Well, I had to work an extra day this week.  One of the bartenders asked me to work for him Thursday because his mother and younger sister had flown in from Venezuela.  He hadn’t seen this little sister in over five years.  (Yeah, so?  What about my day off?)

OK, I guess he deserved a night with his family. . . I’m just bitching because we’re still trying to put the bar staff back together.  And as we train new people I find myself (as I’m sure the other bartenders do, too) saying the same things over and over again to these new guys.  The same things we’ve said a hundred times before.

The basic stuff.  The essentials of the game . . . what they really need to know.

How to use both hands when making drinks.  The best way to handle multiple orders.  Tell-tale signs that someone’s had too much to drink.

And one of the most important rules . . . simply KEEP MOVING!

An old-time barman from Albany, NY (The Lark Tavern) may have said it best . . . Johnny La La.  His line belongs in some Bartender’s Hall of Fame.

“A bartender is like a shark,” Johnny would say, “If you stop moving . . . you die.”

(Apparently it’s the movement of a shark that forces oxygen-filled water over its gills which act as lungs.  If a shark stops moving it will stop “breathing”. . . sink to the bottom and die.)

It’s a simple concept — keep moving.  But damn if it doesn’t take forever for new bartenders to understand it.

I remember this one bartender I worked with years ago (I won’t name the place); he had a habit of leaning against the back bar with his arms folded across his chest.  It wasn’t that he was lazy, really, . . . he just wouldn’t do anything until he absolutely had to do it.

“Hey, why don’t you empty the dishwasher?” I’d say, “How about stacking some pints.  Check your fruit tray.”

I’d say this while I was taking care of the wait staff and serving customers in my section.  But since he really had nothing going on in his section, he saw no harm in taking it easy.  And he’d look at me as though I’d lost my mind.

“I’ll get to it in a minute,” he’d answer, “What’s the big deal?”

Experienced bartenders know what happened next.

The customers he should have checked on when their drinks were low, . . . the trio of waitresses who all rushed up together with their new orders . . . the racks of dirty glasses coming in from the floor . . .  the gang of customers who’d just walked in and now crowded the bar waiting for drinks . . . all of these things hit at the same time.

Now we had fifteen new customers placing their orders, three waitresses shouting for drinks . . . and instead of being able to help me out, he’s down there refreshing the drinks of people that he should have taken care of five minutes ago.

Now the racks of dirty glasses (that could have gone into an empty dishwasher if he’d cleared it earlier) are sitting on top of his beer cooler.  Every time he wants to open the coolers to grab a bottle of beer, he has to move the racks of glasses back and forth.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.

In a busy place it’s a cardinal rule — a completely unforgiving rule — that you have to get out of the way now whatever you can, in any spare moment.

If you don’t it will come back to bite you.

Continuous motion . . .

The idea that you must keep moving — be like a shark — also means keep moving once you get started.

Being a fast bartender isn’t so much about raw speed as simply shaving a few seconds off everything you do — being ruthlessly efficient.  If you’re making 1000 drinks a night and you waste as little two seconds on each round . . .  or between rounds . . . you’ll be fifteen minutes behind pretty quickly.

I remember another bartender who was just starting out.  He was pretty good, but he had this habit of stopping for a second or two after each round he made, . . . sort of standing there like he was congratulating himself for successfully putting that round together.

He’d stand there patting his chest with the palms of his hands, as if saying, “My, what a good little bartender I am!”

“KEEP MOVING!” I’d yell to him from my section, “KEEP MOVING!”

Wasting those precious seconds can be fatal in a busy bar.

Imagine pouring a draft beer — which takes roughly five seconds — and you have to draw three Clown Shoes Eagle Claw Fists.  You’re going to be standing there for fifteen seconds.

You can’t afford to be doing that only.

So you ask the next people standing at the bar what they’d like.  They talk it over with their friends and place their order while you’re drawing those draft beers — not after you’re done.

If you’re efficient — if you have economy of motion and know what the next steps are — you can immediately go from one round to the next with no break in between.

That’s why one bartender “rock and rolls” like a non-stop express train, . . . while another bartender is a like milk train, pausing at each small town on its route.

Start … stop.   Start . . . stop.

In a busy place, no bartender can afford to do that.  You’ve got to keep moving.

A bartender is like a shark . . . if you stop moving, you die.

Damn, I wish I’d said that.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 14 Comments


There was a news story on the internet this week about a man who called 9-1-1 because the prostitute he was in bed with tried to charge him extra money.

In the bar business we also have our share of crazy 9 -1 -1 incidents.  This might be one of the strangest I know.

It happened when I first moved to Boston and began bartending in Harvard Square.  I wasn’t behind the taps that night, but we all heard about it the next day when everyone showed up for work.

According to the prior night’s bartender (“Jeff,” I’ll call him) — it was a typical shift at the beginning.  He only had a handful of customers, and then someone new plopped down on a stool.

Jeff didn’t recognize him, but apparently the guy had been here before because he immediately asked for the bartender who’d been fired the week earlier.

“Where is _____ ???” the guy demanded.

“He’s moved on,” Jeff said, “Doesn’t work here anymore.”

‘What’daya mean he doesn’t work here anymore!!”

“I mean he doesn’t work here,” Jeff shrugged, “He’s moved on.”  The guy had a snooty air as he snapped off his questions, but Jeff was trying to extend a little courtesy.

As Jeff set his drink down, the guy complained — “This dump will never be the same without him!” 

“This drink sucks!!” the guy said after he’d taken one sip, sitting there with his lips pursed.  (I’m sure the dismissed bartender must have been seriously over-pouring.)

From that point on, everything went downhill.

For this guy, nothing was right about the place now.  The drinks sucked, the service was horrible, . . . . and no one would be able to replace his beloved former barman.

After listening to the guy rant on for two drinks, Jeff decided to shut him off.

“What’daya mean I’m shut off!!!”  Now the guy stood up.  He was so livid that his hands were trembling on the bar.  “You can‘t shut me off!!

“ _____ would never shut me off!!!”

“Well I’m not _____,” Jeff said calmly, “And that’s it for tonight, pal.  Time to leave.”

This guy was a nut, a real weirdo.  Personally, I don’t care who you are or what you do . . . but if you look like a fruitcake, and act like a fruitcake . . . you’re probably not going to be the bartender’s favorite customer.

He just wouldn’t leave.  By now all the customers at the bar were looking his way, but he didn’t care.  He stood there bitching.  “You’re violating my civil rights!” he said, “You can’t shut me off!”

“Just leave,” Jeff said, with patience that would almost deserve sainthood — “It’s time to go.”  Then he turned to make some drinks for the waitress.

In the middle of those drinks, Jeff heard a loud crash.

The guy had swept his arm along the bar rail and wiped out the set-up sitting there — the sugar container, the salt and pepper shakers, the drink menu tent, along with his own empty glass with it’s ice, squeezed lime and sip stick.  With a sweep of his arm he sent them all bouncing and flying across the bar, with the salt and pepper shakers spilling behind the bar on the floor mats.

“GET THE FUCK OUTA HERE!!!” Jeff turned back to him, “GET OUT THE FUCK OUTA HERE NOW!”

“I’m not leaving!!!” the guy yelled back, “You can’t throw me out!!”

“I’m calling THE COPS!!” the guy said.

Yup, that’s right . . . . exactly what you just read.

It was the guy who’d been shut off who was threatening to call the cops.

“Yes sir, I’m calling the cops!” he said with an exaggerated air, and with an exaggerated motion he took out his cell phone.

Jeff stood there looking at him, dumbfounded.

The guy swung up the lid cover on his phone.

“I’m calling them.”  He was glaring at Jeff.  “ . . . I’m calling them now.”

Jeff was speechless.

“I’m not kidding!” the guy said, his finger poised over the number pad.  “I’m not kidding . . . I’m calling them!”

“Get out the fuck outa here, YOU FLAKE!” Jeff yelled.

“I really mean it,” the guy said as his fingers tapped in the numbers, 9 -1 -1.  “I’m calling them!”

Someone must have answered immediately, and the guy quickly hung up.

He was about to say something more to Jeff, but then his cell phone started ringing.  Apparently when someone calls 9 -1 -1 and hangs up, the police are required to immediately call back, in case it’s an emergency.

“Yes, I just called,” the guy said into the phone with that same snooty air.  “I’m at _____ (the bar’s name), “And the bartender just shut me off!”

The 9 -1 -1 operator must have said something, and the guy responded.  “No, I’m not drunk!” he snapped at the emergency operator.  “He’s shutting me off for no good reason!”

“What do I want?” the guy said over the phone, “I want you to come down here and arrest him!!”

“Here,” he said to Jeff after listening to the phone again, “They want to speak with you!”  He held the phone out to Jeff.

“I’m not talking with them!” Jeff said, “You called, you talk with them . . . but do it on the way out!”

“See what I mean!” the guy said, speaking again to the 9 -1 -1 dispatcher, “See what I mean!”

“GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” Jeff yelled, but now the guy was listening again to the dispatcher.  Whatever was said this time, the guy quickly hung up.

“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” the guy announced haughtily as he turned toward the front door.

“Don’t think you’re gonna get away with this!” he shouted on his way out.

He stepped out the door, but then stuck his head back in to have the last word.  “YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM MY LAWYER!!” he shouted, his head leaning around the door frame.

I don’t imagine the guy expected the cops to show up so quickly.

Apparently there was a police cruiser already nearby.  The guy had only taken a couple of steps down the sidewalk when the cruiser pulled up.

Jeff ran out and waved his hand.  “That’s the guy!” he yelled to the cops in the cruiser, “That’s the guy who called you!”

“I just wished they’d arrested him,” Jeff recalled the next day.  Now I was tending bar, and Jeff was on other side having a couple of beers.  “I stood there watching,” he told me, “And all I wanted was for them to slap the cuffs on him.  Damn I wanted to see that.”

As it turned out, the police only lectured the guy and sent him on his way, telling him not to come back to this bar for a while.

Anyway, that’s still one of my favorite stories – the guy who essentially called the cops on himself.

_ _ _ _ _

For a related story, click here to read about a man who stole the bartender’s credit card . . . then tried to use it to pay his own bar tab.  The bartender called 9 -1 -1 on him.

Back next Saturday with a few thoughts on “TIPS, and THE FILTHY RICH.”

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 10 Comments

LOOKING BACK . . . personal photos from 9/11

(Click on the image for details about a special conference held last year at the United States Air Force Academy to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Two friends and fellow Beta Phi Epsilon members were among the featured speakers.)

Last year at this time, we talked about the “Quiet Heroes of 9/11” and reprinted a story about the death of Osama Bin Laden —  a post titled, “Men with Brass Balls chasing Ghosts”.

Like most of us, I watched from the sidelines as the aftermath of 9/11 unfolded, but these two post were dedicated to the men and women who had an active role in the events that day — and in the pursuit of Osama Bin Laden.  Today my hat is off to these people again, and my heart-felt thanks — my respect and even awe go out to the friends of mine from from Beta Phi Epsilon fraternity (SUNY Cortland, NY) who were personally involved.  As members of the US Navy SEALS, the FBI, anti-terrorism and counter-intelligence networks, police officers and firefighters, they –and all the others directly participating in this battle — deserve a moment of recognition for their unselfish efforts.

I think the following photos, taken by them or of them, tell a small part of their individual stories.

Ground Zero at the World Trade Center on 9/11. (Photo by Charlie “Buff” Kerrigan)

Charlie “Buff” Kerrigan was called to ground zero the afternoon the World Trade Towers collapsed.  As Captain of the Rockville Centre Fire Department, Charlie was highly trained in “confined space and high angle rescue.”  He and his crew labored 18 straight hours trying to help contain the damage and rescue survivors.  Charlie said the devastation was the most horrible thing he’d ever witnessed, . . . and something that he hoped he’d never see again.

I know as a fireman Charlie puts his life on the line every time he goes on a call — but his work at ground zero was above and beyond.  He was asked to speak at the Air Force Academy Conference to share this experience.  He’s a former chairman of the Beta Phi Epsilon Alumni Association.

Bob Guzzo Sr. was also a featured speaker at the Air Force Academy Conference.  A life-time Navy SEAL, a friend and fellow Beta Phi Alumnus, Bob was awarded the The Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism for his efforts at the Pentagon on 9/11.  After helping to secure the area, he made repeated trips back into the burning building to rescue survivors.  Following 9/11 Bob worked at the highest levels of US anti-terrorism and counter-intelligence.  “It was like chasing ghosts,” Bob said later of the effort to contain the terrorist threats, and to capture or kill Bin Laden.


(Bio from the Air Force Conference speaker’s roster. Photo of the Navy and Marine Corps plaque below.)







(A few of his military awards hang on the walls of a small patriotic study in Bob’s home –to me, he’s the kind of guy who makes you want to say “God Bless America.”)









The next two photos were taken by Mike Garcia, Bob’s close friend and fellow anti-terrorism officer who was with him at the Pentagon on 9/11.  “Half of the photos you see from the Pentagon that day were taken by Mike,” Bob says.  Some of Garcia’s photos are in the Smithsonian Institute and at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in NYC.

The Pentagon after the 9/11 attack. (Photo by Mike Garcia)


A lone fireman struggles in the debris following the 9/11 Pentagon attack. (Photo by Mike Garcia)


Rob Guzzo JR. during the Iraq War.

In college, Bob’s son Rob Guzzo JR. was a member of his dad’s fraternity, Beta Phi Epsilon — and when he later joined the Navy SEALS right after 9/11, he was awarded Bob SR.’s old SEAL Trident.  It’s the first medal Navy SEALS receive on completion of their training.  Rob JR. was a member of Navy SEAL Team 5 and went into battle in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006.

His buddy Marc Lee lost his life there, the first Navy SEAL killed in the war.  Marc and Rob had gone though SEAL BUD/S training together.  (In background of the picture you can see the name LEE — the camp at Ramadi was renamed CAMP MARC LEE in Marc’s honor.)

Rob Jr. made it through the Iraq war and he’s back home now.  He’s pursuing a career in acting (in action films, go figure.)




A giant American flag was unfurled over the famous “Green Monster” wall at Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox) the day after Osama Bin Laden was silenced.

Photo by our club’s (Johnny D’s) GM, John Bonaccorso











Bob Guzzo SR. and Rob JR. later, in a more relaxed moment . . . at the wedding of their daughter/sister, Danielle.

Thanks for bearing with me in this little tribute.  New post coming this Saturday.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 8 Comments

“EDDIE C” . . . an old-school guy

(I’ve changed the names and some of the details of the exact location in this . . . don’t want to piss anyone off, if you know what I mean.)

I met “Eddie C” (as I’ll call him) at a restaurant in Boston’s North End, the Italian district.  It was just around the corner from the place where I worked. This restaurant had a great little bar and if I got out early I’d usually end up there, talking with the staff or some of their regulars.  Eddie was both — he was on the staff, and he was always sitting at the bar.

I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t see Eddie in his usual spot, sipping his Miller Genuine Draft.  He wouldn’t pound them down, just sipped from the bottle like it was a bottle of soda.

So I never saw Eddie drunk, not even noticeably buzzed — which was probably good, because he was working at the time.  Yup, as he sipped his beers he was that restaurant’s valet guy.

The sign in front of the restaurant said “VALET PARKING — see inside.”  Customers would walk in the front door with their keys, and be directed to Eddie.

I did a quick double-take the first time I saw this — the valet was sitting at the bar drinking.  But the customer handed Eddie the keys apparently without a second thought.

“Most of them know Eddie,” the bartender explained when I asked, “He’s actually the best valet we’ve had.”

“Best in the North End,” the bartender said.

“No one’s ever said anything?” I asked.  Eddie had just accepted a second customer’s car keys, taking them with one hand while lifting the bottle to his lips with the other.  He was taking one last swig before he left to park their car.

“Naw,” the bartender said matter-of-factly, “Eddie’s never had a complaint.”

He went on to explain that Eddie had a perfect record as a valet . . . Eddie had never had an accident, never brought even one car back with the slightest new dent or nick on it.

“The guy we had before him was a nightmare,” the bartender said.

(Check out a funny video by clicking this picture. I’ve actually seen something like this happen in the North End when a valet was trying to find a spot to stash a customer’s car. It happened right across the street from the restaurant’s valet sign! Sorry no names, . . . but it sure wasn’t Eddie.)

Apparently the previous valet used to park the customer’s cars on the street instead of taking them to the parking lot.  The parking lot charged a flat fee for each car, but if the valet could find an open spot somewhere on the street, he’d still charge the customer the full fee listed on the sign . . . and keep the extra money for himself.

“Problem is . . . ,” the bartender continued, “Some customers would get a notice a month later for a parking ticket they didn’t know about, or their cars would have a dent from being parked on the street.”

“Eddie’s the only one,” the bartender told me, “Who takes ’em to the lot every time.”

I got to know the owner of the place after a while, and one day he was also talking about how much everyone loved Eddie.

“Christ, you should have seen the other guys we’ve had.”

He said they’d once had a valet who ended up stabbing a customer.  This valet had gotten into an argument with four male customers in their early twenties (probably over some minor damage to their car.)  Because there were four of them, the valet had pulled a knife.

“I’m sure he didn’t mean to stab nobody,” the owner said, “It wasn’t much . . . one of them got cut a little on his arm and his hand.”

Another of valet had hit a couple walking behind the car, just as he was backing it out.  He knocked them both down.  It was during the Feast of St. Anthony, when the streets were swarming with people.

“They weren’t really hurt or nothing,” the owner assured me, “But there was a cameraman from Channel Five filming right there.” (The local station was shooting footage for coverage of the festival.)

“I’m thinking that’s all I need,” the owner said, “On TV, . . . the camera shows the couple on the ground, then pans up to my restaurant sign, . . . then back down to the couple on the ground.”

“It never got to TV,” he said, “And they weren’t hurt, . . . but it wasn’t good.”

So now they had a valet who openly drank on the job, . . . sounded a little weird, but it was starting to make more sense.

Eddie was in his late fifties; around 5’ 9” or so, a sharp-faced thin guy with slick black hair.  He’d sit there smoking butt after butt of some generic brand cigarette with no label on the pack you’d recognized.

Eddie was always broke.  He counted on free beers from the bartender, and the beers bought for him by customers who wanted their cars parked (more on that later).  But as I got to know him, I learned that Eddie had this old-school way of getting things done, and his own strange sense of morality.

He might break into a warehouse and steal himself a new lawnmower — (just as a hypothetical example, if you know what I mean) — but to him that was just getting back at the establishment.  He’d never rip off an individual.  He’d never park a car on the street, then charge the customer the parking fee.

One night Eddie found a customer’s wallet in the men’s room . . . must have fallen out the guy’s pocket.  The wallet had over $700 cash in it.  Eddie could have easily pocketed the money and tossed the wallet into the waste basket.  No one would have known.  But that’s not Eddie.

He turned it in to the bartender, with all the money still inside.

Eddie had a sense of pride, a unique code of conduct.  Although he was always down to a handful of crumpled dollar bills, whenever a regular bought him a beer, he’d insist on buying the next round back for them — even if they were drinking expensive scotch and he was only drinking beer.  It’s as if there was an old set of rules written down somewhere in his head.

One thing for sure, Eddie was everyone’s favorite.  I would watch customers take the keys for their returned car, slip Eddie a tip, . . .  and then some of them would put more money on the bar.  They’d tell the bartender to set up a drink for Eddie.  They’d tell the bartender to buy their valet another beer.  It was a riot.

But I guess I saved the best for last — I actually didn’t find this out myself for a long time.

One night in conversation with Eddie, something came up.  It turns out that Eddie . . . the valet who openly drank on the job . . . didn’t have a driver’s license.

I’m not kidding.

I laughed out loud the first time he told me.

He sat there with a look of surprise that I found this odd.

“Don’t see the big deal,” Eddie said, “Haven’t had a license since I was a teenager.  But it’s not like I’m really driving anywhere.”

“I just take the cars to the lot,” he said, “And then I bring them back.”

Like I said, Eddie had his own set of rules.  He was a trip.

Then just as I was leaving that job in the North End to work someplace new, the city passed an ordinance — any restaurant in Boston that offered valet parking now had to have a licensed company provide the service.  (I think there was some political payoff involved.  As I remember it, the service had to be licensed by the city but when the ordinance was first passed, there was only one company to choose from.)

Anyway, the time when you could hire your own valet in the North End was over.

I never heard what happened to Eddie after that ordinance.  He probably moved on to some other niche that was just waiting for an old-school guy.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 12 Comments

WHICH IS MORE FUN … office work, or bartending?

What would you rather be doing, . . . sitting in an office, or tending bar?

August hasn’t been a good month so far.  In July, I was set to cut down to two shifts a week at the club . . . so I could spend more time working on the book.

It never happened.

First, one of our new bartenders showed up for work drunk . . . not just a little tipsy, but totally hammered.  Evidently there was an on-going problem that we (and perhaps he) didn’t know about yet.  He’s a great guy, a good bartender, but right now this just isn’t the best job for him.

Then a week later the other new guy came in for his shift.  After a few minutes, he said that he was going to the store for a pack of cigarettes.

We haven’t seen him since.

That was two weeks week ago.

He still hasn’t returned our phone calls.  (We just wanted to make sure he was OK.  I hope they’re both doing OK.  They really were good guys.)

I guess it’s just part of this business, but instead of cutting down lately I’ve been working extra shifts.

I can’t seem to win.

And now the annual Workman’s Compensation Audit is waiting on my desk, and the Fair Share Contribution filing for Massachusetts is coming up.  More office work at a time when I can’t seem to keep my head above water.


I suppose you’re wondering . . . why is a bartender doing office work anyway?

It’s a long story, but here’s the short version.

At one point in my life, I thought I’d given up bartending.  I’d been a general manager at Friends & Company in Quincy Market, and was now the GM at The Cantina Italiana in Boston’s North End.

I was writing a regular column for Restaurant Hospitality, and on the basis of those articles was chosen as a featured speaker at the National Conference on Computer Technology in Food Service, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association.

These were opportunities that had just fallen into my lap.  I figured I should somehow follow up on them.

So I decided to become a consultant.  I thought maybe it was time to grow up.

What a mistake.

First, I hated the “salesman” element of consulting.  I’d taken a consulting course, and that’s all the instructor talked about — the need to “sell” the owners, to subtly make them feel that they couldn’t do this without you.

I’m serious . . . that was the heart this instructor’s message, and I’ve heard it often enough in other places to know it’s a standard consultant’s approach.  Instill a sense of fear in your clients.  I can understand how this works, . . . but I just couldn’t see doing it.

Also, there was too much travel involved.  Sometimes I drove three hours to a one-hour meeting, and then drove three hours back.

I quickly became tired of trying to convince owners not to reinvent the wheel.

And to top it all off — with my client list building — I began to realize that if I was going to take this seriously, at some point I’d have to rent office space.  To be professional, I’d have to find official space, buy office furniture and equipment, hire a secretary.  (Up to this point I’d been working out of my apartment, letting clients leave messages on an answering machine.)

All these things were beginning to give me second thoughts, . . . then Johnny D’s called.  They wanted help putting in a new cash register system, and adding a restaurant to their nightclub.

When I walked into the club, briefcase in hand, I had no clue what was coming.

In the beginning, all I did at Johnny D’s was help them with the changes, work on choosing the equipment and setting up the kitchen.  After we hired a chef, I set up various back office functions like food inventories and sales analysis . . . that kind of thing.

After the restaurant’s grand opening, Tina DeLellis (the owner) and her daughter Carla talked me into taking a management contract — to continue work in the office.

The new operation was quite successful, but the Johnny D’s bar staff had some weak spots.  Not all of them had the skills and experience to handle the dramatic increase in business.  There would be lines of people waiting to get in . . .  and inside, the rows of people crowding the bar were sometimes unable to get their drinks quickly.

Tina was a great bartender — she’d been doing this all her life — and she’d jump behind the bar to help out when it got busy.

One night I was in the office during a busy show.  I could hear the live band rocking upstairs.  I could hear the squeak of the dancer’s feet, the movement of the crowd on the dance floor which was upstairs above my desk.

After a couple of hours, Tina came down to the office.  She flopped into a chair at the second desk.

“I’m exhausted,” she said (in retrospect I think she might have been faking it.)  “I’m exhausted,” Tina said, “ . . . Do you think you could go upstairs for a while and help them out?”

I’d never been behind the bar at Johnny D’s.  I had no idea where anything was.  I didn’t know the prices, what the procedures were . . . anything.  The only thing I knew was how to operate the cash registers, which I’d helped them put in.

But when you’ve been doing this a while, it’s like riding a bicycle.

Within a few minutes I was keeping up, and by the end of the night I have to say I was kicking ass.

But what really struck me was the difference just being upstairs.

I’d just come from the office, where I’d been meeting with guys like Mr. Joli.  (He was my first Workman’s Comp auditor — back then they actually sent someone to the location to do an in-person audit.)

Mr. Joli (I kept thinking “Mr. Jolly!  Mr. Jolly!”) was Indian, or Pakistani.  He was in his late forties, a short pudgy man.  He had the most sour, scowling face, with his lips seemingly locked in permanent downward grimace.  He snapped out everything he said, with that thick Indian accent.

“IneedJulyfigures!” he snapped, scowling, “IneedJulyfigures!”

Which is more fun, office work . . . ?

I couldn’t drag the folders out of the cabinet fast enough for him.  Nothing would make this man happy.

And his name was, Mr. Joli.

Now, instead of being cooped up with Mr. Joli, . . . I was upstairs, behind the bar in a rocking nightclub.  It was a different world.

The band was playing.

Everyone around me — in front and in back, and on either side — three hundred people were packed into the place, and they were all laughing and having a great time.  It was like leaving the office and stepping into the middle of a carnival.

Imagine if you’d retired from a sport that you absolutely loved, and suddenly you had the chance to play again.  I swear, when my feet first hit the bar mats, it was like stepping onto the home-town turf for the big game.

. . . Or bartending?

Just as I was thinking this, an attractive young lady smiled at me as I handed her back her change.

“How in the world am I going to go back to that office?” I thought as the smiling young lady walked away.

At the end of the shift, Tina came over to me.

“You had fun,” she smiled, “Admit it.”

“Why don’t you work one night a week on the bar,” she suggested.  “I can use the help.”

After a couple of weeks, she talked me into taking another shift.  “Just work Friday and Saturday,” she suggested, “Those are the best two nights.”

A month later, Tina wanted me to take another shift.  “You’re working the two best shifts as it is now,” she said, “Don’t you think it would be fair for you to work one of the slower shifts too?  All the other bartenders have to.”

Then the next month she wanted me to work a day shift, because now I was working three nights and all of the other bartenders had to work at least one day shift.  “It only seems fair,” she said.

I’d been sitting there with the other bartenders, counting tips and having a beer after work.  I still remember my response:

“First I did one shift, and then because it was a good shift, you thought I should pay for it by working two,” I told Tina.  “Then because I was working two shifts, you said it would only be fair for me to work a third one.”

“Now  . . . because I’m working three nights, . . . you want me take a day shift during the week.  Next thing I know, . . . you’re going to hand me a mop and a broom, and make me clean the rest rooms, just to keep the day shift I didn’t want in the first place!

I’d already had a couple of beers, along with everyone else.  They all laughed.

But I don’t think I was kidding.

Anyway, that’s how I began bartending again.

It wasn’t long before I was working five shifts a week, and now when a new client called my apartment phone asking about consulting, I usually found a way to turn the job down.

I don’t have any regrets.  Working again as a bartender has given me the time to pursue other interests.  Having tried both ways, I’ve learned that some things are more important than “growing up.”

But right now I wish I could just cut down a little.  I really need work on that book.

Ah well, maybe next month.

I’m still a dreamer, aren’t I?

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 14 Comments