The Bartender Journals: The Bartender Journals Part 1

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Bartender Journals Part 1

I woke up this morning, well not exactly the morning, it was four in the afternoon but that’s morning for a bartender, and had a wicked hangover. I fumbled around for a cigarette and lay there next to the open window by my bed and listened to the crack heads shuffle through my building’s dumpster. I had to be at work in a half hour and didn’t have time for a shower so I picked out some clothes that didn’t smell too bad. I decided to go with the t-shirt I had made that says “POPULAR SPORTS TEAM” in black letters. Nobody at the sports bar I work at seems to get it.

On my way out to my motorcycle I saw a pamphlet stapled to a telephone pole. It had a picture of a cat and said “LOST CAT Answers to “kiss my pussy” please call 495-0060. I really wanted to laugh but couldn’t muster the strength.

Work was dead when I got there and the only other person in sight was Katie the cocktail waitress and my ex-girlfriend. If you’ve never had to work with an ex before let me spare you the suspense, it sucks. Normally after a breakup you can easily avoid the other person by staying away from their hangouts and friends. You’re totally screwed when you have to spend seven hours a day, four days a week not only seeing but talking to that person. Oh fuck. Here she comes.

“Hi, what’s up?” She says with a smile. But all I hear is “I broke up with you and told all the other waitresses what you look like naked.” I need some coffee.

The coffee here sucks and I drink too much of it. I need to do something about this hangover and ponder the idea of bitters and soda, an old trick you learn in bartending school, but decide to opt for some “hair of the dog” instead and slip a couple shots of bourbon in my coffee. Just as I’m doing this I notice that I have customers at the far side of the bar. A construction worker and a cop come in from the road work being done outside and sit down together. I ask them where the Indian chief and the sailor are and they stare at me blankly and ask for menus. I don’t know why I try.

The rest of the evening shift begins to roll in. Seven months of working here and I can barely keep these chicks’ names straight. Cryatal, Katie, Karen, Kelly C, Kelly E, Cassie, and Carrie are gossiping at the server station. It doesn’t help that I’m the only guy that works here. Sure at first I felt like a kid in a candy store, but within two months of being hired, Katie had stuck a flag in me and staked her claim. Three months after that things had apparently gotten “weird” and we broke up. Now the rest of the flock is off limits. Date one girl at your work and it’s an office romance, date two or more and you’re a man whore, it’s just that simple. I think I’d better find a paper and pretend they’re not talking about me.

I’m too out of it to read about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket so I decide to do the crossword. Hmm… A five letter word starting with L for “One who lacks success. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.

Oh crap. Traci just walked in. Traci is an ex of mine that I’ve been dating lately. We hadn’t seen each other in three years and ran into each other at a bar a few weeks ago and have been seeing each other since. She says she’s on her way to school and just wanted to stop in and say hi. We talk for a few minutes and when she gets ready to leave she leans over for the old goodbye kiss. I awkwardly oblige and simultaneously try and scan the bar with my eyes as I do it. When she leaves I see the hens giggling and pointing in the corner. Now I can look forward to “Who was that?” and “Was that your girlfriend?” questions for the next couple of hours. I drink more bourbon.

I have another customer. He orders a Bud and starts yammering on about some sports game. He could be speaking Aramaic for all I know. I’m able to decipher that tonight is going to be rather busy because our local hockey team is in the Super Bowl or something. It’s hard working in a sports bar when you have absolutely no interest in sports. I guess it’s gotta be like a homo working in a titty bar, I just don’t get all the hype. Usually you can bullshit your way through these conversations with customers with a lot of “yea”’s and “really”’s like you might do on a boring date but when they realize that they distracted me from my dog eared copy of The Sun Also Rises to ask about a basketball score, they realize they asked the wrong question. I swear these morons think that just because I work here that I must be Howard fucking Kosell. Even the waitresses seem to know more than I do. I hope you never have to go through the de-emasculating experience of getting the off sides rule explained by a eighteen year old girl applying eyeliner.

The guy at the end of the bar wants a Coors Light. He hasn’t asked yet and I don’t recognize him but I know anyway. After you’ve served a few thousand beers you can just tell by looking at them. Occasionally you get thrown a curveball. One time I had a guy with a Bud Light running suit and baseball cap order a Heineken, that one bent my mind for awhile.

Yep, I was right a Coors Light. Damn I’m good. I wonder if I could somehow incorporate that into some kind of drunken magic act? Hey wait. A homeless guy just walked in and sat down. He’s asking for what would obviously be his twelfth shot of vodka. I don’t have anything against hobos it’s just that they’re bad for business. We cater to a rich cocksucker season ticked holder crowd that doesn’t like rubbing elbows with tramps. For that matter what the hell is this guy doing trying to buy our overpriced shit for anyway? He’s have to panhandle for months to buy a Smirnoff here. Why not save your money and drink yourself to death on Thunderbird like a normal bum. The girls notice that he’s scaring the customers and as always it’s my job to toss his ass. As politely as possible I scoop the poor bastard up and escort him out. Afterwards I begin to wonder who the poor bastard really is.

Shit. Here comes Katie again, this was inevitable. “Who was that girl?” She asks.

I tell her just an old friend. Fuck I’m a spineless sack of shit.

“She was really cute.” I take a deep breath and nod.

“What are you doing after work tonight?” She asks as she places her hand over mine on the bar.

I say that I’m not sure and I’ll talk to her after I get off. She agrees, gives me a wink and a smile and walks off. Then I pour some more bourbon in my coffee cup. It’s gonna be a long night.

The place is starting to fill up and the manager just turned off my jazz station to put the pre-game on the P.A.. The reason we get so packed on game nights because we’re right across the street from the city’s sports arena. For two hours before and at least one hour after a game, this place is a madhouse but when there’s nothing going on it’s a ghost town. Despite the waitress’ bitching when its slow I kinda like it. I make a descent hourly and even when its busy most of these pricks think tipping is a city in China. The down time helps me relax. I grab a good book, throw on some jazz and put away a stiff drink. You haven’t experienced Steinbeck till you’ve read him good and tight while listening to some Brubeck. This is how I got the rep as the weird guy. I guess these broads, most of whom were cheerleaders in high school, have never met a guy who’d rather dig some Kerouac than watch a bunch of overpaid assholes in silly outfits whack a ball around. That’s what Katie said she liked about me. I guess years of these Neanderthals pinching her ass as she tried to carry a tray of drinks drove her to something different.

Katie, the only girl to drive me to sobriety. I swear I went on a week long bizarro binder after she gave me my walking papers and let me tell you it was hell. For some reason after she left, the hooch just didn’t taste as sweet anymore. It was the longest I’d been on the wagon since I was fourteen. Slowly a healthy surliness set in and I was back off the wagon and into the gutter where I belonged.

A guy in a t-shirt and a sport coat just sat down with a woman with enough collagen in her lips to raise the Kursk. She wants a cosmo and he asks for a rusty nail with a dipshit grin. I know these guys. They buy a bartending bible and think they can impress a date my stumping the bartender with an obscure cocktail. This guy’s barking up the wrong fucking tree. Growing up with my father, the only two liquors in the house were scotch and Drambuie, the only two ingredients in a rusty nail. If I wanted to tie one on as a shaver I had to learn to appreciate the libation. I ask the guy how he likes his rust and he goes from cocky to stumbling moron in about a tenth of a second. I explain that I’m asking how much Drambuie he wants and he says not too much. Fucker wound up not tipping but damn it was worth it.

The coffee’s getting cold so I decide to switch to rum and coke in a soda cup. The trick with doing this at work is choosing a dark rum so the boss doesn’t notice the pale complexion of your beverage and tip her off that your boozing on the job. I find Myers does the trick. It’s also a good idea to keep some strong mints handy. I swear Amber, god bless her for having a name starting with an A, the manager must thing I brush my teeth five times a day.

Katie comes behind the bar to sneak herself a shot of Vodka. I swear she executes this move like an expert pickpocket. First she pours the shot under the bar, then she examines some tickets for upcoming drinks, then she drops one and in one swift move grabs the shot and downs it while going to pick up the ticket. Now that’s a girl you bring home to mom. On her way out to the floor she runs her hand across the small of my back, a move that two months ago was a signal for a quickie in the beer fridge. I almost drop two pilsners of Guinness as she does this and make the save just in time to see her shoot me a wink on her way out. I can tell that this encounter wasn’t an invitation to please her up against a case of Corona but rather a display of intent. Kind of like a peacock displaying her feathers just to let the poor male peacock know the score.

My cell phone is ringing and it’s Traci. I hope God is enjoying this. I duck into the broom closet where it’s quiet enough to talk. She wants to know what time I’ll be off. I tell her, knowing damn well that I’ll be off as soon as the game starts and the bar clears out, that I may have to close and that I’ll call her later. There is a special place in hell for idiots like myself.

I can see some dirt bag trying to hit on Katie at one of the cocktail tables. She’s got blowing these guys off down to a science. Just as the bastard crosses the customer-drunken guy hitting on you line she’ll either spill a drink in his lap or if she’s dying for a tip tell them she’s a lesbian which typically results in a bigger tip.

It’s a half hour till they drop the black thing on the ice and the customers are antsy to buy drinks for less than eight bucks before they get to the game. I actually went to a hockey game once when a scalper that frequents the place gave me ice tickets. The experience was fun enough but when I ordered two Coors’ and the beer peddler told me fifteen bucks, I knew I couldn’t make a hobby out of being a sports fan.

Drunk guy in the jersey wants to buy me a shot. Apparently because I’m the man. Drinking recreationally on the job is a no no but if a customer is buying it’s encouraged. Strange how that works. He asks me what I want and I tell him we’re doing a round of Jacobs Ladders.

Jacobs Ladder

Put a shot glass in bottom of Pint
Fill shot glass with
Absolut Citron + Floater of Blackberry Schnapps
Fill Pint up to rim of shot glass with Cranberry
Fill half of remainder with light beer and other half with Pinapple

Drink entire thing until shot pours down throat

Let me tell you, this shit is like Ambrosia. Jersey guy puts his down and within two minutes I see him make a b-line for the bathroom, mission accomplished.

The bar is starting to clear out. Tabs are settled and barstools empty as the morons pile out to watch a bunch of figure skaters with mullets try and convince America that Canada has something to offer the civilized world. I settle the last of my tabs and tally up my tips. 125.67, I might not have to hit the ATM at the bar tonight.

Just as I’m making sure the bar is nice and tidy for the closing girl I get another ring on my cell phone. Of course it’s Traci. She wants to know the score because she’s got a line on a good jazz club tonight. Just as I’m trying to think of a good way to blow her off Katie comes over and wants my ear. She asks if I want to grab some drinks downtown because she’s getting off the same time as me. I ask for a sec and duck back into the broom closet and ask Traci if she wants to grab some dinner. She says that she’d rather skip the dining and get straight to the wineing and go back to her place and screw. Phone in hand I pontificate on this dilemma for a couple of moments and tell Katie I have plans and I’ll see her tomorrow at work. I then tell Traci that I’ll meet her at one of my favorite hangouts in forty five minutes.

Did I make the right choice? Only time will tell. All I know is that I’m gonna get lit with a beautiful girl who’d rather get tight and fuck than go through the romantic rigamoround. Katie says for me to call her this weekend. All I can think is that the shortest distance between me and happiness is a stiff Jack and Coke.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a girl who is hoping a year or two find me back in the arms of my ex, I think you made the right decision. This time, fix all the things that went wrong the last time and don't let destiny down.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the male peacock that displays its feathers.

Aside from that, it's a great story!

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The part about the captain taking you to disney world at me crackin up as well as the part about paying attention when girls are talking. Keep up the good work man I religiously follow your posts and whenever you publish I'll be sure to add my contribution to your ramen fund.

11:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, a "peacock" is male and a "peahen" is female. Peahens are grey and ugly.

6:00 AM  
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12:02 PM  

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