Tuesday, July 03, 2007


  1. A little less than a year after we moved into Big Gray, a new restaurant appeared in the neighborhood. Until then, most of the local eateries were either expensive or had cuisine we weren't interested in. This one promised to be different, so we eagerly awaited its opening. When it did, we were all enthusiastic about it. They served pita bread sandwiches (uncommon at the time), pots of herbal tea (I had discovered Red Zinger in Boulder), carrot cake and a delicious chocolate walnut cake. On top of that, the restaurant was operated by three young, attractive people who seemed to have lots of time to hang out with their new customers. In short, it was a perfect place for us. Over the next year we became frequent customers and forged friendships with the new owners. One evening I came in with a few house mates. I had on a new Guatemalan poncho I bought in the East Village . With my beard, the poncho and a beret which I had taken to wearing, I thought I looked quite the New Age revolutionary. As I came to the register to pay, I was greeted by John, one of the three owners. "Che!", he exclaimed, referring to Honesto Che Guavera, Castro's compatriot in the Cuban Revolution. We both laughed over the comparison he had made. Two years later, after the demise of my bookstore, I approached John looking for a "temporary"job. By then, Circles' had grown from a single room to three rooms and a yogurt store serving frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies. The line to get in often stretched around the block (though old customers like us were awarded quick seating). I was hired as the first evening cashier, and picked up shifts on Friday, Sunday and Monday nights. In addition, I worked Tuesday and Saturday days. It was a perfect job for it allowed me to be in the neighborhood and be available to my kids (The babysitter arrangements I had made before that never worked out. The kids always ratted out whoever I left in charge with accounts of how they neglected their duties). Since there were a lot of Joe's working at Circles', I was named Che for the purpose of convenience, which later morphed into Joe Che and the Cheman. The generation of workers who came after me (I worked there for 15 years) didn't know who Che Guavera was, and thought my last name was Che. It only caused trouble for my middle daughter when I got her a job at the restaurant. She objected to being called "one of the Che sisters". All in all, Circles' was a great place to work. It had all the benefits of the bookstore without the hassles of worrying about the business. It allowed me to go back to school full time during the day and earn my Masters. And, most importantly, it provided me with lasting friendships with many of the great people who worked there with me. (Sadly, in the time since I worked there, our Circles' family has lost four members who I counted as friends. Two died of natural causes, and two were victims of the 9-11 tragedy)


Anonymous said...

These aliases are getting out of control. Surely the name of the restaurant doesn't need disguising?

Cheman said...

Sure, I could have used the real name of the restaurant. But, why not see this as a "universal" story about people and their relationships to one another? I did it to protect the privacy of any who might feel they don't want their identity revealed on the web. Surely, you know people who are REALLY sensitive about things like that.