Saturday, November 2, 2019


Okay, let’s just admit it and move on: this has been a hot, dry, extraordinarily challenging summer---maybe the most demanding in my three decades at Twin Rocks. Notwithstanding the difficulties, as Gloria Gainer sang in her number one hit from the 1970s---"I Will Survive.” Not, however, without a few bumps, bruises, and even a permanent scar or two. Bluff pioneer and founder Jens Nielson got it right when he said to his fellow travelers, “We must go through, even if we can’t.” I have followed Jens’ advice many times over the past 30 years and always found it sound. As I am sure Jens and the other members of his Hole-in-the-Rock Expedition would unanimously agree; you gotta be resilient if you’re gonna live in this town.

For the past several months, many Twin Rocks patrons have been edgy, impatient, more difficult than usual, and quick to express their displeasure. Maybe that’s a reflection of the broader culture, or maybe it’s just that we at Twin Rocks are struggling to adequately address our jobs with minimal staffing brought on by full employment in the economy. While the overwhelming majority of people we see in Bluff are both interesting and kind, lately it doesn’t take much to spoil our day. Being grossly overworked, we may have become unduly sensitive and more prone to bouts of hysteria. Combine the irritability of our guests with Duke’s translation into the next realm and Barry’s unexpected retirement and you can see why those of us left behind are looking forward to the winter slowdown.

After Barry announced his withdrawal and we notified his loyal fans, I received a message from one of his supporters that went something like this: “What? Who is Huntley without Brinkley? Laurel with no Hardy? . . . What’s it now? One Rock Trading Post?” Well, I wondered, what am I? chopped liver? the leftovers? Isn’t a twin still a twin, even after the other is gone? Kinda' like the Marines, once a twin always a twin. Right? Can’t we still have two rocks?

About the time I was working to resolve those mysteries, I found myself wandering around Twin Rocks Cafe in a fog. As I stumbled through the mist, I heard someone say, “Hey Steve, where the hell you been hidin’ and why you look so down?” I think he must have been a fan of Harry Chapin’s song, “A Better Place to Be.” “Well,” I said. “I think I need a reboot, something to reset my attitude, give me a little altitude. I need lift. It’s been sizzling this summer, no rain, and long hours, too. I could use a vacation.” As it turned out, the inquiry came from photographer Bob, a long-time friend who was in Bluff for his annual photo shoot. “A new name?” Bob suggested. “Yeah, but maybe a nickname. ‘Steve' has grown tired and worn, the edges are starting to fray. Pretty common, too.” I said. “Sure,” Bob agreed, obviously feeling he had hit on something meaningful.

“Your dad’s name was Duke wasn’t it? What about something progressive like . . . Disque,” Bob said, “not at all common, right?” “Bisque?” I said. “No, no, no! Disque, like vinyl records, since you seem to be going round and round.” “Oh, a little too, umm . . . radical . . . for me,” I replied, looking around the dining room to see if someone needed attention. I intuitively understood this conversation might not end well and wanted to extract myself at the earliest possible moment. Disque Simpson just wasn’t going to cut it, and who could guess what was coming next.

“Pancho?” Bob probed questioningly. “Nah, also too commonplace, reminds me of Willie Nelson, and we know what happened to Pancho after Lefty got through with him. Historically, Panchos don’t seem to fair well. Remember Pancho Sanza and Pancho Villa?” “Hum,” Bob pondered, looking a little distressed when my rejections came too quickly. “Hey, I know,” Bob said, “if not Pancho, then what about Ocho?” “Ocho,” I said. “Spanish for the number 8?” “Yup,” Bob said. “Okay, I like that. Has a nice ring. Not first, but not last. I think it might work. Ocho Philip Simpson. Sure, that’s doable.”

Bob was proud of himself for rescuing me from my funk and proposing what he thought was a provocative new persona. “Hey Ocho,” he said. “I heard Barry retired, what’s up with that? You always positioned this as a family operation. What now? Can’t be a family all by yourself, can you?” “Hum, give me a minute,” I said, excusing myself to help a customer in obvious need of additional coffee. Upon returning, I explained that the Twin Rocks family included more than just Simpsons. After all, there was Priscilla, Rick, Susie, Frances, and all the staff, artists, patrons, supporters, buyers, sellers, lenders, borrowers, and countless others who were woven into the fabric of our Twin Rocks tapestry. It’s a large, complex, and colorful household. “So,” I said, “while it may be a little more complicated and one short, it’s still a family. No?” “You know, Ocho,” Bob said, “you may be right.” “Sure,” I said, trying to reinforce the message.

About that time, Frances walked by and, looking confused, asked why Bob referred to me as Ocho. When Bob explained his logic, Frances said, “Oh, yeah, 8, when you turn it sideways, it’s infinity. “Infinity?” Bob questioned. “Yup,” Frances said and walked away. Apparently, she had omelets, pancakes, and Eggs Atsidi to cook and did not wish to discuss the matter further. “Oh, I see, infinity, sure,” Bob said after a minute or two. So, Ocho it is, and, as Buzz Lightyear is inclined to say, “To infinity and beyond.” Wish us luck on the next phase of our adventure.

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