Alternate Reality #3

In November 2008, I mused a bit about what I’d like to be when I grow up. We dream about things as kids and precious few of us ever get the chance to play out our dreams in real life. Sometimes that’s actually a good thing. As exciting as it sounded at the time, I don’t think my true calling was in waste management. Other times, perhaps it’s not. So I thought I’d take a few posts (not in a row) to explore some of the possibilities in greater detail. Welcome to Alternate Reality #3, and the first Alternate Reality which relates to food.

My dad and I had our mid-life crises at the same time. And by that I don’t mean, “When we were both forty.” I mean at the same time. He was forty and I was about thirteen. His love of food and cooking finally led him back to school to study hotel and restaurant management. (Sidebar: the world really missed out when he never got the opportunity to start his own food blog.)

As he began to take classes and dream of opening his own restaurant, I got the idea in my head as well. “Hmmm… you know, it might really be cool to open a restaurant!” I said to myself. “I mean, how hard can it be?”

I love how the thirteen year old mind works.

My thirteen year old mind started picking out names (like … wait for it … “The Golden Spike”) and drawing pictures of what the restaurant might look like (exactly what you think “The Golden Spike” would look like) and actually plotting out this entire career path. It sounded really cool. What a great dream for a kid to have at that age. And a “dream” restaurant is exactly what I would have opened.

The dream restaurant is popular. It’s packed every night of the week and has people lining up outside on weekends and holidays. It serves great food. It has no staffing problems. Food critics love it and people write home about it. There would be nothing to complain about.

There’s just one small problem. We don’t get to open restaurants in alternate realities. We have to open them here, in the real world. And even if successful, sooner or later, that mid-life crisis would roll around anyway. It’s just human nature. Nobody’s immune. (I’m sure even J.K. Rowling said, “If I have to write another bloody Harry Potter book, I’ll scream. I should have been a veterinarian.”)

If I had actually followed this path, I’m sure my restaurant would have struggled. The critics would not have been impressed with the Reese’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut Jelly sandwiches. And eventually all my kids would have quit the waitstaff. I would have spent nights worrying about red ink and dreaming of an alternate reality where I only made Reese’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Donut Jelly sandwiches at home.

Not that I, um, have ever tried anything like that myself.

8 Responses to “Alternate Reality #3”

Joanie said
April 29, 2009 at 7:41 am

I did open a restaurant with my then husband, in 1997. Never, ever again. The restaurant becomes your life. It was a struggle for the entire 6 years we were open.

MaryBe said
April 29, 2009 at 7:43 am

I have a feeling that your restaurant would have featured lots of bacon-inspired dishes!
We need another burger review – psst try The Bakehouse!

Kelly said
April 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

Ha. That is so funny because I had the idea of opening a restaurant in my early 20s. I read books about it and was even talking to the folks at some cooking school. But reading about it and talking to people in the industry I realized I would be married to my business. I’d end up hating cooking too. Glad I didn’t go that path. I did have a cute little menu going wtih whimsical names like “Nacho Mamma” nachos, etc. OMG, I shudder now to think of it. What the hell was I thinking?

POD said
April 29, 2009 at 11:51 am

Charlie, I won a copy of your book from Cranky!
I am so excited.

Biz said
April 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I agree – Dad would have had the best/funniest food blog!

It makes me sad sometimes because I don’t think any of Dad’s dreams ever came true – it reminds me of the sail boat he built and would put it on the hood of the blue Ford Pinto and claim he was sailing on “Lake Pinto.”

Having worked in restaurants for the better part of 10 years of my life, it has to be one of the hardest things to keep afloat – so many variables from food cost, staff, menu planning – lots of work!

Jess said
April 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Perhaps the critics would have hated the RPB and JD sandwiches, but the drunk people on 6th Street? Can you imagine?

Location is everything. 😉

Quix said
April 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I still dream about opening a bar, but we’ll see. Maybe someday!

julie said
May 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

My good friend tells a joke:

Q: How do you make a small fortune in the restaurant business?

A: Start with a large fortune.