marshmallows and steel

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The world is not a cold and dark place.

This, I thought, after I looked out the tiny window of the airplane and saw fire and amber and something that looked like eternity. It is truly amazing to see the sun’s light setting on them marshmallow clouds.

Yes. At the time I was cramming a bag of peanuts into my mouth, enjoying how very salty they were and wishing I had a cold beer. But I had plenty of beers the prior week and figured taking a break from the greatness that is Portland’s beer scene would be a good idea.

I spent the past week wobbling around (on one good foot) Portland, Oregon.
“I’m going [dramatic pause] to feed myself”, is what I told everyone.

Yes, food. Beer. Coffee.

The people. I’ve needed to connect with people there. Something about going after the holidays seemed too far and I was feeling too antsy. I wanted to connect before the holiday exhaustion set in. And I’m so glad I did.

I will not dive into the play by play, but I spent most of my days eating at my favorite haunts and spending time with people I’ve missed the most. I loved seeing my niece and nephew, and how big they are getting. Little P-Lu, especially. Chubby arms. Walking around on top of legos like they were nothing.

“She’s made of marshmallows and steel”, we joke. And it’s true. She is.

And W, still so bright and intrigued and silly.

I drove around the city a good bit and thought it’d be a good idea to give myself a lot of grace.

At least that’s what I heard being said in my belly. It brought me to tears, at one point, sitting in St. John’s Cathedral Park, breathing in the cold wet damp, and watching the lowest clouds stream through the trees like locks of hair being pulled through the teeth of a comb.

What a beautiful place this is. I remember the streets I walked down to get to work and thought, “Man, these were such sweet, sweet times.” I let myself feel afraid and acknowledged what made me feel anxious. My doubts about being a good husband. In my head, feeling like I had abandoned my people and left a career that was actually taking me somewhere.

No longer is it important for me to prove anything to anyone there. What happened, happened. I found myself experiencing some sadness from sitting in a place that once held heavy and heartbreaking conversations, and remembering always the sun-gold tomatoes that grew their vines around our old bikes.

What sweet and amazing and devastating things happened here. And I am alive. I am moving and movement is life, as they say.

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When my plane landed in New Orleans last night, I found out the Saints had lost.
I also found out about the riots and rulings in Ferguson.

My heart sank. It was all I could think about my entire drive home. How complex and angry and sad this made me and so many other people feel. How people I love and respect would disagree with one another. That’s sort of hard. We’re not very good at disagreeing, or seeing each other in a state of grace.

I realize I say grace a lot. And while that comes with a spirituality you may or may not want to be a part of, it can be universally understood. It is something I’m learning to understand.

When my plane was finally above all the dark and mucky stuff, I was able to see the sun setting far away. We were flying away from it, so I had to twist my head to see the horizon.

And there it was.

All sorts of warmth, even in the frigid blue. I thought that maybe I would be okay with this kind of heaven.

I leaned my head in the awkward space and closed my eyes. Traveling forward. Chasing a sky turning darker, and darker. All I could think about was chubby marshmallow arms and bright smiles. New normals. Fears and anxieties slowly laying to rest in the same ground from which they came.

Onward.

Into another horizon with the warmth of the sun licking my heels.

There is good, here.

And also in our hearts, especially where it hurts and feels the most dark.

Deep, deep down,
there is fire and amber and steel,
building a new heaven,
and a new horizon,
going on into eternity.

 

G’bye Oregon!

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(I am writing on my phone, so apologies for the errors of tapping my thumbs on bits of screen. It certainly feels odd…oh well!)

Here I am.

Sitting in my car as I will be for the next week, with small bursts of tears and laughter and ketchup stains on my shirt, no doubt.

The familiarity of leaving a place is fresh on my mind. I have been leaving places a lot over the past ten years. Many of us have and will be in transition through a lot of life. I suppose that’s how it is often enough.

Saying my goodbyes are heart wrenching. My throat starts to constrict and my eyes get red and swollen. Listening to my sister in law explain to my nephew this morning, where Uncle Josh was going, saying, “this is Mississippi over here. Daddy is going with Uncle Josh and he’s going to live with his mommy and sister. And then Daddy is going to fly back to us, but Uncle Josh will stay there. ”

My heart just melted.

I have been so full of love. Truly, you reap what you sew.

Today I leave Oregon. Surely not for the last time, but for a long time.

Thankful for the love had here. The opportunity to call myself many things. To be a friend and lover and all those wonderful things.

My heart is full.

As is my gas tank, ready to take me to my next point of origin.

And once again, I will describe my world as “in transit”.

The horizon is up ahead, and I will let it shine brightly on my face.

Goodbye, Oregon.

You were a wonderful home.

five years.

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As I process leaving this city and state, I am overwhelmed with a lot of things.

I think about my life here. 

It has been five years this February.

I packed up my car the day Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, said goodbye to my mom and drove into the Great Pacific Northwest.

I remember it all so well. Breaking down as I hit the Columbia River Gorge, and having to get it all out. How I was scared, and how I was so far away from home, and would be getting married so soon. It had all set in. All big moves are met with this realization eventually. The excitement of change is powerful. It distracts from the enormity of your decision. Living in another place takes it out of ya.

I settled in quickly. My home was already here, you see?

And I grew so fast. I changed and shifted.

I was a barista. A manager. A cook. A sous chef.

Friend. Husband. In-law. Son. Brother. Uncle.

All of these things contained inside this heart of mine.

A life, a full one, lived here.

Portland-Waterfront

I wish so badly more of my family could have seen me live here. I wish they could’ve met my friends and my family. I wish they could have seen me cook and see where it was I made a home for four of those years.

This is where I became strong!

(I will tell them…)

I will show them where the tomatoes grew high.

And where I learned how to cook.

I would show them wine country. And the coast. And the Great Mountain.

I would sit with them in the rose gardens and share my heart. How I crumbled. And how I stood back up.

How it was all these people who pulled me up out of the trenches, dusted me off and told me,

we love you, Josh.

I lived a life here, so many people I know will never know. Maybe through Facebook, or at this here blog. But what I wanted them to see are the people I will miss so terribly. And the farm dinners in the Summer. The leaves in the Fall. The rain, and apparently, the snow.

But my friends and family far away showed me the same, wonderful, strong love that it takes to pull one out of these things. And I am going back to them.

I am returning the same way I came, in my little red car. Fresh.

Head held high.

(with the occasional, and necessary breakdown.)

And I will think of my friends who are going to have their baby soon.
The person who will take my place behind the stove at Woodlawn.
My roommate who will be using my desk for school work.

I lived a life here.

I was married here.
I learned how to live life deeply with another, and to also watch it unravel a bit, near its end.
This will take me some time, I think to myself. Hmff.

But it was full and big and necessary.

Today, I will give in to that sadness.
Knowing good and well people and places never leave you.
Never, ever, ever.

And I hope I left something good here. Something strong.
I hope I was good to its people.
I did recycle and compost a lot.

I give thanks, not only to the people who made this place so wonderful for me,
but also to the cultures here before any of us had a favorite IPA or doughnut.
They kept this land beautiful and thriving. I thank them for helping me to understand such a place.

This is all sacred ground I walk upon.

I lived a life here.

Even if you didn’t see or hear me,

I was here.

Plow to the Earth,

making a home,

and growing in abundance.

No hummus and pita plate! (An update, of sorts)

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I realize I’ve taken a bit of a jump from what I used to talk about.

Food has kept me more than alive these past few months. I don’t know if I would have been able to cope with my personal life if I wouldn’t have had a kitchen to cook in. The industry is funny like that. As stressful and demanding as it can be, it is a home for many. It’s been a home for me. Not just in a kitchen, but with other cooks and industry folk. They have held me tightly, given me space to create, and have fed me and let me frequent their barstools. If not to take the edge off, just a bit, but the company has been so important.

I wrote a long time ago that I had been given the task to start a dinner service at Woodlawn Coffee & Pastry, where I was once a barista, and now sous chef of a kitchen.

Well, in June, we started serving dinner hoping our liquor license would show up the next week. A lot of weird things happened and it was just taking too long, and we were being stretched too thin. So, I went back to doing breakfast, lunch and prep shifts until we got our liquor license straightened away. And so, a few weeks ago, we were officially given our liquor license. Woo!

So this Thursday, we will be having a sort of ‘grand opening’ harvest party to showcase some of the food we’ll be serving, and also as a way to have fun and welcome in the new season. It’s been a long time coming, for sure.

I’m stoked on my menu and am really proud of the way it looks.

I am, though, in the process of figuring out how to run a kitchen. Which means, thinking about food at least two weeks in advance and figuring out how to cook food with a kitchen staff that is pretty much just me, and the occasional runner, prep cook.

It’s a little scary, but I’m ready. And let’s be honest, when cooking in a kitchen, you will think you are ready, but it can change in a heartbeat. You just gotta power through it and hope to come out on the other side.

I’ve been learning a lot from other cooks. Learning to degrease as much as I can so our sink won’t back up. I’m always so amazed about how cooking relies so much on being clean, and cleaning. Always, cleaning. Haha. (I never write laughs in my blogs, but it’s so true…)

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Like I said, I’m super stoked on the menu. It’ll change quite often, considering I try hard to keep it seasonal.

This time, we are adding some house charcuterie on the menu. Pork rillettes, pate de campagne (country pate), and eventually, chicken liver mousse.

I suppose I am designing a menu on people drinking. Personally, I love rich, satisfying food when drinking a stiff cocktail or sake or wine.

No nachos. Not that I’m opposed to them, they’re just played out drinking food. No pita and hummus plate! Bah humbug! I always crack on this. I don’t know why. I just know whenever I go to a pub and see pita and hummus with raw veggies, I realize it’s easy and it’s filler, and honestly, it sells. I just can’t do it right now.

I’m excited to showcase pimiento cheese and house made crackers.  A killer meatloaf sandwich (which I’ve been told is better than most burgers on the block) and of course, since we’re a pastry shop, our desserts will be bangin’.

I’m excited, y’all. Feeding people, given its trials from time to time, really is meaningful to me.

If you do find yourself wondering about Portland, come by and say hi!

I’d love to feed ya.

Until next time, I raise my glass to those who have stuck with me during these hard, hard months. Thank you for reading and following and just being super wonderful people. It means so much to me.

-Josh