Usually when people talk about a bartender’s escape, scenes of tropical islands or some weekend ski resort come to mind.  But today I’m thinking about a different kind of break . . . an escape from the real world in the opposite direction.  Something that happens every time you step behind the taps.

What do you do when you split with your girlfriend, your apartment sucks, or you’ve just about had it with life in general?  Want to stop thinking and get away for a while?  Working behind the bar might be the best answer.

The most obvious reason (and what got me into this business) — is that behind the taps you’re constantly meeting new people.  Men meet women, women meet men — whatever you’re into happens more easily tending bar.  But there’s actually quite a bit more going on.

(1) Keeping busy.  Everyone says the best solution for difficult times is to keep your mind off things.  In a busy bar, you have no choice.  When the rush hits, the biggest problems in the world are pushed to the background.  They melt away.  During the crunch you don’t have time to think . . . you don’t have time to notice that you’re hungry or thirsty, there’s no time to worry about that psycho roommate or the rent.  There’s no time for anything but pushing out the drinks.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve come to work in a bit of a funk . . . and then half an hour, an hour later, I’ll suddenly notice that I don’t feel so bad after all.  Without doing anything — by simply escaping behind the bar for a while — things seem to have a way of smoothing themselves out.

Yes, there’s pressure (Lucy in the chocolate factory comes to mind), but after a while you find yourself looking forward to that rush.  It is a great escape.  It’s like a veteran boxer stepping into the ring, worn and tired.  But then the rush hits, the bell rings, and everything becomes automatic.  The fighter still remains, . . . and when the crunch is over whatever was nagging you has somehow lightened up.  You feel strangely refreshed.

(2) “Where everybody knows your name.”  Of course that’s not always true, but it might as well be.  It’s the rare customer who remains a complete stranger for long.  People are much more open and social in a bar.

Imagine walking down the street and trying to strike up a conversation with someone walking the other way.  Sometimes on a bus you might talk with the person next to you, but those conversations are usually infrequent and short.

At the other end of the spectrum, people in bars are primed for interaction.  That’s why they’re here.  Every bar is different, and certainly there are the uppity-up places where status and protocol rule . . . but in most bars, conversation is welcome and even expected.

And no one has so much spontaneous conversation as the bartender.  No one has it so easy.

The Lark Tavern, Albany, NY.

I remember working at The Lark Tavern when I was twenty years old.  One afternoon I ended up talking with an old-timer who felt my  generation spelled nothing but disaster.  I could see it in the way he looked at me.

But somehow we began talking about the New York Yankees — maybe there was a game on the TV at the time.  He began talking about some of the great Yankee moments of his day — the home run sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, and Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1952 World Series.  He clearly enjoyed reliving those times, and I thoroughly enjoyed listing.  He had some great stories.  By the time he left, this old guy and I were shaking hands with a genuine mutual respect . . . something I don’t expect would have happened if not in a bar.

(3) Shared enthusiasm.  Watching something you enjoy on TV or online is great, but there’s nothing like the shared enthusiasm of a crowd.  At a game in person, or at a concert, the overwhelming energy of the crowd is part of the experience.

That’s what it’s like working the bar in a busy place.

This past Saturday night at Johnny D’s, our good friend Justin stopped in — he wasn’t planning to stay long, but there was a band called Gilmour’s Breakfast playing a Pink Floyd tribute.  These guys were really, really good.  Everyone was loving the music, the crowd was applauding every song, and Justin ended up staying until the last one was over.

“That was great,” he said, “That was really great!  I’m glad I got to see them.”

Even without live music, sometimes just the heightened vibe of the crowd is enough on it’s own to lift your spirits in a bar.  Being surrounded by people out to have a good time is irresistibly contagious.  There’s nothing quite like it.

(4) Doing something you’re good at.  Once you get your chops down, it’s nice to escape the outside struggles by doing something you’ve already mastered.  I can sit at home sweating over this chapter or that, feeling I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

It’s good to take a break, to step behind the bar and do what I’ve been doing for most of my life.  It feels great to kick-ass behind the taps, to get the drinks out and be on top of everything for a while . . . and then go back to the life struggles, refreshed.

It’s probably a combination of all these things, but for me something about tending bar just makes for a great escape.

Here’s what happened last Saturday night, when I went to work feeling a little down.  Within in half an hour, these five people had completely turned my night around.

Val with her date at a Red Sox game.

First, Val (Valerie) came into the club.  I’ve known Val for years, every since she started coming to Monday Trivia Night.  We don’t see her nearly enough — during the week she has a serious administrative job, and on weekends she’s usually off enjoying a Red Sox game or a large-venue concert.  But every time she comes in, she brightens the place and it’s hard not to smile after she gives you a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek.

Then our good friend Dave caught me on the side to quietly say he was sorry to hear about Kate.  “That looked pretty serious,” a guy at the bar said when Dave stepped away.  I told him about Kate, and he looked up this blog on his Iphone.  He introduced himself (his name was Matt), and he began suggesting that I should get a Twitter account to drum up more readers.  I don’t know about the Twitter stuff, but I enjoyed talking about the blog with someone knowledgeable.

Justin ordered another drink, telling me how much he was enjoying the show.  He has a serious job by day, but his hobby is music — he’s an alto sax player who’s just taken up guitar.  His enthusiasm for the show was rubbing off on everyone around him, including me

Jules on stage.

One of Johnny D’s former bartenders happened to stop in.  Julian was one of our best behind the taps and it’s always good to see him in here again.  Julian plays in a rock band, and once again I tried to talk him into a song I want him to write.

While Julian was still working here, he’d meet his girlfriend’s father.  They hit it off right away, but as he was telling me that story I asked, “Does her father know you play in a punk rock band?”

Jules is 6’ 4”, 200 pounds, and he’s a wild man on stage.  I wanted him to write a song titled — “I’m dating your daughter!” — because I figured what dad really wants his little girl to date a rocker?

I can hear the notes to a song in my head.  I have an idea for the lyrics.

“I’m six foot, four . . .
“I play in a rock band,
“And I’m day-ting your daugh-ter!”

One of Jules band members overheard the conversation, and provided some fresh lyrics.

“You don’t have to ask . . .
“She takes it up the _ss,
“And I’m day-ting your daugh-ter!”

Now I have to apologize to Julian’s girl (who wasn’t there).  She is the cutest sweetheart, and there’s no way we should have been laughing at those proposed lyrics.  But at the time, in a bar, it was funny.

Bottom line, within half an hour I was back on an even keel.

A lot of bartenders (myself included) drifted into this business because it’s an easy way to meet new dates.  But there’s a lot more going on behind the taps, . . . and sometimes it’s just what the doctor ordered.

(Sorry this post is late, . . . hopefully I’ll be back on schedule next week.  Next post will be late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, August 4th.)

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Sad news . . . my long-time friend Kate O’Connor passed away this week.  Kate and I worked together behind the bar many years ago, and although separated geographically afterward we always remained close via email, phone, and in spirit.  She was a smart, tough, eloquent woman who took all that life dished out and yet somehow still managed to shine.  No one who met her can forget her intelligence, charm, her refusal to sugar-coat things, and her wry sense of humor.  But she had battled multiple sclerosis for the last twenty years, and now she’s left us.  Dream sweet, beautiful lady.

(This week’s post coming Sunday or Monday.)

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Johnny D’s bartender, Oscar (left), with his brother Oliver, and a friend.

First, let me wish you a great Fourth of July now, because I’m taking this week off.  We’ll be back next Saturday with more tales of the bar life.  If this is your first time here and you’re looking for stories, you can glance through the archives on the right sidebar.  (Have you read “Danny” or “Joey Cigars?”)  There’s a list of “featured posts” and “popular posts” on the right — an “archives” box where you can search by month — and there’s even a “search” box on the top right.  (You can see if we’ve written about any friends and places you might know.)

And don’t forget to click on the sites listed on my blogroll — they’re all Top Shelf — really worth a visit.

But today, I’m using this space for a public service announcement, and one or two other odds and ends.

(1)   Free is good . . .

This Sunday, the weekly Blues Jam at Johnny D’s WILL BE FREE!  That’s right . . .  no cover charge at the door this Sunday, and in fact no cover charge at all for the jam during July and August.

(OK, it really wasn’t that much anyway, only three dollars . . . but now it’s nothing!  That’s even better.)

The Blues Jam happens every Sunday afternoon between 4 and 8 pm, and there’s always good, authentic music.  (New players welcome.  The kitchen is open — don’t forget to sample some of our local craft beers –and definitely don’t forget to tip your bartenders and wait staff.)


(2) Anonymity . . .

(Image from

If you read last week’s post, Stormy Monday, you know that I used pseudonyms to protect the identities of certain people.  I ended up choosing the name “Matt” for the main guy — just picked the name out of a hat, so to speak — but it turns out there may have been a real-life Matt involved in the story.  Here’s a comment posted in response:

“. . . The irony here is there’s a real-world Matt (a life-long friend of “Matt”), who would have convinced “Linda” to do him one last time. In the office. On the CEO’s desk.”

That’s from the guy I called “Carl” in the story.  Looks like there’s even more to the story that I thought, hmmm?  🙂

I’ve got a good story or two about “Carl”, as well.  I heard this one day when “Matt” and “Louie” were at the bar talking about what great luck “Carl” has with good-looking women.  (Except, of course, when it comes to his ex-wife and her exorbitant alimony.)

Carl does something with computer analysis and investors, predicting markets — his clients pay him ridiculous amounts of money.  It seems there was one group of investors who wanted to reward him even further for a job well done, so they flew him to Texas.  A limo met him at the airport, and inside were two, stunning Playmate-type blonds. Apparently there were bottles of Dom Perignon involved, and the girls began kissing each other, and then all three of them were naked, pouring champagne all over each others bodies.

I heard this from “Matt” and “Louie”, so I don’t have enough of the details to elaborate further.  (This would be yet another story where the names would have to be changed.)

As it turns out, it’s really only the names that must be kept secret  “I wouldn’t want people to do a search for my business, and find the (Stormy Monday) story right below one listing credentials,” ‘Matt’ explained.

As it turns out (they’ve all OK’d this) I could have used a picture of them taken recently at Johnny D’s.  Now you tell me, . . . wouldn’t it have been a riot to see “Matt” (center) in the working-class bar, trying to convince “Louie” (right) to take that engagement ring?  (It’s not what you think . . . click here for the whole story.)

Real-life photo of the three amigos; “Carl” (on the left), “Matt”, and “Louie.”











(3)  The Boys of Summer . . .

“Oh, geez,” Brooke says laughing.  So far this hasn’t been her day.  She’d been watching England play Italy in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 soccer championships.  She and another good friend of ours, Dave, were at Johnny D’s watching the large screen TVs, cheering for England which almost pulled off a huge upset.  The two teams went scoreless for 90 minutes of regulation time, and then scoreless for two 15 minute overtime periods . . . before England finally lost in the game-ending free shootout.

Now she was on her IPhone, checking some of her friends’ Facebook pages.  “I guess Oscar is at the beach,” she laughed, ‘They’re posting pictures of themselves.”

Oscar is a kick-ass bartender, but that’s all he needs, . . . another reason to take off his shirt  And when Oscar does take his shirt off  — he often has a pretty, young woman on his arm — literally.

See what I mean?
















Here’s the picture I think Brooke was laughing at . . . his younger bother, Oliver, tries to ruin the photo (like putting a two-fingered “peace” sign, or a one-fingered gesture behind someone’s head just before the picture is snapped.)  Very creative, Oliver.














One more photo of Oscar and Oliver at the beach last Sunday (this time with Oliver behaving), and then we’ll see you next week with more Life on a Cocktail Napkin.

Two brothers from Venezuela enjoy an American day at the beach.

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(Image from

When I started this blog, I was determined to use the real names of all the people I was writing about.  How could I not use them?  I had learned to tend bar from a veteran barman named Johnny La La.  I’d served real-life customers like George the Polack, and Jackie Rabbit (who had a girl friend everyone called Maude the Broad.)  These were great names.

But in the end there were some names I simply couldn’t use, like that of Joey Cigars (that’s the pseudonym I gave him, and yes, he was a gangster.)  In other cases it just didn’t seem right to name good people, and then to air their dirty laundry.

The three guys I’ll talk about today fall into that second category — they’re all serious professionals who come to Johnny D’s for the music, so I guess they deserve a little bartender discretion.

Matt, Louie, and Carl (I’ll call them) have been coming to the club for years, and they’ve certainly told me things at the bar that they probably don’t want the world to know.  But Matt told me a story one day that’s too good not to share — so I emailed mailed him yesterday and he said it was OK, as long as I didn’t name names.

It started one Sunday Blues Jam when someone on stage was singing the old ballad, “Stormy Monday.”  Matt, Louie, and Carl were sitting at the bar, and with the first notes of the song, Louie and Carl started laughing.  Matt shook his head, and ordered three shots of Jameson while the other two continued laughing and slapping him on the back.  I had no idea what was going on, but it must have something to do with the song “Stormy Monday.”

When I asked Matt to explain, he began to tell the story behind the shots.  (Louie and Carl had heard it before, so they just settled back on their bar stools and smiled.)

It seems that a quite few years ago, Matt had been dating this knock-out brunette — tall, slinky, long ravishing hair.  She was smart, sexy, and a thousand laughs . . . but Matt wasn’t ready to settle down.  Even though they dated often for almost a year, he avoided any talk of commitment.

“One night she called me on it,” Matt continued.  “She asked where we were going with this, and I hesitated.  I told her I wasn’t sure.”

In response, the girl (we’ll call her Linda) said that she suspected all along Matt wasn’t ready to settle down, and she didn’t like this day-to-day feeling.  She wanted to be married and have kids.

So she told Matt that maybe they should take a break from each other.  She was going to move to Philadelphia and clear her head.  Of course they would stay in touch and still be friends, she said, but for now it would be from a distance.

They called each other several times a week over the next few months, while Larry was out playing the field.  But then early one morning, Matt called her Philly apartment, and a man answered.

It was seven o’clock in the morning, and a man answered.

Now Matt panicked.  He was all upset.  He starting thinking about her, imagining her with other men.  He began thinking that he’d made a huge mistake.  He started thinking that Linda was the only one for him — and now he was letting her slip away!

Everything happened in that one afternoon . . . right after the morning phone call.  Matt immediately booked the next flight to Philly.  All he could think about was losing Linda.

He decided that he’d rush to her and throw himself on his bachelor sword.  He would apologize profusely, beg her forgiveness . . . and then he’d ask her to marry him.

I can't use his real picture, but Louie reminds me of Peter Lupus from the old TV series "Mission Impossible." (Bear with me on this, the photo will become important later in the story.)

While he was packing a suitcase, Matt called Louie’s mother on the phone for help.

“I don’t know anything about rings,” Matt told Louie’s mother, “Could you help me pick one out  . . .  an engagement ring?

“Are you sure you don’t want to think this over first?” Louie’s mom asked him, “This seems very sudden.”

“No!” Matt said, “There’s no time for that!  If I don’t act now she may be gone forever!”

So Matt and Louie’s mother went to Jared’s, and Matt bought an expensive engagement ring.  He had it tucked in its little box, safely inside his suitcase as he just barely made it to the airport on time.

He knew where Linda worked, and he took a taxi directly from the airport.  When he was outside her building, he called her office to tell her that he was in Philly.  He told her that he had just flown in . . . that he loved her . . . and that he wanted to marry her!

The suddenness of Matt’s proposal must have taken Linda by surprize — maybe that’s why she sounded a little evasive as he stood at the pay phone.  She didn’t seem to know exactly when she’d be getting off work, . . . she wasn’t sure when she’d be able to meet him later.

Matt decided to go into the office building and find her.

The receptionist’s behavior quickly raised Matt’s suspicions.  The lady behind the desk claimed not to know Linda was; she said there was no way right now to get in touch with her.  There was something the receptionist wasn’t telling him!

“No, you can’t go down there!” the receptionist shouted as Matt abruptly turned and began running down the hallway to the offices.

Linda wasn’t in her office.  It looked as though she’d just left.

Matt raced to the door marked “EXIT” at the end of the hallway.  The alarm on that emergency door was clanging loudly as Matt looked down through the grates of the fire escape.  He caught one quick glance of Linda below.  She was sliding into the passenger seat of a really fancy car.  Then the car screeched away.

“I think it was a Porsche, but I’m not sure,” Matt told us at the bar as he recounted his tale.  “I only know it was the kind of car I’d never be able to afford.”

Back at the receptionist’s desk, Matt finally learned the bad news.  Linda had met a doctor.  The guy was some hot-shot young surgeon, and they were planning to get married.

Matt walked back down the stairs to the street outside.  Suitcase in hand, the tears were running down his cheeks.

“I’ll take anything!” Matt shouted to the lady at the airline counter, “Anything . . . I just need to get back to Boston tonight!”

Matt ran through the airline terminal with his suitcase in hand, his cheeks still wet with disappointment.  He barely managed to catch his return flight.  “This was all pre-911,” he told us now at the bar, “If it had been after 911, I’m sure I would have been arrested for acting so bizarre.”

Matt called Louie from the airport when he got home to Boston.  He told Louie that he needed to talk with someone, that he’d just gotten back from Philly where he’d flown to see Linda.  “It didn’t go well,” he explained.

(“He sounded so upset,” Louie told us at the bar, “That I thought he might have killed her, and now he wanted me to help dispose of the body.”)

It was eleven o’clock when Matt called Louie that night, and they agreed to meet at Nick’s Beef and Beer, on Mass Ave.  Nick’s is closed now, but back then it was strictly a blue-collar bar, full of manly, hard-working men.

As they sat at the bar, Matt told Louie in hushed words what had happened, the two of them leaning close so no one would hear.

Now Matt took the engagement ring he’d bought out of his pocket.  As he opened the box, once again the tears began to swell in his eyes.  His voice quivering, but much louder than before, he said . . . “Louie, you have to take this!”

What he meant was that he wanted Louie to take the ring and give it to his mother, so she could return it to where they bought it.  What he meant was that he was too upset to return it himself, and would Louie please ask his mom to do it.

But what he said — as he opened the small box and showed Louie the engagement ring — what he said was, “Louie, please, you have to take this ring!”

Matt’s voice cracked as he held the little box out with both hands.

Louie is about 6’ 2”, 260 lbs.  He’s as guinea-looking as they come.  Once at a Blues Jam, Carl called Louie “the Luca Brasi of the Blues” — that’s how manly Italian he looks.  Picture him at the bar, surrounded by blue-collar workers as Matt holds the ring out to him.

“Get that away from me!” Louie says, “I don’t want it!”

“Please!”  Matt’s hands are shaking, but his voice only gets louder each time Louie refuses.  “Louie, please . . . take the ring!”

(Imagine the guy on the left sitting at the bar, trying to give the guy on the right an engagement ring.  Left image from







“I was so fucking embarrassed,” Louie recalled now at the bar at Johnny D’s,  “I wanted to stand up and explain to those guys looking at us, . . . but I shrugged my shoulders, and I took the damn ring.”

That was the story of Matt’s trip to Philly, and the entire thing had happened on one crazy day, . . . on a Monday.

“Since then,” Matt continued now, “Every time I hear the song Stormy Monday, and I’m out at a bar, I have a shot of Jameson to remind myself of that day . . . and to remind myself never to do anything like that again.”

(Ed. Note:  I want to thank Matt for his permission to tell this.  Matt had finished his tale, but the story didn’t end there.  Now I knew that he’d drink a shot of Jameson every time he heard a particular song, I began bribing the blues-jammers to play it.  Sometimes I’d buy five or six musicians a beer each to get them to play “Stormy Monday” — first one, and then half an hour later, another.  Once, I convinced this stunning young coed from the Berklee College of Music to sing it at the end of a jam, and she sang so beautifully I thought Matt might have had a tear in his eye.  But what happened between Matt and that coed afterward is a story for another time.)

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Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra

The NBA finals are going on right now, and our Boston Celtics aren’t in it.  The Miami Heat beat them in last week’s heart-breaking conference championships.  But today I choose to think about happier times, looking back to when the Celtics won it all in 2008.

That was about the best three-day weekend I’ve had.

Of course, it actually began on a Tuesday.  At the time I worked Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday, so my “weekend” started at the beginning of the week.  But this was the craziest, non-stop “ThankGoodnessIt’s ____,” — no matter what day it fell on.

First there was a breath-taking view of the Boston skyline, then a long-awaited Celtic championship.  There was a victory parade to celebrate their win, leading to a great night out on the town, . . . until finally it ended with one of the funniest/most bizarre things I’ve seen.  It  ended with my best friend, Colleen, interrupting a concert of the Boston Pops Orchestra at Symphony Hall.

In those days whenever Colleen came to Boston to visit, I’d get her a nice little bed-and-breakfast apartment.  But when I called the B&B agency this time, none of the inexpensive rentals were available.  “Let me see what I can do,” the lady on the phone said.  By now we’d given her enough business that she was going to help us out.

She called me back half an hour later.

“The ones you normally book are all taken,” she said, “But I do have a luxury suite that happens to be open.  I’ll let you have it for your usual price.”

She sent me the link.

This was the suite that Colleen had always teased me about.  It was a penthouse apartment so swank I couldn’t come close to affording it.  It had a winding staircase leading up to three bedrooms.  There were three full-sized private bathrooms.  The back end of the living room was a wall-to-wall window offering a spectacular view of downtown Boston.  It had a formal dining table with seating for six.  It was ridiculous.

“If anyone calls to rent it, you’ll have to give it up,” the lady told me, “But for now you can have it for what you pay for the smaller units.”

The “Presidential Suite” for three days –and I was getting it for a song.  Colleen thought I was being cute when I said that’s where she’d be staying.

Colleen arrived in Boston early Tuesday afternoon, and I figured we’d go someplace nice for dinner . . . but she wouldn’t hear of it.  “I don’t want you spending all your money,” she said.  She insisted that she should make us dinner at the penthouse — there was a complete kitchen with a full-size stove and refrigerator, a microwave and a toaster oven, coffee-maker, pots and pans, plates and bowls, fancy silverware.  “What would you like me to cook?” she asked.

“How about shrimp scampi?” I said, trying to be a wise-ass.  The kitchen had all the amenities, but no food was stocked.

Colleen (ready to “bop around town.”)

“I’ll need some shrimp, a clove of garlic, linguine, olive oil, butter, and a lemon,” she said without blinking.  “There’s salt and pepper here, but maybe you’d like a little parmesan cheese.”

“Pick up a baguette and I’ll make garlic bread to go with it,” she said.

I had to pick up beer anyway, along with vodka and pineapple juice.  (Colleen wanted a pineapple martini.)  I walked half a block to an upscale Back Bay delicatessen, and bought everything she needed.  Colleen is a great cook, and she threw together a dynamite shrimp scampi as effortlessly as someone might flip through their mail standing at the mailbox.  It was so good.

After dinner we hopped on the trolley to head for the game.  I didn’t have tickets, so we went to Boston’s Quincy Market and joined the crowd watching large screen TVs in one of the nightspots.

What a game!  I suppose a true basketball fan might have preferred a closer score, but it had been twenty-two years since the Celtics won the overall title, and with each point they piled up now the roar from the crowd rattled the pints of beer on the bar.  It was madness as the final seconds were counted down.

(Pnoto by David Ryan, Boston Globe)

The day of the victory parade was just like a holiday.  Whenever a Boston team wins a title, the city has a “rolling” celebration.  They use Duck Boats to carry the team’s players through the downtown streets, then the amphibious vehicles slip into the Charles River for a ride past the cheering crowds lining the shore, and then back up onto the streets again to finish the parade.

Rajon Rondo (Photo by Matthew Lee, Boston Globe)

Our lucky penthouse suite had a fantastic view, but we wanted to watch the parade among the crowd.  We went downstairs early and found a spot in the front row, leaning over the ropes.  I almost could have reached out and shaken Rajon Rondo’s hand.  (I remember thinking he looked so young, . . . almost like a high school kid.)

There’s a lot I have to skip here, or I’ll be writing all day.  There was “the meatball story,” which had to do with some take-out food back at the penthouse, and what I’d done with it.  We argued for hours about that story’s merits — was a joke I pulled really funny, or not?  Then there was Colleen, asking the waiter where we had lunch the next day whether he thought it was funny.  But I protested his decision — all the time she was explaining, he kept staring at the logo on her snug Celtics T-shirt.  (When I bought it for her I didn’t realize the sizes ran small.)  Seriously, what kind of impartial judge could he be?

And there was “the scallops-wrapped-in-bacon” incident at the food pavilion in Boston’s Quincy Market — but these stories will have to wait for another time.

To cut to the chase . . . I never expected the Celtics to win in six games.  I thought the series would go to the seventh game, at which time I’d be back at work and Colleen would be home.  If I had known they were going to win Tuesday night, and therefore the parade would follow a day or two later, . . . I never would have bought us tickets to the Boston Pops Orchestra.  But after the parade, and walking a bit on The Freedom Trail, then stopping at P. F. Chang’s for lunch — that night we were off to Symphony Hall.

Boston’s Symphony Hall

We stopped at the bar on the first floor of Symphony Hall.  I got Colleen a pineapple martini and myself a beer, and we were sitting at a small table when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy approaching us fast.  I was just about to jump up and defend us, when the guy reached out his hand with a big smile.

It was Gilberto Rivera, the singer and leader of the band Rumba Na Ma.  Back then Rumba Na Ma played every Sunday for Johnny D’s salsa night.

“What are you doing here?” I asked Gilberto after standing to introduce him to Colleen.  “Oh, I’m getting some type of award,” he laughed, and I wasn’t sure whether or not to take him seriously.

For that night’s concert, one of the features was the semi-finals of a high-school talent contest that the Boston Pops was sponsoring.  There was some unbelievable talent showcased.  I couldn’t believe these were high school kids.

Anyway, after the four semi-finalists had performed, Keith Lockhart (the conductor of the BSO) stopped the show to present a Fidelity FutureStage Award.

And out walked Gilberto.  He’s a band leader at night, but during the day he teaches music in the public schools.

Colleen at home (in a quiet moment.)

Gilberto was laughing and smiling, waving to the audience as he accepted the award (he is a bit of a hot shit on stage.)  The award included a $25,000 grant for musical equipment in his school.

As he walked off the stage, Colleen said, “He plays at your club every Sunday?”

“Yea,” I told her, “Funny we happened to be here tonight.  It’s been a weird three days, hasn’t it?”

Little did I know it wasn’t over yet.

There was also a guest conductor for the BSO that night, and Keith Lockhart turned the stage over to him for part of the performance.  The guest conductor directed the orchestra through one piece, then he stopped to address the audience.

He said how pleased he was to be here, and that he knew all of Boston was in a great mood because of the Celtics long-awaited victory.

The audience applauded loudly for a minute or two, and when it quieted down, the guest conductor was ready to say something more, before returning to the concert.

He stood on stage with one hand raised, and his mouth open to speak.

I have no idea what he wanted to say because he never got the words out.

As he stood with finger raised and mouth opening, someone from the audience yelled, “GO CELTICS!”

It was loud and ballsy, and it rang out now through the quiet auditorium.


It was Colleen, sitting next to me.

I sat there not quite believing it. The entire place had been quiet as a church, and in that split second before the guest conductor spoke again, she had yelled . . . “GO CELTICS!”

The guest conductor looked up to roughly where we were sitting.  A lot of heads in the audience had turned our way.  (In the picture below, we would have been sitting in the top left balcony, beneath where the first purple banner is hanging.)

The guest conductor kept looking up, his eyes searching.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t quite hear that.  Did someone say something?”

“GO CELTICS!” Colleen yelled again.  Now the audience responded with spontaneous laughter and applause.  Everyone was looking our way, and Colleen sank down in her seat, trying to hide.

It’s the only time I’ve seen Colleen embarrassed.

“Well, . . . yes, I already said that,” the guest conductor smiled.  Then he introduced the next piece, turned to raise his baton, and the orchestra began to play.

Colleen . . . interrupting a concert at the Boston Symphony, and receiving a round of applause. There’s no one quite like her.

Anyway, that was about the best three days off I’d had in a long time.

Back next week with more Life on a Cocktail Napkin.

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