Yankee Swap

I became the general manager of a low-volume, casual dining restaurant two days before Christmas last year. The restaurant was burdened with several issues that worked against it ever having success, but I threw everything I had at it to try to reverse the public perception of the place. If only I knew it was doomed from the start.

One, it was difficult to enter the lot. You had to circle the perimeter of the building and drive to the far end of a strip mall, then double back and navigate a large pothole while going uphill. By the time you did all that, you really wanted a perfect dining experience, but that wouldn’t happen, because…

Two, it was understaffed. Criminally understaffed. This could be because the employees also would have had a tough time entering the lot, shortening the hiring pool, but whatever the case, the staffing list was small.

This was a fairly new building and location, opening in 2012, if I’m not mistaken. There was a plaque in the lobby commemorating the opening of the restaurant signed by the mayor. And the design was modern and chic. You could tell expectations were high for the restaurant’s success when it opened.

Unfortunately, the store did not do well. Sales were miserable, and what few customers they received did not get great service. This was because the staff was either nonexistent, poorly trained, or both. The few busy periods would be considered incredibly slow by most restaurant standards, but even these would prove too difficult for this crew.

You might be inclined to blame management, as so many members of the public are quick to do. But the turnover for managers at that store rivaled the employees. There were few that stayed for any long period of time, so no one got hired and no one got trained.

Public perception was abysmal. No one wanted to eat there, either because of past poor experiences, or because they had heard of someone else’s past poor experience.

This was what I inherited. Two days before Christmas, I became the general manager of this failing restaurant.

Immediately, I knew things had to change. I began hiring people. Writing schedules and making people stick to them. Ordering the right amount of food. Cleaning the place more than it has in recent times. Organizing and labeling everything. Training people the correct way of doing things. Tracking and curtailing food waste. Encouraging guests to send in comment cards and feedback. And, while I don’t think I’m the greatest manager in the world, I think I was doing a great job. Positive reviews were going up. Staffing levels had reached acceptable levels. Cleanliness was again a priority. It was nice.

And then along came COVID-19. This pandemic wreaked havoc on restaurants worldwide, and mine was no exception. Just three months after I had taken over this store, it was shut down. This was a business move. All locations were expected to take a huge sales hit, and mine was already a very low-performing store. I got moved to a different location for the time being, and I waited anxiously for its reopening.

But it didn’t reopen.

I suppose I could have seen this from the beginning of the pandemic. It was a wonder we were open to begin with. But it was in a nice, high-rent area, and closing it, I was told, would cost more than keeping it open.

Now that it is permanently closed, the local news decided to write a small blurb about it. I do mean “small.” More or less, “This restaurant in this county is closing, though there other ones in the county aren’t.” That was about it.

And the comments people left about it closing were disheartening, to say the least. My short three months were a waste of time. People were unsurprised, judgmental, and almost happy at it’s closure. They listed all sorts of problems and negative experiences at that store.

It was a tough thing to read. I can’t help but feel like if I had just a little more time, maybe I would have been able to make a difference. Maybe I could’ve changed things for the better.

But alas, we’ll never know.


I’m trying to write more things. I know I say that all the time, but it is true. One day I won’t have to manage restaurants.

Anywho, this is something I’ve written. Though normally I opt for fiction, this is a true story, and I felt like writing it for some reason.

See you on the next one…

It’s Been a While…

Howdy, friends. It’s been a while…

What have you been up to? What have I been up to?

Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Pray for me, friends. I have no discipline, but I desperately need it.

I’m wanting to write more. The gimmick of the moment I’ve purchased to help aid in that this time is a beautiful leather five year journal. I’ve never been much for journaling, but I very much enjoy the idea of a single book with a few lines devoted to the same day over five years. It will be interesting to see what twists, turns, pitfalls, and pinnacles I’ll have over the next half-decade. Such a format does not afford verbosity, but it’s not as if I’ve been doing much writing in the first place. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it’s also apparently the soul of habit-forming.


I’m dreaming up ideas. More will come soon. Here’s something very short I wrote tonight:


Will Armand was drowning.
All his friends agreed. The stresses of his job, coupled with marital issues, financial issues, and self-esteem issues made for a man that was truly drowning in the pressures of modern life. It had been this way for a while, and those who cared for him were truly worried. But for all their knowledge, they did not have the insight afforded to Corey Ashland, a complete stranger who was walking along Crybaby Bridge late one night in Milton-Cumberland, Indiana. As he gazed across the water, he learned something about Will Armand that none of his friends knew, but that still made him think Will was drowning.
Will had about five liters of water in the space in his lungs that most people would host oxygen.


Good night, everyone.

Your Memories Grow With You

I walked into that coffee shop as the same man I’d always thought I was. I left as someone I did not recognize. Surely that’s the way life was meant to be lived, but I could not decide if I wanted to accept that. Really, it just left me with a sense of emptiness…

Here’s the thing: Julia and I met about seven years ago in an after school Foreign Film Club. I knew nothing about foreign films and was just looking to get an extracurricular credit. She knew a lot about them and was hoping to learn more. I was the obvious interloper of our bunch, and I seriously considered leaving for some other easy credit… But then I met her.

She was beautiful… Inside and out. We started learning about each other… She said she wanted to be a lawyer to most people, to appease her parents, but she really wanted to get into graphic design. I wanted to write for a living. She had a deep passion for caring for the planet and for appreciating diverse cultures. I… had a fleeting interest in those things as well. She battled depression and crushing high expectations. I never truly explored the emotion of “sad.”

It was clear she was way out of my league.

So we grew close to each other in Foreign Film Club. For reasons not fully known to even her, she opened herself up to me, when her life had been closed to everyone else. I bumbled along in regurgitation of opinions and worldviews I’d only heard and never taken the time to consider for myself. Somehow, that didn’t seem to faze her. We grew close.

It was the first time I thought that maybe… Just maybe… This is what love feels like.

We grew apart after graduation. I went to a no-name community college, and she went to dazzling NYU. And we lost contact with each other…

Until two hours ago. I ran into her at the coffee shop.

We were amazed at seeing each other again and sat down to recount the last seven years of events with each other. Laughter punctuated our thoughts as we connected in an impossibly strange and familiar way. And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

I could not shake this feeling that something was off. Something was different…
Is this what love feels like?

For the past seven years, every so often, her stunning face would float into my consciousness and I’d wonder how she was doing and what goals she’d been achieving. I never forgot her. But I never thought I’d be sitting across from her again. And now that I had, she was exactly as I remembered.

After thinking back to our conversations years prior, I made the startling discovery that… It was I that changed.

I was no longer the awkward teenager searching for meaning and purpose… I was a carefree man whose come-what-may attitude and fence-sitter lifestyle grew shamed of his former self. And until now, I would have thought that was a good thing. Change is inevitable, so if one has to do so, it should be towards a better outcome. And I felt that I’d reached a better outcome, with more growth on the way.

But did this matter to Julia? The truth is, I don’t know if she felt the same way about me.

We left that coffee shop with a “we-should-do-this-again” sort of vague plan that usually fizzles out to nothing and I could not help but feel a pang of sadness as we parted.

Change is inevitable, but you don’t usually know that you’re doing it. The question remains to be answered: Can you reclaim the magic your memories hold? Or is it destined to be lost as your memories grow with you?


Some ruminations of the day.


Sometimes I wonder what I’m waiting for.

“Just wait until middle school!”

“Just wait until high school!”

“Just wait until college!”

“Just wait until T H E  R E A L  W O R L D.”

Am I there yet?


I wonder when that perfect set of events will happen that makes me the man I’m supposed to be. I know I’m not that man now. But will I ever be? In waiting and waiting and waiting, am I saving the world from who I am now? Or am I saving myself from the world? Or am I, more probably, awash in delusion?


I wonder if the wait is required. Because if Jesus says, “Come as you are,” shouldn’t we all? But we don’t. So I wait, awash in delusion.


In college, I met the most beautiful girl in the world. Everything she did was an extension of love and I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of her life. Such beauty threw my own verve in sharp relief. I saw she had reached T H E  R E A L  W O R L D while I accepted my setting instead. So I waited.


I wonder how time moves in our perceptions. In age, it speeds. In waiting, it crawls. These two can happen in simultaneous waves. And these years since have been an agitated mix.


I wonder why I wait. The man I’m supposed to be isn’t waiting. The most beautiful girl in the world isn’t waiting.


It’s time for action, not waiting.


Come as you are.


I was going through a box of things from my childhood my parents have collected throughout the years, and I came across some short stories I had written. I’d like to reproduce a couple of them here. These are selections from a book called, The Bubblegum Factory and Other Stories! Unfortunately, there is no year written on it, so I’m not sure how old I was when I wrote these, but if my faulty memory serves me correct (and the calculation in the first story), I was either in first or second grade. All spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistakes have been faithfully transcribed. Here goes:


Once upon a time we were all british. Bunches of people wanted to be American. We had a war. All the people that wanted to be an American hoped they wold win. The flag had 13 stars and 13 stripes. America won the war. Right now America is 225 years old. The flag has 50 stars, but still only 13 stripes.


The Lonely Penguin
Chapter 1

Once opon a time there was a lonely penguin. It was sad. It wanted a friend. It looked all over the antartic. It caught a cold. Then one day the penguin fairy gave them a baby penguin. It grew fast. Then it wanted a friend too. Then one of them said do you want to be my friend? OK the other one said. They lived happily ever after.

By Joey Hall.


Bubba and the Bubble Gum Factory
Chapter 1

Once upon a time there was a bubble gum factory. It sold bubble gum. One day it didn’t work. Everyone was sad.

Mary tried to fix it with her pliers but it didn’t work. All the people cried

. Then one day Bubba made a machine that could fix everything. I found the problem he said. I found it Someone stuck a tool in it. Who did it?

By Joey Hall.


Bubba and the Bubble Gum Factory
Chapter 2

Once upon a time there was a mystery. It was from the bubble gum factory.

We were trying to figure out who put the tool in the factory. It seemed like we looked all around the world. Then we saw him. It was a robber. We sent him to jail.

By Joey Hall


I suppose we all have to start somewhere…