Friday, May 13, 2011

100 Peasant Loaves and a Muhammad Ali Tattoo

I know some people have wicked high stress levels from facing life issues like death, love lost or poverty, but none the less.....Danny Klecko was feeling a little unglued as well.

In addition to the Blogger site being closed for added construction, he went to the Restaurant Depo to fetch ingredients for the farmers market, and somewhere between "A" and "B" he lost a 2# goat cheese log.

The value of the misplaced item was only $12.24 cents, but sometimes there's more to life than loss of monetary items.

Loss of memory, or loss of control are always more unnerving than losing a few shekels.

Some people deal with these situations by hitting the bottle, or going to a therapist.

I on the other hand turn for solace by getting tattoo's.

Over the decades I have usually had woman do my work, but during the last 3 years I switched over to a cat named Jason who works at NorthEast Tattoo.

Ink Man was living down in the Big Easy, learning his trade, but just like
my goat cheese log, he too was displaced after all that Katrina-Tsunami stuff that kicked New Orleans a**.

Most people look at my vast Pollack body and ask.....

"Didn't that hurt?"

Of course the answer is yes, but anything that is worth loving usually starts off with some pain.

This would be my first appointment in almost 1 1/2 years where we weren't going to work on my back. Jason had just finished my King Kong / Empire State Building during our last session.

Today was going to fun because I would actually have my newest tat done in one sitting.

My piece of the day, was the image of Muhammad Ali standing over a knocked down Sonny Liston, and it was getting slapped onto the back of my right calve.

Lucky for Ink Man that his canvas is larger than the normal calve, mine is about the size of a gallon of milk.

Positioning is pivotal when getting your work done. Often time the person receiving the ink has to be a contortionist, but on this day, I got to lay face down on a massage table.

So now the gun turns on, the buzzing starts, and Jason slaps my calve and asks for permission to start his next masterpiece.

I gave him a thumbs up, and "BANG"......the needle hit me with a stinging sensation.

It's weird though, because when I tell people that I not only accept this pain, but kinda covet it, almost always their minds race towards alleyways and gutters and want to place the "sadistic baker" in a weird arena with perv's and deviants.

It's not like that.

When I am in the chair (or in this case on the table) getting work done, my mind shuts down. My focus comes exact and complete, much like your senses have to shut down so you can hit a fastball.

Sometimes me and Jason will talk a lot, and other times we'll enjoy the process just listening to Tom Waits instead.

Either way, its the most healing place that Klecko has been.

To each their own, I say...... you guys can have your shrink's couches and priests confessionals, but the Last American Baker can't unwind, or be pardoned unless there is a needle full of ink injected into his body.

So while the former heavy weight champion of the world was starting to take shape on my leg, a woman who was a client was across the counter talking on her cell phone about some girls graduation party and how the kid graduating needed to help, or maybe there just wouldn't be a celebration.

My mouth smiled, because my mind retrieved a memory that I had long since forgotten, who knows, it may have remained in the abyss had I not been eavesdropping.

8 years ago when Saint Agnes Baking Company moved from a small tin building on a concrete slab, to a state of the art facility on the out skirts of downtown Saint Paul, I held a bread club meeting which was open to the public.

When the meeting was completed, a woman who looked like a centerfold for an Italian cookbook approached me and asked me if I would do her a little favor.

When I asked what I would be agreeing to, she went on this rant about how she was the family's bread baker, and in several weeks her daughter was graduating from high school.

So when I asked if those items were related to each other, she just chuckled and told me that they were conducting a graduation / family reunion and the were expecting over 400 people.....minimum.

I was still in the fog, but i could feel closure starting to surface.

Apparently, every Italian east of the Mississippi river was down with this woman's bread, but she just didn't have the oven space to produce what she needed.

Klecko just kinda stared and asked......


The woman was void of shame while issuing her response......

"And you are going to help us make that bread. I'll bring in the ingredients of course, but I have heard good things about you...that you are kind. On behalf of my daughter.....I am asking you for your help."

Then she smiled with confidence.

Swear to Caesar I couldn't tell if I was getting played.

Klecko knows that he can't be all things to all people, but this woman seemed different. Like the kind of story I heard when I snuck into V.B.S. summer bible camp with my Luthern friends.

You know, the story where some widow asks for help, and some guy says "NO!" and all the kids in the multi purpose room scream out that they hope that guy gets sent to hell.

Klecko not only doesn't want to go to hell, he doesn't want to be hoped to hell either.

So I told the woman the only window I had was Sunday morning from 6-8 30 a.m.

She was ecstatic. and was ready to celebrate, but I told her terms were still pending.

After looking at her recipe, and realizing it was simple a lean dough (flour-water-yeast and salt) I told her we could knock out the 1# 8 Ounce footballs with ease.

I also explained that I wouldn't charge her a penny, I would foot the bill for the ingredients, but the one thing that was a must was that the daughter who was graduating had to join us and do the work along side us.

The woman stopped momentarily and seemed nervous........

"My daughter is horrible in the morning, I don't know if I could get her to wake up!"

I told her my request was a deal breaker. If an 18 year old kids life is going to overlap Klecko's and take him out of his stride...there's just going to be some dues involved.

On the morning of......mother and daughter entered the shop at 6 sharp. The sun was up, birds were singing, and after a shared receptacle of espresso, all of us were bouncing around and having a good time.

I'm guessing that the daughter had to be in the "Popular Set" because she was very pretty and had inherited the shapely genetics of her mother.

As our morning went along, I saw the level of the daughters appreciation of her mother increase.

I told the kid how her mother approached me, and kinda freaked me out with her lack of social filter......and the sun just kept pushing through my loading docks opening.

We simply had no choice but to smile.

At clean up time the kid and I headed out to the dumpster to toss out our trash. Within seconds of getting out the, the kid pulled out a pack of smokes and tried to beat one down real quick.

When I asked if her mom knew, she said "Yeah and she doesn't force me to stop, but I am addicted and I don't want to disrespect her by smoking in front of her."

I explained how I had just quit a 1/2 a year ago, and how I wished to God that I never started.

I didn't want to be one of "those" adults, so I didn't get preachy about it, but I just made a few references to how it affected my life, and how weird it was that my body could be so totally in love with something that my mind despised.

So after loading up their van. I told them that I had to set up for my work shift now, and the cute kid smiles and handed me an invitation to their graduation / reunion thing.

They were holding their dealio about 40 miles from my house, and for Klecko to travel that distance would be like you having to go from NYC to the Congo.

So now the 2 of them give me a sandwich hug, and I told the kid thanks, but to be honest....If I showed up, I'd probably get drunk and end up in a fight with her Uncle and our wonderful morning of baking. A morning which could be a lifetime memory for her would be tarnished.

Then mom kissed me on the cheek and they pulled away in their van.

I never heard from them again.

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