I’m taking a break from the blog this week, after working an extra shift at the club last night — Sarah Borges played; it was a great show. 

I’m on the bar again tonight (Thanksgiving), and working through the weekend.  (Here’s a Holiday Thought  from 2010 . . . hard to believe I’ve been doing this for over a year now.)

Next week should be back to normal.  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and see you next Friday!   Mike Q . . .

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Friday will be our new day for updates, but here in the second week of that schedule, I’ve already fallen behind.  I’ve got nothing ready, and there’s only an hour left before work.

So, for this week’s post I’m putting up two short videos from Johnny D’s.

The first is of Booty Vortex playing at the club, recorded by our good friend, Mojo.  I think this vid gives a feel for what the place is like on a busy night.

When reading a post about a single incident — or one specific person — it might not clear that there were probably a thousand other things happening at the same time.  Many of the stories here had something like this going on in the background.  (There’s some footage from behind the bar about three-quarters through the video.)

The second video is also from Mojo — Brian Templeton and The Radio Kings rocking out at the club.

We’re prohibited from recording the national acts that perform at Johnny D’s — acts like Alison Krauss, The Motels, or Dixie Chicks.  (Yup, Dixie Chicks used to play here every year, until they won their Grammy.)  But if you like the blues, I think you’re going to enjoy listening to Brian’s group — they’re one of Boston’s best.

Again, my apologies, but that’s it for this week.

If you came here in the mood for bar stories, I’d recommend glancing through the archives on the right for some old favorites you might have missed:  Joey Cigars, and the one-hundred-dollar bill, A Child’s Tricycle (and drinking to forget), or “Gringes” (Tom Grindle saves my ass)”.

Or check out one of my favorite fellow bloggers, like David Hayden of Restaurant Laughs, Patrick Mcguire of Server not Servant, Delia from Because we’re not all there, Nick’s Sock Puppet Army, or Scribbler50’s Behind the Stick.

I’ll be back next week with a brand new story from Life on a Cocktail Napkin. … and  it’ll be a good one, I promise.

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Booty Vortex on stage at Johnny D's, Halloween 2011


"Honeychild", one of the lead singers for Booty Vortex.

Booty Vortex has become a Halloween tradition at Johnny D’s.  It’s a rocking time with some of Boston’s best musicians working it on stage.  It’s a night of disco/funk, dancing to the old tunes like “Disco Inferno” and “Lady Marmalade”.  (Click here for some music by Booty Vortex.)

Only one problem.

Once the night started everyone was too busy to take pictures.  That’s OK, . . . that’s the way we like it.  (Uh-huh . . . Uh-huh.)

We did get some good photos before the party began.  In this one, waitress Joanne (Jojo) Grubman strikes a classic pose — “Pitcher of Clown Shoes Brown Angel . . . Long Island Ice Tea . . . or ME?

With the perfect costume, Jojo knows the meaning of coquettish.


At the beginning of the night, customer Josefina grabs Joe the doorman’s bare ass.

Gimme some!














Of course that’s not really Joe’s bare ass.  When he showed up without a costume, someone retrived a pair of fake rubber cheeks that had been laying around for months in the band room.  In the band room?  I must have missed a good story sometime back.

John Bonaccorso (our GM) couldn’t resist writing something on Joe’s fake butt.  In case you can’t read the letters, it says “Oscar was here” . . . Oscar is one of our bartenders.


Bartenders Oscar (Scar) Perez, Jeremy Newcomer, and barback/waiter Oliver Sinosa clown around before the night begins.

Shouldn't these guys be doing the opening set-up, . . . or something?














Waitress Clair Burrell provides an enchanting distraction.

Clair and the boys


Barback Joel Reynolds came as an 80’s nerd.














Oscar, Mike Pardy, Clair, Jojo, and Oliver.

One bad-ass crew


The old coach, still bartending after all these years.  (Sometimes I feel like Burgess Meredith in the movie “Rocky”.)






I can’t leave without sharing a couple of my favorite Halloween photos from Johnny D’s past.  The first features two of the staff who’ve since moved on — on the left is bartender Feliks Gailitis (back in NYC now).  He’s talking with a former waitress, Paula, who’s now married to her long-time boyfriend — local singer/songwriter icon Tim Gearan.  (You can hear some of Tim’s music here.)

I love the expression on Paula’s face.

"Of all the gin joints in the world, . . . Death has to walk into this one, and sit next to me."













At last year’s party, waitress Nikki came dressed in prison garb.  The letters on the back of her shirt originally read “Dept. of Corrections“ — but John Bonoccorso decided to make one small alteration.

He grabbed a sticky note-pad, wrote down the capital letter “E” and then made like he was simply patting Nikki on the back.

Nikki was a good sport when she found out about it and let us snap this picture, but she took the yellow “E” off before the party began.  Too bad, . . . she would have made ridiculous tips if she’d left it on.

Back next week with more stories from Life on a Cocktail Napkin.

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Sunrise on Seneca Lake in Upstate NY. (All four photos here are by Jack McAllister. They were taken from the dock of his lakeside home.)

I’m taking a day off from the bar stories.  We’ll be back later this week with a more typical post, but for now this space will be used for some great photos by my cousin Jack McAllister, two poems from my friend Dorene Sullivan, and a “shout-out” to our payroll guy, Ruben Hernandez, on his twenty-fifth birthday.













Jack’s photography will be on display at the Billsboro Winery, in Geneva, NY on November 11th.  Proceeds will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for research on Parkinson’s disease.  Here’s another from Jack’s dock.










Below is one of my favorite Jack McAllister photographs.  The moon and Venus rising are exponentially farther away, but their reflection on the water is brighter and much closer to the viewer than the made-made reflections on the opposite shore — as though their lights represent an enduring, celestial call.











 Dorene . . .

I went to high school with Dorene (Pike) Sullivan, back at Onondaga Central in Syracuse, NY.  We still exchange weekly emails.

Dorene has her Master’s Degree and taught English for ten years, and she’s also published a fine book of poetry.  (I’m not sure of all the places it’s available, but I know you can get a copy at The Coffee Haven, a bookstore cafe in Holliston, MA.)

Dorene sent me a new poem last week that I thought was appropriate for this blog.  It’s about a former long-term relationship with a man who drank too much.

Just below that is another recent poem from her.  (I think she’s headed for a second book.)

The premise of the second poem is Hamlet’s concern for his own mental health as he struggles with those inner demons.

John drank, by Dorene Sullivan

On Christmas,
New Year’s Day.

At weddings,
Bar Mitzvahs
He didn’t attend.

He celebrated victories,
Drowned defeats,
Chased boredom,
Controlled elation.

There was science in his method —
Brandy was for rainy days,
Whiskey for depression,
Wine for happy times.

Was good whenever.


Soliloquy:  Hamlet on His Madness, by Dorene Sullivan

Would that we could, Horatio,
Distill the essence of our brains
And waft away the vapors of care and doubt;
What remained
Would be the best of us —
The part divine,
Apart the human frailties
Of ego and emotion.

For what are we
But a host of contradictions?
A sorry mass of fear and anger, love and longing,
Warring with ourselves on ev’ry front. . .

The wars in a soul, Horatio,
Are more real than Norway or Poland —
They sap the energy
And refute the purpose
Of each endeavor,
Leaving a holy wreck
Of disillusion, heartbreak.

Ophelia! . . . the King my father! . . . my mother . . .
And brave Laertes . . .
All lost,
To me, and to themselves:
She mad, he dead, and my mother —
Best not to think on it.

Yet I do.

Even the sun appears to rest,
The moon has its phases,
The seasons come and go —
But my mind
Is an ever-ripening field
Whose crop is endless woe.

Where are the means
To plant new seeds
Within the fertile soil which is my mind?
To dig out the roots of desolation and despair?
What potion or sacred herb
Will cure such affliction of the mind?
Even precious sleep eludes me.

Tell me, Horatio —
What cure for madness
Lies within the future for a man?
What med’cine may we hope to find
To soothe the endless yearnings of the mind?



Ruben parties hard on his birthday.

I was calling in the payroll last Thursday afternoon and our processor at Heartland Payroll, Ruben Hernandez, mentioned that he was taking Friday off.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“My twenty-fifth birthday,” he said.

I asked what was planned and he told me that he was going out with a bunch of his good buddies to raise hell, drink, and party.

“Hope you’ve got a designated driver,” I cautioned.

Ruben was three steps ahead of me.  It seems one of his friends owns A – 1 Taxi Service in Cleveland, OH.  Every year as Ruben’s birthday present, the guy gives him and his buddies a cab for the night — a plush ride to wherever they want to go.  They just tip the driver at the end.

Way to go, Ruben.  I hope you had a hell of a time — happy twenty-fifth — and my hat’s off to you for doing the right thing.

Come back Thursday or Friday for a more typical post on Life on a Cocktail Napkin.

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GUNSHOTS! (And the annual Workers’ Compensation audit)

(Page one, . . . of this year's ten-page audit form.)

Yesterday afternoon was chewed up by our top-to-bottom bar cleaning, and now the annual workers’ comp audit for the club is waiting on my desk.  I’m on a break here, trying to piece together a post for this week.

But, . . . speaking of workers’ comp . . . here are three quick, behind-the-scenes stories that we don’t want the comp insurance people to hear.

The first incident was just a minor squabble that got a little out of hand.  At a restaurant I managed, a cook from El Salvador ended up scuffling with the female floor manager.

Now they each had their own story — like two motorists with different versions of a crash.  It was the dialogue immediately afterward that seemed worth jotting down.

The Cook“¡Esa perra está loca! Me apuñaló en el asno!”  (That bitch is crazy!  She stabbed me in the ass!”)

The Floor Manager:  (still holding a twelve-inch chef’s blade in her hand), “I didn’t stab him!  He backed into the knife I was holding!”

Going back even further, I remember another kitchen conflict where a prep cook from Brazil got into an argument with the sauté man from Venezuela.

The Brazilian picked up a large kitchen knife and threatened to gut the sauté chef if he ever yelled at him again.

Without blinking, almost quicker than the eye could follow, the guy from Venezuela grabbed a cast iron skillet, and . . . THUNNKK! . . . whacked the other guy on the top of his head.  He went down like a sack of potatoes.

What strikes me about these two incidents is that afterward they barely caused a ripple.

A day or two later, they were all but forgotten.  I hear that the cook and the floor manager still work together and are quite friendly now.  The next afternoon that prep cook apologized for his temper, and gracefully accepted the owner’s decision that he was no longer employed.  Neither involved any compensation claim.

I guess it’s just that kind of business.

But my favorite story about industry dangers and workplace shenanigans is a two-part tale that involves gunfire.

I was working at another restaurant, and the owner was having a bad day.  Bills kept piling up, deliveries were late, and everywhere he looked he saw things that just weren’t running right.

In the middle of a busy night, he went down to his office and when he came back up the stairs, he was holding a gun.

With the cooks behind the line — and the waitstaff and prep guys in the salad area on the other side — he stood in the stair doorway and took aim at the steel door at the end of the kitchen.

“BAM!  BAM!  BAM!”

He fired three consecutive shots down the wide alley between the two busy stations.  Gun smoke filled the kitchen, and now there were three small, fresh dents punched into that steel door.

The workers were startled, . . . everyone stopped and looked at the owner.  But when he went back downstairs, they all simply went back to work.

Everyone was talking about it, but they were talking in low tones as they kept working.

“Be careful,” I heard one waitress advise another, “_____ (the owner), is in a really bad mood!”

That was it.  Three shots fired the length of the kitchen into a steel door, . . . and to them it just meant that the owner was in a bad mood.

I have to say this wasn’t a typical restaurant.  The owner was from Italy, and a lot of the staff was, too.  I guess they were accustomed to this in the old country.

At that same restaurant, I remember a construction boss once gave our owner a small derringer . . . it was his way of saying, “thanks for a great dinner.”  (The restaurant was in a tough, ethnic neighborhood; I guess the guy thought this was appropriate.)

Anyway, that derringer would lead to one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.

At the end of the night, everyone was gone.  I’d finished the cash out and was sitting by myself at the bar having an after-work drink.

I was thinking about the derringer, now safely tucked in the office desk drawer.

I was curious about that gun.

I went downstairs, grabbed the derringer and walked back up to the kitchen.  Standing there, I saw the steel kitchen door at the other end.

I was really curious.  I’d seen it done before with another gun, so I said to myself, “What the hell.”

I cocked back the hammer and fired off a round.


The gunshot boomed like a cannon going off.  When the owner shot at the door in the middle of business, there was all the noise from the restaurant and the city noise outside.  The kitchen had been full of cooks rattling pots and clanging pans, and the waitstaff was shouting.

Now, in the empty kitchen, the sound reverberated like a small explosion.

BAAAMMMMM!  It was only one shot, but at four 0’clock in the morning, it was very loud.

I head footsteps on the stairs of the apartments on the other side of the restaurant wall. “Clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp” down the stairs next door.  And then “clomp, clomp, clomp” back up.

Someone in the adjacent apartments had heard the gunshot.  I knew they were running upstairs to call the police.

I panicked.

The police were coming!

I looked around, searching for a way out of this.

I grabbed an mop pail and a hammer, and began pounding the empty pail as though I was trying to straighten out a dent.  I did this for nearly a minute.  Panicked and pressed for time, I couldn’t think of any other alibi.

I walked rapidly through the dining room toward the front door, anticipating the arrival of the police.  I had no idea if they’d buy my story about the pail, and if they went into the kitchen they’d smell the gunpowder.

Standing at the glass front door, I saw a police car search light working it’s way down the street.  A cruiser was moving slowly, shining the narrow spotlight back and forth.

Directly across from the restaurant, the cruiser stopped and flashed the bright light right in on me standing there.

I was frozen . . . and then, I waved.

I didn’t think about it.  I waved out of instinct.  It was a friendly — “Everything is OK . . . There’s no problem here!” — kind of wave.

The police car sat there for a minute, then drove on.

I might have just killed three people, and waved hello.  But as I said, it was a tough, ethnic neighborhood.  I guess a wave was good enough for them.

Yup, that was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.  I was lucky to get away with it.

But, my break is up.  Back to the workers’ comp figures.

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