Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A song for Steve Sherman

I once had a boss named Steve Sherman. Must have been about 1991. He was an odd little man, if he were an actor, he'd have been cast as the quirky balding guy, not really like George from Seinfeld, but more like that guy from My Dinner with André. I thought he was a little too much at times with his Napoleon complex, but we got along anyway, and eventually, I found myself hanging out some nights at his place smoking a joint. He was someone I would have never chosen as a friend, but whom I came to respect and whose company I eventually enjoyed. His fingernails were always impeccable.

I remember the time he was most furious with me. As the manager of the dining room at the Ritz Carlton, he had the right to sit down with anything from the menu at the end of the night. We employees were limited to the cafeteria foodstuffs, which, although arguably edible, could not compare to the chef in the dining room working on getting his Michelin star. Steve had us well trained to set his table up at the end of the night so that he could dine while we ran around closing up shop. It was on one of these evenings that I unscrewed the salt shaker at his table and watched from the corner of my eye as he poured a mountain of salt onto his filet mignon. Enraged, he shouted,"Who did this!" And ran around accosting everyone, who once having seen the mound of salt on the steak, had melted into giggling hysterics. I finally admitted through tears that I had done it. He sent me home and took away a shift to punish me. He had apparently forgotten the adage - those who tease you, love you.

At our one year anniversary of opening, he came to work very excited. Before we opened in the evening, we had line-up, where Steve inspected our uniforms, hygiene and equipment. This night he presented each of us with an engraved wine opener. "Only the best for my staff," he announced and explained that these wine openers were top of the line, guaranteed for life. Mine said "Richard". It is the only meaningful gift I have ever received from a boss. Ever.

Shortly after that night, Steve was offered a better position at a competing hotel and left the Ritz. I still hung out at his house sometimes and caught up on how his "new life" at the Biltmore was going. He seemed right proud of his position and I was truly happy for the guy.

A month later, Steve was killed in an auto accident as he drove home from work late at night. A drunk driver plowed into him and took his life. It was quite a shock, the man was barely thirty. I went to the funeral and at the entrance there was a poster with lots of pictures of him from his cut-short life. I took one look at it and started crying. And I couldn't stop. Sobbing and crying so much that I drew stares from others. I didn't understand what had come over me. For the next hour during the service, I cried continually. It was the grief that catches you off guard. I know I was caught off guard.

Over the years, I have cherished that wine opener. I keep it way in back of the utility drawer so I always know where it is and only use it when I have a nice bottle of wine to open. Every time I do use it, I think of Steve (thanks Steve!), his too short life and his funeral. I imagine how he would have been now, puffed up and executive like, and pretend that maybe he really didn't die at all. Last week, I couldn't fine the cheapy wine opener, so I took along the Steve Sherman corkscrew so that we might enjoy some wine in our New York hotel room.

And wouldn't you know it, that opener was in my bag. The bag that was stolen in Times Square.

Goodbye Steve Sherman, I'm really going to miss you now.

20 comments:

Ed said...

The only way it wouldn't bother you if you lost something is not to care for anything in the first place. You are a caring, loving guy. Steve Sherman still exists in your memory, they can't steal that away.

Snooze said...

Now I'm crying. What a beautiful memory.

Polt said...

What a great memory, thanks for sharing. And I'm sorry you lost it. And please forgive me, but when I read the part about the line-up where he inspects your hygiene and...equipment....I giggled like a little school girl. Entirely inappropriate considering the overall story, but when I read it, I couldn't help myself.

HUGS.....

Sunshine said...

You are a brilliant writer. This post gave me goosebumps. How bitter sweet.

Lacey said...

Who'd have thought a corkscrew could get me all weepy. AS for the sobbing at the funeral..OMG...I could have wrote that. It happened at a memorial service. People much closer to the deceased, who had no idea who I was, were looking at me like "what is wrong with HIM"...someone said something to me about grief...something to the effect that "each new grief recalls all the past ones"...I'm not quoting it right, but, well...you get it. Overcome with grief for all the losses over the years. I was exhausted when it was over. Drained. I'm reminded of a Joni Mitchell song "laughing or crying, you know, it's the same release"...

CoffeeDog said...

Aw what a great story and tribute. I am sorry you lost the wine opener...

(verification word is reces, very close to feces)

St. Dickeybird said...

Aw shit...

Signalite said...

I'm with ed. You'll probably remember him even moreso now.

Patricia said...

somehow i really believe that steve was giggling when the corkscrew was pilfered. playful retribution for the whole salt shaker thing, i guess. i'd like to believe that's how the universe works. our loved ones' souls are still out there, watching us, protecting us, loving us, and occasionally messing with us.

Cooper said...

Isn't it sad how the seemingly simple act of stealing someone's bag can take such a precious little momento of that life? The real value of that corkscrew, though, and I know you know this, is in your heart.

GayProf said...

Oh, man, until the end I was going to berate you for "saving" the wine opener and not using it everyday (assuming you drink wine everyday).

I really liked this post.

Devo said...

Aw crap! Thing is, if it hadn't been taken, we may never have heard the wonderful story behind it! Great post!

David said...

It hurts to read this.

Scottsdale Girl said...

*tear* Ok the blogosphere has got it OUT for me today. Orr someone is trying to tell me to STOP READING BLOGS AT WORK. No, I think you're all just out to get me.

Exxxcellent story Torn, Steve is smiling right now.

abnitude said...

what a nice story and with a sad ending that got me a little misty eyed. its great that you have that wonderful memory to cherish and dam that street thug!!!!!

kev said...

Gifts and objects are truly lightning rods of our past. Beautiful memory you shared, and frustratingly sad how you lost the wine opener. Hopefully, his memory will be brightly remembered with every wine bottle opened now.

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I'm really thankful you shared your memory of Steve.
An honest, pure memory.

robert78 said...

Misty eyed, yup, me too. Beautiful little entry.

lattégirl said...

What a nice tribute to Steve. His age, and the way he died, and the way you reacted at the funeral, is eerily reminiscent of a friend I lost, as well. I went to the viewing and couldn't stop crying. I felt embarrassed at my display of emotion, when the family wasn't even tearing up and here I was sobbing my eyes out uncontrollably.

Lemuel said...

How sad that the opener was in your bag! Your story was a marvelous tribute. May your memories of Steve continue to enrich your life - even with the loss of his gift.