One restaurant begat a second. This one the saddest of buildings in a sad, forgotten little wasteland of a block. Every building around it had been torn down, and this little thing was sitting all alone in the middle. It had no architectural charm to speak of. It was the kind of ‘old’ that doesn’t carry any weight with either the rustic old antiquers or even the ironic hipsters. It had nothing, not even potential. It was the kind of pathetic you have a tough time feeling sorry for.
It had a basement with rust coloured carpet, a fishtank that probably never had fish in it, and streams of fake plastic ivy throughout. Some well meaning future decorating failure had used lime green paint and a sponge to add texture to the old stucco walls, as if somehow trying to convince the universe that two wrongs can make a right.
The top floor had been converted for use as a clandestine massage parlour, affectionately called a ‘rub and tug’ in the business. They spared every expense, and were kind enough to leave the used mattresses and reading materials for us to dispose of. Every day we sank deeper into the stank of this place, and still, you couldn’t kill the fire burning inside. I was desperate to prove that the first hadn’t been a fluke, and that truly, anything was possible. If no one could make this little rat infested, stank sullied, fire trap of a box into someplace that people wanted to go to, then that was just the kind of impossible I wanted to try.
I managed to convince a couple guys with other restaurants in the region that a combined effort would help to overcome the obvious challenges, and we managed to strike a deal over several bottles of wine. I had also come to learn that liquor makes any negotiation smooth, be it in business or whatever you wanted to negotiate.
That was probably when things started to get all Goodfellas on me. Remember the awkward moments with Joe Pesci, who was clearly out of his mind? I started to find myself on the receiving end of a few of those. It was something you shrug off to stress the first couple of times, but after awhile, you start wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into, how do you get out, and frankly, why are my partners so batshit crazy?
Have you ever been totally smitten by a girl, who 90% of the time is fun, affectionate, and totally down to earth, and then you get those random times where she’s literally vomitting blood and speaking in tongues? You find yourself covering for her, as if the pleasant times you enjoyed the previous weekend could somehow erase the hate and insanity that would possess her and lead her on a violent crime spree. Sadly, I was always attracted to those girls, and perhaps that’s why I ended up with business partners who were masters of the mindfuck, criminally minded, and powerered entirely by alcohol.
This is when the optimism balloon I’d been toting around, tied with a ribbon around my wrist, slipped away somehow and floated out to the sky. I watched it wander in the wind, in no hurry to escape, but never, ever returning. I felt sad for the loss, but convinced myself that it was time to grow up, face my demons, and fix the mess I had found myself in.
But the demons, they have candy…