead in the water I could easily read the writing on the wall.
  Looking back on it now I'm amazed that I kept it all going for the next 2 years as I saw my income wither and dry up but plug forward I did.
 In a moment of clarity, buoyed by a vision of what my life could become and dismissing my then current reality I spent 3 days deep in thought and an hour at breakneck speed writing out a 'script', a movie if you will about what my life should be if anything was possible.
 Sounds like a frivolous project I know, given the bleak outlook of those days but I crafted what I called, 'My Perfect Day', whose narrative took into account every single detail - from what I would have for breakfast to what clothes I wore to the car I drove - well, you get the 'picture'. I rationalized since this was my delusion then I could make it up about anything I wanted but more importantly - what felt good to me.
 All of it was written in the present tense as if it had already come to pass; it was a cathartic experience but little did I know what kind of an impact that document would have on my future.
 The first line was, "I'm the Culinary Director or Corporate Chef for a progressive food service company, in partnership with committed, creative and passionate people, connected to the community and engaged in business with integrity and authenticity"
 As it turns out, that may have been the moment that my recovery was at hand because 4 months later I was hard at work for a national supermarket chain as the corporate chef. Although this particular company had seen it's share of hard times, a bankruptcy in 2005 which reduced the number of stores from 1,100 to 485 AND has been around long enough to be considered 1.) An industry leader, 2.) Perhaps out of touch with the 'new' merchandising (which I've come to know as the 'old' style of doing business - getting to know your customers, being locally relevant, socially responsible and  good stewards of trust; cycles within cycles - the point being that globalization often takes us far afield of our primary mission and if you can survive long enough, will be brought right back to that which is and has always been the right way to do business -by creating meaningful relationships.) and 3.) From what some stock market analysis claimed - may be on the ropes and ripe for a take over.
  Given the history of the brand and the realization that fainter hearts would have run for the hills in a feeble attempt to protect market share this company has gone out and put together a team of highly competent, imaginative professionals for whom risk was not a dirty word; bucking their history and convention to strike out in a bold new direction. For the first couple of months I wondered how I fit into this dynamic mix of operators and dreamers - I had never worked in retail before and found everything from the language to recipe costing completely different from the Hospitality industry that I had known and grown comfortable, perhaps even a  bit complacent with as well.
  Personally and professionally this seemed as good a time as any to stretch myself in a new direction and get out there on the skinny branches of the safety tree.
  Oddly enough the company had never had a Corporate Chef before so this was bit new to all of us!
  Then, in a meeting, I heard something quite remarkable - the visionary who headed up our department told everyone present that our competition was not the other grocery stores, big box marketers, club or discount stores - I mean they were but a can of peas is a can of peas is a can of peas; our true nemesis was every restaurant on the street and the real challenge laid out before us was that we need to get in the head of the restaurateurs, know what they know, model our business after theirs and everything, I mean everything  we offered had to be restaurant quality or above.
  Now that's something I could get behind, more importantly that's something I knew intimately and, consequently, something that I could offer my present employers - the gorilla mindset that is every good restaurant operator's credo - suddenly my mission, and my value, came into focus. Now, I thought to myself, I get it.
  So for the past 4 months I have been traveling extensively, meeting with vendors - creating flavor profiles that we can call our own, cooking more chickens than you can possible imagine - going so far outside the box that I can no longer see the lines and having a blast, humbly and gratefully, with every breath I have.
 Casting aside all that I knew to be safe and comfortable I now spend every morning mediating, focusing on what feels good - and right; setting myself up for success from the inside out.
 So instead of blogging at the end of the day, I'm going to commit to writing in the morning, just after my mediation when my mind, and heart, are wide open - resisting the urge to self editing and allowing whatever moves me that particular day to come forth. and relating to you, my dear readers, what this side of the food business looks, feels and tastes like - after all, in the future we'll be looking to promising young culinarians like yourself to take us to the next level.
 The path I lay may be a bit uneven, things are moving so fast that there's little time to make it pretty - I would rather work hard at raising the bar and shoot for the stars, you'll make your mark when you get here.
 Hopefully it'll be of some value to you, I know it will for me and I'm willing to do, say and be something different today, with the clarity that - coming from that place, we're sure to get something different that what we're always gotten and maybe, just maybe we can call it progress.
  At the very least we'll be able to call it fun.
  Make it a powerful day my brothers and sisters.