St. Patrick and the Coronas.

Craziest St. Patrick’s Day ever.

Not to say it was CRAZY crazy…not like past celebrations where there was a line of folks waiting outside the door, hoping to get a prime table, one near the band – which wasn’t scheduled to start for hours.

We did have some early arrivals, people who had called. People who were advised to get a spot early, since the uncertain times dictated the cooking of smaller quantities. Turns out Dustin cooked just the right amount, we sold out of his corned beef special toward the end of the lunch service. There was one little sliver left for my plate.

No, it was Crazy, in that it went so smoothly – no pressure, no confusion. Except for a couple of typing errors on my part, there weren’t even any mistakes between the kitchen and the tables.

That’s CRAZY!

Certainly, some unsettled times in the restaurant business right now. My drive through the Rose District usually has cars in every space in the block to our south, where the Breakfast restaurants are located. Mostly empty spaces today.

Having read about the various states that had ordered restaurant and bar closings, I half expected that to be the case this morning. The Brunch spot had its OPEN sign flashing in the window. There just weren’t any customers.

Dustin and I wound up serving a pretty good crowd – not a St. Patrick’s Day crowd, by any means. But for any other day of the week, it was a good turnout. He had doubled the amount of Irish Stew he normally prepares, so it was a busy day in which we had no concerns about running out of food prematurely.

Some of our St. Paddy’s Day regulars were among the missing, but given the government and health care warnings about public gatherings, it was no surprise. I believe we were in compliance with the occupancy limitations most of the time. People came and went, the tables are well-spaced, and my disinfectant bottle was quick-draw holstered.

We don’t know what the future holds. Tulsa’s food service industry has been ordered closed as of this evening. I hope that Arnie’s, Kilkenny’s, and McNellie’s can do a fair business before midnight strikes. Back in my days at Paddy’s Irish, I used to tell folks that the holiday was – for us – Christmas, New Year’s, and everyone’s birthdays, all in a single day. It has to be much the same for the Tulsa area Irish establishments.

Unlike most restaurants, Dustin and I don’t have a service staff that we would be laying off, or cutting back on hours. Staff members become like family over time, and I can imagine how tough those meetings in the office are going to be. How tough the realization that the rent is going to come due April first and this is only the 17th of March and how will that money be raised between now and then. Of course there are exceptions, but I’ve known a lot of servers who found rent-budgeting a tough thing, even in good times.

It has been heartening to answer the several phone calls this morning from regular customers who are worried about us, about whether we will be able to hang on. Several have promised to order some carry out meals. One of the bankers asked how many meals a day it would take to keep us afloat, and offering to call in some orders. I tell you honestly, it almost chokes me up to think that our neighbors would think about us so kindly.

There’s no denying that we are nervous, but it isn’t a crippling fear. More of a cautious observation of the times, the news, the uncertainty, and the collecting of the emotions that will allow us to take the punches, take some deep breaths, and carry on.

What Is – And What Will Never Be.

Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks, who – by default – should be considered the 2020 NCAA Basketball Champions. Since the games aren’t to be played, it is one of the rare occasions where the ‘on paper’ analysis might have to stand. (Remember, they always say – “That’s why they play the games” – to account for upsets.)

There will be no Cinderella Stories, no “Diaper Dandies,” and no Bracket Busters.

But, that doesn’t mean that no recognition is due. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that the Associated Press final Top 25’s top four teams could have represented the March Madness Final Four, and that would have had two Big 12 teams in the National Semi-Finals. Baylor occupies the fourth spot in the final rankings.

Beyond having been born in that state, I have other reasons to hold the Kansas Teams as my backup favorites. My parents were alumni. I stayed a summer in the “Little Apple” building a boat marina, (staying for the duration at the Jayhawk Junior Motor Hotel).

Then, there is Kansas Head Coach Bill Self – who wasn’t exactly a ‘regular’ at Paddy’s – my restaurant in Tulsa at the time – but was certainly recognizable when he did come in.

We had televisions at each end of the bar, and one evening the sports news was about the rumored pursuit of Tulsa University Coach Bill Self by another university. Just as I walked past the TV, the announcer said something like “Coach Self could not be located for a comment.” I glanced over to a table by the wall and said, “Well, he’s located right there!”

It turns out – he WAS being recruited that night, and shortly thereafter departed TU for Illinois. He was in the restaurant on my son Dustin’s twenty-first birthday as well that year, and was gracious enough to come over to the birthday table and shake hands and extend ‘Happy Birthday’ wishes. It’s hard not to root for a busy guy who’ll still take the time.

So, I’m hoping that Kansas will hang a banner, and that Baylor (and all the other teams) will give some sort of recognition to the players – particularly the seniors – whose trip to the Big Dance was cancelled, for the ‘what might have been’ that will never be.

Fine Binding find.

There’s GOLD in them-thar books! Gilded edges and gold-embossed spines, anyway… and it’s nice to – every once in a great while – have a stack of books come in that are so nice-looking that I want to take a picture of them.

So that’s just what I did.

I am sympathetic to the fellow who brought them in this afternoon. He is moving, he says, and is having to pare down his possessions.

“I have to be ruthless,” he said. “It’s hard.”

After relocating the bookstore, I know what he is going through. Books are not easily moved from place to place – although I’ll admit that they are certainly less fragile than fine china. Their size and rough-uniformity makes it easy to stack books in too-large boxes that are impossible to lift easily.

These came secured in paper grocery bags. I heard one of the bags rip as he set them on the table. Since there aren’t too many bookstores around anymore, I figured our shop might have been the first place he had stopped. Otherwise, some of these beautiful, fine binding books might have ended up on the ground from ripped sacks.

Most of the books are classic titles, English literature and early-American biographies. Books to which I am happy to serve as a temporary custodian. I tell people that the volumes in the shop are my ‘book children’ that I hope to adopt out to good homes.

Easton Press may be considered the Rolls Royce of contemporary fine binding books, as they have a standard for quality and design not matched by other publishers dealing in historic reprints.

And – unlike hand-bound quarter leathern, marbled edge vintage volumes – they can be obtained at reasonable prices.

They look good on the shelf… nice enough to take a picture of!