August 26th. The last few weeks (since I last posted here) have been trying and hard, fun and challenging. The salad spinner broke and I spent lots of hours trying to get it fixed. In the end I just had to buy a new one. $2500. Cn you imagine that for a minute? OMG I could buy a used car for that. We had our oldest AC replaced and it was not working right and had to have service several times. I looked into replacing the keg box with a small walk in and then chose to get another keg box after all when I realized the walk in would require moving gas, electric and water lines, hiring a contractor and pulling permits. The tea urn was working, then broke again, then finally got repaired last week. I've been troubleshooting a couple coolers that are too cold, or have too much water in the bottom, or both. of 4 kitchen coolers, 2 were freezing up and needed new thermostats and one kept filling up with water until I spent a morning in there finding the source of the water and getting it to go down the drain. Tomorrow the maintenance guy and me are going to get into those coolers and hose down the evaporators inside and really try and get them humming. Just since all this started I've spent over $13,000 on repairs. THIS MONTH! That's insane. It's exhausting physically, mentally, and financially.
On the creative side I did create a new area under the plane and behind the greenhouse. We have more plants, 2 hammocks, new mulch, and are soon getting new round tables to replace the picnic tables we borrowed from First Magnitude about 2 years ago after the fire. I made a couple mobiles I am proud of and now dreaming of all the interesting mobiles I could make and I imagine making lots to hang all around in the coming years. I've been doing some small drawings and paintings. But mostly I've been manic and working long days in the crazy heat, wearing myself out completely.
On the non equipment restaurant front, we've had a few people moving away and are training new folks in the kitchen and in the front. Training is so hard. It's hard to get around the time factor in learning a new skill. It can take months for someone to get good at stretching dough and getting fast enough to keep up. In the meantime I am standing there helping, guiding, teaching and a bit stressed. Training new people makes me anxious. I wake up anxious when everything is perfect so having a lot of new people just makes me REAL anxious. It's so important to find those potential long term employees who will spend the first year learning everything and then stay around for a few years or more after that. Right now we are adding an extra person in the kitchen and need to train 3 people to stretch dough. Getting everyone trained on as many stations as possible is key to a tight ship.
I'm eager to get back into tile and mosaic making. It may be a few more weeks before all my ducks are in a row. I like to get everything sorted before I dive into something as big and time consuming as tile making and mosaic.
It takes a special kind of crazy to run a restaurant. Especially one with as many moving parts as mine. Over 50 employees, 7 air conditioners, 9 refrigerators, 2 ice machines, 2 freezers, 2 soda machines, a glycol machine, and lots of gutters, roofs, junk and stuff. The original Satchel's shirt said KEEP IT SIMPLE on the front and EAT AT SATCHEL"S on the back. Well, I have not kept it so simple. It's gotten quite complex and I am a simple person sometimes reeling from it all. That's where I'm at lately, trying to stay calm and tackle it one problem at a time. At least I still make time for making a mobile or a painting now and then. Those are the things which keep me sane.
August 4th. The week started with the tea maker overflowing at the top, causing grounds to overflow the filter as well. Then our oldest AC unit broke, then one of the four ovens broke, then finally last night the keg cooler stopped working. some weeks are strange like that, with so many thing on the blink at once. The tea maker had a couple problems, a clogged screen and a stuck solenoid. Got that fixed. The AC need to be replaced so Monday I've got the electrician coming and the new AC being installed. We were able to fix the oven ourselves with a new thermopile. Usually when an oven goes out we replace that and it's good to go again. This time we were only down one oven one evening. The keg cooler was down in Satchel's all Friday night and the repair guy sowed at the end of the night and it was a simple fix, a hard start kit, which is some cheap switch that takes 10 minutes to change but costs over $200 because it's 10pm on Friday night and we have to get the beer cooler running and now I want to research changing a hard start kit so I can potentially learn this repair as well. I can't even count all the times my coolers have been fixed with a hard start kit.
It actually feels really good to have all these things break and get them all fixed so quickly. I have to have good relationships in this business so the people I call to fix things want to make my problems a priority. I love knowing the guy who can fix my parking lot in a flash, or my fountain, the welder is always "on call" and the cooler and AC mechanics are our neighbors.
This week I have big plans for improvements in the LSE realm. But they are secret plans. And it could take me 3-4 weeks to realize them fully. It is exciting though to get my ideas into reality.
Fixing things, keeping the equipment in top shape... making good decisions with new equipment we need, making pizzas and making new areas for big parties, these are exciting parts of my job. I make art when I can, Yesterday I made new displays for some of our smaller Blue Q bags. The bags were hanging on little dowels and always looking shabby and falling to the ground. Making new bag holders and getting them up and seeing the improvement they make makes me really happy. While working on a new big project this week I'l be working on side projects too like ordering more acoustic panels and looking for someone to install some carpet on the stage. Oh, and I want to start figuring out how to build a large connect four game, and spend a little time on the playground also. and I'd love to make some instructional videos of some of the finer points of pizza making for the pizza makers to watch. I like to think if I made it funny and informative it could teach a lot of the little things that I think we can improve upon, like more ricotta in the calzone, or the right amount of extra cheese.
Here's a strange new painting I did this week.
July 27th. Time for a rant. I apologize in advance because I know I should only write happy nice things here but tonight there is more to say. I lost my cool tonight. It happens still and it always sucks. In the beginning when I first opened I would freak out a lot more, at least that's how I remember it. It seems the stress was so high and there was so many things that were going wrong every night, and I couldn't train staff fast enough and there was just so much to know about all the details of everything, that I was stressed and losing my cool more often... Once a week? Twice a week for a few years there?
Nowadays it is less often but it is still bad. For a guy without a huge temper at home, it can flare up at work when I get upset. Logic and experience would tell me to count to 10, take a deep breath, not freak out, calculate a response to the situation, and then address it when the time is right. That is so NOT what I do. I do the same thing every time, still even though I know I'll regret it later and I feel awful about it right away. I yell. I lose my shit. I get more and more worked up as I yell. I do not yell at my wife. I have yelled at my kids a couple times in anger or frustration, but seriously mostly I am the mellow parent. But at work? I lose it. I don't entirely understand it but I do know I do not have control when it happens. I just get mad and then take a while to calm down.
The first thing tonight was a veteran server (15 years!) who did not read back the order as they are instructed to do. I know that she did not read back the order because the table ordered 2 pizzas and one of them was a medium major. She did not enter medium major into her computer she entered medium cheese. Sometimes a server will hit the banana pepper button instead of basil right next to it. When they read back the order from their device they catch the mistake. If a table orders a large pizza with these toppings and a medium major, and then you look at your device and say ok i have a large pizza with these toppings and a medium cheese, OH WAIT, i hit the wrong thing....
I have learned that the first line of defense is to get the order right on the ticket. If you take an order, double check that what is on your computer is correct, then we are about halfway to getting it completely right. Then the pizza maker makes the pie, and double checks that it is correct before putting it in the oven. Then the guy cooking it may see if it is missing something, as he is looking for that. Then the person cutting the pizza and running it to the table checks it again and makes sure they get to the right table. It's a long line of checks and double checks. But if the order is wrong from the beginning, then we make the wrong thing and they get the wrong pizza and in this case they ordered 2 pizzas and so they got one and had to wait for the second one to get remade. Its a bummer.
I was upset about that but I hadn't lost it yet. I think they were given some drinks on the house, we made them a large major to make up for it, and I took the mistake pie from the bill. So it's cost me a couple beers, a medium cheese pizza, a large major pizza AND a table of people eating out of sync with each other. One small tiny mistake, hitting the wrong button AND the BIGGER mistake of not reading it back from the device, has caused all this chain reaction of events, not to mention that when we are making a make up pie we are not making another pie that is behind and needs to get made. It's amazing how the small issues blow up. And I want the customer to have a great experience. I want every one to be right. I realize that is too much to ask.
Jordan comes in from LSE asking where is order #34. The ticket is still in front of the pizza maker, not started. It's 2 slices of pepperoni. It's been about 25 minutes. They say, It's here, not made yet, and Jordan says cancel it. The pizza maker quickly grabs the ticket and tosses it away, one less thing to worry about. I grab the crumpled ticket from the trash, and notice it was from 25 minutes ago. 2 pepperoni slices take maybe 30 seconds to prepare. The cheese slices are there so you throw the ronis on and in the oven it goes. When that ticket comes in I would have made it straight away and the customer would have had those slices in 10-15 minutes tops. it's been 25 minutes and they aren't even made yet.
I lose it. Just last weekend I was taking over the station for the pizza maker for a minute and noticed slice tickets up that were 20 minutes old. I made them straight away and when he returned I said, You can't let these slice tickets stay up so long, just make them and get them out. So here was the same problem a week later. I yelled a minute. I went to LSE and asked Jordan what happened. He said the guy was tired of waiting. So we lost a customer there. He came in, paid, waited, and then had to get refunded and go somewhere else. We won't see that person again and there's a chance they leave a bad review as well. This is a situation we can so easily avoid. We just make the slices and not put them in line behind every other pizza in the house. Why? Because when one orders slices there is an expectation they will be faster than ordering a whole pie. I agree with this expectation and it is a challenge we can handle. In the past, way back, I would always explain that slices had to be bumped a bit to get them out. They are often times easy and quick anyway, and don;t slow down the process. But over the years and in my absence of watching everything like a hawk, the slices got sent to the back of the line and I finally saw it happen.
It's tricky. I don't want to slow down the order for the table at Satchel's that has waited 45 minutes to be seated and ordered a few calzones and a pizza, so I can pump out a bunch of slices for people in LSE who are in a hurry. How do we manage that? It's tricky. It's not always simple and easy. Here's where one has to look at the actual tickets and weigh that against the length of time on other tickets. It takes 15 seconds to make a couple roni slices, less for cheese slices. But if I get a ticket of 6 mama slices well that takes a while and we can't just bump that in front of other stuff that's been waiting. It's not always cut and dry but employees often seek cut and dry protocol. I have to say "Don't let slice tickets stay up more than 5 minutes, and 10 minutes at the longest in extreme situations." But in reality the protocol should be, " Make all cheese and one item slices right away, no wait. If we're behind and the slices are difficult, wait longer and get more caught up. But always bump slices a little bit because people expect slices to be faster than whole pies." You see? It's complicated. It's nuanced. It's situational.
I saw a pizza tonight that was mushrooms, onions, tomato and feta. This is a very wet pizza. All the toppings have water in them and when people order all wet veggies the pies can easily be too wet. This pie I saw was being scooped up to the plate, just a mess of wetness. I went and remade it and saw a reasonable improvement. Why? Because if you know you are making a pizza with wet toppings, you can lighten up on the sauce just a tad, lighten up on the cheese just a tad, cook it a bit more and in the end you get a crispy pie. But this takes extra involvement and skill. It means knowing what the toppings will do and making the pie accordingly. I often see too little sauce or too little cheese and so I say more sauce, more cheese. less toppings. Pies with 4 or more toppings are often LOADED down to the point of TOO MUCH. Sauce and cheese are so important and the toppings too have to be right. I'll make a meat lover pizza different than a veggie pie. A different sort of customer orders ham bacon beef sausage steak and extra cheese than the person ordering spinach mushrooms and banana peppers. These pies are made a bit differently according to their toppings. A cheese pizza should always be the same though. But the pizza with toppings needs to be made according to the toppings. This is the single hardest thing to teach. A person needs to make a hundred pizzas and see see them all and eat them all to understand and even then it's hard to get these concepts to "sink down into the brain."
in hindsight I should have grabbed the ticket from the garbage, and followed Jordan back to LSE to speak to the customer. I would have returned his or her money, told them we messed up and we were going to learn from this experience, and let me buy them a drink while the slices are prepared, and apologized up and down and tried to save them as a customer. But my anger in the moment didn't allow me to see straight. I yelled at the normally excellent employee making him feel terrible, and then I myself felt bad as well and the mood in the kitchen was greatly diminished. It's the wrong way to lead.
Fifteen years and I still haven't figured it all out. There is still so much to learn and so much to teach. After this rant I will spend at least an hour preparing a long email to the pizza makers with nuanced info. I took pictures tonight of things to share, I will try to calmly explain how to prepare different pizzas differently, a concept I have talked about before but not often enough. I will talk about how to manage tickets and ticket times, something that is just so very hard. Maybe it will help in some way, maybe someone will learn something they didn't know or think about pizza making differently.
I love my employees I really do. I love my customers too and I want so badly to find the right harmony between the two, We often do. We usually do. We normally handle it all pretty well and people don;t mind waiting too long here and there and people are nice about when their order gets messed up. Such great customers who love us. Such awesome long term employees too. I've got a deep bench of heavy hitters. That's why we are so successful. But even now there's stuff to learn. We've got to get out 2 roni slices in 15 minutes. We can and we must. We've got to tweak those wet veggie pies and make them crispier. Our reputation depends on it. I've got to figure out how not to yell and freak out when something goes wrong. I really need to get better. There's so much room for improvement all around.
So here's where I apologize again. I need to get this stuff off my chest. I need a way to do that. As an artist I need to express it all. It helps me sleep. Sometimes I write into the void. I open a google doc and write away and then forget about it. But I also like to share how the business affects me. How wrapped up in it all I get. There's a lot going on behind the scenes. I'm not always happy and easy going. I freak out. I yell. I get so upset when we screw up especially when I know we can do better. But it's a blog, and it's on the more obscure of our websites, and I really do love my people, and hope they forgive me despite my flaws. Some will, some won't. I can live with that. I've wanted to make friends with everyone along the path but I've ran into a few who just don't like me. My drive is too intense, or my methods too hard, or my decisions not lined up with what they think is right. It can really suck to be the boss, the guy who makes the rules. I would honestly prefer to NOT be the boss. But I've come this far and I'm stuck here now. There's really no turning back. I have to find the perspective that allows me to accept that I will piss some people off in my striving for perfection. I cannot accept mediocrity. I cannot watch as customers leave and get their money back or servers ignore protocol and stay silent. I have chosen the restaurant as my career and I'm in it now. For better or for worse, till death do us part.
Here is a photo of a painting I finished a couple days ago. It's small. It's called Struggle.
Just going to share a few pictures of my more of my mural I'm painting this summer and a building I thought was interesting in Boston. I was briefly there while on a trip with the family to New Hampshire and at a stop light in my car I snapped that picture and where else can I share that? So yeah.
It's too late to write tonight, but soon.
july 1. I was trying to move a few pages around on the satchel's site and i screwed it up somehow. now all the text is jumbled up and nothing is readable. there is essentially no support from the host, squarespace, or if there is it is mon- fri. what i'd really like to do is find a way to make a web page that says everything all in a row, and never changes or needs tweaking. but i hate computers so much which is why i barely write anymore. i just don't like sitting in front of a computer PLUS i have really really bad computers. I do not own a computer that doesn't lag or just malfunction. honestly i think it has to do with my extreme anti computer vibe, the energy of my body just breaks them. If i had someone making a documentary of me interacting with technology it would be a tragic comedy. it is honestly hard to quantify how much i dislike computers for so many reasons, but chiefly among them glitches, lags, and the fact that more often than not i lose everything i write. just now i had to back up a few words and i hit the backspace button about 10 times and the computer just freezes up. i wait and wait and wait and then it erases a bunch of stuff like 30 seconds later. i don't think it's supposed to act this way, it's only 6 months old.
So i have this terror that keeps me from writing but yet somehow i decided to do the website myself. but then it messed up and this company that brags about their support has really no support. in some ways i am so bad at this job. this job of running this company. from the outside it seems ok but i am not using facebook hardly at all and i should be, I am barely using instagram and never interacting with customers on social media. i just rant on twitter about squarespace.... i can't run a simple website design program. i know i should sub all this out but i don't want to trust the image and brand to some outside entity. i fear it will become corporate seeming, inauthentic, dry. so i choose to basically ignore it and hope the world will get tired of social media like i am.
also, i figure we don't even need it all that much. we are a tangible place making and serving real food. can't our integrity and reputation stem from that actual place and not from online bluster? do i really need to take pictures of beautiful food to post and remind everyone we're here? whatever. I am bummed when the website is down because it shows our biggest weakness. that is that i don't have a good lead on how to build and maintain a website (because i am not about to spend thousands of dollars in cyber space to represent something that is actually real. If i hire a social media company and a company to keep our website up, there would be no money left. i feel that way. we are getting hit so many ways in business. we have to pay for playing music to 3 different companies,all sorts of licenses, oh man i am not about to go down this road of listing the crazy ways we have to pay because i will just get into a funk i do not want to be in.
danny from lse was just over at my house fishing on our pond with his son. He saw me working on this when he was leaving and he actually helped me find the place on the site where i could stretch out the font and make things readable again. while we did not solve all the problems he did solve that one big one. i'm just a dummy on these things. i am truly a very simple minded person and these computers just get me so mad i can't even deal. plus, i get even more angry that the company i pay money to for this has no way to help a guy on the weekend when he has a bunch of spare time to work on stuff. whatever. it is what it is.
so yeah. i can't get into all the things on my mind right now. suffice it to say i am enjoying my summer more than usual and only slightly upset with my efficiency to accomplish my goals right now. i am mostly where i want to be on my art and feeling pretty good about the projects i have slated for the next 6 months. i'm making things happen, sometimes slower than i want very similar to the aspirations of elon musk who always thinks he can achieve things faster than he can. I am always feeling a bit behind but also aware of my mania and working on curbing that to a more sensible level.
ok, going to paint now. there is always peace and timelessness there in the conjured up abstractions and sub conscious.
June 29. I often like to keep a blog or journal going and then inevitably at some point I wonder why I publish it in a public space. For a long time I published in a faraway corner of the web that was hard to find. But nowadays here it is on our website. I'm torn because I like to put the personal face to the business but I also enjoy my privacy so much. I like to write and could easily just write into my google docs and use that as a place to unload even more personal stories and criticisms, but I end up here saying too much and not enough, writing too often and not often enough. Sigh. I'm at the stage where I want to abandoned the blog and erase it from the website.
I've been continuing to paint on my mural. I took my kid to camp. I have been doing a 1500 piece puzzle with my family. I am about to bring in 2 new tables to Satchel's. I am having a good summer. I love summer.
There is so much I want to do at LSE. I want to work on the playground. I have lots of ideas and a plan for not one but TWO hammocks. The hammock we used to have was about the funnest thing we had for a kid for some reason. Kids really loved the hammocks, adults too. More outdoor seating covered from the rain, I've got that brewing.... I'm so ready for getting back into the mosaic tile but I fear with a family trip coming up that will be put off a bit longer. When the project will take 10 years anyway, a month here or there on this side doesn't matter. Oh and acoustic panels are next up. I'm going to try to round out the sound in the room by installing acoustic panels on the ceiling. They are coming in a week or two. Bigger and better outdoor speakers are also in the works. I'm pretty bad about trying to do too many things at once but I am getting better about taking them one at a time. Sorta.
June 11. I've been painting for a week straight. I repainted the old mural and added some new mural. It has been one of the best weeks I can remember because I have been doing my most favorite thing to do: painting. Add to that the low stress and responsibilty factor and there it is, pure joy.
Here's the garage door as of about an hour ago:
I"ve been thinking about the employee art show up at Satchel's right now and because I have been taking a break I have not see it yet. I look forward to seeing the employee artwork.
I've been mostly painting on my new and old collage every day all day. While this may sound like work it's actually the most exciting and relaxing thing I can think of. Because I am out there all day I meet all the neighbors. They come over several times each day to chat and pass the time. That alone has been quite interesting. I feel like I could make a movie, podcast or essay about the neighbors that come to chat while I paint. There's Theo and Tommy, Bill and George. There's Hannah and the other people I don't know the names of yet. It's whacky. Whacky because it's a crazy window into these completely different characters and personalities. A lot of times when I am painting I am thinking of the stories I could write about the neighbors and the neighborhood and how the act of painting a mural draws them all around to chat.
This has been an incredible week. One night after painting until it was too dark to see, I showered and went to see the latest Sandra Bullock movie Oceans 8. I even had enough movie points for a free ticket. The movie was okay, the all female cast was thebest part, but just having a couple entire days to myself was the best thing ever. It's hard for me to quantify the restoration I have been able to achieve.
That's it for now. I could go on but I want to clean the kitchen and tidy up the house for my family coming tomorrow. i can be a bit messy left all alone but when family shows up I want it to look like I run a tight ship all the time.
June 5th. I should add after that last post about the big projects from the last 15 years, that I am keenly aware of my privilege. As a white make from a lower middle class suburban home, I had plenty of love and advantage and opportunities. I started my career on my 16th birthday when I got a job at McDonald's and 6 months later bought a quickly rusting $500 VW bug. I have built up something substantial for myself and my family from those humble beginnings, Hard work and long hours played a big role, but so did luck and privilege. I get that. I understand that while some people admire the journey and challenges of building wealth, others do not. Buying houses and owning a business is something that came naturally to me, not something I ever learned or inherited. I definitely have a knack for managing money on a budget which is why I was able to get where I am today from my original $30k loan using my grandparents house as collateral. Most people do not have a grandparents house to use for collateral, so I am lucky and privileged right there from the start. I wonder if I could have done the same 10 years earlier given the chance? I've always wanted enough money to prove I could do wonderful things with it. I so badly want to open a small Eastiside Bodega where one can get organic milk, fruit, juice and eggs. I want to open a water attraction where locals can cool off in the summers, float down a manmade lazy river or run through an artistic a creative splash park. I want to open a breakfast food truck with the best waffles, bacon, and coldest milk in town. I want to build out LSE until it is a garden of delights, a playground, an art museum, a wonder. I like to think I can take the money and turn it into something better than money. I like to think about all the things I would do if I could afford to.
Soon after I bought this foreclosure in St. Augustine I painted a mural on the house. A bright mandala in red and orange, yellow and white. That was in 2011. The house has been taking on water into the walls recently from Irma and similar beach storms. I finally found out about the ultimate caulk called Vulcan, and started the long process of sealing all the cracks in the stucco that are letting water seep into behind the stucco where it can rot out the walls and encourage more termites. This caulk is pretty amazing and seems to be a much more long term solution the the many cracks than the painters caulk I was using that cracked 6 months after I applied and painted it. I was like, "Man, I have to caulk the windows and cracks all the time on this house. It's crazy," and then a local contrator told me about Vulcan and I was impressed with the thickness and toughness of this sealant. Well there was a long crack in the stucco from the top to bottom of my mural. So after caulking that my mural looked awful and needed touching up. This morning I started to touch up parts of that mural and the it hit me: I should not only repaint the entire mural and tweak it some, but i should paint new murals on the house. THis is about the funnest thing I can imagine to do. Being outside and painting are two of my most favorite things. So I went to Lowes and bought good paint and spent the better part of my day repainting my mural from 2011. I think if tomorrow goes as planned I can finish this repaint and then on Friday possibly start to paint a new mural on the garage door. If I could live at the beach painting murals for a living, THAT is what I would choose to do. It's endlessly fun. It's the most fun I know how to have.
So here's the picture I took just before I started the repaint. I painted all day but want to wait and show you the picture of the mural after tomorrow's paint session. Hoping I can finish tomorrow but that's wishful thinking maybe.
When I did this mural I started in what looked to be the middle. I did not measure. Then I just made it up as I went. That's how I like to paint. No planning, just making up the image as I go. Now I am changing the inside part a little as I go. I want to bring some of that bright yellow and bright orange into the middle, and want to make the shapes "FLOW" better, whatever that means. See the grey caulk line down the left side? I hope tomorrow's picture will show a big difference.....
June 4. Writing from St. Augustine to the smell of coffee as it drips through the Chemex coffee pot. 18 months I stressed and worked and today I feel like I can finally rest. Sure, there's still a million things to do but not now. Now it's time to take a break and reflect, relax, rejuvenate.
The Grand Reopening went about as good as I could have expected. It's crazy that I originally thought I could have a grand opening in "March or April" and it was June 1st. Building out a gift shop and toy store, curating the toys and gifts to sell, starting to decorate and adorn the place inside and out, adressing the sidewalk walking up and the sign for the door, getting some much needed shade on the North side, and seating and the start of a playground, it was a bigger job than I imagined. And I imagine big!
I remember so well the sinking feeling after both fires. It seemed to really hit me the morning after the fires. The dread for the work ahead hurts so much more than the loss of stuff. I will miss the stuff. I miss the thing we had, but I always imagine my hard work is building something lasting and that's part of why I work so hard. I expect to create something tangible and lasting., so when the fire takes it away I realize that I have to start over. All that work I did is gone and I have to build something new and different. And it's not that I mind work, anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to work. It's hardly even work at all, but those closest to me also know that I always have an agenda. I already have a long long long list of things I plan to do and the fires rewrite my agenda. My agenda becomes so much harder.
In 2003 I opened and spent a few years of crazy hard work and long hours to build up the business. In 2005 I bought the property and after a full year of intense "fixing up" was able to open LSE in 2006. in 2007 I bought a broken down house and property next to my house. Because we inherited my house from my grandparents I was able to afford to buy the house next to us. My wife and I spent a full year remodeling and "fixing up" that house for a guest house and vacation rental. In 2009 after the financial meltdown and housing crisis, we bought a house in St. Augustine that was in foreclosure. The house was moldy with leaking windows and termites.. Not living in St. Augustine, this house took years of weekend work and summer projects to bring around. By 2012 I was ready to open another little pizza joint in St. Augustine and made an offer on a very tiny building. The offer wasn't accepted and soon after that we had a fire at Satchel's. I can only imagine my ruin had that offer gone through and I had borrowed and started to sink money into another restaurant. It might have been the end. But instead I worked the hardest 3 1/2 months of my life rebuilding the kitchen at Satchel's. Halfway through the project I had to take anti-anxiety meds to help curb my stress and anxiety. I would get to the job site at 7am and became one of the regular crew workers on site, but also answering tough questions and making hard decisions. After the crew left I could really get more done and I would work remodeling LSE until midnight or 1. It was a brutal time. I knew I had to get back open and I was keenly aware that not only did I have 50 employees out of work and waiting, I had a family to support and no income. Brutal. It was the hardest thing I had encountered. But in the summer of 2012 we reopened and not only was Satchels's rebuilt and better but I had remodeled LSE and things started going great. By 2014 I could not put off any longer the renovations I needed at my grandparents home where our family seemed to be outgrowing the house. My wife had been wanting to expand the house and kitchen for many years but I always had an easy excuse. Well, guess what? Another full year of remodeling with a friend. I got involved like I always do and did all the finish work on the floors and cabinets and baseboards, By mid 2015 we were settled into the new space. By 2016 the restaurant was running as good as it ever had. I was working less on the day to day details and more and more on art and decorating Satchel's and LSE. As I quickly approached 50 I was happy that I had fininshed so much of what I wanted to accomplish and I could focus on my art and take a breather from all of the projects that had come my way.
Then another fire, this one destroying an entire building and half my business. I was not ready for another huge project. I would never want to undertake more contractors, plans and permitting. I could barely face my days in the months after that fire. I knew I had to rebuild because LSE had become my main place to make and showcase my art projects. It was the heart of the place to me. It was also part of what allowed my business to make money because with self service and only a couple employees we could add enough to the bottom line to make it all work. In other words, it was an intregal part of the equation, not a superfulous one. Without the back bar and music venue, Satchel's was just another pizza place with labor costs too high and only "business in the front" and no "party in the back." I never wondered if I should rebuild I just started planning and plotting right away. In the many months since I questioned many times if rebuilding was the right thing to do. When the costs got out of hand or when we opened and were so slow the employees alone back there cost me more than we brought in, I wondered if I had done the right thing taking on this project? I wondered if openeing a second location would have been a better use of my money. I second guessed the decision a lot over time but not really in those first two months. I just plowed into it 100% and as depressed as I was I kept going.
I've just described a 15 year journey of projects that brings me to this day at the beach drinking decaf. All along the way finances have been something I had to manage. Sometimes the bank account would look good and other times it would go dry. Several times along the way it seemed I was outspending my means and I would go belly up. Campus Credit Union has been helpful of course, that's the bank I use. They loaned me money to make it all happen. And my mom sold a house at a key time in the process and I was able to use some of that money as well. I've also had to get creative with my projects. There's some luck involved, it's not that I'm all that smart or savvy. Today it's still a struggle because we've got labor costs that are way too high (over 50% on average) and business is not back to pre-fire levels. I am certainly not financially prepared for some new disaster, and I've got to spend some mental energy and time, getting back on track. Running a business of this size is a challenging project for a guy like me who just wants to make art.
The thing that has been the key to my success over all these years is a great wife and amazing employees. I'm making big decisions and pulling levers but none of this can happen without a staff that offers good food and service to customers even when I am home sanding cabinets or at the beach busting out walls. It's always been important for me to pay that high labor cost so that I have people I can trust and believe in. If there has been any stroke of genius at all in this process it has been to pay the highest wages possible which in turn for me has created the strongest business possible. Sure, it can't run without money and I'm still learning the line between paying too much money vs. running out of money, but it's the right place to be.
At this point it looks like we will once more bounce back from a fire and rebuild the brand and business. If I can get the right amount of employees per shift I can make the ends meet and pay the bills. Busy or slow is not as important as proper staffing. That's also tricky because the employees count on us for their income so when we cut shifts it cuts their paycheck. So our challenge of late is to have the right number of employees and be able to give them the shifts they need. This is one of the biggest challenges I face today, and it's important to get right.
Just like the wedding day is the big event for the couple that has comitted to each other, the grand opening was the final event in this 18 month journey. I'll be working on it as I always do, tiling, making the playground better, decorating the bathrooms... I'll be working on it for 10 years no doubt, hopefully longer, but I've passed a milestone and am feeling pretty good about the mind scrub I can get from sitting at the beach doing nothing. Something about the sound of those waves crashing, the cool salt water, the bright hot sun, the taste of Gatorade or reheated Satchel's Pizza, something about the combo of all that which scrubs my mind and helps me come back renewed. I'm at the well. I'm getting recharged for the next phase.
Nacho night was super fun. It was better attended than I thought it would be. There was another family there having as much fun as my family. Next year I'll start earlier though. waiting until 9 is too late, or I'm just too old. Saturday I enjoyed the bands all day. I sat there for most of the day soaking in the music and eating pizza and even had a few beers. By the end of the night I was a wreck though. I didn't realize that sitting around all day could make a person so mentally and physically exhausted. Of course it wasn't just that one day that wore me down but the final part of the 18 month jouney. I had a really good time. It was great to see so many kids in the bounce house. It was great to just see so many children in general. Kids everywhere.
I've got a slight ear infection now. Seems it started a couple weeks ago and went away briefly until late Saturday night when it returned. My body holding back until the work is all done. In my mind I want to take 10 days off and just relax and paint and listen to podcasts and swim in the ocean and sit in the shade. In my mind I want to do that but it's hard for me to take that much time off. My wife laughs when I tell her. She says I won't last a week. We'll see. I've still got an agenda but today it includes a nap and grilling out steaks and drinking a jack and coke. I'm excited for this afterglow and hopefully even some alone time soon.
There have been those people who really love and embrace the new space and tell me how great it is and how much they love it. Then there are those who tell me it will never be as great as the old space and they can't imagine I could ever get it to be as cool and as special. Both are right. It will never be what is was but it can be just as good if not better in time. It just takes time and time goes by so slow and so fast. I have an old friend who I got the van from, the van out in front of Satchel's that I got in the 90's. He's got cancer and seems to be at the end of his life now. He's got a wife and 3 kids and his days are numbered. When I think about all the long days and hard decisions and stress I encounter it pales when compared with facing death too young, or the insanity that fills the news these days about school shootings and corruption of power. I'm enjoying the journey I'm on even if it's often challenging. I'm blessed, I'm lucky. And I love my life fires and all. I believe in God and I am thankful.
May 29th. Its getting better. I spent a couple days tng to just mellow the hell out. I had been neglecting the home front for a while so I spent two days just burning piles and piles of yard debris that was getting out of hand. We live at the end of a dirt road and the people who pick up yard stuff do not come down here. Even if I could get them to I would spend a week cutting everything into small pieces and stacking it for them. So I finally burned it all, well almost all of it. I have one pile left. It took 2 days of burning, that's how bad it had gotten. But it was wet out so I wasn't worried about starting a forest fire or anything. Fire scares me a little bit.
Anyway, staying at home and working in the yard was good. It grounded me and made me feel less manic and stressed. Now it's the week of the Grand ReOpening and Nacho Night and I am suddenly realizing all the things I have to do to get ready. Lots of stuff. What are the prizes? How will I hand them out? What am I giving away and how will I choose the winners? I need to make sure I can get the movie on the projector and the sound will work. I need to do a lot of little things. But it's only Tuesday so I can make it all happen.
The Gainesville Sun came and interviewed me today for a story so that's good. There are still so many people who get their news from the paper. This will surely help turnout. Lunch was busy and that was a relief even though we had cut some staff because we were expecting it to be slow and it has been slow lately. We finally cut staff in front and kitchen and we got a rush.
We had friends in town visiting and we ate pizza for lunch. My slice was PERFECT! So crispy and delicious and not too heavy on the toppings like they do sometimes. I was happy.
I'm trying to promote our events this week on Facebook and I spent over an hour trying to get it to post without any luck. I guess something is wrong over at Facebook. I hit publish a hundred times and it did nothing. My wife told me hitting the button over and over does not help, lol. Finally I got something to happen after saying I would pay $5 but it still wouldn't publish so then I hit schedule it for 10 minutes later and the post went away... into the future? I don't know. I hate Facebook so much. I really do. It's the most bloated program I have ever encountered. I was trying to put in pictures and it was popping up saying I could add stickers to my pictures. Everywhere on the page is a billion things going on. It's just stupid now. I really think they have got to be going out of business soon. What a terrible program. I can think of ways to clean it up and make it enjoyable but they aren't going to ask me, ha. I am always thinking of ways to improve products around me. It's a bad obsession I have that hardly ever lets me rest. All I want to do is invent the perfect beach raft, beach buggy, washer and dryer, web page or logo.... It's never ending. It is so rare I find a product that I think is right and perfect as it is.
Ok, Lots to do let me see if I have any good pictures to share....
May 24th. I've been manic for a while now. Working 16 hour days, 3 or 4 projects going at once.... Always planning and thinking about the next thing. It's not good. I mean, it feels great to accomplish so much every day, but I just feel so exhausted all the time. I'm not taking needed time for myself. So I am trying now to slow it down. Slow myself down.
My desk is always a disaster. Every day I come home and unload my pockets onto my desk. THe mail gets put there too. Notes to myself, business cards, drawings, ideas, things I am collecting for making tables, it all piles up and I really hate sorting it. I'll do anything besides clean the desk. I do clean it once in a while. It takes all my energy and willpower. I can work 16 hour days for weeks at a time, digging holes, moving 30 bags of cement, loading and unloading plywood, paint, tools.... I can do so many things but cleaning my desk is the task I most dread.
In the last post I talked about how graduation Saturday was going to be insane. Well, for the first time in 15 years it was not. It was slow, slower then most Saturday nights even. I was a bit depressed because we were staffed so big and had made so much prep. I swear this business can drive a person insane. Busy when you don;t expect it and not busy when you do. A couple days ago we had an incredibly slow day.... like a day we would have had 15 years ago when we opened slow. The labor costs were over 80% that day. I spent money to open. Sometimes I think I am so very bad at this job. I am not using software to control my labor and food costs.... I am not doing inventory. I am not looking at the numbers often enough. I am not advertising and using social media much. I am just making art or building things all day every day. It's what I like to do. Make something where there was nothing. But I do wonder if I can keep up this pace, if I can keep this restaurant afloat paying the wages I pay. the labor percentage should be 25% and it's over 50. Some days over 80. And then I keep spending money to try and get the new building where I want it and do new projects for the old building too. On any given day at any given moment I can think of 100 things that can be improved and also ways to spend money to improve them. I just pour everything back into the place because it's what I like to do. But it's not financially sound. I know that and yet I don;t adjust.
Coming up in a week is our Nacho Night and Grand Reopening. I have to now prepare myself that we may be slow. I have to emotionally be prepared so I am not stressed and upset that I have spent way to much on bands and prizes and movie rights.... I need to take the perspective that this milestone means I can take a few days off to rest. I can get back into making tile and mosaic work on the building. I can do more art and less carpentry and construction stuff. I need to get some perspective. It'll be okay if the Nacho Night and Grand ReOpening are a flop. right? My mind is just tired. Tired of trying to figure out how to make everything better and make everything work. Then there's the people who are always giving me advice. I should be working on sound baffling... Some days I just get so wound up.
Sorry. Sorry to unload all this here on the blog but what else can I do? I have two choices: 1. Say nothing or 2. Be honest.
I usually choose 1. But once in a while I feel guilty because I need to keep the blog up or give some insider pictures for the Satchel's fans:)
Then I choose 2 because I only know how to be honest. I have a helluva hard time faking it.
I love what I do and sometimes I just think maybe I should have kept it all smaller.... Not expanded the seating and the staff so much. Just kept it as a little hole in the wall joint. Lately I've been really wanting to open a little market out here on the Eastside where there are no grocery stores. Ever since I saw this little convenient store nearby for sale I've been picturing a little bodega where I sell organic milk, good bread, fruit, yogurt, maybe some chocolate and beer, juice.... Half the vision is the plants and the seats under the shade of some nearby trees where folks could sit and talk and hang out. I wish so bad for a place like this near me. We live deep East where we have to go 15+ minutes to Publix. How sweet would it be to have a corner store with milk and bread? OMG I think about starting an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money, I think about how I would paint the building and landscape. I think about the neighbors which would be by there all the time. I cannot see problems without imagining solutions. I know this part of town could support a decent grocery. I just know it. But the big names will never give it a shot so we are stuck with Dollar General as the place that people around here shop. Some of them. The ones who like white bread and cheap milk and eggs. Chips, so many chips and candy bars. Sigh. Had I unlimited funds I would be opening a little market nearby and making up a cool name and logo and t shirts.
I have way too much I want to do and not enough time. I feel like I really MUST do the waffle truck one day. I want to try that idea. 6am-11am. Waffles, bacon, cold milk and good coffee. Right in the Satchel's parking lot. You could eat breakfast in the stained glass porch with the sunlight flooding in. What could be better? Maybe just a little Eastside bodega with a few staples, ha.
Ok. That's enough nonsense. Here's my cousin Michael installing a whirligig for me.
The last day of April. Tomorrow starts our busiest week of the year, UF graduation week. It builds each day and the Saturday is insane. We have to order s much beer and food, make so much prep. It seems like we are prepping all day. I love it. I like being busy and having a jam packed week of graduates and families. I was just remembering that last year I was strangely sick. I get sick so very infrequently but I remember getting flu like symptoms the weekend before and then not being able to go in. I think I missed the whole week and only felt a bit better on Saturday. I was so mad. First off being sick is hard for me with nothing to do, but then missing all the business too?
This year I am definitely NOT sick. I am manic and working around the clock. I am tired is what I am. My mind is a little fried from having too many things bouncing around and wondering how to tetris all the tasks in over the next month as I get ready for the Grand ReOpening. I have so much to do.SO much.
I made a table of cassette tapes last week and this week I made one of polaroid pictures and I'm already starting a new one of sea shells. I wonder if I have a picture....Here is one from before I poured the resin on it....
And here are some of the displays I'e been working on, and I've also been getting the projector installed and the screen, for Nacho Night.
I made a mistake ordering the screen. I should hae gotten one that was about a foot bigger but I made a measuring mistake and decided not to send back the screen after it arrived on a 45' semi truck. I do such stupid stuff sometimes like assume the pencil mark on the ceiling was where the blocking for the screen was instead of getting out my tape measure which is always close at hand. I beat myself up about that for half a day but moved on to other mistakes, ha. I make so many decisions each day that I am bound to mess up a few things. Today my head was scrambled from a terrible nights sleep last night due to seeral unrelated factors, a fight with a teenager in the morning, and just an overliad of projects to do. I got in a solid 15 and a half hour workday somehow in the end, but don't have huge things to show for it. I could list a bunch of little things, but I prefer the days where my 15 and a half hours can realy be visible, like the days I get an entire cabinet or shelves built and installed, or get a large portion of tiles up, or make a new painting or table. But in order to have those days I have to have these days where I prep a lot of things and tie up loose ends on projects.
That's it for now. I do have to sleep some too and maybe tonight it will work out for that.
Still in the thick of it regarding the evils of the world like internet. Had to call Cox to hook up internet at a house I own and need to rent. The odyssey went on for hours. It's like I am a magnet for interference in these issues. When I get close to machines or computers they malfunction; When I start trying to contact huge service providers the world breaks down into pieces.
After well over an hour of getting passed around the phone/ internet/ world, I was suck having to get my sister to say that she had used MY modem for service at MY house, and now she could release the modem back to me.... My sister was taking a nap. I called her 7 times then finally gave up.
When I am able to avoid news. computers. service providers. internet. phone calls to huge companies. When I avoid those potholes and sinkholes, my life goes along pretty good. But even 2 or 3 hours wasted in one day with this nonsense and I am defeated, overwhelmed, pissed, and depressed. I have to tell them my email, my pin number, my phone number, my name! I have to tell them all this 3 or 4 times as they pass me around from country to country. Why can't they retain my identity as I get passed around on their computers? Here's an instance where I WANT THEM TO KNOW WHO I AM! See my history, my logs, my life story! PLEASE!
But when I am painting, or making collage, when I am making tiles or making new tables, when I am drawing T-shirts, bumper stickers, or mugs... I am happy then. I am most happy and satisfied when I am alone and making things and cranking out products like tile or pizza, like paintings or podcasts.... but when I am stuck in between one and another, I am not in the groove this way or that, I am gathering materials for this thing and thinking about that thing, and not able to DO either thing yet.... I feel frustrated, stuck, unproductive, slack.
That's the place I was in lately. I was between "big" projects but needing to tie up a lot of loose ends. Finish a few big things, and quickly DO a few little things. I am cursed and blessed with extreme "super concentrated" motivation. My wife came up with the analogy recently of Satchel's being "Super Conventrated." She said instead of diluting the brand which is the American way of franchising and/ or opening more stores, I super concentrate by obsessing over this one location and every minute detail therein. It's true. I want to super concentrate that shit like a hundred million times. I want to make it strong like cinammon essential oil. A drop can overwhelm a tongue.
I am definitely coming out of the funk that was the last fire, or the two fires combined, or the fact that life has dealt me 2 fires and a ton of heartache and extra work. I may never fully emerge from the funk but as business retunrs to something resembling normal, I am able to catch a deep breath. One, maybe two. And I can imagine a time when these memories are not still so fresh and painful. I can finally start to imagnie that my life could get close to where it was before BOTH fires. Happy, light, and naive.
Well, probably not naive and light but certainly maybe happy.
This blog is supposed to be about LSE and its evolution and maybe it is. Maybe my personal struggles and mindset, philosophy and experiences are parallel to the toy store/ bar and rebuild of Lightnin'. I can't pretend to separate the two anymore. My interior life is Lightnin Salvage and I spend much of my personal space thinking about improvements and enhancements to the space there. It's THE SAME SPACE AS WAS THERE BEFORE THE FIRE> The same space but with different floors and walls. But the same physical space. The same. So much the same.
Ten years. I imagine in 10 years the new LSE will be as incredible and interesting as the old. I have spent my life improving my position, leaving something that I thought could never be repeated and inventing something even better. I can easily go over several specific times where I was living some life in pure dreamland and could not imagine something better and/or bigger. Each time I outdid the last scene and world to invent a new world that rivaled the last. I know these facts like I know the world is round and that art is essentially problem solving. I know it deep down.
The realization and supposition that all the new LSE needs is time and activity to grow past the old LSE< <<< < is as strong as the force is to Luke Skywalker. But I also see we are not there yet and so I have to grab on to the future instead of the past. I have to find a strap or handle that allows me to grab and hold like a madman, with belief based on past, that the future is brighter than the past or the present. All of this requires faith, strength, longsuffering, humility, and love. All good things to enjoy.
So I focus on enjoying them.
And evangelize that I will rebuild it better. I will bring it back to where it was and then keep going and going and going. What else can I do? Give up? Retreat? Raise the white flag? Not tonight. Tonight I will imagine the new heights, the new ideas, the new and better places I could go. I will tell you whatever we did before is peanuts compared to where we're going. Whatever joy and pleasure you got from yesteryear is faded when compared to the good times ahead. It's super concentratated now because I will one day die. I plan to use the last of my years to super concentrate the art and unload it for public consumption.
But i'm only 50 so let's assume I am only 2/3rds through my time. Well dang. The first third I was figuring it all out, the second third was setting it up and making mistakes and slipping back half the time, and now the last third I am about to start jamming. My plan is to now really get to work making art and helping folks to smile and wonder. We just shook the Etch-A-Sketch and it's time to draw something really good this time. Now I know how this thing works.....
April 11. Sigh. I'm so tired of the hassles of life. Like Verizon. What a pain these internet and phoneservice companies are. THey take so much of our money and yet the support is so bad. I have a house in St. Augustine and our only choice there for internet is Comcast. Oh Lord! Comcast is the worst company I've ever dealt with. We've canceled service twice now only to eventually call them back because we want internet. Verizon has been terrible this week. I have 7 phones on my account and had to order 2 new ones. They said I could pick them up at the store but I couldn't. They said i would get them shipped in 2 days but 4 days later they say that the order is stuck somewhere. The company we use for propane, Amerigas, is terrible. Our tank has been leaking for so long and the costs through the roof. I need to fire them and find a new gas company but sheesh, there's a string of hassles in that project. It's like Verizon, I want so bad to just cancel my phone and go back to 1986 when I was a senior in high school and cell phones didn;t exist. I could do it. I could actually do it because I really hate phones. But the account is in my name, 7 lines. Changing to a new carrier is a nightmare. cancelling is a nightmare, and dealing with the company is a nightmare. Hmmm, no waqy out of it really. Stuck.
I am trying to get some parental controls on my kids computer. oh its awful. There's only one service I can find that can help protect a Chromebook and they have no chat line, no phone number, the service is super complicated, and when I email support I have to wait 2 days for a reply that is not helpful. I want restricting my kids screen time to be easier and all of the apps and startups out there and none of them can address helping parents control their kids screens? It should be easier. We should have a way to monitor every device from one spot easily in the house. It's not out there. No one has figured it out. It makes me crazy.
But I am supposed to be talking about LSE and work and how things are going. I'm not supposed to be complaining about the fristrations of adulthood. I got off on a tangent I apologize. I have so many probelms with technology. It's like I have a terrible forcefeild around me that makes my interactions with computers unbearable. Even as I type this and look up I find my cursor has moved randomly up a paragraph. It's a anti computer forcefeild I tell you. I have it.
But back to Lightnin Salvage Enterprises. I am slowly making progress building out the store. I'm hoping to get most of it done in the next month and have a grand reopening. I will have the party whether i am finished or not but i will certainly stress myself out trying to get as much done as possible. Business is really picking up lately and it's good to see folks having fun and getting back into the habit of coming in. It's good to see the regulars. Good to see the kids all happy and free. It's good when I come to work and find someone has brought me homemade ice cream pie. Yes, a customer brought me some ice cream pie and a note that said they liked the place and the blog and the pizza and so here's so ice cream. Wow. That was cool. If you're reading this thank you.
There are other work related things I have been dealing with lately that are difficult and fristrating and many times I think "Why would anyone want to do this? Run a restaurant? It's crazy. There's just too much to deal with." but I don't want to get into all of that. It's bad enough I complain about Comcast Verizon and Amerigas. Honestly I'm just at the end of a long stressful day. Life is good. I get to eat pizza every day and talk to wonderful people. I get to make some art now and then. I love what I do and the challenges are part of the reason I love it.
But I will admit this: These fires have changed me. They've made me more callous and more tired. They took something from me, some bit of youth and vitality, some bit of wonder and charm. Every day I tend to focus more on the mountains of work in front of me than the rich years behind me. I wonder why I had to lose all that and how I will ever find the energy to rebuild something better. Because if the past is the best part then I shouldn't keep going like this. I have to hope that the future will be better. But then I feel overwhelmed trying to imagine how I can do all the things caught up in my head and heart. I would need about 10 or 20 full time artists and craftspeople to fulfill my vision for the next few years. I don't have the budget for that. I'll just keep plugging away and wishing I could sleep better and longer.
Just a bad day folks move along. We all have them. We all get down now and then. Lose our optimistic attitude and feel tired. Exhausted even. I do it to myself. I don't really know how to "take it easy" or pace myself. I've even lost a bit of enthusiasm for the tile factory because right now I have SO MANY TILES and NO TIME to install them. I need to spend a few weeks putting tiles up because at this pace I will have to rent a warehouse to store them if I don;t get them onot the building. BUT>>>> It could be after the grand reopening before I really have time to tile. I really need to finish building out the store. I really must finish that, or at least get to over 95%.
I need a new pillow. I need the most wonderful pillow ever made. I wonder where to get that. My pillow has basically gone bad. You know what I mean? It happens slowly over time and tonight I just realized it's broke. That pillow needs to go the landfill now. I am going to search the closets tonight and look for some old reject pillow that once someone thought was worth buying. Maybe there is a pillow here that will be better. Maybe the whole problem is I just need a new pillow for my weary head. My tired and ragged brain.
Easter Sunday. I had such a nice day with family. I am truly blessed and lucky, fortunate and thankful to be surrounded by so much love and support. I realize how big of a deal it is to have these things in life.
We had Easter dinner at 2pm. My wife and kids of course. My mom was the first to arrive with 4x enough rolls, and cream corn. Then my aunt and uncle arrived from a few hours south... and soon after my first cousin and his wife and 3 kids. My wife's parents came from across town, and another close cousin who is like another aunt, drove up from Orlando area. My son and I hid Easter eggs my mom brought, and some of the big ones were full of quarters and the gold one had quarters and a sacagawea dollar coin. The youngest got the most eggs because my daughter assisted him but she might have given away some of the money, I'm not entirely sure but I heard rumors. We had desserts and talked in groups and everyone was having a good time and we had blooming flowers in pots, granny's china and everything.
After much talking and slow desserts we all made a caravan to my sisters new house that she just closed on less than a week ago. A couple of the kids jumped in the pool which was "colder than the springs, not as cold as the ocean a few days ago," as my son put it. Everyone went nuts for her house which if a house could be a button this house would be it. Cozy as can be right away. She had to bid against 3 people on day 1 of the listing. Sheesh, the drama....
We got home and cleaned up, my wife and I together for a change, while the kids got into the phones like they do. My wife she's the best. We're married 20 years this Wednesday so I'm planning a little something to mark the occasion.
Oh, and the restaurant.... the restaurant has a mind of it's own lately, and I'm trying to understand it. Broken doors, missing chairs and tables, lots of renovation and decoration, lots of ideas and new "junk" making it's way through the LSE front doors. New projects hatching and others incubating. It's big.... the stuff that I hope can happen there is big, and good. It's changing all the time in spite of me, and I have to see what it does. I'm so fortunate and blessed, lucky and thankful.
Changing gears here I liked this series about a guy I know in Panama City who made this series for Lowe's.
March 6. I struggle this time of year with allergies. It's better than it used to be by far but it used to be that I was unable to function as a normal person. Now I function almost normally but I am physically miserable the whole time. Well, it's not that bad I guess but I do have to work much harder at keeping myself motivated. Motivation comes pretty much like water most of the year but in the spring it is sheer will that gets me into work and on task. I hate the cold. I hate the cold and the fall is ok but sorta stressful and that's why I love summer best. Summer is a glorious time of year. The days are long. It's hot. I have no allergies and I feel like I can pack two days into one because I move faster and work longer. Anyway- summer is coming and I'm thinking about it because it takes a long time for it to cycle back around. I'll be listening for that first cicada song. I love it when I hear that.
Yesterday I did a collage of very old wallpaper samples on the men's room door. It took all day despite the fact that I assumed I would be done by lunch. My wife knew. She always knows and makes fun of me for my predictions. I'll say I'll be home in an hour, and she laughs. This job will be easy and quick. Eyes crying laughter emoji to her. Today I did a couple hours of mosaic and a few hours of carpentry and painting. Then I came home and glazed tiles and then started a new collage. It was a productive day for a guy who can barely sleep from the congestion, has chapped lips from mouth breathing all night, and whose eyes are itchy like poison ivy. I'm not sure how to write "whose" there. Is it who's? whos' or whose? Or should I just rewrite the whole sentence and say that in a way that I don't have to say " a guy who's. eyes..,." That kinda stuff hangs me up in writing. I get frustrated with grammar and punctuation too. It's a bit embarrassing but I like to think I can pull it off if I get sort of stream of consciousness with it, you know? If I ramble and take turns and tangents maybe all the mistakes can just seem like part of the charm and the style.......
So I am rolling along in the daily grind. Wishing I could enjoy the gorgeous weather a bit more but it's a curse. So beautiful and blooming but I've got to have a handkerchief always handy. There's a d in handkerchief. I just learned that right now.
Feb 21. I had pepperoni slice for lunch and my wife made wonderful Indian food for dinner. At work my main accomplishment was making a shelf for mugs and dressing. Also starting a new section of store built around the ATM and a booth. My wife is working in the greenhouse, repotting, fertilizing, and pruning. The plants took a big hit this winter, even the greenhouse couldn't fully protect some of them. I really want to come to terms with the time frame ahead of me for building out this new gift shop. I had thought originally I could be done in March but lately I am pushing that timeline back to May? I guess if Elon Musk can miss on his projected timelines to accomplish stuff, I can too. I'm coming to terms with it. I am trying to not get so anxious about how long it is taking. I am trying to enjoy the journey. That's what I'm supposed to do right?
Two days ago I decided to do tile instead of carpentry. I worked in several areas but the following picture is one area by the door where I want to highlight posters of upcoming events....
Feb 18. I've had a lot of pizza since I last wrote a week ago. I had to go to Jacksonville so I met a friend at the original V Pizza downtown. Cool old warehouse spot, high ceilings, long communal tables, and they had 3 wood fired ovens lined up right there in the dining room so you could watch the cooks. I'm a big fan of the kitchen and the dining room together. I wanted that for my place but the building I got wasn't set up that way. The pizza was good. A thin wood fired pizza with some meats. Also got a calzone. Me and my friend had some of each. The pizza wasn't cooked enough for me. I like it real crispy but I know if they always cook it like that people will complain. The cheese and toppings are high quality but I prefer a little more sauce. Still an excellent pie and calzone. I had the lefotvers for dinner that night in St. Augustine. I had some business there so having the leftover pizza and calzone made me very happy. That was all I ate on Tuesday. Since I was in St. Augustine I got Mellow Mushroom the next day. The pie I got was surprisingly double the cheese I am used to from them. It was fine, but too much cheese for sure, I got tomatoes, tofu, onions, pepperoni on a small pie. It's odd that I hear complaints about the price of our pizza but V Pizza, Mellow Mushroom, even Pizza Hut are more expensive for what you get. Our medium pizza often feeds 3 people at about $6 per person. Anyway, I had the 2 leftover slices for breakfast the next day. Last night I had a SatchPan pizza with pepperoni, beef, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and carrots. It was by far the best pizza I had this week. I brought home a SatchPan cheese for my daughter who ALWAYS wants a SatchPan cheese slice. Heated it up for her at 11pm when I got home.
I could just make a blog that is a pizza journal about the slices I eat throughout the week, but I'll spare you.... It was a busy week at Satchel's. I put in some long days Friday and Saturday, working on the new gift shop all day and running food and chatting with customers at night. I made a fair amount of pizzas Thursday night, I went to see the band but ended up in the kitchen as we were short staffed.
Speaking of pizza, let's show a picture of one because what could be better that eating pizza? Pictures of pizza:)
Feb 11, 12:17am. I've been painting some tiles tonight after work but checking in quickly to report about my dinner tonight. Playing on the success of last nights slice, tonight I used a medium dough and stretched it to a large size so pretty thin. Topped with extra cheese and then black pepper, red pepper, oregano and parmesan cheese. Brought it home uncut and then cut a large slice out and 3 minutes in the toaster made it perfect. Enjoyed with a local lager. So good.
Feb 9. My slice tonight was extra cheese. Then I put a generous amount of red pepper, black pepper, oregano, and a bit of parmesan on it. One of the top 10 slices of of my life tonight. It was slightly undercooked or it may have cracked top 5. Cheese slices make up almost all of the best slices of my life but this "extra" cheese slice with plenty of spices was simply phenomenal.
after work i've been glazing tiles and working on a new collage. today i was working on two new displays for LSE, pictured here for your enjoyment.
February 8. Today my sister bought a house in Gainesville and my son got a drivers license. These 2 events meant I only had a couple hours to work on LSE in between but hey, sometimes there's more important matters.
Confessions of a pizza-holic: As I write I have beside me and am eating a SatchPan cheese slice I brought home last Saturday. It is delicious. I will admit also that I had to go to Archer Rd a couple days ago and ended up hungry and stopped and ate an entire Blaze pizza. It wasn't bad. On my 50th Birthday in January I didn't want to leave my house but ended up going to the new Hungry Howies near my house, in my pajama pants, and got a pizza which I ate in 3 sessions. Yesterday I had pizza for lunch (no surprise there that's a regular thing I do...) but yes, I eat pizza "almost" every day and it freaks my wife out.
Once years ago when my kids were play fighting to the point that one of them was about to get hurt, I wanted to say to them, "Hey, it's all fun until someone gets hurt, COOL IT!" But I thought about that and thought about how "adult" and Charlie Brown grownup it sounded so I said instead: "KIDS! What am I thinking right now?" Somehow in my mind I thought the kids would be able to put themselves in my scenario, realize I was worried for their safety, and say back to me what I wanted to say to them... that someone was about to get hurt. No. They both answered almost as a chorus, "...About PIZZA!." This joke is now ongoing. They still wrestle and fight and now I always say, "What am I thinking?" and they always answer "ABOUT PIZZA!" It's true. I think about pizza a lot. I love Pizza Hut, Digiorno's, Freschetta, Hungrie Howies, Dominos, Lil Ceasars, Mellow Mushroom, Big Lous, Ameraucana, Italian Gator, Blue Highway, Piesanos, Humble Wood Fire, Blaze, and just about any pizza except maybe the school lunchroom or gas station variety. It's a blessing and a curse. And by the way, that list of pizzas is in no particular order. I could rank them according to a very fine tuned scale but I'm not doing that for public consumption. Suffice it to say that the lowest score on the list would be a B- (80 on a 100 scale.) In other words, I pretty much love them all.
I want to add a bunch of pages to this website. Pages about the PineCone Contest or the Annual Nacho Night.... I've got tons of material to get posted and now that I am in charge of the site I will get it all on in my own sweet time. But it's a low priority. I have so many real tangible physical things to accomplish that this site will be a back burner for most of this year, or maybe half of this year. It will grow just like the physical space will grow.
It's almost midnight, let me look for a picture to share....
Ah. Here's Judy who is my neighbor and old friend who is purchasing and filling the new LSE with toys and stuff, just like she's done since the original LSE >>>
January 31. I just wrote for an hour, the longest post I have ever written. But I lost it somehow, in my ineptitude. I told you about my life, my dreams, and about time. Now I will go to bed, and let all that be gone to the void. Computers. My biggest enemy.
Here's a booby prize, a large collage I am working on:
January 10th. Geez it's 11:57pm so in 3 minutes it's my 50th Birthday. The pressure is so huge. Everyone wants to know what I'm doing.... And I was a bit stressed because what I really want to do is just hang around my house all day and work in the studio and clean my shop and just chill at home. I don't want to party or go out. So that's the plan.
I just spent some time updating the Satchel's website. Got pictures of some mosaic tiles on there, some info on our grants, and some info about parties in LSE.... Feels good to finally get some of that done.
In honor of my 50th Birthday I'm going to put a picture of my cat on here...
Of course that has nothing to do with my Birthday but I went to my photos and that was one of the most recent I took because when our cat got in that basket well, how could I NOT take a picture?
After many months of insanity trying to get the bar back open, and then a month of logistics and the holidays... I finally got back into mosaic tiling this week. I just finished filling the kiln today too with a new batch of tiles. The tile factory is back in action and the mosaic on the building will be happening weekly also.
My mind is exploding with all the things I want to do. I have so many more ideas than time. I'll just do the one day at a time thing for now, what choice do I have?
I went to a Gator basketball game tonight with my sister and nephew. I ended up sitting with my friend and employee Marvin who had some open seats beside him:
December 15. Finally coming around to a more normal existence. Sleeping better, not as anxious, working a bit less.... Well, today I worked 12 hours but there was a lot going on today that was out of the ordinary. I am finally feeling like talking to people again. I really enjoyed making some pizzas last night for the first time in a while.
I made so many big mistakes. Costly mistakes, like buying an extra locker. My brain was just not working and I did not check over my order good which is so stupid when it's a $3000 order of lockers.
Speaking of lockers, here is a picture of our break room locker setup. Made me think we were like in the Ford plant or something.... so many lockers!
And the next photo is one of the offices. Two ladies work in this office and they both want standing desks. The space was long enough I was able to create 2 standing desks and a double seating desk in between. One woman wanted her standing height at 3' and the other at 3 1/2'. I had gotten 2 estimates to build this and one other desk. One estimate was $4000 and the other was $1800 with me doing the sanding and finish work. I spent a couple days building this, and less than $100. I've still got build and install drawers under the standing desks, but even though i waste money on mess ups like buying an extra locker, I save money by building my own stuff. Also, I'm certain the $4000 version would have been much nicer.
Just now coming to the realization that I have to keep at it, make the upstairs happen, the sound and live music right, the gift shop into a reality,,,, I'm just one guy, with my work cut out. one day at a time. I live by these cliches
for now i rest still
december 5th. one year ago was fire and destruction. today we opened to hope and a new beginning. The perfect soft opening: the bar was still sticky. the computers were down half the day, and the smell of polyurethane from the upstairs floors came through the A/C vents into the new space.
I had fun. finally. my good friends came to cheer me on. i only have a few and I was so happy they came to see the place and see me. i screwed up the bar top finish but tonight it hardly mattered. we drank and laughed and had fun. thanks y'all. it's gonna be a good vibe sorta spot.
i can't wait to hit the bed now...
I love gainesville. I've never been so tired. here we go again..... let's crank it up and make something new.
Hard work. 19 hour days. even did a 19.5 hour day a few days ago. I'm not proud of it, it is stupid. But I just can't stop. I am obsessed. I am so looking forward to being open and resting some. Really resting.
Tonight I sealed the bar top, and did a thousand other little things no one will notice but needed to get done. Here's a couple pictures:
My family misses me. I miss my family. It is sad to be gone so much for my business. I hope I can make it up to them somehow.
We're softly opening very soon. I will update here again when I can.
November 29th. 11:49PM.
The fountain machine arrived 2 days ago. We got it unboxed and moved inside on Monday.
Tuesday we got the ice hopper sanitized, the machine lifted to the box where it sits, and the soda syrup lines hooked up. Tomorrow the plumber is coming to hook up the water and drain lines. The water tees to non-carbonated beverages and carbonated ones. The line tees to the ice machine that sits on top of the fountain. This is all stuff that is about 99.9% outsourced in the restaurant industry. Outsourced to Pepsi or Coke.
But me? I choose the road less traveled, the hard road, the road that leaves me wondering if I am sane but certain I am alive. I get a thrill from conquering the thing that seems too complicated. In this case it is fountain soda, soda in general, and the equipment to maintain soda system.
In the pictures above....Jimmy the Draft Dr installs beer taps.... The new look from the ole barn... "The Red Dragon," the 75" of soda syrup lines that had to run underground from the out of sight syrups to the fountain in the new dining room.... Getting inspiration for the new soda fountain from the old soda fountain up front....and my 16 year old son, the coolest kid around.
I gotta get the bar stools installed. I gotta get the soda machine fired up. I gotta caulk-a-lot and fancy up. I gotta bring all the "STUFF" in. I gotta decorate a little bit and find some time for my kids and wife. I gotta sleep, and eat, and shower. Gotta brush, and drive, and figure stuff out. I gotta think, gotta dream, gotta push myself through. I got payroll coming up, and so many bills, and the bank account.... and the mental health, and the employees and the customers. I need to make extra soda now. We are doubling our soda production overnight. Practically. Essentially. Basically.
Actually it is hard to express how much work making homemade fresh soda is, delivered to a fountain, with filtered water and ice.
But everything right now seems impossible. And it's not.
November 28. I must have taken pictures of something today. I know I took pictures of the sign and posted on Instagram but what else did I photograph? B-side stuff? I will know in a minute when I look....
Today was half a day excited as a butterfly and half a day slogging through shit. I see before me the 3/4 butterfly days and I know the full happy days are close. We got a sign today, (See Instagram.) We also got beer taps. We got window sills. We got power to the walk in cooler. We got shelves in the closet and shelves for the wine stock. We got 2 semi circle booths inside the space. We got a foot rest finished for the bar stool sitters. We got ethernet plugs for the POS system. We got an app that shows all eight cameras, on my phone.
But even though I took a bunch of pictures today they do not show up in my Google Photos. I don't know why (Maybe because they were sent as texts and Instagram photos???) Here is the only picture that shows up from today....
My mom texted me this and I'm like, "Who is that?"
It's Dan Mullens of course. But I am too busy to keep up with all the news, I am so busy. This morning I slept in so late... I woke up and wondered what time it could be. I checked my phone. It said "6:30" and I was like WOOOOOOOOOOOOW! I sept EIGHT HOURS. This was incredible to me. I had been sleeping 3-4 hours every night for a month, and I woke up and saw I had slept 8 hours!
So yeah. Dan Mullens. Cool.
But didn't I take other photos today? I thought I did? Whatever. Who cares? I need to sleep again tonight.
November 26. 2:10am. I should be sleeping. I am starting to feel an excited anxiety. There is a scenario where I could open exactly one year from the fire...December 5th. It would mean a lot of scheduled things have to come together in one week. It would mean 17-19 hour days this week. It would mean a hell of a lot to me if I could open exactly one year later though.
Time will tell. Time always tells.
Whatever happens I am about to get so happy to get open and take a break and a breather.
November 20. Still exhausted. Always exhausted, even when in Sunday recovery mode. Could not sleep last night worried about the floors. They were originally going to grind them down Friday and seal them Saturday. Sunday they would cure.
They started Thursday and ran the grinder machine 3 long days until late Saturday night. Sunday they sealed and today they look like crap.
After they poured the slab I sealed them to keep them from getting ruined. (Next 2 pics are of the slab after I sealed them.
Now they just look bad . (I'll post a picture of the worst part tomorrow.)
They did not grind them evenly and I never expected they could look so bad, especially in the bathrooms.
But I am not mad. I have had so may disappointments now I just want to get open and hope I will forget about the wasted money and ideas gone wrong. I can fix it all eventually I think. I can solve each bad decision in the next few years.
But the money I waste and spend wrong is embarrassing. I wasted $5000 getting the floors redone and could have done better just cleaning and resealing them myself in a weekend. I wasted over $2000 on trying to paint a fancy rust paint on the fascia and soffit. I was sent the wrong paint and I did not know it, and in the end have ugly soffits and fascia and will have to sand and repaint down the road. I spent $250 on an antique light fixture that does not work right and now I have to find something else at the last minute.
But I made lots of good decisions too. I should not expect every decision to be the right one. I tried my best with the information I had and the instincts I felt.
When it opens and I am sitting at the bar enjoying a beer and a cheese slice, I will forgive everyone who messed up and likely forgive the ones who ripped me off too. I paid almost $3000 for a very small roof that joins the 2 buildings, a job that should not have been a dime over $1000. And worse I gave the Rustoleum Company over $750 for paint that I hate, took over 40 hours of my life, and looks hideous.
But I doubt many customers will notice the mistakes. They will notice the things I did right and they will praise me and leave a good review. I may have shaved a few years off my life, but I will likely live through the process of rebuilding. What was I to do? Plant wild flowers where Lightnin' Salvage used to be? Instead of rebuilding? .......................... maybe.
But I rebuilt instead. I wanted to surprise people and do something modern yet retro, clean and contemporary, solid, interesting, and well designed. The floors and the soffits - they failed. The bar top may fail. The booth and table compatibility may fail. I still have so much to do and none of it is a sure bet. Putting it all together is tough. It's above my pay grade.
Tonight I don't even care. I didn't sleep last night from anxiety. It's almost half past midnight of the following day now. I have become so weary from it all I just go through the motions, accept the outcomes, and hope for the best.
November 17, 2017. It's happening fast now. The building was electrified today. The floors are getting sealed. the decks are being waterproofed. I am working 20 hour days now. So tired. Exhausted. I'll get some secret pictures to share here soon.
November 9th, 2017
I am too tired to tell you all about it. Here's a really cool sneak peek of some bathroom tiles. I have been working my butt off lately, working as hard as I've ever worked, to try and get the new Lightnin' Salvage ready before Christmas:
October 17, 2017. Rough day. I am hit from every side with questions, phone calls, texts, decisions, problems, personalities, issues.... It has been mind numbing. A guy came in today to show me baseboards to choose, and then we measured all the linear feet we needed up and downstairs. I've hired a guy to help with finish work like bar top and window sills and he stopped in to go over materials we will need in 2 days for hanging plywood on walls. He is detail oriented so our meeting was long and involved. The plumbers needed me to get the sink I am going to use to place the bracket that holds the sink. The welder was putting up railings and I noticed issues on the stairs. The electrician is always behind and works late at night by head lamp, always working until the last minute and not quite finishing all the little details. Drywall arrived, was placed against the wall, had to moved to get cable to the ATM location, and will have to be moved again tomorrow to allow us to hang plywood on walls. Blocking was missed upstairs that kept me there late. I photographed all the walls so maybe I can look back if I am looking for studs and blocking later. I met with the painter and have to choose colors for doors and trim and walls. I set up a schedule with the guy who is doing the bar floor. Then ADT showed up unannounced to meet and go over security wiring. I am so exhausted mentally and physically. I am hoping that walls going up will start to let me feel better and decision making will slow?? Somehow I doubt it. I am constantly facing new challenges and decisions I had not even thought of. I am ordering things online, calling companies for specs on products, changing orders on the fly, and ah yes, I also ordered new T-shirts today. Which makes me realize what picture I should show tonight. I designed a new shirt, then my wife started designing a shirt and wants to challenge me to see which one sells better. Then my son designed 2 shirts. I will share with you my favorite although they are all cool: The colors are not quite the end product but you'll get the general idea. My son did this one:
October 5th. After the craziness of the day where there are 10-15 people working on the new space and I am being pulled every direction to answer some question that is hard to answer, I stayed late to work in the peace and quiet. I started building out the foot rest on the bar because now we'll have some stools at the bar. The place is coming together fast and the pace is intense for me. At one point it was getting dark and I had just figured out the curve on the wood I was cutting and I had to hold my phone in one hand, with the flashlight on, and the jigsaw in the other cutting a careful curve. Here's a picture from earlier today before I built the footrest.
September 27th, 2017. Well, now it's here. The time where I get manic and my mind is trying to consider every detail and time everything to get done. I am constantly taking notes, meeting people, buying things, and more or less stretching the capabilities of my mind. Soon I'll be doing the bar top, tiling the bathrooms, and meeting more people, buying more things, and burning the candle on the ends and in the middle.
Here are some pics from the job site, and a pic of me and my daughter underwater. We went scalloping with some friends last weekend and my daughter talked me into trying out my camera underwater since it is supposed to be waterproof. Oh, and always gotta throw in a tile pic because I am making SO MANY TILES!!
September 17th, 2017. I have been busy as you might imagine. The hurricane alone was about 2 weeks of distraction from normal life and I'm not done cleaning up from that yet. The construction is coming along slowly but regularly. I am told that things are going to be kicking into a higher gear in the next few weeks as the trusses are delivered and the roof goes on. I think windows and doors are happening too. I am a bit nervous about the next phase because there is so much for me to do as we turn attention to the inside details.
Here are a couple shots of tiles. The first picture are glazed tiles not fired yet so you can't really see the colors that happen after the firing. The second picture shows the brightness of the colors after firing. I make so many tiles it's crazy. I show only a few here but I am really on a tear of making tiles. I wish I could be doing mosaic but the construction above the mosaic and then the hurricane prevented me from working on it anymore. I am planning to get back into the mosaic practice this week.
August 13th, 2017.
The rebuild has slowed to a crawl but I have some exclusive pictures here. The first is my practice wall for mosaic. I have been making tiles for 6 months and need to get some practice so I can see what sort of tiles I need to make and what works and what doesn't. It's been fun. I am using a lot of the first tiles I made and some of them are pretty bad, but the goal of my mosaic is to be bright and colorful and I'm on the right track for that at least. I am also practicing nipping the tiles into shapes, something I haven't done much of before. In this photo there is no grout yet and they grey grout will really help bring it all together. I plan to tile for a few more days before grouting. The reason I am doing this particular spot is eventually it will be under some stairs and have a couple air conditioner outdoor units there so tiling now will be much easier than waiting and working under stairs and behind A/C units.
Next are the columns that are framing the front doors. These were my wife's idea. I really like them. They are very hard to see in this picture and there are bolts sticking out of them that get cut off, but it's a sneak peek:
Finally tonight I will share an interior shot of the new brewery Cypress and Grove where I recently hung 8 of my paintings. I usually only show my work at Satchel's in December but I have too much art in my closet and they needed some color so...
July 23rd, 2017.
My wife had the idea early on that we could have some flags hanging in the new LSE. When she and I first met I made these small "prayer flags" after making a series of linoleum block prints and looking for ways to display them. The fabric seemed like a good way and so those flags have been hanging in our living room ever since. We asked our friend Judy to make a set of flags for the new LSE and she is making these cool scrap sewed flags with all sorts of hand stitching on them....
Then I found the old linoleum blocks and printed some new flags on bright fabric that my mom sewed into squares for me:
But boy did my wife blow me away when she decided to make a set of flags herself. She's still making them and they aren't on a string yet but they are reflections of the beach where she spends a lot of time in the summer.
We already also have a set of interesting flags our good friend John Orth made and we may find a couple other folks to make us a set of flags. This is such a cool idea and I'm so lucky to have a wife who is creative and smart. I love her flags SO MUCH!
I am making tiles like crazy too but it is a slow process. I make tiles so much but still feel like I hardly have any.
Thanks for checking in. I will try and get back here often.
July 11, 2017. I am making tiles and making other things too. I am finally coming out of my funk and starting to feel excited and hopeful again. The walls are going up at the new building and my buckets of tiles are filling up. After this post I am planning to start a podcast for the staff at Satchel's. Optional listening but a way for me to connect with them about what I want out of the place. How I want to present to the world, and what I am doing at home in my studio.
I am sharing 2 pictures tonight. The first is a small sample of the buckets of tiles filling up, and the second is some tester "cove base" tiles I am working on for the bathrooms. These cove base tiles go around the bottom of the walls to help keep the corners and edges clean. They are rough and simple but somehow they seem to be so bad they are good. Does that make sense? Don't answer. They seem to have a childlike charm in that they look like a kid made them. That is practically so.
July the first, 2017. I am legit about to make this into my main blog. I have had a journal since in my 20's which turned into "menu backs" in 2003 (writing on the back of menus...) which turned into a "blog" on Wordpress in 2007, which turned into writing on Medium in 2015, and now just gravitating towards this LSE "blog." My life revolves around LSE these days so might as well put my writing here.
One of the issues we're facing with the remodel is the city now requires two bathroom walls get tile or some slick surface like FRP board. FRP board is some orange peel like surface white plastic panel that is easy to clean. It's great stuff just not something for your restaurant bathroom. The problem is I am making homemade tiles (to mosaic the outside of the new building) so I can't imagine buying boring tiles for the bathrooms. While I don't think I can make enough tiles to do the 3 bathrooms by the time we open, I am now putting a lot of effort into making tiles "for the bathrooms." This brought me to thinking about the baseboards in the bathrooms. So I started making "cove base" for the baseboards tonight and soon I'll check the linear feet I need and do some math to figure out how many of these I need to make. I could be making these for a month or more is my suspicion.
Building a special place for people to gather and celebrate and talk and cry and laugh, is about so much more than the napkins. I like nice napkins and recently we downgraded a bit to a little bit smaller napkin that might save us $40 a week. It's a bit painful but it was also painful to throw away the piles of practically unused napkins folks would leave stacked around the tables. But I'm saving on napkins so I can buy more clay and glaze and make my own cove base for the bathrooms. Honestly I want to make everything. I dream about a day when I make all the plates even.
I'll include some (boring) pictures of my studio. You'll see my first try at the cove base tile where I used wooden rulers to make a jig, and then the actual jig I glued and nailed that I'll use going forward making these special baseboard tiles. Also, I'll include a shot of the crates I have stacking up with square and rectangular tiles, and buckets where I am filling bigger and bright colored tiles which I will break up for mosaic work. Maybe I'll even put in a picture of some ugly tiles just to prove that I am really not that good at this yet but I am learning and I know they will get better so I am okay with showing you the ugly ones here on the blog......
I really should start adding a date to these entries for the record. so today is June 22, 2017.
Getting a building permit took a long time and a lot of work by several parties. My contractor and architect were a HUGE help. They drop everything and run to the building department with updated plans as soon as any snag comes up that needs to be addressed. I have made a lot of tweets and sent emails, talked on the phone and visited the building department several times myself. It took almost 10 weeks but we are stamped and ready to go now.
I am making tiles and having a lot of fun with that but I am also slowly working on these tables for the new place. There are 11 tables. I have 2 new pictures to share tonight and both of these were finished today! I hesitate to show them because I know how cool it could be to walk in for the first time and see them in real life, but I'm too excited about them to keep them under wraps. Judy, who worked days at LSE and was the buyer of all the gift shop goodies, has been working on a table top of matchbooks for over a month. Today I did one of the easier tables which is a collection of floppy discs:
I am going to do something weird now. Since I don't know how to swap the Blog posts from first to last to last to first, I am going to just now start to write new posts at the top instead of the bottom. What this means is that AFTER THIS POST, you will see things from the beginning when I started this section. Unconventional I know but who cares? If you are checking back often it will be easier for you to start with the first post you see, and I am writing this section for the regular lookers anyway. Thanks regular lookers. I love that you care what I am up to. Here's my picture for today: An iPhone 4 and 5 table that I made to remember the iPhone wall we had back in the day.... The backs were more colorful but the fronts are are also interesting. I like to think about how these phones will "age" as new products come out....
In this section I will reveal little details of the new LSE that I won't show anywhere else. In other words, you won't find these pics on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, but only here on the website. In an age where we are overwhelmed with media, I find something romantic about this little corner booth where I can experience something new and secret. There was my favorite booth in the old LSE, if you were walking into the lounge from the gift shop, it was in the very back left corner. I could prop my legs up on the bench and see EVERYTHING in the whole place and still almost be invisible. Well, new LSE will have it's own secrets. I'll store them here. I'll try and update even mundane details every couple weeks at least.
I started to make a couple table tops for LSE. The tables might remind folks of some of the collections from the original LSE.
I really want it all to be a surprise. I want to keep anything and everything about the new LSE a secret, because it's more exciting to watch it and let the expectations build up..... But I also want to share what I am working on. I want the serious fans to be able to sneak peek some stuff. That's why we are both here. You have found the inside track, the secret phone number, the hideaway booth.
The picture above is a table I made. The next pic is the table my wife made. These tables are the obvious reminders of the juke joint I lost in the fire. I am still sad about what I lost. Making these tables is helping me reinvent and reimagine Lightnin Salvage Enterprises.
Realizing I don't want the mosaic to be just rows of cute squares, and that I cannot make one small mosaic tile at a time, I am experimenting with making slabs that I score into smaller shapes. If they break on the lines like I hope, I should be able to make endless patterns and designs using various shapes, sizes, and colors.
This is my home studio. In early June 2017 I moved my kiln from my garage to my studio. I revamped my studio and added the janky roof extension you see in the picture, to make things efficient for the years of tile making I am embarking on. I am now in the "tile factory" (as I like to call it), daily. My goal is to make mosaic tiles for the new LSE. I am going at that goal with a vengeance. It might take me the rest of my life to mosaic the new LSE, but I am ok with that. I like the idea even. I love making tiles like I love making pizzas. It's all art. Here's another "sneaky peek" at the inside of my studio. It is the quiet side of the studio, where I'll be storing tiles in buckets, and my collage collecting cabinet.... The chair is for my wife who comes to counsel me:)
I've changed the name of this section to BLOG because essentially that's what it is. It's the beginning of June and the footers were dug days ago and I spend most of my time in the studio making tile and getting my space efficient for the tile factory. Each kiln load I learn new things about tiles and I am getting more and more decent tiles from each batch. I am learning. I'll throw in pictures of some tiles, my shop, where I make the table tops, and the kiln when I opened it this morning to look at my newly glazed and ready to use tiles. I am having fun. I have no idea how I will arrange the tiles I am just photographing some laying out on the table for fun. I will put more thought into it when I am setting them and many of these early tiles will end up on the back of the building because they are "ugly." I sorta like the sound of that word ugly. Seems like a good band name.
After only 10 short years, Lightnin' Salvage had become the ultimate juke joint:
A junk museum, toy store, Florida souvenir shop.
A bar, lounge, and live music venue.
A playground for the kids, people spontaneously dancing, a Lionel train rattling overhead.
Kids running wild without a parent in sight.
Birthday parties and a local hangout.
Bocce ball, an airplane, a treehouse and greenhouse.
Even the first ever NACHO NIGHT, the last day of Alachua County School, and a big party to celebrate Nacho Libre.
There was a night for storytelling and a night for bellydancing. Folk, bluegrass, blues, rock n roll and klezmer music sharing the same stage. Open Mic night. A pinecone contest. The night of a thousand ukeleles. A place that many artists had a part in creating. A 10 1/2 year art project.
I discovered the picture above on Twitter and I don't even know who took it but I bet it was a patron of the Ole' Barn, a bar across the street. It was a Monday evening, December 5th, 2016. We were closed all day but I had been in installing a new upgraded wifi. Home and on the couch I got a call from a food truck owner who had just finished his Monday night bowling game. He said the place was sky high in flames.... "through the roof!"
By the time I arrived at the scene the next picture is the one I took, and this was as close as I was allowed to get.... I wonder if you can imagine my state of mind. This had been my art studio for 10 years, an art installation studio, and more than half of my business...