Our story so far: With the Red Bean still failing to turn a profit, Frank Connell is living on $20 a day while fantasizing about ways to escape his responsibilities. To catch up with earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures. If you think you would be a good candidate to be a subject for this series, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank Connell is celebrating his 44th birthday at the Raven, a tavern down the street from the Red Bean. He's wearing a pink bandana around his neck and his trademark black leather hat on his head. He has just introduced himself to two men from New Orleans who are passing through town on a circuitous trip to California. Frank entertains them with travel tales of his own, like the time he ran into Mick Jagger in a men's room in London. "Hey, Mick Jagger, it's Frank from America," he remembers telling the rock star.
Frank drinks a couple of Budweisers as he talks and laughs. For much of the week, Frank was in a rotten mood, not because he was about to turn a year older, but because of the Red Bean's ongoing financial woes. For now, he doesn't share the restaurant's problems with his bar companions. Frank used to live in New Orleans, and the conversation turns to how birthdays are traditionally celebrated there. When it's your birthday, Frank says, total strangers will pin money to your shirt. He says he once ended up with $150.
Frank's birthdays have always been a lot of fun, he says. Last year he was with his cousin Mike Clements -- now his business partner -- in Monterey, Calif. They partied at Mike's dad's house, grilling fish in the back yard. Frank remembers that his 40th birthday was a blast, too.
"I was in Las Vegas for a Bangles concert." What made that memorable? "I got carded," Frank says with a laugh.
But lately there's been little to make Frank feel young. He has arthritis in his hands, arms and shoulders. Sometimes it hurts just to use a pen, he says. To soothe those aches, a friend recently gave Frank samples of an anti-pain medication called Vioxx. "It makes you feel not so old," Frank says.
It's a few minutes before 10 p.m. The Red Bean will close soon for the evening, and Frank says that he's craving a fish taco. He heads up Mount Pleasant Street to his restaurant. The last customers are finishing dinner. Mike's face darkens when he sees Frank, whose mercurial ways have infuriated his more reliable cousin. Not long ago, on September 11, Frank didn't show up for work. The grim anniversary depressed him, he says, and he decided to stay home.
Now Mike greets his cousin curtly and lowers his voice, saying to Frank, "You know the rule . . . You can't be here in that condition." He means, he explains later, that Frank can't come into the restaurant after he's been out drinking.
Frank glowers back. "Do you really want to do this . . . in public?" he asks, gritting his teeth.
Not waiting for an answer, Frank turns to take a seat. He orders two fish tacos and a salad from the waitress. But he's still fuming. "You don't tell me when I can come into my restaurant," Frank says. "I'm going to sell this place. If this is going to be the way I have to live my life . . . I'm not going to do it."
-- Tyler Currie