Tuesday afternoon I arrived at work to discover we had sold $40 of merchandise. Which was how much we were paying a young man to dance for three hours outside the store in a wolf costume - and $140 shy of what we payed the regular staff to be there to that point. We ended the night at $166, or about $624 shy of what we sold that same day last year. It was a low ebb. We have the staff, we have the fun store, there is plenty of awareness. But we are tracking at about 30% compared to last year. Next week is the Zombie Pub Crawl. If that week is not enormous, that will not presage well a profitable business.
Anything less than a $400,000 October will be the end, likely, of Monster Halloween (in America). $400,000 would mean a reasonable profit to the partners, on their three year investment, the staff would be entitled to a bonus, there would be talk about opening a year-round establishment, which would help vitalize the neighborhood, and I would have a near guarantee of income, for the first time in years. HD Masks would have seed money, and I could finally take this house off the grid. I want to plant hops, fruit trees and shrubs, and a vineyard. I can imagine passive solar as a partial solution to the heating problem at the Washington Ave site. Less than $400,000 by degrees, means there is less likely money to pay me for my work for HD Masks, at any rate according to market value, and I will likely descend into a long cold winters exploration of the nether reaches of consciousness, with my potatoes and my cookies and my seeds, with the house for sale.
Longer term, the Halloween industry is doomed. There are some who say there is plenty of oil, in sand flats and shale deposits, but if it comes to that kind of exploitation, so we can ship oil to China, so they can make and ship us cheap Halloween costumes, then Humanity is without hope of redemption. I sometimes don't know whether to pray for the demise of commercialism, or for the health of our store. It is an impossible paradox at times, the difference between the fossil-fuel derived merchandise we are selling, most of which is destined for landfills, and the need to sell it to support my continued existence in my house, while helping the partners achieve some kind of success.
Wednesday I spent most of the day contemplating the failure of our venture, which would mean the failure of my vision for this house. If Monster Halloween isn't a success, then my judgment for pushing this location is suspect, and I might as well give up this house and drift off into whatever. Late into the evening we were tracking at a third of what we'd done this day last year. Most of the day when I wasn't contemplating the failure of the venture, I was cutting back people's hours, none more than my own, which will be cut this week by about eighty percent. This, with two people Thursday, out of five, not showing up for work. I won't be working much at all the next four days. I suppose it's the mark of a good manager that his business run without him, except that I don't get paid if I'm not working, which means I've managed myself right out of the means to pay the bills. Genius.
In the last hour Wednesday we sold more merchandise than we did all day. A former mayor came in and bought a leg, a vial of blood and some spiders, and a kettle to carry them in. Several beautiful couples came in and purchased costumes. We didn't match last years total but we came a lot closer than we did Tuesday. It was a lot more fun that night than it has been. And then there was a request for the green man to appear at the Renaissance Festival this Saturday. It just so happens I have the day off. That should be fun.
The days off have past. I went to the Renaissance Festival this weekend, and was saddened by the overwhelming commercialism of the venture. Much of the spirit has vacated the place, or so it seemed that day of the Queen's coronation, which happened, though I was on the grounds and did not hear a word about it. In such a Renaissance-age village, one might think everyone would flock to see the Queen, on her coronation. There were no heralds, no jesters, no one calling of the ceremony, to draw people away from the vendors. Yes, the vendors have to make money, just as we do at Monster Halloween, but where has the culture strayed, when even the Queen dare not compete with consumer spending?
That, and there was very little of the heckling like I remember. when I was last there, 25 years ago. It was like some sort of corporate overloads stepped in and demanded, "tone it down!" The pickle vendors were without a voice. We Minnesotans are a touchy people, not to be made fun of. The one guy who heckled me was the dude in the fake stocks, sixty feet from the tomato launching pad. It was a good thing they gave me tomatoes that had already been thrown, because I could have taken the dude's eye out with those leather-hard industrial things, if they were whole. With two left he ripped off his bandanna and flung his long curly locks around, mocking my receding hair line. The last tomato hit the wood just below his head, gobs of tomato guts splashing upwards onto his face and up his nose. The crowd had a laugh. I didn't really want to hit him anyway.
I wore my wood swords. I made them. I saw many other swords, all steal, very nice looking, hardly a man wearing one who looked like he knew how to use it. Puke and Snot were the only ones I saw using swords, but they, the swords, were fake (Puke and Snot, the longest running act in Renaissance Festival history, were spot-on fun.) No one asked if I knew how to use mine. I met a sword maker who makes the only true swords I have ever seen. He picked up the very one I was admiring, to show me. It cost as much money as I have in the world. Which is fine, because I have no desire to cut anyone. What is the sword anyway, in this age when any idiot with a hand and fingers can pull a trigger, and any jerk can lead him?
The green man didn't make an appearance. Though had I known what the day would look like, I would have brought what I needed in with me, and crashed the staff-only after-party. (Thinking about it now, I'm a little surprised I didn't just get myself painted up and crash the party anyway - except that I was a little ill with a nasal infection, I drank too much, and I didn't have any bud.)
It's looking less and less like I'm going to have the money to maintain this house, or take it off the grid, like I've dreamed. If I have to sell it and give up that dream, I think I'll stop dreaming about achieving anything in this life altogether, and simply live. Without this house, then it's not the house, but myself I'll take off the grid - off the rez, so to speak. Who knows where that will lead? I'm thinking now of emptying the house and the garage of everything but my computers, my bikes, my canoe and some clothes. Quite honestly, homelessness doesn't sound so bad, knowing I can live outside too. The potato harvest looks like it's going to be a bust. Too wet the first half of the summer, too dry the second half and I didn't water much. I was shocked at how dry the soil was, when I began the harvest. Shocked more, at how few potatoes there were, and how small. The wine I spent two days making, is ruined. Nothing is certain in this life.
Though I did sample forty of my immature heavenly blue morning glory seeds, last night, in despair, weary of my life (as it is). I've come to a place knowing that no man or woman can do anything to pull me out of the dark place I find myself in, but me. Little happened, until I fell asleep.
If I could dream like that every night, I would be considerably stronger than I am.