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Archive for April, 2019

I stopped for supper at O’Brien’s tonight and the place was hopping. It’s Good Friday and in addition to their regular meatloaf special, they offered a variety of combinations involving crab legs, shrimp and steak.

I was tempted to get the crab leg cluster and shrimp combo, but when I asked about portion size, I opted for the meatloaf instead. One cluster of 4 legs and a half dozen shrimp is an appetizer to this coonass.

The only open table when I walked in was right next to the kitchen and the pace was hectic. It reminded me of my high school days, when I worked as a busboy and dishwasher the last 5 months of my senior year.

It was about this time of year 44 years ago when Coach Gros, my Algebra teacher, suggested that my late-night job was affecting my class work. “If you don’t really need the money, you might think about cutting back on week nights so you can graduate.”

Graduate. That had been an abstract word to me up until that moment. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up and here I was, a month and a half away from graduation.

I thought about what he said during my shift at the restaurant that night.

Working at The Emporium had been the most fun I’d had in a while. I met some great people working there. (And stay in touch with them to this day.)

Most nights, we’d finish up by 10:30, then sneak into the back room of the Iron Horse next door and trade beer for washing glasses for the bartenders. It was easy to tell my parents I worked late. In a way, I wasn’t lying.

“Graduation.” That word kept playing in my mind as I scraped dishes and put them in the dishwasher.

At the end of the shift, I pulled the manager aside and told him I needed to quit so I could get my grades up. It was a tough decision. In a few short months, everyone there had become family to me.

“That’s a smart move,” he said. “You’ve got a job here if you change your mind.”

So here I am, 44 years later and another word is playing in my head.

“Retirement.”

Retirement starts in June. Where did the time go?

Last month I was a busboy. A week later a welder’s helper, then a fitter’s helper and machinist’s helper, then a freshman in college with ideas of becoming a lawyer. Then I was a college dropout working offshore and in the blink of an eye, I was a laid-off oilfield hand going back to college. I became a journalist because there weren’t many job opportunities in Thibodaux, La., for a history major with a journalism minor.

Journalism lasted for 20 years, then I became a corporate communicator after toying with becoming a locksmith for a few years. I got married. I got divorced. I’ve bought 4 houses and 10 cars and I’ve lived in three states.

And today I am 8 Mondays from retirement (though I’m off for 2 of them) and I’ve got that same feeling in my gut that I had 44 years ago.

During an interview in the mid-1990s, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Retired,” I said. “I want to be retired.”

We laughed. It was a good interview. I can’t remember what story I was working on.

But here I am on the precipice of retirement and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I guess I’m fixing to find out, though.

 

 

 

 

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