What sort of company would you start if you had the chance?

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The following are all businesses I’ve considered starting if ever I had the money and the time. (The last one is the most likely to happen in the near future.)

Bar

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I love bars. Well, some bars. Well, actually very few bars. Most bars in the United States are dive bars. Dark, gloomy places with garish neon signs, crap beer, watery cocktails, a poorly dressed clientele, rude waitstaff, horrific restrooms, and loud obnoxious music. People only go there because they want to get drunk or laid. Not very classy. The only other option these days seems to be these pretentious gastropubs with peppy atmosphere, waitstaff with odd piercings and tattoos and hairdos, faux rustic décor, overpriced beers and wines, and a decidedly hipster-ish clientele. And loud obnoxious music. Damn it to Hades, aren’t there any honest bars anymore?

I’ve always wanted to try starting up a pub. Nothing fancy. Nothing pretentious. Nothing masquerading as a pub and then overcharging for the atmosphere. Just a laid-back place where people can sit and talk and drink in comfort. Cocktails that actually have flavor, and are made with quality ingredients in the traditional style. A small but diverse selection of tasty beers—none of this barley wine, sour beer, or mango-kiwi-guava-passionfruit cider nonsense. Quiet music, or none at all. If there is a television—and that’s a big “if”—it’s gonna be a small one, stuck in a corner, eternally tuned to a sports channel: golf or soccer or fishing. I’m envisioning something like Sunset & Vinyl. Or one of those Korean LP bars I used to frequent.

Gun shop

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love gun shop scenes in films. Tuco assembling a Colt 1851 Navy cartridge conversion out of three separate revolvers in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Kevin Bacon buying guns from John Goodman in Death Sentence, and Goodman ad-libbing funny little commentary about each gun on the spot. Travis Bickle buying guns from Easy Andy in Taxi Driver, and Andy cooing over each weapon like it’s a pet instead of an inanimate object.

But since these are Hollywood films, and Hollywood films tend to be written by, directed by, and acted in by people who haven’t the first clue about firearms, I’ve noticed that quite a bit of what’s said during a typical “gun shop scene” in a film is 100% grade-A bull-squeeze.

And unfortunately, matters don’t improve much in the real world. Every gun owner has a story about the time they went to a gun shop and the owner or the person who assisted them fed them some complete codswallop about a firearm (or a whole brand of firearms).

So what I’d want to run is an “honest gun shop.” We don’t tell you to buy guns. We don’t try to upsell you. We don’t throw shade at one gun manufacturer or the other. (I hate Glocks, but I’d never presume to tell you not to buy one—you gotta do what’s right for you.) We carry Hi-Points. We carry the red-headed stepchildren of the gun world. If you want one, we’ll sell it to you. I’ll answer any questions you have about a particular weapon or family of weapons, as objectively as I know how, and let you make up your own dang mind about which one you want.

Plus I just think the idea of owning a gun store would be cool. Getting to decorate it would be fun. Selecting and purchasing the merchandise would be really fun. Talking about and being surrounded by guns all day would be freaking awesome.

Jousting school

This is a weird one. This is actually a rejected novel idea I had a few years back. Some old guy buys a farm or a ranch somewhere and fills it with draft horses, and with the rest of his money starts a little museum about the Middle Ages, with suits of armor and period clothing and other exhibits. Somehow or other he winds up mentoring a bunch of troubled teens and gradually forms a sort of “Chivalry Academy for Troubled Teens.” The kids all get into suits of armor and learn how to joust on horseback, with lances, just like they did in tournaments in the old days. Like any coming-of-age story, the kids would learn something about life along the way, both from the old man and from what they learn about chivalry and knighthood as they learn to joust. I even thought about throwing in an element of competition—a big tournament with a rival jousting school in the next county over or something.

Honestly, I think we’re too soft on kids these days. We shelter them too much. There are certain dangerous things that children should be allowed to do. Even though jousting obviously carries with it a serious risk of injury, I think it could teach kids a lot—about history, about animal husbandry, about teamwork (the kids would take turns being knights and squires, and they’d all pitch in to take care of the horses), about self-reliance, about fair play, and about life in general. I love big ol’ draft horses (back in the 80s and 90s my grandfather had a ranch up in Nevada County with a whole herd of Clydesdales). I love history. And I just love sharing my interests with others, especially impressionable youths who spend too much time looking at their phones and following brain-dead celebrities on Twitter or Instagram.

Flightseeing tour company

I’m a pilot, too, in case you didn’t know. I love to fly. I love to meet new people, especially foreigners. And I’m told that I have a way of explaining even the most boring subjects that makes them sound fun and interesting. People often say that I should have been a docent or a tour guide. And my dad’s a geologist, too. I know way more about water tables and the lithosphere and erosion and the law of superposition than most people. So I have a feeling I’d be pretty good at piloting helicopters or small planes over the Grand Canyon or Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii and explaining all about these geological features.

I’ve flown with several flightseeing tour companies (in Hawaii, California, and elsewhere) and it seems like a lot of fun. The company I flew with in Hawaii was owned and operated by a geology professor, as I recall. His company was basically how he was funding his research, if I remember correctly. He managed to procure a couple of aircraft and hire some pilots and started the company. Now people go on flightseeing tours over Kauai in his planes and, in the meantime, the professor collects both funding and data. Genius. He had a cozy little office at the local airport and the business seemed beautifully simple to own and operate. And hella profitable, too, given its location. I’m not one to say “I could do that” lightly, but it seems to me that I could do that.

Bed and breakfast

This is something my wife and I have been talking about. She loves taking care of people. She loves cleaning, the weirdo. She loves baking. She loves making people feel at home and well looked after. So I said to her, “Heck, why don’t we start a B&B?” The idea caught hold of her and burned like wildfire. We’ve been looking at ranches and other large properties in Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida ever since. (I keep trying to talk her into moving to Hawaii, but the idea of living on an island freaks her out—which is kind of ironic since she’s of Hawaiian ancestry. She doesn’t like seafood, either.)

We’re thinking of having a nice big property, sort of like a combination of B&B and dude ranch. Ten or twelve cabins for guests, each with WiFi and maybe even Alexa. We’ll build a big main house where Sarah will serve up delicious meals and baked goods. Horses for trail-riding. A dirt or grass runway for people to fly in and out in their small planes. A big outdoor gun range so people who’ve never shot guns before can try some of my extensive collection. Helicopter rides. Horse camping. Fishing. Hiking. Stargazing. Cookouts. Wine tasting. I could even set up a projector and show classic movies against the wall of the barn on nice nights. A real country retreat. Doesn’t that sound nice?

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