IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS YET, CHECK IT OUT AND THEN YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A BARTENDER NIGHT IN AND NIGHT OUT.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, at least once a week I encounter a patron at my bar who, with great empathy and pity, asks me why I am still bartending at my age. Because I’m not retarded (for the most part), nor do I have any major disfigurations or facial lacerations to speak of (not even so much as a lazy eye) they expect that someone as healthy-looking and capable as me should by now be making a living in a way that is more, well…dignified, I suppose.
As offensive as this might seem, I get it. Professionals like school teachers and dentists are considered the luminaries of our society in that they provide respectable services for our kids and our community. On the other hand, the nice man who gets them sloshed when they go out is more like an executioner with that black hood over his head: he’s not that bright, but he has some good stories to tell because he’s seen a lot, and he provides a necessary service for his betters. Nevertheless, nice man or not, you’d prefer that he didn’t date your daughter.
Believe me, I have spent a good deal of my youth fantasizing about becoming something fantastically eccentric one day, something completely unique from the men I imagined sitting miserably in their crowded cubicles, committed to cold calls and penciling in numbers on gridded paper. It just hasn’t happened yet.
What I really want is a job in which enormous amounts of money flood my bank account on a daily basis without having to do any actual work. A real turnkey operation, like selling subscriptions to my porn sight on the Internet. A job I could do on my yacht while entertaining my friends, who would look on with jealous resentment as I answered my cell phone and barked orders at whoever was on the other end: “Well you tell miss goody-two-shoes that if she wants a job with this company that she’d better reconsider doing anal.”
I understand that this type of unambitious dream might give you cause for anger. You would argue against such lethargy because you have the romantic notion that every American should shoulder an equal load for equal pay and that hard work is its own reward. You’ll say that we should all contribute something worthwhile and useful to society, and that spine-crippling labor is the yardstick that measures and ranks a person’s reputation and moral fiber.
I hear you loud and clear. Hard work certainly can be rewarding. Just not for me. I find it rather burdensome.
Even so, if it makes you feel any better, I am (and have been) amongst the working class for many years now. And yet, for whatever reason, I am grilled on a weekly basis from those who relentlessly inquire what else I want to do with my life. Apparently bartending is not a real career, but more of a hobby or part time distraction, like working at Jamba Juice, which implies that I am, at best, somewhere in the range of two-thirds of a man as opposed to a full time contributing man.
Though I certainly appreciate the foresight and concern from those of you who have pointed out my failings thus far as a serviceable member to our society, I would like to mention that I am not without accomplishments. I even sat down and compiled a list to silence all you naysayers. It only took me six days to finish.
MY 10 MOST AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENTS UP TO THIS POINT IN MY LIFE
(in mostly chronological order)
1. I am born and manage to stay alive, despite my stubbornness to breathe. It takes three minutes of vigorous swatting on my backside from the doctor to trigger my first gasp of life. Apparently breathing is more effort than I care to tolerate.
2. I learn to read at an early age and as I grow up I read almost anything—novels, magazines, newspapers, comic books, the backs of cereal boxes. Besides basketball, it’s the one credible thing I do up through high school, and because my parents witness me reading, I am able to convince them for two years after I graduate that I am writing a novel. I stay locked in my room for hours sleeping or listening to Nirvana with my headphones on. When my mom or dad come knocking on the door I raise my head groggily from the sheets and call out, “Be out in a bit; I’m at a real crucial part here.”
3. I receive a patch for “Whittling” from the Cub Scouts at the age of nine because I can carve a regular stick into a marshmallow stick. I believe this accomplishment speaks for itself.
4. I grow a mustache by the age of thirteen. It is thin and cheesy, but while wearing it around I feel like I have a leg up on all the other boys in the race for manhood, like smoking must make you feel when you first start.
5. It turns out I am right about the smoking. I take it up at fourteen and feel downright invincible. After school lets out I lean on the giant oak tree just off campus dressed in a tarnished leather jacket and shredded 501’s, a Jimmy Dean replica, only I’m not an irresistible bad boy. Truth told, I’m so regrettably introverted that I’m only a step removed from invisibility. I am not fully aware of this at the time, though, and as the other students stroll past I pinch and waggle the cigarette between my thumb and index finger while taking an occasional drag and stroking my moustache. Unfortunately, I quit smoking the next day. The coughing is more commitment than I signed up for.
6. I give a dollar to a girl from the Salvation Army who is standing outside Safeway at Christmastime ringing that annoying bell. Even beneath her sweat suit I can tell that her body is lean and compact in the thighs and generous up top where it should be, like one of those silhouettes on the mud flaps of trucks. This fact doesn’t make my donation any less admirable, I hope you know.
7. After being grilled by my parents for the gabillionth time about what I think I’d like to do for a career after high school, I foolishly blurt out, “Park Ranger” and before I can say, “Just kidding,” I find myself counseling a bunch of smart-ass sixth graders at a nature-motivated experience called Ecology Camp, where you sleep in cabins, go on nature hikes and basically spend a week gathering bugs and leaves and falling backwards into each others arms to spread glorious feelings of trust. This isn’t the accomplishment, though. During the first day’s hike I fake an ankle sprain and spend the week sleeping in the cabin and ordering the boys around to wait on me hand and foot. I am a male Cleopatra. As a precaution, I warn the boys that if they squeal to anyone about my little secret that I will tell every girl in camp that we are having all night gay orgies. Extortion is such an ancient, forgotten art of persuasion.
8. Lying in bed one night I have a revelation: I realize I can name all 172 episodes of The Duke’s of Hazard, The Six-Million Dollar Man and MacGyver. I understand that this should be a depressing, possibly suicidal moment, but I am giddy with my talent to recall. If I should ever get a call from Jeopardy and one of the categories happens to be “Shows Only Seven Year Olds Watched Thirty Years Ago”, you may as well step down. Game over.
9. One night I sit down to play some online poker for an hour or so but instead I somehow stumble across a site called partybingo.com and spend the next 27 straight hours playing bingo online. When my girlfriend comes out of my bedroom to ask me what I’ve been doing all night, I panic and cover up the screen and tell her I’m looking at S & M porn sites.
10. I memorize the lyrics to Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” the first day I buy the tape, though I have to admit it takes me nearly two years to learn that Jeremy commits suicide at the end of the song. Upon digesting this information, I find myself looking over my shoulder everywhere I go, as if I have discovered some cosmic wisdom that only I and a handful of other secret agent Pearl Jam fans know about. This, I realize, is silly and cannot really be considered an accomplishment. Still, because of the song’s intensely profound message and the fact that, of all the songs on the tape, I intuitively chose that one in particular to memorize, I feel that the coincidence cannot be overlooked.
There you have it, my accomplishments, which, looking back now, don’t seem as impressive as they did when I thought them up in my head. In fact, I’m rather depressed now. For argument’s sake, and so I don’t have to read a bunch of emails from people judging my life’s work, let’s just go ahead and declare right now that I’m more like half a human being than two-thirds of one. I don’t want to generate any unwarranted expectations concerning my true value. The last thing I need is for someone to come into my bar and point out the precise fraction of a man they think I am.
Cheers, until next time. I’m going to play bingo.
Just after I finished with college a terrible mistake was made and I was persuaded by my brother-in-law to attend an Amway meeting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Amway, they are like the godfather of network marketing. For those of you a little unclear on network marketing, it’s where people train you to badger others into joining a pyramid scheme that everyone knows won’t really work.
My brother-in-law had already been brainwashed by the Amway cult and it could be, at times, downright embarrassing. We would be at the grocery store and he would jump in between some eighteen year old kid looking at the Lucky Charms and ask, “Hey, my good friend, have you ever thought of new ways to make money?”
You may be asking why I would agree to attend such a meeting, and the simple answer is because like most bartenders, I am an anti-nine-to-fiver. This means I am unrealistically optimistic and dangerously vulnerable to get rich quick opportunities that appear simple and prosperous without putting in any real work (for the love of God, please don’t send me any of your one-time offers). Which is why I eventually fell into bartending, the profession of unrealized potential.
Still, you have to tread carefully when considering to become a bartender. Sure, it’s fun and cool and the money is certainly tempting, but like growing up in a small town, you may find it takes a small miracle to get out.
You wouldn’t believe how many people who come into the bar feel the need to parent me, especially the older ones who view bartending as more of an adventure you briefly entertain while in college, like pot-smoking, before moving on and becoming a grown-up. The question I invariably get from people like this is, “So what else are you doing with your life?” As far as I can tell they are not aware that such a comment is loaded with insult, so I do my best to allow them their superiority. And then I fuck with them, because to assume that someone does something other than the job they are currently employed at is to say, “For the love of God, please tell me that you have some sort of plan other than this,” and that’s really fucked up.
So I’ll say, “What do you mean,” looking vaguely confused and hurt, as if they have just revealed that there is no Santa.
“Well, um, I don’t know…do you have any aspirations to do something other than work in a bar?”
“So you’re saying a strip-club would be better?”
“No, I mean something that demands a purpose. Something you can look forward to in your life.”
“I’m going to a Dave Matthews concert next week.”
“Never mind. I’ll take another gin and tonic.”
Believe me, there’s nothing these people can say that I don’t already know. I get it. You wander into a bar one day looking for a part-time job while attending community college and thirty-five years later you’re serving white zinfandel to a group of old bags at the Holiday Inn. It’s the quicksand of professions, and usually you don’t realize what you’ve walked into until it’s too late.
That’s how I found myself at an Amway meeting at the age of twenty-four, sitting in some guy’s house named George with a host of other hopefuls, preparing to discover the secrets to becoming financially independent in a matter of a few years, maybe even months!
I took a seat on a grey metal folding chair in a box-sized living room and accepted some cookies from a nice looking lady with a practiced smile. There were eight of us, the hopefuls, and we were all facing an easel equipped with a giant pad of white paper. I wanted to believe, but I didn’t want to admit I believed. When someone nearby leaned over and asked me if this was my first meeting I jumped as if I was being accused of something and said, “I’m just here supporting a friend.”
George was an excitable, balding salesman who was irritatingly positive and forever battling pessimism with a greasy, nicotine-stained smile and the phrase, “You can have excuses, and you can have money, but you can’t have both.” After introducing himself and thanking us for coming, George went to work on the flimsy aluminum easel, preaching to us with a red felt-tip marker which squeaked out slapdash pyramids of circles representing the different levels of success. This is you, George tells us—scribble—and that down there is your down-line—scribble, squeak. And those three circles? Why, those are your down-line’s recruits, and if those circles sign up six new circles apiece and they sign up six and so forth, well then, my friends, you are going to be on your way to yachts and jets and vacations near the equator. It’s one giant family tree of wealth and generosity and you’re invited to join the gene pool.
The presentation reeked of possibility. George worked the board with a savage artistry that tempted me to forgive the irritant I’d come to know him as. Before it even ended I could see the greed in people’s eyes, and on the way out the door the hopefuls were offering George shoulder-dislocating handshakes, but not before they purchased enough network marketing books and audio tapes from George to fill a gym locker. This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them. A true revelation, really it was. Like cell division, they weren’t quite sure how it worked, but if this diagram proved accurate, then holy shit!
I shook George’s hand too but bought nothing. I walked to my car muttering, “Idiots”. The problem is, if you’re someone seeking treasure, someone who understands pyramids and the power of exponential growth, the offer looks downright tasty at first. Circles breeding circles until everyone is rich enough to puke diamonds. I was tempted to go back and talk to George, because hell, everyone’s heard of someone who missed the boat, but what I did was get in my car and drive home, picturing islands and Ferraris and a house with a bowling alley. The next day I was back pouring drinks, with George nothing more than a faded specter in the corner of my mind. All that remained was the sound of George’s voice telling me, “Don’t forget to network today, Dave, so you can net-play tomorrow.
Bartending is certainly not the perfect job, but I will own it until it’s time to move on even though I know I will still encounter people whose instinct will be to parent me, to help awaken the dormant potential I have hibernating inside me. They are torn because our relationship teeters somewhere on the edge of butler and friend. They care about me, but they also want to drink and be attended to without the obligation of repayment that comes with ordering someone around. They are fond of me, but they are wary too. I see it in their faces, and I know exactly what it means. It says, “You are the coolest, most interesting person I know. Just don’t ever date my daughter.”
Cheers, until next time.
Occupational hazards are a way of life no matter your profession: doctors are required to be in the presence of the sick and dying, construction workers are on the constant lookout for falling cinderblocks, Alaskan king crab fisherman must avoid being washed overboard by a giant swell. Sure, bartenders do not walk the same perilous lines as those people, and in fact you might call our cross to bear something closer to “occupational burdens” than hazards, but let’s not split hairs. In the service industry our burdens come in the form of recurring gripers and complainers and downright assholes. If the food isn’t undercooked then the music is too loud or too soft, or the drinks are not strong enough, it’s too cold, it’s too bright, the people are ugly, and on and on and on.
I once worked with another bartender who preached that nobody should be able to eat out in a restaurant until he/she worked in one for at least 6 months. This comes straight from the “walk a mile in my shoes” ideology. Imagine the compassion we would have for others if only we worked their job for awhile. I know a few teachers who would love to trade places with the psycho parents they deal with on a day to day basis. With that said, I have never been a teacher and can only vouch for the bartenders of the world, so let’s call them unwritten rules, call it common courtesy, call it what you want, but here’s a list of bar etiquette for you and your friends to learn before you attend another drinking establishment that will make your bartender happy and hopefully get you good service:
On Getting my Attention: First and foremost, I am not a dog and I’m not a five year old interrupting you while you’re talking on the phone. Do not snap at me. This little attention-getter is second only to throwing things at me, which will get you tossed out on your ear.
On Cheapness: If you order a vodka cranberry and leave me a quarter, don’t act all befuddled when my eyes glaze over the next time you are trying to get my attention or when your next drink turns out to be cranberry juice with a splash of vodka. I’m sorry our society has created this bizarre culture in which you tip people for pouring liquid into a glass, but they did, so if you want good service and a decent drink, abide by it. If not, enjoy your cranberry juice.
On the Strength of Your Drink: You would not go to a pizza place and ask them to bring out another half pizza for free because the one you ordered wasn’t “strong enough”. Do not order a drink and tell me to “make it a good one” or say “I can’t even taste the alcohol”. This is not a garage sale, you cannot negotiate the amount of liquor for the price. I know how much liquor goes in a drink. If you want me to make it a good one, order a double. And if you can’t taste the alcohol, you’re either an alcoholic or you don’t tip well enough.
On Being Prepared to Order: Here’s an oldie but goody. I am whipping out drinks left and right, and while doing so I can see you out of the corner of my eye down at the other end of the bar waving and jumping up and down like a chimpanzee on hot asphalt. I feel bad that no one has attended to you yet, so I hustle down to the other end and when I get there and ask you what you want, you turn around and ask your six friends, “What are you drinking?” They all look around and say, “Ummm, I don’t know, what are you having?” Sorry, but I’m gone. I don’t have time to wait around while your friends all ask each other what the other is drinking. If you’re going to wave me down, you’d better be prepared for a rapid-fire order.
On Starting a Tab: When you order a Budweiser and give me a credit card and ask me to close it out, I assume you’re done for the evening. Do not come back five more times and order one drink and close it out. Start a tab. Be assured, I do not want to steal your credit card. You will get it back.
On Being a Girl: I don’t intend to offend, but seriously, girls, what the fuck? Why can’t you just buy your friend a drink? Friday night, 11:00 p.m. and a group of you walks up to the bar, orders four cosmos and hands me four separate credit cards. This takes time to close out credit cards separately. Then, ten minutes later you are all back again. Four drinks, four credit cards, and everyone’s wondering what’s taking so long to get a drink. Guys buy rounds of drinks for their buddies. Why can’t you?
On Being my Best Friend: Just because you know me does not mean we are friends. Do not abuse your familiarity with me by pretending we shared a prison cell together so you can get a drink faster and impress all your friends because you know the bartender. I have lots of friends, but they don’t yell at me when they want a drink.
On Free Drinks: I don’t care if it’s your birthday, I don’t care if you’re gorgeous, I don’t care if your dog just died. Don’t ask me for a free drink. It’s tacky and rude to assume that you are important enough that I will risk my job so you can have something for free. If you need some money to go out with, ask daddy for a raise in your allowance. It’s not like I come to your place of work and ask for a free root canal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’re all lovely, wonderful people, but really the only bond you and I share is the drink sitting on the bar between us. So let’s make an arrangement: you express the type of cocktails that appeal to you, whether you like them sweet or sour or somewhere in between, and I, the craftsman, will concoct some sort of medley based on that information. I will also provide some conversation and entertainment, perhaps lend an ear, and you go ahead and kill your brain cells and either become a happy-go-lucky drunk or a belligerent, unruly mess. I will egg you on if you’re happy and subdue you if you’re not. Your job is to be relatively civilized and respectful, and if you can do that, you just might end up with a nice strong drink.
Cheers, until next time.
1. Lose your hearing. Either that or you become extremely nearsighted because when you are wasted, you will shout at someone standing two feet away from you as if they are on the other side of a stadium.
2. Make out with someone uglier than your great aunt Edna. Unfortunately, there is no stronger force in the universe than drunken horniness. Just let it happen and move on.
3. Buy drinks for total strangers. This is a wonderful gesture until you wake up the next morning and find a credit card receipt in your wallet resembling your car payment. I’m still paying for shots I bought ten years ago.
4. Have sex with someone uglier than your great aunt Edna. Don’t act like you haven’t, and if you haven’t, you will.
5. Put your face in a place someone’s ass was just 2 minutes before. Would you EVER do this sober? If your answer is yes, please leave my blog right now.
6. Eat all of your roommate’s food in the fridge when you get home from the bars. Not only will you eat their food, you will eat leftover, crusty nachos that have been sitting on the counter for the past 14 hours.
7. Make outrageous commitments with your friends. Dude, I’ll totally get up and run up Mt. Diablo tomorrow morning at 7:00 am. Ok, me too. You’d better be there. Oh, I’ll be there, you can count on that. You just worry about yourself. I’m so there. I swear on my mom’s life. In fact, let’s make it 6:00. You’re on. Duuuuuuuuuude! (Broski fist pound).
8. Pee anywhere. Buildings and sidewalks suddenly become your toilet.
9. Argue your point to the death. No facts, reason or common sense will persuade you to believe otherwise. You will throw blows before you admit Bert and Ernie were gay.
10. Claim that you aren’t that drunk. ”I just need a minute,” you’ll say, and then you’ll lay your head down on the bar and go to sleep.
Hello, my name is Duane. I am a mixologist. People call me Duane the mixologist. If you need a cocktail, please do not call out, “Hey bartender,” because I will not respond, as I am not a bartender. Please call me Duane, or Master Mixologist and I will be happy to serve you (sometimes when I’m feeling fun, I tell people that my name is Sir Mix-alot or Dr. Mixy and I get a fun reaction to my clever banter).
I work with Dave, but I do not like him very much because he calls me Sewage Duane and makes fun of me when really he should be making fun of himself because he is only a bartender.
Some people think it is fun to go out and have drinks at a bar, but I have found a way to make it an agonizingly slow and painful experience. Before this I worked at Applebee’s as assistant to the assistant head mixologist where I was in charge of filling the ice bins and stocking glassware.
In case you are ignorant, mixology is the process of making drinks exactly the same way a bartender does only taking much more time to do it. Mixology is very difficult and consists of putting ice in a glass and pouring alcohol over it. If there was such a thing as a double PhD in Mixology, I would probably own a degree in it right now.
I have an excellent memory and can hold up to two drinks in my head at any given time. If I can remember how to make the drinks without consulting The Bartender’s Guide, I am usually able to finish them in just under four minutes.
If you are interested in becoming a master mixologist like me, you probably won’t be able to because it’s more difficult than Navy Seal training, but here are the list of requirements anyway.
1. Spend at least 8 minutes talking about mixology and the forces that influenced you to arrive at this point in your life before making the drink that was ordered.
2. Tell the other bartenders what they are doing wrong every time they make a cocktail.
3. Bring your own Boston Shaker and Hawthorne strainer to work in a case you purchased from BevMo.
4. Wear a gay apron to hold your tools in.
5. Always carry a lemon zester in your pocket or apron, even when you are not working.
6. No matter what topic a guest brings up, steer the conversation towards things that you like and possibly any problems you are experiencing in your life at that moment.
7. Let everyone know that you are a mixologist by telling them over and over that you are a mixologist, and then show them your lemon zester.
8. Say things like “tinctures” and “flavor profiles” and “Please stop calling me bartender, I am a mixologist.”
9. Pull out your 15 mixology tools and describe in great detail their many purposes to guests until they want to wrap their lips around a tailpipe to end their pain.
10. If you come to my bar I will create a classic cocktail for you, but if you don’t like it, please don’t return it because I cannot afford to pay for it out of my tips, as I currently only work lunch shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays.
I wish they would fire Dave so I could have his shifts, but the owner says people always ask for him to make their drinks because they say he makes them fast. This is not fair because Dave hides my mixology tools which isn’t funny because the guests have to wait longer to get their drinks while I search for my tools, and usually while I’m searching for them, Dave makes them their drinks and takes credit for helping them.
I once offered to teach Dave how to properly craft cocktails, and he told me, “Sure, just let me go drain my main Duane first.” Then another time I asked if he wanted to borrow my lemon zester, and he said, “Hold that thought,” and then he started singing that Prince song really loud so I couldn’t talk, except he changed it to Purple Duane instead and everyone was laughing, but really I think they were laughing at Dave because he is only a bartender.
My mixology mentor’s name is Brad. He still works at Applebee’s and knows everything there is to know about cocktails and mixology. He lives in his mom’s basement and plays Farmville on his computer until 6:00 a.m.
One thing you should know about us mixologists is that we don’t “make drinks”. Instead we “craft cocktails”. I am writing a book about this very thing and I’m calling it Krafting Kocktails With Duane. ”Crafting” and “cocktails” both start with a “C” but I am using “K’s” because I am super “Kreative”. Haha, see what I mean?
Brad says lots of people will buy my book because it is so rare and valuable. My mom has already told me that she will buy three copies when it comes out. I have been working on my book for threes years now and it already has 31 pages and has much better writing than you will read on Dave’s blog. When I’m a best selling mixologist author I will come order a drink from Dave at his bar and not tip him.
If I had one piece of advice to pass on to aspiring mixologists, it would be this: Do not order drinks from Dave anymore or read his blog. He is an asshole. Also, get a lemon zester.
Sincerely yours forever,
Duane The Mixologist, a.k.a. Sir Mix-a-Lot (Haha)
Finally, after all these years I’ve received the recognition I deserve. This guy told me last night that I was the best bartender in the Bay Area. I’m not sure what his credentials are, but I’m assuming he must be on some important committee, panel or academy to be so astute in finding me and recognizing my hard work and skills. He was so excited after the announcement he couldn’t contain himself and he promptly stumbled to the bathroom and vomited in our sink. I’m very honored and humbled. Thank you, drunk guy. Thank you very much.
ANGRY PETA GIRL
I love animals. Probably because they boost my self-esteem and don’t judge me when I eat an entire cheese cake or watch porn. When things are going wrong, they show up at just the right time and make you feel smooshy inside.
Then there’s PETA. What a train wreck. I hate them for the same reasons I hate all extremist groups, which is because they think everyone in the world is wrong except themselves, and because their priorities are skewed by rage, and because they won’t LEAVE THE REST US THE FUCK ALONE! Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that they believe in a cause and have a purpose and all I believe in is getting the next TV and HBO series in the mail from Netflix (right now I believe deeply in The Shield).
The other night I had a PETA person in my bar, and not just one of those passive hippie-vegetarian-spread-the-love-and-live-green types either. She was more of the angry-at-the-world-because-cows-are-sold-at-McDonald’s-by-the-billions types, and because she felt animals in general were being humiliated, like dogs being used to help blind people get around. She is one of those people who can’t sit next to a person eating a slice of pepperoni pizza without being all judgy and making comments using the same tone as my mother-in-law.
BY THE WAY, SPEAKING OF ANIMALS, HERE IS ME WITH MY CAT NINJA, WHO ADOPTED US WHEN WE MOVED INTO OUR NEW PLACE LAST YEAR.
Even though I am partial to dogs, Ninja is some kind of serious awesomeness resting on a bed of kick ass. It’s not just her blackness that makes up her name. She catches like three gophers a day (which probably puts her at the top of PETA’s euthanization list) and can climb a telephone pole like a squirrel on crack. I want to give her a mini Samurai sword and some throwing stars just to see what she could do, but I’m afraid the CIA might show up at my door and tell me that they have an international incidence on their hands, and then they’d hold up a picture of Ninja and ask if I’d seen this cat recently.
Anywho, the way I found out this girl was from PETA was that a guy at the bar was getting ready to take a bite of his cheeseburger and Little Miss PETA said (while looking straight ahead, like a bad guy in a John Wayne movie), “Hope you like the taste of cruelty.” (And then she proceeded to tell me she was a member of PETA, which I guess is how I really found out.)
I could see this guy was perturbed about eating his burger so close to this nut case, so I provided some distraction by striking up a conversation and to fuck with her in general. The great thing about extremists is that they are so gung-ho about spreading their gospel and telling everyone how to live that they’ll ignore the hostility around them as long as they can assemble their soapbox and educate everyone on what horrible people they are. Here’s how our conversation went, approximately:
Me: Hey, I was thinking of joining PETA. What’s the criteria?
PETA: It’s simple. Love animals. Don’t eat them.
Me: I do love them. I love them with potatoes and au jus. Can I still join?
PETA: No, scum nuts, we don’t want people who eat meat, or do anything else to harm or disgrace animals. That makes you a hypocrite.
Me: Well I wouldn’t WEAR it or anything, like Lady Gaga, unless it was Halloween of course.
PETA: That’s the problem with the world, you don’t even know what a disgusting dickhead you are.
Me: What if I gave up everything except bacon? Because I love pigs but I’m not IN love with them. You know what I mean?
PETA: No, asshole! Don’t you get it? Animals are better creatures than us. Humans don’t deserve to be on the same planet as them. You can’t pick and choose which ones to slaughter, you evil prick.
Me: What about ostrich burgers. I heard those are super healthy.
PETA: It’s got nothing to do with health, dumbass. You’re killing a living creature!
Me: Yeah, but they’re really low in fat.
PETA: Christ you’re an idiot.
Me: My uncle got eaten by a cougar once, so shouldn’t I get like an exemption in this case. You know, like when we betrayed all the the Indians and stole their land 500 years ago and so now we let them have casinos and if you’re of Indian heritage you get to collect fat checks because your relatives were treated unfairly?
PETA: Your tiny-dicked uncle probably deserved it. I hope he bled a slow death.
Me: What about ants? Can I still squash ants? Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a giant who came to their planet where I wreck havoc on their little world.
PETA: Ants are better than you. They build entire colonies, dipshit! What do you do?
Me: I know they do. It’s AWESOME. I like to get a hose and stick it in their little hill hole thingy, and then turn the water on and yell, “FLOOOOOOOOD!”
PETA: Now you’re being an idiot. You’re making fun of me, right?
Me: I’m just curious how it works. Before I decide to join I want to know what I can and can’t do. Can I throw red paint on people?
PETA: I won’t stop you.
Me: Can I throw red paint on you?
PETA: What do you think?
Me: Can I hit a dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if he pees on my carpet?
PETA: Can I punch you in the nose for being a worthless piece of shit?
Me: What about spiders? Can I pull their legs off, because they really creep me out?
PETA: You are fucking ruthless!
Me: I am not. I’m completely ruth.
PETA: You’re what? What did you say?
Me: What did I say? When?
PETA: You’re ruth?
Me: Yeah. I’m totally ruth.
PETA: What the hell does that mean?
Me: Well, ruthless is bad, so ruth has to be good, right? Kind of like being dicklesss is bad but having a dick is good. Unless you’re you, of course. It’s a word. Look it up.
PETA: It is not. I’m done here. Enjoy your bloody, slaughtered cows, assholes.
Me: Wait, come back tomorrow. We have goldfish races on Wednesdays. We totally won’t swallow them or anything. Anymore.
PETA: Fuck off!
Just for the record, my uncle wasn’t eaten by a cougar, I don’t really squash very many ants, and even if Ninja was delicious, I totally wouldn’t eat her. Probably.
Cheers, until next time.
I have always wondered if being raised under different circumstances would have shaped me into something more refined. You know, oil paintings and Persian rugs and a closet brimming with velvet? But then I remember that I blow snot rockets when no one is looking and pour gravy or BBQ sauce on everything that isn’t cereal. This is a preemptive statement for the inevitable question that you will all be asking, or at least thinking, in the next five seconds which is, “What qualifies you, a bottle-flipping, beer-sloshing (and quite possibly drunk at this moment) bartender to offer commentary on something as sophisticated and complex as fine dining?”
I’m glad you asked. I honestly have no idea. But for everyone out there who is Team Blue Collar like myself, I can promise you that while doing my field research in a fine dining establishment, I did observe the scene with the judgmental scowl alcoholics practice while disapproving of happy people eating expensive meals. This induced its intended effect of extreme discomfort among many of the people eating there, so hopefully that counts for something.
Finding one of my friends to eat out with is easy if it involves the phrase Taco Tuesday or a plate of wings at Hooters or any place that feels sucking nacho cheese off your fingers is an appropriate substitute for using a napkin. But fine dining? I could see by the shiftiness of their eyes and the way they started giving the back of their own neck a stress massage that this felt more like a date to them than guys hanging out.
One friend I asked said, “No thanks, I don’t believe in fine dining joints.”
I didn’t really think this was fair considering the foundation of his belief system was based on the $37 in his checking account and not the food or the experience itself. After all, it was one thing to not prefer fine dining or not be able to afford it, but to not believe in it implies that you are a casual dining extremist who stands outside fine dining establishments with picket signs waiting to splash red paint on people who enjoy tiny portions of overpriced food.
In the end, I went alone which is even more uncomfortable than worrying if people think your gay, because now you’re just the creepy guy leering at everybody because you have nothing else to look at and you can see them covertly searching for the handkerchief and chloroform they imagine you’re hiding beneath your shirt.
After assuring the waiter that no one else was coming, I ordered a bourbon on the rocks and surveyed my environment. Because I sustain very little sophistication in my bones, the pretension associated with fine dining escapes me: stark white table cloths, sparkly wine glasses and silverware so big and perfectly polished I could shave in its reflection. I particularly have trouble with Italian places, as a cipher is required to decode the menu. The descriptions of the dishes are thirteen letters long, and this leaves me clueless as to what I am ordering.
I understand that this is my own shortcoming, but while perusing the menu I was left wondering, what exactly is Finochionna? It was described as Pork Salame with Fennel and cracked black pepper, so I get that it’s some sort of salami, but was the Finochionna served in the main ingredient of the dish or was it the dish itself? It didn’t help matters that it was listed under the Salumeria section. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be ordering raw chicken and throwing up half the night.
Of course I could have simply asked the server to explain what each of the dishes were exactly, but I didn’t want to come off as a five year old or some rube from Ohio. After pointing to about the fifth dish on the menu and asking, “And this? What’s this?” I could see the look on his face, and it said, “How about you head back to TGIF’s and order yourself a nice Captain Crunch encrusted halibut?”
I eventually took the safe route and settled on braised short ribs, as it was the only thing on the menu in the form of recognizable English besides the Caesar salad. When my food arrived, I was conscious enough not to use my napkin as a bib, but I couldn’t help but pick my ribs up with my hands and eat them as they were meant to be eaten: with the carnivorous certainty of a man who likes his meat. Still, I had to wonder if they hadn’t made a mistake and given me the child’s portion of ribs, but I was too petrified of the expression on the server’s face I was certain to induce, so instead I smiled and said absolutely nothing.
My lack of refinement was certainly not this restaurant’s fault and while surveying the scene (and after my third cocktail), I suddenly realized that no experience in life makes you feel or appear so suave as sitting in an elegant restaurant cutting up a filet mignon and sipping a robust glass of Petite Syrah.
One man at a table nearby, dressed in a dark suit with slicked back hair and a neat, economical beard was doing just that. Instead of scoffing in disgust and ridiculing his alleged conceit with the sarcastic cynicism I’m used to bestowing upon the haplessly unaware, I sensed a pang of envy creeping into my belly, right where I imagine my liver might be. It was like having Sean Connery eating twenty feet away from me.
I couldn’t quite hear him over the low din of chatter all around me, but I imagined he was entertaining his entourage with a smooth British accent while saying things like, “Do I detect hints of blackberry and currents in the Shiraz,” and “Unfortunately, existentialism is far too abstract and remote to answer the question of its effect on concrete human experience.”
The phrase “savoir faire” is reserved for people like this man, and in a moment of lunacy I leaned toward their table and asked in a loud voice, “Pardon me, sir, but would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?”
Ok, I didn’t really. I just made that up. But I wanted to. Instead I observed them out of the corner of my eye, and even though I had no idea what their lifestyle consisted of, I imagined what it would be like to be invited to dinner parties at mansions with butlers and candelabras and a varnished oak table the size of a hockey rink.
Luckily, I am perfectly in tune with my own intellectual and worldly limitations—not to mention I have the attention span of a labrador puppy—so the feeling of envy was fleeting and I soon returned my focus to my bourbon and ribs which I attacked with the gluttonous intent of a walrus.
I eventually finished my meal, paid a bill resembling my car payment, and made my way out the front door. As soon as I hit the sidewalk I instantly began searching for a hot dog cart so I could actually reach that pinnacle moment a feeling full.
I’m a simpleton and a minimalist. I understand that. But I like familiarity and when I go out to an Italian restaurant I want spaghetti or lasagna or maybe I’ll get crazy and go for the chicken Alfredo pasta. I would never look at a menu and think, “Mmmmm…Sardines in Conservato, just like mom used to make.”
In the end, I guess I’m just another closed-minded son-of-a-bitch, stuck in my ways.
Cheers, until next time.
One of alcohol’s super powers, among many, is its ability to elevate a drunk person’s level of certainty. Over the years bars have become the prime venue for debating every idea, concept and theory ever conceived. Alcohol not only enforces certainty, but it enables people to become more of who they already are. Stupid becomes super-stupid, angry becomes raging, flirty becomes slutty, etc, etc. The only exception to this becoming-more-of -who-we-are rule is intelligence. For obvious reasons, the intelligence component says, “Fuck this,” and leaves super-stupid in charge.
Not only do drunk people love to share their certainties and opinions, there is nothing they enjoy more than re-educating the people around them to ensure that those certainties align with their own. Despite the thousands of conversations and debates that I’ve overheard in bars over the years, I’ve come to realize that they are all a version of the same thing:
Some Guy: Hello, this is my experience with a subject that is of interest to me.
Some Other Guy: That certainly is very interesting, except I didn’t hear anything after your first sentence because I was only thinking of how that subject relates to me, and now I will disregard your experience and tell you about mine.
Some Guy: Wow, that certainly is fascinating how you took what I shared and made it about you. Here are some facts that supercede your facts.
Some Other Guy: I’m going to nod my head now and furrow brow and pretend that you have a good point, and then I will counter with facts that I have memorized from magazine publications I’ve read and television news programs I’ve watched.
Some Guy: Random fact that has no sound logic but will indirectly hurt your feelings.
Some Other Guy: Similar random fact but applied to you directly, as well as your family members, namely your mother and her weight problem whether she has one or not.
Some Guy: Insult that crosses the line.
Some Other Guy: Rebuttal insult, but taken a step further by including an obscenity, and once again involving your mother.
These particular clientele are classified as blue collar drunk people, and their interests and purposes usually revolve around sports, beer and celebrities. If you encounter such an individual, run for the nearest exit or you will find yourself locked into a conversation that will probably ruin your night. Bar people love to impose their beliefs and opinions on the haplessly unaware.
The only thing worse than blue collar drunk people are educated drunk people. Educated drunk people form their beliefs and opinions from sage political shows like Bill Maher and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and from magazines like The Cynic. Educated drunk people come armed with a vault of knowledge to mercilessly dispatch any challengers who dispute their assumptions.
If you do find yourself suddenly talking with someone you don’t know in a bar, try to determine if you have stumbled upon one of these particular drunks before investing too much time getting to know them. Drunks, especially educated drunks, use a three-prong approach to spread their opinions to others like some sort of bar crusader. It’s called Present, Convert, Attack.
Present: Drunk people like to feel you out by presenting their interpretation of something to determine your level of acceptance or resistance to the subject they are an expert in. This is a friendly tactic used to draw you in to trick you into thinking they care about your thoughts and interpretations. Be careful here not to present your own point of view or they might become offended by your resistance, and drunk people LOVE to be offended, especially educated drunk people because it provides them a vehicle for their anger and a chance to regurgitate all the facts and data they picked up from 60-Minutes and Time Magazine this week. The more educated they are, the more offended and angry they become and the greater sense of purpose they feel.
Convert: If drunk people do sense that you are attempting to impart your own original thoughts, they will move on to stage two: conversion. This stage feels like your dealing with a Jehovah’s Witness who shows up at your doorstep to convince you that birthdays are evil. If the conversion goes well, you will detect disappointment because bar people like to argue their opinions for long periods of time so as to reveal all the knowledge they have on the subject.
Attack: If, after several attempts they are not able to convert you, drunk people will loudly inform you and those in the nearby vicinity what a moron you are. This is a last-ditch effort to strip you of your self-esteem in hopes of intimidating you into converting. A drunk person feels most in his element while in attack mode and though you will hear anger in his voice, you will see a vibrant pleasure in his eyes.
Fortunately, I am not particularly passionate about anything that drives me to such anger and so I pick at opinions as if they were Hors d’oeuvres being passed out at a cocktail party. This diffusion tactic works well for me but angers drunks beyond repair.
Animals have it all figured out. They eat and drink and shit when they need to and they allow other animals to do the same. Humans also eat, drink and shit but then they choose to analyze it and then tell all the other humans how they should do it. If you really want to make an educated drunk person angry, nod and agree with them. Allowing them to be who they want to be and say what they want to say without confrontation will confuse and shock them into silence which means you will be able to finish your drink in peace.
Cheers, until next time.