Eddie and Gwen

Eddie and Gwen
Standing Tall Among the Saguaros

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wile E Coyote and The Back Story: Chapter 1

   When I decided to do this blog, I made a promise to myself that I would  keep it real, good or bad, I would be honest and write what was happening in my world.  I have to admit that I have to swallow my pride as I write this.  It isn’t easy for me to admit that things are going south for me right now financially.  I said I was going keep it real… so here it goes.  Most of the vendors here are starting to freak out, including me.  Where are all the people?  Apparently business is slower than normal for this time of year.  Even the old timers who have been coming to the Rock and Gem show in Quartzsite for the past 10 years are worried.   It wasn’t an exaggeration when I said that the majority of us vendors made it here on gas fumes, so every day that goes by without customers, means I sink deeper and deeper in the red.  Originally I was attracted to this venue because I was told that it would be crawling with people.  Well, it ain’t happening.  This being my first Rock and Gem show, I’ve been hanging on to every word the old timers share, and there seems to be cause for alarm.  Seeing anxiety on the faces of my fellow vendors is concerning, but for me, it’s frustrating for a number of reasons. When I left Pagosa Springs and hit the road with my trailer, I was still hanging on to my dream that I would be able to revive my food career and get back on my feet financially.  After hearing about the huge influx of people to Quartzsite, I chose this venue figuring this was my chance to make some serious cash.  Obviously, the economy is contributing to a poor early turnout, but another factor seems to be the increased bureaucracy.  By that I mean fees, taxes, permits, licenses etc.. and it’s killing the little guy out here.  Nowadays everybody wants a piece of the pie.  Let me give you a glimpse inside my trailer concessionaire world.  Over the summer I took the trailer out on the event circuit.  With each new event I learned more and more.  Normally, I fork out about $80.00 for permits, license, and inspection fees for an average event.  In comparison, here in Quartzsite it cost me close to $600.  In addition to those fees, here in Quartzsite I had to pay what they call a “standard vendor fee”, which set me back an additional $1600.  So basically, before I sold any food at all, I was already in the hole  $2200.  Okay so there, I’ve bared my soul, so why don’t I feel any better L .  The collective opinion around here is that all these fees, this bureaucracy, is killing business.  In addition to the increased permit fees, most of the R.V. campgrounds have also implemented price increases due to, again bureaucratic increases. So for those of you who think, and there are many of you………., “don’t you just pull up to a spot, open the window and start making money” no bubba Jay, it ain’t that easy.

The other day, I was catching up with some friends and they told me they’d been following my blog and they really liked it.  Their only complaint was they felt that I should go into to more detail about what had brought me to this point in my life; not just the fact that I lost the restaurant, but how and why I got the restaurant in the first place.  They said only those closest to me know the whole story, therefore, I need to talk about the “back story” and fill in the blanks leading up to now.  I considered what they said for along time, and I have to say, it never occurred to me that any one would care or want to know all that.  When I shared their suggestion with my wife, she surprised me and agreed with them.  My wife thought they had made a good point.  A blog, she said, was all about sharing.  It’s true, that is the point of all this, to share my experiences good and bad.  We’ve been through a lot these past several years and I think a lot of people can relate to our story.  So after much deliberation, I’ve decided that I will take a few moments each blog entry and take you back in time.  Rita suggested I begin the back story from the point in time when we decided to sell our house in California and move to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Back to when I was a Manager at a major Japanese manufacturing company and my wife was a teller at a local credit union.  Each entry we will move forward in time together so you will know, “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey used to say.  Perhaps, together we can make sense of it all.  Now seems as good a time as any to start, so let’s begin, shall we?

The Back Story: Chapter 1  :   I know I said  this business isn’t easy, but it sure is addicting.  If you’d told me six years ago, that I would pursue with a vengeance a dream I had been nourishing for many years, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I could never have imagined that, not only would I pursue that dream, but I would attain it.  You see, my wife, Rita and I, we had our perfect suburban life. Our perfect home in “the O.C”, in Orange County, California. We both had really good paying jobs; both of our girls were almost finished with school.  Then one summer we spent our summer vacation exploring Colorado and fell in love with the Durango area, God’s country, as my Father-in-law used to say.  When we got home and each returned to work, I was informed by my employer that the company I worked for was closing down the plant and moving to Mexico.  I had the option of relocating to Mexico or leaving the company.  They offered a generous severance package to those who did not want to relocate.  Most of my co-workers were horrified and depressed.  I on the other hand, I was joyous.  I remember going home that night and telling my wife the news, we both looked at each other in a celebratory glance and literally jumped up and down for joy.  We saw this as an opportunity, a chance to escape the rat race.  We were tired of the Southern California smog, traffic, crime, over population, the race to keep up with the Jones’.. We’d had enough!  It was right then and there we decided to sell the house, pack up and move.  The housing market was peaking in California and we knew that if we sold now, we would stand to make a lot of money.  More importantly, the money would help us in the pursuit of our dreams.  My wife, Rita, is the most creative person I’ve ever known, she wanted to own and operate a bed and breakfast.  I had caught the cooking bug and wanted to be a chef.  I wanted a restaurant  / catering company.  We figured the closing of the plant was a sign, a chance, maybe our only chance, to go for it.  The severance package was to last for a year and our youngest daughter had a little over a year left in school, so right away we started making plans.  We decided that I would go to cooking school and learn the trade.  In the meantime, Rita would begin refurbishing the house in preparation for sale.  It was during this time that I found out that cooking school wasn’t going to happen for me.  So instead, I began working for one of the most prestigious catering companies in Southern California.  There I learned from the best.  I worked from the bottom up.  I started as a dish washer and worked my way up.  I loved it.  Event after event, film opening after film opening, I worked all over L.A., Hollywood, Beverly Hills, I was in the right place at the right time. I had caught the fever and I loved everything about it.  It was then that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  The dream was born.  (to be continued ....)

Well, have I hooked you?  LOL.  We’ll have to see where that goes, let me know what you think, and if you want to hear more…  Now, on to other things;  I have to share with you a real fearful moment I had other day, while a woman was conversing with me at my trailer.  The woman noticed Gwen, my dog, by her feet. She then proceeds to tell me how, “I must stay vigilant in protecting my dog from the ravenous coyotes.”  I mean this woman starts telling me that, “these coyotes are much more cunning than the ones in Colorado, you know.”  At this point images of Wile E Coyote flash in my head, and I think to myself, “he wasn’t so cunning”, but I digress….she continued, “they’ll hide under your RV or camping trailer and wait for your little phee phee to be let out for the last potty of the night, and then they’ll pounce and tear little phee phee to shreds” …. Okay, I know, coyotes are stalkers of small animals, but Gwen is a Boston terrier that weighs about 20 lbs.  Now before you send letters of protest to my tent, I realize that regardless of Gwen’s size, she would be defenseless against a pack of coyotes.  But, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t interject here that I’m having  trouble believing one coyote would viciously grab her and carry her away.  Gwen is like me….a bad ass in a small package.  I’d put my money on Gwen over one coyote any day.   Yea, she’s like dynamite with a New York attitude, like me… at least that’s how we perceive ourselves. I tell people this dog is my alter ego. You know the old saying that a dog takes on its owner’s personality.  So it is with Gwen and I.  Heck we are even starting to resemble one another.  Really !  Anyway, back to my story, so me and Gwen are on a desert hike, and it’s starting to get dark, all in a sudden  the words of that lady start swirling around in my head,  and I’m thinking to myself, “there’s coyotes somewhere out there stalking my dog.” About this time Gwen decides she wants to play.  Being a Boston terrier she takes the lead, she wants me to chase her instead of allowing me to leash her for the final mile or so back.  So she takes off.  While she’s frolicking in the desert sand, Gwen’s thinking, “c’mon chase me….catch me if you can”.  (Yes, I know what my dog is thinking, she’s my alter ego remember.)  Anyway, in the middle of the chase, I realize that she’s getting way ahead of me, probably 100 yards or so.  My heart starts palpitating as I’m envisioning a pack of coyotes grabbing her in full stride, their teeth gouging into her flesh, as I watch helplessly as they take her away.  Well, that didn’t happen and all was well. I must admit that I am more than a little irritated by my over active imagination.  So what’s the deal, have I been mind melded with that paranoid lady?  I refuse to allow myself to be influenced by the extremist’s around me.  But before I totally push all this coyote stalking aside, I thought it best to Google it, ya know, just to sooth my fears.  Well, I read that although desert coyotes are cunning, they will not attack if humans are around.   So Scotty, beam up the old paranoid lady and her tales of ravenous coyotes; me and my bad ass little Boston terrier shall continue our desert hikes.

Speaking of the desert, I’m starting to settle in to my home away from home.  I’ve begun decorating/modifying my tent to make it more homey. Yes, I still live in a tent!  My daughter Natalie brought me down a twin size mattress, (a real mattress !)  It is much more comfortable than my queen size inflatable jobber, and the smaller size has given me allot more room to accessorize.  This whole set up is bringing back childhood memories of my early life in the projects.  Honestly, I was born in New York and we lived in the Bronx in the projects; where do you think I got my attitude from, Jersey?   The whole theme for my tent is basically ghettoesqe.  I mean I’ve got black plastic trash liners taped in place to cover the screened sides of the windows; this helps keep the cold out.  I’ve got electric cords hanging all around for my lights and heaters. I’m thinking about putting up graffiti on the outside to mark my territory, there by distinguishing my hood from the vato locos’.  I never thought I was much of a decorator, but I must admit I’ve become quite creative.  I’m considering hanging up some playboy centerfolds, just to impress the home boys in the event they drop by my crib.  Okay, so there aren’t any gang bangers out here, but the “rainbows” as they call them are starting to arrive.  More tents are appearing, which makes me feel right at home.  My tent is my refuge.  In the quiet of the evenings I’ve been catching up on lots of reading, yet some of the books I’ve acquired are less than fascinating.  Take for instance, the classic “Letters for Algernon”. That one was a contribution from my sister in law……For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s a book about a retard and a rat…..c’mon Julie what are you trying to tell me.  Is there some hidden message in there?  The lead character in the book has a terrible stutter; now as people place an order at my window, I found myself wanting to say…….”wwwoould yayya llllike fries wit dat”?.   All I’d need is a pair of those novelty eye glasses that have the slanted Charlie Chan lenses inserted in them.  Then all the old folks would start to pass the word around, “have you been to the food stand that has the retarded Chinese guy, he sure makes good food”….ah I can hear them now !  Move over Paul Winer, I’ve found my niche’ !

Before I sign off for today, I feel compelled to refer back to my opening paragraph where I said it’s not easy pursuing this life style. The fact is, depending on how sales go, this winter season will either be my swan song or my resurrection.  Uh oh, here I go getting all emotional on ya’ll.  It’s amazing how this business can, in fact, raise you to the highest highs and instantly drop you to complete despair.  I’ve come here full of enthusiasm and energy,  having recently emerged from a very dark place, a depression really.  I’m here and I’m ready to cook for the masses.  Everyone here still believes the hoards of people will come, I can only hope, as I hold on to my faith.  And now you know why I enjoy wandering in the desert.  With each new sunrise I see hope, and the pinkish mauve colored sunsets remind me that I am not alone.  Regardless of what may come, I am here for a reason, I believe that to the depths of my soul.  With each new day, I’m learning to be open-minded, and to accept that not everyone thinks, acts or looks like me.  Out here on the fringe, among the salt of the earth, these are people who truly understand the meaning of survival, not that silly television show that depicts the Hollywood version. So for today, I’ll hold on tight to my dream, and yes, still living in a tent…..More soon, Eddie.    

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