Category Archives: Startup Athlete

Optimism begets more optimism…

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…


The idea started simply…

The world needed a better way to organize it’s life.

I hadn’t really thought of it, you know, as a big problem.  i hadn’t really thought of it much at all.

Only thing i knew was that life had been simpler before, easier to understand….  smaller.  And most of us liked it that way.

All that was about to change…. isn’t that how most stories start?

This story starts with an ending.

I had spent 10 years fulfilling a dream.  i had successfully built and operated 3 kickass restaurants/bars and i was pretty damn pleased with myself during the run.

Actually that’s not true, I was miserable most of the time, but it sure looked like I was having a blast.

Anyways, on to the beginning.  The ending started ending when the cancer treatment started ending, and the beginning of our new life looked like it had a shot at working out.  We didn’t have a long term outlook.  We didn’t have a plan.  We had a ‘put your head down, grit your teeth, and get through today’ approach that had gotten us out of the cancer, out of debt, out of partnerships with addicts and assholes, and out of the everyday shitty feeling like there’s something looming on your horizon about to kick you back down the hole you just crawled out of.

That was working great for us, but it was a far cry from where we started a decade before.

In the first year, success came slowly, fidgetting it’s way nervously towards us as we fumbled awkwardly towards it.  When it finally hit, it wasn’t smooth or romantic, but a clumsy and awkward accident.  Like horny teenagers fearful of catching an std from french kissing, or getting pregnant with a dry hump, success and I did everything wrong, and still ended up holding hands and smiling uneasily at each other, imagining a perfect future in a soon to be perfect world.

Optimism strapped itself on my back like a rocket pack, and i took off in exploration of a world where anything is possible if you just have the right pluck and determination, and the eye for people that dare to dream, to pick up along the way.

Some that I picked up were just as awkward with success as i, and as much as i tried to ease them into it, everyone’s first time is always weird, and scary, and gloriously exciting.  Enthusiasm makes up for so much when you’re playing with impossible outcomes, and sometimes even then it’s only worth it if you’re chasing something impossible.  The romantic in all of us is a sucker for staring at night skies, imagining that somewhere there must be someone as scared, as hopeful, and as tragically doomed to failure as themselves.

That romanticism saved my soul, as we negotiated booze addled poker nights of the industry’s most debaucherous card sharks, or cocktail soirees with ballerinas, champagne purveyors and wild mushroom foragers.  The people who were drawn to us, were the same romantics as us, believing beyond rationality (and probably influenced by a healthy appreciation for our wares), that the impossible was indeed possible.  We all hitched our wagons to each other as if to say, we’ll outnumber the bastards, and fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

I miss that place, a lot.   I miss the people far more…