SERIAL FICTION: D.U.O. (Chapter 1)
It came to me as a melody in a dream. D.U.O. Do unto others. I grew up going to church, but I’m not a religious person. I don’t believe in god. I never intended to call the restaurant something biblical, or preachy, or philosophical; it hadn’t even crossed my mind. But I’d spent months jotting down names and none were good enough so when my grandfather, my father’s father, walked through the door as a young man with a full head of hair and a beard he’d never worn when he was alive, and began singing those words with me in an unforgettable string of notes, I decided on D.U.O., without any further thought. Because of my reluctance to being tied so closely to something so famously pious, I’ve since assigned multiple meanings to the acronym- my girlfriend and I are a duo; my restaurant partner and childhood friend, Jeremy Palermo, and I are a duo; I’m a musician and you’ve got two-part harmonies and duets and duos in music; it’s a stretch but cooking something two-ways can technically be thought of as a duo, so there’s a culinary spin as well. D.U.O. is duplicitous, it’s whatever you want it to be. The way we’ve been killing it, I could have named the place Shit For Brains and it wouldn’t matter.
Jeremy and I took everything to the extreme. We took farm to table, fresh and local and turned it on its head, took it to a whole new level, set the rulebook on fire and threw it out the goddamn window. We sourced everything from Brewerytown. In a 3-story house at the end of a row on Cabot Street, between 30th and 31st, D.U.O. fused modern technique and technology with culinary minimalism, according to longtime Philly food critic, Greg Lapan. Jeremy, formerly a public defender, is now The Forager. I worked as a therapist, specializing in CBT, stuck in a world increasingly addicted to quick fixes, biopharmaceutical treatments to issues that can only be resolved over time, through hard work, by deliberately reshaping the mind. Now I’m a self-taught, 34-year-old, Michelin-starred chef. We came from nowhere, were nothing, and through food, by doing whatever the hell we wanted, we got high-end diners seeking a remarkably sophisticated experience to fall head over heels for hyperlocal, indigenous, urban ingredients.
I knew nothing. I was a nobody. A nothing. Not anymore.
But this is a relatively newly held position, a perception only recently derived. I haven’t always felt this way, and neither have they. In the beginning, it was slow going; very slow, for months, no one showed up, and I wasn’t sure we’d even make it.
Anthony “Big Dut” Dutten was elected as the 98th Mayor of Philadelphia in November 2007. I’ve seen him nearly every Sunday since, while running. Same place, same time, every time: right at the intersection of Reservoir Drive and Mt. Pleasant in Fairmount Park. For the first 9 weeks, in passing, we exchanged hellos, waves, and fists in the air, the one week I yelled his name, another he asked me mine, the following, after seeing him on the news bash a bunch of “shitheads and morons” for shooting into a car full of children, I shouted best mayor in the world; when I saw him again on week 10, I wasn’t surprised.
On alternating Sundays, he ran without an entourage, and this week was no different.
As I approached, I watched the entire scene unravel. A lanky guy with a black ski mask jumped a fence and blindsided Dutten, tackling him to the ground. I began sprinting toward them. The guy pointed a black plastic bag, something you’d get at a corner store, at the Mayor as he slid backwards on his ass, scrambling to get away, to get out of there with his life. With about 50 yards to go, I jumped into the grass to quiet my steps. The guy was shouting incoherently, swinging the bag above his head like a madman, jabbing the mayor in the belly, holding it to Dutten’s forehead, then his own, then back to Dutten’s. “If you’re going to do this, do it.” Said Dutten. “Make it happen. Make it happen!”
I grabbed a branch lying beneath a tree, and without slowing, with both hands, wound up, and snapped it over the guy’s back, knocking him to the ground.
Dutten, a massive man, crawled to his feet, stood tall, wiped his bald head with his right hand, and momentarily took off after his attacker, who had already escaped into the woods.
The broken handle of a hammer lied in the grass as the empty bag fluttered away.
“That mother… He’s done. I’ll rip him apart.”
Michael Ferrence has written 3 novels, dozens of short stories, and hundreds of Hall of Fame caliber rock songs. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Julia and son Jack, and works as a teacher. Check out more of his work here. •