The Bo Tree

May 12, 2009 | 2 Comments

Category: Auto-Biography

The commune that ran the Bo Tree restaurant was located in a big house about four blocks from the restaurant.  It was an odd little enclave of about ten people and some cats.  This was St.  Petersburg, Florida, 1975.  We had no air conditioning.  Avocados fell like leaves from city trees.  Fleas and roaches were deeply integrated into our lives.  It was hot.

I only worked for the commune.  I did not live there.  I lived with friends a few miles away, near the intercoastal waterway, behind a Mr. Donut.  Rising in the morning, I’d arrive at work as the sole employee, the director of the kitchen.  I was paid the handsome sum of $50 a week.  This was controversial.  Some commune members thought I should not be paid.  But no one wanted to take responsibility for getting things done, hence my elevated station.

As head cook, the guy that baked the bread, prepared the staples and put together the daily specials, I built skills that would later get me cook jobs.  Commune members would drift in and out, volunteering to participate in preparations.  Things were very relaxed.  We often wore no shoes.

It was an entertaining and an odd place to spend the day.  I am very allergic to flour, yet my job was to bake the bread.  I remember sneezing without ceasing for minutes at a time while kneading and making flour into loaves.

On one occasion, I was offered magic shrooms while cleaning up for the day.  While making my way through a large stack of pots, skillets and dishes, the mushrooms took effect.  The sloshing, sudsy water took on intonation patterns and began slurring words while plates got wiped.  As dishes transformed, so did the garble of the water.  I found myself listening to the dishwater speaking in perfect London British dialect, except the words themselves were not quite clear enough to understand.

On occasion, 35 years later, I still occasionally notice dishwater speaking in language dialects.  Undrugged, I note the intonation details have been removed along with the crumbs and smears from the dirty dishes.

The particular mix of hippies that made up the commune I worked for had no binding theology or leader, but they shared a deep respect for fasting.  It was a peculiar mix.  They ran the restaurant and a health food grocery next door, but they revered those members that could go long stretches drinking only water, eating nothing.  One girl ate nothing for over 20 days.  She was their hero.

Bookkeeping was lethargic, like the St. Peter summer.  Attention to detail was wobbly.  Folks sometimes took responsibility consistently for a particular section of the store or restaurant.  Attention wavered.  Roaches were everywhere.  Both kinds.  It was Florida.  There were also bees.

One summer day, a 500-pound drum of honey was delivered for bulk sales.  Stationed toward the front of the grocery, that barrel of honey was a sweet source of income.  The evening of its delivery we all locked up.  The grocery guys locked their door.  I locked mine.

Next morning, I opened up the restaurant side while the store folks unlocked the grocery.  Someone had left the honey drum’s tap in the up position.  Overnight, very slowly, almost 500 pounds of honey leisurely dribbled onto the store floor to disperse over every inch of wooden boards.

It took some time with buckets, rags and towels to get the honey up, get it out from between the floor boards and purge the store of an abundance of sweetness.  Over the course of the day, we filled the dumpster in the alley with almost 500 pounds of honey-infused rags and towels.  It was an all-day job.  We went home tired.

It was 1975.  It was hot.  No one I knew had air conditioning.  I certainly didn’t have air conditioning in my beat up Chevy.  The next morning, I was about three or four blocks away from the restaurant when I noticed, while driving, that there seemed to be a lot of bees around.  Rounding the corner to the restaurant, I noticed more bees.  It wasn’t until I walked into the restaurant that I realized that bees were everywhere.  And, they were happy bees.

The store was closed.  No one could get anything done; there were so many bees.  They had been making their way in through cracks in the back screen door.  Standing in the restaurant, I could hear through the store a deep thrumbing coming from the alley.

I walked outside through the front door, and then I went round back and observed around the dumpster a great bee festival.  If my dishes had been talking in British dialect, the dumpster was mumbing in god language with vowels rolling across the neighborhood in sweet, thunderous bee applause.  They were elated.

Not surprisingly, the commune found it difficult to afford to keep me.  As the kitchen manager and sole employee, I had to fire myself to save them the $50 a week.  Nevertheless, I’d learned that a person could sneeze almost thirty times in a row and not die, that dishwater is British and humans can do things that make bees feel loved.  It was great preparation for my next job, short-order cook in a Hilton Hotel.


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2 Comments so far

  1. Aaron Elijah Colyer on November 7, 2015 1:01 pm

    My mother was the vice president of the Bo Tree House Inc, I’m trying to locate information on my father and potential brothers and sisters I might have. My mom died when I was six and any information you have would be a blessing. Thank you for writing this article, it gives me some insight into the kind of person my mother was

  2. Aaron Elijah Colyer on March 20, 2016 6:28 am

    I’m not looking for money I’m just looking for information that might help me find my father. My mother lived at and was a waitress at The Bo Tree. I’ve found two of the four founding incorporates alive and well but my mother and Steven Weaver have both passed away. My brother Johan was named after a guy at the Bo Tree that played guitar, maybe you’d remember Johan Carlisle, or maybe Carlyle, not sure how it was spelled. That’s not his dad, my mom just liked how Johan played the guitar and sang so she named my older brother after him. Please contact me.

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