No Man’s Land

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I feel parts in me breaking every day.

For as long as I can remember that’s what I do. I break completely into pieces so that I can fit into a thing. I lose a thing here or there in the process.

Being an introverted single person, living alone in this pandemic has been met with a lot of doubt. At least when things are “normal” I had the option of giving more of myself. Now, I don’t know where to be in all of this. I hesitate to say we are in the same boat, because as I’ve said before, we are all in own lifeboats during this thing.

Some days I feel like I can rise above it all and be the person I’ve worked so hard to be. More often then not, I find myself being the person full of doubt and criticism. For example everything I cook now I deem is absolute dog shit. It piles on my shoulders. I’m missing the connections. Like neutrons and electrons firing into some black hole forever and ever.

This is a time of year that I love. (Though, with everything in its current place, I’m slightly dreading the next few months for reasons those of us living in the U.S. know to be true.) But damnit if I’m not an optimist by nature. I am also incredibly hard on myself.

I think about the billion ways I can go but when I feel like I’m only doing things one way, I get stuck. I get stuck on myself and whatever it is I’m doing and dreaming about a different time. For something that doesn’t exist, I surely think about it a lot.

Physically I feel tired more often. We are lucky to have a lot of business during this time. I am grateful, but I am also very aware of the weight it puts upon me and my friends. When you are successful, you tend to tie yourself up with your business. I don’t think we agree on what success looks like, and when we’re talking about the city I live in, I always feel like the underdog.

I wonder if the hustle will slow even after the pandemic clears. I wonder if I’ll fall in love again. It’s in my biology to have kids, but I’m really not sure if that’ll ever happen. (Yeah, ya know, I do have the urge quite often to have a kid, even if it doesn’t fit the kind of person I am.) What kind of person am I anyways?

Maybe that’s the question I’ve been asking myself the most.

I don’t know anymore. Certainly a pandemic causes me to shift inward — to question every single decision I’ve made — every person I’ve kissed — every person I’ve hurt. As much as I preach that life is all forward, I find myself the most being stuck in traps that I continue to set for myself.

As far as I can tell, none of this is final. There’s a lot of things moving right now and we’re all really uncomfortable. There’s a sense of unease we aren’t accustomed to. Maybe sometimes I feel the moans of my own ancestors in my bones.

I guess what I try to look for in all of this, is that things never really settle and truly, you won’t feel this way forever. Look for the people helping and ask them for some relief. Then, help someone yourself. We are all borrowing each other’s grace and more often in my life, tupperware.

There is still plenty of beauty here to discover. There are still ways to move beyond the toxic — the great lies and the great thieves of your own joy.

Remember you are here, now. Living in a time you might never see again. This is your season to move through No Man’s Land,

where I will move
(and move with you.)

(I’ll meet you there.)

Food, Hospitality Industry

It’s hard to put food in a styrofoam box.

It’s hard to watch it die a slow death in the hopes that it makes it to a person in the right amount of time.

I guess we’ll all have to lower our standards. (for now.)
You have to know that this is hard on many levels for many different kinds of people.

I dwell on aesthetic. I think it’s part of my shtick.

I like to touch real things.

Plates. Glasses. Hot water and metal brushes.

I like color. Contrast. Texture. These are things lost in the gravity of my mind.
I know there are ways around this, things I can do really well. But I am rebelling in my mind and it is hard for me to lay down my weapons.

Food, first and foremost, is nourishment. On top of that, are several layers of what makes a dish great. For those passionate cooks out there, putting a $50 dollar piece of meat into a box and into the hands of a person who may not care too much about it is the most nerve wracking — yet here we are. Learning to trust companies that probably don’t give too much of a shit about the quality of a piece of meat, or whether or not a vegetable needs to be eaten immediately.

This is the stuff I stay up late thinking about.

Me, standing on my tip-toes looking over the pass — seeing if you’re enjoying your plate of food.

I feel it in my gut. Things will never be the same. That’s okay. Some things need to change. In fact, I am often hopeful about the future of my kind of work. A different appreciation — a deeper understanding of the world of hospitality and how it is so often the hand that holds our wounds. It is our deepest comfort and gives us some of our best memories.

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Those good things will never die.

But, I think they will change. I will change. (you will have to change, too.)

A lot of us just want to collapse on the kitchen floor and slam our palms to the ground like a four year old that’s tired and hungry and doesn’t want anything you have to offer.

Food, to me, has always offered hope. Dignity. Memory. Those are massive columns that hold up my own code of morality. In return, it offers me the same things.

What I am able to give to you comes from my deeper sense of self, and maybe I don’t always show that. Maybe I show it ways of rage and stubbornness — but it all comes out of the place that wants to give you every piece of my soul.

You wonder why speaking in front of guests at one of our wine dinners makes me so nervous — because it is literally three hours of giving you things I dwell deeply on. I cannot separate myself from the craft, the labor and the people that place dishes in front of you and keep your glasses full.

So yeah, this is what I think about in a day.

Everything is shifting. If you’re not, it’s going to be a hard road for you.

I’m going to end this with an excerpt from one of my favorite poems by Rumi. I don’t know if it has anything to do with what I just said, but it hits different now.

Now, more than ever, we need to meet in the same place and build a better world.

I hope you’ll meet me there.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

seasons.

Story

Every week  feels like a season.

If you want to get truly romantic (read: nerdy), some of the best chefs say there are 52 seasons in a year. (Which is technically true.)

One week you have figs, the next, they’re gone. That makes them so much better though. Only being able to have this one thing, for one week. I still think about Oregon strawberries and how I would eat so many they would make me sick. But I also have this memory in my brain that tells me what a strawberry is supposed to taste like and I will forever know it on my tongue.

Maybe that’s how I feel these days. The weeks fly. Some days feel longer than others. Meanwhile I sit around, scratching my head wondering when I’m going to dive in again. Maybe do something radical (in my own world) again. I’m not so good at seeing things that are in front of me. The day in, day out grind of working for a better world. Leaving this thing better than how I found it.

So far, I feel like I’m doing my part in my tiny corner of the world. I’ve yet to have to buy diapers for a child (okay sorry) or fly all over the country selling things I’m not very passionate about. I think about my carbon footprint all of the time. I live two miles from work. I stay kind of close.

I do forget to bring my reusable grocery bags, though. (This maybe carries the biggest conviction for me.)

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I feel these things with a sense of urgency most days. That’s probably anxiety, in fact I know some of it is. I realize there are lots of things on fire. Some days I’m tossing lighter fluid, some days water.

I’m also excited and eager. I wish my body could keep up! Connecting my brain to what my body can handle is one of my newer  seasons. It’s also called getting older (which blah blah blah, I know, boring but for real it’s a sign that says, “Slow Down, Curves Ahead”)

Oh, the curves.

This season I’m thinking a lot about my dad. I am hoping he finds some more peace and clarity. It isn’t easy hitting the brakes. It’s scary jumping into something, somewhere without a map, but he’s good at that, so I’m gonna keep sending him good vibes on that journey.

I think about my mom, too.  My mom, aside from the fact that she is 100% a mom which maybe doesn’t make sense to you, but  my sister will agree, is the vessel I process much of this world through. Not only that, when I’m thinking about what to feed this city I live in,  I imagine how much she  would enjoy. That’s my secret. Would my mom crush this sandwich? Absolutely.

I realize I’m not sharing anything new. That’s not why I write anyways, I write for that one human being I picture in my head.

I want to tell that one person that every week is a season.

When you start seeing the world this way,  I feel excited to learn. Maybe to do more, within the limits of my fast-beating heart and the things that pay my bills. There is always more to do, so be careful with that.

I hope your season is going well. If not, just give it a few days. Things always change. You’re not stuck. The sun rises, the moon will continue to make people act like fools.

There is still time to fall in love. To move to a new city. To try that really weird Japanese dish you’ve been dodging for the last 20 years.

There are so many seasons – –

eat them up.

 

 

twenty-something

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Well. I turn 30 this week.

The writer part of me wants to search deeply for some metaphor and marrow.
The cook side of me hopes people will buy me a drink or two and maybe feed me something good — something that I don’t have to cook myself.

How do you sum up your twenties?

Well. You don’t really.
But I’d like to say something here, at least.

If our younger years are as formative as they say, then this decade has been about lessons.
Lessons on humanity and grace. Humility and power. Love and divorce.

It has been about justice and injustice. Spending moments with the poor. Seeing the faces of women who sell their bodies to feed their children; who work off a debt they had no say in.

With that, sprang some sort of well, deep in my heart. An overly-sensitive southern boy living in a world that is bright and loud and sometimes very violent.

Time rounds off the edges like sand blowing against a sharp rock over them years. Some softness gets added. Softness is like learning and understanding that you’re going to keep making mistakes and learning your whole life.

Softness is going easy on one’s self.

Cheeseburgers add to my softness.

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I learned how to be fierce, too. In the kitchen. I found so much in the kitchen. I found a heartbeat, a thicker skin, and something that drives and feels like some engine rumbling in my belly. It gives me confidence and passion. It gives me my own forms of justice and grace and I keep getting to learn what works.

The kitchen saved me from a lot of self-damage, and has given me a life I never thought I’d be able to stomach. But somehow, some way, this sensitive and quiet dude found a life and love for it. Regardless of which way my life turns, I am thankful the kitchen has been a part of it.

There is much growth in your twenties. You are still a baby, really. And then adult stuff hits you hard. Like money and rent and love. Sometimes you get married and you might have a baby or two or three.

Sometimes it works for you.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
And sometimes you’re in between all of that.

Sometimes you want to crawl underneath your bed with all those socks you’ve been missing and stay there until the noise dies down.

Fortunately for humans, we move. And we move forward.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in the past decade of my life is that we aren’t going to feel heartbroken forever.

We are going to be sad. We are going to hurt and see painful things that will change us.
But we also get to move around and squirm and sometimes settle. Like finding that sweet spot at night before you go to bed.

There were times I wish I would have dipped my toes into the sea. Or climbed higher or pushed myself to walk just a little bit further. I think we all feel that way sometimes. At least that’s what I’m learning.

And I’m learning that kindness is a gift. Something for yourself and others.

I learned that maybe the planet with those beautiful rings around it pulled me closer and allowed me to see myself and my life at a different angle. I know it might be silly to think of the planets like that, but I think there was some gravity there — it coming around to me being as close as it was when I came into the world all hot and red and pissed. It pulled the water in my body upwards and out — allowing me to open my heart to this wild and gracious time.

So yes — lessons and learning.

And I’ve cooked so much food and have fed so many people. I am so damn thankful I get to do something I really enjoy, for at least this time in my life — it works. And it might not some day. So, I’m going to live in this and work hard to make things better.

I joke that I have been 30’ish for about 6 years and it’s probably true. I am an old soul, some say. I am not afraid of getting older, only I do like to think about the time that has passed. I like to know what has helped me and what has hurt me. It takes us a while to learn, but we get there.

And I am getting there.

Slowly.

Stubbornly.

Shyly.

Quietly.

Fiercely.

 

Sincerely,

Josh, thirty-something

 

hands lifting

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I like being imperfect around other imperfect people.
Or at least the ones who submit to the fact that this world is hard and unruly and unpredictable.

I like hearing parents tell me how hard it is to be a parent. How their kids cry because sometimes kids just cry and that they are exhausted beyond any thing they’ve ever imagined.
I want the world to know that I love those little hamburgers from Wendy’s and that’s the stuff I won’t put on Instagram with a fancy filter.

We like real. At least I do. I think we are meant to struggle with each other. Sometimes we get to celebrate with each other too. Like anniversaries and new jobs.

I like that with each hard thing, I learn a tiny lesson. A gift in the form of a small train wreck.

I move forward with more confidence. I absorb it and I let it run through my system — the one that has felt this way before and can somehow manage to feel it though again and again.

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In and out, I think about the people in Nepal. I remember walking through their streets and I remember their people and their food. I remember playing guitar and singing with their kids. My heart is breaking all over because I know they are not built for such a thing. Who is, really?

I see rubble and pain. I also see hands lifting them both.

The Earth keeps spinning and moaning. Friction and heat and release.

I am saturated in it.
I mourn, with the rest of the world.
I pray and I remember how beautiful the stars were.

Somehow though, I am spared, and I am allowed to keep moving, each day.
Lucky is a word I use a lot. I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t consider myself a person of great luck, but I have become accustomed to feeling the good when it is good, because I know how bad things can get.

I’ve seen how deep and dark depression can be.
It feels a little like being at the bottom of a well, hoping you become the water that someone will just scoop up and save you from being in the dark.

Some days you feel a little bit like dying and it becomes less so. You just have to keep waking up and keep opening your heart to other people. I know that sounds cheesy and redundant, especially on this blog.

But I could never hear it enough.
I have written on my left arm, “These things take time”, and it’s surrounding a big pot, inspired by my friend Callie. Another friend of mine actually gave me the tattoo. I think I knew then that time was a gift. I wanted to remember that. I wanted to remember them. My people, the ones actually placing their hands on wounds.

They were my own wounded healers.

It carries over into cooking. I find myself cutting corners and knowing deep down, that is not who I am and it is not who I want to be. Time is nitty gritty. It is tiring and always pushing you forward, like your friends helping you to jump off the high dive.

You will plunge deep into the water, and it will sting your eyes and burn your nose, but you will rise up to the top and take in a deep breath.

That breath is a small victory.

So celebrate and throw up your hands,
eat a piece of cheesecake,
buy some new curtains,
hold tightly to your love,

and celebrate our healers as we are the hands,

lifting.

moaning.

mourning.

singing.

cooking.

cleaning.

tickling.

feeding.

rebuilding what is broken.

energy and space.

Uncategorized

My head is feeling a lot like the state of my room at the moment.

Scattered on my floor are clothes that I really need to put away. A new heater I spent 10 minutes at Wal-Mart researching, because well, the weather has taken a cooler turn in the South. I’m always a little giddy at that. I also grew comfy with the sound of my little heater in Portland. (That is, when the breaker wouldn’t switch in the middle of a frigid cold night.)

I see quarters and nickels and dimes everywhere, because I pay with cash a lot and have been used to Oregon’s zero-tax thing. The good part of it is, it’s a very messy way to have a savings plan. I have little treasures all over my apartment.

This week, I’ve been dealing with back pain on and off. Mostly muscle related, from all the twists and turns and bends of being a cook, no doubt. So, I’ve been needing to take it easy. I’ve stayed off my feet to the best of my ability and my surroundings showcase the laziness of my strained frame.

That’s okay.

To be honest, I have to fight with every sentence to not complain about being single. I tell myself not to write about it, because it makes me feel as though I’m looking for pity. I hope you don’t see it that way. I really don’t have too many complaints, to be honest. I think about what a gift it is to have a partner, and to also be single. I think about how both sides give us plenty of room to grow into good, strong people. Though it’s always through some pretty mucky stuff. Sometimes sad and frustrating, washed over with plenty of goofy-lovey-sweet stuff.

You notice peoples physical touch a bit more when you’re single. I went to an amazing show last night, and noticed all the lover things happening. The neck kisses, the couple that’s been making out at the bar for an hour straight who should probably just go home and get things settled. The sweet dance via bass and snare and high-hat — of getting closer to someone you don’t really know. Maybe the lightest presence of another close to you feels like it’s all going to be okay.

And while I’m being honest, I’ve been waking up quite often, missing her. I’ve felt embarrassed and sad about a lot of things. The Black Keys say that a broken heart is blind, but more so, it is the most fragile thing on our planet. I wonder how often we take responsibility for each others broken hearts…not that we should carry the weight of it, but that we should live knowing our actions are always echoing through the bones of those we know.

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I saw a picture this week that said, “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” by Jill Bolte-Taylor

I’ve probably posted it to every social media outlet I can stand, for the sake of how it resonates deeply, and how I need to be better of it myself. I think being aware of your energy is hard hard hard. Some people know it and are comfortable with it. Other people suck it up like a vortex, and you can almost hear the collective ‘sigh’ when they leave. I think about the people who tell me I’m a calm presence to them, and what that must mean when I am in a room with others.

I suppose if they saw the inside of my head, my appearance would be much more tired looking, with my hand rubbing the sore muscles of my back, dazed and maybe a little hectic. Probably confused that I would be thinking about the sandwich special of the week, or how many leeks I needed to order for the butternut squash soup.

More often than not, I suppose all of our heads are cluttered from the things we just have to do now.

And much like the story I wrote about in my last piece, you have to start one at a time, most likely.

When I get out of bed, hungover from a dream or reality, I pick a good song to start my morning to. I stretch, more so, considering the state of things, and find comfort in the warmth of my gas stove.

I drop in a spoonful of butter and let it get the lightest bit brown, before dumping in my eggs.

I squeeze the last, most flavorful drops of my bag of PG Tips with my bare fingers, because the heat doesn’t much bother me anymore.

I let that incorporate into whatever it is I can’t control,

and I let that, for the moment, be enough.