Once Bitten Twice Shy?


Friday, March 27, 2020. The Frippian so-called pointed sticks. That place, in other words, that we are tasked with putting ourselves in as a test. A test of will, mindfulness and a check against our inevitable tendencies towards complacency. Will I have a job by the end of the day or no? Do I really care? In general I’ve found that unless you’re dealing with owners and leader types you don’t get results very quickly; most wannabe manager personalities, when they get to be managers, focus on being what they think is a manager instead of on what’s important or relevant or timely or needs to be done. They play work. They get off on having a job. Hence, they often spend silly amounts of time either pondering their decisions or, because they’re really not cut out to make any, manufacturing ways to postpone them. Otherwise and in the meantime they cherish their little sliver of authority to the point that they become the so-called layer of clay, jamming up the works, that they were hired or promoted not to be.

Whenever I’ve been a manager I assume I’m there to manage myself out of a job. Otherwise I was convinced I wasn’t doing it. Not so with the 85% of managers. I would only hire a manager to increase efficiency and effectiveness. To manage people. Which is exactly the portion of the job that most managers, in my experience, are loathe to perform. They tend to rather envision their job as that of guru, or authority. It has to come through me, first. No it doesn’t, but whatever. However, having lost my interest in careers of any type, and having long ago consumed my quotient of tolerance for workplace dynamics, I can see what it means to just have a job. I tried it at Blasco to some extent as soon as I found myself shut out of meaningful participation and contribution. It was a bad fit but I’ve seen worse. I tried faking it, just being a get along type (which I’m terrible at faking), staying out of people’s way (likewise shitty at) and collecting a paycheck. Didn’t work. I suppose it had something to do with my boss never  wanting to have hired me to begin with and then seeing me as a kind of personal slave, existing to do everything she didn’t want to do but exactly in the manner that she would’ve done it. Nope. Micromanagement not my thing. I did my own thing. Sorry. And that anybody really cared enough to want to get rid of me only reflected their fear over losing their own jobs. But who cares? What’s a job? Just something to endure in order to accumulate money to accomplish more meaningful things. The way I see it now, after all the fiascos, is that employment, at best, is merely the means to the end of financing one’s vocation until it can finance itself, if ever.

And here I’ve already made too much of getting a silly job, which only proves that I’m not any good at it. When you’re shitty at something, when you don’t possess any talent for a thing, it’s obvious because first off, you spend inordinate amounts of time on all the things that don’t really matter. Then you spend inordinate amounts of time acquiring skills that the talented folks never had to learn to begin with. Let the suffering begin. But when you need money, these things happen, these schizoid theatrics take place in your life. It’s called compromise. And we all have our limits, mine being fairly limited. If Time Crime could pay for itself I wouldn’t have to play these games. But it doesn’t and now I’m tasked with analyzing the less savory options. What are you prepared to do to make your dreams come true? Be employed? It may be that the cosmos will not be supporting this little venture to acquire funds, I don’t know. But when you don’t know, when there’s some question in your mind about whether you ought to be trying something, the best plan is to try it in the spirit of keeping yourself on pointed sticks, outside of your comfort zone, so as to energize the potential for good things to happen outside of your expectations and plans. If you’re convinced it’s wrong for you, if your heart disintegrates just thinking about it, don’t do it. Listen to your heart. But when the goal is paramount and there’s some compromises to made that may expedite success, well, I say give it a shot and suffer some anxiety in service of the larger goal.

I’m talking myself through this, obviously, which is an expression of anxiety and points, on average in my experience, to a doomed outcome. Intuition is what it’s all about. But money, being a necessary tool, must come from somewhere. What’s most important to me right now is getting Time Crime fully expressed, to give it its best chance and to leave no stone unturned. If it just isn’t meant to be then I’ll find out sooner than later and it will all take care of itself. It will all fall apart, the indie authorpreneur stuff, the dreams, the vision, any jobs or the grasping at money will flop and fail and the vanishing point will smother everything and it will be time to move on. To what, I’ve no idea. It seems to me that authorpreneurship is all I’ve got left to offer. Perhaps not. We can’t often see clearly enough while in the midst of an adventure – otherwise, again, it wouldn’t be one – to have any reliable perspective on the day to day trials. You have to just forge ahead without all the information. It’s a risk. So be it.

It’s also a good thing to try to retain a sense of humor when engaging something new and risky. Laugh at it all. A job? Indie publishing? Hilarity, in the end. Yeah, I was determined to get this job to pay for this audiobook I’d convinced myself would save my novel from the oblivion it had already been assigned to and I lasted a week or two and it was a fiasco and then I realized I really wasn’t any good at novels and it all made sense in the end that I should just drop the whole idea and let the other volumes molder in my computer as the detritus that they are. Or something like that. Now, however, it’s all still up in the air. I could still pull it off. It feels like the jury is still out. I may be kidding myself – I wouldn’t be the first wannabe to do so, of course – but if I am I don’t see it yet. So, have a laugh, give things at try, loosen your grip but don’t let go just yet. Try to manage some patience. Try to do the work while letting go of the expectations. Laugh at that, too. It’s the only way other than shutting your life down and giving up.

DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST: I’ve failed mightily in the past and posting the story of HH of course reminds me of the peril. It’s one thing to be a first-timer, a newbie and to fuck up and learn from it and move on and quite another to throw yourself back into the fray when you know full well what’s at stake, when you’ve literally lived and barely survived, emotionally and psychologically, at least, the risk. Once bitten twice shy? I can see why it happens.

All the World’s a Stage

May 6, 2011. We’re finally home from another hard day and night. Angie helped out again tonight, doing yoeman’s work with dishwashing and putting up with my cranky bullshit. Tomorrow, we stage the cart on the new court, which is a milestone I’ve been anxious to reach. There appears to be a lot of initial interest in what folks seem to see as a “cool” thing for A2. I’m too close to it to see it for what it is now, and I like to think I’d see it as cool if I was an eater and not part of the cookers. I want to make a worthy and respectable impression. Maybe some folks would like to make a rock-n-roll crazy splash and Mark’s Carts might get that star player some day, but for now, Mark H. has, from what I can see, I good group of hard-working folks that have dreams and a desire to be happy pursuing a vocation, just like me. Very, very good people that I’ve met so far – both as co-workers and vendors. It’s fantastic to be part of this small big-ness, i.e. it’s just a small food court in a small city, but it’s got heart, and fire in the belly and we all, I think, feel like we’re getting busy living instead of getting busy dying. I might actually get my fifteen minutes, mighty Thor protect us. I hope Angie gets hers, she deserves it, and I think she’d like it more than me – a t.v. spot, a magazine, a newspaper, she could run with it. Me? I’m just “in a zone” as Nikki might say. She stopped by tonight whilst we were making the headcheese.

Tomorrow we drop the egg into the nest. The cart gets staged on the new cart court concrete. I’d like a nice spot. Everybody would. I’m thinking that there’s probably the right spot for everyone, at least for now, until the first wave gets hammered and we see some casualties and certain spots get a reputation for not “working” and being “doomed,” just like any other restaurant space. Funny how this could’ve made a decent reality t.v. show. I wonder where HH will end up in the space? I’m establishing my vog for it right here ad lib: HH will be honored with the 6’ x 10’ slot that best expresses the HH vision-of-greatness, biz-plan, mission and strategy, while generating the best vibe for Mark’s Carts and the rest of our great bunch of carts. There’s a spot for each of us. I can see us all jostling around for position and Mark H. dictating structure and “organic growth” (his term). I’m happy. I’ve got lots to learn and improve upon. But this jazzes me and I’m completely wiped out but in the best way. I could die tonight and I’d be proud of what we’re doing; what we’re trying for. For surrendering to our passions and following our bliss. Whatever happens after this, I’ve done something that important to me, something that seems beyond everything else and that has made my whole life seem like it hasn’t been a waste; that all the hell hasn’t been for nothing. Even if HH amounts to nothing in the end, we’ve already done so many wholeheartedly cool things that it’s been worth it. Staying in business? Who knows? It’s not entirely in my control, I can only influence the outcome. I’m doing my very, very best to follow my heart, and I hope the biz makes it.

Mark’s Carts patio brand new
HH in position, come what may

Very cool. Very scary. Very exciting. We’ve already met very cool people. I think now that I’m glad I’m so tired because otherwise I’d be completely freaked out. Let’s light this candle. Before we stage, I think it’s time for a respectful nod to the guides themselves, getting busy in the brine (in a commercial kitchen!!), who give us so much in their brief lives – it’s the agreement that we’ve made… I’m doing my very best to do right by you guys:

pig heads in brine bucket

May 19, 2011. Tired. Another headcheese tonight, I think I’m getting better at working through the heads, getting the good stuff and cranking out a good terrine. Getting better at being efficient in the kitchen, but still doing seventeen-hour days running around buying supplies, pots, pans, stuff, learning something new about how to be a small-biz owner every fucking five minutes. It’s great. I don’t know how we’re going to keep it rolling sometimes but wow, it’s amazing that we’re coming into our second weekend in business.

Kevin helping has made it possible, thank thor angie called him in and he’s agreed to stick it out for the pittance we can afford to pay him. He’s got a gallery show in A2 which at least helps him get biophycomythologically better off and if our cash can help with artwork expenses, then that’s good. I couldn’t run the cart without him or Angie taking the money – I’m just not good enough at the process, but maybe I’ll get there soon.

Ari came to the cart yesterday. He, along with Paul Saginaw, were there for San Street’s cart opening day – it’s cool that they hung out for their employees as they venture forth into their own biz. He made a point to come over and hang out for a little bit, and he’s good at putting people at ease, which of course I was not. It was a landmark day having Ari finally see my food and see me handling the biz – now I’m not just all talk. He didn’t eat, saying he wasn’t feeling well, and maybe he can come by again and try something. Paul Saginaw had a headcheese hoagie. Ari and Paul are awesome – sometimes I can’t believe I’ve been fortunate enough to do all this and get to know so many zcobbers.

Over & Out?

May 22, 2011. We’re taking two days off from the cart to rest, resupply, re-plan and see where the hell we’re really at with hh. Can we do it? Things don’t look so good. We’re both tired as hell, like everyone else at Mark’s Carts. We’ve spent a shit-load of money on equipment – pots/pans, other bullshit stuff too boring to list here that you need to open even a food cart if you’re going to cook real food. Our food costs look astronomical compared to revenue but we’ve got to look at how those spread out across the period of usage – we haven’t used all the food (canned goods, dry goods, frozen bones, frozen meat, frozen herbs, frozen stock). So, intuitively, I still don’t think we’ve fucked that portion of the biz up yet – I’m still thinking we’re at about 50% food cost compared to revenue once we compare apples-to-apples. Maybe much higher in the first three months even, but we’re operating at a loss unless we don’t do our $400/day, $2000/week sales.

Anyway, none of the money issues matter much if we can’t enjoy this life. I’m tired and sore, but being my own boss feels right. The food biz feels right. It’s a good fit for me. I’m not sure about Angie. She’s really, really stressed out. Maybe mostly because of fatigue, maybe she just doesn’t like this stuff enough. But she’s not happy apparently – she’s not getting out what she puts in so, having been there in every other job I’ve ever had, it may be that the food-cart-biz is not for her. That means it’s not for me either, because we’re doing this together and we will fail together. It’s not the failure that bothers me. It’s the fact that she’s so fucking miserable doing this that bothers me – it just means she doesn’t want to do it, so we can’t do it because it takes both of us, at least for now.

I read some blog from some guy who calls himself something like the “failure expert” and he puts biz failure in the context of not freaking out about something not working, that it’s so common that you have to accept it as quickly as you can, cut your losses, and move on to what you want to do next – quit, go bankrupt, get loans, get venture capital, probably even resort to “kick-starter” bullshit begging for hand-outs, whatever. The point is to get out with enough money and sanity left to do it right the next time. It makes sense, and maybe hh is already at the point where we need to bail out – our vog tried to capture the contingency of quick financial failure and what we’d need to do should that come to pass.

But I don’t think we need to change anything yet – I want to make it through a cart season and see the numbers, but maybe we can’t do that or maybe Angie just doesn’t want to try. If we don’t have the cash, then so be it. Maybe I can start working a job at ZCoB or something, I wouldn’t make much, and then we could talk to Mark H. about bailing out of our lease. He’d likely not accept letting us out of the lease – that’s what such legal documents are all about, so I think we should keep plugging. I have an intuitive sense that we’re doing o.k., but without Angie’s agreement, it doesn’t mean much. Bad months can break even a good business. Still, it seems just way too early to panic and pull the rip-cord. Something doesn’t seem right about quitting so soon.

May 28, 2011. I’m too tired to write what I want to say. But I’m having fun; the battle seems a worthy one. The TX house is finally rented, barring paperwork problems, to better renters, with a better credit rating much to our relief; maybe we can make it to Thanksgiving and complete the first cart season without having to quit early. Much strain. But we’ve held fast, not flinching, believing in the vog. We had only five or six weeks until d-day – when paying for two houses would’ve broken us, leaving us unable to live here nor TX, who knows what would’ve happened. The lesson here is to run your vision out to the very end, the very last knot on the rope, until there’s nothing left, until the vision reaches it’s vanishing point, and there’s nothing left but moving on. We were just about to rent to the riskiest renter on earth – some guy with a liver transplant, failed business and no credit rating who couldn’t even pay the full lease amount – when next afternoon our real estate agent calls to say, “Who would have thought that you’d have peopled fighting to rent your house now?” Indeed. Ari W. always there, always behind us, thank thor for his presence and willingness to simply email his support and advice in times of crushing strain – he’ll probably never know how much his words have meant to me and how much they have sustained me in times of trouble. We may just make this dream work yet.