Friday, June 22, 2012

Ralph and Rich

As you stagger your way through life, certain people have a major impact on the course your life follows. Sometimes you are aware of it and thankful, sometimes you take it for granted and allow their influence to fade into forgotten memory.
The last six and a half years of my life have been the most important I have lived, from a professional standpoint. Because I grabbed my life by the cojones, shook it up and tried to do something with it. Still trying.
Got laid off from my last accounting job in December 2005 and decided I had had enough. I had suffered with that career for close to thirty years and my nerves were shot. It is a stupid and a boring profession.
Decided to become a bartender, took a one week course at Boston Bartending School, got my cute, little certificate and I was off and running. I was 52 at the time.
I forgot that I am not a twenty year old hot babe with endless cleavage and a flirty demeanor. I probably hit twenty or thirty bars and restaurants within a one hour radius. For some strange reason nobody wanted to hire an old man with grey hair, a beer belly and no bartending experience as their next performer.
As I worried my way through this process, it became clear to me in conversations with confidants and boozers that my best shot was with private clubs. So I made the rounds of legions and other veterans organizations.
I finally got a shot with an American legion close to home. The manager and I had a good talk, she set up an appointment for me to meet with the Commander. Ralph. If he approved, I had the job.
Got there early that night and when I saw Ralph walk in, I knew I was doomed. He is an old school guy about 17 years older than me. I have a ponytail and an ear ring.
This was a case of don't judge a book by it's cover working in two directions at once. He hired me. He is the only guy who gave me a shot at tending bar out of all the managers I had spoken to.
Our relationship was tumultuous in the beginning because I didn't know a goddamn thing about tending bar and Ralph is a micro manager with a no bullshit attitude. He was on my ass constantly. But I learned. And I got good at it. And I liked it.
Eventually we got to a place where we could work together and laugh from time to time.
Ultimately the job didn't work out because the money just wasn't there.
I will never forget that Ralph is the man who took a chance on me and gave me my first opportunity to tend bar. I loved tending bar and miss it terribly. It's easy to judge Ralph on the surface, but there is more to the man than meets the eye.
Enter Rich.
I was ready to leave the legion but there were no jobs out there and I didn't know what I was going to do.
Rich manages a state run liquor store and is a friend of mine. He got me a job. He got me a job when there were no jobs to be got.
Can't seem to get away from booze.
Rich took me under his wing. Taught me the mechanics of doing my job, taught me about the business, taught me about the responsibilities of a manager, taught me about the organization we work for. He trusted me and gave me as much responsibility as I wanted. And we have had a couple of drinks together, dinner and Barden Hill insanity from time to time.
Rich is confused because I rail against the NHSLC viciously. Justifiably so. It is the most condescending, disorganized, unfair, employee using and abusing organization that I have ever worked for. Rich thinks I regret my decision.
I do not. I hate the situation I am in but I am grateful for the opportunity. I would make the same decision in the same situation given a second chance.
These two guys have had a major influence in my life over the past six years. Six years that I consider the most critical of my life.
They couldn't be more different in background, education, life experience, or attitude. Which shows you that you never know who will be the person to give you a shot.
I am still cranking away at achieving true Joe-ness. If I am lucky, there are others out there to help me out.
Whatever happens, I will take my appreciation of Ralph and Rich to the grave with me.

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