SCARIEST THING I’VE SEEN IN A BAR (and other bits and pieces)

Today’s post is about three unrelated incidents that happened years apart in different bars.  I’m not sure why each of them crossed my mind this week.

1.) A bartender’s comeback . . .

The Lark Tavern, Albany NY

The Lark Tavern was mobbed, three deep at the bar, and we were running our asses off.  The Lark was always busy on weekends — but we were used the pace, and had gotten pretty good at it.  People rarely waited more than a minute for their drinks.  Which is why one customer surprised me.

“Hey,” he yelled while leaning over the bar, waving an outstretched arm, “What does someone have to do to get a drink in this place?”

I thought, “Excuse me?”  This guy had just shown up.  Didn’t he notice we were busy?

He was in Tommy Talbor’s section.  It took Tommy a few seconds to finish the round he was working on, then he went over to man.

“I’m sorry,” Tommy said politely, “What did you say?”

“What I said . . . ”.  The man’s tone was indignant, pompous.  “What I said was . . . What do I have to do to get a drink in here?”  He pronounced each word slowly, as if to give each proper emphasis.

Tommy looked down the bar at the people jammed in, shaking shook his head in disbelief.

“What do you have to do . . . ?” Tommy repeated the guy’s question.  He smiled and folded his arms across his chest.  He was standing directly across from the guy.

“Well,” Tommy continued, smiling, “I think a blow job would be nice.  Yes, I’m sure a blow job would do it.”

The people on either side abruptly turned and looked at the guy, then at Tommy.

“Yes,” Tommy continued smiling, “A blow job would be very nice.”

“Just like last night,” Tommy said, “ . . . All of us.”  He gestured to me on the one side, and to the other bartender on his left.  Customers watching this little scene choked back their amusement.

“I’m only kidding,” Tommy now told the guy, leaning forward with his hands on the bar rail, “Seriously, what would you like?”

That man was as quiet as a church mouse for the rest of the night.

2.) Scariest thing I’ve seen in a bar . . .

She was in her late twenties/early thirties, and she was at Johnny D’s every night after work.  She drank bud light, pouring it into a glass.  She drank a lot of them.  I never saw her become really drunk, but she would get a good buzz on every single night.  She was one of those customers you suspect has — or one day will have — a drinking problem.

Sometimes, after a particularly long stay the night before, she’d come in the next day looking as though she’d been barely able to make it through work.

Then one afternoon she sat down at the bar and ordered a Coke.

“I’m going on the wagon,“ she told me very seriously.  “I know I’ve been drinking too much.”

“Happens to us all,” I said, trying to make her feel good about the decision, “Everyone needs to take a break now and then.”

“It’s not going to be now and then,” she said.  “I’m done . . . I through drinking.”

While she sipped her Coke, we talked a little about drinking, and the bar life.  We talked about reaching a point where you feel it’s probably time to rein it in.

For the next few days, she continued to come in every night, but she’d only order Cokes.  She’d go through one after the other.  I knew this wasn’t easy for her.

A week or so went by, and then she came in one afternoon looking like she was about to explode.  “I’ve just had such a fucking day!” she blurted as she sat down, “Such a horrible fucking day.”

“To hell with it,” she said, “Give me a beer.“

I stood there for a minute.

“You sure?” I asked.

“Yes, . . . give me a god damn beer,” she said.  “The hell will it.  I really need one tonight.”

She poured the beer into her glass, and took a long mouthful.  She sat there for a second, and I could see the immediate comfort spreading over her face.

I could imagine exactly how she was feeling . . . that first cold swallow of beer after a hot summer day.  Or after a long week on the wagon.

But then her face began to change, to slowly morph.  It was as if her face revealed everything that was going through her mind.

In her face, I saw the concern for a commitment she’d made — not only to herself — but one that she had told everyone about.  Then I saw worry, almost a look of fear — as though she was just beginning to realize the size of the problem.  And as her face slowly changed, I saw something like disappointment, even disgust.  Disappointment in herself.

John B, who was working with me that night later said it was a look of pure self-loathing.

It was a scary, horrifying look, made far worse by its slow (d)evolution.  We just stood there and watched, later agreeing it was something we’d never forget.

She sat there for a long time with that look, just staring into space.  I put together this short, four-second morph to give you some idea — but trust me, it isn’t nearly as painful as what we saw.

3.) When in Rome . . .

I’d started tending bar at The Cantina Italiana, and I’ll admit at first I was a little intimidated  by the neighborhood.  Boston’s North End was solidly Italian back then, with guys named Louie, Dominic, and Sal . . . and there were a lot of rumors about the Mafia.

I kept my head low.

One night a girl I used to work with at another place stopped in to say hello.  She now lived in the North End.  She sat at the bar all night as we talked about old times.

The Cantina closed soon after we stopped serving food, but she was still sitting at the bar, so we went back to her place just down the street.  I stayed until around 4:00 in the morning.

I’d reached the bottom of the stairs and exited the front door, but just as the door closed behind me, I heard, “Pop!  Pop!  Pop, Pop, Pop!”


I jumped back into the entrance way, my back against the closed door.  I just stood there, not moving an inch.

Then I saw the lights of a car moving slowly down the street — with them, flashing lights but no siren.

I waited until the cop car was passing my friend’s apartment building before I stuck my head out of the doorway.  The police car stopped, and the officer on the passenger side rolled down his window.  “Did you hear anything?” he asked, looking right at me.

I nodded my head, “Yes”.

He seemed surprised for a second, then he appeared irritated.  He shook his head.  He glanced over at his partner with a look that said, “Who is this guy?  Doesn’t he know anything?”

Then he turned back to me; his words were patronizing.

“Do you think . . . ?” he asked.  (His tone said:  What are you, a dummy?)  “Do you think it might have been firecrackers?”

Now I understood.  I was in the North End, and he was letting me know what I was supposed to say.

I wasn’t supposed to say anything.  I wasn’t supposed to see, or hear anything.  These two cops just wanted a quite shift.

Maybe it was someone shooting off a few rounds, drunk.  Maybe there was a body lying in a ditch somewhere up the street.  It was definitely gunfire, no doubt in my mind.  But if these cops didn’t want to know about it, neither did I.

“Yea,” I told the cop, “Yea, I think it was firecrackers.”

That cop gave me one more combined look of disgust and disbelief, then the two of them drove off.

I learned at lot while working in the North End, . . . but that night it was the cops who taught me a thing or two.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 13 Comments


Here’s a short clip of what Johnny D’s looks like on a busy night.  (Booty Vortex was playing; video by Mojo.)  Next busy show, there’ll be one person missing.

It seems that in this business, just when people become really good . . .

— when they always show up on time, and do their job right
— when they can handle the crunch without breaking a sweat
— when they become the kind of bartender everyone can count on not only to carry their own weight, but to pick up the slack of those who are struggling

. . . seems that just when they get to that point, they leave.

I hate that.

Jeremy Newcomer left for New York City this past week.  (He’s the last bartender in the short video above.)  Drawn by lure of bright lights/big city, he’s off to Manhattan.

Everyone will miss him, but I think bar staff will miss him most.  He’s left some pretty big shoes to fill, and now we have to find the right person(s) to take his place.

Five years ago Jeremy was hired as an intern in the booking office, then he become a floor manager, and finally a bartender.  He turned into one kick-ass bartender.

He could handle anything, no matter how overwhelming or demanding the crowd.  He came up with the drink specials, stacked the kegs in the walk-in cooler . . . I won’t go on and on, but he was all over the place keeping things in order.

Jeremy Newcomer (left), with current bar staffers Oscar and Craig (“Chombo”), and fomer Johnny D’s barmern Julian and Tony (right).

The week before Jeremy left, some customers organized a pub crawl as a going-away party.  (Jeremy had been the one to organize these things in the past.)  They decided to make this last one special — everyone was to wear some sort of formal garb.

They started at Johnny D’s, then hit the other nightspots in Davis Square.  Dave was there, Brenden and Brook, Chombo, Jamie B, Leehea, former employees Julian, Tony and Jamie T . . . all the gang from the earlier crawls.

While they were still at Johnny D’s, everyone was talking about how much they’d miss him.  They were having quiet conversations on the side.  At one point, one girl was talking when she abruptly stopped . . . her eyes welled up and then there were tears trickling down her cheeks.

Yea, everyone will miss Jeremy.

Jeremy and the crew partying at Flatbreads, one of many stops that night.

I’m sure Jeremy will do fine in the Big Apple, . . . and the truth of it is, we’ll find a way to adapt now that he’s gone.  People are always leaving in this business.

According to statistics from the US Department of Labor, food service workers have a lower median tenure at their places of employment than any other category of employee.

Chart from the US Deparment of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

No other industry sees so many workers come and go.  When it comes to changing jobs, we’re #1.

For a while Johnny D’s was an exception.  At one time we had such a veteran bar staff that you could have been here for five years and still be the newcomer.  Our crew had been there forever — me (I had been there forever), John and Eric with something like fifteen years each, and Aaron, the new guy, who’d only been there five.

Then Aaron left to become the GM at a place in Shirley MA, and Eric left to help his friend Ky Nguyen open Kingston Station in downtown Boston.  John isn’t on the bar anymore, but at least he’s still at the club, as the GM.

We rebuilt, because that’s the way things are done . . . you train new people, and try to bring them up to speed.

So when good people leave, you simply join the going-away parties — whatever form they take — and carry on.

The Lark Tavern was recently refurbished after a devastating fire. Use the “Search” function for more stories on The Lark — I think there are over twenty of them on this blog.

I remember when I left The Lark Tavern, in Albany NY — there was no tuxedoed pub crawl, but we definitely raised hell that last week.

The day I was finally set to leave, my duffle bag was packed and I had the bus schedule in hand.  I was finally on my way to Boston.

But first, I met my good buddy, Bruce S, at The Lark for one last drink.  “It’ll make the bus ride more bearable,” he laughed.

We had a shot of Jack Daniels, and a beer.  We weren’t pounding them down . . . just sitting at the bar recalling good times.

Around five o’clock, I got up to head for the bus station, but Bruce talked me into to checking the schedule again.  It looked like I could stay a little longer, and catch the 7:45.

Then I was supposed to catch the 9:15, the 10:30, the 12:15 . . . more drinks and more stories . . . and yea, you guessed it, we ended up closing The Lark.

I’d already given up my apartment and had been staying with Stacey Conway.  Somehow she didn’t seem surprised to see me back on her couch the following morning, my duffle bag on the floor.

The next afternoon I met Bruce for another going away shot-and-beer.  Just one more.  This time I was definitely going to make that afternoon bus.  I had people waiting for me.  I was supposed to stay with two nurses who a year earlier had already moved from Albany to Boston.

6:00 . . . 8:00 . . . 10:30 . . . 1:00 AM . . . all the same story.  We kept having one more beer, talking with all the people who happened to stop by, and I missed every bus on the schedule for the second night in a row.

We did have a lot of good times to rehash.

On the third day, I finally left for Boston.

I don’t think Oliver Simosa will take as long to leave Johnny D’s.  Oliver is leaving the club, too . . . at the end of the month.

He’s been a bar back, doorman and waiter here (you can see Oliver stacking pints as a bar back at the beginning of the clip at the top.)  It’s especially disappointing to lose Oliver because we had our eye on him to become the next new bartender.  (His brother, Oscar, is a monster behind the bar.)

Oliver, on the left.

Oliver is headed back to Venezuela to play semi-pro basketball (brother Oscar is a semi-pro rugby player here.)  Oliver will be playing for the Valencia Globetrotters.  He shoots 40% from the three-point range.

“That’s it?” I said, busting his balls, “Only 40%?”

“That’s under pressure,” he came back with professional confidence, “While being tightly guarded!”

I’m sure he’ll kick some ass back in Venezuela.  (Editor’s Update, May 14th:  Oliver had given us a month’s notice, but he had to cut that to three weeks — he was invited to try out for the Venezuelan Olympic basketball team.  Good luck, Oliver!)

Anyway, good people leave, and what can you do?  Wish them well.  Hope they find what they’re looking for, . . . and hope they know that they always have a home here, if they want to come back.

See you next week with more Life on a Cocktail Napkin.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 7 Comments

DIRTY TRICKS behind the bar









This blog generally has a positive outlook.  I try to stay focused on what I find interesting, and funny . . . let someone else write about the negative stuff in our industry.

Today’s post will be change of pace.

Today I’m going recall three examples of bad behavior that make me wonder what some bartenders are thinking.  First, I’ll talk about a guy working his way up the food chain by back-stabbing his boss, then about a old-timer’s dirty trick using drops of Visine.  And finally, the lowest of low-lives . . . we’ll look at a bartender stealing from other bartenders.

I won’t say where or when these incidents took place, except to say that they happened a long time ago, and not at Johnny D’s.

1.)  Fucking Up the Manager . . .

I knew a guy I’ll call “Rob” as a drinking buddy.  He worked at a popular restaurant in Boston’s Quincy Market, not far from where I was the GM at a place called Friends & Company.

Rob was the bar manager where he worked and he hated his new boss, a night manager who had been hired from an application.  They both worked under a very strict GM.

Rob thought that he should have been promoted, instead of this unknown guy off the street.

The salt-in-the-wounds was that now the new night manager would be doing the liquor inventories.  He didn’t trust the staff, and felt he could be more accurate.  Until then, Rob had always done the inventories himself, with one of the other bartenders.

Rob didn’t like the change, . . . not one bit.

One night we were out having drinks and Rob seemed in a particularly good mood, after weeks of being down.

He told me that he’d found a way to screw the new manager.

Photo by Swanksalot (

Knowing that the inventory would be taken on the first of the month, Rob had removed some liquor and hidden it.  He’d gone crazy with this scheme.  He had taken half a dozen cases of liquor from the liquor room, hiding them on the dusty shelves in the basement.

When the night manager took the inventory the next day, of course the liquor that was secreted away wasn’t counted.  Rob waited all day, then he waited all night until after hours before he put the liquor back.

The next day he went to the GM and told him he had doubts about the new manager’s accuracy.  He said that he just happened to be in the liquor room while the manager was counting.

“He was trying to do everything too quickly and he looked disorganized,” Rob said.  “I don’t see how he wouldn’t miss something.”

The GM checked, and found the “inaccuracies.”

I suppose it never crossed the GM’s mind that someone like Rob might be fucking with the new guy.  He probably couldn’t imagine a scheme that involved extra cases of liquor.

I’ll say this about Rob, he did have balls, . . . and he got away with it.

From that point on, the new manager’s days were numbered.  I remember Rob laughing as he told me what he’d done.

The following month Rob was back to doing the inventories with his bartenders — and eventually he replaced the night manger he hated.

Rob didn’t last long on his new job.  It’s a lot easier to screw things up, than it is to keep them running right.

As for the other guy . . . I don’t really know what happened to him after he was let go.  This might not have been the right business for him anyway.

2.)  The Visine trick . . .

An old-time bartender from New York City told me this trick many, many years ago.  It’s meant to take revenge on pain-in-the-ass customers.

The way the old-timer explained it — just adding a drop or two of Visine to someone’s drink will give them an immediate and devastating case of diarrhea.  They’ll be running back and forth to the rest room until they have to leave . . . a faint, foul odor perhaps trailing behind them.

Sounds pretty funny, doesn’t it?

But as I was writing this post — having some doubts about whether I should disclose this trick — I did some research on the web.  I discovered that the information I thought was an old-timer’s dark secret was actually now public knowledge on the Internet.  It was even included in a movie titled, “Wedding Crashers.”

While this made me more at ease mentioning it here — a lot of people apparently already know the trick — I was shocked to learn what actually happens to the victims.

Adding Visine to someone’s drink may cause:

— a sharp elevation of blood pressure followed by a sudden drop to dangerous levels
— difficulty in breathing, or even cessation of breathing
— overwhelming nausea and vomiting
— coma, and even death.

Yea, some people have died from it.

If you put something into a drink to cause a person harm,  . . . you are technically, legally, poisoning them.  There are people in prison right now for pulling this prank.  If caught, you can expect to spend the next few years working on license plates, rather than making drinks.

Anyway, I never used anything like this myself (although there were times I was tempted.)  After what I found out about it recently, thank God I didn’t.

3.)  The Lowest Form of Life . . .

Our business is full of giveaways, and even bartenders “knocking down.”  (That’s when a bartender rings in only PART of a round of drinks while putting ALL the money in the register — taking out the accumulated difference for themselves later.)

Despite management’s best efforts, this business does has a reputation for workers trying to put a little extra cash in their pockets.

But I think it’s generally agreed that the lowest form of bartender is the one who rips off other bartenders . . . someone who steals from co-workers.

I was a bartender at The Sunflower Café in Cambridge MA, and out having a few drinks with a girl who used to work with me.  She had moved on to one of Boston’s hottest nightspots.

I really liked the job I had, but as we talked I was feeling a little left behind.  My friend said that now she could make anywhere from $300 -$500 a night.

But she also said that she didn’t like the atmosphere.  She said it was too cut-throat for her.

“I work my ass off,” she complained that night, “But I think the other bartenders are stealing out of the tips.”

I decided to go to her new place on a night she wasn’t working to see for myself.

I don’t know what I expected to see — maybe one of the bartenders scooping up a $5 or $10 tip and put it into their pocket instead of the tip jar?

I had four or five drinks, and hadn’t seen a thing, so I asked for the check.  Being in the business, I left a good tip.

I was about to leave, but for some reason I happened to glance over at the bartender as he was cashing out my check.

I just sort of looking in his direction when he did something that caught my eye.

I’d left a $20 tip, but when the guy cashed it out, he didn’t take any money out of the register.  He rang out the slip, put it under the cash drawer . . . but he didn’t take the $20 gratuity.

What was the story?  They had all been taking their tips out with each check cashed, this guy included.

I ordered another drink and stayed a little longer.  This guy and the other bartenders continued to take the tips immediately . . . but a while later the same bartender did it again.  He cashed out a charge, but didn’t take anything for the tip jar.  Did that particular charge just happen not to have any tip included?  What about my check?

I asked for my second bill, and left another big tip . . . this time just to see what happened.

Same thing.  He cashed out the charge, but didn’t take out the gratuity.

I went back the following week to make sure before I said anything to my friend.  Besides, I was curious how he pocketed the money, how he got the stolen tips from the register without drawing attention to himself.

Towards the end of the night this bartender was talking with someone he seemed to know well, and he offered to buy the customer a drink . . . out of his own pocket.

By now I was watching everything he did.

He was laughing as he served the drink, then reached into his pocket as he turned back to the register.

He rang in the drink, the drawer popped up, and he put his bill into the register.  But he put it into the far right of the register.

That’s where the one’s are kept.

He put the bill into the far right, then proceeded to move his hands left as he took his change.

He must have put in a one dollar bill, and now he was taking out a five, a couple of tens, and then three twenties.  I couldn’t see the denomination of the bills, but I could clearly see where his hands were on the drawer.

The position of his hands was unmistakable.  He’d put in a one-dollar bill and now he was taking out twenties . . . the only thing further to the left would have been the fifties or hundreds.  He was taking out the money he’d stolen from his co-workers.

“I knew it!” my friend said when I told her a few days later, “I knew he was a piece of crap!”

She left that job not long afterwards.  She said the money wasn’t worth it.  I don’t know if she ever said anything to her manager about the stolen tips.

Anyway, I realize life can be a bitch and there’s no sense crying about it.  There are more assholes in the world than you can shake a stick at.  But bartenders stealing from the people who work beside them . . . that has to be the lowest form of life.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 22 Comments


It’ll be a short post this week.  I had planned to write today about “DIRTY TRICKS behind the bar,” but I’m now weighing how much I should say,  . . . and about whom.  Back next week with that post.

Instead, today’s space goes to a bartender from Cheers in Quincy Market, and to a new industry blog I’ve just seen.

Congrats to Elyce Taylor . . .

John Taylor, his daughter Elyce, and wife Mary

Elyce ran in her first Boston Marathon this past Monday.  I’m sure there were other bartenders among the 26,716 registered runners — but none that I knew.

Elyce is the daughter of our Sunday Blues Jam performer, John Taylor (everyone just calls him “Taylor.”)

Taylor is one of the veteran musicians at the Johnny D’s Jam, mainly a drummer, but he also performs on keyboard and vocals.  (I love his version of the song, “It’s Cold in the City.”)

Elyce came in with her boyfriend one Sunday to watch Taylor perform.  That’s when I met her, and learned that she was a bartender at Cheers.

When Taylor said she was running in the Marathon this week, I asked him to keep me posted on how she did.

Turns out, she did ridiculously well.

Not only did she finish — some 5000 runners dropped out during the race, with its unusually high, 89-degree temperature — but she looked as fresh and chipper as a bartender simply completing one of those difficult shifts.

Five hundred runners were treated at the emergency Red Cross stations along the multi-city route.  (Starting in Hopkinton, they run through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brighton and Brookline, before finishing in Boston.)  Afterward Elyce posed for pictures, and went out for a beer with her boyfriend and their parents.

Here’s how Taylor described it in his return email (I’d asked him if Elyce had made it through the entire 26.2 miles).

“Elyce did finish which was amazing.  It was her 1st time running the marathon.  She was sponsored by Sam Adams Beer thru her work at Cheers.  My wife and I were at the 23mile marker which is right after Heartbreak Hill in Brookline and here she comes running and stopped to say hello to us . . . she looked good.

Her time was about 5.5-hours . . . We met with her after the race and her boyfriend, Jon and his parents were there.  We stopped for a drink but she was only interested in getting home and taking a shower and rest.  She was a little stiff but otherwise OK.   I was shocked that she even attempted to do the race considering she had not been in track at school.

I learned something new about her determination and stamina that was an awakening.”

Now that’s a proud dad.  I’m sure I’ll hear more detail when I see Taylor at the Jam this Sunday.

Anyway, congrats Elyce!  Great job!

Taylor and his wife Mary, with Elyce and her boyfriend, Jon.












New Blog in Town . . .

I got an email the other day inviting me to take a look at a new blog, Waiters Today, which bills itself as a “social network” for restaurant workers.

I’m still checking it out, but here’s some things right off the top.

First, they have a contest running right now . . . it ends May 7, 2012 . . . and there’s a $500 first prize for the best bar or restaurant story.  (One of the restrictions is that it can’t have appeared previously anywhere on the Internet — I have a tough time just putting up a weekly post, so if I can’t use something I’ve already written, I’m out.)

The site also has a chat room, and while looking around the site as a whole, I got an IM from one of its authors/owners.  (Apparently it’s a collective effort by nine Indianapolis servers.)  Andrew explained a few of the things they were doing . . . but what really struck me is this blog’s tremendous potential for interaction.

At Waiters Today, you can IM fellow members who are also online, or join them in a chat room.

This site is new, but it looks like they already have around 200 members.  It’s free to join and completely anonymous, if you want keep your identity secret.

The Photo section is interesting/strong . . . as is the Events section.  And the section called Job Center?  Well, I’m not sure how that’s going to do, . . . but overall this is definitely a site to keep an eye on.

Back next week with a post on “DIRTY TRICKS (behind the bar).”  It’ll be a good one . . . you won’t want to miss it.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 3 Comments


(This post is about two things that happened at Johnny D’s over Easter weekend.)


If you read last week’s post, you know about my decade-long search for an elusive bartender’s comment.

I’m pleased to say the search is over.  If you want, you can “cut to the chase” by scrolling down . . . but I thought some of you might be interested in the background.

It began one night behind the bar when the Academy Awards were on TV.  As I worked, they were showing a montage of classic movies clips, one after the other.  They flitted by quickly, but one clip in particular stopped me in my tracks.

There was a guy standing at the bar with his drink, and he asks the barman:  “Mac, . . . you ever been in love?”

The bartender’s answer was like a fine brandy.  It had subtle layers of flavor and nuance.  At first it was simply non-sequitur funny . . . with a hint of stereo-typed pseudo-insight into the bar life . . . followed by the realization that some writer had a blast putting that line into a movie.

I jotted it down on a cocktail napkin, but had no idea where the scene was from . . . they didn’t identify any of the movies in their montage.

I was determined to find it.

Initially, thinking the actor was Jimmy Stewart, I began watching all of his old films.  I even began asking my friends to help.

Colleen in her home office

“You want me to watch It’s a Wonderful Life?” Colleen asked over the phone one Christmas season, “Why?  I’ve already seen it a hundred times!”

“You’re looking for what?” Colleen asked, “A famous bar line?”  I stopped asking friends.  I was feeling a little foolish.

I don’t want to tell you how many Jimmy Stewart movies I watched by myself, from beginning to end.

Years went by, and I still hadn’t found the scene — that’s because I was looking in the wrong places.

It turns out that the actor wasn’t Jimmy Stewart after all.  (All those movies I’d watched . . . ).  I’d only caught a passing glimpse that night while working, and I’d been searching for the wrong guy.

I learned this from an on-line search begun in 2010.  I met fellow-blogger Scribbler50 (Behind the Stick) during that search — he was interested the line as well.  Like me, he was unsure about the details, but he thought it was from an old Western movie.

Through an exchange of emails and a coordinated search, we determined that the movie was “My Darling Clementine,” staring Henry Fonda.  J. Farrell MacDonald played the barman, Mac.

I immediately ordered a DVD copy from Barnes & Noble.

When the DVD arrived, I could at least watch the scene in the comfort of my apartment . . . but I still didn’t have a clip to share on-line.

A few more years went by.

Then last week (when I should have been writing a new post) I began a new search, now looking on YouTube.

After many hours, I only managed to come up with one, very-ragged clip that was dubbed in Spanish.

“Mac,” Henry Fonda says, “¿Alguna vez has estado enamorado?”

“No,” Mac replies, “He sido camarero toda mi vida.”

I went back to my English-speaking DVD.

David Hayden (of the Hospitality Formula blogs), had given me the idea of creating my own clip.  I asked our soundman, Josh, and he offered suggestions on how to “rip” a track from a DVD,  and turn it into a short vid . . . but it sounded complicated and required expensive software.

By now I was obsessed reasonably driven.  Easter weekend, I decided I’d waited long enough.

I took the DVD to work with me.

I borrowed bartender Jeremy Newcomer’s brand-spanking-new iPhone.  We went down to the booking office, which has a really sharp digital monitor.

Amy Black

On the way to the booking office, we had to walk through the band room.  Amy Black was playing at the club that night, and she was resting in the band room when we stormed through.

“What are you two up to?” she laughed.  I guess we looked pretty intent.  I explained the whole story, and she watched the scene with us once we’d loaded the DVD into the flat screen’s drive.

We got the movie to the right spot,  . . . then I braced myself in a wide stance, and tried to hold the iPhone/camera steady as Jeremy hit the play button.

It came out just fine.

“My, my,” Amy smiled as we watched the newly-finished product on Jeremy’s phone, “Guys who know how to get things done . . . I like that.”

I let her think the better of us.  It’s just part of the business, really . . . there’s always someone around who knows something about what you want to do.

Anyway, here’s the clip . . . finally.


Kenny Branco at Johnny D’s

While all this was going on, it was Easter . . . and at Johnny D’s that means Portuguese bread.  Kenny Branco (click here for a great story about him) has been a regular at the club forever, and every year for the past twenty years, he’s given a huge round loaf of fresh sourdough bread to each bartender.

“Thanks, Kenny,” I said on Sunday when he handed me mine.

I hesitated for a moment . . . I had heard a story years ago.  Should I ask him about it now?

“I want to ask you something, Kenny,” I said, “Shawn Day told me a story once.”  Shawn had been one of our best bartenders, and at that time he was a party animal.

He told a story once about walking home late at night, half-in-the-bag.  He was walking past a large empty parking lot.  There were no cars in the lot . . . it was completely deserted, and dark.  It was right around Easter time.

As he was walking by, Shawn said that he saw the headlights of a car ease slowly into the empty lot.  It was three o’clock in the morning.

The car was moving so slowly, it looked suspicious.  Shawn continued to watch as he walked by.  The car was just creeping along.

Then a square, white truck pulled into the other side of the parking lot.  Now the two vehicles seemed to spot each other, and they both hit the accelerators and raced to meet in the middle.

They half-circled around each other, screeching to a sudden halt.  A short man leapt out of the car, a dark Lincoln Continental, and a scruffy-looking guy jumped out of the truck.

The man with the car threw his trunk open, while the driver of the truck ripped apart its back doors.

The two of them began hauling out loaves of bread, throwing them into the guy’s Lincoln Continental.  It looked like a drug deal in the dark of night . . . except instead of kilos of coke, what they seemed to be loading into the guy’s car trunk was bread.

When the trunk was full, they both jumped back into their vehicles and screeched off like bats out of Hell, the smell of burning rubber and puffs of smoke trailing behind them.

“It was Kenny,” Shawn told us, “In the middle of the night, in a darkened lot, it was Kenny . . . in his Lincoln Continental, scoring Portuguese bread.”

“I have to ask,” I said to Kenny now, “Was that you?  Is the story true?  That’s where you get the bread . . . ?”

Kenny looked at me.

“You like the bread?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.  It was always really fresh . . . as though it’d just come out of the baker’s oven (which apparently it had.)

Kenny lifted his hands and shrugged his shoulders.  “Then why all the questions?” he asked.

I want to thank Johnny D’s bartenders Jeremy Newcomer and Oscar Simosa, as well as David Hayden (Hospitality Formula), Caveman (Tales From A Bar), and Scribbler50 (Behind the Stick) for their help with locating and reproducing the old movie clip.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 13 Comments