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 Funny thing is, not to long after I stopped working there this policy was rescinded.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.