Todays question comes from Bernadette Q, San Francisco, and it is “what is my life’s purpose?”
Zambonesman himself won’t be answering today, he’s speedwalking to Los Angeles right now in order to attend the Oscars. He doesn’t have a ticket and expects there to be scalpers. When I tried to explain to him that this wasn’t a regular event where this would be the case, he waved me off with what he called an old Estonian saying, “there is always a catering entrance.” He also told me a story of when he worked washing dishes for Wolfgang Puck at Spago in LA. One day the great chef was hurrying through the kitchen to get to some celebrity polo match, when the college age Zamboni was polishing plates. “Hey kid you cannot take the time to shine each plate, look at that stack of pots.”
“Yes Mr. Wolfgang, but you must first look at my plates.” And according to Zamboni, Wolfgang Puck picked up a dinner plate that was so purely and perfectly cleaned and polished that it stopped him cold. He peered into the plate, seeing himself, then beyond himself and beyond everything. Tears came to his eyes and he looked at Zamboni like a child. Slowly, the elfin culinarian spoke.
“You have done this worst of restaurant jobs perfectly, and you have achieved poetry.” And he and Zamboni embraced for twenty silent minutes at the height of the Friday lunch rush.
“So you see Jordan, Puck does the after Oscars dinner, it is no problem for me to get in. Farewell and good luck with this weeks question.”
Something my grandmother Shirley used to say is, “everything happens for a reason.” That saying, like the old chestnut, “you can’t take it with you,” is so trite that it might be true. I think Zamboni told me this story to help me with this answer. Bernadette plays the Nurse in a current production of Romeo and Juliet. She is very good. People see this show and what she does makes them feel things. She has given the best of her life for this young girl to be happy, and that is all she truly wants. When this goes wrong, Juliet dies, all is lost for her as well. Bernadette can actually do this most difficult of tasks, night after night.
I once asked Zamboni this same question, when we were knocking back shots of Colombian Wormwood and he said, “one thing.” When I pressed him further he would only say, “City Slickers, with Billy Crystal.”
So though I feel a bit out of my league with this one, I will venture this as your answer Bernadette: everything you’ve done up to this very minute has been the purpose of your life. It’s done. But you choose tomorrow’s plate to polish. Now I can already hear what Zambonesman would say to this, “no, it chooses you.” So take what has chosen you and polish it to the best you can.