The Steamboat!!

I continued to work at Mr. Omelet until it closed in 1998.  Then
it was a series of restaurants…first, was IHOP…until one of the
kitchen cooks had an exceptionally bad day, an anxiety attack,
VietNam flashback? 
I don’t know what his problem was, but I
walked into the kitchen & out of the blue, I had a Godwink!  
There was no one in the prep room but me, when I heard God’s
voice clear as a bell…just two words:  “Duck, now!”  And duck
I did!!   Then I hear all this commotion back in the grill area;
I stand up to look around and in the wall, directly in front of
where I’d been standing was a butcher knife!!  Still quivering!!
 
Apparently, one of the short order cooks, had himself an
episode of something or other, and if I hadn’t ducked when I
did that knife would have pinned yours truly to the wall!   Now
I may be a bit hard-headed at times, but not that day.    It took
me around 13 seconds to grab my stuff, clock out, yell “Hasta
la Vista” at the boss and hightail it outta there!       The manager
tried desperately over the next week to talk me into coming back
before I finally convinced her that wasn’t gonna happen!    
After that I waited tables at the local Mayberry’s for a few
months, but business fell off and they cut everyone’s hours so I
had to leave there too.    
 
Had no idea where I was going next…so I’m sitting on the
bench outside the store talking to God out loud, like I’ve been
known to do from time to time.   “Well Lord….now what?   No
job, no tips, no money….how do I feed my kids?  I know You
have something in mind so whenever You feel like sharing?
I’m listening!”     This little old woman sits down next to me
as soon as I stop talking and says to me, “You need to
go up over the hill, turn right, go down the hill and see Tryfon
over at the Steamboat—-he’s looking for a girl to run his
takeout counter!   Bye-Bye sweetie….have a great day! Then
she just gets up and just hobbles off!    
Godwink?   Absolutely, cause I’d never heard of the Steamboat
till that minute & how on earth did she know I was needing a job? 
I’d never seen her before!!  
 
I called a cab with my last $10.00 and the cabbie knew exactly
where I was talking about!   So, I get there, looking for Tryfon.  
(The little old lady failed to mention that Mr. Tryfon was a Greek,
who spoke his language REALLY fast and English hardly at all!)   
But we managed to make ourselves understood and I walked out
with a job that lasted for the next 3 years!   Tryfon and his son
Sam (my age, slightly better English!!) became very good friends,
almost like family, really.   Sam, isn’t his real name but it’s what
most of us called him.   I saw his real name once…..About 14
letters and at least 7 syllables — so Sam it was!!
 
Some customers too, stand out fondly in my memory!    The
Steamboat was an old-time family seafood restaurant whose
clientele was mostly families and senior citizens who came on
their regular days of the week to ordertheir favorites.     
Clayton, was an old black preacher, who came into the takeout
counter every Tuesday evening and Sunday afternoon to pick
up flounder plates with fries for himself and his bed-ridden
wife.    He not only became a close friend, but a mentor I
listened to and depended on up until his death in 2010.    
He was the first one to tell me NOT to allow the disapproval of
local preachers to stop me scribbling my poems. 
 
The Steamboat was the first place that my poetry was exposed
to the public.   I’d dash off 10 or 12 of them, staple them into a
little book and hand them out to whoever was in the dining
room that evening.   They became a big hit and the seniors
looked forward to the next book every week.   Some folks would
take them to church and share them with others, which led to
different preachers getting really agitated with yours truly.   
Some of them even presented themselves and their opinions
at the Steamboat and demanded that Tryfon stop me from
passing out these poems and stories.        Tryfon,  who simply
adored my little rhymes,had no problem telling these ministers
and preachers exactly where to go!
 
I was baffled at first when these ‘men of God’ would rant &
rave about my poetry, declaring I had no training and was not 
qualified to lead folks to the Lord ( and that’s a direct quote!!)
I would have thought we were on the same side..but Richard &
Sam both tried to explain to me, that most of my stories, even 
my style of writing, seemed to speak of a very personal
relationship with God.    I didn’t advocate or even mention one
particular denomination over another.    Apparently, that was
the problem.    I was downplaying the importance of preachers
in general and they saw that as a direct hit to their wallets,
given the popularity of my stories.   Who knew?
 
One story you’ll enjoy reading that’s highlighted by
popular request every Veterans Day….is about another one
of my regular customers at the take-out counter.  It’s called
THE HERO.  Let me know how you like it!!
 
 I stayed at the Steamboat until Rich and I decided to move to
New England....details of that decision in the next episode!
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