PREFACE: Channel surfing the other night I paused to watch the Marriage Ref for a brief moment. It doesn’t seem like a show I want to spend much time with but what little I watched surely had the kind of silliness and daffiness that makes anything Jerry Seinfeld has anything to do with entertaining.
And I owe Jerry a huge thanks for making me and my daughter, Nyla, laugh our rear ends off back in December when we were living in a deep state of mourning due to the loss of a mother and wife. Oh, did we ever need such an evening of comedy for comedy’s sake.
We attended Jerry’s show due to me winning a pair of tickets in a writing contest (about “my experience with a locally owned business”) put on by S.L.O.B. (Supporter of Locally Owned Businesses), a website started by Joe Grant who owns Grant’s Marketplace which serves my Golden Hill/South Park community.
I share this piece considering that my neighborhood is a wonderful area in which to live as is OB, a community I visit often to walk along the beach, to people watch, to shop at the food coop. My dogs, when they were still around, spent about as much time at Dog Beach as they did in our own Dog Park. What I wrote about a prominent business in my part of town could have been written about a number of places in OB.
My wife, Nancy, and I, have lived in Golden Hill since the early 70’s, drawn by it’s mixture of people who were of all the human colors and who were rich and poor and gay and straight and artistic and politically and civically activistic, if you will – a community of people contributing, in so many ways, to the making of a better world.
Then along came the Big Kitchen with open arms and we were inspired by how, under proprietor Judy-the-Beauty-On-Duty’s leadership and guidance, this now iconic cafe immediately blended in with our neighborhoods’ vibrant hopeful energy – making it, for us, and many others, from the very start, a place more of the heart and soul than a business enterprise. It was love at first sight.
And love has always been what the Big Kitchen has been about. I’ve seen so many grownups and kids who needed a little leg up find employment there. I’ve eaten countless lasagna dinners that have been prepared as fundraisers for progressive organizations there. On many an occasion I’ve met with people there who, like me, like to dine and engage in wholesome debate and community planning at the same time.
It’s been a love affair for sure, filled with so many precious memories. Some of Nancy’s best pictures have been posed and taken within its walls, including a couple of our old pal Whoopi’s smiling face. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my rhymes and honing characters like Old Antonio, the soul and conscience of the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, on the Big Kitchen Stage, a theater “almost-in-the-round,” in the counter serving area. And, as a result, the Big Kitchen has played a significant role in the building of schools for children in the Lacandon Jungle of Mexico.
And recently when my precious soul mate passed away, the Big Kitchen, through Judy, got our kids and me up on our feet and had us marching, to a nice beat, with old and new friends, from our home on 30th and Cedar to our old apartment at 24th and A where Nancy and I began our life together. We strolled through Golden Hill Park where our children mainly learned to walk, then we went around the golf course to dog park where our dogs, Jackson, Lolli, and Elsie used to run free. It was there, through poetic words and beautiful songs and the burning of sage, that we celebrated our memories of Nancy’s many contributions to our lives, her unconditional love for us, her giving of herself so selflessly to us and to the world. Even in our sadness we had a good time.
Ah, this love affair with the Big Kitchen has lasted over three decades and grows in intensity day after day. It still remains, after all these years, more a place of the heart and soul than a business enterprise.
POSTSCRIPT: The phrase, “our neighborhoods’ vibrant hopeful energy” sounds so OBcean, doesn’t it? And it’s that energy that’s going to straighten out the likes of the problems with the homeless kids, right? You betcha – whoa, that was rather Palinish, wasn’t it?