Eddie and Gwen

Eddie and Gwen
Standing Tall Among the Saguaros

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's Christmas: A Time for Mercy and Tales of a Tornado

          I finally got a covered tent to serve as my dining area. I struck a deal with my neighbor, Jim.  He broke out an extra tent structure he had, said I could use it and in exchange, he gets a free lunch everyday.  I think it’s a great deal, he gets fed, and I get a 10x20 tent structure. No it’s not some easy up canopy. Out here, in Quartzsite,  the winds can reach up to 50-60 mph. So the tent must be strong, and structurally sound.  I keep hearing about the Tornado that blew the place apart last year.  The veterans call it a micro burst, but it evidently wrecked havoc, sending tents flying across Quartzsite. So far I’ve heard the event described as a tornado, 50 mph gust, 60 mph gust, 70, 80, 90 mph sustained wind. Each tale I hear the fish gets bigger, if ya know what I mean; they all say “it blew the place apart, tents everywhere, semi’s overturned on the freeway, palm tree branches lodged into solid brick walls, eyeballs blown out, a poodle blown clear across Arizona into New Mexico.” Okay I exaggerated the last three, I just want to make sure you’re paying attention.  Anyway, now I have shelter to offer people as they are feasting on my fine cuisine. The local workforce must have discovered that I make really good food, because I’ve seen a nice increase in local sales. You know that feeling when you were 13-14 years old and you dated the girl or guy of your dreams, all the pent up excitement, that’s actually how I feel about cooking Asian food. It’s a cultural food I’ve long desired to approach. I’ve had plenty of time to experiment and it’s all coming together. As one of my wait staff used to say….”Eddie, this is the shit!.” When I am busy banging out cooked to order food with fresh ingredients, that’s when I feel like I’m living my dream.  Call me a simple man, but I love it.  I’ve finally got the Thai element of my menu going.           I made a trip down to Yuma recently to stock up on hard to find Thai and Chinese ingredients. It seems every semi large town has a Chinese market where you can find the really exotic stuff like lemon grass, fish sauce, and frozen fish balls. (No fish don’t have balls, it’s a product that is actually like meat balls made out of ground fish) The menu is now complete.

           On my way into Yuma (about a 70 minute drive), I was subjected to Christmas music on local radio stations. That particular day was a Sunday, and I started my day off going to an outdoor church located within a BLM desert camp ground. It was a rather emotional day for me, as I will not make it home for Christmas. Folks I’ve been married twenty seven years, and yes the restaurant ordeal tore us apart for a while, but in the end, twenty seven years is stronger than financial collapse. As I mentioned in my first blog segment, I am on a mission to survive, revive, inspire, and prove what hope and determination can accomplish, so if it means one Christmas away on the path to establishing a solid income and secure future then I will just sing silent night to my dog and pray hard for a good 2011.  


Can I share something with you that, at times, still amazes me?  I’ve been thinking back lately on all that I’ve been through.  I am recognizing, after living here in this stark desert, that I’ve emerged from a depressed place, after a three year span of mental and physical challenges.  I want to accentuate the “physical” challenges, because aside from my blood pressure returning to normal, health wise, I have much to be thankful for.  I don’t want to jump ahead of myself on “the back story”, but I feel compelled to share that portion of my story with you now.  You see, not long after buying the restaurant, I began to notice that I was tripping a lot. No….not like a magic mushroom sort of tripping, but my balance was off.  After seeing my family doctor, his initial diagnosis was that I had MS.  I was devastated.  I had just bought a freekin restaurant, I couldn’t get sick. After my initial diagnosis, I still had a restaurant to open and run.  In my first month of business, I underwent a spinal tap, and 3 MRI’s and to my doctor’s amazement, no brain lesions had appeared, no spinal tumors grew, but I was still barely able to lift my legs.  At that point, my doctor wasn’t convinced that his MS diagnosis was correct, so he referred me to a specialist.  Thank the good Lord he did.  The specialist diagnosed me as having an obscure spinal disorder that constricted my spinal cord to the point that I was very close to having complete paralysis. Lucky for me there was a world class spinal surgeon in Durango who pioneered a technique (laminaplasty)  that could help my problem. Can you imagine, the restaurant had only been open for one month, and I was told I needed immediate surgery or I would be paralyzed. What could I do? I had the surgery.  Three weeks after surgery, I’m in a neck brace, recovery is going well, so my wife and I go for a Sunday drive, she’s driving, I drop something on the floor of her car, lean over to pick it up, BANG! I get this horrible pain in my lower back. After three days of this excruciating pain, I go back to my great surgeon. Another MRI reveals I’ve just ruptured a disk in the L-1 vertebrae of my spine. He then proceeds to tell me how rare an L-1 rupture is. My surgeon looks at me and literally says, “dude, you’ve got really bad luck”, at which time I respond, “dude, I’ve got F#@Ked up genes”. By now, I’m convinced that someone has concocted some weird voodoo curse on me. I am a modern day Job, just waiting for the boils to develop so I can scratch them with potshards. My surgeon then tells me It is too early to perform surgery on my spine again. So all he can do is prescribe narcotics for the pain. Okay, so now I’ve got a  restaurant that has hit the ground running, and I’m like duhh on vicodine, or oxycontine, or tramadol, no can do.  Now, I know all you pill poppers out there are thinking, “right on bro….ride that scrip out for all you can, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.”  I had a new restaurant to run, damn it, so I couldn’t be stupid all the time.  I had to endure the pain, and believe me, it was three months of indescribable pain that only a ruptured disc victim could appreciate. Finally, enough time had elapsed, and I was able to have the back surgery to fix the problem in October 2008.  Okay, students of economics, can anyone remember the significance of the Autumn  of  2008?  The banks went bust; Congress forced the first bail out on us; and we had  a Presidential Election!  The Fall of 2008 was also the time when the country decided it was time for a change.  The People elected the first Black President and placed its hope in President Obama thinking surely he will fix everything and make it better tomorrow. Take it from me, as “Joe the Plummer” and Mr. Small business owner knows, that is when America stopped spending…but I’m getting off track aren’t I.  The whole point of sharing this story with you now is, I want you to know that my health could have gone south big time, but I was delivered.  You see, I could have had M.S., I could have been permanently paralyzed, I could have allowed the pain to consume me and the restaurant may never have opened, I could have chosen to pop the pills and might have gotten hooked on pain killers… so many things that could have been.  But, God delivered me, he carried me through, and now every morning when I awaken in my tent, and I feel that old familiar pain in my back, I am reminded of His Mercy and of His Grace, and I am so very Thankful. 

             So, before I sign off, I want to leave you with this little ditty, come on sing along with me:  Its Christmas time, we’re all still broke, the ecomomy still sucks, the world is still crazy and I am still in a tent… tis the season to be jolly!  Lol, seriously, This Christmas there is much to be thankful for:  There is hope; I have friends and family that love me; I am surrounded by intriguing and generous misfits that all have a story; I am continuing to be shaped and molded into a patient listener; though the nature of who I am still wants to judge a book by its cover I am being forced to reconcile this issue everyday, as each day provides a new misfit with a new story, and yet, a new person to love.  I know that until I get it right, this is where I’m destined to be, whether it’s the desert or another location amongst the fringe of society. Hoping you all will have a Merry and Joyful Christmas.       Later, Eddie

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