Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Confessions of a wedding bartender, part I

As a bartender for wedding receptions, you think you've seen it all.  Then somehow, each week the wedding guests always surprise you.  Let me tell ya, I could write a book.   Wedding receptions typically start out the same.   First on the scene is almost always the cute elderly folk, slowly strolling in with their walkers and canes.  But from there, its anyone's guess on what the night has in store.   From the mundane, "lets go to bed early" wedding to the, "we are going to party like this is our last night on this earth" wedding - you just don't know what is going to happen.

Today's wedding tale occurred a few weeks ago at the number one rated public golf course in the state and my wedding employer, Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan.  

Walking into the wedding hall with my tuxedo shirt and bow tie, I hear a female co-worker announce that Tommy Kramer, former NFL Vikings Quarterback, was out on the course golfing.  Not only was he golfing, she exclaimed, but she had kissed him.  On the lips!  Whoa ho!  The 40 year old married woman was beaming.  Well that's kinda cool I thought.  It's not too often that anyone of any notoriety comes to Jordan.

After setting up the bar, my bartender friends settle into our cramped but cozy spot behind the bar and start dishing out mixed drinks and tap beer.  

Later dinner is served and the teenage bus boys and girls frantically work the tables to fill water glasses, and clear dishes.  A couple hours pass by, and this wedding is turning into your standard wedding reception.  I mention to my bartender friends, that the last month of weddings has yet to produce many water cooler stories.

Enter Tommy Kramer

"I think we have our story." I said to my co-workers as I nodded towards Two-Minute Tommy.

Those Minnesotans who are old enough to remember Two-Minute Tommy, remember that he liked to have his share of adult beverages.  Today was no exception.  Tommy was drunk as a skunk and he was crashing this small town wedding. 

And the wedding guests were loving it!  "Look - it's Tommy Kramer!"  "Hey, Let's get our picture taken with Tommy Kramer!"  Tommy was shooting the breeze with everyone and posing for pictures.

It wasn't long before Tommy came to the bar and ordered a drink.  We asked him what he was doing here in Jordan.  He replied that he lives in Texas, but hates to sweat when he golfs so he comes to Minnesota to golf.

Then out of the blue the M.O.B (mother of the bride) yells, "EEECKKK!!! Tommy Kramer!  Tommy Kramer!  You have to dance with my daughter!"  She proceeds to grab him by the hand and run him to the dance floor where the bride and her new husband are dancing alone on the dance floor.  The newlyweds are gazing lovingly into each other eyes when mom and Tommy burst onto the floor and cut into their dance.  The bride had a confused look in her eyes that screamed, "Who is this guy?  What is going on?" While the husband just stood there with a blank look on his face..

Mom watched with a big smile while others went up to take Tommy and the new bride's picture while the two of them awkwardly danced.   I'm positive the bride had no idea who Tommy Kramer was, but just went with the flow anyway.

The wedding guests loved him.

Why?  I think its because we admire people who have done the extraordinary.  Playing for the Vikings is extraordinary.   What I don't get is, why does Tommy Kramer, choose to waste the opportunity with his notoriety?  His legacy, unless he changes, will be a life of drunkeness.   It's been 20 years since Tommy has played football.  2 decades wasted in more ways than one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To the Jordan High School class of 1995

Last Saturday, 20 members from the class of 1995 met to reminisce and reconnect.  It has been 15 years since we roamed the halls of Jordan high school.  With this reunion, we've now spent more time since graduation away from each other than our years spent together in school.

That blows my mind - how can we be that old where our time out of school has surpassed our time together!?!

15 years have come and gone, but I remember something funny that happened to our class.  I mean something really unusual.  Something that defies belief in today's society....  We all got along.  Don't get me wrong, our cohesiveness definitely wasn't the case in junior high and even during our junior year.  We had our cliques, our differences.   I bet each one of us, if we are being honest, could say we treated others poorly and were ourselves victims of being treated badly. But senior year we realized that this was it, after graduation we wouldn't see each other every day.  We'd maybe see each other every five years.  By the time we went on our senior trip to Wisconsin Dells we all realized the end of school was here and we were going to make the most of it.  We enjoyed our remaining days together.

I don't remember who gave our commencement speech, or even what the speech was about.  Maybe all of you have forgotten the commencement speech too.  Since I forgot that message, and since I've always wanted to give a commencement speech, I'd like to write to you as if the date is June 1995, and I am still a young kid, head full of hair and ambition, looking to make his mark on the world.

Congratulations to the class of 1995,
We are a unique and successful group.  Never before has a Jordan high school class been so successful.  We experienced state tournament appearances, conferences championships, not just in one sport in one season, but multiple sports in EACH fall, winter, and spring season.  Unprecedented.  But you know what I noticed. We did it all without superstar athletes.  Not one person from our class will go on to play at a division I college.  Because we worked harder than anyone else, we accomplished more.  You have proved that work ethic and team work is more valuable than talent.

Think back to 1st grade.  You were innocent, young, and knew what you were good at.  When you were in elementary school you listened to the voice in your head telling you were good at something.   It might have been doing art, music, fixing things, storytelling, or sports.  Whatever it was, it got you out of bed in the morning.   But somewhere down the line, something changed.  By the time we reached junior high we began to lose that first grade innocence and stopped listening to what we were made to do.   By junior high, the world, our teachers, and sometimes our parents told us it was more important to go after "safe" jobs that will pay the bills and support a family.   You started listening to others, rather than yourself. 

Start listening to that voice again.  When you're 35 years old don't stop listening.  Recall your passions and figure out a way to bring it back into your life.   Am I telling you to quit your job and try out for the Twins?  No.  That's not realistic.  But maybe at night, you turn off the TV, and tune into your strengths.   I'm NOT talking about the stuff you're good at.  I'm talking about the stuff that makes you lose track of time, the activities that make you come alive and make you feel strong.  Those are your strengths!  Rediscover your passion and figure out how to incorporate it into your job, or how you can do it on a small scale on the side on weekends.  

At the very least, teach your children to follow their dreams.  Instead of focusing on the F on the report card, have them focus on subjects they get an A in, subjects that they enjoy and have the capacity excel in.  Their growth will be in areas they are good in, if they focus all their energy on their weakness, life becomes boring, and the improvements minimal. 

More importantly, our time on this spinning rock is short.  Before you know it, we'll be celebrating double digit class reunions.  In that time frame, some of you will experience love on an incredible new level when your children are born.  Some of you will feel the pain of losing a loved one.  Unlike our senior year, we won't know when our time together will end.  But you must, just like the end of our senior year, make the most of your relationships with others.   

Don't wait until its too late.  Do it now.  Don't let high school or college be the best years of your life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yelling vs. The Blues

Ever heard the phrase, "If you're not mad you're not paying attention."?  I think I would like to change it to, "If you're not inspired, then you're not paying attention."  Today I was inspired by a pretty talented cross country coach. 

With two weeks to go before the end of the cross country season, and with the workouts increasing in difficulty it is not unusual for some of the cross country athletes to start coming up with excuses to miss the tough workouts. 

Coaches don't like it when players miss practice in any sport.  Period.  So when the Le Sueur Giants cross country team started missing some athletes last week, the head coach noticed.  He mentioned to me that he had a plan to "rile up the team" come Monday's workout.  He didn't tell me his plan.

Flashback to 1992:
I'm a high school freshman on the junior varsity basketball team.  The coach, Brian Wierke.  The man knew basketball, and was a recent college graduate from Bemidji State University.  While there he was a four year college basketball letter winner and was captain of the team.  I immediately liked him.  He taught me more about basketball than any of my other coaches.  He was a yeller, and when we didn't play well - he let us know about it.   We were horrible, so he yelled a lot.  He once said that if he stopped yelling, that was a sign that he stopped caring.  That stuck with me.

Fast forward 18 years to Monday's workout:
When the cross country coach told me he was going to "rile up the team" I wasn't sure what he was going to say, I was expecting the inevitable.  Fireworks.  He was going to let them have it.  I knew that for sure.  He cares for the kids on the team as if they are his own sons and daughters, and like coach Wierke said, if the coach stops yelling, he stops caring.

It's now 3:15.  While the cross country team is warming up, the coach solemnly sits on the bench.  He doesn't say a word.  He pays no attention to the team.  When the team is finished warming up he calls them over and has them take a seat on the ground.

A few moments of silence pass... and visions of a Hitler like rampage are running through my head.  (For an example go here ).  

Then he spoke, "This time of year, in any sport, kids start to lose interest.  Last week there were a lot less runners on Thursday than there was on Monday, and for Saturdays workout only a couple of you showed up.  I sometimes forget that not everyone has the same passion for running that I do."

He paused.  Turned his hat backwards, put on sunglasses, and from his backpack he took out...
a harmonica.  And started to sing:  "The cross country blues!"  A humorous song that brought smiles to all the kids faces and encouraged them to run strong and to run for each other - the cornerstones of the cross country team.  He also sang of how fast the season flies by, and to appreciate each day together.  He had spent the whole weekend writing the music and lyrics.   It was awesome!

Now you tell me which method is more powerful, yelling or "The Blues"?  Today I learned a valuable lesson, that you can accomplish more by building up students, then by yelling. 

Thanks Coach!