Thursday, November 01, 2007

"How to Ruin a Small Business..."

Back in the the Silver Jones era..... I was picked by "Leadership Monterey" to lead a forum on small business on the Monterey Peninsula. The topic was "How to Run a Small Business."

If you are a really cool and up-and-coming person in business on The Peninsula, you get picked to be a "student" or whatever, in "Leadership Monterey". If you are a second-tier wanna-be or an old-school has-been, you get picked to lead seminars.

I was an up-and-coming second tier they picked me. I also was teaching a course in the Adult School on hospitality, and they figured I could fill 40 minutes.

When they published the brochure, and handed me a copy....I was the first person to notice the typo. Run vs. Ruin. Typical Monterey......"Hey, what is the big know how much we spent on these brochures?""

So, I did 40 minutes on "How to RUIN a Small Business on the Monterey Peninsula".

They never asked me back.

The way these things go, names pop up from time to time in a very Arthur Koestler/Jung kind of synchronicity way.

The name of the day is Sally Smith. Sally popped up three times today.....and the best part ties in to "How to Ruin a Business".....

We are taking one of our two Monday Night's off this week to do a dinner for the Steinbeck Author's Table. This is a fund-raiser for the Steinbeck Center that our former friend Robin got us involved in back in the day. The Board of the Steinbeck Center hustles up some authors, hustles up some hostesses, hustles up some caterers.....and puts the seats at the hostesses tables with the various authors out to bid. You bid a get the guy writing the book about eBay. You bid a ton, you get the guys who went to jail over the Barry Bonds thing.

Since we are dumb....we always read the books of the authors assigned to our parties, and create menus that might match them or their books. This does not always work out. Our favorite time was creating a special oyster dish for the woman from Corralitos who is writing new Sherlock Holmes books from the point of view of his sexually abused (by him) younger female assistant.

It seemed like a home run: Victorian book.....Victorian food. Grilled oysters with cream and porcini mushrooms, dosed with Asiago cheese under the broiler. Older man with younger woman.....oysters heavy in l-arginine...precursor to nitric acid....which is what Viagra is all about...Sherlock would have two dozen for breakfast.

Yeah, well....the writer was from Santa Cruz.....a fucking vegan...and was repelled by the idea of eating live oysters.

We drew her twice. Believe me....the second time there were no oysters involved.

We also check out the bidders for our dinners. We actually follow the modern Spanish model and google the shit out of EVERYONE we work for. Comes in handy when you find out that your cool new client LOVES Mitt Romney. We park the Jaguar with the faded "Jail Bush and Cheney" sticker out on the street.

Anyway, this Monday's guest list includes Sally Smith....a single woman. The only Sally Smith we know used to be married to Peter Smith....former Congressman from Vermont or New Hampshire or one of those cold places with frozen snow, maple syrup and lobsters. Peter was also the first head of UFO (University of Fort Ord)...aka C-SCUMB....aka California State University Monterey Bay.

We used to work for these guys. Peter and Sally had the sweet Presidential house out in Marina/Fort Ord.....At the beginning they drank a lot of becomes East Coast the point that they failed to recognize their own nephew, one of our interns. I hear there has been some rehab or re-evaluation involved.l

We came to an agreement with them about food, service and prices. I hesitate to put into print, even on an obscure cheaply we worked for them. I always thought that there was a chance that Peter Smith could be the new Margaret Chase Smith of the Republican Party....and there would be a New Tomorrow for the Republican Party. I mean, look what gin did for Nelson Rockefeller.....

Anyway....our typical dinner party for them was 8 people, lobster apps for Peter, duck for Sally, a salad, a dessert.....their wine....two guys on a budget. We charged $35 a pop, with a small allowance for the two workers. We worked like dogs, and were out of there in three hours.

Sally's AA arranged everything. She was a Palma mom....whose sister ran the crazy hippy kitchen across from Hula's....and whose nephew we had saved from being a homeless kid living in the creek next to MPC.

She got fired. The new girl called us up a day before a previously booked party.

"We have re-evaluated our budget. We have decided that for tomorrow night's dinner we cannot pay more than $20, inclusive of all charges."

"Yeah, well.....I want a cure for AIDS....and World Peace......."

"We have other suppliers willing to work at this price."


"Todd, from the Steinbeck Center."

"Lemme get right back to you....."

I call Todd...who tells me that I am on crack. There is no way. I tell Todd that I will GIVE him the duck and the lobster....just do the dinner and get me out of this. Todd laughs at me. I call the new AA back and tell her "take it or leave it."

I was coaching Palma soccer at the on the way to meet my guy with the food for C-SCUMB I stopped off at McDonalds next to Star Market.

I bought a 12 piece Chicken McNuggets; a Filet-O-Fish; an order of fries; a Special Salad: a Dessert Parfait; and a large Coke. Cost: $14.00

I went to Sally Smith's...served my lobster and duck......and before I left, laid out my McDonald's purchases on my nice BIA Cordon Bleu ceramic platters. Appetizer, salad, entree, dessert, beverage.

I left a note: "This is what twenty dollars gets you: fourteen dollars worth of food.....we will only charge six dollars to deliver it, present it, serve it and clean it up."

Somehow, I never heard from her again.......and never got my platters back.

"How To Ruin A Small Business....."

Can't wait to see Sally on Monday.

We are serving duck.....I will try to find a lobster........


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