Today somebody asked me how I got ideas to write my blog posts. I told them that usually something will happen that sets off a chain reaction of ideas in my brain and then the verbal diarrhea flows. Unfortunately today that very thing happened.
I got home from work and the estranged wife of a dear friend of mine sent me a message on facebook telling me that my buddy died on the 5th. The only reason I got on facebook in the first place was so that I could post one of those annoying ‘My baby boy is the cutest baby in the whole wide world’ posts that I never thought I would post. Then I was going to write a Big Whoop blog entry bragging about how my little bloggy blog that I make it a point not to promote has racked up 10,000 hits. Like I said–big whoop.
My friend Shawn was the second funniest guy who opened up the Santa Fe Cattle Co. Steakhouse with me. Naturally I was the first funniest. I’m sure if you had asked him he would have said that he was the funniest. Shawn, whose stage name was Big Plaid (so named for the large, loud, out of style plaid jacket he wore when performing and oddly enough a great metaphor for the man himself), was one of the few comedians I had worked with in a restaurant. You see, comedians all think they are the funniest people on the planet. It’s not so much hubris as it is a job requirement. You have to have that kind of confidence in order to get on a stage facing a crowd of people with your back to the wall and nothing but a crappy microphone and your ideas (which are hopefully not as crappy) to defend yourself with.
Plaid was one of the unheard of legends in the Memphis improv scene in the 90s. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of him or seen him perform. There are so many great comedians that nobody has ever heard of working in rinky dink clubs and bars throughout the country that never get the chance or exposure to make a name for themselves. Like yours truly, he was one of them.
Plaid had a gloriously obscene sense of humor. I pride myself on my ribald sensibilities but some of the shit that would come out of that man’s mouth would make a three dollar whore blush. And that’s not the easiest thing in the world to do in case you don’t know a lot of prostitutes in that low of an income bracket. Dave Attell was his favorite comic and his brusque delivery was more than reminiscent of that comedy icon. We got along great until we found out that we shared such a similar past and from then on we were besties. People at work even thought we were twin brothers, which is proof positive of his bullshitting abilities because he had at least 75 lbs on me.
He helped me come up with Ranch-Up!, the world’s best steak sauce. Since we just liked to fuck with people we would tell them that corporate headquarters had locked several scientists and lab assistants in a room for a couple of weeks to come up with the perfect flavor combination for a steak sauce designed especially for Santa Fe customers. It was a mixture of ranch dressing and a tomato vinegar sauce combined with several seasonings and spices, one of which was a rare South American pepper which was each blessed by a shaman before being shipped to the top-secret Ranch-Up! factory. Ranch-Up! (always pronounced with the exclamation mark) had most of the vitamins and minerals that Santa Fe customers needed in their everyday diet and the rare peppers acted as a natural aphrodisiac. And a weight loss supplement.
That’s right–we invented an imaginary steak sauce that gave you a boner AND made you lose weight. We would spin this story to all our tables and all our coworkers and the other resties in town. We would have little contests to see who could ‘upsell’ the most Ranch-Up! to our tables. We had other people working in other restaurants ‘selling’ Ranch-Up! to their tables. Customers would come in and ask for Ranch-Up! by name. It got a little out of hand for a while there. I thought we would actually have to start bottling the stuff and selling it for real. One time the district manager was there sitting at a table looking at some paper work and we spun the Ranch-Up! saga to him. I told him that I went to school with someone who worked in the corporate office and he assured me that Santa Fe was rolling out Ranch-Up! in three weeks and acted genuinely surprised when he said he hadn’t heard about it yet. He then got on his phone and asked his boss why he hadn’t been given any notice of such an important rollout.
God we were such a good bullshitting team.
Plaid was by no means a saint. After he left Santa Fe he went into a . . . umm . . . health facility. And then from there he bounced from state to state in order to avoid some . . . umm . . . legal entanglements. I mean literally he would have a new phone number and a new address in a new state every other week. I didn’t hear from him much during this period in his life. He would occasionally call me from a new number and we would talk for a while and then I wouldn’t hear from him until he was in another state. Remember in my post Birth Of A Restaurant Industry Employee Advocate Part IV where I uploaded B.F.F. on an obscure website so a friend of mine who lived in another part of the country could hear it? HE was that friend.
Shawny you will be missed. You HAVE been missed. When I got fired from Santa Fe you attached an erect penis to this chuck wagon display at the restaurant over the east side bev station so that it looked like the guy driving the wagon had a raging boner. I will always remember the Horny Chuck Wagoner. Tomorrow I’m going to attach a piece of the plaid shirt that I used to wear on stage to my apron in honor of you.
In loving memory,
Me, The JerBear
P.S. He was one the very few people I had ever met who had a number anywhere near as big as mine. The guy worked in a LOT of restaurants.