Kelly is responsible for the terrific posts you read here, but I wanted to crowd in on her territory, so I’m doing this one. A couple Saturdays ago, the K’roo was closed due to the cold weather. With an unexpected day off, I had time to revisit 2 movies from 1975 that I really like, but probably haven’t seen in 25 years. If you don’t know, I was raised on television and movies; so much of my perspective (and everyday conversation) is highly influenced by popular culture.
What do these two guys have in common?
On top is Jonathan E, the world’s greatest rollerballer in the futuristic film Rollerball. The character on the bottom is probably more recognizable; he is RP McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. While at I didn’t at first make the connection to the happy coincidence of seeing both of these films in one day, it turns the two characters are very similar and made me think about myself, what we’re trying to do here at the Kangaroostaurant, and with our lives.
Jonathan E is a winner who isn’t sure he is one. He is a stand out athlete in a rather bleak future. He excels at a game created by the corporations that rule the planet; a game that is meant to show the futility of individual excellence. A game he loves, but chose over all else, including his family. With its violence and ever changing rules, rollerball’s participants are usually hobbled by the game in a short time; but not Jonathan. He refuses a retirement option thrust upon him by the governing executives, so the corporations for which he plays unabashedly change the rules to ensure his demise. He continues to stand out while others around him fall, but the pressure of the game and his own confused existence take a heavy toll.
RP McMurphy is a loser who believes he isn’t. He is a social outsider, a convict who is transferred from prison to a mental facility to have his status evaluated. RP’s problem is that he is violent and tends to resolve issues with his fists. What Jonathan is rewarded for, RP experiences only punishment. While doing time in the mental ward, RP changes those around him and finds himself changed, as well. The patients he meets at the beginning of the film are better at the end for having met RP He involves them in their surroundings. He treats them with equality and humor. He even steals a school bus and takes them all fishing. This is a far cry from the way the patients are treated by their attendants and physicians, receiving medication, disrespect, and far worse treatment when they attempt to assert any individuality.
What do these guys have to do with a food truck?
Well, very little, but their stories remind me of the way we lived before Kelly came up with this concept, how we struck out on our own story, and the way we live now. I’m a fairly malleable guy. If I find something I can do well and get paid for it, I will to remain there, regardless of my level of happiness or satisfaction. RP is like this in the beginning of Cuckoo’s Nest. Basically doing his time until another controlling entity tells him it’s time to move on. Like Jonathan, both Kelly and I were part of corporations before we struck out on our own. Jonathan remains in a game that he sees as his only form of expression, even though his accumulated wealth and notoriety would easily allow him to skate away. Both Kelly and I did well in our previous jobs, but were very unhappy. Every Sunday night was an exercise in dread and Monday mornings were full of tears and silence. Neither one of us wanted to be on the path we were on, but were very hesitant to make any change. Corporations provide a lot of desirable things that a small business may not: short work days, health care, a paycheck. When Kelly stumbled on the idea of doing something she loved (literally googling “restaurant low startup costs”), I was hesitant. The more she talked with me and voiced her ideas, the more I saw how this could work. Between our two personalities, we planned carefully and took enough risks that got us to where we are now. Still running a food truck. In Winter. In Wisconsin. Pretty amazing.
In Rollerball, Jonathan continues to excel at a game where the rules constantly change and seem to be implemented to ensure his demise. RP’s rules are sternly put in place by the establishment, but whose consequences are greater the more disobedient he becomes. Running our business can be like that, as well. The gamut of knowledge I’ve accrued is massive: from changing the oil in a deep fryer to changing the oil in a generator; and a thousand other details, tricks, and hard lessons. Every day brings more and more challenges and sometimes it seems like the rules are changing just to get us. I can get stuck in this selfish thinking, until I realize that we have exactly what Jonathan and RP have: fans and friends that look to them for leadership and inspiration. I’m lucky enough on a daily basis to have someone tell me, email me, or shout from a car, just how much they love what we’re trying to do. Those words of encouragement are why we keep playing the game every day, and to be honest, why we can’t wait until the next match. While the outside pressures may be immense, once we get on the truck, like Jonathan on the track or RP taking the patients fishing, it is thrilling and awesome to be doing what we love.
What do these guys say about life?
The bottom line is that these characters, due to desire or necessity, are fighting their battles from the ground up. We like to think we’re doing the same thing. Our goal is to cook great tasting, locally sourced food that everyone can enjoy and that we can have fun making. It can be difficult to take a chance and push against the standards of society. Whether it be quitting a normal job, refusing to quit when offered retirement, buying a food truck, or stealing a bus to take your buddies fishing. They’re all crap shoots. Things end ambiguously for Jonathan and badly for RP. However, due to RP’s example, one of his fellow patients literally removes the obstacles in front of him and escapes to a better day. What our ending will be remains to be seen, but so far it has been a terrific ride and we hope, like the fans and patients in these films, you will stick with us.