This is the last picture taken of us at 4823 North Lombard St.
To put it lightly, it was difficult to say goodbye.
Our last three days there were spent removing the final details of what we had built, piece by piece, out of the space. We got a local food shelter to come and pick up the last of our pantry. Our parents helped us scrub, sweep, vacuum, dap, paint, pack, and eventually haul away the remains of our business to a storage facility located 0.8 miles from where our cafe was located. On the day we met the property manager to turn over the keys, I exhaled sobbing into Evan's arms in the bathroom, feeling shattered and defeated.
Later I would admit to myself that this was an odd and particularly cruel place to succumb to such an emotional impasse. I hated that bathroom. It was a seed that was planted on the very first day we signed the lease, and continued to grow through three years of graffiti, perpetually clogged toilets, drug addicts, and the stifling stale stench of a public restroom, a failing mix of fruity cleanser and bleach, made all the worse by old pipes, and an over-used facility.
Here's the good news: I never have to be in that bathroom, or at that address ever again. If I don't want to.
That is to say, that after three years this finally became an option for me. You know, to actually choose not to enter a space that gives me the creeps in order to plunge some one's shit.
I find this fact liberating.
I asked Evan the other day, as we drove by 4823 N. Lombard St. and locked eyes with that all too familiar awning, brick-facade, and large windows,
"How long do you think it's going to take before we don't look over and consider it 'Ours'?"
"Forever." he replied.
"Forever? Really?" I blurted out, astonished he said this fact so calmly.
"Yes, I think that place will always have a piece of our hearts," was all he had left to add.
I find this fact slightly less liberating.
The truth is, we want what's best for 4823 N. Lombard St. because we loved that space. We brought life back to a kitchen and cafe that needed a pulse, and gave ourselves a tremendous sense of purpose along the way. Further, we live in the neighborhood and want what's best for our friends and community, and having another thriving business in that location would ultimately be the best case scenario.
I will miss that space. But there are also many things--the sad, hostile, and painful memories attached to the process of learning how to become a restaurateur in three years, that I won't miss, and that I decided to remove from my life the day we gave back the keys.
I'm not going to lie. The first few days after the fact came as an absolute shock. I think Evan and I were both bewildered and in doubt over our new unemployment. Which by the way, however odd this may seem, seemed to creep up on us.
Up until this point so many people were asking us, "So...
...What are you going to do?"
...Where are you going on vacation?"
...How long till you're dreaming up the next business?"
To which we replied, with full honesty intact:
"We're not there yet. We haven't really even given it much thought."
To us, the three years we spent operating that space felt like a lifetime. It was two years of non-stop effort and creative force that led us to pursue our dream of opening up a restaurant in our hometown, and another three years devoted to seeing our idea flourish. The act of having its potential cut short, particularly during the peak of its existence, left my partner and I feeling like we wanted to devote every last ounce of ourselves into giving that business a proper farewell. In other words, we were not quite ready to move on. Therefore the thought of planning the next business, or treating ourselves to a nice vacation were the last things on our mind.
Evan and I spent the last six months of that business scrambling, trying to find it a perfect new home. We spent week after week scheduling meetings, making appointments, doing viewings, all in search of the second (albeit original) "Little Red Bike Cafe." When our search for the ideal relocation failed to turn up anything we felt the urgency to jump on, we learned in the process that the cafe we created 0.4 miles from our very home was an incredibly unique enterprise. One that seemed to exist because it was in the right place, at the right time, with the right mix of food, music, good looks, fanaticism, and heart. I will go as far as to say that while we looked for a new place to reopen "LRBC 2.0" we began to wonder whether or not such a place exists. Evan and I began to doubt whether it would be possible to just pick up our existing business and plop it down someplace else like nothing happened. Rather than feel pigeon-toed by the confines of this particular business, we began to extend our property search and look at new opportunities for different kinds of businesses and projects. Opportunities that before appeared out of reach because the scope of our frame was initially far too limited.
We decided that in order for us to feel confident that our pursuit was both best for our business and our own happiness, we would need to broaden our perspective.
Doing so meant getting away. Which is what that "No Service" post was all about. By the time we finished our last obligation to LRBC, Evan and I were suffering from broken hearts and an identity crisis to boot. We struggled to understand who were were without our business and accolades, the support of staff and customers, and lastly this blog. To point out the obvious, Evan and I had multiple conversations about what to do with the blog. Continue writing? And if so, as what? As whom?
We set off for a small fishing cabin situated along the Metolius river in central Oregon, to try and discover the answer to some of these, and life's other complexly woven lessons. This fishing cabin is in our family, and is considered to be an incredibly sacred sanctuary by all whom are willing to make the trek. Having experienced its healing magic time and time again, we knew it was the prefect spot to rest our weary bones.
Our days revolved around splashing in the river with the dogs, reading, writing, and philosophizing on the deck, and biking around the loop that takes us through red-dirt roads, bubbling streams, and the unmistakable sweet, dry scent that makes you aware you're in the presence of a patch of majestic Ponderosa pines. We also spent a fair share of time nurturing our love affair with the kitchen. It felt good to be back behind a hot stove after what felt like ages. We were happy to have the company and attention of loved ones as we tried finding a way back to ourselves through black bean taco salad, Greek breakfast scrambles, poached egg and bacon sandwiches served on Evan's flaky buttermilk biscuits, toasted hazelnuts crushed over market lettuce with goat cheese and and roasted beets, served just before the pork kebabs with cream-braised cabbage and steamed cider-vinegar kale. Later we'd soul search over orzo layered with fresh ricotta, summer tomatoes, and walnuts, and roasted veggie and avocado meatloaf sandwiches slathered with apricot jelly. Nights were devoted to movies and games of Scrabble, with late night toasted s'more experiments and peanut butter hot chocolates. And then finally, whenever we could find the time, we slept. And slept. And slept some more.
The day before we shut the doors to our business one of our favorite customers (yes, we do and we are allowed to have favorites) approached me at the register with a parting gift, a framed copy of one of our dinner menus containing one of my favorite Virginia Woolf quotes,
We wholeheartedly adopted this belief during our stay at the cabin, and I know we certainly would have made Colin (said customer) extremely proud.
Our diligence in taking care of ourselves and examining our situation has paid off. We feel as though we are more informed and excited as ever about the plethora of possibilities out there. Rather than viewing our situation as something that has been taken away from us, we continue to implore each other every day to use our experience as a stepping stone, to move forward with an effort and creation that is better than that which was lost.
What other vital information has been discovered, processed, and implanted in our brains during this journey of re-self discovery? Well, we're still figuring that out. For the time being we are just trying to take 'er easy. We are finding joy and successes in other areas of our lives. Like birthdays, sunrise bike rides, day trips to the beach, and quitting smoking after 15+ years.
Because life is not about who you were, it is about who you are becoming.