It always starts so innocently, these little jobs.
It was about 3 months ago as I recall, just about the time when Stu and I were getting to the split up stage of our Corporate affair. The cell jingled, and it was my old (what to call him? Nemesis? Pal? PITA?) customer, he of the restaurant making and artsy persuasion.
“That you, Outfoxed? Danny here, got a new gig for you, a restaurant. Interested?”
Now, there’s a history here. Danny and I have done numerous things, creating eateries our of bare floors and empty walls, tempestuous places that employ chefs with huge egos and waitresses with figures worthy of glossy magazines, high energy nooks that sit low in the canyons of a downtown restaurant district and woo the beautiful people with a promise of food as art and pulsing Cuban music. Places where a maitre d’ is greased with a twenty and seating is doubtful at any time past 6ish on any given Friday. Places where the tab is routinely in the low three figures, and quite a bit more if you arrive as a herd and spend your time seeing, and being seen.
It is a peculiar group that Danny runs with, a high maintenance and sultry lot. He’s a local boy made good with a flair for bringing NYC and its black clad and flared nostril pace to a city more attuned to the chicken shack and sports bar life. I understand him, I guess, in the way that a semi-country boy with the ability to string sentences together in a coherent way understands that there are other cultures out there. Things strange and higher, in a nouveau way of thinking. I can get on his level, think design and art and 2 x 4’s in the same moment, and for this he is grateful and keeps coming back.
“I guess you probably heard,” he said. “Me and Terri split from the old place, they bought us out. And we’ve got a new idea, and it’s gonna be the hottest place around. Island food, great food. Kinda place you have to go to, you know?”
I’d heard. You hang around long enough, you hear everything. I figured that Danny couldn’t stay out of the business for too long, it gets into the blood. And Terri? Well, she’s a minor celebrity around here, attracts a crowd with a look and a shake of hair. The kind of woman, at first meeting who, most men might be reduced to babbling incoherence or a tendency to stare at the ceiling, floor or the interesting dumpster across the way.
“But here’s the best part.” he went on. “We’re gonna renovate - are you ready? A Burger King! Right in the heart of everything, too!” He told me where it was, and I knew the spot, and he was right. It was in the heart of everything, at least as far as an attractant for the beautiful. It was real estate destined for being greater than a BK, for sure.
Not that I have anything against Burger King. I’ve culled more than a few Whoppers and onion rings from them in my day. Can’t imagine life without it, really. The soul of comfort, with a paper crown and a smattering of lettuce in my lap as I drive down the road.
I had to tell him, of course. “Listen, you ought to know man. Stu and I have split, so anything you want done is gonna be just me, solo. I really don’t know that I’m gonna have the manpower to do what we usually do (which was a lot, everything from framing walls to drywall to supervising the electrical, as well as the usual woodwork and fixture stuff). I‘ll do whatever you need, but just know this, going in.”
He was, to his credit, pretty non-plussed. “Doesn’t matter. Remember, I’ve split from my old crowd myself. It’s just me and Terri now. But I need ya, man. Need your vision.”
What to say? I’ve ever been an easy mark for a complement. Do I have the vision?
When it comes to turning a Burger King into a hot destination restaurant worthy of review by the NY Times, I’d have to say yeah. I mean, everybody’s got to have a specialty. So maybe I didn’t have quite the resources I had a few months ago. Maybe I didn’t have all the equipment I used to.
“Sign me up, daddy-o.”
“Hell yeah. This is so gonna rock.”
to be continued, with some pictures, perhaps.
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