Thursday, February 25, 2010
The Intrepid Entrepreneur
At the time, I was plagued by two problems, one of them being how to make a living. Opening a business could solve that, if only because I wouldn’t have to find someone willing to employ me. After five years of forms and lawyers, I still was not a legal resident and therefore not allowed to work or own a business. Manuel said I could put the business in his name until I had my papers. Surely, after so many years, it was imminent!
Mired in a financial and relationship crisis, I didn’t know if I should stay in Spain or return to the U.S. If I went back, I couldn’t afford California, so I would have to go somewhere new – I thought Pittsburgh. It had a lot going for it, plus my stepson and an old friend lived there. I was relatively certain that I could at least land a clerical job, whereas making a living had been a problem in Spain. Of course there would be the question of health insurance. So part of me thought I would go back for practical reasons, but another part of me thought I should stay here where my heart was. I had put a lot of effort into learning the culture, history, and language of my new home, and I didn’t want to throw all that away. Besides I had adopted Catalunya as my home, and I didn’t want to leave it. I thought it would help me decide if I talked to some of my friends. And in fact it did help.
Toba expressed concern for my old age. She thought I should live in a place where the cost of living was low and where I would have friends, an important consideration when I grew older. She didn’t think that opening up a shop was a good idea because it was risking money, and she thought it would be safer to go to Pittsburgh, get a job, and make friends.
My reaction was that I can’t be assured of having friends when I’m old no matter where I live. When my mother was old, her best friends were newly made. All her old friends had either died, moved away, or become incapacitated themselves so that they no longer were able even to go out and socialize. Old age is often a lonely time and a problem anywhere, but in Spain I would at least have good, free health care.
Then there was the matter of risking money. I don’t like thinking about money. I’ve never had much and never figured out how to make more. I could set a limit of how much I could afford to risk and plan around that.
Evie’s response felt right. She said I should live where I enjoy being. It’s not good to be too preoccupied with the future because most of it is not in our control. “People make plans and God laughs,” is a quote she sent me. So best to enjoy what we can now, preferably without shooting oneself in the foot.
Randy said he thought that like him, I had found a place I loved to be. He figured that was worth a lot and if I could work out a way, I should stay.
We ripped out the ugly plywood panels that some former tenant had put over the walls and ceiling. There was old stone wall and beamed ceiling underneath. Plastered walls received a pink tint, to blend with the lovely 100-year-old floor tiles that were a faded red and blue on (what was once) white.
The stock was varied and wonderful, all things that I, and most of my friends, would buy in a minute if we were out shopping. But in fact, very few American tourists ever came in, although those who did, and the few Japanese, were my best customers. Unfortunately, very few Americans or Japanese come to visit Tarragona and the local public is mostly lower middle class with a taste for cheap Chinese junk. One local lady came in a few times to chat and to tell me that my colorful, 100% cotton, Provençal tablecloths were more expensive than the dull, drab, synthetic Chinese imports they sold at the mercat.
I never had a big closeout sale. I was too angry. If my neighbors couldn’t enter, much less buy, while I was in business, they sure as hell weren’t going to tread over my dead body to get bargains when I closed. Like the cat in Nicole Hollander’s cartoon who dies and goes to kitty heaven, I was going to take it all with me. Some of the things that were on my store shelves now decorate my house and fill my kitchen cupboards, a few are in the homes of friends, and the rest are stored in Manuel’s basement. Some day, when I live in a place near a decent flea market, I will sell off what’s left to an interested and deserving public. L’Artesà was both my biggest failure and my greatest achievement, and I’ve never really been sorry that I did it.
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