When my husband and I moved to Baltimore, I went through 2 waitress jobs before I found one that stuck. My first was on the Nobska, a former New England ferry turned restaurant that sat in Baltimore’s up and coming Inner Harbor. It didn’t sail anywhere, it just sat there, rather floated there, bobbed there, gross and smelly. I worked on the Nobska for 3 days, I vomited twice. The second waitress job was in Baltimore’s only 5 star restaurant, Danny’s, home of tableside everything. The joke on the street was, “which is older, the restaurant or the waitresses?” and at twenty-something, no one could quite figure out what I was doing there, myself included. My experience at Danny’s was also short-lived.
The third restaurant I worked in was Martick’s Restaurant Francais, a Baltimore landmark, an institution, a decrepit, old building, with an equally decrepit, crazy-ass owner named Morris Martick. There are mixed accounts on the history of both the building and the business—its genesis as grocery store, to bar to speakeasy to jazz club to bohemian, French restaurant. There was NO signage, just a doorbell and a number on a building next to a creepy parking lot. By the time I started working there, the memories and the menu were fading, and the few customers we had seemed to be as surprised at being there as the servers were in seeing them. I worked with a handful of artists that I truly admired and Morris, while scattered and a bit of a bully, was a talented chef and a character worth watching and knowing. I made little money there but I loved the job.
The first floor of the building was the bar and dining room, the second floor housed the kitchen and a large closet where Morris slept. The third floor was storage and attic extraordinaire, bulging with vintage dinnerware, cutlery, hotel silver, and gorgeous glassware. I was fascinated with this space (I promise to write a post about my reoccurring dream of finding the undiscovered room of lost treasures). I poked into boxes and bags and dusty containers every time I was up there, searching for something fabulous, coveting these beautiful, forgotten pieces—and stealing them. I stole a bunch. Dessert plates, silver trays, vases, whatever. I used these pieces and enjoyed them—kinda. Morris had no idea what was up there and he would never, ever, miss them. I was, and I am, an alcoholic—and that’s what some alcoholics do.
Several years after I got sober, long after my time at Martick’s, I returned the stolen pieces. I’m not sure that Morris remembered who I was, his health and mind were failing, but it would be close to impossible to forget the shock on his face upon looking into the bag that held his treasures. He told me that no one had ever been so kind or so honest. I didn’t stay and chat—while my visit was extremely satisfying, it was equally embarrassing for both of us. I didn’t think of this act as a big deal on my part, I had done plenty of foolish things as an alcoholic that I would not be able to atone for, and returning Morris’s possessions was a small stroke in a very large pool of stupidity. I made an old man’s day and stayed clean long enough to tell the tale in this journal—which is hopefully, thankfully, what some alcoholics come to do.
photo credit: Morris Martick, baltimorebrew.com