I had arrived at the intersection of Blanshard and Fort in downtown Victoria t’other day when I heard a voice shout out “Patti!”
I turned, and there was my friend Paul, standing behind a street pole and peeking and smiling at me from beneath his customary tan hat. It had been many months since I last saw him. Too many. We hugged. I looked toward the girthsome fellow standing three feet to my left. It was Paul’s hubby, Michael, the cane in his left hand the unfortunate residue from one too many recent visits to the operating table for surgeries that he described as “major.” We, too, hugged in greeting.
“Is the deli still open?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “It’s closed for good now.”
We engaged in a brief bit of small talk, then Michael and Paul were on their way and I on mine, a soft wave of sorrow arriving at the shores of my heart as we departed. I felt so sad for Michael.
He is a man of gentle manner, kind thoughts and the deliverance of sweet intentions, is our Michael King. He is a point of light, even in the darkest of his own hours, and he surely is among my favorite people. Thus, discovery that his beloved deli on Fort Street shall be permanently shuttered was at the very root of my sudden bout of melancholy.
“What a shame,” I said to myself as I trundled home. “Michael was living his dream and now it’s gone.”
It has been two years less two months since Michael hurled caution to the wind and stepped away from his fulltime job to go it alone and open the doors to The King’s Deli, a business of contrasting identities. Although located in the heart of a bustling downtown corridor, it favored the inviting riff of a quaint, neighborhood shop that Normal Rockwell might have been inclined to put to canvas. That was Michael’s doing. And, of course, Gordon, his man Friday, an outrageously flirtatious Englishman given to flights of mischief.
They formed something of a Butch and Sundance alliance, Michael with his big heart, big smile and warmth, and Gordon with his knack for delivering each sandwich or comforting bowl of soup with an appropriate pinch of U.K. cheek and charm.
It worked, for me and so many others who will be so disappointed that The King’s Deli is done, like one of the scrumptious roast chicken dinners I would purchase on their No Cook Wednesdays.
I now have mixed emotions about the closure of The King’s Deli.
Yes, of course, I am sad because my friend Michael was cheated out of a lengthy run with his dream, due to health issues that plague so many of us of a certain vintage. Yet, at the same time, I am happy for him. We all dream. Some are big dreams, some small. Not all of us have the courage to chase our dreams, though. Michael did. And he lived it, albeit for a brief time. That, perhaps, is small consolation for him at the moment, but hopefully it provides a dose of satisfied comfort in his dotage.
And let’s keep in mind the most important thing: We have our Michael.
The King’s Deli is gone. But the King is still with us. Long live the King.