shift & settle

Uncategorized

The space next to me is familiar.

Right now, it is filled with the comforts of being alone. A book. A computer. Headphones. Maybe some of yesterday’s clothes.

For me, the idea of jumping back into the state of my singular mind is momentarily easy. The more I think, the sadness finds its way in, reminding me that it’s not that easy, and that finding someone you can really do life with is rare.

I have opened myself — and have poured myself between two glasses, back and forth. Spilling and making a mess and not ever having as much as I started with. That’s kind of what it feels like to care for someone when you are also learning what they need and what you need.

I feel a shred a failure.

More so, a deep crack in the state of my world, one that you build so strong when you’re alone for so long.
But I also think that maybe this crack is good. It allows things to shift and settle.

Looking-up-from-my-resting-place-on-the-snowbridge-at-the-hole-I-fell-into-and-the-ice-I-slid-down

Shifting and settling.

Maybe that’s what this is.
It does hurt. But most things that require growth require digging.

Digging and lots-of-tending-to, water and air.

Oh. And light.

So where do I stand now?
My brain immediately tells me to dive into my work. It makes things easier. Put it all aside and go back 100% into what works, and maybe what is easy.

Maybe you do this too.

There is no model or manual for heartache, there is also none for the baby steps of love. It is wobbly and scary and you fall down a lot.

You hit your chin on the coffee table and look at the person who was supposed to be holding you. How dare you let this happen to me…again?

Today, I will do what I can to be good to myself, and try my best to keep my bridges up.

Timing and life are certainly unpredictable, but to know myself is to let both of those things go.

Things take time.

And I’m letting it take me,

wherever,
whenever,

to shift and to settle.

 

 

knotted up

Uncategorized

I find myself lost at times, swimming through the waves of doubt and the mystery of countless unknowns.

I know that I am at the mercy of everything.

I find answers in the midst of treading through the hard things — the things that exhaust me the most. When I confront the world in front of me, I am reminded of simple truths, not that they’re any easier to obtain. Loneliness, being one. Loneliness is a thing that comes at us like a train, even when we are in a room full of people.

Our brains have a bad habit of being mean to us sometimes. It can create so much fear — fear of being unloved, unwanted and wasted.

My fear is that of letting others down. Not being talented or strong enough to make things work. I am often tired of the hustle that is keeping something above water. This includes relationships and business. We all wish it were easier to be human. Now we know it can be expensive. Tiring. Frustrating. Unfair. Polarizing. Painful.

My hope is that you don’t see this as too dark. I’m just exploring the hard things, as I have to do from time to time. I do not live in it. Sometimes that is a choice. Other times it is necessary.

Some of you have so much pain, here.
Here, in this big world.

I can hear the moaning, the gnashing of teeth. I see so much regret in the people that occupy my heart. I see so much in my own.

Cassandra-Smith-nautical-knot-Haus-Interior-5-via-Remodelista

What I want to say, is that you are free to explore. You are free to drop everything and be present for what is good and right in front of you. It is not easy to lay down weapons. It is not easy to lower your guard, especially as you’ve held it up most of your life.

I am learning that being vulnerable, and moving forward with a thing is worth the time. I realize that going through some of my most painful days, involved many of the people I love having to carry it with me. And I see it when they look at me, how deeply we are all tangled with one another.

I guess, what I always try to come back to, is how necessary we all are to each other’s survival. It is a constant thing — to love and understand the people you find yourself knotted up with — the menders of the broken Beloved.

This stuff isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing in the world. You also have to remember your worth. That even though you are one of billions of people, you are still worthy of dignity and love and forgiveness.

That is what I want to say to you.

small.

poem

Drying out.

Or at least that’s how it feels when you go without.

(for such a long time.)

I have every reason to be terrified, skeptical, doubtful,
though I know none of those things are who I am, really.

More so, I welcome what may come. It may not be how I thought,
but it’s here, right in front of me,
the whole time.

I make room for the unknown; the wild.

I shift,

and lift my head.

The broken Beloved, right in front of me.

We sit with our failures like old friends,
reminding us of what we’ve been, what we don’t deserve
and maybe why we can’t move.

I’m telling you that you can,
and that you deserve to thrive, and have good things,
because there will always be a reason to doubt.

I challenge you to move.

six seedlings growing from soil

You’ve helped me notice words again. and patience again.

how easy it is to lose yourself in the lonely times,
to think too much of yourself and why you aren’t enough.

Whoever is enough?
And then you learn it’s not about being enough.

it’s about the calm, and the fading of fear into small hopes,
small joys, small everything.

everything starts small.

and grows,

and grows,

and grows.

 

 

put together

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I am a builder of pieces.

They all come in heavy boxes with my name on it.

It is all familiar and part of the process.

I cringe.

I don’t really have time for this, I think. I whine. I get over it. I build the damn thing.

I pull all of the pieces out and lay them on my floor. I get my tools. I do have a few to my name. Then there are the pictures and steps and I begin the process of putting it all together.

It’s just a big puzzle, yeah?
I have become a student of deconstructed furniture. I know all the weird bits. I know that eventually it will become something whole. Something useful. Something that is mine, that will move where I move.

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I take a glance at a year that sits at my feet. It has my name written all over it. I see the pain. The pressure. The weird looking pieces that are all familiar now. The success, the failure. I think of all the lumps in my throat and the heaviness in my belly.

I’m putting it all together now.
Opening a restaurant.
Losing a friend.
Losing my mind (maybe not as much as I think)

Gaining a few pounds.
Gaining a few friends.
Gaining some peace.

Moving my small world. Transitioning from survival. To living. To thriving.

The phrase “zero sum” isn’t quite it. I don’t really believe in zero sums. Putting a number with human loss and gain is unfair. The truth is, you gain a little bit from any small thing that happens to get pushed into your orbit. You are an attractor of objects.

You and your many, many moons.

I’ve felt giant, and I’ve felt so incredibly small.

I fumble in the dark. I keep my eyes on a horizon. A sun and a moon. A guide to the great unknown and that which makes me hopeful about a new day. A new person. A new feeling. Or maybe something you used to feel, but buried it to survive.

I assemble it all in my mind. Thousands and thousands of pieces. Once scattered at my feet, I build into something bigger, something that stands on its own.

all put together.

standing on its own.

 

shape of things

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I saw circles under my eyes.

Maybe they’ve been there for a while, but some days they look darker and I feel worn. It’s getting older, I know. Late nights. Early mornings. Gravity. The inevitable pull to the center of the Earth.

I stare into myself, at a body recently making 33 years around the sun. I’m not doing so bad. I think that if I play my cards right, I can make it another 33, but imagining a whole other life in my state of consciousness seems like a lot. I know it goes fast. It’s also slow sometimes, and I am impatient.

It becomes increasingly more important to know your body. To know when to speed up and when to slow down. I sit across from my dad and see myself. I sit across from my mom and I see myself.

There are things I know they want for me. To be happy. To be with a person I love. I want those things too, mostly.

I can’t begin to explain the way my mind shifts — the people I grow closer to and further away from. Everything looks different to me. Also, change, is a two-way road. As much as I’ve changed, you’ve changed too.

I fumble around in the dark, attempting to remember the shape of things — the shape of myself and the heaviness of my head as it hits the pillow.

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Another night and another bag of food, as I spend most of my days cooking for others. I don’t always have it in me to do it for myself, and that’s okay. We all get tired from the things we love.

I sleep through the night these days. Maybe because I’ve moved further away from the trains that used to jolt me out of myself. They reminded me of powerful things. The slow roar and the warning noise, letting you know to stay put, wherever it is you are.

Life is still very rich with the people I spend it with. Maybe I’m being patient for something, maybe I’m being stubborn. I’m not sure which, yet. Probably both.

When I write, I always try to be honest about what hurts. Beyond the pains of my body, my shitty back, maybe.

I teared up watching Ratatouille last week. Because I love to cook and I know what food does to people.

I buy fresh flowers every week, because they remind me of people that I miss and love.

I carry the guilt of my attitude, my greed, my small amount of power.
When I walk into my little house, the quietness sets in and I pour forgiveness into everything. Not enough for me to forget, but enough that I move forward. Enough for me to be good.

I am always feeling for the shape of things.

my heart,

and your heart
and everything in between.

lost in kolkata

Story

It happens in my dreams.

At least once a month, I find myself sitting up in bed, weighed down with whatever this dream is supposed to be telling me about myself — how I can never make it to wherever it is I’m trying to find.

I get lost. I miss a bus. No one can hear me. No one helps me.

It’s an anxiousness — a longing — of trying to remember how to find things again.

Kolkata-city1

Why Kolkata? Well, I spent some time there nearly a decade ago. And while it was intense, I left feeling exhausted, but full of life and life’s unfairness. I left with a bigger (and aching) heart. Everything had changed for me.

A lot happened in that decade. I got married to a girl I met there. We had a wonderful and sometimes shitty marriage that led one of us to shift a bit more than the other. And with that, I decided to shift too. I was too stubborn to fight for something I felt was a lost cause. Maybe we both did.

I found cooking. I found my way back home.

That, I at least have figured out. I know where I am now, and I do know what I’m doing. At least I think.

When I wake up after my dreams, I take a sip of water and attempt to let it leave my brain. I listen to the white noise of the machine next to me drown out anything that might keep me awake. Because when you live by yourself, noise can be safety. It can also be a scarier thing.

There’s not always a way out. Rarely do I discover the destination and mostly end up leaning against a wall, hoping someone will grab me by the arm and take me. Anywhere. Anywhere that isn’t the hopelessness of feeling lost and abandoned.

The relief that is waking up to your own bed. Safe. Warm. That you have a good job to walk into with good people that believe what it is you want to do. That is a thing I never take for granted, and it feels almost dreamlike if I’m being honest with myself.

But I know I will sink back into it. That same dream. Perhaps after I’ve been talking about it with someone over too much wine and food. The reality of life’s intensity, its sadness and its overwhelming ability to make me feel tiny and gigantic.

I suppose I got lost in Kolkata, and I haven’t been able to fully find it again. Maybe it needed to stay there, on the streets with smoking charcoal and exhaust from buses and rickshaws and angry men.

I found a lot more than I lost,

the city of joy,

and that which lives within.

Podcasts with Everything is OK

Food, Story

In the past year I have done TWO super cool podcasts with my friend David.

He and a couple of his friends (who all reign from the OK state) started a podcast to talk about all sorts of things. I reckon’ that’s what they’re for, anyhow.

He asked me a little over a year ago to share my journey from Mississippi to Oregon and back again. (And everything in between.) That podcast you can right here!

And recently, we caught with one another, roughly recapping the year and talking about chicken sandwiches and God and the church. So many things.

You can find the newest episode here!

Okay.

I hope you all have a great week.

See you soon.

-josh

1505705520406

rest

Food, Health, Hospitality Industry

I picked a profession that doesn’t allow for much brain rest.

In fact, it’s a job that prides itself on being the most busiest and most tired. I would be lying if I didn’t feel good sometimes about having a really long day. I kind of like being tired, but I don’t like what it perpetuates.

I’ve done what I’ve had to do in the restaurant biz, and I have it really easy. This is the first time ever, working in the industry, that making a living and rest have evened out. Sure, some weeks are more tiring and require me to be present 60+ hours a week. Then I get some weeks where I actually eat about three meals a day. Some days I even get to sit down for them.

But that’s just been my life for the past 10 years.

I’ve decided to take a break from drinking, among other things. I’m doing this for a lot of reasons, currently for my body/mind health. Alcohol is the sneakiest one. Part of me is doing it so that I can drink a beer or a glass of wine in my 50’s and 60’s and be okay.

Also, I was just feeling really awful after drinking. More so than usual. I try to pay attention. Sometimes, your brain goes straight to “make this feel better immediately” — cue alcohol, food, sugar, dumb TV.

There is a pressure to medicate.

Rarely do I have two days off in a row that I can not be at the restaurant. Currently, it’s not so bad. I have a great crew who take care of things and do a super job at it. This is worth its weight in gold. Any chef or manager will tell you the weight lifted off your shoulders when you can be gone from your business and know things are being taken care of properly.

Noonday_Rest

I draw back into myself on days like this. I have some time to dream, for myself and for the business. This is the most important thing. You cannot be inspired if you are stuck frying eggs and fixing drains tired, because we do that more than anything most days.

There is also some guilt to self care. “You’re not drinking!? Bummer!!”
Man, don’t ever say that to someone. You never know what demons someone is fighting.

My mind is wracked with guilt about how this business is done. How some of us can make livings and other cannot. Some of that comes with how much people are willing to pay for food. Then there are other things like the thinnest margins of profit, mixed with food cost and labor and rent.

Some part of my mind wonders what it’d be like to work for a large business and I didn’t have to carry that weight. I try to fight the good fight, and hope that being good to our employees means not making them feel like shit if they mess up.

Grace, not just by us, but also by customers is important.

You can make all the difference in the world by being understanding that mistakes will happen. The pressure to not disappoint is insurmountable. So, when we do, we feel kind of crushed. To you, it seems like a fairly easy job, but there is also a lot of love that goes into these things, and when you misinterpret it for lazy and dumb, it really goes a long way to mess with our heads.

So you have one of the biggest parts here. Be a good diner, and support the folks trying to make a living and a better life for themselves. Some of us really love this work, and people are the hardest things to navigate.

Getting back to what I want to say, out of all of this, is to to rest your mind. Quiet the voices and remember your place in the grand scheme of everything moving around us. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Watch something that will make you laugh.

Be kind to your brain and your body. Listen to it. Give it a break. The weight of the cosmos is always pressing down on it, so just be aware of the pressures it has to handle without the stresses of moving in the world.

Allow some wiggle room for things to be sloppy if you need the dishes to sit for a few hours. Allow yourself to drift off into a nap without feeling like your to-do list will be waiting for you when you wake up. There are always things we could be doing, just remember to fit yourself in.

Love yourself, and leave room for the world to love you in return.

 

ramen night.

Food, Story

If I can tell you any truth, it is that I had no idea what I was doing.

This goes beyond “Fake it til’ you make it”, because if we’re all being honest, we do know what we’re doing, or at least trying to do. Whether or not it’s the quality you desire, it just takes time and practice.

A few months ago, I had a person on Instagram (Who I’ve actually never met, nor do I know) from Hattiesburg message me about doing a Ramen night at our restaurant. I brushed it off because we do sandwiches and salads mostly. Like most ideas others toss on me to mull over, I rejected almost immediately. But, I let this one marinate and it got under my skin.

The masochistic part of me, which most chefs are to some extent, knew we would be crushed. I laid awake at night trying to figure it out. I also know that in general, if I set my mind to it, I can probably overcome the “drag” part of my brain that really just wants to sit in my chair and play Overwatch all day.

I made a batch at home, inspired by Ivan Ramen. I figured if anyone was going to have an idea how to sell this stuff to a crowd in south Mississippi, it would be him. Technically, it’s very labor intensive. I had to source a lot of ingredients online, as well as a few different asian markets in the south.

After all was said and done (around 11pm) I finally had my composed bowl of ramen and it was insane. There was depth. There was some element of magic. It worked. Afterwards I thought, “Okay. I guess I can do this now.”

So, I set a date and it blew up. I knew it would. People like ramen. It’s cool. It’s fun. If done right, it is so completely satisfying. Like a big hug or a good conversation.

The word kept spreading, and I kept feeling it in my stomach.

“I’m going to have a make an epic shit ton of this.” I kept thinking.

Along with ramen, I wanted a few other fun snacks. We had Okonomiyaki, Tofu Coney Island (our token vegan option) and Chaschu Pork Cubanos, also inspired by Ivan Orkin.

Between working on the line and my usual daily toils, it took me about three days to prep. The day of the event, I spent in the zone. Pacing myself. I was already tired and the event wasn’t for another six hours. I was caught up, so I went home and laid down for thirty minutes. I somehow managed to doze off for ten minutes, but it was enough for my brain to restart. I felt good. I felt excited.

The kitchen crew showed up. I hurriedly ran through each part of our line. They seemed blitzed a bit. It was a lot at once, but I knew way before we began that they would handle it. We made everything once. Let the staff try it and everything got a full mouthed “thumbs up”.

I walked across the dining room to see a line stretched around our building. I figured people would be piling up. But not that many.

I gave the go ahead to our FOH to open the doors.

For the next three hours my head was buried in tickets. Bowls of ripping hot broth burning our hands and steam filling our faces with sweat. We were in the deepest weeds ever, but we were calm. And people were having a great time.

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About an hour and a half into service, I looked out and the line was still wrapped around the building. I knew I had to cut it off at the door. We were getting to a point where the last person was waiting nearly an hour to get their food, and for the sake of compromising the quality, we had to break some hearts.

I felt awful. But I also still had about 30 tickets hanging for food and knew some time down the road, we would do it again and I would make up for it.

We fired off our last bowl of ramen about 8pm. I looked at my team and we were all running around like crazy, half smiling half exhausted.

To be honest, my head is still buzzing.

We had done something.

I felt a crack in the Earth. People were glowing. Excited. Fed.

It won’t ever feel like that again, or at least in that way. That, was so super special, and my heart is still full.

I don’t know if it’s masochistic. I really just want to give people something good, in hopes that they respond to it.

To those who came out: thank you for standing in line and waiting. Thank you for waiting again and for your response.

To those we had to turn away: know that it crushed my heart to do so, and I hope you understand that sometimes, food runs out and we didn’t want to sell it to you only to take it right back. We will make it up to you.

And to the cosmos and universe for feeding me the energy to try something new, over and over again, I thank you.

let’s do it all over again,

and again

and again.

Downtown, Community & Digging Up the Earth

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I’ve been working in Downtown Hattiesburg, MS for a bit over four years now.

My history with this work has been relatively small, compared to some others. I am fierce about the ground I stand on. Let me make that clear. I know no other home that I feel more alive and excited, and equally nervous about than in a restaurant kitchen. Especially my kitchen.

But, I want to talk about something else. It’s a perspective that I assume isn’t very popular, but is something I feel very deep in my bones.

I recently read an article by our city’s most celebrated restauranteur. I will always give credit where it is due, in saying the man created a food scene here when it had none. He gave this city a place to experience what the Gulf Coast has to offer.  He deserves to be celebrated for the great things he has done, and continues to do.

This is about place. It’s about community.

Your most recent article talked about the lack of community in downtown cafes and I want to take a minute to tell you what I’ve been pouring my heart into ever since I moved back here.

We run and operate a fairly successful sandwich and coffee shop in the “ass-end” (as I like to say) of downtown Hattiesburg. We work really hard to give people something not just good, but great.

We have people we see every morning. They buy their coffee, we make it with our hands, as well as our unique breakfast options. We lay it down at your table with those same hands.

We’ve worked through the worst conditions, in a kitchen that wasn’t designed to be a kitchen and nearly came close to shutting down a few times before our new ownership.

I worked on broken bones and flooded floors (because buildings down here are OLD and things happen.)

Downtown may have aesthetic, but it is HARD. Trains make it hard. Parking makes it hard. The commute makes it hard. On top of it all, is the ever building pressure to be better and better. That, I put upon myself and my co-workers.

You believe in moving forward. So do I. But we have different versions of this and neither of them are wrong. I’m not one to dwell in the past and maybe it’s just part of my generation to always look to the future for the next thing.

It hurts to have to defend my food against the “Real Local, Real Food” motto, because many of us cook real food daily. Seven days a week. But we choose to focus our mission on expanding what hospitality and food culture can be and we’re often quiet about it. We get left out of all sorts of fun stuff because maybe we don’t have the money or I’m simply not pretty enough. (Joking, guys. I am so pretty.)

My goal for the Depot was to be able to sit outside and imagine that you could be in any city in the country. I wanted our food to remind you of a place you ate at in New Orleans or Atlanta or San Francisco. Our goal is to take care of you and to also help you explore your own world. We’ve been given the task to create and facilitate an experience for you.

Maybe it’s hipster. Maybe sometimes it’s weird and our air conditioner can’t keep up. But it doesn’t make us any less of an establishment striving to create community.

We have grown into something I never thought it’d be. This restaurant is one of the only things keeping me in this town. It is where I pour the deepest and often times, most tired parts of my soul. It is where you can see me at my best and my worst and I have nowhere to hide any of it.

You never say a word about the places downtown that are new and thriving. Only what you don’t see, and that hurts some of us. You have the capacity to bring the world you speak into, downtown but you don’t. Maybe that’s just business.

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I will say, any time someone asks me where to eat in the city, I always tell them your restaurants first and mine second.

Why?

Because it is this city and has been for decades. You are what you’re always speaking of and writing about — but we also crave your attention and some of us need your wisdom. We wonder if we’re doing a good job. If you’re proud of the place we are working to create when you’ve been here doing it longer than any of us ever will.

But since I’ve been here, I’ve heard nothing. Even when I cooked for you, I heard nothing. None of us do. I suppose it isn’t your job, but I am intertwined and tangled with what I do and the people we serve. I am in the kitchen every week, dealing with the back pain and the heavy lifting. It feels good to be alive there. To see that line stretched out the door, remembering where it came from.

I am a caretaker at best. A cook passing through until a better one comes along.

I dig up the earth wherever I plant my feet and that’s never going to change. I don’t dwell on where things have been, but I am always thinking about where we are going, which is what Mississippi needs more than anything.

Thank you, for giving all of us a place to sit and drink and eat, and to receive some of the best service in the city.

I write this, because we all need one another. The last thing downtown needs is doubt and feeling as though it isn’t good enough. We know what we are and we are working to make it better.

So, I invite you to come down and sit down with me and a few of my friends.

Let’s talk about what we want to see in this city.

I’ll cook, if you wanna do the dishes.