Karl Straub founded the Tom McCall Catering Service in the early 80s. He used to run it out of his small restaurant, The Oregon Diner, but got tired of the daily grind of serving three meals a day. The catering business was more lucrative anyway, so he shuttered the diner and soon became the preeminent caterer for Republican shindigs in the Portland area.
The catering service was named after Karl’s hero, former two-term (1967-75) Republican Governor Tom McCall.
McCall was a legend in Oregon, the greatest governor in state history. During his remarkable tenure in office, the Legislature enacted the Beach Bill, the Bottle Bill, the Bicycle Bill, land use planning, decriminalization of marijuana. McCall signed all of these into law and in due course, turned Oregon into one of the most desirable places to live in the nation. McCall even had the state sponsor a free rock festival called Vortex I to forestall violence in Portland between American Legionnaires and protesters against the Vietnam War. It was the only event of its kind in American history and earned the nickname of “Governor’s Pot Party.”
Karl had worked on McCall’s last campaign, in 1978, when the legend tried to unseat a milquetoast incumbent Republican Governor in a primary and lost. Had McCall run as independent he would would have won a third term.
His daughter Dani was his only child. Karl’s beloved wife died of cancer when Dani was in junior high. Dani and her father bonded over that horrible experience and she worked in the catering business all through high school and college. She became fluent in Spanish by immersing herself in the language of the entirely all Latino crew and learned to love their distinct culture.
Dani graduated from Portland State University with an honors degree in political science and had no idea what to do with it. She was smart, savvy, independent, straight, more than a little wild, perpetually single, a cannabis aficionado (never touched alcohol), and loved worked alongside her dad.
She was not a Republican. She loathed Republicans and their bilious ilk even though she had grown up with the stories of Tom McCall and his visionary leadership. Dani and her dad had always had minor political differences, but Karl was a kind and decent man and when Trump won the nomination, he left the party for good. The Republican Party of Oregon that he knew and loved was dead and never coming back. He had to let it go. Karl just thanked the heavens that Trump hadn’t destroyed his relationship with Dani. He knew a lot of families that couldn’t say the same.
Dani had taken over the business about the time Trump became President with Karl’s blessing and changed just about everything: healthier, locally-sourced food and drink, higher wages, improved benefits, and last but not least, no kook reactionary clients, which naturally ruled out anything related to Republicans at every level of governing, from dogcatcher to the Oregon Legislature.
Karl was in agreement with Dani with every change and slowly retreated from company affairs. It was to Dani’s utter astonishment and overwhelming joy when he announced he was marrying one of the elderly Latino workers, whose husband had recently passed away. She was happy for her father as he headed into retirement and this somehow liberated her from the idea of running the catering business forever.
Dani wanted to open a tiny cantina/restaurant and help organize the Latino laborers in the area. She wanted to host open mics, art shows, campaign events and feature nothing but Oregon foods, drinks and hallucinogenics.
She shared her plan with Karl and he was supportive. Dani knew the catering business could still be profitable and she discussed turning it into a cooperative with the employees, enabling them to buy it. They loved the idea and a timeline was struck. Just a few more gigs and then move on.