The Lifeboat

Biting doesn’t even begin to describe the weather.

It finds it way through your shoes. I was wearing wool sock stuffed into hiking boots. It should have been adequate protection from the elements but it barely made a dent in the bustling wind. Sitting in the first row at Rio Tinto Stadium, covering Murray and Skyline boys soccer, I was yawning out of cold and shivering out of necessity.

I have a good part-time job.—I cover sports at the Salt Lake Tribune. I refer to it as my lifeboat. Prior to writing about high school sports, I was looking for an outlet for the thoughts and passions that I experienced. I started writing a blog not because I wanted to prove that I knew how to carve a sentence. Nor did I start the blog to reconnect with my human interest column from college. I started the blog because I was spent from running The Woodshed.

Never under-estimate how traumatic the damages from running my own club in Utah were on my family or myself. This is not an attack on Utah liquor laws or the Utah’s state tax code. Being a part of a business that fails is a reflection upon oneself. Your friends and family will tell you differently, but the pressure to succeed becomes addictive and all encompassing.

I did everything I could to make The Woodshed work but finding myself in the hospital with blood pressure 210/180 is a wakeup. Doctors told me that I was lucky to be alive. The fact that they determined that telling me that my mortality was jeopardized was hard t hear.

Was I mess? Absolutely. I was overweight, smoking and drinking too much. I ate like a raccoon but every decision and move that I made was for the survival of my business. I was trying to preserve my financiers’ trust and in the process playing a dangerous game of Russian Roulette with my health.

Scary shit.

Laying prone at the University of Utah Hospital, I was tended to by doctors and nurses who were fighting to keep me alive. I was a pushpin of laboratory experiments with IVs piercing my skin. I was half-naked on the examination table with a slew of machines monitoring my blood pressure and heart rate as I stared up at the false ceiling. It was artificially cold and scary. It was the kind of place where we feel comfortable watching on television but never want to experience in person.

I experienced it in person—so did Erin.

The final straw in deciding to sell The Woodshed came when Erin walked into my examination room. There was nothing but concern in her eyes but behind her compassion came a solid message that both of us read painfully clearly. Sell the bar and repair the damage done to my health and our relationship. She is a strong, caring and empathetic woman but her ability to trust and love were pushed to the limits. With IVs piercing three parts of my body, the moment to walk away from the bar seized my body.

I knew that I was done.


Scary shit once again.

I put an ad in the paper and through a series of misadventures, I found a fellow adventurer that was willing to risk running a bar in Utah. He turned out to be a great partner simply because his checks cleared and he had the belief that the project I started, he could finish. I don’t speak of the guy who bought The Woodshed often but I am glad to know that he had the strength to finish my vision.

It was the beginning of looking at people as lifeboats.

Following The Woodshed, I was spent. I improved my health and found my way to Keys On Main where my boss gave me a second lease on life. I never wake up or go to sleep without thinking of George as being the guy who saved my bacon. It might sound like brown-nosing but I never forget the guy who gave me a chance where others shuffled me to the curb.

Not scary shit. It just happened to be the shit that gets most of us up in the morning and get us to work.

By 5:45pm, I wanted to die. The wind was pushing it way though Rio Tinto Stadium and I was a shivering mess. My hands became frozen masses where the skin shivered up into wrinkled masses that lacked feeling and function. My toes were ghosts of themselves and I could barely make a fist. I hate admitting this but I was glad that Skyline couldn’t answer Clay Powell of Murray’s goal simply because I don’t know if I could survive an overtime period of a great game.

I don’t root for teams in Utah. I root for great story lines. I had my storyline but I didn’t have blood circulating in my extremities. I would love to have had the Eagles of Skyline fight back in the closing minutes of the second half but I was so God damn cold that I just wanted it to end.

I am the kind of guy that will never complain about the heat simply because I can’t stop bitching during the cold. I figure if that I can suffer through the 100+ heat of the summer and not raise my voice in complaint that I can be a whiny punk during the winter months.

My home life has calmed downed dramatically since that horrible day in the hospital. Erin and I have found the ebbs and flows of a family and it centers around dinner. I came home from Rio Tinto and she asked how was the game. I could have gone on in great detail that the wind cut through me like a knife and I suffered for 80-minutes of an unseasonable cold that wrecked my hands and soul but I focused on the single goal in the game.

In replaying Clayton Powell’s remarkable top shelf goal in the 51st minute, she listened to me talk about a pretty cool part-time job I work. Erin is pretty cool but working at the Tribune isn’t half bad.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Like the name The Sidecar? That’s the new podcast. Working at the Tribune is more than a lifeboat—it’s a destroyer.

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