If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say… Post Something From Ten Years Ago

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Where’s today’s post? Well, I journaled in the DOP today but it had to do with the stupidity of current events, with my thoughts, a rant, about the thing that I am determined not to name. And if you don’t have anything nice to say…. Better to stick with a DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

Beyond Measure

Biophycomythology doesn’t apply to just me of course. But getting your own phyco-shit together seems to inherently drive the phychomythology of others too. It’s not so much leading by example as simply sparking the energy in the hearts of others by expressing your own personal myth. Sometimes all it takes is an example of someone to follow, a guide, for however long or briefly until your own heart engages and gets momentum.

My brother seems to have benefitted from the biophycomythology of the Mark’s Carts group – we’re all pursuing something with passion and he received an invitation, while helping me out with the cart and working his ass off mowing lawns and everything else – to be a part of another Ann Arbor Gallery Project show, which is going for the month of July. Here’s some shots of his piece:

In the end, something good must come of heartfelt activities. Money seems to become more and more of a tool versus something to acquire for its own sake or something that allows for a lifestyle change. Once you’re out of the gutter, then it all just seems to come down to doing the things you like as often as you can. I’m talking about things that are intuitive and intrinsic to your nature. Like going to the bar and drinking some beers. Sitting on the porch (and drinking beers), listening to tunes, walking, talking, cooking, eating, reading, writing (my vocations). You don’t quit preferring these things. Unlike driving expensive cars, taking expensive vacations and living in beautiful architecture. But people don’t seem to be driven by the spending of large amounts of money unless they’ve been seduced by it; entrapped by it. Almost all of us I think have had some cash at one point or another in our lives or been exposed to the life you can live with larger amounts of it, however briefly. It’s seducing and numbing – the cushiness and comfort that money provides just dulls your biophycomythological knife blade so to say and so you give up your jazziness once you get the brass ring and then you’re fucked and unhappy because your hero’s journey is over and you don’t have another one to engage you.

So what do you do when your dreams come true? When your hard work pays off with accomplishments and rewards? If hh for example, became all that I wanted it to be and more, what the fuck what I do then? At forty-six years old, I’m so fucking used to the struggle, I don’t know what the hell I’d do with success, even though I’ve created vogs to make it happen and deal with it when it does. I guess the answer is to just stick with the plan, using your vog as a guide. There’s no reason to fuck things up just because success feels funny. That said, I don’t think I’m going to have a success problem with hh because the food service industry for one thing doesn’t dump money on you. If it ever arrives, a financial windfall will be late in coming. And by that time, I’ll bet I won’t really give a shit – I’ll be on the porch or in the bar with a pint in my hand, some good food on the table, some pigs in the back pasture and some good tunes jamming while I relax from my long day-hike. There you have it: heaven on earth. So it’s just the job of hh to pay it’s way and allow the good life to happen. I sound like a fucking hippie but fuck it – the chance for happiness, like Maynard Davies described, is something you have to take when you get it.

Back to what you’re supposed to do when you complete your hero’s journey. You’ve lived your myth, come back with your boon, and the world accepts and rewards you. Now what? Campbell has the best advice I think: keep having one adventure after another.[1] That’s a great life according to him, and I’m starting to believe it. So if HH just keeps providing one adventure after another until I die, then so be it, I guess that’s happiness for me, because it’s my personal myth being lived out in a series of adventures. It’s like any adventure series in books, movies, myths or whatever – the heroes just keep having adventures, one after the other. It’s not about settling down and sitting around in a pile of wealth. Retiring doesn’t have anything to do with it because that’s not how people naturally are – just look at any retiree who worked his whole life to supposedly enjoy his retirement. Where I grew up, in southeast Michigan, it sometimes seemed like that’s all anybody wanted to do – everyone worked for the auto companies and everyone loved their paycheck but hated their job. So they all just toughed it out until retirement, when they thought they’d finally enjoy life. What happens? Bored to fucking tears. Like Campbell says, by the time you get to the point in life when you can “go fishing” all day again, (or golfing like so many white males do) you are no longer fishing or golfing for the same reason as when you were young or when you where working. Now it’s just too much of a good thing, just like work. So, I’m hoping that my biophycomythology provides for a continuous series of adventures. The adventures of Keith Ewing, parts one, two, three, etc. until I die and become a part of everything again. What’s the point? Just that, I think. Writing this book might help somebody with their own biophycomythology and that’s pretty much how it works – you be who you are and good things happen. And death doesn’t seem like a bad thing when it comes, except that you don’t get to eat lunch anymore, or have a pint, or listen to tunes. Life should go on and on, but it doesn’t and I don’t know why and never will so that will always suck – the mystery.

I miss my dog. It seems like she should be here and I don’t know why she can’t be. Temple Grandin apparently would ask, when an animal or person died “where do they go?” Where the fuck DOES everything and everyone GO? I guess maybe they just return to where they came from in a way and that’s the only way to make some sense of it. Returning to the earth and the universe, physically. But spiritually can you do that? A universal spirit? Is that what we return to? And how good is it? Does good and bad just cease to matter? Eastern philosophy: everything is as it should be. So don’t sweat it I guess. But I still miss my dog and it’s inexplicable why the heart loves things and those things die and can’t be replaced.

July 17, 2011. I’ve written much of the crap above on this Sunday morning that Angie and I have taken off from hh. Sunday and Monday off seems to work the best – hh can’t go seven days/week and I don’t want it to. I need to re-jazz the food vibes. Too much of a good thing is the way life gets, so you just need to stay mindful of it and make adjustments to keep engaged. We’re very physically and mentally tired. But we’ll figure out how to get some equilibrium – Ari says it takes two or three years for something new to reach equilibrium so that you can then make the push to go for something great. Here’s a view from the cart:

We had a fun Friday staying open for “dinner” with a couple of bands playing that Phillis from Lunch Room set up – she’s got a passion for organizing things and she’s good at it. A good vibe in the courtyard – even people watching and listening down the block on Washington and Ashley. We sold a decent amount of food – we hit our all-time biggest sales number for one day at $542. But it just about killed us working two shifts so to speak and it consumed all our food so I’ve nothing to sell tomorrow. It’s tough for hh, at our scale, with no employees and me the only full-timer, to make and sell that much food, because it’s not just cooking it that’s challenging; it’s cooking, ordering, cleaning (and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning) setting up the cart, breaking down the cart, being at the cart, bills, payments, whatever. It’s not a small endeavor even though it’s a small cart, so we’ve learned all this shit about running a small business that will apply to a business of any size I think. It’s very cool that we have this opportunity to see what we’re made of, and what we really want to do with hh, under pressure and within a steep learning curve. I suppose the dimensions of this start-up couldn’t have been more appropriate; I don’t think I could’ve right-sized this endeavor any better.

However, I’d still like to have more autonomy. The court needs music and I’d just pipe it in if it was my court; screw paying for and setting up bands and all that crap – what a hassle – just pipe in great music on an outdoor speaker system. Much easier and you don’t have the musical gaps – the afternoons of dead quiet that we get. Anyway, Mark H. doesn’t connect with the tunes, I can tell. Nor does he connect with proper seating, but oh well, it could be much worse. I think he’s done fucking with the court for the most part, and I think it’s topped out at seven carts – we’ll see how Hut K does when he starts next week. Another enormous enclosed cart – too big for the courtyard – but we’ll just deal with it.

For next week, we’re gearing up a little for the Ann Arbor Art Fair crowd. Other carts are gearing up a lot, but I think that’s a mistake. I just don’t see the business increasing with a bunch of out-of-towners who will not likely be adventurous enough in terms of food to make a point of going out of their way to search out the food court. I call it the Ann Arbor CRAFT Fair because I see very, very little “art” and a whole shit load of “crafts.” To me, it’s always been a trite display of mostly insipid crud, but for some reason, suburbanites love the idea and come in droves. I’ve learned, like most other locals, to hate it. But, Phillis and Joel from Lunch Room are in it to win it and have envisioned a packed food court for the four days of the event, so we’ll see. They’ve done a great job with advertising, promotion and getting music lined up:

The weather for Art Fair is notoriously hot and humid, usually with a crazy violent storm thrown in due to the intense heat. This year, the temperatures are, as usual, predicted to be in the upper nineties – that’s fucking Texas hot for fuck’s sake. Ninety-eight on Thursday I think. I’ve already learned that temps at ninety or above kill my food sales – they fucking kill any food sales for anybody, unless you’re serving nice, cool AC with it. After all, who the fuck wants to eat hot food outside in stifling heat? I don’t know how people lived before AC – I guess you just slow down and tough it out.

Anyway, I’m writing a lot, Angie is sleeping on the floor next to me, tunes are playing and the house is staying pretty cool so far (we rented this dump not realizing it didn’t have AC – my fault as facility manager) though it’s early, not even one o’clock yet. We’re recharging a little. And we’re learning I think to get recharged while immersed in hh too – we’re going to have to be able to enjoy the wild ride and stay jazzed and up and engaged and passionate because it’ll all end at Thanksgiving when the cart season ends. We’ll hopefully have some things going to keep hh engaged through the winter and spring – I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I need to establish a vog for that, maybe today or tomorrow I’ll write it up. One thing I’m doing already is pursuing the marketing of hh head cheese through ZCoB or any other retail that will have it. I need to keep making it and selling it and getting that great pig-guide vibe from the mindful making of it. The FSIS website publishes the Small/Very Small Plant Guide – Applying for a Federal Grant of Inspection for Meat and Poultry Establishments which walks you through the seven-step process of getting USDA inspected so you can sell interstate. I don’t want to mess with state-only – that means that I couldn’t get my head cheese outside of Michigan, which would be a long-term limitation and I’m thinking big – if not in quantity, then at least in terms of geographical region – I don’t want to be limited to MI for sales – I want anybody in America to be able to order a head cheese from me, or to be able to market my head cheese. Am I thinking too big, too fast? Fuck that, it feels right and I’m moving forward, like I told Ari, Until somebody tells me “no” then I’ll find a way to get it done. From what I can tell, it’s just time and money, like so many other things in life. The seven FSIS steps:

  1. File and application
  2. Meet Regulatory Performance Standards
  3. Obtain Approved Labels
  4. Obtain Approved Water Source Letter
  5. Obtain Approved Sewage System Letter
  6. Provide a Written SOP for Sanitation
  7. Provide a Written Hazard Analysis and HACCP

Ugh. But if other folks can do it, then so can I.

Update July 21, 2011. Heat wave. Expected for Art Fair, but holy shit. Today, Thursday, we’re not opening. Biz yesterday was very slow and we stayed open for dinner just to get $178 total for two services. That’s a waste of my life to work that way for nothing. But I got a lot of cooking done and got the head cheese production back in line, so that’s good. We’re just going to handle this “special” week like any other week. If it’s too fucking hot, then we close. Just like any other Thursday – why fight it just because it’s Art Fair? Fuck Art Fair. We’ve got substantial competition from another (shitty) food court less than a block away to the east, they’ve also got bands playing, and Mark’s Carts just can’t fight the fact that it’s not within the boundaries of the Art Fair. Getting people to go out of their way just to buy nicer food in incendiary heat and try to sit there or stand there and otherwise eat while sweltering is just too much to ask as far as I’m concerned. I certainly wouldn’t eat at a food court in weather like this. Fuck it. Anyway, too many fellow carters got carried away with the potential sales and now they’re all disappointed that we bombed. I just treated it like any other low-revenue weekday.

Sunday, July 24, 2011. It’s official. Art Fair bombed for Mark’s Carts. It turned into the Lunch Room Concert Series – I’m kidding – but that’s the only reason anybody was there at all, at least for the so-called “dinner” hours, which I’ve learned to loathe. Yesterday’s lunch sucked and only served to generate our lowest revenue day ever: sixty-two bucks. We busted our ass all morning getting food ready – roasted belly, mac & cheese, coleslaw. Nobody cared. Reason? Tropical heat and humidity. I don’t see any reason to blame art fair fans – they don’t come to a2 to eat at a food cart, let alone our cart. And from what I can tell, they don’t buy the “art” anymore either. They just walk around, people-watch, sweat through their clothes, maybe go to a restaurant to cool off, and go home. Art Fair is dead and I think the city should kill it for at least a couple years. Too much of a good thing to have it every fucking year. Give it a rest.

This book has turned into just a diary. I think it sucks. No voice. Just reporting. No writing, just talking. Maybe it’s because I’ve been tired and don’t have the mental energy to put any passion into it. I’m trying to tell a story, but it seems I’m not a story teller. I leave all the good parts out – the fighting, the yelling, the crying, the bitching, the complaining, the snarkiness – all the reality t.v. shit that would create interest. Maybe this thing will never be anything but “therapy” for me. A way to scratch the itch to write, like others need to paint, sing, whatever – there’s so many of us that plunk away at creative shit and it just never generates anything that pops with talent. The world doesn’t need it, but we do it anyway. Look at the art fair – booth after booth of dust-collecting talentless crud.

So what am I saying? It’s a day or two off after a hard week of brutal weather and low sales – the dog days of summer I guess. Where are we at? HH seems to be running according to the biz plan – we’ll make our twenty-five grand revenue this year, shut down at Thanksgiving, pay our taxes, park the cart in the garage and hopefully I’ll have something else going on in food. Here’s the updated hh vision for the end of the first cart season:

The cart is winterized and stored in the 1433 garage. HH revenue stands at thirty-thousand, we’ve paid our taxes, we’re paid up with Mark’s Carts lease, and we’re free to evaluate the future of the hh food cart. The several additional food markets that our cart was invited to helped further establish our hh reputation outside of Mark’s Carts and we’re pleased to have received several inquiries about whether we provide catering services – that’s a great compliment for our food, and something to consider adding to our hh business plan.

Meanwhile, I’m happy and proud to have obtained my grant of inspection for Union Hall Kitchen. I completed the seven-step application process and an FSIS inspector looked things over and I’ve been issued a USDA facility i.d. which means my head cheese can be sold anywhere in the United States! When I make a head cheese, I package it with an FSIS-approved ingredient label and store it in the Union Hall walk-in until I get an order from ZCoB, Plum Market, Whole Foods, or a local restaurant.

ZCoB did indeed place my first order and I can’t believe how cool it is to see my terrine in the deli case for sale by the pound! I’m completely jazzed to be able to continue to make head cheese through-out the year and to have started another phase of hh. Besides the “multiple streams of income” advantage (to borrow from Canfield) it just means a lot to me to be “growing” our hh business beyond the food cart, which was a great start in itself. HH is moving forward, keeping its “mojo” and retaining its place within my biophycomythology.

July 25, 2011. I used this Monday off from the cart to get most of the seven-step process done for the Federal Grant of Inspection. I’m mailing the application tonight and have all the other shit done, I think, except for the product labeling bullshit, which seems like a rabbit hole in itself. There will be corrections and problems and bullshit but I’m driving this thing as far and as fast as I can. I don’t see any need to get Mark H. involved unless FSIS says so.

July 26, 2011. Roasted Persian Cucumber Sandwich. My description, but a recipe I lifted from August’s Bon Appetite. ‘Sounded good and it was – a good show of finesse for the hh cart. But I didn’t sell more than two of them, which is another shitty day of crappy sales. I’m leaning into it though, Canfield-style – I reread some Canfield last night and it helped get some jazziness back. It’s so easy to forget what you’ve learned – I’ve read the Canfield book three times and in just a few months I’ve forgotten so much. Visioning. Living “as if” you are who you want to be. Great shit. I pulled my vision board out the closet. Angie’s too – she said they have a sense of “calm” about them, which she thought reflected in some way our state of mind back in TX. I agree – we were much more thoughtful just a few months ago – we had our shit going on in terms of mindful healthfulness and biophycomythology. Just writing and thinking is taking action certainly, and doing the hh-generation stuff that I did, but now we’re over the edge into maybe too much doing. But it’s leveling off and I can see some equilibrium developing, if only just a little.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011. I’m taking some time this morning to try to enjoy life and collect myself before entering the arena of the hh cart-world. That’s fun too, but yesterday I demonstrated to myself, again, how to make my life difficult by cooking too much shit and offering the customer too many options – the roasted Persian cucumber sandwich was awesome, and carters loved it, but I only sold two or three of ‘em. And for the first time ever, I didn’t sell a single order of headcheese, hot or cold. The blueberry buckle only got one request and I love that stuff so even though it’s not moving regularly, I’m going to keep it on the menu just not every day. Today I need to get propane which is going to chew up some time and not allow me to walk to work, which I’d rather do. But, if I do this writing, drink coffee at a leisurely pace for fifteen minutes here at home, do some yoga stretches and just collect myself, then I’ll feel better about skipping the walk in. My propane run got fucked because of the carter’s meeting that ji hye called last night, which was basically a welcome meeting for hut k. I’m not a fan. Something about his operation and food that I don’t like. Baby food in a lavash. “Invented” his own Indian chaat by removing, apparently, everything that’s good about Indian chaat – fat and sugar. Fine, but I get sick and tired of the “people with eating problems” culture, which appears to be huge – and they stick together and like to commiserate with one another about their “special” little eating disorders. Lunch Room and Hut K have a lot in common with their crowd and marketing preferences. While they want to conquer the entire veg marketplace probably because they think it’s not tapped, I just want to serve great heritage-style food that is time-tested and satisfying, with the occasional nod to the new and updated. Enough of the negative, I shouldn’t waste my time writing shit about other carts, it’ll come back and bite me.

So today, I’m going to try to move the rest of the roasted belly and make an apricot sauce to use up the fruit I bought. Maybe today the headcheese comes back into its number two sales spot. Less selection seems better for the customers, at least during the week, and better for me because it allows me some breathing space in the morning, although not much. I’ll still be hopping this morning because getting in at 9am means I need to crank out the mac & cheese, besides setting everything else up. In general today I feel good; sore and tired but good. Reading Canfield and getting my vision board out helped, and I am really jazzed about the grant of inspection thing – I’m proud of myself for applying for that whatever the outcome. Doing five-things-per-day, per my vision board, to advance my goals, was something me and Angie were doing very well with back in TX, but completely forget in the mad rush of this first three months in biz. It’ll be three months on August 9th. I can’t believe it’s only been that short amount of time that we’ve been doing this – it feels like years and many, many miles, which is probably a good sign – it shows how far, biophycomythologically, we’ve come I think. So I’ll keep my feet moving by working to maximize the hh opportunities but only as they strike a chord in my heart and guts. Fuck this other crap the cart court does – the bullshit workplace dynamics I refuse to legitimize by talking about here – I need to focus on how I want hh to go – that’s why I’m doing it, because I need to be the boss and work for myself, right or wrong. It feels right that way, and I think I’m making good, heartfelt decisions, especially when I avoid my never-ending desire to please, which is a strange counterintuitive hold-over habit from my past that is still too easily triggered. But I can see that I’m getting better at side-stepping that tendency. Anyway, it’s time to get going – I’m hoping for at least $150 in sales today.

Update: got $162 in sales today.


[1] Joseph Campbell, Pathways…, 133.