Archive for February, 2010

0:Dark:Thirty

Written by mitch. Posted in Uncategorized

Old habits really do die hard… Like getting up long before the Sun decides to shake off the night’s comforting darkness. Or, getting home long after the Sun has gone to bed itself.

That’s been my routine for so long I can’t remember a different time. It started on Saturday mornings with my Dad. Up at four o’clock in the morning, dressed and out before four-thirty, fishing on the sand at Jones Beach on Long Island, on the road and at work in Bensonhurst before seven. After we moved to California and found ourselves – me included, this time – back in the automotive service business in a 24-hour service station in Santa Monica, the cycle of short – very short – nights and long days returned. Only, there really aren’t any ‘set’ hours in a 24-hour service station. At least, there weren’t when we first opened in 1966.

We would go to work early and leave whenever we were done, regardless of the hour. Add the occasional “missed shift,” where someone fails to show up and you find yourself working twenty hours and not just the ‘normal’ ten, and the boundaries between work and life began to evaporate, and not so slowly.

Years ago, my father determined that the day went more smoothly if we started it with breakfast: sort of like easing into the pool slowly, rather than just throwing yourself headlong into the icy water. Subsequently, breakfast became a ritual – even when no one was talking to each other!

There was a simple and inherent wisdom in that when you think about it. Even when we were at war with each other and not speaking – which didn’t happen often, but did happen – someone would ultimately have to say, “Please pass the salt…” And, the fire that fuels most family feuds would ultimately die out.

This ‘tradition’ of early morning breakfasts continued for the better part of forty years, through countless restaurants and greasy-spoon breakfast emporiums. It transcended family battles, good times and bad, here in Simi and before that, in Santa Monica, and it served our family well.

Now, that I’m the only Schneider still standing at Schneider’s Automotive, it is a tradition or habit or whatever it is, still.

I’m up before six, regardless… Regardless, of whether it is Monday morning with a ‘solid’ day on the books or Saturday when I could actually ‘sleep in.’ But, there are differences… With the exception of one or two of the regular places we ate for years where a basic breakfast club formed – and, even that’s not the same when you find yourself sitting by yourself in a booth that once accommodated four or five – eating alone is different: not the same.

I still get up early… too early, probably. And, I still eat breakfast… albeit, a protein shake or a bowl of oatmeal. But, I find myself dining alone for the most part.

I still leave the house in the dark and most nights won’t return until long after the Sun has gone down. But, now, I head straight to work after fixing breakfast and try to get as much paperwork and planning done before the phones start ringing and the people start coming in.

You would be surprised at just how much you can get accomplished – how much more you can get accomplished – without interruption: without distraction!

And, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past hour or so: that is, of course, with the exception of chatting with you.

I’ve done the deposit. Finished signing the payroll checks. Planned for the rest of the week, more or less. Worked on our marketing plan for the coming year. Thought about the conference call I have scheduled for later on this morning to identify training for the Industry, big “I,” conference scheduled for this coming October. Finished up my notes for the presentation I will deliver in Santa Barbara later on this evening. And, still managed to reflect on breakfast with my Mom, Dad and whoever else dropped by.

Not a bad morning when you think about it. Especially, when you consider that it began at 0:Dark:Thirty in the morning…

A RELUCTANT TOURIST…

Written by mitch. Posted in Uncategorized

We just returned home from a day out…
We left the house at about ten this morning and pulled into the driveway just after eight: a ten hour day spent wandering up and down the Coast of California.
My wife’s aunt flew in from New Jersey last Tuesday – a good week to get out of the snow and cold – and today, Saturday, was the first full day I got to participate in the sightseeing.
Of course, that was after awakening at 0:Dark:Thirty for breakfast, coffee – Java Johnny’s for some ‘real’ coffee: an espresso double-shot to get the day crank-started simply referred to by all as the “Special – to the shop for some paperwork, and then home again to begin the rest of the day!
The rest of the day started with a trip to the wine country just above Santa Barbara: the area around Los Olivos and Santa Ynez (remember the movie Sideways?). It’s what the cowboys would call a “’fer piece” from here, especially when there was a difference of opinion swirling around how to get there. I kind of remembered driving there years ago – more years ago than I can remember – through Buellton (Anderson Pea Soup?) and Solvang (Danish anything…): up the 101 Freeway to the 246 and then over. My wife insisted that we had already passed the 246 by the time we got to California 154 (we hadn’t, but I couldn’t convince her) – the route that takes you through the Los Padres National Forest and past Lake Cachuma: what I would call “the back way.”
I tried to suggest – I’m not sure convince would be the right word to use in this particular instance – that my way would be shorter and faster, but she was sure the “my way” option was literally behind us. Consequently, we got to see both the forest and the lake, which wasn’t really such a bad thing considering this was one of those magnificent February California afternoons that sets folks on the East Coast still reeling from the record snow falls to thinking about why they are living there instead of here. Or, at least, it should!
After the heavy rains we’ve had just recently everything was Technicolor perfect. The ride, even going the long way: maybe, especially because we went the long way, was breathtaking.
We stumbled upon a great little restaurant in Los Olivos: Patrick’s Side Street Café, had a great Pinot Noir, then took in the Santa Ynez Valley, made it to Solvang, Buellton and then Santa Barbara. We left Santa Barbara and worked our way through the hills of Montecito back to the freeway, through Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo and then ‘Home again, Home again: Jiggety, Jig.’
It would probably be safe to say that my wife’s aunt was blown away by the raw beauty of this part of California. If she wasn’t, she sure should have been because I was and I’ve lived here for the better part of forty-eight years!
The only thing I could think of was that this truly is the Golden State… and, the poppies aren’t even in bloom yet!
Well, that’s not altogether true. That wasn’t the only thing I was thinking of. I was thinking of the fact that I really didn’t want to go – “other things to do” and all the other stuff we use to rationalize wrong decisions like that. But, I went anyway and became a reluctant tourist of sorts: and, in the process realized that having people come from someplace else, forcing you to show them the host of wonders we take for granted because we live here and it’s easy – the ‘we’ being just about every one of us regardless of where we live and what those wonders are – is a wonderful thing!
It’s a wonderful thing because there is great beauty everywhere that seems somehow even more delicious when confronted with it, even reluctantly: especially, when you recognize and appreciate the wonder in watching hawks circle over head waiting for their lunch to begin, the stillness of a mountain lake or the sun setting on the Pacific.
Today was one of those days I was really glad my father came home after being trapped in Brooklyn for five days during the Winter of 1962, and very quietly mentioned that we would be in California by mid-August… Certainly, a lot happier than I remember being then!