Tag Archives: relationships

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

Munich: Day One After a Long Two Days

 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

it has been a very long day since we got up Thursday morning. We have been up about 30 something hours with a bit of fitful sleep on our flight over the Atlantic to Munich Germany and Oktoberfest. Despite the length of our day and the amount we have traveled it has been a good day and more.

Our puppies are safely ensconced with our friend Emery in our house. Izzy and Pierre have been their usual over the top best friends, while Minnie, though friendly has gone back into here autistic shell. Not to worry, she warms up to people and will be fine, even if it comes down to basically jealousy. Judy misses Minnie and I miss the younger two as we go to sleep tonight.

We arrived a bit late on our Lufthansa flight because of the winds created by the now dissipated Hurricane Humberto. However, from that point everything went great. Judy had her last physical therapy after her knee replacement surgery on Monday, and instead of bringing her old German made forearm crutches from home we stopped at the store where I got the original pair and got a new pair for far less then we could purchase in the U.S.

Following that we went to the hotel, put our stuff away and took an early dinner at our favorite local restaurant, Zum Brunstein on Munich’s Orleans Straße, where over the years the staff have become like family. After that we went for an early nightcap at the hotel bar where we met two wonderful bartenders, one from Nigeria, the other from Turkey, and a German front desk clerk. At each place Judy gave away her hand made earrings and bracelets to the servers and  bartenders . We find that wherever we go it is better to be a giving visitor, than ugly Americans. The fact that my fluency in German helps, Judy, though more limited in German due to her hearing loss l makes friends because of how sincere and friendly she is. So today was a day of connecting with old friends and making new friends, even meeting a man from Norfolk at the hotel bar who naturally became part of our circle of friends. Hopefully, he will go with us to the opening parade and tapping at the Oktoberfest.

Before I went to sleep on the flight last night I watched the film Groundhog Day dubbed into German with no subtitles. I find that doing things like that helps my understanding of the language and increases my vocabulary. But I digress.

We will get up early tomorrow to get ready to go to the parade, and the tapping. Eat lunch which will probably be the half a rotisserie grilled chicken and potato salad topped with a couple liters of beer. After than we will probably do some shopping. I imagine that Sunday will be the day I go to Dachau and its sub-Camp , in a northern suburb or Munich.

So with the Z Monsters after me I will sign off until tomorrow. 

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: Thoughts on Friendships Enduring Friendships

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes Nothing remains quite the same; With all of my running and all of my cunning If I couldn’t laugh I just would go insane; If we couldn’t laugh we just would go insane, If we weren’t all crazy we would go insane

Jimmy Buffet: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

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I had the good fortune to be able to see the Jimmy Buffet concert here on Thursday night and that was followed up Friday by the visit of an old friend who had a great influence on my early Navy career as my detailer, and who as a retired contract Priest at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth was there for me during some of my darkest times after my return from Iraq. It was good to see Father Fred Elkin, a wonderful Priest, friend, and confidant. I also met a new friend, an Army Reserve Chaplain doing some of his training over at Fort Story. Last week I had a long telephone conversation with one of my old enlisted shipmates who served on the boarding time that I served on in the Persian Gulf back in 2002. It is really nice to have those experiences, to have a life, and to interact with people face to face.

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I took off for a weekend last month Just to try and recall the whole year; All of the faces and all of the places; Wonderin’ where they all disappeared I didn’t ponder the question too long; I was hungry and went out for a bite Ran into a chum with a bottle of rum; And we wound up drinkin all night

I find that it is all too easy to miss simple things like that, all too easy to become too busy to keep those friendships and find new ones as well. I hate losing friends too. Over the years I’ve lost my share and some of them were due to by own negligence or stupidity and others for reasons that I don’t understand, but I’ve lost more over politics in the past year and a half than I could have ever imagine, again at least a of these were of my doing, mostly for self-protect in the toxic political climate, but then others I just don’t know, but that’s life too.

Of course there are the friends that die too early and often unexpectedly. I have had too many of those lately, and as I look through my various picture albums I remember the good things about them even as I still feel the pangs of grief at their loss. I cherish their memory and pray that one day we will meet again.

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Even so I find particular value in long term friendships and relationships that have endured the years, one of which goes back to 5th grade. Others, schoolmates, military friends, veterans, teachers, others who I have worked, attended church, marched for civil rights, or imbibed heavily of adult beverages with over the years mean so much to me. I guess that’s one reason that Buffet’s Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes speaks to me. Over the years all of us have grown up and changed, we aren’t the same as we were when we first met each other because of life and our experiences, but we’re still friends.

Reading departure signs in some big airport; Reminds me of the places I’ve been Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure, Makes me want to go back again; If it suddenly ended tomorrow I could somehow adjust to the fall; Good times and riches and son of a bitches I’ve seen more than I can recall

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Some of these folks and I have gone through tremendously difficult times together; we’ve faced career crises, health issues, deployments, family separations, lived in the field, and in combat conditions facing danger, coming home to changed family situations, facing physical injury, and the craziness that is part of dealing with PTSD, TBI, and chronic sleep disorders. I have a friend going through chemotherapy for stage-four lymphoma, and others who have recently gone through life threatening health crises. The cool thing is that we are friends and that we have stood by each other. We can disagree about politics, religion, and so many things that destroy other friendships. I am reminded of what William Tecumseh Sherman said of his friendship with Ulysses S. Grant, “Grant stood by me when I was crazy, I stood by him when he was drunk, now we stand together.”

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I think about Paris when I’m high on red wine I wish I could jump on a plane; So many nights I just dream of the ocean God; I wish I was sailin’ again; Oh, yesterday’s over my shoulder So I can’t look back for too long; There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me And I know that I just can’t go wrong

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The good thing is that life continues and friendships do as well and if I can speak for myself, if I couldn’t laugh and I weren’t crazy I would go insane.

So until tomorrow,

Peace and friendship,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, remembering friends

Margaritaville a Time Out from Trump All the Time


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Despite the continued bombardment of news about the Trump administration and the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee the investigation I am going to take a breather from what is beginning to feel like “all Trump all the time,” not that there is not more to write about but unless something even bigger blows up in regard to the investigation of what appears to be the most incompetent, most inept, and possibly the most criminal and treasonous Presidential administration in American history, I’m going to take at least a few days to write about other things.

It is possible to become so enmeshed in breaking news without end that one loses perspective and forgets about other things, important things such as family, friends, pets, travel, hobbies, and life in general. I like reading, writing, building model airplanes and ships, hanging out with my wife, traveling, playing with and snuggling my dogs, going for walks, going to baseball games, and hanging out with friends over a couple of beers at my local watering hole.

But last night I scored tickets at the last minute to see Jimmy Buffet in concert. Great time. I like Margaritaville a lot better than Trumpland and I made use of my license to chill. 

So until tomorrow, have a good day and if you can remember who you are and what you enjoy, we’ll have plenty to deal with regarding Trump in the coming weeks and months and after effects that like the half-life of Plutonium may linger for years. But that being said, it’s five o’clock somewhere. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Unexpected Loss in the Wake of a Storm


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was a sad day as we unexpectedly lost a friend due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. Our friend Dave Shaw had just returned from a business trip and we actually saw him last night before Tropical Storm Hermine hit our area. When I saw him leaving the bar he did not seem to be well, but I assumed that it was simply being tired from his flight home, but I was wrong. 

I found out about Dave’s passing from my friend John as I was cleaning up the mess left by the storm. A mess that was only that as well suffered no real property damage, though we are going to have to find out why water is entering our house from our back yard. That is why we have insurance, but I digress. Had all we had to deal with was the post storm hassle today would have been easy, but we lost Dave, something far greater than our temporary inconvenience. 

Dave was really a good guy, and a friend to many people. He was a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman and was only 61 years old. Dave had friends who were much closer to him than me and I am sure that our mutual friends Randy and Dave are grieving more than I could ever grieve his loss as they were both much closer to him than I ever was. We were able to go with him, Jeri, and a number of other friends to the Oktoberfest in Munich just two years ago. While we were ther Dave donned a Burger King Crown and a German nicknamed him the King of Virginia, a nickname that he relished, and with good reason. 

It was sad for so many reasons, but especially because Dave and his wife Jeri were happy. They were married less than a year ago, but from the time that they met a few years ago I had never seen Dave so happy. They had just purchased a motor home so they could travel and create new adventures when he planned on retiring from his civilian job in the spring. 

I went an visited Jeri this evening, and we will do what we can to help her over the days ahead, as will many other dear friends. 

When you lose a friend unexpectedly it is most difficult, but that being said it would be worse never having to know them or have missed out on the simple joy of friendship. I would have rather that Dave had been able to live out another twenty or thirty years with his beloved Jeri traveling around the country and also enjoying his time with so many of his other friends, here, and around the world. 

As word of his passing spread I saw many wonderful comments and expressions of love and loss. Dave will be missed by so many people. Today the folks at Gordon Biersch leaned the barstool where he sat against the bar and placed a full stein of his favorite beer in front of it. It was a gesture of love and respect for a friend who though gone from us in the flesh will remain part of all of us forever. 


So until tomorrow, please take the time to love and care for your friends, and if you will, please lift a stein or pint in memory of Dave, the King of Virginia. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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33 Years of Marriage: Finding that One Special Person You Want to Annoy the Rest of Your Life


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Mark Twain, a wise man if there ever was such, wrote “After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.” Truthfully I think that he was absolutely correct.

Yesterday, Judy and I celebrated our thirty-third wedding anniversary with many friends at our local version of the Cheers bar, the Gordon Biersch brewery restaurant in Virginia Beach. It was a wonderful time and I cannot have imagined a better way to spend it than with the people who came out, as well as those who wanted to but were unable to attend.


But it really is hard to imagine that we have been married thirty-three years, and that we have known each other for close to thirty-eight years. It is really amazing to think that this has been the case, I for one never really expected to fall in love but I did, in spite of my less than idealistic realism and the fact that I can be such a pain in the ass, as Judy can well attest. I think that the comedienne, Rita Rudner said it quite well, “I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of you life,”  or as I like to put it, live to love, love to annoy. Truthfully, I am surprised at times that Judy has not found reason to kill me off, in fact there are a number of times that I am sure that any jury would have ruled my murder justifiable homicide, but I digress…

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The fact is that in our thirty-three years of marriage we have weathered some incredibly difficult times that many good people in loving marriages do not survive. Marriage is a difficult thing, yes it is about love, but even more than that it it about friendship, and a commitment to make things work. Marriage is a bit like politics and diplomacy, it involves compromise and commitment in order to ensure that war does not break out. Love is certainly a part, and forgiveness, an absolute necessity, but it really does come down to friendship. As Mark Twain noted, “Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” It took us nearly a third of a century, but in spite of all, I think that we have found it.

Have a great day,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Reward of Teaching



I love getting to do what I do as an Assistant Professor teaching Ethics and the Gettysburg Staff Ride. Through most of my career, be it as a Medical Service Corps officer and Chaplain in the Army, as well as a Navy Chaplain has been dealt with teaching ethics or history. However, until this assignment those duties have been things I took on in addition to my normal duties. 

I try to challenge my students, no matter what I teach to see issues in relationship to people; their character, intellect, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, faith, ideology, and their relationships. In other words, their humanity. For it is our humanity that is the common thread in all of history. Technology changes, political models change, and humanity is constantly evolving, or sometimes devolving, but the one constant is people. 

Sadly all to often humanity is left out, we find a way to dehumanize almost everything, even how businesses, governments and even religious bodies refer to people as “human capital,” “resources” or in the case of some money grubbing churches “tithing units.” 

However, when I teach, I may teach about history, philosophy, or ethics, I still concentrate on people; who they and why they matter. That is at least for me is what matters. Events, inventions, theories, methods are all important, but if we leave out the actual part about the people they don’t connect. 

So in addition to the classroom, or touring historic sites, I focus on people, and then, especially on trips where I am out with my students for two or three days. On these trips we travel tighter, we eat and drink together and spend time discussing the events and people we are studying, but also share our life experiences and time together. So for me, teaching is also about my students, and to see their interst piqued, who then come back and later tell me that they went and explored the life of the people that we discussed. It is like them dis coving buried treasure. 

I think that is the joy and the reward of teaching, especially higher education, but I am sure any teacher, even those who teach primary and secondary education could do the same thing if they are creative, for it is the people who connect us, people matter.



Today we had to break off the last day of our Gettybsurg trip due to a winter storm that shifted south and made road conditions really bad. From DC to Richmond I lost count of the number of accidents. Thankfully it looks like things get a bit better south of Richmond. 

But anyway for now, and if you live in the path of this storm, stay safe.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Teaching and education