Notes from the Corona Diary: goobye, Ronnie Mac

Tonight, on the advice of friends, we watched Knives Out with the boys. It’s a fun movie, a good old-fashioned murder mystery with twists and turns, the sort of things you smile at the whole time. Sitting with the boys in our TV room, it felt like old times. But it’s not old times.

Earlier in the day, my friend Keri called me. She runs Octo π, the pizza restaurant nearby, which had been IvyWild before that. Pursuant to the governor’s orders, they were moving to a strictly take-out model, and she had talked with my sons about delivering for her. She’d provide glove and masks, and all that. But she was calling to say a friend of her son, and someone who’d been to my house before, was now likely exposed to the coronavirus. “He has a 102 degree temperature, and has not tested positive for flu,” she said. He’s been over her house several times recently. Hmmm, said I, perhaps the boys shouldn’t hang out. But I wasn’t connecting the dots beyond this, as she was.

About 5 PM today, Keri wrote on Facebook,

After much agonizing consideration I have decided to shut down Octo π. We will not be implementing the Margheritas & Margaritas delivery plan as I had hoped. I found out this morning that two family friends have recently shown potential C19 symptoms. They have both been in contact with my family several times over the past two weeks. One of them has tested negative for the flu and will not know their C19 test results for another week. The other has family that recently returned from a country where one of the worst epicenters for the virus currently rages. It is not likely that they have the virus, but in light of the devastating impact this virus has had on all of our lives, the only responsible thing to do is to assume that I have been exposed until further information comes to prove otherwise. No current plan of action for Octo π can work without my deep involvement. I feel that the risk to you, your families, and my staff is not worth whatever advantages there are to staying open.

Our current financial situation dictates that there can be no recovery from this shut down. This coming May would have marked our tenth year of business in this beautiful community. It has always been a struggle, but it has always been worth every second. I am so profoundly grateful to this town for literally supporting me and my family as I followed my dreams and pursued the work that I love so very much. Few people have that opportunity in life.

Thank you. Keri

The enormity of what this means is only dawning on me, but as usual, Kelly had it all figured out. We finished up the movie and came downstairs, and then she said out loud  “For just a moment, I forgot we’re experiencing a world-wide pandemic that just drove my friend Keri out of business.” She ended up putting that on Facebook.

Restaurants are a tough thing to run in this town. The clientele is heterogenous: upper middle class snobs like myself affiliated with the university, and folks with less disposable cash who still like a fancy meal now and then. Keri has always managed to meet the tastes of both. She and I spent a lot of time together a decade ago, when both her kids and mine were small– I was on sabbatical, and she was looking to realize her dream of opening a restaurant. I was lucky enough to be with her when she looked at the old laundromat and said, You know, this place has a lot of charm. I couldn’t see it, but she could, and through her eyes, many others did too as they sat at her tables and had one delicious meal after another at them. I remember her fixing the place up, and how her daughter Ivy couldn’t pronounce restaurant or laundromat and called the place her mom made our the Ronnie Mac.

Given the circumstances, it’s the right decision to close it down. Her  farewell keeps with the graciousness Keri has always shown. Goodbye, Ronnie Mac. We all deserved many more year with you. This is a rotten way to go out, and my heart is very heavy this evening.

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Octo Pi open, among its last nights. March 19, 2020

About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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