Henny Penny & A Fool For the City


Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Yep, the unemployment insurance payouts are free of even the job search requirements, all the silly shelter-in-place nonsense (the death rate for the virus is 0.9% which is statistically, I’m guessing, no different from the regular respiratory flu, who cares, I won’t rant) obviously the driver. But that folks are keen to use the nutty lockdowns and shutdowns as an excuse for a semi-paid vacation from their jobs helps explain to me the otherwise baffling complacence that permeates all this. Me? Well, as an artist-craftsman I accept any and all unemployment compensation as a form of legitimate subsidy for the legitimate work that I do – my contribution to the public good – that otherwise goes not only unpaid but in fact costs me significant sums of money. That is to say, I’m not here to initiate a debate about the cultural value and compensation of artist-craftsman. Neither am I complaining as long as the cosmos allows me to continue my efforts. Money is merely a tool, not something to either pile up for its own sake, dragon style (a key component of the dragon’s mythology is that he hoards), nor to display as a bourgeois marker of success.

Otherwise, within the context of what I enjoy describing as Covid Craziness, it’s loony that mask-wearing may become a new culturally mandated “fashion” empowered by the age old impulse to avoid social stigmatization. Age old? Indeed. Look at the patriarchal Muslim mythology and its perception of female sexuality as a threat. Perceived versus actual threats – how much suffering has been propagated by tyrannically paranoid and inhumane assholes by way of such close-minded, fear-aggressive nonsense? Well, study your mythology and it’s a part of things, part of the psychology of religion and mythology through the ages and likely always will be. Science avails us nothing when it gets manipulated and misinterpreted by self-absorbed, cowardly Chicken Little types. Chicken Little, now there’s a folk tale that seems apt, at least to me. I didn’t realize the original European reference is to Henny Penny. From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henny_Penny:

“Henny Penny, more commonly known in the United States as Chicken Little and sometimes as Chicken Licken, is a European folk tale with a moral in the form of a cumulative tale about a chicken who believes that the world is coming to an end. The phrase “The sky is falling!” features prominently in the story, and has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical or mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. Versions of the story go back more than 25 centuries;[1] it continues to be referred to in a variety of media.

“The story is listed as Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 20C, which includes international examples of folktales that make light of paranoia and mass hysteria.”

Perfect. When in doubt, look to mythology and the answer, or at least the example, will be there. Anyway, I’m now guilty of violating my own moratorium on discussing that which is not to be named. On the good side, academically as if were, unfounded and legitimate fears have inspired all manner of compelling mythological imagery and custom and cultural uniqueness across the globe.

What follows documents the sad beginning of the end of HH, its precipitous and in hindsight inevitable fall from grace and makes, of all things, a shared reference to today’s post (above) regarding the mythology and hence psychology of the dragon-as-hoarder.

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

Fool For the City?

September 19, 2011. I feel finished with something and I think it’s the food cart. The enormous effort we’ve put forth seems to have resulted in a slow fade out of the entire concept. I wonder if I’ve been a fool? Am I in the middle of yet another fiasco? Am I awakening from another fever and into another failure? It’s been so much work to get here and start the cart and I’ve had so much conviction and energy and heart to do it. But where is the drive going? So much work and time and I just feel like something that was so important, just last Friday even, is sliding into nothingness. This has taken me completely by surprise – not the facts of the cart season ending, or having to find something else to do – but the blankness in my heart and mind towards the whole endeavor, as if it’s become meaningless. All the food and the people and the brutal, crushing work of it all – all the way back to Texas. The walks, talks, yoga, reading, writing, working, wondering, pondering, visioning, meditating, changing, growing, learning, risking, dreaming, trying. I don’t get why I’m in this funk. I trust it’s just weird body chemistry and I’ll pull the fuck out of it. My passion seems to have floated out some distance away from me and I wonder if it’s ever coming back. Like that painter, Sarina I think, when she just quit painting, giving up the great work of her life when her inspiration just “flew away in the night.” Gadzooks, here’s hoping I’ve just run into a biophycomythological dip or temporary stall – that my dream-energy, which was running full tilt for all these months, has not burned out. A failure in the middle? Or a fucking catastrophic failure into fiasco? Again? Am I out of gas? Is hh over in record time for a start-up? What will I do? May the dawn bring relief and a return to form, whatever that may be. Fuck this anxiety….

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011. Awesome late summer weather – sunny, seventies, perfect to sell food from a cart. Curiously, I had my worst sales day ever in the cart: $35. The last time I was open was the previous Thursday and I did $200, better than many a moon. But just about everyone else has been bitching about sales for at least a couple weeks. What the fuck is going on? I can speculate: the start of the school year, professors, teachers and grad students that may have been coming to the court quit coming? Office workers are suddenly bored with the court? The scuttlebutt about Washtenaw County Health Department trashing Mark’s Carts as “unsanitary” has killed biz? Folks think we’re closed for the year? Who knows, but frankly I don’t give a damn. I’m done with the cart – it’s done its job and put me on the culinary map and from here on out it’ll just putz along at probably $125 average sales and continue the same thing next season. It’s not a money-maker and never will be and I never thought otherwise. But it sucks to be going to the kitchen, cranking out food, opening and closing the cart and otherwise busting ass for an empty courtyard. I would’ve bet that this part of the year would be the best, with the nice temperatures and population increase. But students don’t buy good food – they never have and never will. I never did when I was a student. They want fast, familiar and cheap. Mostly pizza and tacos – snore. That’s not Mark’s Carts. At least not yet. So I guess we’re done earlier than I thought. I’ll see how this week goes and if we’re tanking, I’ll cut back to a half-mac, lower prices and just try to use up the food that I have before the end.

Some guy that Kev knows is manager for a new restaurant opening in February in Plymouth – the Sardine Room and the guy wants to talk casually to me about working there or helping out in some way. I told Kev we could do beers or something, but it might be tangent to the plot since they’re a) doing fish, which I know very little about, and b) it’s in Plymouth, the city that I still dislike, distrust and will never figure out. Also, like I told him “me no line cook.” Like I wrote in my biz plan for Mark’s Carts, I don’t like most restaurants. I don’t like the idea of learning how to work in one because I only see how it fucks up your sense of food quality and food passion; it’s just balls out hard-ass physical work and doesn’t pay shit. But I’m a little lost right now and I shouldn’t be turning away food biz connections or options, so we’ll do some beers and talk about shit.

This is a dangerous biophycomythological time for me – it’s at these down-turn points; these pre-fiasco times, that I start to doubt everything and anything about my own intuition, skills, talents, strengths, plans, visions, whatever and I look for the familiar or I look to please and I look for money. I want to change from this pattern. I want to believe and have faith in my choices for fucking once in my fucking life. My greatest desire has been to know what I want to do – to know my vocation, or vocations, and during this last year I have busted my ass and my brain and listened to, believed in and trusted what I thought I heard from my heart to crack this life of mine into an overdrive push to bliss. I’ve done the reading. I’ve done the yoga. I’ve done the vision-boards. I’ve got the Mandala. I’ve identified my guides and followed them. The bliss is cutting off and I need to find it again. That it’s cutting off is worrisome. Then I worry that I’m worried. Total bullshit! I need to keep trying to still my mind through meditation and simply trust the work that I’ve done, try to practice some non-attachment while relaxing into greatness, to borrow from Rod Stryker. I re-read my 2012 vog this morning before walking to the kitchen, and it jazzed me, spun my nut, twisted my nadi, energized my heart, so what the fuck am I doing doubting it?

Stryker talks about “vairagya” which is dispassion, detachment, non-attachment.[1] From The Gita he quotes:

Seek refuge in the attitude of detachment and you will amass the wealth of spiritual awareness…. There is no cause for worry….. Try to imagine worry and stress no longer being a part of your life. For most of us, this would mean an entirely different life from the one we are living.[2]

The Gita apparently talks about the “anxiety about results” and Stryker uses the story Steve Jobs told about getting fired from Apple – his own company – and how he became free and no longer “bound by the known.”[3] That’s all fine. But I’m watching the Food Court court die; I’m watching part of what used to be my dream die. There are too many really shitty days now in the court, and I can see that a business that depends on the weather and time of year is fucked. Like Ari says “you have to provide a really compelling reason for people to buy from you.” We can’t – the court just has too many limitations:

  • No alcohol.
  • Hard to find.
  • One street too far away from the action.
  • Lousy seating.
  • Too “Ghetto” (not charming enough).
  • Too many bad weather days.
  • Shitty, expensive parking.

In the end, I really don’t give a shit – I never liked the idea of food carts that much anyway, so I’m just happy that I got something out of it, though now I’m struggling to implement the next part of the vision.

What I don’t like about this food cart biz:

  • Schlepping shit back and forth from the kitchen and cart – the physical brutality of it all. It’s a ridiculously stupid set-up such that we have to negotiate this absurd distance each and every time we need to get from the court to the kitchen and back. Imagine carrying your fucking incendiary food trays – full to the brim – the fifty yards (uphill there, downhill back), up and down a flight of steps, back and forth through a personnel door that is required to remain locked so that you have to somehow carry all your shit and at the same time unlock the fucking door each time you want back into the kitchen? Mark is an idiot and an asshole for thinking this is acceptable.
  • The rushing around to get lunch out only to close at 2pm and spend an hour cleaning up (unless I get fucked by somebody beating me in line to the wash sink – don’t get me started on the ware-washing fiasco) so I can have a life.
  • Being required to clean the whole fucking kitchen on a rotating basis: floor, prep tables, sinks, appliances and bathrooms for Christ’s sake! Oh, and also, irregularly at least, the hood filters – disgusting – the grease trap – horrible – the ice machine filter – gross. Jesus Christ Mark you asshole, I got a quote for it to be done professionally and you’re too goddamn cheap and mean to let us job it out. I pay you so I can clean your fucking kitchen? What an ass!
  • The ridiculously lousy return on my investment of time and money.
  • Paying rent for space. It’s like working for the man only it’s supposed to be my own business.
  • The lousy kitchen storage set up.

What I like about the food cart biz:

  • Being the boss.
  • Cooking, most of the time, unless I’m in a rush.
  • Knowing people like the food.
  • Talking about the food with interested folks – providing the HH experience.
  • Being outside when the weather is nice.
  • Being downtown.
  • The camaraderie of the kitchen.
  • Striving to be who I am.
  • Using my strengths to run all the aspects of the biz.
  • Making headcheese, being spiritually with the pigs.
  • The possibility of wholesaling my headcheese.

It looks like, on paper, that the good almost outweighs the bad. But right now, it doesn’t feel that way. This USDA thing is bugging me – for some reason I’ve really let it drag me down and frustrate me. I feel like I’ve lost biophycomythological ground, like I’m backsliding into old, shitty states of mind. I don’t know where the mojo went, but it’s gone and I feel like I’m waiting to get the fuck out but without a good plan of where to go next. All because I’m slowed down by the USDA. Why am I so impatient? What the fuck? If I get the documents I need, then things will move forward, so what the fuck am I so ornery about – why can’t I just deal with the bumps in the road? Why am I so jaded all of a sudden? Am I indeed jaded? It’s like I’ve lost touch with myself right in the middle of doing all this work that’s supposed to be connecting my to myself. What the hell? I honesty wondering what the fuck I was thinking opening a food cart sometimes – like I’m waking up from a fever and can see clearly again only now, and I don’t like what I see. But then again, it seems like I’ve known all along what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and that nothing has been a surprise except the physical strain, which led to mental strain. I suspect this road-blocking by beauracracy is just a trigger; it reminds me of what I used to get so steamed about at work: being stiff-armed by red-tape and closed minds, by guys who think their job is to get in the way of things. Ugh.

Money? I couldn’t fucking care less, but for some reason, I’m thinking like I used to think – that I need to earn a living to be a respected member of the southeast Michigan world of mom, dad and all the other southeast Michiganders. I don’t like it here yet. Ann Arbor seems spoiled in some way that I can’t fix. The students, which I never liked but could at least tolerate, bug the fuck out of me now. The weather is fucking nuts, wacko, most of the time. The city is still pretty and sometimes charming, but it feels a little tight to me; a little too small and familiar. Maybe Texas changed me more than I thought and in ways I don’t yet understand? But why the goofy backsliding NOW? What is it that’s bothering me? Part of it is I don’t feel like I’m moving since the USDA hold-up. I’m desperate too, that it won’t work out and I’ll be the same person as I was before, with no job again, no vision, all this family too close by to judge me (or imagine that they’re judging me). What crazy shit I’m spouting. AACCKKK!!! AARRRGGHH!!

Maybe I’m in the middle of a change. I’ve lost my faith in everything all of a sudden. I’m anxious and scared to a degree that I haven’t been in many months. I guess I’ve just been too fucking crazy busy with this start up to get a good handle on being back here in MI where I’m not so sure I want to be. But the city is still helping me, in spite of my resistance and that’s got me frustrated. Why can’t the big wide world help me? Why must I always retreat back to dinky, unimportant, annoying southeast Michigan to get anywhere at all? There are so many times that I just don’t want to be here – all the old triggers: high school, mom, dad, family members, buildings, roads, cities, suburbs, all from the past. Fucking boring. Me, the great adventurer, going out into the world; the forest adventurous, more than several times in my life – to MSU, to OU, to NYC, to WSU, to jobs all the fuck over the place, finally to the Gulf Coast of Texas – the biggest fiasco yet – and then AGAIN – back the fuck home to start the fuck over AGAIN. Now a small – super fucking small – food biz start up. And even THAT turned into a fiasco, with another crazy overload of work compared to the give-back – another ass backwards equation where I give almost more than I have so that I can get jack shit in return.

But that’s not entirely true. I know I’ve been given something from this – Campbell’s “hook” into the world. I emailed Ari saying that I’ve already got what I needed from the food cart – at least a couple of my menu items have connected with folks and the headcheese is the most fun and important of all because I don’t have to think about it – I know it’s the right thing to be doing in trying to market it wholesale. I can’t explain fully what’s happening, but I know it to be true in my heart that I must continue to pursue this – it’s not over – it’s not going that well with the USDA Grant, but that just can’t be the end of the story. I’ve fucking got enough experience in fiascos to know when it’s the end of the line for a dream. I know when it’s time to quit and backtrack and fix shit and start again. This doesn’t feel like it, not quite yet, though my confidence in my heart is flagging. So, I’m sorry heart, for not staying right behind you and for questioning you again. Questioning and doubting my own heart, when it’s done so much good for me so far with HH and my life. I’m better off, I’m getting where I need to go, I’m just so GODDAMN IMPATIENT. I’m trying to change, E + R = O and the “creation equation” are all damn good, fucking great ways to look at things and work through this shit and I just need to back off the intensity and quit spinning my wheels. I need some traction and often that means cutting back on the rpm. I do feel like I’m in the wrong fucking gear. I need to pause, breathe and try to focus. I need to look inside; I need to listen; the heartmind remains, the nadi, the spinning nut, my guides, the pigs, none of necessarily makes sense together right now and it may seem like a failure in the middle indeed, but fuck I need to keep with it, ride this out, stay the course, follow the stars, dream big, listen to the heart-man himself and quit rationalizing my way into frustration. I desperately need to quiet y mind; I need to let my heart lead the wy. If I can just work on trying to enjoy the journey, I just might fucking start enjoying the journey. All is as it should be. I’m here and there and everywhere and my dreams and desires have yet to be and have always been. Corny, kooky, kundalini crap? No. There are too many reliable guides that use these tools to get “results.” And at least a couple that know that it’s not about “results” at all. Non-doing and relaxing into greatness are not my strengths, even after all this work. But they don’t have to be – my true strengths will get me where I’m supposed to be. Now this book really HAS turned into a bullshit diary – ugh – who would read this crap? The only things keeping me from deleting it is the effort I’ve put forth creating it – I’m not ready to toss yet another massive output of work. I’m holding to it, hoarding the only treasure I have left, like a dragon hoarding treasure it can’t even use.

[1] Rod Stryker, The Four Desires…., 234.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 235.