The Agony of Summer; or, Where's My Money?

I've had enough of summer. The sunshine is all well and good, but I'm ready to move on. I don't mean to be a scrooge about the whole thing, but I'm not finding it all that satisfying at this point. Summer is bad for business. And I'm cooped up all the time. I can't even get out and enjoy the season. Not that it's all bad. Tomato season is almost here, and that's something to look forward to. I'm also into my garden. Amazing plants out there. 

I used to revel in the summer sun, so in that sense you could say I was a devotee of Apollo. But the Sun God and I have diverging interests, I'm somewhat surprised to find out. I'm generally one to follow my interests, so I pray to the Fog Gods now. Hope stirs when I see the first tendrils of fog creep over Twin Peaks; I am #blessed when it consumes the Golden Gate and barrels into the East Bay. Let it last through lunchtime tomorrow, and if afterward it should go away, let it be back by happy hour.  

The principal deities in my pantheon are the Rain Gods. Praise be unto them! Let us give sacrifice! The greater gift to the God of Cold Drizzle, the lesser to the God of Torrential Downpours. It is of great concern should the latter giveth too much. Biblical floods are bad for business, as is commonly known. I'm in the ramen business. Cold drizzle is the manna falling from my skies.  

I take solace in the fact that, as people are now wont to say, winter is coming.  Too bad it's only the beginning of August. There are still September heat waves to endure, a back-to-school slowdown, more of the massive, slow-burning construction outside our Emeryville store.  At least there isn't a realistic threat of baseball playoffs this year--the A's and the Giants are both terrible. Let's just get to the rainy season relatively unscathed, and then maybe we can start making some money, at least until the Warriors steal the attention of every jump-on-the-bandwagon fan in the East Bay, every other night for two months of literally endless NBA playoffs. Seriously, I never heard the word "Warriors" in my first decade in the Bay Area. Now they're great and every fucking person is walking around draped in blue and gold. It's bad enough that I'm a Cavs fan, but what I really can't abide is the impact of all this greatness on sales. 

The Warriors' victory parade went right by Shiba Ramen. 

The Warriors' victory parade went right by Shiba Ramen. 

So this is what's become of me. Shiba Ramen has been in operation for twenty months, and I now view everything, every public event and every shift in the weather, in terms of the likely impact on sales. I hypothesize about the influence of morning clouds on lunch volume. I'm an armchair psychologist.  Does commuting in dark conditions positively correlate to lunchtime ramen consumption, as compared to commuting under clear skies? Does the answer change depending on the season? Do clouds have a bigger impact in summer (i.e., to what degree do you have to correct for expectations about weather)?? 

I imagine myself as a SuperFriends arch-villain, some diabolical Doctor Drizzle. I'm building a giant machine on a remote volcanic island, capable of controlling Earth's climate. My sinister goal is to create a perpetual state of Perfect Ramen Weather,  all to increase ramen sales, so as to accelerate the moment at which I can finally take a fucking vacation, and buy a car on which both side mirrors haven't been knocked off. I actually have such a car. The engine light has been on since 2015, and it's wearing a spare tire. 

What is money, and why is it needed? 

Money is something I do not have. I used to have it. Unfortunately, I still require it for things like "eating," which I must continue to do if I want to remain alive long enough to get my money back from Shiba Ramen. I want to get my money back from Shiba Ramen. I also require it for things like "shelter" and "preschool."  In a year, mercifully, I will enroll my child in public kindergarten. Even so, I will likely still need money.  

Where is the money? 

People took it. More accurately, I gave it to Shiba Ramen Corporation, which in turn gave it to people in exchange for goods and services. The number of such "people," defined to include corporate entities, to whom I regularly give money is staggering. Everybody gets in on the action. The many heads of the governmental hydra are first in line, followed closely by insurance companies, banks, and landlords. The employees eat the most, though, by far, and the minimum wage keeps rising. There are contractors, subcontractors, architects and engineers. And just when you've paid them, the government swings by for another bite, this time for some tax you didn't know you had to pay. Your last dollar goes to Waste Management, which charges a rate that reeks of noncompetitive bidding and municipal corruption.   

When everyone has finished eating, there are no leftovers. Well, sometimes there are leftovers, other times there aren't. Sometimes you have to pay just to have the privilege of feeding everybody. Also, technically, most of the above-identified diners never really stop eating. The contractors do if you stop building things, but everyone else will be back for breakfast tomorrow.

This is what happened to my money. I assume similar things happen to other people's money.  

Below: Summer hasn't been without highlights. Shiba Ramen had a stall at Umami Mart's matsuri festival, and the Shiba Party was incredible. 

Where can I get money? 

I have the sense that the more I seek money, the less of it I will have. That's certainly true as a historical statement over the past three years. But I'm at my limit of being able to live like this, and my personal flow of dollars to the business needs to stop. It isn't sustainable.

The good news is that a year of non-stop real estate development is wrapping up by the end of the month. I'm not sure what exactly we were thinking last summer when we signed two leases at the same time. Naturally, we underestimated how much it would all cost and how long it would take for everything to come together. That's how these things go. If your initial estimate is accurate, you might scare yourself out of taking a risk, and you might miss a good opportunity! You need to indulge in a bit of sugarcoating if you want to get anything big done. 

A year after signing the lease, The Periodic Table is just a couple weeks from opening. Finally. I hope we'll sell a lot of booze, but I don't know how long it will take to get the word out and start drawing people to Public Market to drink and spend time in the evenings. We're investing in a big PR push starting this month to promote the concept. We also decided to sell a burger (something the Market currently lacks) as a means to get some lunch traffic while we work on driving alcohol sales. We had been planning to only offer a few small-plate sides, but it's imperative that we capitalize on the crowd that makes up the bulk of the Market's traffic.

Dinner in the garden is pretty nice, too. Grilling tai snapper, with oysters and great beer.  

Dinner in the garden is pretty nice, too. Grilling tai snapper, with oysters and great beer.  

The other good piece is that labor costs are going to be way, way lower than Shiba Ramen. Almost nothing has to be prepared in advance. The bad news is that we have to start paying the bank that financed The Periodic Table. We just got the last disbursement from our credit line, so the company has to pay the final contractor invoices itself just when we start getting the bank's bill.  

Whatever. I plan on selling good alcohol, and I'm confident in the capacity of humankind to seek out and consume good alcohol. The most significant thing is that the rainy season is only two months away, and that points to a coming renaissance for ramen sales. The summer days are getting shorter, back to school is in the air. Some evenings, when the fog comes in, you can almost believe it's October. October is the first rain, and October is what I'm shooting for. October is also when the worst of Public Market's construction is scheduled to be over. October can't come soon enough.