I was Gonna Make a Million Bucks

A long, long time ago, well before I was a restaurant gal, I was going to make lot of money hosting children’s theme parties. I had an actual location, various theater-quality props, costumes, and a small army of high-school drama-club kids willing to serve cake and ice cream while dressed up as knights and astronauts and various cartoon-esque characters.

All was going quite well, until my landlord tripled my rent in an effort to force me out of my party space. He succeeded. Which was when my partner/great friend and I decided to take our show on the road.

We hoisted our props down the longest of driveways and into the finest of basement “family rooms” in the affluent D.C. suburbs. Our reputation for all-out fantastic events for five-year-olds soared. We had a waiting list of willing clients. I know our backsides are memorialized forever in hundreds of birthday party videos and snapshots.

Alas, we did not make the money we thought we would, despite charging ridiculously high fees to entertain the wee ones. You can only sling so much ice cream at so many urchins in one weekend. But the stories we told our friends and family at the end of the day! Oh, to have been blogging back then. But so many years ago, the Internet was in its mere infancy and this platform for writing was not in anyone’s vocabulary.

As the insanity of living and working in Key West continues to turn my world upside down and all around on an hourly basis, I recently contacted my old friend to hark back to those glorious olden days. We discovered that our individual memories of these events are quite disjointed, but through an email discourse that spanned days, we pieced together some of the highlights.

“Remember the father who answered the door wearing nothing but his white briefs?” my friend wrote.

“Wasn’t he the one who shot his BB gun at us from the widow’s walk of his mansion as we left?” I asked.

“Oh my God, yes!” she answered. “I remember asking you if bees were stinging you like they were me!”

“And then we looked up and saw him laughing and waving his gun,” I wrote back, wondering to myself how it was we escaped unharmed and why we didn’t call the police. Oh right, no cell phones back in the day.

“How about the fading beauty queen who showed us all her pageant trophies while sipping her “orange juice” at 9 a.m.?” my friend continued.

“Yeah, while the dad was smoking pot in the kitchen and instructing his house staff to unload our props,” I added.

“And how quiet and disengaged the kids were until we made up an extra strong batch of our purple punch to boost their moods with a vat of sugar,” she reminded me. And how we felt sick to our stomachs upon leaving that place, knowing that all the money the adults had invested in that mansion and the staff to care for it couldn’t do a thing to make life better for those kids.

“Of course, then there was the time we were setting up all the prizes in booths for a circus party, and the birthday boy and two friends ‘stole’ them all,” I wrote.

“I swear he was going to sell them to all the other kids at the party,” she laughed through her email.

And so we continued, back and forth, about the bounced checks and refusals to pay us, about the stereotypical drunk clowns and other whacked-out entertainers we met coming or going around our events.

“Remember the guy we pretty much dragged out of a gym next door and gave $20 to so he would play The Hulk for the kid who wouldn’t stop crying because his parents had promised The Hulk would be there, but had neglected to tell us?” Actually, that guy had a blast and really got into playing the part.

Some of our clients were incredible, in a wonderful way.

The family of a local football star who wouldn’t let us leave until they had fed us mounds of food from the buffet table and begged us to “feel free to take a swim” in the gigantic backyard pool.

The patriarch of another family who invited us to sit down and share our business plan over a glass of wine because he “made his money by working hard for every dime I ever earned, every day,” adding he had great respect for our obvious hard work.

The grandmother of one self-made zillionaire who said we should never forget that money is only so much nothing if it can’t bring back your health. She was dying of cancer, but her life had been full and good, she told us. I had forgotten about her until my friend and I were reminiscing. I won’t forget her again.

I have been writing this blog for four years this month. I have shared the fun and the funny, the not-so-fun and the very serious. I have lamented my angst and celebrated my small steps forward. The few days of reconnecting with an old friend about a work life long ago prompted much reflection upon what has been and what might be next.

The move to Key West has proven to be an enormous mistake, one I hope to correct soon. But good people to work for are out there, old friends will always be in my heart, life will continue to unfold. Most importantly, it is time to remember how full and good life really is, and to reach out and hold dear those who have made it so.







21 responses to “I was Gonna Make a Million Bucks”

  1. savannah Avatar

    thank you for sharing your life/your words with me, RG! xoxoxo

  2. jali Avatar

    I think that the move was good in that you’ve figured out that Key West just isn’t home for you.

    If you hadn’t tried, then you’d forever wonder ‘what if.”

    You’ve learned, you’ve adapted, you’ve grown.

    None of these sounds like a mistake.


  3. Nicole Avatar

    If you hadn’t done it you would have gone maybe, what if. Now that you have it can be chalked up to “been there, done that, didnt work out, time to move on …” Good luck with your next adventure and I hope it brings more joy and laughter 🙂

  4. Jennifer Avatar

    Darlin’, you and I are of a similar age, and we both know that, even though life can suck mightily sometimes, when you get to the good stuff, you know you wouldn’t have arrived there without getting through the crap first.

    You’re a strong, amazing woman. Wherever you’re going is the right place to be.

  5. María José Avatar

    wow turns out we have this in common!…

    My mom is an awesome baker and some years ago we started a party buisiness where i would go to kid’s birthdays with baked but undecorated cookies in animal shapes, so that the children could decorate them with frosting and sprinkles… not very delicious, but they love it.
    I also charged lots of money, but now I just do it ocasionally. I rather work in a children-free office.
    Anyways, the rich mommys, awesome parties (one featured real ponies, a fair, a merry-go-round, and stands with ice cream, popcorn and all kinds of junk food), careless dads and spoiled kids are all good memories, I have to admit.

  6. L. Avatar

    Happy Blog Anniversary – and thanks you I enjoyed the post and the trip down Memory Lane.

  7. CL Jahn Avatar

    In retrospect, it might not have been the best choice, but it certainly wasn’t a mistake. You learned a thing or three. You lived to reflect on it. Now and forever, you are one of the few who can boast that they lived in Key West.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Restaurant Gal, Restaurant Gal. Restaurant Gal said: New RG post: I was Gonna Make a Million Bucks https://restaurantgal.com/2010/01/i-was-gonna-make-a-million-bucks/ […]

  9. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Savannah–Some day you need to travel further south and say hey in person!

    Jali–Hey you! Miss you.

    Nicole–I guess. But I am really looking to settle some place, some where. I was so hoping Key West was it. What a rude awakening!

    Jennifer–Thanks. I just wish age=grown up!

    Maria Jose–Always love to hear from you. Once we arrived to do a party, only to find out we were the warm-up act for the full-blown circus being set up on an outer pasture of an estate.

    L.–Thank you! Traveling down Memory Lane is a great way to retrieve one’s perspective.

    CL Jahn–Well, you are right, of course. But should anyone ask me if THEY should make a move to Key West, I would steer them anywhere else on the planet.

  10. rdler Avatar

    Wow! I am always blown away by your posts. Incredibly poignantly written.

    One weekend, I am going to throw the kid outside, turn off the phones and TV and just read your archives from Day 1.

    I really do look forward to your posts.

  11. Linda S Avatar
    Linda S

    RG, do you have a plan for your next move? I love your willingness to take risks. I have fantasies of picking up and trying out life somewhere else, but the one time I tried, I decided it wasn’t for me. So now I can live vicariously through your adventures.

  12. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    rdler–Well, that would be a looooong time to leave the kid outside 🙂 At some point, I need to clean out a few posts so it won’t be such a feat to get through those archives. Thank you for even thinking about doing so, and for the nice compliment about my writing.

    Linda S–I do have several plans, but they are a tad up in the air. I wouldn’t change anything about what I’ve done over the past few years (well, except the move to Key West), but I am really looking forward to sharing adventures from a place I can call home. Appreciate your reading along with me.

  13. mags Avatar

    Happy anniversary restaurant gal. I’ve been reading your blog for a while – and really enjoy your writing. Good luck with your future endeavors…and, as always – thanks for sharing.

  14. joeinvegas Avatar

    Will the correction be via a job change, or a movement north? (well, isn’t everything US now north?)
    Sorry it’s been so bad.

  15. Mike Avatar

    RG, haven’t been able to read the blog recently, what a great story to come back too…

  16. rdler Avatar

    Okay, RG, your threat of editing your posts motivated me. I am now up through August 2006, and didn’t even put my kid out in the cold (relatively) Florida weather tonight to get there.

    I should have read your first post first, before I was alerted to this blog. It all makes sense. You are a writer! I just love what you do.

    Tomorrow, I get to 2007.

  17. Kim Ayres Avatar

    I look forward to the continuing tales, wherever you end up 🙂

  18. Binx Avatar

    Well RG you always take on each new chapter with a good heart and lots of optimism so whatever is next for you will work out fine. You’ve got my help if you end up in Boston ;->

  19. Craig Avatar

    Wow…four years. I can remember your first blog…and have been reading it ever since. miss you and look forward to getting together wherever you end up.

  20. d Avatar

    Are you going back to where you used to live & tend bar again? Or someplace completely new?

  21. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Mags–Thank you much.

    JoeinVegas–Leaving this rock, moving north, not sure how long I’ll be in the Keys. Thanks.

    Mike–Thank you!

    rdler–Wow, good luck with the read. I would be curious to know which posts stand out to you–i.e., which one or two from each year? I ask because I have my favorites, but I am always curious about what touches my readers. God love you for pushing through the years of writing!

    Kim–So good to know you hang in there with me.

    Binx–Boston, eh? Well, if I go way north again, it would likely be back to DC. But at this point, I think I’m staying put in South Florida until I can make back some of the money I wasn’t paid over the past two months in Key West.

    Craig–Love you. Miss you.

    d–Not really sure. I can’t get my old job back because they hired a bunch of folks to fill my shifts. I have a couple of potential jobs that have presented themselves over the past week. Could be the Keys (just not Key West), or could be off all the rocks and onto the mainland. We’ll see.