Garden of Delights breakfast and lunch restaurant 113 C Highland St. Worcester, MA
From 1975 to early 1976 I had one of the best part-time jobs of my life if you could even call it a job. It combined two of my favorite past-times: driving and having fun. It also revealed a few other tasks I excelled at – more on those later.
I began as a dishwasher in a lunch and dinner restaurant – the Garden of Delights on Highland Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. Inside it was all black – black walls, black ceilings, interrupted by two tropical fish tanks, spider plants with their own grow lights and placards with single cell cartoons each with their own illuminated lights and a few maps and prints. This was the work of Tinker and Princess. They were the owners of the restaurant. It was obvious that Tinker had done the interior work / décor.
Tinker was dressed in all black with long black hair and custom-made shoes that curled up at the toes with tiny bells on them. He made them, of course, along with his black vest and its many pockets. He may have bought the wide-brimmed black hat. Princess was the chef. She created the specials that changed every week. It was a vegetarian restaurant except for the tuna of the very famous open-faced tuna melts on toast.
It was a special place at a special time.
Dish washing was not my most favorite task, actually it was my least favorite task. But everyone that worked there brought in a vinyl rock LP that was stacked about 15 records high on the spindle. We’d rock out all night long as we worked, worked, worked.
My good friend, Valerie who worked there, as a waitress, told me they were looking for a driver to pick-up food and supplies for the restaurant. Tinker and Princess did not own a car. My job was to pick up food for the week on one day and make bank deposits. I started in the spring of 1975. I drove my 1969 VW Bug which was mostly a good car for pick-up.
I went to Mitchell’s Bakery every Wednesday and shopped for the rest of the stuff on Thursdays to my recollection. At Mitchell’s I would buy 100 loaves of whole wheat bread and 50 pounds of fresh ground Mocha Java Coffee; I loved the aroma of all those coffee beans being ground into the bags. They would grind the beans as I loaded the bread in the bug. Next stop – Stop ‘n Shop for cans of White Albacore Tuna – it was the only brand of Tuna where dolphins were not attracted to the nets of the fishing boats. On the other day I’d do everything else:
- Off to the Greek Market for 2 to 3 pounds of Feta Cheese, jaw with the owner.
- On the opposite side of town was a cheese wholesaler open to the public where I would buy Gouda and Muenster in large bars, no need for cutting. A woman customer remarked once: “You must have a big family?” “You have no idea,” I cracked.
- Then to the bank for a deposit.
The cheese wholesaler stopped carrying 50-pound wheels of Aged Vermont Cheddar Cheese, so Princess or Tinker had to locate a different source. I was given an address down in the warehouse section of Worcester. I parked and started to walk towards the enormous building whose sign read: Boston Beef. I had to laugh. A Natural Foods restaurant that did not serve poultry or red meat was the address I was sent to. In my minds eye I could see Tinker and Princess laughing.
There was a buzzer at a side door. A guy with a hard-hat and a white blood-soaked coat arrived there. I gave him my name, the name of the business and the product I wanted. He had me wear a hard-hat. We walked through the place with beef hanging on hooks deep into the back of the building. He opened the door to a cold-storage locker and brought out a giant wheel of cheese. It was on account and I signed it and he gave me a receipt. Then I hiked out with him. He took the hat and away I went.
I’d go over their apartment a block away from the restaurant for food experiments that Princess would try out for the three of us – as vegetarian dinner specials. After dinner in the dining room amid the low slung and bean bags chairs surrounded by industrial sized wooden spools for tables and swing arms mounted on stands with an alligator clip at the end of each arm, four arms all together. It was the lazy person’s way of smoking a joint. Well one of the three of us would have to get the joint and transfer it to the next clip, oh such work for “the slammed”.
Summer was great. But the winter of 75 – 76 with the snow storms and the sludge was a drag. On a Wednesday I did a small bit of driving in the city and then off to pick-up 80 gallons of organic Apple Cider and Juice in Sterling north of the city about 30 miles. It had started snowing during my morning run, it was light, but wet.
a 4-foot exact replica of Donald Duck made of solid sharp Vermont Cheddar Cheese with toothpicks holding the pieces together
When I arrived at the mill the parking lot up to the loading deck wasn’t plowed yet. I had stripped all superfluous stuff including two small sandbags from the trunk in order to fit all the cider in the Bug. There wasn’t enough weight in the from to get across the parking lot. Two guys around my age stood on the front bumpers and the drive over to the loading dock was one of ease.
It was an engineering feat getting those 80 gallons of glass bottles loaded with that sweet nectar into the car. There were 60 gallons of cider and 20 gallons of juice: 4 gallons to a box. I tried loading them with the backseat down, but it worked better with it up because I could get some boxes on the floor. Boxes in the passenger seat and one on the floor and two in the trunk with it tied down by some cord. I laughed.
Later, on a winter’s Wednesday morning I was taking a shortcut back to the G.O.D. from the bank. There had been two heavy snows earlier in the week and it was snowing lightly when I came into a very tiny traffic circle. It was the exact same time a woman in a Mercedes entered from the right and I pumped the breaks to stop. It wasn’t enough. Our bumpers crunched. My bug was more damaged than hers. It was clearly my fault. We exchanged insurance information and phone numbers.
When I got back Princess and Tinker could see something had happened. It was around 10:30 am before the place opened. There was another guy there in a suit. I explained what had happened. Fortunately, my work for that day was done.
“What can we do,” they both asked. I didn’t know. The suit, Tom, had overheard me. He told me he had just graduated from Law School but hadn’t taken the Massachusetts Bar yet. He wondered if he could investigate the accident for me.
“Sure,” I said.
He had me draw a map of how I hit the car and the names of streets etc.
Later I negotiated with Princess and Tinker for one free meal a week, all the free coffee I could drink and to smoke pot with them in the basement after my run once in a while.
They both beamed:
“Yes. Good. Anytime,” they said.
A few weeks later Tom was waiting for me when I returned from my run. He told me that she was driving the wrong way down a one-way street, but hadn’t seen the signs: one was broken off by a plow and the other signs were covered by piles of snow.
In the meantime, I had used a heavy-duty rope to pull my bumper out. I called the woman on the phone and explained the new situation. She was beside herself. But since I had done my own “repairs” I told her there was no need for our insurance companies to get involved. Relieved and disappointed, she agreed and that was that.
Near St. Patrick’s Day ’76 Prink, Princess had shortened her name to match Tinker and they had become Prink and Tink, she had me drive her to a deli south of Clark University on Main. On the way there she told me her real name:
“And you have to promise never to tell anyone. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure. No problem.”
“And I’m thinking of going to the Culinary Institute of America in New York.”
“Oh God, the CIA,” and we both laughed.
By early spring of ’76 I had to stop working there due to faltering grades at Clark. I graduated in May of ‘76
Years later – in ’77 Tink found me and invited me and Val to their Thanksgiving Day Feast at the GOD for all employees past and current complete with a 40-pound turkey, stuffing, and all the fixings including a veggie alternative. And pies, pies, pies and a cheese cake, the same kind I used to get – the one that was so thick and sticky you had to cut it with waxed dental floss.
Tink made a 4-foot exact replica of Donald Duck made of solid sharp Vermont Cheddar Cheese with toothpicks holding the pieces together.
What a riot.
In 1986 the Gardens of Delights was gone… Nobody knew what happened. Prink and Tink had disappeared. Someone had said the owner of the building had raised the lease… but no one really knew.