Thursday, October 7, 2010

#4 - If you could live one short episode of your life over again – a day, week, month, season – what would it be? And why?

I left home in September 1993, the beginning of my senior year of high school. In order to finish school in the same district where I had attended my whole life, I had to live on my own. My dad helped me get a tiny apartment, and he agreed to give me the money he would have been paying my mom in child support. It covered half my rent. Dad had always paid my car insurance, and he would continue to do that. Everything else was up to me.

I'd had a couple of jobs since I was old enough to work, but I was not employed then. I got a job as a hostess at Judge Bean's restaurant. It was a small chain restaurant, serving burgers and chicken-fried steaks, modeled around a sort of Old West theme. The restaurant had been there a long time; I'd eaten there several times as a kid. And it looked it - everything was dusty, including the stuffed black bear and moose head that greeted guests. Looking back, I can't believe people chose to eat there, but maybe you don't notice that kind of stuff if you're not there every day.

From the beginning, I loved my job. My co-workers were a great group, and we had lots of fun together. I even got my friend John a job there, his first as a bartender. In April, I turned 18 and could legally wait tables. After that, I was always at work, whether I was working or not. It was where I wanted to be; all my friends were there. I remember sitting on the cooler in the service bar while John was working. I remember working 20 straight days, 13 of those double shifts. If I was going to be at work, I might as well be making money, right?

Big plans were in the making: Woodstock '94 would be held in New York in August, and a group of us were going. I don't even know how many people were "in" at the beginning - maybe 10 or so. As August drew closer, people begged off, and finally it was just going to be John and me.

This was not a happy thought for some people. When I met John, he had an on-again, off-again girlfriend. And at that age, I wasn't too concerned whether they were hot or cold at any given moment. I didn't want a boyfriend anyway. So John and I had stolen moments in the walk-in cooler at Judge Bean's, and one very special evening in a neighborhood park. Needless to say, the girlfriend didn't like me at all. I think that made me want to go with John to Woodstock even more, just because I knew it would drive her crazy.

In the end, I didn't go. John went to Woodstock alone.

Summer turned to fall, and things were changing at Judge Bean's. There is always turnover in restaurants, and ours was notorious. People left for other restaurants, or they went to work for other Judge Bean's locations which were not in imminent danger of having the doors chained by creditors. In December 1994, I went away to college. I lost touch with everyone from Judge Bean's, including John.

It was a magical, turbulent time in my life. Newfound freedom from my parents, becoming a legal adult, finishing high was all bittersweet. I had lots of fun, but there was also so much heartache. Judge Bean's was, in a way, my rock. It was the right group of people, all of us at the right point in our lives, to have one of those "moment in time" experiences. You can't plan it, and you can't recreate it once it's gone.

If I could go back, knowing what I know now, I'd love to live that time over again. And I would definitely, absolutely go to Woodstock with John. He's my husband now; I wish I'd had that experience with him.

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