The Project … “Drinks on me”

It’s March 2020 and I just returned home from a month in Florida.  I was looking forward to 14 days of self-imposed quarantine.  As a freelance sports photographer I was basically out of business for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus.  High schools, colleges, semi-pro and pro sports, together, we are about to weather this invisible storm – they all rolled out the groundcover tarp.

While unpacking my cameras, I locate two match box covers “lids” acquired from the Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria Island in Florida, just west of Bradenton.  They remind me of the evening spent with my wife, a fraternity brother and his wife.  We were celebrating their anniversary. 

Earlier that afternoon, at the IMG Academy golf course, I hit my very first hole in one.  As we walked into the waiting area Dave, my fraternity brother, announced for all patrons assembled to hear of my accomplishment and that drinks were on me.  At that moment, I spied, then pocketed those two lids from the hostess stand.  Memories.

Weeks later at home is when I toss those covers into a white porcelain spaghetti pot to join the other lids of memories.

Suddenly, I stop and overturn the spaghetti pot.  I begin laying out all the “lids”.

Over the next several days the lids are categorized, organized and ready for the photo room.

With my cocktail photography tabletop in place, I pick up the Nikons and start clicking.  Days later, after much thought and repeated motions the images are all staring at me like senior high school portraits.  They all look the same.

Shifting gears, the plan became to share them on Instagram. I hoped the images could shake loose someone’s foggy memories of the past or help in the present.  So, now the challenge is to make the ordinary seem sublime.

Match covers are pocket leave behind advertisements.  Usually they are located at the bar, entrance or exit and at the greeter’s podium.  They were once everywhere where smokers gathered.  If I see them, I save them.  I don’t smoke. 

Now, as a result of smoking bans at restaurants and internet advertising there is not much call for them.  This collection goes back more than 40 years. 

Luckily, some restaurants are still in business while others have faded away.  Some lids have printed phone numbers that are no longer connected.  Some phone numbers ring at the front desk.  The physical addresses may have changed.  Or the restaurant has been razed or moved.  Perhaps some now have multiple locations or even got bought up by a larger chain, maybe renamed.  Many are quasi-operating in today’s temporary limbo environment associated with social distancing protocols. 

Somebody has worked there, or celebrated an event, a prom, a birthday, a wedding, a breakup, or had the best meal ever.  They remember a chef or a meal, or a crazy violin box loaded with desserts. 

I don’t know all their stories, so I am reaching out to the readers of the Match Lid Project™ Instagram posts to add their own story.  Requesting good memories only. 

It’s really about the value of restaurants, as small businesses, and how they are a part of the social environment.  It’s the place to meet friends, have a good meal while on the road, or somewhere to grab a beer and watch a ballgame among fanatics.

The plan is to add one lid image a day – with a quick caption using hashtags that are appropriate.

I seek no return on this investment.

These are places once visited and hoped to return to, by the collective “us”,  after social distancing no longer is needed allowing all to belly up to the bar next to each other and ask the tender for a menu. 

And if, at that moment in time, you should look up at the game on the flat screen and see those crazy photographers under the basket or along a sideline perhaps then you’d remember me and this MatchLidProject™.

Drinks on me.