Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

12 June

Return To Jean’s Place. Post-Pandemic, A Quieter, Much Loved Place That Has Found Itself Again

by Jon Katz

When I first walked in two years ago, I loved Jean’s Place, an old school, much-loved family diner in Hoosick Falls, down the highway from our farm.

There was something brash about Jean’s Place, something loud, old-fashioned, and homey.

The food was delicious and home-cooked; the waitresses were part-time social workers, counseling and commiserating with their customers, who they all knew by name. They called everybody by their name or “hon” and took no prisoners if they were rude or impatient.

We got to know Robin well, and then Kelsie, the prodigal daughter and presumed heir, and Kevin and Kelly, who seemed to live in the kitchen.

I gave Kelsie some Wonder Woman shirts and tights, and we became good friends.

The Pandemic hit Jean’s hard, they are a small business, and the lockdowns took so many of their customers away.

Many of the townspeople who loved the place hung in there and ordered take-out. I tried to help, I asked Jean’s to cater lunches to the Mansion for months, and the blog also let locals know that their delicious sandwiches, muffins, and soups were still available as takeouts.

As the Pandemic wore on, I couldn’t afford the lunches – there were too many other needs at the Mansion and Bishop Maginn, and then I had my series of surgeries.

My doctors always strongly cautioned me to stay out of small spaces with many people, masks or no. They said Covid could be fatal for me. That meant staying away from Jeans for a while. There was little room for social distancing. So I wasn’t keen on going back into the hospital.

Jean’s place hung on by their own good cooking and kindness and willpower; I hope I softened the blows a bit; they didn’t need me to survive. They were tough as nails and worked day and night. There was no way the townspeople would let them sink.

But it was awfully hard for them. I could see on my quick visits that they were wearing out. They had to let some much-loved workers go.

That hard phase of Jean’s Place seems to be ending. Finally, vaccinated people can come in without masks, and they are.

Today Maria and I returned to Jean’s Place, and I was thrilled to see Mary, the plain-speaking Saturday waitress who chewed me out for the bad way I was ordering Egg N’ Cheese sandwiches and taught me to do it right.

(Today, I got an A-minus because I ordered coffee and muffins first, and the egg n’ cheese should always come first.)

Mary’s still the Queen of Saturday, and I still wouldn’t mess with her. I didn’t go into the kitchen to visit; they were too busy.

Mary made me believe that they missed me and cared about me, something it’s always hard for me to accept. But since I missed them and cared about them, I decided to believe.

“How dare you not tell us about the heart surgeries,” she scolded, “that is something we want to know!”

The food is the same, but post-mansion, there was a different vibe. More settled, at peace, quieter. I liked the feel.

Things have changed. Kevin has completed his chemo; Kelly has cut back on  her hours. Robin is gone; Kelsie, my favorite Wonder Woman, has moved on and become a social worker.

Like so many of us, the pandemic changed things in indirect ways. But the process of healing can be beautiful.

I hugged Mary and caught up with her – she chewed me out twice for not telling them about my heart surgeries. “I bet you scared the hell out of your wife,” she said, chewing me out for having a wobbly heart.

Then she insisted on taking the food out to the car so she could say hello to Maria.

I love Mary.

We took our sandwiches to a nearby park, as we did when the pandemic began.

It was warm and beautiful, and peaceful there. So I am resuming my regular visits to Jean’s, sometimes for breakfast, once for lunch with friends once I make some, and sometimes for special dinners.

It’s good to have the place back in my life. I might have to give up the egg n’cheese though, that will be a trauma.

Jean’s wormed its way into my heart, and it was a great lift to go back there. Jean’s is where  community lives and means something.

It is an old-style diner with attitude, but special food. We brought two corn muffins home, and their pies stack up against anybody’s, not that I can eat much of them.

Going back to Jean’s made me feel whole again; Jean’s is a part of me, and I want it back in my life. I think the pandemic can take a lot of things away, but it can’t keep them away forever.

Jean’s Place is still Jean’s Place, the restaurant you go to when you are hungry, lonely, or someone you love has passed away. They will know about it in most cases and be ticked off if you don’t tell them.

12 June

The Bishop Maginn High School Yearbook Is Dedicated To You

by Jon Katz

The Bishop Maginn Class of 2021 decided to dedicate their yearbook to you, the Army Of Good. And me and Zinnia too.

“Mr. Jon Katz. We would also like to make a special dedication to Mr. Jon Katz, his service dog Zinnia, and the entire Army Of Good. The combined support of Mr. Katz and the Army of Good have given us so many opportunities and access to supplies we otherwise would have gone without. From classroom supplies to social events and helping support student’s personal interests and lives, they have never left us in need. Their generosity and support serve as role models for all of us in living our faith. Last school year, Mr. Katz gave a writing seminar to help students learn the principles of creative writing and unwind with Zinnia in the middle of a hectic school day. We cannot thank him enough for the knowledge he imported and the stress he helped alleviate. Student’s days are always brightened with Mrs. Silverstein announces that Mr. Katz and Zinnia will be coming! There is an incredible light that Mr. Katz always brings us and we thank him for all his support, generosity, and kindness during our time at Maginn.”

Thanks to all of you in the Army of Good. You made all of this possible, and I thank you as well. Beyond that, I’m a bit speechless.

This school is a beacon, a place of light and faith, and kindness. It is a role model for all of us. The students are my heroes, and I will never forget them. Sue Silverstein is an angel sent to bring light to a world that is sometimes dark.

And a cherished friend as well. We make a good team, Sue, can’t wait for September. (How about I teach a blogging course to the students hanging out in your classroom this summer?)

 

12 June

Our 11th Anniversary Today. We Almost Forgot

by Jon Katz

Sue Silverstein took this photo of Maria and I dancing at the Bishop Maginn Graduation Banquet (food from more than a dozen countries, the parents cooked).

For a few minutes, we had the dance floor to ourselves. I got to wear the snazzy blue short sleeve shirt she bought me for the occasion, and I took out my red hat.

Maria and I almost forgot this anniversary; a friend reminded us. One can take even the most wonderful things for granted.

We aren’t big on dates and anniversaries of things, but this has been the most wonderful 11 years of my life, and I am grateful for it every day.

What a remarkable human being I married, I admire and respect her and love her more every single day.

Maria brought me back to life; we love, squabble, laugh, discover, create and encourage together. This marriage has been so good for both of us, and it gets better all the time, our love deeper, richer, and always meaningful.

A miracle no one can ever take from us. I understand how life is; we can’t be together forever. But we very much appreciate the time we’ve had and the time we have left.

Today we’re lounging in bed, going out for breakfast, going to see the new movie “In The Heights.” I can’t wait to spend another day with this extraordinary woman who blessed me by accepting me as a partner.

Looking at this photograph, Sue took last night, it seems we are an odd couple. She is short, and I am tall and wide.

What a wonderful day that was ll years ago, and every day is wonderful still.

12 June

Zinnia Crowned Prom Queen At Bishop Maginn. Watch One TV Report

by Jon Katz

Zinnia was her usual chill self at the Bishop Maginn High School Graduation Banquet. The crowning of Zinnia brought two TV stations and some print reporters.

TV hasn’t really changed much since I worked there.

This was a hard year for them and the school. One after another came up to me and told me how much her visits meant to them.

It was moving to see just how much our visits and Army Of Good work meant to the school and these students.


You can see one of the TV spots here. I’ll post more photos later. My dog therapy work has meant so much to me I sometimes forget how much it can mean to others.

I don’t need a lot of praise (although I do like it), but I’ve never felt more appreciated than I did last night at this wonderful high school, a place of love and compassion and community, an oasis in our complicated world.

 

 

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