Saturday, April 12, 2008

COWs and Characters

I can now say, "The COWS have come home!" My good friend, more like a brother from another mother, Matt at Bagwine Ruminations honored me with my second COW (comment of the week). If you constitution is strong and there aren't any impressionable young ones in the room, go by a pay him a visit. He is very quick with the wit and if you look beneath the surface you'll see a very intelligent guy who blends truth and sarcasm seamlessly.

Thanks Matt-Man

I thought it might be fun to introduce you to one of the many characters I shared the kitchen with back in the restaurant days. Today's choice comes from the home of SweetRiver Saloon in Santa Rosa, CA.

"The River" as many of us that worked there would call it, was a mix of a family style restaurant in the dining room and social area in the bar. Being attached to a shopping mall, so it was always busy and it wasn't uncommon to serve 150-200 lunches and as many dinners during any given day.

I remember starting work at 6:00am some mornings and when they were short handed for the night shift I would work a double finishing up at 6:00-10:00pm. Generally this would be done with only a couple of hours in between for a break. Ah yes, to be young again. Nineteen years old as a matter of fact.

Now when your shift was over The River had an interesting policy. It seems you could go the the bar area and have a cocktail, (or two, or three) at 50% off the regular price. Not wanting to pass up a good deal most of my fellow employees and myself felt it was our civic duty to oblige the management with their more than generous offer. Think about this for a moment. Offering half priced alcohol to restaurant employees was like waving a cheeseburger in front of a man who had been marooned on an island for several years. I still to this day don't know why they ever thought this was a good idea. Funny thing is, not to long after I stopped working there this policy was rescinded. I like to think my friends and I had something to do with that.

One other part of the "Let you employees get hammered at the workplace arrangement", was that you could also charge your bar tab towards your paycheck. So every two weeks when payday would roll around they would calculate your tab and subtract it from your earnings. Yes this company was truly run by rocket scientists.

At the beginning of this story I told you I was going to introduce you to one of the characters I worked with. Now is that time. The picture below is of Larry SaintClair, or Lawrence as some called him. The picture is from Halloween one year, but believe it or not, this is actually a pretty good shot of him. In fact I do recall on more than one occasion he looked much worse than this at 6:00 am.

You know his given name and one of his nicknames, but the one most of us would refer to him was "Harry Scary Larry". To fully appreciate this name you would have had to know him, although from the photograph, I think you get a pretty good idea.

One particular HSL memory was on a payday. Randy, Mo and I had finished up for the day and were sitting in the lounge, (sounds so much more civilized than bar don't you think?) when Larry comes walking up looking quite glum. One of us, I don't recall who, said, "Hey Larry, gonna have a beer with us?"

This would have actually meant a shot of house brandy and a Budweiser. These would have been Larry's signature choices, but this day he surprised all of us and said, "I can't"

As far as any of us could remember this was the first time he had turned down a libation in front of us. Naturally we sere amazed and asked why. The response just about made us horse laugh ourselves silly. He went on to tell us that his bar privileges had been temporarily revoked and then threw his paycheck stub down on the table for us to look at.

I can still see the number as plain as if were yesterday. There in the lower right hand corner in bold type read, "NET EARNINGS - $16.38"

That was his total remaining earnings for two weeks work after the bar tab had been subtracted. "What are you going to do Larry?" Randy asked. "I'm going to go home, have a glass of milk and read a book!" was all he said.

Stories of this man's antics could fill up several pages and I'll be sure to include some more of them in the future.

For the record: Alcoholism is a serious affliction that grips hundreds of thousands of us each year. I make light of a time in my youth only because the circumstances surrounding it were quite comical at the time. I came to the realization a little over five years ago that I too had a problem with controlling my drinking. I made a choice to stop and haven't touched it in 5+ years. Alcohol isn't a problem for many and I hope I don't sound self righteous about it, but for me stopping was the right choice.


Travis said...

There's a fine line with alcohol. I don't think I had a problem with more than any 20-something guy going out and doing what 20-something guys do.

But I also chose to give it up. I remember feeling like it could become a problem. I'll have an occasional brew or a glass of wine, or a cocktail, but that's about it.

jennifer said...

I liked your post and loved your ending footnote. Way to go Jeff. There are people that I know that I dearly wish would make the same decision that you have. I personally can have two or three drinks and be extremely buzzed. My tolerance is very low. So I just don't do it. But it isn't a problem for me. Now sweets on the other hand. I NEED for someone to schedule an intervention for my sweets addiction.

Be blessed.


Real Live Lesbian said...

Larry looks...interesting. ;)

I think we all have our problem areas. Like Jennifer, mine is sweets. Gave them up exactly two weeks ago. Fourteen days. It's hard. I have a new appreciation for anyone giving up an addiction. I'm amazed that anyone does it.

Poor Larry. Owing at the end of two weeks. That next two weeks had to be a long wait!

Congrats on the award! And I LOVE the new pic!!!

Lady in red said...

I applaud you Jeff I do know it is very hard as I was married to an alcoholic. THe hard thing was realising that his problem became the family's problem.

He was offered help but he refused it. We are now divorced

Mel said...

Oh now ya know I relate well to Larry.
Especially the 'scary' part. LOL

Go figure I worked in places that did the same--that no longer have that policy.

Congratulations on the award! And I'm very much likin' the new profile shot!
Definitely all YOU! :-)

Akelamalu said...

Congratulations on the award. I'll pop by and take a look at Matt.

Very crafty of the management to offer 50% off drinks to staff but they didn't reckon on them 'drinking The River dry' did they? :)

buffalodickdy said...

Try having an expense account where drinks are free... Then have the world change, and nobody can drink at lunch! Booze is big business- making it, selling it, then arresting people, fining them, jailing them, rehabbing them... It's a closed circle, self feeding, triving part of the economy. Weird, ain't it?

leelee said...

Jeff, My hubs and I too, gave up drinking 17 years ago. The party was fun, but it never we ended it. I liked your story and meant to tell you that I like your new profile picture. I agree with others that you and your son together must be a force to be reckoned with (in a fun way).


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Odat said...

Me too jeff, me too....One Day at a Time.....(25 years!) Peace.

Jeff B said...

travis- It's a fine line indeed. For some it really isn't a problem at all. In fact if people drink around me that's fine, doesn't bug me in the least. For me to join in with them would be a big mistake though.

Jennifer- There's a vice for every human, and the one that says he/she doesn't have a problem with something is kidding themself.

Real LL- Good for you on giving up sweets. That's a tough one for many, myself included. Keep it up!

Larry was most definitely "Interesting". I think I could tell stories about him for two weeks straight, maybe more.

Mel- I'm glad you didn't say you could relate to the harry part! Bwahahahaha

Akelamalu- It was one of the strangest policies I remember.

Buffalo- Great point. It can be a viscious cycle. Alcohol consumption has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades. I wonder what the per capita averages look like now as compared to 1988?

LeeLee- That's a long dry spel. Good for you both. Like you said, "the party never ended". When something controlls you, its time to let it go.

Mouse- Sorry don't do the advertisement blog.

Odat- Wow, 25 years...very cool. Hows that retired life treating you? Like I have to ask.

Red- Not wanting to lose my wife and two young boys was a huge motivating factor for me. Sorry your ex didn't get the message in time.

Sandi McBride said...

I don't know,but when you look back at some of the people you used to hang with, does it ever scare you? Do you ever feel you're lucky to be alive? Does it give you a sense of Deja Vu when you look at some of your kids friends? Do you ever want to whisper in their ear "runnnn". I don't know about you, but it scares ME looking at some of the people you used to run with.

Jeni said...

Great post, Jeff. I too have had more than my fair share of episodes involving alcohol and often I can talk about them and laugh but some of them, when I think back, make me really shudder at what could have happened but thankfully, didn't. Although alcohol abuse played a very large part in my divorce, I can't really blame it for all the problems -just most of 'em.
Thanks too for putting that last paragraph in. No, it was not the least bit self-righteous - just honest and I think that's the best policy where this is concerned. Thanks again for a job well done.

Rhea said...

Harry Scary Larry is definitely scary looking!

I can't believe the policies at that restaurant. CRAZINESS!!

Good for you for realizing you had a problem and doing something about it. Congrats on your five years sober!

Starrlight said...

Funnily enough the restaurant I worked for had the same bar policy and I would do the books on Saturday's. There were some SAD employees, let me tell you. Here via Matt btw!

Jeff B said...

Sandi- I do feel fortunate to have left that world behind in tact. Others haven't been as lucky.

Jeni- Alcohol abuse has probably touched most of the people out there in some way whether direct or indirectly. I'm glad this hasn't been taken as me being on some kind of high horse or a crusade.

Rhea- He really was a pretty decent guy, just had a hard life and made some really, really bad choices along the way.

Starrlight- Thanks for coming over. I'm sure you have some similar tales from the biz.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

Congratulations on winning the COW again. Well deserved.

Alcohol can be a problem for some and others not. You are right. I enjoy a cocktail now and then, but that's it. I see some that drink around the clock and I can't imagine that. I understand why, but can't imagine that for me. Good for you for giving it up. :)

Matt-Man said...

Ha. Good story Jeff. Thanks for the more than kind words, you cattle baron, you. Cheers!!

Jahooni said...

congrats on a nother dang award, of course, i haven't won that one or any other as a matter of fact.

i remember those days of being 19. so long ago.... funny story. do you still see your friends from there?

congrats on your sobriety. i will soon be there with you, but not just yet! remember... i am off to mexico next weekend and i know that a cocktail has my name on it! ;)~

The Teamster said...

22 years sober jeff....but now I drink 3 cases of diet dr. pepper a day.....great post....

Roger said...

I know that guy!

Congrats on your second Cow!

I haven't had a drink sense last New Years eve and then just a couple of beers. I just don't need a daily hangover like I use to get.

To much to do!

Jeff B said...

Sandee- "Moderation is the key" is a cliche that seems to hold up im so many cases.

Matt- Thanks again. I really enjoy the banter with you, and your gift for poignant humor is unparaleled

Jahooni- I do have a couple of friends I'm still in contact with from those wild and crazy days.

Teamster- Good for you. I'm a Dr Pepper guy too, but can't do the diet stuff.

Roger- Hangover free days are definitely a plus.

Marilyn said...

Hubby's been sober longer than I've known him... the Scary Lary type stories would be even scarier if I didn't have a few of my own.

Congrats on 5+ years... and Congrats on the Cows.

david mcmahon said...

So many lessons there, Jeff

CrazyCath said...

Wise words and very balanced account Jeff! I think most of us had "wild days" at 19 or so.

He does look quite scary. The paycheck seemed to sober him up quick enough. You are of course quite right about alcoholism and I am glad for you that you managed to take control again - 5+ years - well done!

Great post. Great memories for you.

CrazyCath said...

Oh and congrats on the award! You're collecting them I see - well deserved! ;0)

nitebyrd said...

Your post made me remember the "Larrys" of my past. LOL

Jeff, your not being preachy or a PITA. You've done what's right for you and that's an honorable thing. There a many, many alcoholics in my family so I watch myself too. No shame in being smart.

Bond said...

As soon as I read that they let you run a tab off of your paycheck, I said to myself 'wonder how many people spent it all before they got it?'

Then you told the story.

I have friends who have given up drinking. I think it is certainly an individual choice. I certainly drank much more in my youth and still will have cocktails or beer or wine...

All things in moderation for most...for is abstinence

Congrats on the award...

Ron said...

Congrats on the award, Jeff...much deserved!

Thanks for an awesome and honest post. You're story sounds much like my own brother. And like you...he has given it up.

BRAVO to you!

Addiction of ANY kind is tough. For me, like others here have shared...SWEETS/SUGAR are a HUGE addiction. And sometimes coffee!

I'm a regular BUZZZZ machine!

Thanks again for sharing a part of your journey, bud!

Anndi said...

Congrats on the award, you clever man you!

Unfortunately, not everyone realizes what their limit is and end up having alcohol entirely too often. I hope being banned from "The Lounge" helped your friend...

Jeff B said...

Marilyn- I think it's safe to say that we all some of those stories.

David- Soe lessons are harder than others to finally grasp.

Crazycath- His paycheck (or the lack there of) gave him a bit of a wake up call.

Nitebyrd- Glad I didn't come off as being preachy. Lord knows we all have enough of that in our lives.

Bond- There were others who made a pretty big dent in their earnings too, but Larry wone the top prize.

Ron- I'm glad you and the others have appreciated my honesty. There are those outside of this blogging community that would question why I would talk about such things accross the internet, but that's just who I am. I don't want to be one person here and another in the "real" world.

Anndi- I lost touch with him shortly after leaving that job, but he was unfortunately already heading down a path of destruction again.

Hammer said...

In my 20's I drank a few paychecks.

Now that I'm older I've learned to drink cheap beer at home :)

gypsy-heart said...

My first visit here due to Ron, our mutual friend!

I appreciate your honesty and your sense of humor!

Alcoholism was very much in my Mother's side of the family, and my Father's side were religious nuts. It is no wonder they divorced..and that I am such a crazy bitch! hee, hee.

Thank god both sides have a sense of humor..that is how we all survived!

I'll be back to visit..I need to understand the "cow thing." :)

katherine. said...

you are hogging all the COWs!!
(but always well deserved)

My uncle and I were discussing alcohol consumption in our family a few days ago. Who drinks..who doesn't...who shouldn't.

(there was a bit of drinking the night before and I had opted out so there was at least one driver sober...turned out to be a good idea)

I have a high degree of respect for those of you who have given it up and keep giving it up every day.

What years were you in Santa Rosa?