My dog, now awkwardly solo that his brother was suddenly gone and buried only two nights before, drank tap water from the motel room’s plastic trash can. No dog bowl. I was that ill-prepared. The Saab’s back end, compacted with all of my earthly belongings, was inches from the asphalt. I stared at a shiny pilled bed spread illuminated by a beside lamp that cast a weak tungsten glow. Interstate 80 hummed wet and muted through the thin papered walls. My homesickness was systemic. I was 1500 miles east of what was once my home only two days ago. Tomorrow I would drive the remaining 800. This would leave me two days to get my restaurant open. A restaurant I had yet to lay eyes on.
In downtown Denver, before major league baseball came to town, I was a bartender – and a waiter and a line cook. And for that decade, a devoted user of all the substances that can come with that career choice. So when my father called and suggested I move to Connecticut, where he lived, I had reason to listen.
“My golf course has a bar and grill. It is operated under a lease and it is available. You should bid on it,” he said. So I did, sight unseen and won it. In retrospect this had far more to do with my father’s gift for persausion than my business acumen.
If I managed to maintain my childhood belief in myself and the mystical world I inhabited I would have been a photojournalist long before this point. As a teenager I worked for our next door neighbor, a sports photographer. I ran his film from the field at Mile High to the editors at the old McNichols sports arena. It was thrilling. I collected pictures from news magazines and pasted them on my wall. I carried my father’s 35 mm Minolta only because I liked how it felt. I didn’t know how to use it which apparently was the beginning and the end of that. It was already a bridge too far. I went to college and ended up with a Geology degree which I chose in the 11th hour based on nothing more than my allergy to the indoors only to learn after it was too late that Geologists tend to sit indoors.
I heard him first. Golf cleats on the cold tile floor. Click, click, click. Sounds like this are somehow louder at dawn. It was my first customer at a golf course grill that was now mine for the upcoming season. A paltry sum of working capital had left me intially working solo.
“Yoo hooooo.?” And just like that, for the unforseeable future I am in the weeds with customers who yell ‘yoo hoo’ and ‘hey’ and walk into the kitchen and laugh way too loud at their own jokes.
My back is to the yoo hooer. I am cooking bacon. Except that I am not cooking bacon because I did not know that a flat top grill takes a lifetime to heat up. ‘Open yet?,” he said as a statement more than a question. ’Not yet,’ I said, with forced civility. “Are you the new guy? This was rhetorical. I was an outsider and he smelled it. Guys like this – they never leave the neighborhood. It is clear that this is their home and always has been which only serves to underscore that it is not yours and never will be. “We tee off every morning around this time. The dawn patrol [insert laughter. His].” The patrolman is now in the kitchen.
“I need an egg sandwich,” he commands. And it’s then I have the stone cold realization that I have no eggs. I forgot to order them.
The threat of personal bankruptcy would seemingly light a fire under anybody. But sometimes you just want to blow it all up. My kabuki accounting mixed with exhaustion and chronic homesickness were catching up with me. Sixteen hour days left me too tired to count the money. Every evening I would empty the till, stuff it in my pocket and from there, dole it out. I would pay the dishwasher. The Sysco guy. Beer, for me. Beer, for everybody. A new Chevy truck. I kept up this charade until the second winter hit and the grill was dormant and I was literally penniless. In a matter of weeks, I would be voluntarily returning my truck to the finance company. It was that or they were going to take it. I took a bus home.
For two more years I was stranded in Connecticut. I now had a hand-out job at my father’s factory – a cold, pre-war building where I tested battery acid using a pipet and a strange red dye. At night I worked for a militant baker with a death stare I can still see and feel. But what financial ruin couldn’t quite spark, battery acid and baker-abuse apparently did. I was 32 (which at the time felt ancient) and a million miles off course. I had no choice but to start again … once again.
I wish I could remember her name, that teacher at the community college in Providence. She patiently taught our night class of adult dreamers how to load film, what an f-stop was and shutter speed and how it all comes together with light to expose the silver on the surface of the film. She taught us the rule of thirds. What it means to document. She treated us as if we had already understood the why. I would take my father’s Minolta, and almost 20 years later, finally load film in it and take pictures around the battery factory making sure to hide my seemingly artsy pursuit from my co-workers for I couldn’t bare the teasing. I took pictures of old hinges. And doorknobs. Radiators and cracked windows. I took pictures of the old barber down the street never asking myself why. I knew why.
I was finally home.
– Rick Scibelli, Jr.
P.S. I would like to express my deepest admiration and appreciation for all of those people who make this magazine possible. It is your success that makes this all worthwhile. This includes our talented and irreplacable managing editor (and distributor, coach, talent scout, therapist, and friend), our copy editor, writers, photographers, artists, distributors, bookkeeper, and our co-publisher who, almost single-handedly, makes this engine run. I would also like to thank our advertisers, some of them having been with us since the beginning (eight years ago). Without your support, we wouldn’t exist. Thank you for your commitment and your continued belief in our stubborn editorial philosophy. We are proud to