Obsessing About the Little Things

Is this what a panic attack feels like? Can a panic attack last for hours? Days? I’m not sure if what I’m experiencing is age-related or scared-shitless-starting-a-new-business-related. I do know I’ve never felt anything like it. I wake up in the middle of the night and am wide awake. I can jump out of bad at 8am or sleep all day regardless of what I’ve done the night before. It’s 9:30 right now and I’m ready to go to sleep. I get weird bursts of inexplicable energy and wind up scrubbing cupboards, buying light bulbs, cleaning out the refrigerator or randomly chucking stuff into the trash. I can go all day and not remember if I’ve eaten anything or inhale a bag of peanut M&Ms in one sitting. I can stay in my apartment, online shopping for light fixtures and industrial sinks, or spend hours Photoshopping pointless memes about “patience” or “motivation.”


I don’t always know what day it is. My Christmas tree is still up. I managed to take the decorations off but…I was enjoying the pine smell. Except now even that has faded. This past week I got to see what happens when three professional men get into a weird pissing contest via emails. Let’s just say that even people who’ve gone to law school are still capable of acting like children. Of sending an email that says, essentially, blah-blah-blah, I’m gonna take my marbles and go home. Thankfully my fairy barmother was able to talk them all back from their respective ledges while I hyperventilated into paper bags and tried not to panic.

bernard tinkering.jpg

Photo by Sarah Kate Kramer

While waiting for the interminable wheels to churn — and let me tell you, nothing takes as long or is as laced and laden with red tape like opening a fucking bar in New York City — I mire myself in the minutiae of what I can control. I contact more DJs about mix CDs. I email more contractors. And I visited Faerman Cash Register Co. Lemme tell you, this place is like falling into a time warp. The 50-something proprietor introduced me to his 94-year-old father. “Did he start this business?” I asked. Nope, his father did. So I’d bet nothing has changed in this shop since a century ago. At least. Thank goodness they own the building, so they won’t get booted for some high-rise bullshit. But the guy has two daughters, neither of whom are interested in taking over the unnamed.jpgbiz. Maybe some oddball friend of mine might become suddenly intrigued by cash registers? Join this man as an apprentice? Anyway, there wasn’t one new thing in the whole damn place. I ran my fingers lovingly over antique brass machines that sadly wouldn’t work for me because their cash drawers don’t have enough slots for more than one denomination of bills. Such a shame because they are beautiful. I’ll probably be buying one of the Good Boys 1900 models, pictured on the right. If you would like to read more about the unusual shop, there’s a wonderful article here.

I’ve also subscribed to Gaz Regan‘s newsletter and bought his book, The Joy of Mixology. I signed up for his “Cocktails in the Country” weekend seminar-type thing that won’t be happening until “the spring.” I bought a “passbook” to “Winter Tippler,” which gets me 15 fancy cocktails at 15 fancy cocktail bars. I’ve been Googling “best this” and “best that” to gauge drink prices, size up the competition and figure out what’s popular. I’ve been scribbling down ideas for crazy drink specials…or specialty drinks. And during those hours I wind up awake at weird hours, I worry about the millions of things that can go wrong.

So as the opening day is projected further and further into the future, I can only wait. And wait. And continue to obsess about all those little things.

23 responses to “Obsessing About the Little Things

  1. Panic attacks are horrible. You quite literally feel like you’re going to die. People go to the hospital for them thinking it is a heart attack or stroke. I think you’re probably and justifiably stressed and anxious. It’s easy for this move to look like do-or-die, my last roll of the dice endeavor.

    I know you aren’t asking for advice, but I’m going to lob some at you anyway cause I’m a bag-of-douche like that. Long walks, maybe with an ipod. I haven’t done yoga, but I hear it is also really great at clearing the mind.

    I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder … from a real doctor with degrees and everything. This means, EVERY phone call from my boss must mean I’m going to be fired, Every cough is lung cancer, Messages on my voice mail must be news of a death in the family, or some doctor with a horrible disease diagnosis, and there is probably an eviction notice in my mailbox at this very minute.

    Fun huh?

    Don’t let this crap get to you too much Abby. You’re a reasonably tough cookie, and for what it’s worth I think you’re in for a fairly long, stressful ride, that will inevitably turn out OK.

    • Yeah, it’s definitely gonna be a long, bumpy ride. I just wanna get behind the bar and work! Or at least into the space…First things first! And breathe… Thanks for the advice. I work out every other day and walk a lot!

  2. Prioritize. (You know this.) Take care of that which requires the most immediate attention to get the doors open and the bar up.

    The DJs and CD mixes can wait (can’t they?); though you have a talent for event planning, this will come later, after the soft opening.

    Are “fancy cocktails” what will lure (and keep) customers? Is this THAT TYPE of bar, or are you patterning yours after the dive bars you know and love? If the latter, you’re simply spinning your wheels on the former.

    Likewise bathroom tiles with inlaid pennies. Resist. Better energies spent on proper running faucets and clog-resistent toilets. Toto, though expensive, works really well. An investment that will pay you back over time.

    Most urgent is getting fannies on to bar stools–people other than friends. The rest will fall into place. Fear not, you know more than you think you do.

    • Wow, you sure do know how to run my business. While the lawyers do their thing I can obsess about the music, which I want on the jukebox before any asses are on any barstools. I am, indeed, prioritizing. Until papers are signed there isn’t much I can do. Renovations begin as soon all the permits are ready. And before then I can pick fixtures and paint colors and wood for floors. As for the fancy cocktails, I used quotes. They will be joke-y takes on fancy cocktails. The pennies in the bathroom? Happening. There will also be running toilets, obviously. I don’t plan on decorating a non-functioning bathroom. So glad I have you on my team!

  3. Can’t discern from this rejoinder whether serious or snarky.

    A good bathroom will never be a lure, but a bad bathroom may just prevent me from coming back, or doing my necessaries elsewhere.

  4. cirque de soliel (las vegas) meets brooklyn? or the movie with parker posey who shoots her brother (if i remember correctly)?

  5. Well, that sort of proves the point. A good bathroom is a good amenity and a bad bathroom…….(even I can’t believe we’re continuing this thread of the conversation.) But you get the idea. You don’t want to call a [New York City] plumber at 10pm, and you don’t want to be fined by the New York City Department of Health because your toilet was clogged at 10pm and your patrons are using the side alley for the pit stop.

    • I can’t believe we’re having this conversation either. You have, for the second time, sort of assumed that I haven’t done my homework or am perhaps an idiot. I am thinking about decor (and other things) while I wait for the red tape. I’m hiring professionals to do the work and will be a part of the process of buying fixtures. I’m sure I’ve been to waaaaay more bars in NYC than you have so I think I’m fairly well informed. You’re welcome to continue giving me your input but I do, as the kids say, “have this.”

  6. I’m not assuming anything, I’m merely posing the question. This was in the context of “prioritizing” and you, by your own admission, obsessing over minutiae. If I might further add (a cliche) or show support, I was merely suggesting you keep your eye on the ball.

    I have no doubt you’ve seen more bar bathrooms than I have. My liver thanks me every day.

  7. That’s not what I meant but I’ll drop it here. You seem to delight in picking a fight where this is none. It’s all over your voluminous writing. But we’ll save that for another day. Or not.

    • You seem to be the one who picks the fights. But perhaps you’ve misinterpreted what I’ve written. Wouldn’t be the first time. Of course it could always be the last!

  8. The best evidence of how [poorly] you get along with others is how you write about them on your blog (often enough transferring your dialogues from okcupid) and how you respond to comments made to your blog entries. You are the one making the assumptions, not the least of which when 3–who offered mild reproaches–told you they support your [bar] effort.

    • I have literally hundreds of friends with whom I get along wonderfully. Maybe I’m better in the flesh than I am online. And better with people I can see as opposed to some anonymous commenter whose face I can’t see, tone of voice I can’t hear and inclinations toward (or away from) me are indiscernible.

  9. “I have literally hundreds of friends with whom I get along wonderfully.”

    Good for you. And you alienate too many others, including those supportive of you.

  10. I got the same symptoms. Think it’s related with jumping off a cliff and quitting the steady job with a house of children depending on it. You and I are at the age of Saturn return again – I know it sounds “hippy”, but it does make for pivotal times. Every twenty five years, or so, we are compelled to rearrange our lives. But most don’t have the courage. What you are doing is how legends are made! Following your dreams in your fifties takes brass.

    Nothing wrong with cleaning out the cupboards at 2 am. It’s good for ya! There’s a fine line between anxiety and excitement — insanity and genius.

    By the way – that’s the exact same National cash register model that I rang on for the twenty years at the Bacchus. I loved that thing! Used to polish it every day. We were the only bar in the neighborhood that was open in the ’89 quake because the power was out and our register had a crank. Ha!

    We were candle lit and packed! One of the most fun nights I can remember in SF. (aside from the death and all…)

    All will be well – it’s YOU fer christ sake!

    Coyote >

  11. You have got this. FWIW I read the advice comment and thought “where did she ask for advice?”. I took it more of a description of how your brain and body is responding to a new situation… A bit of anxiety as the lawyers duke it out is probably a healthy response. If you find making memes calming carry on. BTW my favorite drink is a french75 with a maraschino cherry no twist. It’s named after a cannon if that makes it more interesting.

  12. Thanks, you two. ^ I get that nothing worth a damn comes easily and the panic and fear are part and parcel of the process. And no, I haven’t really asked for advice on here. I have, however, asked for advice from just about every person I know who has ever owned or worked in a bar. I continue to. Yesterday I went to visit a barmaid who writes for the NYTimes, on recommendation of Gaz Regan, cocktailian extraordinaire. Haven’t met him yet but I’m signed up for his course. I can’t get enough of the advice from people who are actually IN the business and actually KNOW what they’re talking about! The unsolicited advice from strangers, who profess to have my best interests but whose comments lead me to believe otherwise? Not so much. Anyway, I know my friends (yes, those “literally hundreds of them”) DO have my best interests in mind AND are all wishing me luck. Plus the new people I meet every day, who I share my excitement and fears with, are all enrolled in my success. I make friends easily, contrary to what some might believe. But of course, you all know that! Anyway…onward.

  13. Part of being an entrepreneur is blocking out the naysayers. Doesn’t matter what you start or when, there will be people who are naturally risk averse who will tell you, you’re nuts. It is because they can’t imagine doing it themselves.

    The trick is to know when the advice is worth listening to, and you seem on the right track with that by focusing on getting feedback only from those in the business who you can trust. It is always good to talk to as many people as possible, but the right people. Internet trolls can safely be ignored.

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