See Me
October 25, 2017

Concept/Study for upcoming painting.

 

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Cruise with a View….part one
October 20, 2017

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Although I’d sailed in 1966 on an older ship from Canada to England, I’d never been on a cruise. This ocean cruise was a whole different cup of tea. It was a seven-day cruise leaving from Long Beach, CA with two stops in Mexico: Cabos San Lucas (two days) and a stop in Puerto Vallarta for a day with two sea days back to Long Beach port.

We were lucky to have been asked to join a family of a friend, and together we travelled with a composition of  slightly over two thousand guests and close to nine hundred crew members. All from many walks of life, countries, backgrounds and mind sets. The goal of Carnival Cruise Lines was to arrange and create something from this mix, and forge a unified whole from the hearth using the sun and fun. Our purpose was to enjoy ourselves.

To me, more than the surface aspect of cruising, this trip was a snapshot into humanity as it surrounds us. It became a metaphor for learning and my view of that metaphor.

Upon arriving to embark, I was totally impressed with the boarding agents and their efficiency. Adding to this, was the beauty of the ship, how clean everything was and the friendliness of the crew we encountered.

Our cabin was roomy, (photo of Joe included) with an efficient bathroom, super comfortable beds  and this towel art, which changed daily:

 

Every time there was a new towel art figure in our room, it conjured up childhood memories to me. Remembering the warmth I felt when mom would wrap a towel around me when I got out of the bath. Memories of long gone pets. Memories from when my parents took me to the zoo. Feelings of softness, warmth and love during my up bringing. Such a simple gesture with the power to make me appreciate how fortunate I am.

There was a mailbox outside the cabin door for events and notices, and inside on the wall were cards for room service, non disturbance and our service team for the cabin. About this time, there was an announcement that lunch would be served on the Lido Deck until 3:30pm, so we headed in that direction. Our suitcases and bags would arrive later.

We took the stairs up eight fights so we could see some of the ship. Art pieces hung on each landing and there were art glass pieces encased behind protection in the corners.

When we reached the Lido deck, and the multiple eating areas and restaurants, it seemed we had joined all of the other two thousand guests. We had to wait a bit to get a table before we could look around and choose something to eat. I found out by the end of the cruise, that the first and last eating sessions on a ship are completely full and bring out the best and worst in people. This was my introduction to some of the unpleasant traits of human nature: excess and greed.

We secured a table, and as we waited for the rest of our group to join us, I watched as plates piled high with food passed us. Endless food of all descriptions: pot roast, chicken and fish (fried, roasted or grilled), vegetarian, vegetable and starch selections, fresh fruit, regular and gluten-free breads and meals, deli sandwiches, smoked salmon plates, pizzas, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, roast pork, pastas, multiple ethnic including Chinese food, salad bar selections, dessert plates, beverages and more. Too many to list.

After everyone arrived at our table we took turns getting food so as not to lose the table. As I passed other tables I couldn’t help but notice all of the half eaten food plates left behind, as the same people were digging into another plate piled high. Waiters were busy picking up plates with left-overs, that never seemed to end. And, as soon as the waiters had cleared these, replacement plates were piled up faster than they could pick-up. It was organized insanity.

I didn’t know if the factor that drove this phenomena was (a) it was free, (b) guests felt they paid for the food, therefore everything was game on, (c) guests who might not have had an opportunity in the past to try some of these choices had the opportunity now, and they tried some new things, didn’t like what they tried and left the rest, or (d) didn’t care. Judging by the amount of waste I saw, I grouped it under the former heading of excess and greed. I added waste.

(After having been in the food and hospitality business for over forty-five years, I didn’t have any food on the ship that wasn’t good, great or exceptional, in taste, quality and eye appeal. As a matter of fact it left me feeling spoiled and appreciative).

 

After lunch, we went back to the cabin to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn’t, so we took time out to explore the ship.

I didn’t take photos of everything that was available to guests on our ship. There was a full gym (I used the stairs instead….which turned out to be not enough exercise for the weight I gained) on two levels with a full spa, steam and sauna. Water slide, exclusive over 21 areas, multiple pools for children and adults with their own food and drink bars, basketball court, ping-pong, miniature golf, whirlpools, private decks, library, art gallery, games room, many cocktail lounges, extra pay dining rooms, the four-story theatre and arts center, 24/7 fresh sushi bar, coffee bars, the comedy club, piano bar, the disco/nightclub, casino and on and on. Along with the numerous function areas, there were daily activities, directed by an excellent cruise director.

 

For the guests, this vessel seemed on the outside, to be a self-contained floating city of fun and excitement. An escape from reality that could possibly solve some of their problems in life, even be it for a week. I found the Carnival crew went out of their way to try to fulfil the needs of every guest and make them feel like each and everyone of them was the most important person on earth. That in itself was an insurmountable task. People end up bringing their individual worlds with them. Worlds of inner pain that keep surfacing outwardly through action, deed or expression of self. Overhearing conversations as we participated in activities on board made this apparent. I’ve always felt, that inner pain, is just a lack of love on some level. This vessel and it’s amenities were the temporary compensation being used to fill this ache that never seems to disappear.

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Our first stop was Cabos San Lucas. Carnival brought in ‘tenders’ to take us to shore. We didn’t sign up for the excursions that were available on board. We wanted to take our chances on shore to see what we could experience.

We were surrounded with options when we reached the shore for scuba diving, glass bottom boats, deep-sea fishing and private boat tours to El Arco and End Rock. The on board Carnival tour was $35/person, but we ended up accepting a private tour for $11/person.

 

There is a photo here of ‘Last Rock’ with a sea-lion perched on top of the rock. At first we thought it was a statue, but as we got closer and we circled the area, the sea lion would change its pose. We were all laughing because the sea loin did it for all the boats that approached.. Major ham and great entertainment. He should be paid for all the photos that were taken of him.

Afterwards we walked the main boardwalk and stopped in at a couple of places, one being Senor Frogs. Lot’s of fun and the hot chips and salsa made the beers go down easier.

We had to be back on the ship by 4:00pm because it would cruise the coast during the night and come back in the morning for the second day where we’d have from 7:00am till 3:00pm on shore again if we wanted. We went back to the ship, got cleaned up and waited in a lounge for everyone to arrive before we went into the dining room for our dinner.

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I found the dinner meals exceptional. As Trump would say, ‘tremendous’ selection, and it was different every night. Always six or seven appetizers to choose from, a ‘unique item’ like veal tongue, or frog legs or rabbit, etc., plus a selection from the grill with assorted sauces, or two vegetarian meals and a selection of six or seven desserts. Hence, the added pounds when I stepped on the scales at home.

Concept / Study……. for my next painting
October 6, 2017

Propensity To Please 10 Aspect Corrected

Concept / Study for my next painting: “Propensity to Please”, Oil on canvas 16″ x 20″ Surreal. Here man is emerging from the ocean of life. There is a black arrow for direction, our inside ‘knowing’. Behind him etched into the crashing wave is the face of God, his divine connection. Always there, but not always recognized. Surrounding him is turmoil and black holes (eyes) representing choices and paths that are available if we look. Overhead is desire and temptation, always with the possibility of being swept up into the unknown. Hidden in the shadows are helping hands and guardians. His blindfold is marked with the symbols of truth and friends.

Road Trip……..day five
October 6, 2017

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After the continental breakfast included by the hotel, and frost on the car windows, we were on the road by 7:00am. Even though it was only 42 degrees when we left Mammoth, we wore shorts and a T-shirt because we knew the day would be much warmer in the valley below. Overall  the day temperature was a comfortable mid nineties. We passed Mammoth Lakes, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence, Lone Pine and entered Death Valley. Most of the roads we’ve travelled on this trip were either in great shape or newly paved this year. I really enjoyed the topography, ups and downs, ascending and descending from all the different elevations. Our first stop was Father Crowley Point. The view from here was vast and endless with an empty simplicity. Most noticeably, there was an incredible quiet.

Next stop was Stovepipe Wells Village, where we stopped for lunch. Two bread sandwiches (oh, forgot there was a paper-thin slice of meat in it), and a coke came to $18.00. Sitting on the rocking chairs on the porch, outside the general store and eating the sandwiches though, made the experience……actually fun.

After lunch, we headed for Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes (reminded me of the sand dunes on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands where we’d go and slide down on the dunes on our backs or stomach….I was 17, and much younger then) and the Harmony Borax Works.

After this, we headed for Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but being a Sunday it was closed. Next destination the Devil’s Golf Course. The landscape looks like a golfer had left thousands of divots strewn over a few thousand acres. These divots are mostly composed of salt deposits. I took a close-up photo of one below.

Badwater Basin was next on our list.

Artist’s Drive is a one-way road through the mountains that looks like it has been painted with hues of red, green, blue, rust and purples. There are steep dips and turns on the road and Disneyland modelled their car ride in California Adventure after this Drive. This Artist’s Drive is much longer and four times the fun. The scenery of the mountains and colors are outstanding and even breath-taking at some points. Our photos don’t do it justice. A real must do if you get out this way.

Just after this drive we headed back to the main road. Shortly after the junction on the main road, there is the historic Oasis Hotel. It is undergoing a major renovation at this time. It is in the middle of no-where and looks like a mirage oasis brought down from heaven. Exotic palms and trees were being planted around the site and it’s a stark contrast to the landscape. It is going to be the place to stay when it is finished. The photo below is the way it looked before the renovation.

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Moving on, our next destination was Zabriskie Point.

After this we were going to go to 20 Mule Team Canyon, but the road in was long and not in good shape (very rough gravel). Not worth the damage it might do to the car. So, we headed to our last Death Valley site; Dante’s View. It’s a long way to the top with hair-pin curves and a steep incline. When you get to the top, all you can smell is the burnt rubber and hot oil from vehicles engines.

This ended our stay in Death Valley. We were heading east now to Death Valley Junction and the Amargosa Opera House. It has a long history and I’ve borrowed the link from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amargosa_Opera_House_and_Hotel

Our final destination for the trip is Pahrump, Arizona. We headed east and arrived around 5:00pm. We figured we’d stay at one of the casino hotels, have a good meal and head back to Palm Springs tomorrow. Below is a chuck wagon outside our room in the courtyard and a photo of inside the casino.

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip…..day two
September 29, 2017

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We woke up early and had the continental breakfast that came with the room. This was the Ramada and I’d stay here again. Very quiet structure (cement floors), close enough to the freeway without the noise, comfortable room and only about a mile and a half walk to the downtown area. We booked all of our hotels ahead of time and also our tours of Hearst Castle, which would take up most of today. We booked three tours. Two in the morning with a break for lunch and then an afternoon tour of the cottages, kitchen and wine cellar. The tours are not cheap ($200.00 total) and when we were checking in at the Visitor Center, a person next to me said “I don’t have a reservation, could I get a tour?’ The response was “We’re sorry, but we’re fully booked for the day.” That’s what happened to me in 1984 when I first arrived in California, and I tried to see the castle. Still a busy place.

We drove straight to the castle (the scenery and ocean views along the way were stunning), by passing Cambria, Morrow Bay and Morrow Rock. We will do those on the way back from the castle. We didn’t want to lose our reservation. After checking in, we were guided to the bus loading area, and we boarded for the twelve-minute ride to the castle. Our first tour was the Grand Room, Dining , main rooms adjacent and the Theatre.

The guide we had made the whole tour. About 50 people were on this first tour, and he waited until all of us were together before he would start talking about the history and details of each room, who the guests were (all the famous people from the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s), and savory stories that accompanied them. He allowed us to ask questions, he made us laugh and overall we learned so much about Mr. Hearst and his life and how the castle came to be. The tour ended with a movie taken from clips at the castle and made the whole experience truly memorable. After the tour, our guide extended an invitation to explore the rest of the grounds before we took our bus ride back down the hill. However, we had to make our way back to the bus drop off location to start our next tour.

Our second tour was for the second and part of the third floors of the castle. This included Hearst’s private study/office, the library and numerous guest rooms with all of their art and antiques. Our guide for this tour was not as exceptional as our first guide. As she led us through the maze, she would begin talking before all of us were in the room. She was less than enthusiastic about telling us any details and the ones she did mention on a piece of artwork (“this is a fleur de lys and is French, or this is an olive leaf and it’s Italian”) I’m sure were told to us to make us think she knew what she was talking about. She mumbled, didn’t ask if we had questions and her memories of events that had happened in the castle amounted to her meeting Elizabeth Taylor and Mel Gibson. Near the end of our tour she looked at her watch and said; “We have just enough time for me to show you one more thing”. She pointed to some stairs and said “Go down this stairway and I’ll meet you”. It was the last we ever saw of her. We all went down the stairs and waited while she never showed up. Basically she showed us ‘the door’. I think it’s time some one did it to her.

By the end of this tour, we had just one hour to go back down the hill, have a bite to eat and then head back to the castle for our final tour of the kitchen, guest cottages and wine vault. At the visitor center we went to their cafeteria where they serve Hearst grass fed beef and other items from the ranch. The food we ordered was great, but they had only one cashier on and the line-up to pay was so long, all of our food went cold before we could eat it. It took so long for people to cash out it left us with only 7-10 minutes to gobble everything down and head back to the bus loading.

Our third tour guide was efficient, but she had a sense about her that made us feel…. “When will this end?”. And so we began our tour of the first construction on the site, which were the cottages. Each cottage was named for the view it entertained: House of the Sea, House of the Sun and House of the Mountains. They were the main residences of the Hearst’s and guests like Winston Churchill during the early years, while the main castle was being built. None had kitchens as everyone was required to eat together (a Hearst rule). One of the most surprising aspects to these cottages and the main castle were the bathrooms, which for the 20’s were as modern as we have them today. Hearst even experimented in these cottages with ideas like seven shower heads and ideas he used later on in the castle.

The last part of this tour were the kitchen(s) and the wine vault. Being in the cooking field for over 45 years I would have given almost anything to work in or even have a kitchen like this. For when it was built it is absolutely amazing and modern.

After the kitchen, we were taken to the basement to view the wine vaults. The photos say it all. It held over 7000 bottles of fine and rare wines.

The photos below were of a sarcophagus (Roman above ground tomb), the Neptune Pool (under construction…it was leaking 5000 gallons of water a day…now sealed and ready for the marble replacement), the indoor Roman Pool, tennis courts above the Roman Pool and the view of the hillside coming down to the Visitor Center.

 

This ended our tours for Hearst Castle and we headed back towards Cambria and our home base San Luis Obispo.

Cambria is a quaint seaside city hugging the coastline with numerous accommodations available and some wonderful restaurants and shops. We stopped for a few photos, but had to move on for timing purposes to Morrow bay and Morrow Rock.

After Morrow Bay, we headed back to the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. To finish our daylight hours, we passed our freeway exit and the Ramada and stopped at the famous Madonna Inn. It’s filled with surrealist items and construction. We sat at the bar and ordered ourselves a glass of wine each and took in the uniqueness before heading back to our hotel.

It was about 7:00pm when we got back to the hotel. We took a small break and freshened up. Then we walked over the freeway bridge to downtown and the Mission. We lucked out again. As we approached downtown, we could hear all of this music filling the air. It was Thursday and we found out, like Palm Springs, they have a street fair Thursday evenings. The street fair here has a vibrancy that we are missing in Palm Springs, but I think it is because of the youth factor. The streets and shops here, which remind me of Old Town Pasadena are filled with boutique shops and a population of young and old….heavier on the young side. GREAT Energy! They have a creek that runs parallel to the main street (which was closed for the fair) where you can dine Creek Side. Very charming and romantic with the night lighting. Lots of people milling about and all seemed carefree and happy. We searched out another attraction called ‘Bubble Gum Alley’ and found it. You can see from the photos why it has its name. After that we walked up and down the fair and enjoyed all of the excitement. Lots of musicians…guitar players, violinists, a group of about 12 students all doing percussion only, and many others too numerous to mention. One food kiosk stretched almost a half block and the servers for it made you feel like you were part of a movie with their antics, acting and fun-loving attitude. Great job! By this time, I wanted something small to eat to tie me over till morning. And I wanted to sit down away from all the commotion. We found a place called NOVO. A wonderful restaurant which I can honestly say gave me the best Lamb Salad I’ve ever eaten in my life. The flavors took me back to the Mediterranean. Every spice and flavor was balanced to perfection. Amazing: www.novorestaurant.com.

After this we headed back to the Ramada for some shut-eye and the start for our third day tomorrow.

Bringing The Ocean To The Desert
July 13, 2017

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Artwork I just finished.

Oh Lordy, Let There Be No Tapes
June 12, 2017

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I wake up to birds outside screaming because I’m late. Usually I’m outside on the patio by now taking in the morning-glory of life. So I move my unresponsive legs off the bed hoping to find the floor and Eberhard says, “Careful, careful”. I make my way to the bathroom to relieve myself. All goes well except for the thoughts that start running through my head as memories from last night start to float past me. I get to the sink to wash my hands and lo and behold there’s a huge zit on my upper lip between my nose and mouth. What? Who gets this at 68? Last week it was one on my nose. God hates me.

I make coffee (I only have one cup a day, but I love it in the morning) and I make my way out to the patio to take in life for the day. I’m naked. Not a pretty site, but I’m protected (and so is the world) by an 8 foot wall around me. The birds start laughing at me in great furor. I am not my usual self, ready to take a moment to meditate. Instead I have these flashbacks….”oh my God, did I do that?” Jeff (karaoke man) why didn’t you stop me?” And Bobby,  you were suppose to keep me in check….. you even said to others that “I was never the same after my mild stroke.”

The evening was enlightening. We started out by meeting friends and their family relatives visiting from Georgia. It’s our ‘solving the world’s problems’ (Trump, etc.) get together that we have occasionally on a Sunday. Of course we discuss the delicate matters over a few glasses of wine. It was a very interesting perspective, not one we were accustomed to, as we tried to figure out why people are attracted to Trump, and why they can believe his rhetoric. We surmised, part of it was education, another part was environment and what they see around them, but mostly it was what people don’t see as they view their lives from  a finite perspective. In conclusion we decided “not to worry”…..this too will pass.

Dancing in front of the karaoke singers was just part of it. There was the bus ride from our beginning location to the karaoke bar. We got the whole bus to ‘rock’. Everyone got off at our stop and the bus driver was relieved, just hoping for a few more silent moments until his shift finished. Still, I remember Jeff encouraging myself and Bobby to sing. Not a nice picture or sound for that matter. Everyone run……run for your lives.

In conclusion, at some point in time, we all need a little release on whatever level makes us comfortable.  Just look at the TV in this moment. Trump, is surrounded by his cabinet in their absorbent moment of self-aggrandizement.  This is their moment of release.

True or False?

Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

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Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

Homeless….part 2
January 14, 2017

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So, I got the loan and I was happy for the moment. Moments pass. Reality set in. By the time I had paid for the contractors to make the place into a restaurant, there was the other incidentals: equipment, food to start up, money for wages, taxes and overhead.

By the end of construction, I had managed to pay for everything except the food which I needed to open. I ordered the food and wrote the checks with absolutely no money in the bank. The bank manager calls me and asks me to come down to discuss the situation. I appear and he tells me he is going to bounce the checks which I had written for the food and supplies. So I said (with my back against the wall) “Go ahead, but all the money that’s invested will be lost”. I had no choice. Pay them or I won’t open, and there will be nothing to recover.” He paid the checks. I was left with an overdraft.

First business was brisk and it covered the checks that I had written. It was new and everyone had heard about the place through word of mouth. Everyone came to try it out.

Well, aren’t they sorry now. Inconsistency, badly cooked food from people who should have known better and canned beans. Business dropped off faster than the recession killed jobs.

After I fired all the cooks and took over, there was not much choice. The few people that visited the premises were new and hadn’t heard of the happenings. I was down to one server and myself. And she turned out to be an alcoholic that stole booze from the storage cabinets in the basement. Not pleasant as she tried to keep on her feet, serving customers. Duh!

Frustrated, I terminated her, hired a new person who cared and we had two to go forward with enthusiasm. At this time I was living above the restaurant in a single apartment for $110./month. No furniture, just a sleeping bag, a lamp, a few pans to cook food with, and a pillow. My meals were consistent. Pan fried potatoes and two fried eggs. It’s still one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling out of sorts. The income from the restaurant was not enough to sustain this. So I gave it up and came to the conclusion, I only had one resort.

Homeless…part 1
January 13, 2017

 

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When I opened Beans and Barley in 1972, I guess I expected instant success. I thought there would be some pitfalls, but I had no idea of how many or for what length of time they would exist.

I started with $3000. cash of my own money and eventually, through a loan I acquired, leveraged it into $50,000. I had some other assets, like my car, that I sold later to bring my total down payment to $5000.

The loan was not easy to get. I had created a formal proposal in a binder during the previous year, and took it to every bank in Edmonton. And, every bank rejected it. I ended up going to a lender of last resorts. A government agency. You had to be rejected by at least three banks before you could apply for a loan with them. The silver lining here was, I was over qualified. I was assigned two loan officers. At first they reviewed the four inch thick proposal and then they called me in for my first interview. When I think back now, I can realize why they were worried. I had no accounting skills…couldn’t do a profit and loss if my life depended on it, never cooked professionally, and I’d never supervised staff before….but I did have an insatiable desire to accomplish this. At twenty-one, I had more guts than brains.

I had already leased the premises I wanted, hired the Dutch carpenters to start the rebuilding of the barn inside and drew up my own blueprints. I had told the loan officers that I had already started the project. I could see them look aghast at the thought of what I’d done. They wanted to see the place, so we arranged to view what I had done to date. They showed up two days later on a Friday and I showed them around. The attached photo is all I have that resembles that first viewing, and it was somewhat more bleak than that. There was a basement, but only a ladder down. No stairway. They volunteered to climb down the ladder where the framing had already been constructed. they could at least get an idea of the floor plan. They didn’t say much. They scheduled a follow-up interview two weeks from that date, when they left.

I went in for the scheduled interview with intrepidation.  They drilled me on all sorts of questions for over an hour. Near the end of the interview they asked me two questions: First one was, “What are you going to do if we don’t approve your loan?’, to which I answered, “Well, I have a friend that will loan me the money (I didn’t), but I prefer not to use him because he will get 90% and I will only get 10%”. The second question was: “What if people don’t come to your restaurant and don’t like your idea. It isn’t the normal type of thing for a restaurant?” I honestly didn’t know what to say and there was this infinite pause, as I tried to think of an answer. Then, I looked at them and said “Well you can’t look at if no one is going to come to the restaurant. I know two friends who said they would come.” They laughed, and laughed and I got the loan.

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