One of the ideas that continues to intrigue and haunt me is that most of the world lives their lives without knowing or knowing of me and they don’t miss me either. I even posted a poem about it called “Spokane.” This morning, I’m sitting in Foster’s Market and Café in Durham, which has been not-knowing-or-missing-Milton territory until recently. I flew down yesterday to begin looking for work and to look at houses, trying to find a way to begin to make a place for myself in a place that doesn’t know they need to make room for me. It’s a little like trying to get in sync with a jump rope that is already going in circles, something I never quite got the hang of.
And it’s not like that. The last twenty-four hours, my journey has been fueled by the incredible kindness of those who are determined to make it seem as if there has always been a place for me here. I talked to a one chef who not only talked about the possibility of my working in his restaurant, but also gave me the name of another guy he thought would be worth contacting. The interim minister at the church where Ginger will pastor picked me up at the airport and gave me her car to use while I’m here. The realtor we have been working with here changed her schedule to show me some houses and also spent a great deal of time creating conversations with people to help us figure out what to do since our house in Marshfield has not sold. And, of course, the members of the Triangle Red Sox Nation were more than welcoming as we gathered to watch the Sox beat the Angels last night.
I had two extended interviews/conversations about cooking gigs yesterday at two of Durham’s best offerings as far as restaurants go. At the first, the kitchen was bustling and informal. The Sous Chef who interviewed me, was wearing a t-shirt and shorts. He moved to Durham a few years back and understood what it feels like to try and break into to a new place.
“We don’t have anything right now, but you know this business. I have a full kitchen today and might have an empty one tomorrow. But when you get here, if you haven’t found anything, let me know. I’ll find a way to throw you a couple of shifts until you get your feet on the ground.” He then gave me the name of a couple of guys he had met when he first came to town that helped him get started.
The second interview was quite a contrast. On Tuesday I sent my resume in an email note to the chef of a fine dining restaurant here telling him I was coming to town. He wrote back and asked me to stop by and talk to him. This is a guy who trained with Emeril before he was a celebrity chef and worked alongside Charlie Trotter, who easily makes the top five list nationally. When I got to his place, everyone was in chef whites and focused. He changes the entire menu monthly and they were getting ready for a tasting for the wait staff so they could be informed as they served people that evening. The conversation with him was much more focused and intense. I think I intrigued him because I was much older than the usual applicant and not fresh out of culinary school. He was not off-putting and he maintained a professional distance. As I watched him interact with his staff, I could see the distance was more about him than me. As we talked he said, “I don’t have anything right now, but you know this business: the kitchen is full now but might be empty tomorrow.” He also said, “I imagine this is not your only interview. If you would like my take on some of the other places in town as you talk to them, I would be glad to give you some feedback.” He told me to keep in touch and then invited me to come and observe the tasting so I could see some of the food. He took nearly a half an hour to describe the twelve or fourteen offerings on the new menu; he talked as the wait staff descended on the food like hungry hyenas, chewing and laughing at the same time. His collection and combinations of ingredients were both imaginative and brilliant. (Baked oysters with smoked vanilla cream!)
As I was drinking my coffee this morning, I browsed through Bridge to the Soul, Coleman Barks’ new collection of translations of Rumi’s poetry in honor of Rumi’s eight hundredth birthday. In the introductory essay, Barks talks about his love of bridges and focuses on a bridge somewhere in Iran (I think) of which it is said the concrete was made with a mixture of sand and egg whites. He went on to talk about the imagination it takes to build a bridge, and to build a bridge that lasts.
Each step of the way on this journey from Marshfield to Durham reveals another ingredient in the bridge required to get from there to here. Each step lifts just enough of the fog for us to see the next step, and to see the bridge is there, though we cannot take in the entire span. Much like the mixture of stone and egg white, we are called to step out on the combination of resolve and faith that reveals all that connects our lives to one another.