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the squirrel

the squirrel
Location
chicago, Illinois, USA

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SEPTEMBER 21, 2009 1:05PM

I could leave here, you know.

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I could leave. I could chuck all this, walk away from it, all of it. Leave and never look back. Jimmy’s got an asshole friend who sniffs around with a view to buying in. (Why he would want to do this is beyond me. Maybe he hates himself.)

He was just in here sniffing on Saturday. Sizing it up. I could tell him he’s welcome to my slice. Tell him what number I have in mind and he’d hate himself so much, the number’d seem reasonable to him. Not outlandish at all. I could take my takings and vamoose. Amscray. Move far away from here. Start all over, from scratch.

Someplace.

Find some small town. Not the burbs. Someplace further afield. Some exurban town. A main street and only a little bit more. That’s where we’ll stake our claim. House on a corner, with a sloping lawn and a shade-giving tree with one of those … swings hanging from a strong branch, you know the swings. The mortgage’ll be so small that I’ll smile when I discover how small the mortgage is.

Won’t need much once we get settled. Find a small, empty place (there’s always a small, empty place) and fit it out. Grill, hood, fryer, walk-in, freezer, dry storage, sink, dishwasher. Counter with six or so stools, row of tables hugging the wall, couple more in the window. That’s it.

Breakfast/lunch only, six to two-thirty, Monday thru Saturday, or Tuesday thru Sunday, though I suspect it’ll more likely be the former.

There’ll no doubt already be a breakfast/lunch grill. I will let it be known I’m not here to run anyone outta business. I pose no threat. I am an exemplary neighbor. I won’t win ‘em over overnight. But I will win ‘em over.

I’ll go local. Sysco (or the equivalent) only for the things I gotta use Sysco (or the equivalent) for. Otherwise, bread, buns and rolls from the town bakery. Steaks, beef, bacon, chops from the town butcher. If I luck out, I’ll find a small independent coffee guy. Then, seek out a farmer and say to that farmer, ‘Farmer, sell me your vegetables and sell me your eggs.’ Get my dairy from the dairy.

This is so easy, it almost takes care of itself, almost.

Breakfast, just eggs, with the various meats, plus potatoes, toast, pancakes, French toast and waffles. Though waffles are a pain in the ass, so if you try to order a waffle, I’ll steer you toward the French toast or pancakes part of town, perhaps even with a little lie bout me being outta waffle batter or the iron’s broken or I can’t find the spray you coat the iron with so the waffle’ll stick and no one wants a waffle that just got peeled and pried outta the iron.

Lunch’ll be BLT’s, clubs, chicken- and fish-wiches, burgers, dogs, diet plates or salads, fries or chips, cole slaw (of course), cottage cheese, and whatever’s in the crockpot. There would hafta be a crockpot. I’d pare down the crockpot rotation to the bare bones All-American ones. (I won’t try to push something like a … like a cassoulet on anyone. No intention of being one of those idiots who cashes outta the big city then foists something designed to broaden the horizons of those who like their horizons as they are. Kinda narrow. So cassoulet’s out, as is everything else that’d scare off the xenophobes. But stews, chilis and roasts will do just fine. Few non-threatening Mexican or Italian things as well.)

Desserts would also be from the bakery. That bakery will love me.

It’ll be the kinda place with the old-fashioned register and a bell that jingles when the door opens. The kinda place with the specials hand-printed and taped to the window. The kinda place that reminds you of a hundred other places.

I’ll be that guy who, when you walk in, is leaning over the counter, huddled over the daily paper, with coffee. I hear that door open, I’ll stand up straight to see who just walked in. I won’t learn your name for a good long while. (I’m horrible with names.) But once I learn it, it stays learned. If I like you, we’ll whoop it up and/or chew the fat. If I don’t, our conversation will be perfunctory at best. A token exchange and nothing more.

My staff’ll be me, and maybe another guy if I can’t work a grill like I used to, back in the day. That’s it. No Julie-Laura squabbles that make me hafta juggle the schedule last minute cause they refuse to work with each other. No kitchen unrest when a group of morons wander in three minutes fore the kitchen closes. No Alan. Oh, how I tremble at the mere thought. (Though I will miss my current favorite line: “Into each life, a little Alan must fall.”)

When I’m not working, I’ll be home. When I’m not home, I’ll be working. But daytime hours. Nights are for the birds. (Or for younger men. I’m not as young as I used to be.) I can do early. I can do a four in the morning wakeup. If it means my day’s done by three, three-thirty at the latest, I can do it in my sleep.

So I can be home more or less by the time he’s done with school. Throw a ball around or do whatever hobby he’s into. (My main hobby was those Avalon-Hill board games.) School projects, he’ll prolly need some help with, and though I’m useless at all that shit, and Wife-asaurus is gonna be way better at helping with all that shit, I wanna at least be there just in case.

Plus, homework. Shit. He’s gonna have homework. This is years down the pike. I can prolly help out with the homework he gets grades one through … four, I guess. But … whenever he has to start diagramming sentences? Learning dates of when important shit happened? Memorizing that stupid periodic table? Let’s just say I’m gonna be reading his textbooks a chapter ahead of him and leave it at that. Okay? Can we just leave it at that? I had a nephew ask me what a gerund was. The unfortunate part of that is he knew the answer and was teasing me cause he kinda just knew I didn’t know. Little smart-ass prick.

So I’m gonna be reading up on stuff.

I member when I was a kid. Glen too. We were both kids, and I member. Our dad was the only dad who was around afternoons. All the other kids had dads that weren’t home til dinner. I’m not saying it was better or worse, our situation compared to the other kids. Neither here nor there. Just the way it was.

Though one way we had it worse than our friends was whenever we did something that landed us in trouble, which was … eh, three or four times a week. All the other kids had til dinner fore the hammer came down. But us? Glen and me?

Soon’s mom said something long the lines of ‘Wait until your father gets home,’ Glen and I (which was usually only ‘I’, cause Glen was such a kiss-ass mama’s boy, he never got blamed for shit) would head for the hills. In our house, ‘Wait until your father gets home’ usually only meant another ten fifteen minutes, tops.

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Consider "into each life, a little Alan must fall" fully stolen. Well, no, all but the Alan part. You're going to have to keep Alan. I will insert a different name, probably that of my parents' dog, because no Alans have fallen into my life.
I like your dream Squirrel.
There's a guy in our neighborhood who's got a small diner, bigger than the one you are describing, but he's still the main cook and the kitchen is right there in the middle of the restaurant, open. He's got really good food. His 'named for the town' skillet is awesome, but he's started to skimp on the tomatoes in it- used to be tons of ripe nice tomatoes in it to pair with the bacon, and now it's tomato skimpy, but still yummy.
86 the waffles. Head out to Three Oaks Michigan. You might like that town.....
I can't imagine Wife-a-saurus saying, "Just wait 'til your father gets home" to your son. Or maybe she will, but I can't imagine your son saying anything other than," Cool, Mom. I can't wait!" in response.
I ALWAYS order the waffle. Sorry bout that.
I know that place. I know a couple of 'em, actually. You're gonna have stiff competition in the breakfast/lunch grill space, but if you could open a place that DID serve cassoulet, you'd be all alone in that market space. Just sayin'.

You ever want to make the six-hour drive to scope it out, you just let me know.

My stomach didn't merely growl at "cassoulet." It roared like a goddamned lion.

Away from me, Satan.
Come out to Colorado. I can't find a decent slob of ribs to save my life.
It sounds nice. Back to basics. Kind of reminds me of Mayberry RFD. And I think you might just be bored out of your mind. Excellent muse.
So, when are you coming? I know this nice piece of property.....
"A main street and only a little bit more." That's sounding like a farming community. That sounds like Low Moor, Iowa. I've been to Low Moor, Iowa. My friend, you do not want to live in Low Moor, Iowa. But if you do go to Low Moor, Iowa, I can direct you to the Sweetheart Bakery in Clinton, which if you take Hwy 30 and the bypass, will be about a 15 minute drive. And you'll thank me for the Sweetheart Bakery. In the meantime, kindly consider opening your grill around the border of Andersonville & Edgewater. The only real grill close by is on Clark/Devon. You can snatch those people who stand outside of M Henry for an hour waiting for a table. And plenty of good bakeries nearby.
There is a hollow bushy weasel tail somewhere. It's a acorn tree hole
Just curl up in a cozy squirrel fetal-ball! Chatter here @ Open Salon. Climb a good cardiologist? One AMA in a Walnut Pelican Palm Tree.
Curl up in the butternut tree? Grab fresh Lavender Flowers to chew.
If a squirrel macerates acorn, walnut, and green mint jelly 'um stick!
You can come set up shop here but I had better warn you, the nearest warehouse shopping is about a hundred miles away. If you want something from the local butcher you have to bring it in on the hoof and the local bakery doesn't do much more than cakes and donuts. But you do get a good seasonal tourist traffic and the locals are suspicious of any "newcomers" so you won't have to worry about learning their names as long as the sandwiches are on time.
A blissful existence in serenityopia. Eggs easy-up and 5¢ cokes.
Little do you know, but you are talking about North Little Rock, AR. Old (revitalized) Main St. with historic storefront businesses. Several of the restaurant owners live around the corner in our little historic district.... a few art galleries, a small theater, locally grown farmer's market, the library, several great dinner restaurants. The Arkansas River is flowing a few blocks away and the new ball park is walking distance. May I say, a dream worth living, good squirrel...and we really need a breakfast / lunch place just like your vision.
I don't know - maybe everybody else is right, focusing on the restaurant part of this and doing breakfast/lunch and where in the burbs this could be -- but I am WEEPING here, and it's all about being there for your kid when he's a kid and being nervous about how crappy or not you'll be at helping him with his homework and that you had a dad who was home. this is, on so many levels, incredible. dude. you really got me.
Just make sure you have internet access at the new place, so you don't have to leave here. (But seriously dude, i wouldn't mind if you changed your avatar - it creeps me out). : )
Love the dream, but please include an old-fashioned soda fountain with stools and offer retro cherry cokes and black-and-white sodas and banana splits. Easier than waffles.
Oh, and vanilla cokes. Gotta have vanilla cokes. And your own homebrewed root beer. Like they useta have at my favorite drive-in root beer stand growing up. Man, I miss that root beer. Maybe you can find the recipe.
well, it must be monday, cause i don't have anything else to do but reply to comments. hah. here goes:

mrs.: soon's i find you, i'll send alan your way. you'll thank me for it later. and by thank, i mean punch in the nose.

julie: will now pm you to see if i can coerce you into spilling the beans.

cartouch: three oaks? are you kidding me? no way in HELL i'm moving to three oaks. (where's three oaks.)

lisa: well, we want her to say it ONCE in a while. we want a kid who gets in a LITTLE trouble. (but thanks.)

hells: damn you, waffle-orderer! they're a pain. i never liked making 'em. loved pancakes and french toast, though. so ... please reconsider.

verbal: eh, maybe you're right. (and it kills me to admit that. KILLS me.) so ... i'd just hafta call it pork and beans then hope i'd get away with it.

sheldon: well, whadya expect in colorado. there's no good rib slobs west of kansas city.

mtk: bored out of my mind doesn't even scratch the surface.

bill: see, now, i hadn't considered east. hmm ...

lisa: don't tempt me. we're sposed to be resisting this particular temptation ...

stim: i see those m henry lines all the time, and ... uh ... i just don't get it. i just don't get it.

arthur: i never know what to say. (and i mean that in the best possible sense. i do.)

ocular: oh, i'll get those locals to love me. i don't expect it to happen overnight, like i said. but ... i will make it happen. i will. if i hafta give away food for ... like a nickel.

chuck: five cent cokes????? are you mad?????

fab: how much can i buy a house for.

femme: thanks. that i got you gets me.

fins: hah! i haven't had an avatar complaint in months! HAH!

lea: i would love that. member the place in indiana jodi kasten wrote about? like that place.

verbal: couple weekends ago, we had homemade root beer in wisconsin, and ... uh ... it's real tough to go back to normal root beer once you've had homemade.
This is *exactly* the kind of place we need in my neighborhood. Puh-leeez! I swear, you'd all love it here.
There's a place like that just down the road apiece. Just sold. A few times. Needs The Squirrel.
This was a good one for me to come back in on. It's goona great to be around for him in the afternoons - for you and for him. And I'll second the beauty of the North Little Rock option if you decide to sell to the sniffer.
Great story. Enjoyed this.
rated
You and Verbal are killing me. I need a place like that! I miss good bakery items like fresh bread and awesome pie.

Want to move to Texas? hehe
Good coffee. Good homefries. Good newspapers. Good conversation. Or not. Either works.
If this happens, can we get the address, finally? Because I will travel the world for a good egg-and-potato breakfast. And I'm really good with homework.
Consider village living, just watch out for certain people who might want to find out about your former life elsewhere.
Your dream sounds pretty detailed. Wow.

Your childhood memories would make a "whole 'nother post"
(which I will return to read.)
The "I'm gonna run away and have a whole new life" dream. I know it well. French toast's my favorite (when sweet wins the sweet vs savory breakfast debate) and I'll forgive you forgetting my name 'cuz I'm the same way.
I love small diners. Love to eat at the counter. Don't live anywhere near a diner now :(
I've got the perfect place for you, squirrel.

Awesome butcher in town, great meat, great prices--bacon-wrapped filet for $8/lb retail, homemade sausages, and "fish fridays." Bakery I can't you with, sure there's one around, the only one I know for sure is in Sandy, a good drive from here. We're surrounded by farms, many of them organic. Lots do u-pick, for even lower prices. Some let the locals come in and pick for free after a certain date. FREE!

Corbett has one of the best school districts going--our high school is ranked 96th in the country. IN THE COUNTRY! Our little country school with all of 140 kids!

And they get Fridays off. Extra time with the little guy. :)

And we're only 4 miles from Gresham, 23 miles from downtown Portland, 5 miles from Multnomah Falls...

Are ya sold yet? :)
Bacon waffles. NOBODY makes 'em, but I'd be a customer for life if someone did.
Well... I'll sure come have breakfast at your place. I promise not to order waffles.

Eggs, hashbrowns--you do good hashbrowns?--some bacon, and toast and coffee, and I'll be happy.
Are you sure that new farm you're starting up won't be able to supply everything but the pastries? I love that you are already worried about being able to help your son with homework and you will be fine, more than fine, at helping with the projects because, you know, lots of parents don't even care enough to think about stuff like that. And, can I just throw in my town as another dream destination that needs your restaurant? Sweet little place on a lake, great schools, affordable houses and a small old stone bank building on the corner of main street that is calling your name and it's right next door to a little bakery and the farmer's market (just incase that farming stuff doesn't work out for you!).
This sounds idyllic. Therefore, it will not happen. Alan will follow you and be your neighbor and that dude always asking you for work. I'm going to agree with Mrs. Michaels. Into each life, a little Alan must fall.

My parents live in an idyllic area, and frankly, most of the people out here are big farts who shoot at deer from their porches. sigh.
It's in a small beachtown in Mexico, baby. That's where I set up shop when Bush got re-elected and I stopped crying. The weather is great, the rent is cheap, and there is literally no competition.

My menu was based only on local ingredients: great fresh vegetables, fresh fish, giant shrimp, and tequila.....have I told you about the cheap tequila here? Basil grows like a weed here (unlike in Seattle) and I've got a freezer-full of pesto.....

Love your stories, cookie.
Gosh squirrel - go for it. If not for yourself, then for us. Would love to read your take on ex-urbania. [Jeez - I'm always hungry after reading your posts - must go make myself a nice BLT.]
You may think you want a small town, but think again. SF is surrounded by small towns, like Mill Valley and Burlingame that sound like your dream, and has farmer's markets, bakeries, dairies, everything a diner cook could wish for. And we'd like your crockpot, even with a cassoulet. There are 3 Chinese, 1 Thai, and an Italian restaurant within a block of my home, but the nearest diner is 2 miles away. You're used to living near the water, we've got plenty of that, and our weather is like paradise. We promise ForeverMom will never order waffles. . .
And things to do with your son? Wow, where to start!
~fat rocco and feral rusty
putting in a good word for San Francisco