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Notes from the Apocalypse

The Fine Art of Tom Sawyering

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By Charles Morgan III


It’s a closely held family secret—known only to my mother—that my original career was slated to be in the theater. Musicals, actually.


In the sixth grade, I played the lead role in Tom Sawyer at E. Rivers Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. It was to be a short career. But I learned a lot from that experience.


Mark Twain’s character famously tricked Ben Rogers into painting Aunt Polly’s fence. He convinced Ben that it would be fun and that he was fortunate to have the opportunity to whitewash that fence. Excellent technique…I thought.


I’ve been Tom Sawyering people ever since.


I’ve done that out of necessity because I’m not talented at much of anything.


I’m not good at yard work, carpentry, plumbing or electrical stuff. But I know people who actually enjoy that kind of work.


I don’t know anything about automobile mechanics, diesel engine repair, or electronics. But I know people who can fix those things and more.


I have no interest or skill in tax planning, or budget preparation, or corporate management. But I know people who are good at all of that boring stuff.


I’m not the greatest boat driver, and I’ve never had an interest in flying an airplane. But I know people who are experts at that.

If you are in the food and beverage business, it’s important that you know how to perform any task in the restaurant. I’ve never washed dishes, bartended, waited on tables or cooked. I have bussed tables.


I can’t do much of anything, even in my own line of work.


But Two Tony’s does a great job of fixing inboards, Bruce knows how to fix outboards, and Pep Boys keeps my truck running. Ben can fix anything from TVs to stereos to computer programs.


George knows all about electricity, James can build and repair anything, and for 15 years Ricky has been there on time and in good spirits when we needed help with any project.


Kevin, Austin and Darryl run boats and airplanes like they were second nature.


You’d have to be literally starving to eat sushi that I prepared. Yoshi has been pretty good at that for a long time.


If I tried to construct a spring roll, it would be an unattractive mess. Mama Dang has made a million perfect ones.


You’d prefer that I never fix your evening cocktail. Stevie and Mike have made more than a few of those.


Any blue-plate special that I put together would not be edible. Miss Anne can make a beautiful plate of delicious food in her sleep.

I could devastate a boatload of red snapper before they got to our restaurants. Tony and Shannon have cleaned more fish than they care to remember.


If you depended on me to whip up a beautiful, tasty plate of snapper and artichoke hearts, we’d both be in trouble. Duster can make that dish sing.


Chris runs the restaurant named for my mother and makes it look easy.


Marla keeps the restaurants going with a sense of teamwork that I never had.


If the kitchen or the office is shorthanded, I’m worthless. With endless energy, Jackie can fill in any position in the restaurant that needs help.


I’m involved in other restaurants besides the ones in Destin. Years ago, I tricked Yoshi’s son Cris, into being my partner and running those stores.


I started fishing for cobia 35 years ago. Early on I decided it would be a good idea to become friends with someone who was good at finding the fish. Goose has found a few. I’ve been lucky to surround myself with people who are better at spotting cobia than I am.


You can only Tom Sawyer people for so long. I’ve had a good run for 40 years.


I’m fortunate to have two sons who already know more about the restaurant business than I ever did. At the end of the month they’ll take over the Destin restaurants.


Unlike their father, neither Eddie nor Chatham can dance or carry a tune. They never had a chance at the theater.

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