Monday, October 26, 2009

...and Some Days, You're the Bug.

Conversation at the end of a long, frustrating day on which I spent 11 hours at the restaurant chasing my tail and accomplishing almost nothing:

Husband: Hey…go to “intuit dot com.”

Me: Why?

Husband: So we can get a website.

Me: We have a website.

H: No, we have a “Facebook” page.


H: Since when?

M: (Rolling my eyes so hard that the centrifugal force nearly sends my eyeballs shooting out the top of my skull) …..For awhile.

H: “J” says she can’t find us online!

M: Google Old Town Café Scappoose.

H: …........oh.

We have, in fact, had a website since July. After two weeks chained to my laptop(s) manipulating code, uploading pictures, and posting menus, maps, directions…

While at the same time hiring and orientating a new chef and a new pastry chef; juggling the schedule to accommodate employee traumas; struggling to keep our dining room habitable with no air conditioning in 105 degree heat; planning menu, marketing and dining room arrangements for an upcoming charity event; and coordinating purchasing and production for our $20,000 food concession gig in August. Oh, and maybe I walked on water and cleansed a leper or two.

Is my business partner/love of my life suffering from some kind of early-onset dementia? Hardly. He can quote the most obscure football, basketball and baseball statistics about teams and players—college and pro—that I (and most of the rest of the world) have never heard of. His memory is pure 21st century HD…when it comes to the things he cares about.

I wrote once, awhile back, that my husband is one of those easy-going types who has mastered the art of “tuning out the noise…” He just doesn’t hear what he doesn’t feel the need to hear.

About fifteen years ago, when my life started to turn to shit and he was all I could grab to keep myself from falling irretrievably into my own head, I became…noise.

And, evidently, the fact that we supposedly own a business together has not served to change my status in that regard.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Discontented Rumblings

An amorphous sense of discontent has plagued me lately. An inkling that time is going by much too quickly, and I’m not using it well. A suspicion that no one in my world is happy with me, including me. Small personal goals seem as far outside my reach as lofty universal ones. I can no more keep my bathroom clean than I can achieve world peace. There is not one aspect of my life that I can say is where I think it could be or know it should be.

It’s been more than a year since I emerged from the over-stressed sleep-deprived fog I inhabited for the first two years of running the restaurant. And yet, I feel I’ve accomplished nothing in the past fifteen months. True, I’ve spent most of that recovered energy just keeping the business viable through tough economic times. But I really don’t like the feeling that I’m throwing all my weight into this thing just to keep it from going backward. When do we get to go forward? Ever?

And then there’s Old Age. I don’t feel it creeping up on me. I feel like I’m running full speed away from it, but it’s matching me step for step. And its legs are longer than mine…

When I first began to entertain the notion of buying a business, every "how to" book I read exhorted one to write up a set of goals. Where do you want to be in six months? In a year? In five years? I never took that advice. Something told me that I was stepping off into such alien territory that I couldn’t possibly have a clue where I was going or how long it was going to take me to get there. I guess I looked at my business venture as a "Walkabout." It was all about the journey, not the destination.

As it turns out, that attitude has probably been my salvation, as well as my cross. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t even gone in the same direction I thought I was going when I started out, and it’s a safe bet that I have not achieved anything I would have recognized as "goals" at the outset. "Assemble a crew of workers who will actually show up when they’re scheduled" and "chase down food purveyors who believe Scappoose is forty miles outside of Outer Mongolia" would not have struck me as tasks difficult enough to qualify as goals…and yet, accomplishing just these simple things has been like a quest for the Grail. So if I had said, "I want to have increased sales by 20% and banked 50k in profits after three years," I would be living with failure that was beyond dismal, at this point. If I had not chucked it all months ago, based on my inability to accomplish…anything.

Recently, in the midst of an argument with my grocery rep, he said to me, "You want to be a $1,000,000.00 restaurant, don’t you?" I didn’t have to think very long…I said, "No, Kirk, I just want to make a living. If I wanted to make a million dollars, I sure as hell wouldn’t be running a restaurant in a little bitty town like this."

"I just want to make a living." But I’m not doing that yet. Haven’t taken one dollar out of the damned thing. But the doors are still open, and it’s paying its own bills. Still, I wonder whether I haven’t set my sights too low. Maybe if I had said I wanted to make a million, I would at least be drawing a salary by now. But would that have been enough to motivate me to keep going? Hard to say; but I suspect that if I thought I was going to (or needed to) make any money off this thing in the first five years, I would have been bummed or broke enough to get out by now.

But when people ask me how it’s going, I’m getting a little tired of saying, "Well, we’re not losing money!" as if that was the best I can hope for. At some point, it has to do more than pay for itself.

Doesn’t it?