After college, my plans were not firm. I had a job managing the Mad Batter restaurant in my hometown of Cape May. I began commuting between Muhlenberg and home in the late winter of my senior year. I worked all summer. It was very much like any other year. But as the summer wore on, my parents began to ask what I was going to do come September. Work, I thought. It was their intention to have me move out.
As I pondered spending money to live in a town that I had never had to spend a dime on for board I realized that it was time to move on. I had stumbled into a relationship with a girl I knew from college. She was moving to Boston to attend Northeastern for graduate school and suggested I move in with her. It seemed serendipitous at the time.
I drove all night late in September, my little car packed full. I recall arriving about 7:00 a.m. at my new abode. Instead of just my girlfriend, there was another girl I knew from college living there. Sigh …
Without a bed, I slept on an air mattress and searched for a job. Coming from a nouveau cuisine restaurant, I thought I’d walk into a high end restaurant. No dice. It wasn’t long before I recognized the reality of needing a job. I signed on as the manager of a Tony Roma’s restaurant in a suburb of the city.
Boston was off to a rough start: my living situation was less than ideal, I received two traffic tickets in my first two weeks, and we were robbed.
The restaurant was a franchise owned by John Battaglino. Minority shares of the restaurant were owned by Bobby Orr and KC Jones. We hosted many fundraisers for the Celtics and the Bruins. But it was difficult working here. The restaurant was not supposed to make money; it was a write-off for Battaglino and used as a liquor store for friends and family.
As the relationship with the girl I had moved to the city for failed, I found myself needing to find a new abode. At the same time, my friend Steve had returned from London and decided to move to Boston. We got an apartment together in Oak Square, about a mile down the road from where I was living.
This was absolutely the worst move of my life. Being so close, I figured I didn’t need to pack too securely. Bah! I recall driving down Cambridge Street with my mattresses on the roof (I had since purchased a bed) my hand holding them up so they wouldn’t fall off.
We had a nice apartment and entertained quite a bit. We rented our furniture and while it was expensive, it was nice stuff. It was while living here I began dating another girl from college. The only issue was that she lived in Bermuda.
I eventually left Roma’s to manage Hunter’s restaurant at 885 Boyleston Street in the heart of Boston. Hunter’s also owned the Pour House down the street. I came on as new management took over the joint. These folks were exiles from the Newbury Street TGI Fridays. This was the signature store at the time. I stayed here about four months before I returned to Roma’s.
Much of what was wrong with Roma’s had supposedly been corrected. I was asked to return and I did. That lasted several months before things changed again. This was the turn that eventually had JLB sell the franchise. Orr and Jones had left, along with all their trophies. I found myself without a job in the summer of ’89.
Being out of work when you’re young is not quite as bad as when you’re older. I traveled to North Carolina to visit friends, took road trips to see Grateful Dead shows, and had a momentous journey to Montreal for the Amnesty International concert. During this time I worked under the table at a restaurant somewhere (Sudbury?) with Sara. That kept some cash flowing, but things were not great.
We moved in with Sara and Bill in a gorgeous condo in Chlemsford. The lease was up in January 1990. We all found an apartment in Watertown. It was a duplex. Nothing great but fine. It had a puke green rug in the living room. I was very hesitant renting this place. We pulled up the corner of the rug and found a beautiful hardwood floor beneath. We re-did that floor the week before we moved in. I have never worked harder in my life. The landlord was so grateful he treated us to a $100 dinner on the wharf.
I also sucked it up that I needed to work. I joined Papa Gino’s, swallowing my pride as I did so. It didn’t take a genius to see I had gone from a state-of-the-art restaurant to a glorified fast food joint in the span of a few years. I was not happy about it. The Polyester pants I had to wear were the icing on the cake.
Many plans were hatched during this time: move to London, move to Bermuda, get married, enter the CIA, etc. Push eventually came to shove and plans were cemented. I was going to leave Boston, enter the Culinary Institute of America, and then get married.
But a funny thing happened along the way. Sara and Bill got married, my fiancée moved back to Bermuda, and I moved to Burlington. The plans were still on, but looking back, it certainly seemed like the writing was on the wall. Right as I was finishing up in Boston in 1991, I traveled to Bermuda for Cup Match. During that two week stay we broke up. So I headed back to New Jersey broke, broken up, and contemplating being in the restaurant industry for the rest of my life. It is not what I what I had intended …
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