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Feast in Northeast..

by Joe Donlon

Bio | Email | Follow: @pdxpeacock

Posted on November 25, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:32 PM

You're probably thinking this is a Thanksgiving post. It's not, really -- although it IS about food. I happened past a Rib Joint on 33rd today, and thought I'd stop in. It's right in the middle of the bustling intersection at Ainsworth - and the smell alone seemed to pull my car into the crowded parking lot.

Having lived in Texas, I usually judge a bar-b-q joint - by the crowd in the lot. And the line stretched around Cannon's Rib Express was a good sign. This is my kind of place. And when the owner slid open the window screen to take my order - I was sold.

His name is Wayne Cannon, and his story made the meal even more enjoyable. As I worked on my beef sandwich (I didn't dare try to pick it up, so a fork was my weapon), Wayne sat down and we talked about business. He moved to Portland 13 years ago, from San Jose. He had to get away, he told me, from a life that was killing him.

Wayne has been clean and sober ever since that move. And he has turned his life, and his business success around. He used to have a shop down the road a bit, but a developer came to him and offered to move his stand - to the prime location facing 33rd. It was a big move - that took a leap of faith. But he had already made one - moving to Portland. This was worth the try. Rent more than tripled, and it would take much harder work to make ends meet. But they have.

As I sat and talked with him, I could tell his face was worn from a thousand stories in his past. He didn't sit long, but I was glad he decided to share some of them with me.

Jazz music drifted through the air, which is another favorite of mine. I told him how I had seen Count Basie - and Woody Herman - in concert before their deaths. Wayne nodded with approval, as he headed for the smoking drums billowing the day's fare - and told me how much he enjoyed the Eartha Kitt concert in Portland.. adding that he offered 'live' jazz for his customers during the summer.

His warm smile lit up the patio, as he told me, "Joe, I wouldn't move back to California - or anywhere - after what this town has done for me." I knew what he meant. It was written all over his face. His, is a success story that's always nice to hear.

I know there are a lot of good b-b-q shacks around town -- and Cannon's is certainly one of them. More impressive, though, is the guy with the gray hair sprinkled throughout his beard - working hard in the back. Wayne strikes me as a man who would never say this out loud, so I'll say it for him. He's proud of his accomplishments -- and he should be. Beating back those demons -- isn't easy. He is a great illustration of ambition, motivation, and a drive to succeed -- in the face of adversity.

Back behind the screen -- he topped it all off by upselling me a piece of sweet potato pie - that was out of this world. The rent - isn't what it used to be, you know.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, as you celebrate your own accomplishments and blessings.