March 2, 2008

Synchronicity, or just a pipe dream?

Main Entry: pipe dream
Function: noun
Etymology: 1896, from the fantasies brought about by the smoking of opium
Definition: an illusory or fantastic plan, hope, or story

So, a few weeks ago I followed one of my favorite routines of cruising up to Shepherdstown, WV, for tea and breakfast at Shaharazade's. Afterwards, I went for a stroll through town. Shep'town appears at first glance to be just one more tiny little historic country town, with a tiny little main street of slightly crumbling historic buildings. But a closer look reveals that the street-level of those buildings is full of some pretty chi-chi shops and restaurants, and at least three of those store-fronts are home to realty offices that plaster their windows with very expensive listings, which I normally ignore because I think it's disgusting that housing should cost that much, even if it is historic. I have the impression that much of the staff of Shepherd University (after which the town is named) and the visiting parents of many of the students apparently have significant disposable income, and the town seems happy to oblige them.

So, anyway, after breakfast on that particular day a few weeks ago, one of those listings jumped out and grabbed my attention as I was walking by. Being offered for a mere (relatively speaking) $75,000 was my beloved Shaharazade's! In the following weeks, I inquired of the staff when I was there and left phone messages for the owners, but got no information. This morning, though, I was there again and one of the owners came in just as I was finishing my meal. I had been hoping for just such an opportunity and chatted with him for a bit. It seems that, even though the business is doing just fine, there are too many other issues going on in his and his wife's lives and something had to give. They're apparently semi-retired and decided to take away the "semi-" part in order to have time to deal with things.

I've been thinking about this a lot. I probably wouldn't be if I weren't going through this phase of being dissatisfied with both my job and where I live, but I am fed up with both and so very ready for a change. But...

1) I'd have to sell my condo to have the money to do this. I could probably, possibly, find a place to rent for a decent price out thataways (an hour or so farther west of DC), but to get a decent price for my condo I'd have to throw several thousand dollars into fixing it up. Even then, the current housing market situation means that I wouldn't get anywhere near what I could have a few years ago, or what I might if I waited for this economic slump to end. I'm guessing, in it's current state, I could get more than double the price of the restaurant, but less than triple. Would that be enough to buy the business, find a place to live, and make the venture successful? And then there's the timing of it all to consider. Who knows how long my condo would take to sell? Would the owners of Shaharazade's wait that long? Or would I have to take out a loan and then pray that the condo sold quickly? Could I even take out a loan for that amount before selling the condo?

2) Even more importantly, I know jack-shit about the restaurant industry. I've got a quarter-century in luxury retailing under my belt, including sales, management and administration, and I'm sure some portion of that knowledge and experience would translate into running a restaurant. But what about the rest? There's so much I don't know, and that's the part that scares the bejeezus out of me. The place comes with all equipment, inventory, staff, etc, and the current owner is willing to assist whomever takes over. But I have no idea how long the learning curve would be. I've read Anthony Bourdain's books, and I've heard the horror stories from that industry. What if I were to take this plunge and have it fail in less than a year? What the hell would I do then?

Not to mention the fact that Shaharazade's is my sanctuary, the place that I've run to these many months when I've needed a serene, comfortable place to read, write, think, and escape. If I were to take over the business, how long would it take for it to turn from calm sanctuary to stressful nightmare?

So I've spent the past couple of weeks wondering whether this is one of those synchronous opportunities I wrote about so recently, or just a crazy, unrealistic, impractical pipe dream. How the hell to tell? There are just too many questions. Could someone out there please tell me whether or not I'm a lunatic to consider this with any degree of seriousness? Or could I actually make this work? Is this a leap I should take, or would I just end up screwing myself?

Where's a fucking Magic 8-Ball when I need it?

While I'm stuck here driving myself to distraction over this little fantasy of mine, here's some Incubus for y'all to chew on:

Pendulous Threads

Mend this careless thread, it’s gone askew.
(Thread on my sweater is pendulous, step back & pull it.
Watch it unravel faster than a speeding bullet.)

Or pull & see how much we can undo.
(Thread on my sweater is pendulous, step back & pull it.
Watch it unravel faster than a speeding bullet.)

On a burning bridge, your options are minimal at best.
Depending on where you’re standing
& how much breath is in your chest.
If it came down to it
would you high-tail home & hide?
Or dance on fire & enjoy the ride?

Mend this careless thread, it’s gone askew.
(Thread on my sweater is pendulous, step back & pull it.
Watch it unravel faster than a speeding bullet!)
Or pull & see how much we can undo.
(Thread on my sweater is pendulous, step back & pull it.
Watch it unravel faster than a speeding bullet!)

At the heart of it all,
that innermost, your fiery core,
there’s an amassing armor
& it’s building you into a bore.
Life’s a match in a gas tank,
don’t ever mourn the ebbing tide,
just dance on fire & enjoy the ride!


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