Our story so far: Frank Connell has never owned a restaurant or even worked in one, but he's convinced that his Mount Pleasant eatery, the Red Bean, will be a success. He just needs one more infusion of cash to get it opened. To read Episode 1, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Frank Connell steps from his mother's car, says goodbye to her and walks toward the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria for his morning commute into Washington. He doesn't own a car. Maintenance, insurance, parking tickets -- it's all too much to handle, he says. Moreover, he has already sunk every asset he has into the Red Bean, the restaurant that he and his cousin Mike Clements are about to open.
At 43, Frank has no illusion of being a businessman -- that's his cousin's role.
Frank's job is to ensure that the food tastes good. He's been an amateur chef for years and once worked as a cook for a white-water rafting company in Georgia. He also writes a food column for a monthly paper in Alexandria under the byline "Super Frank" and hopes, one day, to write a cookbook. Owning a restaurant, he reasons, will help him get the cookbook published.
Cooking is just one of Frank's creative outlets. Several nights a week, he chips away at a novel tentatively titled Downhill Billy and His Tales of Woe. "It's basically an autobiographical thing," he says.
He also takes pictures. On a recent trip to London he shot an entire roll of tombstones at a cemetery. In 2002, he recorded an album of 19 songs that he'd written. He had no commercial ambitions for the album. He gave away about 1,000 copies, many to friends, many more to complete strangers.
Frank stands on the platform at Braddock Road. He wears slip-on shoes, long denim shorts with a purple bandana hanging out of the back pocket, a white T-shirt advertising a type of hot sauce, a black leather hat and dark wraparound shades. On his back, there is a green knapsack, which Frank calls his jiggy bag. Its contents include a worn passport -- just in case he suddenly needs to leave the country -- as well as a change of clothes, a first-aid kit, a bottle of water and a rope lasso. Frank says he carries these items at all times. He says he may soon buy a gas mask. The first four items in his jiggy bag have clear functions; the lasso, however, requires an explanation: "If you come across a criminal, you could tie him up until the cops get there," Frank says, smiling with wicked delight.
At the Gallery Place-Chinatown station, Frank waits to transfer trains. It's midmorning, between rush hour and lunch hour. There aren't many people about. Frank takes out his cell phone and dials a number. Not coincidentally, a nearby pay phone starts to ring. "I have this game," he says. "I call pay phones to see who answers." It's a way of passing time, he says.
A short man, passing by, stops at the ringing phone. Frank's blue eyes widen. The man lifts the receiver. Here we go, Frank says, chortling. But the man just hangs it up, saying nothing. "Damn," Frank says.
-- Tyler Currie