Casey Liss on memories in restaurants


Casey Liss—is more!—commented on his local barbecue place closing on episode #387 of the Accidental Tech Podcast in mid-July:

This restaurant it had suddenly closed out of nowhere. I kid you not, I cried a little bit, I was so upset. Now the good news is it was a very small local chain and so there was another one equidistant from my house so we could still get our fix. But it’s so funny that this restaurant which, even though I’d argue it’s excellent barbecue, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a barbecue joint, who cares? But this restaurant had such a defining moment or section of my life that I spent my time with my son, and it just up and disappeared.

This made me choke up by proxy, because I can relate to it so much.

My mum had weekly chemo and radiation therapy for most of my childhood, so she never regained much physical strength before having to do it all again. When we lived in Singapore, the local Starbucks was close enough down the road to our apartment building that we could walk there, arm in arm, and share a medicinal keeki as she cheekily referred to it as.

The staff got to know us so well that we had a stammtisch. Our favourite New York double-baked cheesecake would always be set aside, and be decorated with candles for our birthdays. I didn’t care that there were higher-quality brews further away, or that fellow Australian expats turned their noses up at “American coffee”, this was our spot.

Last year Clara and I went back to Singapore so I could show her around some of my childhood spots, and I was overjoyed and relieved to see our little Paragon Starbucks franchise was still there. On what would have been her sixty-forth birthday, Clara and I sat at that table again, bought a cake, and pretended she was joining us again in spirit. She never got to meet Clara, but I feel like I came the closest I ever have to introducing them in that space.

Sure it was just a Starbucks, like Casey’s memories with his son were just at a barbecue joint. But those memories are very real, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

(This is all the more reason why it’s important to help our retail and hospitality workers during this shutdown however we can. Frankly it’s a privilege and honour knowing my taxes are being spent on unemployment benefits and small business assistance. It should be much more, just as it was when my grandparents were dealing with their own World Wars. Nobody wins unless we all do).

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