other things

Been working on this idea. Even started a blog about it here.
it might only make sense to people who listen to a lot of podcasts. the whole blog and app idea is centered around podcast funding. well, with a forward look to charity funding….

the blog is a place to send podcasters so they can follow this idea but i have only sent it to one podcaster so far. i want to get the app further along before sharing the idea more widely.

the only reason i am sharing it here now is because of alex blumberg. alex is a guy who worked for this american life podcast for a long time and then helped start planet money podcast and now he wants to start a podcast company and has a new podcast about that called startup podcast. if he can be so honest and open about his idea then i feel i should open up about my idea too. at first i didn’t want anyone to take the idea but now i think that i’m the only one who really sees the benefit of such an idea. the idea is an app that enables the user to give to multiple podcasts with a few simple clicks.

it’s nearly midnight. i spent too long writing for my other blog tonight so i’m signing out of this one.

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better a day later

i was in bad shape yesterday and good shape today. what’s wrong with me?
don’t answer that.

yesterday i had been in a bad space for a long time and i thought it would never end. today i emerged from my funk and found my happiness. first off my wife makes my life a million times better every day and today was no different in that regard. she took the girl to school and made breakfast and lunch for the boy and took him too, and THEN picked me up at the shop. why? because the A/C on my truck is shot. and i spend a lot of time in my vehicle talking on the phone, and talking on the phone is more difficult with the windows down, and my voice has been going out the last week (from stress), and well i want it to work because i like that truck and need the A/C to talk on the phone when driving and also to make the ride of my friends and family more comfortable.

but besides all that, i was able to work at home for a change and uninterrupted for many hours on sanding and sealing the new windowsills for my house. we added TWELVE new windows to the house and 9 of them have cypress windowsills. the other 3 are plaster. they are high up and so don’t need the wooden sills.

but anyway, i enjoy these home projects so much that it turned my spirit around. it’s just the kind of thing that i enjoy, working on a project at home. and then work tonight was pleasant and not too busy and pizzas looked really good.

i’ve got another blog. i’ve been working with a woman in colorado to try and create an app that allows user to give to multiple podcasts at once. i’m keeping a blog about the process but it’s still private. i will share it here when the time is right. i realized recently that the app may never get finished. but i’ve not given up yet. i even wrote a long post on that blog tonight. but it’s a long road and more complicated than i first thought.

ongoing theme: i had a lot to write about here but don’t have time now to tell you….

… spent too long on the other post and then looking at a kickstarter campaign on some cool artist made playing cards. and now it is after midnight and my shoulders and hands are tired. but i am not “exhausted” or weary with life like i have been for the last couple weeks. i am not 100% good to go, but i have recovered a lot from my feelings just last night. it can be good to post a few days in a row now and then to follow my roller coaster mood swings. they are not as bad as all that but i do go through quite high and low times. having time in my shop and studio at home are sure fire ways to raise my spirits.

a guy called me today asking why don’t i start making my sodas and selling to all the local restaurants. this person doesn’t know me very well. ha. well enough to have my cell phone but not well enough to know my life. if i get an extra couple hours i want to work on a painting, sculpture, stained glass window, or in my greenhouse, NOT start a new business.

more tomorrow maybe. but what are the chances really? 3 days in a row?
not likely.

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so tired

it’s hard to even express my burnout and exhaustion. from what? life. the lightning strike that took out thousands of dollars in equipment at work that keeps my head spinning daily. the renovation at home which has us out of the house for over 4 months. the workers on the renovation that some days just don’t show. the training of new pizza makers which is one of the most stressful things in my life. the kids, not listening or turning into teenagers. the cats that keep me up at night. my diet which consists of no food or unhealthy food. my exercise which does not happen.

my life is too complicated. i wish it were easier. i wish it were simpler. i wish i knew how to change things. not that it is unhappy or unfulfilled, because i have more than enough to be happy and fulfilled about, but i am just so damn exhausted. mentally. physically too but more mentally. i am thinking of too many things at once. i am trying to accomplish too many things each day and week. i wish i knew how to just flip the switch off.

the pizzas have been going downhill lately. because new people are making them and i can;t watch every one. i get called to other issues and come back and find pizzas with half the jalapenos they need, half or twice the cheese, or just entirely too small or too large and floppy. too much sauce, or too many toppings. i try and get a handle on each one but sometimes 3 go in at a time and i can;t keep up. the most experienced pizza makers are working less and less. the night manager of the kitchen moved to a day prep position and that has left a hole that is yet to be filled.

i am wiped out. tomorrows friday which means i have to be alert and ready and NOT tired and exhausted. i need to make changes, somehow, some way.

my mind is so weary. i am thinking about the decision for the ATM, the handrail for the stairs at home, the window sills i need to poly. the guy who is not at work until 3pm. the fact my car went to the shop and now has to go back again. the dwindling bank account. the kids bad attitude. the maintenance at work and home. the new schedule at work. trying to find the right people for the right jobs. i can’t go on. i am getting more stressed writing about it. i thought it would help but i just feel anxious.

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lightning

lightning struck at work and stressed me out.
my voice is almost gone from stress.

but at least i could take a labor day weekend and get in a gator game and some down time….

but wait… no game???

lightning has been messing with us around here. stalling my pizza biz and stalling the gators…

so, fortunately i am working on a system to salvage this lightning for some enhanced future use… because salvaging lightning is first off pretty much unheard of and secondly, is a bad-ass idea. you start with a long metal rod and a collection device, and a very intense storm.
but i can’t get into that right now because i am mostly thinking about an event that might happen september the second.

more on that later…

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thanks

such a great night.

one family made my night and it just kept a high note from there. the family had a boy about to start at UF. they were so excited about the pizza. the father said it was the best he ever had. he was originally form romania but visiting us from ft. lauderdale. he was so dang excited about our pizza it even tickled me. he said the crust was so good. he couldn’t get over himself with excitement. it reminded me of how i feel when i get a really good pie. i get so excited. i don’t feel it as a self absorbed pleasure or even related to my own accomplishment. i just am so happy the pizza is so good. so happy i picked the right toppings and it was cooked properly. so happy that my dinner is so good.

anyway, as if i couldn’t be any more pleased with this guy’s excitement, i went back at the end of their meal because i wanted to get another lift from them. i said to the man, ” hope you can come back and see us” and he looked at me straight and serious and said he was going to buy the empty lot across the street and move there.

and not long after that there was the woman from new orleans said she was happy and the food was so good. but she made a point to tell me that as good as the food and the atmosphere was it didn’t compare to the joy she got from how she was served by so many employees and how they all came by to check on her. she loved that they were all working together.

then there was the 8 year old who went gaga about our crust. she said with such emotion, “i can’t beliiieeeve how good this crust is!” omg, she is 8. how can she be such a crust critic? these sorts of things just make me as a happy as a man can be. when the customers see and comment on all the things i am working so hard to do (…make good crust, create an comfortable atmosphere, make something that one just craves and longs for…) when they notice and tell me with words about their revelations…. it makes me feel good, complete, and like my endeavors are worthwhile.

i love the customers and i am impressed by my employees. what did i do to deserve this?

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too busy to write

my summer’s are intense and this one especially so.
one of the things i feel i am best at is problem solving. for example, currently i am working on a home renovation. the house i live in was built in 1961 by my grandparents. we’ve added a deck and porch but never addressed the larger problems of the bathrooms, kitchen, ungrounded plugs, rusty plumbing, outdoor laundry room, and limited kitchen space. finally last year we started the big renovation. i get an office that isn’t in the living room, and we tackle all the things that need to be improved. currently we are in the thick of it and so every day and week there are dozens of problems to solve. where do the plugs go, what kind of light, what will the cabinets and siding look like. the fixtures. anyone who has done this sort of thing knows the struggle. it’s a wonderful struggle but a struggle nonetheless. on top of that the restaurant is busier than ever. while it is also running more efficiently than ever and the crew is dedicated and smart, still problems arise weekly that have to be solved. personnel problems, maintenance problems, logistics. then there’s the family. the kids go to camps different weeks, there is a visit to the in-laws on the horizon, we are moved out of the house so our belongings are in boxes and stacks. there are personal struggles as well. how to find time to paint? how to best organize my time and days? how to enjoy the family while also juggling the renovation and restaurant demands?

i make lists. constantly make lists and set reminders and alarms. if i don;t set a reminder then i don;t get that thing done. lots of times i am too busy when the reminder comes and i have to make time to reset the alarm for a new later time that i imagine will be appropriate. the bank account has to be constantly monitored and maintained. the bills have to get paid. the kids need attention and encouragement, instruction and time. time. time. time.

while i have abandoned the hope of stained glass projects for now, and do not find the luxury to write, i am carrying a painting around with me to work on in between other tasks. i am actually getting a fair amount of paintings finished and always waiting for an hour to make a frame and finish a painting or collage. i’ll continue to have my yearly show of paintings in december, and this year should mark my 19th or 20th year of showing new work every year. while i don’t make a big fuss over advertising my work, or trying to promote my work, it is one of the staples of my life that help me manage the madness. the times i sit with the brush painting are the calmest and most peaceful times. the work tends to mirror my state. lately they are whirling and spiraling, textured, and hopefully reflective of my year and the tension between the peace i seek and the intensity of my activity.

my love for the customers and employees is not diminished. when i am working at the restaurant i am happy, even if sometimes also troubled. fortunately i have amazing people around me who help manage my business. if it weren’t for the staff i have assembled, my restaurant would not be so successful. i am keenly aware of the wealth of truly good people who help me daily.

my mom has macular degeneration. this condition has worsened in one eye to make seeing from that eye very difficult. there is now the chance that the other eye could worsen at any time and render her legally blind. my mother is wildly independent. driving a car is her freedom, and preparing a sunday meal for my family might mean she takes two or more trips to the grocery a day for several days in preparation. she loves to drive and travel and be independent. nothing could make her more upset than feeling like someone else has to help her. as she discusses her condition and prognosis it is easy to feel her fears. as she has aged she has had to battle a couple cancers among other things. while she has always been there for me and been ready to drop everything for any small need i may have, she is not excited about having the tables turned. the only escape from growing old is dying young. our bodies break down and living through those inevitable bodily breakdowns is a struggle of a whole different level.

i connected with a friend i haven’t seen since high school this week, theo. it’s been almost 30 years since we’ve talked. we shared lunch and caught up. he told me about bobby fankhauser. bobby was a close friend i knew through junior high and high school who i had wondered about many times and even tried to locate on Facebook a couple times. he went by rob as an adult which is why i didn’t find him. bobby died of a heart attack in his sleep two weeks ago. my friend theo and bobby had become close after high school and had been close friends the last few decades. theo had to speak at bobby’s funeral. theo was obviously shaken and disturbed by bobby’s sudden death.

one of the app ideas i have is a cliche app. the app would be a long list of cliches under themes like life, death, sex, food, friendship, neighbors, money, work…. and i thought it would be cool to somehow make little vignettes or short cartoons or videos where the cliche would be acted out or somehow expressed in images. maybe these short clips could be sent to someone or posted in response to an event. it’s a silly idea. it’s one of those ideas i will likely never get to. it’s so far down on the list of things to do that i’m surprised i’m even bringing it up at all. but i bring it up because i like cliches. life is fragile. be here now. no one ever got to their death bed and wished they would have worked more. seize the day. it’s the little things. keep it simple. don’t cry over spilled milk. better safe than sorry. if you build it they will come. rome wasn’t built in a day.

that’s not the app idea i am currently working on. the one i may have mentioned in a previous post or two. that app idea is still in progress with my programmer friend in colorado who is trying to learn a new apple language called swift. hopefully soon i can share that app and a link to the companion blog here. hopefully i am able to keep breathing real life into my ideas. that is a big part of what keeps me inspired and motivated… bringing paintings and ideas and things that live in my head into the real world. they are all silly and fleeting and tiny in the scheme of things, but it is a gift and a curse i live with every day. my lists get longer and then i check off stuff. they shorten for a time and then get longer again. ideas bounce in my head, pulse in my heart, and electrify me veins. it’s self absorbed in a way i know. but it also is just part of my DNA. something i have accepted. something i try and manage. my poor wife just shakes her head.

and so my goals right now are to “take it one day at a time.” i hope to make my restaurant a more interesting place, with consistently good food and service. i hope to continue to find ways to make it more efficient. i imagine the spectrum of efficiency as an infinite one. i hope my mom lets me give back a fraction of what she has given me in the coming months and years. i hope my kids learn critical thinking and problem solving. i hope i can be a constant and positive influence, despite my own shortcomings. i hope to help the employees who need my help, to work through the problems that come up like a good family would. it’s a struggle because while i know it’s easier to let go of an employee who is having a struggle, it’s my responsibility to follow the harder path which seeks a solutions to their issues, to find a way they might fit in the puzzle, stay in the family. i hope to serve the many customers with humility and earnestness. and i hope to continue to make things that brighten, lighten, enliven, spin, churn, entertain, and express.

i’ve stayed up way too late again…. the early bird gets the worm. absence makes the heart grow fonder. actions speak louder than words. all in a day’s work. that which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. today is the first day of the rest of your life.

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ho

i watch myself make mistakes sometimes, but an hour or two later. i hate that feeling that i am not at my best. the constant rattle of being behind in my imaginary schedule.

but i have things that must be accomplished no doubt. and accomplished this day or this week or this instant.

i feel good. alive. excited. but also never caught up with the demands. a constant shifting of priorities to figure out which one should be placed where… is this better before breakfast wednesday or after lunch? what can wait until thursday or friday? how will i fit it all in the hours? the one i want to do the most requires daylight and that shut off a few hours ago.

i would sleep but i would only sort it all out in my head for a while so why not try writing about it and hope that can shorten the waiting with pillow?
my job feels so easy some days and incredibly hard others. i guess i need a job like that because it reflects my own pace. run run run. stop completely. run run run. stop completely.
so much going on all around me. so much i cannot control or engage. so much i want to engage. so much i have to leave out. good stuff. do not look over here.
if i could learn to take it all in and also be still. if i could engage it all, and still be productive.

i wonder.

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my plate

is full.

the talk consumed so much of my time last week, worry and stress. i was prepared enough, but i did not likely deliver what was expected. i imagine the crowd was ready for tips on making time for writing and came away with something else entirely. but i gave the talk i had. i am not the guy to try and give tips on finding time…. my wife constantly reminds me that my biggest problem in life is related to “time management.”

also interesting for me to think about how badly i was needing a few day break, how much i looked forward to my mini vacation, and then how restless and anxious i became by day 3, wanting to get back to work. but also then at the end, wanting to stay and be the pop, and husband, to my family.

it’s a time management thing. i am not the guy to give a talk on managing time. lol.

but no worries because the talk went fine. i was half as nervous as i expected i would be, and the whole thing was over in a flash. i can’t be certain but i think i even had some chuckles and claps from the audience once or twice so that is a good thing, right?

and while it did not make me think that more public speaking is in my future, it did feel like a test that i passed and can relax about now.

work is fragile for me these days…. or feels fragile even though it is solid like a block of wood. i am excited about my new idea, and working on it some, under the radar. i am excited about the summer, my sister’s family coming, and the home and work projects i have on deck. i heard some great podcasts this week, especially the love and radio one, which i enjoyed so very much. but i am not giving my business the time and energy it sometimes gets. but i tell myself it will be ok.

i feel so compelled to tell you all i know about george ohr but there is just not enough hours in the day, as the cliche goes.

more later. i am not through after all.

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summer is nice

so happy that summer has begun.
i cringed the day that they instituted school uniforms in alachua county because my eccentric daughter who loved to dress up expressively several times daily, was forced to wear the uniform starting her first day of kindergarten. my son at least got to know a few years wearing what he felt expressed himself but my daughter won’t get the same benefit.
and i sometimes wonder about the day they will decide public schools should be year round and the glorious thing called summer will just blend with all the other seasons, but hotter.
for now i can mourn the creative outfits but i can rejoice that summer is still a thing we get to experience together, my kids and me. they’ll go to camps, see their cousins, grandmother takes them to harry potter world in orlando. and we can all sleep in as long as we want (for the most part.)

i’ve been working in the hot sun, trying to mitigate the loss of the old greenhouse by beginning to form the new. my body and mind are over-stressed and tired. i feel guilty at work when i come into the night shift late and leave early. but i am only doing what i can handle. i am so worn out and also having to plan a talk which it turns out is hard to do, and quite time consuming.

i will admit now that it turned out to be a good thing, preparing my talk. i explored almost 30 years of writing in collecting info for this talk. it was sortof fun recalling the old stories and reliving my youth a bit. i think because it was my first time preparing a talk i started out with an outline for 3 hours of material. fortunately i gave myself enough time to realize my mistake and edit it down to a reasonable monologue.

i am amazed at the people who can speak publicly so easily and make it look so easy. it is not something i have a natural knack for. but something that takes me out of my comfort zone. that is supposed to be a good thing. i know i heard that somewhere.

1:44am already. geez. time flies when you’re having fun. i made a lot of pies tonight at work and that was fun.

trying to catch my breath and tell a cohesive story in front of a crowd? now that sounds like work. we’ll see. we’ll see.

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still here….

just when i thought i would not blog again….
just when i tell you i am done with the public expression….
here i am back post after post, with more nonsense and sentences full of text and font.

every day i say to myself, “with just another hour i can finish the outline for my talk….” and then i spend 3 hours struggling with it and say…
with just another hour i think i can wrap up the outline for my talk….

i’ve never done a long talk before and so i am coming at this one in a new way. i am actually trying to have some plan…. some notes, an outline. some reading. lots of reading actually.

but i also struggle to figure out how to tie this long story together. how to deliver it in a fashion that does not put you to sleep…. and it is only with practice do people get good at these sorts of things. it’s kindof like the agony of the pizza contest. it seems like a good idea in the beginning and then as it approaches one realizes all the work that goes into such a thing as transporting ingredients for 8 pizzas across the country and cooking in an unfamiliar oven….

let me say that i still have nightmares about that day in mississippi…. sure, if i did those contests 2 or 3 times a year i could get good at them i think but WHY???? what comes from going to a contest to prove that my pizza is better than someone else’s pizza? what is the point? the fact that my restaurant was full all night this hot june thursday is enough for me to feel like my pizza is good. the fact that i am in there training new pizza makers and watching the pies coming out like a hawk, that is sufficient to make me proud.

but now i embark on a new endeavor, public speaking. it’s like the contest thing in a way, because i am going into a situation that i am not accustomed to.
at least i’m not competing for any prize, not having to perform my pizza making abilities in front of a crowd. oh how terrible that day was….

one thing i hope is certain, it can’t go as badly as that day in oxford went. oh i hope not anyway. my plan is to have the talk so prepared that i am able to simply read along to my detailed notes. and even if folks can’t follow the convoluted story precisely, they might appreciate the smaller stories that emerge.

one can only hope and pray in these matters.

i have avoided really laying out the horror story i experienced that day at the pizza contest. i do have this idea that i might one day be able to turn that memory into a readable menu-back but i will need more distance from it still. so many things went wrong and i made so many mistakes personally, and to make it worse i had made the whole trip a public spectacle. just as i am doing now. making the same mistakes over as i make a bigger deal than i should about the fact that i have to do a speaking gig sunday. so what? big deal? who cares? the only people coming are choosing to be there. they can leave or fall asleep at will.

it’s hard to keep from writing when i spend so much time reading these days. i am reading a lot of old journal entries, trying to stitch together a narrative. i come across terrible writing and funny stories and then i am so tired and ready for bed but i feel compelled to just pop on the blog and write a couple lines….

i’m not even supposed to be blogging anymore. these are just post script posts on the end…. lol.

after 7 1/2 years of blogging i don’t imagine i will be able to just abandoned the habit from one day to the next, just like i wonder how i am supposed to stop eating sugar or start losing weight or solving the problem of my anxiety.
we all form habits that are hard to change and shake. we are accustomed to our ways and our routines. some people watch tv shows. some people read the news online. some people shop on amazon. some people write stupid blogs. it’s ok. it is good to be a human and all. 1:00 in the morning and on the nose y’all! i’ve GOT to get some rest.

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tired

for some reason my computer won’t connect to the internet tonight. i am bound to write but cannot access my blog or web service. it is more than 20 minutes past midnight so if i want to write i am stick writing on google drive and hope to upload this tomorrow to the blog. why am i here? to talk about pizza.

the last 2 days have been my “days off.” i have been working non-stop. a guy cleaning the gutter at the business to the west of satchel’s looked down to see that we had a greenhouse attached to the RE Michels building. he decided to report this infraction to the corporate headquarters. back in the day, before RE Michels bought the building they are now in, the East side of their building was a mess. Thorny vines, beer bottles, oil filters in big barrels, all were what one would see on this side of their building. since no windows or doors were on this side of their business, the landscape had gone wild and been basically abandoned. i spent months cleaning it up. regardless, the company sent me a letter saying it had come to their attention we had a greenhouse attached to their building and it needed to be removed. for the past week we have been “removing” the greenhouse. now it had been relocated to the bocce court.

i just took my first bites of delicious millet and flax crust pizza. i had pizza for lunch at work while me and the guys worked on rebuilding the greenhouse, but now it’s late and my hunger led me to the frig for a snack. i only found one tiny slice of pizza in my frig. i am so happy to be eating it.

preparing for my talk at the library coming up this sunday i have been reading through my journals for excerpts to read to the folks. i found the writing of my pizza journey through new york 5 or 6 years ago. i ate at 13 pizza places in 3 days and reading these memories made me crave a slice. i am so thankful for that small slice that was waiting for me in the frig. ‘

it’s almost 1am. i have been getting 4 hours of sleep for days. i stay up too late drawing and trying to make an outline for my “talk” and then work 15 or 16 hour days and i am so tired. i am trying to understand what compels me to write right now and why i cannot just go to bed at a reasonable hour?

pizza. i was reading the journal looking for something worthwhile and after an hour i came upon the new york pizza reviews and i read the few journal pages where i was in new york eating pizza for days, and then i was in a trance. it’s like when my 9 year old reads about ice cream in a book she has to have some, or even if they are eating a bagel she gets hungry for a bagel…. as i read about the pizzas and remembered the pizzas i had to go hunt down a slice in the frig….

i am trying to put together an outline for my talk on sunday. i want to tell a story and leave an impression about my inspirations and motivations. as i read my old journals i find i mostly talk about pizza, anxiety and painting. i find i write a lot about painting. next about my anxiety and then about pizza and my restaurant. even when i was in my 20’s i wrote a lot about painting, anxiety, and pizza. the same is still true today. 25 years later.

the small slice i just ate was delicious. my memories of my 3 days and 13 pizzerias of new york are delicious. it’s silly how much my life revolves around this food. silly.

my computer shows i have internet but i don’t. i must be up at 6am and it is 1am. not unusual at all for me. lately i get 4 hours of sleep per night and i long and wish for 6. but my anxiety won’t let me get more than 4. the greenhouse needs rebuilding. there is so much to do on this project i cannot begin to explain. i will be training new pizza makers tuesday and wednesday and thursday night this week. my son has an award ceremony tomorrow night i will escape from satchel’s to attend. i will work another very long day tomorrow, and every day this week. i am training new pizza makers, i am rebuilding the greenhouse. i am remodeling at home. i am anxious. i am trying to outline a talk. i am reading my old journals for material. i am eager to write again. i have been drawing every night lately. today i dropped off a new coffee mug design and new t-shirt design to the printer. i am working on menu changes with the menu design guy. i am thinking about paint colors for the interior of my home which i will be re-painting. i am 2 chapters from finishing reading the adventures of tom sawyer to my kids. there are three days of school left, three days left for me to get up early and feel anxious about getting my girl off to school. i am excited. i am overly anxious. i am curious why my internet is down. i worked 15 hours today of labor and i am as tired as i have ever been. when i get up from this computer my feet will buckle under my weight. i will hobble to the bathroom and brush my teeth. the pillow will feel better than i can even imagine. i am so tired. so tired. so weary and worn out. my mind is mush. my bones ache. my muscles complain.

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surprised

tonight i was scanning through the magazine, our town, and i read an article on the repurpose project and then turning the pages i saw a picture of ME! what?? turns out that agreeing to a low key “talk at the downtown library” led to getting an invitation to talk to a writers group at the millhopper library in june. this is the last time you’ll see me in this sort of role for a long time. i have been practicing the N and O sounds in the mirror and i doubt i will agree to something like this again. it’s not so bad, it’s mostly that i don’t like to stand and talk in front of a group. the other part is that for the last talk i told the organizer that i couldn’t come up with a talk and so to make it a Q and A session. that worked out good and i was able to answer questions that folks had. then i went to be a guest speaker with a couple others at UF”s leadershape camp and it was also a question and answer format and with 3 of us i didn’t feel too much pressure. but now i face what will likely be my biggest crowd and it turns out that picture in the magazine? it says my talk is about “finding time to write in a busy schedule.” the woman who talked me into this, carol ray skipper, is a go-getter. not only did she get a bio and picture out of me, but she is getting the word out in the paper and in this magazine about the talk. oh- and she also came up with a title for my talk! i don’t have a talk prepared and i don’t even know how to prepare a talk. i hope there will be questions to answer. i can do that. i’ve been told there will likely be 50 people there! well, whatever. this talk will mark the end of my old life where i said yes to everything and the beginning of my new life where i only say no. i just don’t like being the center of attention in that way, having to hunt for the words to express myself, feeling all the eyes on me. it’s weird because anyone going to my restaurant might think that i live for that because the place is so loud and bright, but really i could be a hermit. actually before i opened the place i was sortof a hermit. not in the strict sense of the word, but in the sense that i don’t go to parties, i don’t talk to strangers much, i keep to myself, don’t go to bars or concerts. i’m an introvert. deep down i’m just an introvert who has tried to become more extroverted. it was a good experiment but i think i learned it’s better to not attempt these gigs that make me anxious and self conscious. i suppose it’s good for business to get out there and talk about stuff and mention the restaurant some but i also think the pizza can do it’s own talking, sell itself you know?

i have some work news i just wrote out and then deleted. sheesh. so hard to know how much is too much to share. well, since i think the drama will be playing out in the next few days and weeks, i will wait until i have a bit more information to share. it’s a tough spot, the situation on the horizon, but i will face it like i have every other obstacle that rises before me. it could drastically change the satchel’s/ LSE experience, but hey, i won’t get too far ahead of myself just yet.

so much happening these days. the night manager is out for a while after a surgery. the GM just told me he’s going to croatia for a few weeks, in a few days!! i have a home project in full swing and the work load at work is ever mounting. how do i find time to write? well, everyone in this house is fast asleep. i’m too tired and mentally exhausted to go to the studio tonight. i really quite hate the internet if you want to know the truth. and TV is just not part of my life, not for about 30 years now. i read that magazine article on the repurpose project. i’d really like to draw a howard bishop hawks t-shirt design but the last one i did was sort of a flop so i’m taking a break before trying again. so where does that leave me? you guessed it. writing again.

i have started a new blog that is part of another project i am working on but that blog is still not public yet. i’m working on an app and we’ll share that blog with potential clients by giving them a password. i’ve been writing lots more privately as well, which is such a relief because i can just say any damn thing and not worry or think about how it sounds to the outside world. that sort of writing is quite liberating. but tonight i figured i would visit the dusty old satchblog again. make a second post to remember May 2014. go ahead and admit i have not totally fallen off the face of the earth. i still will return to write something now and then, and maybe even tell you a sad tale soon about how the world can be cruel or how it might be kind. we’ll just have to wait and see on that one.

i find time to write because if i go to bed too early i wake up too early. my people all go to bed early and i just can’t sleep more than 6 or 7 hours…. so even a midnight bedtime gets me up at 6…. i think i just find writing is an easy way to express myself and fill some time between this and that. it never takes as much energy as painting or stained glass. if i do end up asleep before 11 then when i wake up at 5 i might as well write. there’s always so much crap bouncing around in my head, writing gets it out and helps rid me of anxiety. it’s cheaper than a shrink and not bad for me like pills would be. writing is the easiest way for me to kill an hour, or even two.

the battery on this chrome book is about to die. i could go hunt the plug but i’ll just call it a day. june 8th, that’s when i start my new life. about 4pm on june 8th. i’ll be done with my “talk” and i have no more gigs like that planned. i’ll be heading to the beach to catch up with my family. they will be starting the celebration called SUMMER. no wake up time, no school, no homework. i will be starting my new life at the moment my bare feet hit the sand. i’ll dump my worries in the ocean. i’ll lay down my burdens for a whale to come and swallow. i’ll unpack my cares and woes along with my duffle bag. we’ll blow up punchy the raft and hit the water. oh, how nice to live in the present, but how extraordinary to look forward to some down time.

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i find…

i find that i do have things to say in a public way.

tonight i was a guest speaker at a leadership camp in high springs. i was part of a 3 person panel talking about leadership. the UF students were so great. the event was well planned. the reception was warm and inviting. while i don’t generally like these speaking gigs i found this one was comfortable and bright.

but over and above that i find myself wanting to express my gratitude in a public space. i am the luckiest man alive. i enjoy what i do and others enjoy it also. i have the most wonderful family and job. after my speaking gig i stopped in at the restaurant near closing. the staff was all in a good mood and there were a few tables still who seemed to be having a good time. i get to hear the story about the 6 or 7 air force guys in uniform who ate in the van and the customer who gave a server a hundred dollars to pay for their meal. this is so inspiring and uplifting that it has made my night.

i get home to a quiet house with everyone asleep. i sit on my swing in my greenhouse and take in the lush greenery around me and listen to the chorus of crickets. i am so blessed.

most people don’t get to enjoy life so much. i feel so lucky. some of the students tonight came up after the talk and gathered around me to introduce themselves and tell me they love my restaurant. one girl said that we should be best friends. it was so sweet. at work people are doing their jobs and laughing. at home the house is tidy and the kids are tucked in. what more could i wish for? nothing more. nothing more at all.

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the good

there were lots of good things about the trip to mississippi. i found not one but two new artists i admire. frank estrada was at the festival and we discovered a book i am reading about an artist from a hundred years ago named george ohr.

the guy who won first place, “dutch” van oostendorp, was quite a character and presence. he makes every pie still at his little shop.

i met a few other characters in that short trip that i can’t stop thinking about like when we sat at the bar at the diner and spent the whole time talking to this pretty southern gal who reminded me of sandra bullock. or the head chef from five points pizza in nashville who was this huge guy who was super calm and friendly.

it was fun. i just screwed up. i can think of a few different things that i might have done differently but i didn’t think of them then.

i am going to learn a lesson from this trip. i am going to simplify my life. i am going to make some changes so i am not so busy. i get myself into these situations and that end up making my life so much more stressful.

and then i write and regret writing about the details of my life. i was not having these regrets when i wrote in private. it was so much easier to write when no one was listening. i must shake the desire to write in public because it only makes me anxious. if i stop writing on the web then i think i will overcome a portion of my anxiety. i don’t think it’s so much paranoia of who’s reading as much as feeling that a more private life will be a simpler and more healthy life. my world is so public everyday as i talk non-stop to employees and customers and friends. i want to live a less public life. if when i leave my house my life gets public then when i am home i want it to be non public time.

facebook also takes up a chunk of time, energy, and public eye. maybe it’s time to hand that off as well. i need to make changes. i need to simplify my life. i need to set an hour or two aside each day to exercise and work out some of my anxieties and stresses. my life seems more full of stresses and complications now than ever. i will be spending the next few weeks/months, trying to take on less responsibility, stress, and new projects, and work on working in more exercise and art time. i will fulfill the 2 more talks i have already scheduled, and then say no to these things which just make my calendar more full and my mind more rattled.

i’ll be back eventually with some update or another. i won’t abandon my 7 year blog site forever. but i am going to really try and quiet my world down a notch.

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facebook repeat

i’m tired.
it was a long day.
so, instead of getting into even more detail here… about my observations of oxford, the beer fest, the judging and all the minutia, i’m just going to copy and paste the lengthy Facebook post i did to inform fans of the pizza contest details….

SEC pizza update….
man, settle in and i’ll tell you a couple things.
it was a rough rough time. the tiny oven was like a toaster oven. we cook at 475. when i got there it was at 800 degrees. we never could get it down. at one point i was cooking a pie with the oven off and the door open. and it was still 550 degrees in there. i gave it my best but it was a tough setting. at home we partially bake the crust slow for 15 minutes, here it burnt the top and left the bottom white in 3 minutes. at home we slow cook a deep dish in 25 minutes, here is was burning on top in 10. i had the oven off most of the time. i wiped the stoned with cold water. it would get so cold after being off for a while that i would turn it back on, set it to 200, and within 5 minutes it was at 550. weird. very frustrating but after i realized that i was screwed i just decided to have some fun. so i flipped the burnt side over and made that the bottom. we had to make the pies in front of the audience so i grabbed the microphone and told them how great oxford was, how great the gators were, and how hard it was to bring all these coolers from florida and how challenging it was to break in these ovens. i told them how we treat our employees and how we have such awesome customers that were so excited they basically made me go to the thing. my wife was over there doing the “cut across the throat” move which meant “shut up.” but she always does that:)
the people lined up later to tell me they loved our pizza (i made about 6 pies for the crowd) and they enjoyed the stories i was telling about starting satchel’s or whatever. (i rambled on because they were all in line to get pizza and 1. there was not nearly enough pizza for these folks and 2. i was basically the main entertainment at that point.) and i had made up my mind to have fun even though we had some “issues” with the oven.
after taking the dough out of the pan and trying to get it to cook in the oven, having it stick to the oven stone because the stones were brand new and not seasoned, and after scraping these stupid sub-par doughs off the stone and putting them half burnt back into the pan, i realized they had shrunken down about a half inch which meant there would be no caramelization around the edge.
well, at that point my goal was to just make a pizza i could get onto a plate and in front of the judges, and to entertain the crowd to make it more fun. i had gone there thinking how fun it would be to make our awesome deep dish pizza and ended up stressed and trying to make anything that i could just transfer to a plate and slice.
the best part was the guy who showed up with his “keep it simple” satchel’s shirt. he used to teach at UF and was now at ole miss. he loved our pie and missed us. i told him the story i’ll now tell you…. i struggled for two months about what pizza to make: do i make a simple medium thin cheese pie? or go all out and try and spend 8 hours rising the deep dough, par-baking it, and going for the deep dish? (much more complicated pie) and while i kept thinking i should just do the simple easy cheese pie, i ended up bringing deep dish pans, lots of toppings, and attempting to re-create the complicated deep dish.
lesson? keep it simple.
now, as for the first and second place winners…. first place went to guy who has a tiny pizza shop in sardus, MS, 30 minutes out of oxford. this guy is well know for his pie. his shop is small and he does a pie in a wood burning oven. he is about as big a pizza geek as me. he was the only one on the wood burning oven, he was calm and cool, had great pizza, and was the PERFECT dude to take the prize. he’s like a big time serious chef guy with a tiny pizza shop in a tiny town (population 1680) this guy had been to a few competitions before and he was ready.
he was glowing after his win because he was going to italy next year. i must say i would have declined the italy trip, but that’s another story with lots more inside info…..
there were 3 guys from nashville from five points pizza. they used the same oven as i did but made a thin crust which is so much easier to manage. they also cooked with the oven off and the door open some of the time. they struggled with the temperature and their pizza tasted great. they had some “candied bacon” on their pie! candied bacon, tiny little tomatoes, mmmmm… they were super cool and ready.
honestly i was shocked we got third. when i saw what the oven did to my crusts i basically gave up hope of winning. but i will say this: the people we met were killer. the competitors were friendly and fun. the festival goers (it was a beer festival) were stumbling up to me left and right to tell me they loved our pie.
but the best part? let me tell you. the best part is going online to read our fans comments. folks are so encouraging and understanding. you people love us even if we had come in last. you folks who eat at satchel’s and get the “real thing” know what time it is. not only that but you tell me you love me even if i’m bringing home the bronze.

i love our pizza and our fans! i did what i could under the circumstances and i made the best of it. my wife and i have had a great mini-vacation here in oxford, mississippi. we had a killer breakfast at a place called big bad breakfast and i got a shirt that says” LARD (have mercy)” their bacon is incredible, and they sell little containers of bacon fat.

i would not have done this in a million years if it weren’t for the big response we got from Facebook fans to come and show off our stuff. we had a good time (except for the stressful part, ha) and in the end i’m super glad that Ole Miss won the gold. thanks for being so sweet. thanks for being such great fans.

below find a picture of the oven i used, plus a few pictures of other pies in the competition.

it was a good “short vacation” but i enjoy being at the restaurant too much to do it again. instead let me stay home and make pies. it was a great learning experience and also probably the first and last time i do a pizza contest:)

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oxford is a killer awesome place

what a quaint and wonderful little town. “the square” which is what they call the downtown area, looks like a movie set it’s so dang cute. every store looks independently owned and they all seem to be thriving. i can’t believe all the restaurants and bars we saw. not only that but clothing boutiques and cute shops…. even a big bookstore called square books and down the block another square books for used books and then another block was the square books jr. for kids books. the kids bookstore was amazing! there were toys and books and the place was blowing my mind but it was closing so we’ll be back tomorrow to get the kids something.

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i saw these pizza socks…

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and this cool water tower…

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and at this one dive bar there was this cute swing where you could drink and swing:

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these aren’t the best photos i could get but honestly i was having so much fun i forgot to take many pictures. the weather is great and the people are all extremely friendly. there was a baseball game going on a couple blocks away and when it was over there was a huge fireworks display and the perfect view was out hotel 3rd story window.

so far it’s been fun. my coolers are packed with fresh ice and i’ll be up early getting ready to make some pies.

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top 10

i was joking tonight that with 9 pizzerias in the SEC pizza bake-off, i’m sure to wind up in the top 10.
but seriously, i didn’t realize how much planning and organizing i would need to put this trip together. a friend to stay at the house, a place to park the car in orlando, a rental in memphis, the kids plan, and the all day figuring and packing ingredients. i have gone over it a few times in my head and can’t think of what that one thing is i will wish i would have brought. traveling with ingredients for 8 pizzas by 2 cars and a plane is not as simple as i first imagined.

i’m ready to win or lose, and i’m ready to drink beer and eat pizza. i’m ready to give it my best shot. and while i am a competitive person, i realize that even if i think my pizza is the best, others might taste it differently. why, i was told in a text recently that my pizza is just “not that good.” for all the folks raving about it, there’s a few folks knocking it down. but any way you slice it, it’s obvious that i am trying hard and i am sincere about serving up more than just lunch or dinner. live music, local art, community events like storytelling…and interesting things you don’t always see like an airplane mounted above you or a train running a track overhead in lightnin’ salvage. i will admit that the pizza is only part of what i love about my life. only part of what excites me about my job and my goals. soon we may add book signings once a month. soon we may finish our 2 year bocce tournament. soon we’re having the third? or fourth? “night of a thousand ukeleles.” soon we may switch to local sausage from the live oak pigs. soon we may continue to realize our dreams.

right now i am proud about the train. the plane was so much easier than the train. i can put a number on the airplane cost. it all fits neatly on list of expenses. but the train? i spent weeks, maybe months, building the track. i turned it over to pete because it wouldn’t work and he spent weeks, maybe months tweaking it, cleaning it, making it safe. still a no go. more weeks go by. i’ve given up. i admit defeat. i feel a little sad that i thought i could accomplish it and didn’t. then a customer, bob, offers to help. he sets up a train around his christmas tree every year and he’s got time and patience and the desire. my hope is rekindled. awesome.

bob spends a few days… then a week…. then a second and third week…. still our problems persist. i give up again. i feel a bit sadder than the first time because now i couldn’t do it and pete couldn’t do it (and pete can do anything) and then bob can’t do it (and i believed in bob) and so i accept my defeat again (but more completely.)

then bob goes to a train thing. a gathering of train enthusiast somewhere…. and he tells them about it and they give him some ideas… and then bob is back with a neatly trimmed white beard black clad train guru. within a couple hours would you believe they had that baby rolling and clattering along like a champ?! it was a power issue. we needed more wires on the track. we needed a different cleaner on the track. we needed a few little things but it was a dream that wasn’t dead. i had to chastise myself for giving up. i sat and watched the train tonight while i listened to the musician belt it out, i sat there and watched that one little girl watching the train in amazement, and the adults too, pointing and watching like it was a spinning wheel of water in the middle of a parking lot…. and i thought, “wow. it actually happened. i had an idea and other people had the know how. it took 4 or us to put our heads together to finish that project. and actually it’s not even finished because now john and i will come along and decorate the track. i want to hang clouds. john bought a water tower with a light at the top. we’ll make buildings and trees and a tunnel. maybe the tunnel can look like a cave…

yes, i love making pizzas delicious. i love getting the elements just right so the sauce and cheese and toppings are balanced and the crust is cooked just so. i love the caramelization that happens when it’s done just right. but i also love the kids faces when they see the train. i love that even adults feel some sensory overload. i love that employees are all so diverse and yet working together to create a complex and yet unified experience. it definitely goes awry from time to time, and parts of the machine get worn and faulty. but then again, most of the time the property as a whole is in sync. i don’t think about it so much as satchel’s like this and LSE like that and employees in this way and customers in that way…. but all of these are happening together like a song, like play or a dance. the food is one part of the equation. the music and lightning and service are another.

i set these goals for myself. i set goals i think are unattainable but yet they are simple goals too in the scheme of things. people build skyscrapers and climb mountains, so if my goal is a train that goes around overhead or to make my own soda, these things are within reach. and then the thing rears up to challenge me, and at times i feel i have lost. and in the end, at least with the train and the sodas, i did not lose. in the end i meet and enjoy a conversation with my expectation. i take into account that my goal was small, so as not to get too inflated an idea of myself, and i try and relish the feeling of accomplishment for just a little while. then, it’s time to think about what else can be done? what else can i accomplish this year or this week? let it be small or big but let me know progress.

i haven’t worked a lunch shift in a long time. i mean really worked a lunch shift. bussed tables, made pies, stressed, any of it! today i was feeling a bit guilty about that. but i also feel proud that i have learned to trust those i hired and trained and now entrust to carry out the mission of serving folks. i don;t work lunch because they seem to have it down. they are capable and ready for whatever business walks through the door or calls on the phone. they handle it. they tackle it. they do it with smiles and jokes and integrity. night crew does too but i still have not been able to train enough and staff enough folks to handle everything that gets thrown at us on a busy night. or maybe i am just scared that once i do get it under control they won’t need me around anymore.

it was sad to stop driving my van and give it to the restaurant. it was sad to stop working the oven and hand it over to the young people. it was sad to stop working a pizza shift and just watch and observe. but each time i did it to free up time for my kids, or for making art, or so i could step back and take in the whole picture.

i am a full time artist who enjoys baking. if they don’t like my pizza in oxford mississippi, or that one guy thinks my pizza is “not that good,” that’s just not a problem. baking is just one of the hobbies i have and i am fine with being a guy who is a jack of all trades, master at none. i am not a master of baking, or painting, drawing, graphic art, stained glass, or gardening. but i am “good” and some of those things and that is enough for me. i get overwhelmed when i see some artist like vollis simpson. i am in awe by painters like georgio morandi. reading great writing like mark twain can make a man feel useless.
if you look at gaudi then over at me, i will look like a stumblebum or a simpleton.

that’s cool by me. i like being me. i’m ok with being just ok. in fact, that’s part of what makes me me. i’ll never have a city museum. but i’ll have a satchel’s pizza. and it’s enough for me. it’s not perfect and it is perfect.

forgive me for being a sentimental chap. for talking too much. for trying to explain. i don’t even want to tell you but my fingers take over. i am inspired and humbled by the artist mentioned here and lots of other artists too. like ono chikkyo, a painter i discovered while i visited japan. no one here has ever heard of him. no one. but his paintings are so sumblime. it is art that propels me through my days. art. i find pizza to be an art. i am so fortunate to be able to now make art and pizza as a job.

midnight again. time to wrap this up even if i am not yet at 2500 words. i still have to get gas, pack my car, make the kids breakfast and lunch and get them to school. there’s a long list here on my desk of things to remember and to pack and i need to be on interstate 75 by 9am. 9 hours from now.

i’ll try my best to take a few pictures, to tell a story, to include you in the trip to
m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i.
or not.
got to try and do like my wife always does and “go with the flow.”
hmmmm

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SEC bake-off

next weekend is the SEC pizza bake-off in oxford mississippi. which basically just means they made up a title to try and get more people to come to their beer festival and have an event where folks would get to eat pizza. it’s the first annual event, or at least they are calling it that, so there are 9 participants from 7 schools.
i won’t lie to you, i am a competitive person. i would normally avoid these contests because they take me away from my business and they don’t really mean much, but they hooked me when they called it an SEC thing and asked if i’d represent the gators. anyway, no one wants to go and lose, but 8 pizzerias will essentially lose because who wants to brag about being second place? whatever. i agreed to go mostly because when i asked the facebook fans it was the most popular post ever and fans really want me to do it. the smaller reason is that it’s a chance for my wife and i to go to a beer festival and take a couple day “vacation” in a town we’ve never been to. i don;t go expecting to win, but i certainly will do my best. the tricky thing is that the ovens will be different, i’m not accustomed to attending this sort of thing, and there’s just no telling what curve ball will be thrown in my direction. regardless of how well or badly i do there, i will try and write about it here so interested parties can follow. if nothing else it is something different from my very regular routine.

here’s the info i have on the pizzerias and schools:
from auburn: brick oven pizza co.
LSU: fleur de lis
Ole miss: tribecca allie cafe
Ole miss: tre amici
mississippi state: lost pizza
univ of alabama: little italy
vanderbilt: nashville pizza company
vanderbilt: five points pizza
UF: satchel’s pizza

i don’t want to get into too many details of the pizza i plan to make yet because you never know if those other pizzerias are on to me, following my every move.. ha.
better keep it on the down low.

it’s been a long week for me. i’m tired. i stay up too late and wake up too early. i stress about every little thing. i have a lot of “irons in the fire.” tuesday was a crazy day for me, my mind being bombarded. thursday was another hard one with several caterings on top of each other and they didn’t go as smoothly as i would have liked. the stress from that was too much. my shoulders are tight, the blood flow to my brain is minimal. my fuse is short. i am always working on self improvement. always trying to figure out better coping strategies. always trying to make my restaurant run better and more efficient and trying to do that in my personal life as well. but change doesn’t come easy. and i take my job way too seriously most of the time.

i would not do this job if it weren’t for the two days off. knowing that the doors are closed and my phone won’t ring with a problem. there is no wondering how we are staffed or if the dough is properly proofed and the pizzas properly made and the service properly serviceable. there’s just the calm and mellow day with no big agenda. sundays are a gift from god. mondays are good too but i have to get up and get my daughter off to school which is slightly like work. but after that mondays are pretty awesome too. i live for the weekends. as much as i still enjoy my job, and enjoy entertaining and feeding folks…. i am pretty much an introvert actually and love staying home and doing my hobbies. it’s not that i don;t love what i do but that i love it because it is balanced with some days off where i get down time. me time. family time. quiet time.

i’m tired. so tired. i always push myself to do a hundred things a day but by this time of night on a saturday i am sort of wrecked. thanks for tuning in. remember that post a few back where i said i would stop writing? well, that may still be true, but i did want to at least fill in the story of the pig farm and the pizza competition. after that who knows? i guess i feel a bit guilty since i agreed to talk to this group of writers in june and if i quit writing then i’ll seem like a big fake. ha. no, but there is this weird thing with me enjoying writing and being afraid of expressing myself in this forum. i’ve been writing regularly for 30 years but it’s only been recently that most if my writing has gone to this public space. when it was private and i could just print the pages and fill up a 3 ring binder, that was so fun. there was no one reading it, no one to answer to, no one to write for. it was so easy. but now, i know some people are following this and similar to the feeling of being responsible for the diners who walk in my restaurant, i feel a tiny bit of responsibility to my readers. is it right to just close my shop and make my pizzas at home for me?

changes. privacy. insecurity. the more i tell you the more you know me. the more you know me the more insecure i feel. it’s as if i’m afraid all of a sudden everyone will realize i am a boring guy with nothing to say and not much going on. i feel great about that personally but scared about that as a public figure. customers are always so excited to meet me and make a big deal out of it. i can;t tell you how many times i hear a customer whisper to their friends or family, “that’s satchel.” it happened tonight while i was at the table. they whispered it like i couldn’t hear them but i could hear them so plainly. it’s hard to live up to a persona. it’s hard to feel like people look up to you when you are just a regular guy with everyday problems. it’s hard to be a public person when deep down i am an introvert and a private person.

i will admit that one thing i love about the blog is that is archived online. i don’t feel the need to print every post and put them in a binder like i have done my whole life with my writing. i trust that it will just live online forever. my kids can go read my rambling from the beginning one day. my grand kids can follow my mania if they so choose. it’s out there for anyone to see. there’s something cool about that, interesting, expressive, undiluted, raw, real, honest, tender. conversely, there is something so self absorbed about it, so stupid, so egocentric, so lame, self important, cocky, ugly, trite. it’s the constant tug of war between these two real scenarios that troubles me. on the one hand i love writing into the void, printing the pages, deleting the files and putting them in a 3 ring binder and storing them in a chest like a time capsule. on the other hand i like writing in the open, for anyone, no invitation or special permit needed. just come look at my mind and feelings and anxieties. i’ll expose my faults for all to mock and chuckle at. but the two hands struggle back and forth for supremacy.

midnight comes so quickly when i write. midnight reminds me how tired i am. how silly i am. how foolish i am. midnight basically yells at me to shut up.

is there anyone, who can write about nothing, as much as me?

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full circle farm

so a couple weeks back a few pounds of sausage links arrive in my walk-in at work, 1.5 pounds of mild italian sausage and 1.5 pounds of spicy italian sausage. there’s a paper with pricing and info about the farm. minimal info but clear.
i bring it home and a couple days later we have my mom and my in-laws over for sausage on the grill. these links were great! i had a couple spicy ones and the meat was tasty, lean, and really good. so much so that the next day i called the number on the attached card. brian. pig farmer.

with a brief conversation i learned that brian had recently moved from california to start this pork operation and he said his pigs were roaming free in a wooded copse. i wasn’t even sure i knew what the word copse meant but in my mind i saw pigs in the forest, and it all sounded like bacon. i decided i should plan a field trip to the farm and see this for myself. while i know very little about pig farming, i never imagined pigs in the forest roaming free. i mean, this sort of thing seemed natural but i just thought pig farming as a smelly, crowded, thick and depressing environment. brian seemed enthusiastic about his endeavor and eager to have me visit his operation. we settled on the following sunday and he said to bring the kids.

when i got up sunday morning it was much later than i usually wake up and i was feeling really well rested as i stumbled out of bed just after 8am. it was after 9 when my wife and son emerged and almost 10 when i had to go and look at my daughter to make sure she was still there. as i stepped softly into her room and approached her bed, her eyes opened slightly and she smiled.
at some point in my fog i put the farm address in my phone and noticed it was about an hour and a half drive. yikes.

since our very usual routine is to soak up the minutes like paint drying on sunday mornings and stretch out breakfast into lunch and lunch into dinner…… it was a bit challenging to rally the troops and get out by 10:45. i had at first said “10 or 11am” to brian via email and he responded with “see you at 11.” when i realized we would be quite behind schedule i texted him, and my 11am arrival was off by an hour and a quarter. i am not usually one to be late but in this case i was amazed i was even able to get the whole family in the car and on location without at least a couple defectors. somehow this fact negated my usual stresses about being late.

the day was bright and pretty comfortable. brian welcomes us from overalls, a straw hat and red beard. the kids petted the dog and quickly found a climbing tree. brain showed us his keyhole beds and fruit trees and blueberry bushes. my wife is so up on gardening and plant names and she and brian were over my head in a minute, talking peach trees and asparagus, and before long we met brian’s wife, angela at the back door and decided to go see the pigs before lunch.

garden

a golf cart carried the 5 of us… brian and i in front and caroline and the kids on the bench seat facing back. we learned a bit about brian’s interest in permaculture, in the natural order of things, and that he had been in the marine corps. soon we arrived to find some eager pigs. my kids were excited. the pigs had been trained to an electric wire and were cordoned off in an acre of forrest. i lifted my daughter over and my son jumped and they were entranced for a spell as they tried to “pet or touch” a pig.

s & c with pigs

so cool! these were a young bunch and we learned that as they forage and dig and burrow, they regenerate vintage greenery, and help in keeping the forest healthy. brian tells us after a while when the pigs have cleared an area he wires off a new spot and they all head right over to eat and enjoy the next patch of green. he’s been given 60 acres of forest to use and the land owner basically just wants a percentage of the profit in exchange.

soon we’re back on the golf cart and deeper into the woods. we find the pack of pigs that is a week from slaughter. big fatties. they look about as happy as pigs could be. they bury their snouts in the dirt, rub their butts on a tree as a scratching post, and grunt and lay around and nap. we learn that pigs are smart and social and usually follow the leader pig.

pig

close to these big ones are the litter of babies. brian says because they don’t have as much fat they get out of the wired areas easier and don’t feel the shock as much. he ends up chasing them down and trying to train them to the wire. it sounds like hard work but somehow a bit of fun too, running around the woods chasing baby pigs….

pigs

we walk a few hundred feet to another group. he knows they are out in the woods nearby so he calls for them …”PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG”
and here they come put of nowhere….. striped ones and spotted ones, pink ones and brown ones…. a whole mess of breeds. maybe 15 or so pigs come running through the woods to see us.

spotty pig

by this time my kids were both hungry. they wanted to get back to whatever mystery lunch these farmers had prepared for us. and so we hit brian with more questions as we made our way back to the farm house. who does this sort of farming? where did he learn? is this a common way to do things? we learned that this is NOT a common way to raise pigs for food. this is something he is learning and inventing and innovating. brian is full of excitement in his monotone marine corps way. brian is perfectly suited to this line of work. he’s smart, methodical, dedicated, and interested in being in touch with the food he eats. he’s not interested in growth hormones, pesticides, steroids and industrial farming. he easily expresses his love for what he does and his strong conviction that it’s good for us and the earth to farm organically. it made so much sense. here’s the kind of person it takes to do this: a smart, young, disciplined marine from california. i don’t know. it’s hard to put the pieces together with words here on the internet, but there on the golf cart and in the sunshine and copse, the whole thing just seemed right. like this was the only way anyone should ever raise pigs.

back at the farm house, angela had a spread waiting for us. the house was IMMACULATE. the floors were all tile and we took off our shoes before entering. since i only had on my sunday birkenstocks, i was able to feel the cool tile with my bare feet. i can tell you now there was not a speck of dust or sand in the place. the house was neat as a pin and the lunch was delicious. there was a gallon of fresh cow milk on the table and sausage links and pulled pork. salad and rice and some slaws. my son was so happy about the milk. so creamy and raw. after lunch angela busted out homemade angel food cake, whip cream and berries. oh man. all those farm fresh egg whites and wheat flour…. the whip cream…. so good.

after lunch we got a brief tour of the rest of the farm. we learned the farm has another family that runs the dairy cows and meat cows, laying chickens and meat chickens. we saw the cows out in 2 separate pastures, meat cows in one and dairy cows in another. we saw the meat chickens which must be the definition of free range. they had a huge coop that got moved around the farm. we saw several small sinkholes in the fields as we passed, and i could’t help but wonder if they might swallow us up at any minute.

we saw the laying chickens under their coop in a field. brian said they never go more than a couple hundred yards from home during the day. he said they get 80 or 90 eggs per day…

chicken coop

and as we talked a bit of shop arriving back at home base, we discussed the tenderloin, the ribs, the pork belly and the pounds of sausage we could buy for pizza topping. we talked about potentially needing a pig a week and how we might be able to start experimenting with seasoning the sausage ourselves and crumbling the fresh pork on the pie instead of dicing linked sausage like we do now.

brian gave me a couple dozen fresh eggs, more links of sausage, some unseasoned and unlinked sausage, and a small pack of bacon. fortunately my wife thought to bring a cooler.

brian nd angela

my daughter decided she wants to stay out there and live. she wants to be a farmer and take care of pigs and chickens and climb trees. we stopped at the itchetucknee spring head on the way home. the water was cold but also refreshing. we all swam a while then laid in the sun on a towel.

we had to get back for a dinner with family. my in-laws were about to leave for seattle and my wife’s aunt and uncle were in town too. my mom also came and we all met up at southern charm.

monday morning i was too tired to make the bacon so it was tuesday before i put three pieces in the pan. thick stuff. thick enough that one for me, one for my boy and one for my wife was enough. my daughter is not a bacon fan so i am trying to find her real father now. :)
that bacon was the best ever. wow. what can i tell you? how do you describe the best bacon? think about the best bacon you ever had. now think about that times 3.

the sausage we got is not enough to make a lot of pies at work but i’m thinking it will be enough to take with me to mississippi for the SEC pizza bake off. i wish i had more to experiment with before i go but honestly i may have just enough to eat a bite and pack up for travel. that’s another story i plan to bring you here. the trip to mississippi for a pizza competition. i haven’t done this sort of thing so it might be interesting. it also might be boring but either way i hope to tell you way too much about it here.

i think we have some really excellent sausage already at satchel’s, and i know some people might be really sad if we replace it with this new sausage, i hope to explore this option and see how it tastes and works on a satch pie and am interested to see if it is just hands down better or up for debate among sausage lovers. the diced link sausage we do now does have a nice crispy-ness to it when it heats up just so. brian is gonna have me a big batch of sausage to try when i get back from my pizza contest trip. he’s got to get the pig slaughtered with USDA standards and inspectors before it can be sold to a restaurant. the next batch of pigs will be coming my way soon.

so, i will keep posting about it if i can find the time. i love finding folks like brian who love what they do and are so well suited to their job as well. we all have a way to fit into the system and it revives my interest in my own profession to see someone thriving in theirs.

and finally, i must admit, the only reason i have pictures and can post again is because of my new computer. the macbook air was a dud and after calling more 800 numbers i was told to take it in to a best buy and exchange it. i doubted this would work but it actually did. and so this new macbook air seems to be in perfect working order so far. no funny speaker sounds, no moving cursor…. and this allows me to upload my pictures and also type away for entirely too long. do not consider me a snob though because i still prefer my chrome book.

i am yawning big yawns now. it must be past midnight. tomorrow i hope to seriously do all the things on my list that i missed today.

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ch-ch-ch-changes….

brian nd angela

testing 123… determined to see if i can fix my inserting of photograph issues so i can tell you the story of full circle farm.

let me try another picture….pig

ok so it’s a big day for satchel raye. i decided to dig in to this site and try and figure out how to post photos. i ended up figuring out that changing my theme was the best way to make this work, or the easiest anyway. i was always quite fond of the simple theme i had but this one looks pretty sparse too and sparse is what i want. actually, i like how the black words look all crammed on the white page, i like that. but i do like the occasional photo and since i have a story to share and i wanted there to be photos from my field trip… i thought it was high time i figured out a way to make my blog site work better for me. i appreciate your patience as i explain all of this. now, i think i will start a new post that tells this story from start to finish without all the nonsense of my mentally challenged process. i will say this: i learn watching my kids. they don’t stop hitting buttons and looking to figure out how stuff works. i get so stuck in my ways and don’t want to just poke around and keep searching for a better way to express myself. if i can post pictures i think i will just have more tools available to tell my story. so when you find those posts that tell you i am giving up on my blog and giving up on trying to ever post pictures again, ignore those posts. i was mistaken. this new “theme” seems like it might just pump a bit of gas into my engine. at least for now.

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