THE GOOD NEIGHBOR
Christopher Graham was born in Jamaica, but came to this country as a teenager. He and his sister opened Lorenz Island Kuisine in Codman Square six years ago. He's Rastafarian; his dreadlocks fall far below his shoulders, but he keeps them tucked up in a black knitted cap. He's a strong believer in the barter system. He doesn't need haircuts, but when he wants a shave, he makes a trade with the local barbers. He'll provide food for meetings at some local nonprofits. They provide him with legal advice.
"Why would I give you money for you to give it back to me?" he said.
He drives a Jeep Commander and wears Prada eyeglasses. You wouldn't be out of line if you mistook him for a model. Sometimes that can backfire, like the time his looks sparked a fight between a customer and the customer's girlfriend.
"He was cussing her while I was giving her the food," said Graham. "He kept asking if she personally asked for me. He's like, 'Who the eff is that? Who the eff is that? Did you ask for that effin' person personally? I hope you're not giving him an effin' tip.'"
She didn't give him a tip.
There are certain neighborhoods he does not let his other drivers go to. If he gets a late-night call from someone in a crime-riddled neighborhood, he'll apologize and tell them they can't do delivery at that hour. "Vigilance" is a word he uses often when he talks about work. "Drivers are very vulnerable to anything. You never know what situation you're walking into. You don't wanna end up in a situation where you're no longer in control of your own destiny," he said. "Drivers have gotten murdered. I don't want anyone to lose their life over $20 or $30."
Graham's sister has an economics degree from Bentley University. Graham graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he studied graphic design. He served in the Navy for five years and worked all kinds of jobs before he figured out his calling.
"One day, something happened. I was talking to God, of all people. He showed me a sign," he said. "We opened the restaurant. It's tougher than anything I've ever done. I enjoy it. It's something I look forward to doing all the time."
As a delivery driver, Graham sees the intimate details of people's lives and homes. With one regular customer, he said, "You have to look directly at him, because you're embarrassed to look inside his house," which is filled with piles of papers so old they've turned brown. He tries not to judge. "You never know a person's story or their mental state, so you give them their food and go about your business. I would like to know their story. Everyone has a story, and I'm sure it's an interesting one." ^
Liza Weisstuch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.