Tag Archives: friendships

The Night Our “Cheers” Closed: How Corporate America Destroys Community

 

 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Sunday night was the last night that our version of Cheers for the last fourteen years closed forever. About 5 PM at no notice a representative of the corporate headquarters came in and told our General Manager that our Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant would close at the end of the evening for good. The employees were given no notice, one day they had a job, the next day they didn’t. The fault was not theirs, it was an out of touch corporation, which over extended itself by buying up an already bankrupt restaurant chain, Logan’s Roadhouse, and then neglecting its thriving brewery restaurants of the Gordon Biersch, Round Rock, Chicago Pizza chains, and other brands. The CEO is the former CEO and Managing Parter of Logan’s, owned by the venture capital company Centerbridge Partners, L.P.

In fact, rather than a corporate owned operation, our brewery-restaurant had the feel of a local neighborhood bar, like the one called Cheers. It really was a place where everybody knew your name. It became a gathering place for friends, who along with the managers, cooks, bartenders, servers, and hosts became like an extended family. Yes, there were some who were assholes and acted overly entitled, and others that pretty much kept to themselves, but overall the clientele embraced a broad spectrum of people. Everyone from businesspeople and bankers, military personnel, reachers, professors, doctors and dentists, pensioners, day workers, shipyard workers, technicians and IT types, small business owners, retail workers, bartenders, cooks, and servers from other restaurants of a wide variety of races and, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions, straight and gay, with ages from the twenties to the nineties.

For the most part we cared for each other. We looked out for the bartenders and servers. We had each other over for dinner, for holidays, those with building or mechanical skills donated time to help those less proficient or unable due to illness or physical disability. We all pitched in when money needed to be raised for individuals or groups, proceeds from tapping parties went to charities.
In a way I became the unofficial chaplain, performing three marriages, one funeral, providing counseling, or just listening, and making hospital visits.

We gathered to visit, talk, listen, joke, on good days and bad. To watch football, soccer, baseball, hockey, the Olympic Games, the World Cup, to talk about our days, to have a listening ear, over a beer. We had parties there, celebrated Oktoberfest, the New Year, but mostly came together at the end of a day, to download and relax, to share and to care, each in our own way. A few of us, including me got a chance to work with the brewer to brew a beer of our choice. I got a chance to learn the process of how to brew what we called The Padre’s Pilsner, a crystal clear champagne like  German Pilsner, hoppy, but not overly so, crisp without being too bitter.

My wife Judy specialized in making people happy by making them beautiful jewelry and pendants, which she mostly gave to the servers, hosts, and bartenders. When Judy was in the hospital for cancer surgery and knee replacements it was bartenders and servers who visited her, and who came by the house to visit when she was recovering, not people from church or Navy Chaplains. It was our executive Chef who cooked her special menu items which she could eat based on gastrointestinal ailments.

At about 6:00 PM on Sunday we were informed that a representative from corporate had come in, and told our General Manager that the restaurant would close forever that night. Many of us came in for a final last call. There were tears, and laughs as we remembered the good times, tears as we thought of the closing, and friends who had passed away. We shared hugs, stories, and collected our steins, even for friends who couldn’t be there. Sunday night I was so discombobulated and unfocused that I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t even focus on television or books.

But now as I previously mentioned, thanks to the CEO of Craftworks Holdings, a man who has managed restaurants, but never breweries, and the hedge fund managers at Centerbridge Partners. They are sacrificing the jewels of their corporation, the unique craft brewery restaurants to prop of a steakhouse that has been rescued from bankruptcy once, then acquired by Craftworks, whose CEO had been the CEO and managing partner of that steakhouse until 2018. But don’t take my word, just google these things these things and you will find articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Craft Beer Journal Brewbound, and many local papers, and you can see the history and scale of the decline of what were once the trademark brands of Craftworks, which were all once described as growing and innovative have been crushed by cut after cut, even extremely profitable location on Honolulu’s Waikiki, where landlords disputed the reasons Craftworks gave for shutting them down. In our case the restaurant still had over a year left on its lease, the lease was not expensive, and despite the best efforts of Craftworks to make it less competitive, by dropping Happy Hour prices on weekends and when major sporting events were going on, which drove some customers to other restaurants, who carried the NFL package and lowered prices of their drinks and appetizers, it was still profitable. If I was a betting man I would say that since 2018 that corporate has been trying to drive customers and staff away, yet they still came.

Now, our Gordon Biersch Cheers family has lost its home. Thankfully, many of us are still committed to friendships and will meet Tuesday night at another local brewery restaurant. It’s not as fancy, but it will do, and we know that the owners there, local people, not venture capitalists will appreciate our business, as will any number of the other locally owned craft breweries.

The sad thing is that the venture capitalists often back ventures that fail, making vast profits while leaving the businesses the leverage in ruins. Quality, sacrificed for cheapness, loyalty, for the mass market, community, for a mass of unknown and uncared for customers who are rushed in and out of restaurants at a rate slightly slower than fast food operations. The same can be said for almost every business organization that has been taken over by the venture capitalists. They have been destroyed, parted out, and many operations moved overseas to China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, the Philippines, and a host of other nations, whose people, environment, and living conditions we don’t care about while at the same time transferring the worlds wealth to the richest oligarchs.

It’s happening here. We have record employment but wages are still pitifully low, and many work more than one job to make ends meet. Even then, quite a few people are only a paycheck or two from bankruptcy. Our friends, other than management, who worked there did receive a severance, of two weeks pay at $2.13 an hour, the base minimum wage of restaurant workers, without tips, and of course all taxes will be diverted from what the corporate spokesman said was “compensating” the employees, regardless of the fact that quite a few have worked there a decade or more. It’s really shitty how corporate America treats hard workers, as well as those who are loyal to their employers. On Monday when the employees came in the trucks and men from corporate were already there, the move had been planned for some time, but the failed to notify Armada Hoffer, which holds the lease. They didn’t find out that the restaurant had closed until Monday. It’s immoral, it’s evil, and it will destroy our country. I talked to two friends tonight whose corporations are being reorganized even now. Both have their doctorates and the industries that they are in are making huge money, often assisted by agencies controlled by Trump appointees.

We didn’t learn the examples of 2008, and what happened to our little group, will happen again, and probably worse than in 2008, as the Trump Administration has loosed the bonds of the modern Robber Barons. Our little diverse family is now yet another victim of them. I worry more about our employees who are now out looking for jobs. But we will do our best to stay together.

So, until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under economics and financial policy, ethics, laws and legislation, Loose thoughts and musings, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Closet Of Anxieties

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today has been a pretty crappy day. I have been anxious and a bit depressed. A couple of months ago I found an old friend on Facebook. When I found him I was excited. In addition to being my supervisory chaplain, he was a mentor. I lost contact with him after I entered the Navy in 1999. But that initial joy was turned to pain when on an almost daily basis he intruded on my Facebook page, attacked my beliefs, and my character. He had become a complete Trumpite, with no regard for my beliefs, except to attack nearly every day. Most of those attacks involved issues of race and social justice. It seemed that he hadn’t met a White Supremacist that he couldn’t defend or member of a minority group that he couldn’t blame.

So I dropped him and blocked him, I also tightened my privacy settings, and I did receive a lot of encouragement and love from other friends.

Of course I am also anxious about the Platelet Rich Plasma treatment that I will be getting on my right knee tomorrow. I’m not afraid of the procedure, but I’m afraid that it won’t help with the pain that I have in that knee. I am less anxious and more confident in the arthroscopic surgery I am having next Thursday to repair the meniscus on my left knee. I am tired of having to walk with the assistance of a cane and not to be able to run, power walk, or even go for a leisurely stroll. I get jealous and upset when I see people my age out jogging. I feel useless and crippled.

So anyway, I’m tired and going to read some uplifting book about the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Of course, that last part is sarcasm. I hope that I don’t have another of my more frequent crazy dream or nightmares and go crashing out of bed. I don’t need another ER visit.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, remembering friends

Thanksgiving Blessings and Perspectives

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I spent Thanksgiving doing what has become our custom, cooking dinner and inviting single friends over to share the meal with us. The first time we did something like this was when I was a young Army Lieutenant in Germany back in 1985 when we hosted some of my enlisted soldiers to our quarters for the holiday.

I’ve spent Thanksgiving in a lot of places, including Iraq in 2007 and as we have gotten older I think that we appreciate the time together more when we work together to prepare the house and a meal for people that we love and appreciate. In fact the truth is even if no one came over we would probably do the same for ourselves. It is fascinating to see how well we work together in the kitchen now, especially after returning from a three year geographic bachelor assignment in Camp LeJeune in 2013. I think the most despondent Thanksgiving we shared together was in 2011 or 2012 when I traveled up from LeJeune for the weekend and we ended up eating at Golden Coral. The lines, the impersonal nature, and the poor quality and blandness of the mass produced food compounded by the fact that neither of us were in a very good place emotionally made it something that we would never do again.

There is something about preparing a meal and sharing it around a table with friends that is incredibly meaningful. I think for many people in the rush of the holidays that it sometimes is a lost art. That being said the time around the table, especially when it is unhurried and relaxing is something to behold. It reminds me of time in Germany with our friends Gottfried and Hannelore whether we sit around their dining room table or go to a local restaurant enjoying a meal, some drinks and conversation.

When our guests left I did the cleanup and the kitchen, dining room, and living room are set to begin to transformed on Saturday into our little Advent and Christmas wonderland. Then we relaxed with our Papillons, Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre, who unlike most days got some turkey as I stripped the carcass of the meat after dinner. For Pierre I am sure this was his first experience of this treat and he did enjoy it, as did Minnie and Izzy. We are very fortunate to have such good babies, they were sweet and well behaved the entire time our guests were here.

When we finally settled down we watched Young Frankenstein and Ghostbusters with the dogs on our laps and drinks in our hands.

I also took some time to check the news and found out that that the search for three U.S. Navy sailors who were about a C-2 Greyhound transport aircraft that crashed near the USS Ronald Reagan had been called off. They will probably never be recovered and this Thanksgiving will be one of great sadness as Navy Casualty Assistance Officers and Chaplains show up at their doors. Since when something like this happens Navy Ships set condition River City which cuts off almost all communications from the ships except for the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, Command Master Chief, and Chaplain; a situation like this means that families will probably not learn of their loved ones deaths by a Facebook message, or an email. Having made all too many notifications in my career I know that from now on Thanksgiving will be a day of mourning for these families.

I also read the news that the Argentine Navy has basically given up hope for finding the submarine San Juan which was last heard from Sunday. The families and loved ones of those 44 officers and sailors now know that what little hope they might have held out for their loved ones is ended.

I think that puts Thanksgiving into perspective for me. I have been in the military over 36 years and I have been to war, as well as being on other hazardous missions, and situations and come home, changed certainly, but still alive. Likewise it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1985 when Judy and I narrowly avoided being at the scene of a terrorist bombing at the Frankfurt PX. We were on our way there and probably would have been in the blast area had Judy not felt well and asked to go home. Within minutes of getting home in Wiesbaden I was called by my Colonel to put my Ambulance Company on alert because the PX had been bombed. Thirty four Americans were wounded in that attack.

For us, Thanksgiving has become a day to be savored and appreciated. We usually avoid Black Friday at all costs but tomorrow we will be waiting outside Gordon Biersch with many friends for a very special deal on a coupon book for growler fills for a year.

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace and happy Thanksgiving,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, marriage and relationships, Military

Ghosted by a Former Band of Brothers


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I read an article yesterday by a pastor who experienced a phenomenon known as ghosting. This is where people who once were friends, maybe even close friends suddenly disappear from your life by silently shunning you. When I read his experiences I could relate and the article brought back painful memories of when it happened to me and for the first time I am going to really open up about what happened to me. I have to do it because I have held in the rejection for years, mostly because the people involved never gave me a chance to deal with them in person about what they did. But that is the dishonorable and cowardly thing about ghosting; it leaves people with wounds that they are unable to address, and it causes them to be more distrustful of others, as well as more guarded and careful about entering into new relationships. 

When supposed Christian friends do it to people they often leave the church and never come back. 

In the past I have mentioned what happened to me after Iraq and in the aftermath of being thrown out of a church I had served as a Priest for 14 years in rather oblique ways; ways that allowed people an easy out. But today I really feel the need to open up about it and mention some of the people by their first names. I won’t mention their last names because I don’t want people who don’t know them, or are their current friends to write them off. But I need to mention the first names just in case any of them end up reading this they will recognize themselves and perhaps have an attack of conscience whether they want to have anything to do with me or not. I figure that doing this will remove any ambiguity about who I mean and not allow them any wiggle room to think that maybe they did nothing wrong. If I really wanted to be a jerk I would share their last names, but that’s not my intention, I just want them to think of the consequences of their actions, especially since most are still in some for of ministry. 

Some people may wonder why this and why now? That is a good question. Some people might think I’m being petty or harsh, and maybe even unforgiving by writing this, but truthfully it’s the only way for the truth to be told and maybe for them to wake up and realize that relationships matter. 

In the 14 years I spent as a Priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church I built what I thought were lifelong friendships with many of our fellow chaplains. We enjoyed our times together, frequently talked by phone or corresponded in other ways, sharing our faith, our struggles, discussing theology, ministry, and the military. We called ourselves a band of brothers. 

My closest friend was a Priest named Bill. We entered the church and were ordained about the same time and for years I considered him my closest friend and confidant. There were others in that early group, Ken, Jeff, Jon, Greg, John, Phil, Bob, Steve, as well as others, including Stu, and David, but we were kind of the core. Over the years others came along, and some for whatever reason went their separate ways but even then, most of us tried to keep in contact. 

For me that began to change after I returned from Iraq. I have to admit that I had changed in the course of my time there but I never thought I would be ghosted by so many of them in the aftermath of Iraq and after I was told to leave the church in 2010. Even when I left, most said that we would still be friends and stay in contact. Maybe I expected too much by thinking that the visits, correspondence, and phone calls would continue. Maybe I expected too much by thinking that they would be there for me when I needed them, after all we claimed to be a band of brothers. But words are cheap, simply saying that you are a band of brothers doesn’t mean that you are. 

Within two years of my departure I discovered that phone calls and emails went unreturned, and even though I lived and worked just a few miles from Bill and Ken for three years while I was stationed at Camp LeJeune without Judy, I almost never saw them. I’d ask if we could meet but be told that they were too busy. I haven’t heard from either since I came back to Norfolk in August 2013. Others simply never returned my calls, one of which surprised and saddened me more than most. Thanks Jeff. 

Of the others a couple remain as Facebook friends but I seldom have any meaningful contact with them. Of all of them, only David, a fellow Iraq vet who has gone through similar PTSD issues and much worse physical issues remains in regular contact. We had a wonderful talk Friday night. He’s just finished his first year in medical school and is dealing with a teenage son who is in a lot of trouble. David is a rare soul and I love him, we can talk about anything, share anything, and be absolutely transparent with each other. Of the band of brothers, he is still my brother. 

The most hurtful losses were Bill and Jeff who simply disappeared from my life, and Stu who I had known longer than any of them. Stu had left the church to become a Roman Catholic Priest but he had nothing but condemnation for my announcement of my departure. I haven’t heard from him since he blasted me and called me disloyal to the bishop who threw me out after defending myself on my blog. By the way, speaking of loyalty the Bishop got himself thrown out for going behind the back of his fellow bishops by trying to abscond with all the military chaplains to another denomination. 

I do miss them and I hope that they will read this article if nothing else so they don’t do what they did to me to anyone else. Likewise, while what they did hurts I would not turn any of them away if they wanted to get back together. Although I am still hurt and angry I cannot hate them, and I only wish the best for them. But I think what they did was shameful and I hope that they never do it to anyone else.

On a different level what they did is not uncommon in the church. Christians tend to be the worst advertisement for Christ and after watching the antics of Christians since I returned from Iraq I don’t plan to darken the door of a church when I retire from the Navy Chaplain Corps. I find my less than religious friends to be far more reliable and caring than most of the Christians that I know. 

Now I am certainly not indicting all Christians in this post, or all Priests, chaplains, or ministers. There are many who would never do such a thing, but I don’t know a lot of them. 

So anyway, I know I am not alone. This form of silent shunning and shaming is all too common and not just in the church, but I would say that the damage inflicted by Christians is worse than others. Today I took the opportunity to publicly let these men how badly they wounded me because none of them gave me the opportunity in private. If people think that is inappropriate for me to do then fine, I’ll live with it but now I can finally let it go because after years of holding it in I have at last said my peace and I’m done with it. 

As difficult as the article was to read, and this to write, it has brought me closer to closure and hopefully maybe will open up a chance for reconciliation if any of them desire. That however is up to them. 

I would love to discuss the subject over a beer with any of those involved, but today I needed to finally let it out. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, faith, Pastoral Care, Religion, remembering friends

An Interesting Encounter with a Political Party Campaign Staffer: Conversation, Drinks and Offers of Sex paid for by the GOP

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“I’m Cam Brady and I seductively approve this message.” Cam Brady (Will Ferrell the Campaign)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZhJgwSb0Po

In the movie The Campaign Will Ferrell played a North Carolina Congressman named “Cam Brady” running for re-election. When I saw the movie I laughed so hard at different points that I thought I was going to hurt myself.

Tonight I was out having dinner and a beer at my local haunt near the Island Hermitage and I met a man who was sitting next to my usual gang of locals. They introduced me to him and he to me and after he found out that I was in the military her told the bartender, Grace to put my drink on his tab. I am not one to pass up a beer so I was most gracious. He began to talk and tell me about his occupation, a political campaign consultant for various Republican candidates in North Carolina and Virginia.

That does not bother me a bit, so long as a person is nice to me and buys my beer. I do not pick friends based on their political, religious or social views, but sometimes I will balk at friendships with Los Angeles Dodgers’ or USC Trojans fans. Something to do with me being a San Francisco Giants fan and quasi UCLA Bruin alumnus since I was commissioned through that university’s Army ROTC program. Even so I will make exceptions at times even in these cases. People are people and if God loves them I do the best that I can to love them as well.

Tonight was on of the more fascinating encounters that I have had in a while. My new friend at the bar, who I will call “Cam” to protect his identity had obviously had a couple of drinks too many before I arrived. My local friends, who all knew him were like me being polite, even though he was a bit on the obnoxious but friendly side. Before I knew it I was treated to Cam’s views on President Obama, Hilary Clinton, gays in the military, support for the troops, and gun control. The last of which he felt the need to show me his NRA membership card to demonstrate his credentials of where he fell on the issue.

Again, if someone is friendly I really don’t care what their politics or religion are as anyone that knows me can testify.  So I carefully listened to him and decided not to go into any confrontation mode. It would have been unseemly, especially since I was drinking the beer that he had just put on his tab. I am not ungracious nor do I want to create any kind of scene.

As the conversation went on he showed me pictures of him on his smart phone with various political figures including the new governor of North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms and failed senatorial candidate and Fox News commentator Oliver North. I actually thought that was kind of cool, I have pictures of me with various diplomatic, political, military and sports figures that I hold quite dear myself.

Now this was where things got weird. He told me that he could get me anything that I wanted anywhere in the state, because we in the military deserved support. Now of course military ethics rules and regulations are strict that we cannot receive accept certain gifts or political favors. A beer is one thing, a night with call girl or escort is not. “Cam” told me that he could make that happen, and I politely refused citing that I was married and also a chaplain. He told me that my wife “didn’t need to know” and I said that it would not be appropriate for me to accept any such offer. Thankfully “Cam” did change the subject, and began to visit with one of my buddies who arrived late and the buddy on my right mentioned that “Cam” had some “issues.” I responded that “Cam” didn’t just have issues, but had the “full subscription.”

A few minutes later “Cam” began talking to me again. He mentioned a recent divorce, an ulcer that kept him from drinking hard liquor and his expectation of a political appointment to a state job from the new Governor, who he said he had worked for for a number of years. He also noted that he was a “economic” conservative and not a “social” conservative. I think that might have divined from his offer of free sex at GOP expense that he was not a “social conservative” but at least he was honest about where he sat on the political spectrum. He said that he was “center-right” and I said that I was “center-left.” It turned out that we had more to agree on than not.

We were able to maintain a civil and friendly banter during the time that he remained at the bar, and when he found that I did not agree with some of his politics it was not an issue. I told him that I didn’t need to agree with a person’s politics, religion or any other views to be their friend and and he looked at me kind of funny and then said, that “it didn’t matter who I voted for so long as I voted.” I said “after all, we’re Americans, we don’t need to agree with each other to respect that.” With that he raised his wine glass and we toasted the country and wished each other well. My friends at the bar said that I handled “Cam” very well.

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I departed with a new friendly acquaintance. As the real movie Cam Brady said: “America, Jesus, freedom.”

I love America.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary