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By Simon J. Lau
Red Jack Saloon is a local neighborhood dive bar in North Beach. It may also be the only bar in San Francisco that serves patrons milk and cookies. The real pull for me, however, was of the building next door. More specifically, the Beach House, aka the North Beach House, was an apartment next door to Red Jack’s that I once called home. This was my second San Francisco apartment and despite its lackluster appearance, it was, and it still is, my favorite apartment today. One reason this space was so special was its close vicinity to all of the important things in life. From Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and 24 Hour Fitness, to Washington Square, the waterfront, and Financial District, it was located in one of the most central and convenient places in the city.
At the same time, some of the quirks that detracted from the Beach House remain some of the most enduring memories I have of it. For instance, rather than waking up to the music of a clock radio, I woke up each morning to the soft rumbles of semi-trailers driving by on Bay Street. It was jarring at first, but over time, I got used to it where it only bothered me slightly. These qualities, combined with the lively neighborhood spirit, made this area and the Beach House in particular a wonderful place to live.
I have only been here once, but I will always remember my first visit to Sweetie’s Art Bar. I had recently completed a 5-week backpacking trip through Asia and upon my return, I had settled on leaving for business school. Patrick, my manager at the time who I both respected and admired, happened to also live in the neighborhood. In an awkward and roundabout way, I invited him to join me for drinks at Sweetie’s so that I could tell him in-person that I was resigning (I was a consultant then and we often worked from different cities depending on the projects that we were assigned).
Although it was the right decision for me to leave, I wish I had spent more time learning from Patrick. Business school was a wonderful place for me to learn about strategy, management, and finance, but it was no replacement for great workplace mentorship. Nothing is. I have been fairly fortunate in finding great mentors recently, but I have also endured workplaces where there is no mentorship at all. Given these facts, always learn what you can from great mentors, because you won’t always have one.