I got to admit that I really didn't know what to expect when I started writing my personal blog. To be honest, I was a bit nervous. Now, twenty chapters in and really enjoying it and getting some amazing feedback from our readers, I decided to celebrate our 20th blog by writing about three amazing people who have had a huge influence on my life.
# 1. My Dad, Gerry Kelly Snr, aka Olympic Gerry
As the eldest of 11 kids, 7 brothers and 3 sisters, growing up on the North Strand in inner City Dublin, he’s a die hard Dub with a big heart.
He’s always working hard. When I was young, he had three jobs: a taxi driver, a school teacher in a boys high school and he also taught general education in a prison. In the midst of all this, he also went to school a few nights a week to study law and then he became a Lawyer.
He was either always working or working out. He wasn't called Olympic Gerry for nothing. When he wasn't working, he was running or cycling. He didn't give a fuck, hail, rain or snow. He’d be up at 6am and out the door by 6.30am. He was and still is crazy about sports, just to give you an example. I remember one time I took his car out for a rally with three of my friends. There was no stereo in the car so we had a ghetto blaster in the back seat pumping out some Bob Marley and I was doing as many burnouts and donuts as I could in a local forest. I was driving as fast as I could in reverse and pulling up the emergency brake and spinning the car around. Then, I lost control and hit a tree.
The trunk of the car was nearly in the front seat. To say the least, there was quite a bit of damage. I dropped off two of the lads and drove home with my good friend Keith to explain to my dad what had happened. He told me to be quiet as he was in the middle of watching the match (a football game) and would look at it later. Most people would have ran out the door immediately to check on their car, not him. I then left the house and came back a few hours later and asked him what he thought of the damage to the car. He still hadn't seen it and was still watching sports on the TV.
Then, he went to look at it and as he opened the front door he saw two of our neighbors talking on the street, so he turned around and closed the front door and never ended up seeing the damage till the following morning. Fuck, that was a long day and night. When he did see it, all he said was “Negligence, Pure Negligence,” in a pissed off voice and then never said another word about it, ever again.
He’s got to be one of the easiest going people I know. Some people say he’s crazy. I guess that’s where I get it. I remember he came home one time with a few drinks on him and a bus stop on the roof of the car, which is still in our back garden in Ireland to this day.
In 2006, I was doing a long distance run through the Sahara Desert in Morocco and my dad told me that he would come and meet me there, I told him it wasn't possible and he raised his eyes to heaven and said, I’ll see about that. I thought he was joking, as there was no way of finding us in the middle of the Sahara Desert (the route wasn't shared) and no spectators allowed. Anyway, the old man wasn't going to let that stand in his way. He flew my Mum, Uncle and himself to Marrakesh in Morocco, then rented a 4x4 Jeep and hired a Moroccan guy to drive them to a small town in Morocco and scouted out some local tribes men and hired them to drive the Jeep into the middle of the Sahara. It was fucken nuts. I was resting in a tent with five other guys when I heard one of the organizers asking, “does anyone know what tent Gerry Kelly is in?” I went outside to see what was going on and low and behold there was my Mum, Dad & Uncle in the middle of the Sahara Desert. My mum was standing there wet with sweat, nearly melting with a large bottle of Gin in one hand and a book in the other. “Here’s a small gift for you Gerard.” It was surreal. I wasn't allowed to take the gifts but, it was the thought that counted. If there’s one thing I could say about my dad that I will always admire, it’s that he’s a man of his word, if he says he’s going to do something, he’ll do it.
#2 Daithi Donnelly aka Big D - From Boat Party Raves to Some of the Busiest Most Popular Bars in San Francisco.
Daithi Donnelly: a confident, charismatic, hardworking, supportive friend and visionary leader and a straight up no bull shit guy.
We used to work together in the Irish Bank Bar and Restaurant in downtown San Francisco, before he teamed up with another Irish guy and they bought a sketchy old gay bar on the worst Street in San Francisco, 6th Street between Mission and Market and turned it into a popular destination bar famous for late night and after hours parties.
It took some balls and a serious vision to open a bar on stinky 6th Street back in 2000, actually anytime for that matter. I remember he used to pound the pavement in search of a premises to build a bar. He’d come into work in the Irish Bank and would be telling me about some of the shifty and slippery old bar owners that he was meeting and the lies they were telling him. He was a man on a mission, and wouldn't take no for an answer. It was unbelievable to watch things grow from their original bar “Anu” on 6th Street to opening some of the busiest and most successful bars in San Francisco such as Swig, Bourbon and Branch and a high end liquor store called Cask and then The Rick house. I don’t think he ever got to see the opening of the Rick House.
Dahi was the original founder and true visionary behind The Future Bar Group in San Francisco. It’s pretty sad really that you don’t get to hear much about the true visionary behind The Future Bar Group because Dahi, a healthy, bike riding, non smoker, had the misfortune of getting lung cancer in 2009 at the young age of 34 and the peak of his career. He was a charismatic, confident, streetwise, smooth talking Entrepreneur.
He didn't give a fuck who you were or where you were from. If you were real and sincere you’d get along with him. He had friends from all walks of life fly in from all corners of the world for some of the parties he’d throw.
I’ll never forget one time in 2000, Dahi invited me along to a wine tasting event where he was doing a presentation about some South American wines. He said, Gerry, come with me to this event, it will be a bit of craic, there’ll be lots of free wine.
I was blown away. There he was in the middle of all these wine buffs twice his age talking like a sommelier (an expert on wine) holding the crowd spellbound with his charismatic personality.
I think he just brought me along to go on a good rip afterwards. It was hilarious. I wasn't much into wine. Then towards the end of the event he introduced me to some pretty serious wine buffs. I think he knew they would be quizzing me about wine. This preppy looking heavy set guy in khaki shorts and a polo top slides over closer to me on the couch I was sitting on and turns to me and says, “so Gerry, what’s your favorite wine and region?” I guess he was expecting a pretty interesting lengthy discussion on wine.
I’ll never forget his face when he heard my reply “Ah, to be honest, I’m pretty easy going, I’ll drink anything.” I remember Dahi giving me a sneaky grin and winking at me. The guy didn't know what to make of me, it was hilarious. That’s Dahi for you, no BS, he didn't put on an act around anyone.
I remember Dahi would say, “Gerry you’re in America, if you've got a vision, drive and some balls you can do anything here, just remember, start small and build on it.” Dahi passed away just over a year after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. There’s so many great stories myself and many others could tell about him, maybe one day a group of us will get together and write a book about him.
#3 Christine Garcia aka “My Lover” or The Animal Rights Attorney
My amazing passionate, happy, generous, loving, supportive wife Christine Garcia. I met Christine over 8 years ago when she was looking to buy a house. She answered one of my guerrilla marketing ads, a big ugly yellow sign in the middle of Lincoln Ave, a main road in San Francisco. She never actually bought the house and we never actually met in person, but we got on great over the phone and e-mailed regularly for three months. How we actually met each other in person one day is a bit of a crazy/fun/chance meeting story, which I will tell another time. But it was fate.
Christine has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Christine was a Corporate Attorney for the first two years of her practice from 1999 to 2001, specializing in mergers and acquisitions making great money.
After a getting her second speeding ticket within one year for driving over 100 miles an hour, she was sent to Level III, Serious Offenders Traffic School by Commissioner Bloom in Hayward and ordered to serve 80 hours of community service at the San Francisco Animal Shelter. There, Christine was so shocked and disgusted to learn about some of the animal cases that were brought into the shelter. And seeing people get off with a slap on the hand. She decided there and then that something needed to be done to bring attention to the plight of animals and defend them.
For a while she did pro bono animal work on top of her other firms job, but after a while, it was too much to do both. A choice had to be made. She never went back to her corporate attorney position, but instead decided, that she would become a full time Animal Rights Attorney, a voice for the voiceless. So for the past 14 years, she has fought tooth and nail to saves the lives of hundreds of animals that would be dead otherwise. Defending activists too.
I gotta give her so much credit for doing the things that she does. She goes to court to fight for the lives of so many dogs that are on death row for allegedly biting people or some just for growling at people. She has to deal with the most disgusting horrible evil people there are. Assholes who want the dogs dead. It’s a constant battle for her. She literally fights for the underdog and believes that if you are going to put your life and sweat into your work, you better do something you believe in.
Sometimes when I get stressed out about work and money etc… she always say’s “That 9-5 grind job to pay the bills and live is always out there, but you are going for your dreams, and that’s more important.” Which is so true. It really makes me think, there’s always a job to be found, but if you give up on your passion and dreams you may never find them again. Or you’ll always be wishing you went after them or gave it a try.
Lessons I learned from these amazing people
1. Stepping out of the box is crucial if you want to excel and go beyond the status quo.
2. If you've got a vision, drive and some balls you can do anything, just remember, start small and build on it.
3. Spending your time and labor doing something you believe in is important, because time goes by fast, and before you know it, life has passed you by while you might be working on someone else’s dream..