Note: I am on the Central Coast of Oregon where I have undertaken rooting myself somewhat in the culture, in the history and in the future of this place. I’ve been working with students in K12 as a substitute for all levels, all categories of teaching. I’ve joined Surfrider and the American Cetacean Society. I’ve interfaced with the Newport city twice-a-week newspaper to get some insider news out around teaching and environmental issues.
There is irony here: writing for free, and, I cut my teeth when I was 18 working for the Tombstone Epitaph in Arizona, and then small dailies and mid-size city dailies — Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Spokane, Seattle — then some news organizations like the LA Times Syndicate and Gannett.
Here I am, sending in copy, to this small newspaper, part of a small conglomerate of newspapers owned by News Media Corporation, with background on them and the owner here and here. My piece below has been hacked up, per the small newspaper business, but alas, sometimes it’s about getting the basic message through. It’s on page A-5, April 3, 2019.
What gets cut, unfortunately, are the guts of the story, about a woman who owns a restaurant and is for a proposed single-use plastic bag ban for the city of Newport, not a baby-step, but an inch-worm’s step. Here, below, the original copy turned into the newspaper.
Plastics are increasing every year, and if we know anything about petrochemicals and how and where they are produced, then this is yet one of a thousand humanity and ecosystem cuts of death. Here, from another venue where I publish, for free, again, for free — Why Recycling Is a ‘Pseudo-Solution’ to Reducing Plastic Waste
Omelets and Pancakes and Every Day Learning How and Where to Cut Back on Waste
Café Nye Beach owner is a strong proponent of the Newport City plastic bag ban
By Paul Haeder, special to the Newport News-Times
Putting her mouth where her heart is, Judy Buchko sees her Nye Beach eatery as something more than an all-day breakfast joint with a hundred culinary options.
“To tell you the truth,” said the 62-year-old owner of Café Nye Beach, “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was thirteen.” She was cracking, whipping up and storing a few dozen eggs (five dozen) when she showed this writer the ins and outs of her business.
We talked about the deep history of her work as a restaurateur, but also what it means to be a responsible member of the community. Buchko’s ethos is about protecting her workers, and in that regard, she pointed out that she pays above the minimum wage considered average in Newport.
Some of my employees get fifteen dollars an hour, on top of tips,” she stated. “It’s only fair they get a higher wage, with all the work they do to make this place successful.” Judy has 11 employees, half of whom are full-time. If there was an affordable small business insurance program, she says she’d surely like to offer health insurance under some group health insurance model.
She is in favor of a single-payer health care system, something she knows personally. Almost five years ago, after six months of pain she attributed to a hernia, she was diagnosed with cancer. After an 8-hour operation to take out a five- pound ovarian cancerous tumor, she was on medical leave. Soon, she had part of her intestine removed because of the scarring the malignant tumor had done to her insides.
Straddled with both debt for remodeling the restaurant and the hospital bills, Buchko understands the precarity of the average American when something goes wrong medically.
She’s been at the current location for over eight years, and when asked what she might be doing in five years, Judy stated, “I will probably be winding down from the business.” She stated she’d like to travel, to places like Kenya or Nairobi: “Just to experience a place where I do not know the language and learn how to adapt.”
She was in full-on tongue-in-cheek mode when she implied her travels might start sooner as the upstairs apartment dweller upstairs wasn’t too keen on the eating establishment below, complaining about the normal noise coming from a diner. “She’d like to see my place closed.”
The eatery has a deep menu, with homemade breads, many gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian option, and she sources her produce, beef and other products locally. While she was discussing the history of the business and her own personal narrative, Lorne from the egg place arrived with a few cartoons of eggs from he and his wife’s chicken and egg operation, Emerald Hills Farms.
Lorne’s proud of his 89 years on planet earth, having originally come from California more than 8 years ago “with a much younger wife, who works at Oceana.” He delivers the free-range and antibiotic-free eggs daily to Café Nye Beach since the operation goes through 15 dozen or more eggs a day for their 8 pm to 3 pm daily restaurant.
Like many of the Nye Beach establishments, the owner of Café Nye Beach supports the Newport City single use plastic bag ban. Judy stated she went to a City Council meeting where she spoke for the ban and listened to a young Sam Case student she knows, Anders, “eloquently speak on the harms of plastics on ocean life.”
I’ve always cared about all the little children, and my support of the ban and putting that up that sign in the restaurant as a show of solidarity is out of my love for kids . . . my voice is speaking for them, those who can’t vote.”
Ironically, she talked about having many sleepless nights mulling over plight of the planet and global warming, but more specifically about the waste that is part and parcel hitched to the restaurant business. She estimates more than 50 percent of the food people order gets tossed. She talked about so-called “green cups” she used, which Judy said after two weeks soaking in water at home in an experiment she was conducting the cups had not even begun to biodegrade.
She’s always willing to talk to anyone interested in her stand for a plastic bag ban and other environmental measures, adding that she is not going to win any arguments with people who are already convinced climate change isn’t real or that plastics restrictions won’t work.
Her setting down roots in Newport occurred thirty years ago, when she hitchhiked from Wisconsin and fell in love with the place. She opened up a restaurant in the Bay Front, but moved over to Nye Beach more than 13 years ago. “I love to cook, and I realized when I was recovering from surgery — after this cancer the doctor said I wouldn’t survive — that I had to get back to work, back to the restaurant.”
Work and being connected to people, she states, are healing qualities she can count on. Her tenacity she attributes to growing up in a poorer section of Milwaukie, with a single mom. “I remember our dirty coal burning heater, and we’d have to clean out our nostrils every day from all the soot.”
She repeated several times, “I try to do the best in terms of environmental awareness at my age.”
He hero includes her now deceased older brother who fought against unjust prison sentences and police brutality in Milwaukee. He also was part of a “free Angela Davis” group, and eventually, he succumbed to AIDS in 1992.
The activism and social and environmental justice awareness were sparked young, she stated. “My uncle, mom, brother and myself and some other kids went to the A & P to protest them selling Gerber baby food.” It was a campaign started when journalists revealed Gerber sold infant formula to undeveloped countries without sufficient warnings about using clean water and refrigeration. “Many thousands of babies got sick and many died because of Gerber’s bad policies.”
Many of her employees were rushing around her as she was shredding potatoes for fresh hash browns. Claudia, a 42-year-old from Puebla, Mexico, said she appreciates the work and her boss’s attitude. We spoke at length in Spanish, discussing her 15 years in Newport and five years in Arizona after leaving Puebla with her husband. Judy pined in stating she wanted a friend of hers who is a linguist to help Claudia and others to learn English so they can make more money out front waiting tables.
She’s working everyday to cut down on waste and throwaway items: she’s got cardboard instead of Styrofoam takeaway boxes; hemp straws; cup lids made out of sugar cane.
One day she’d like to travel to the Galapagos Islands, but even that keeps her up at night: “I will have to research that and make sure I am not just adding to all the pollution with all the tourism on those incredible islands.”