JOHNNY LA LA and the HICCUP CURE (And two more short notes)


This isn't a photo of Johnny La La . . . I'm sorry to say I don't have one. But this guy's attitude and pose are right on the money. (Image from

A guy at the bar had the hiccups.

It was at Johnny D’s this past Saturday night and the place was packed.  I’d come over to ask the man if he would like another beer, but he was unable to answer.

Two short words, then a hiccup.  Three more words, . . . and so on.

“I’ll be right back,“ I told him.

I was off to get him some relief.

“God Bless Johnny La La,” I thought as I turned away.  Years ago at The Lark Tavern, Johnny had shown me a cure that never fails.

Johnny La La was a cranky, loveable old dinosaur of a bartender.  (Read more about him here.)  He was of a breed that has essentially vanished from behind the bar; I guess the mold has been broken.

Johnny wore a constant curmudgeon mask, and sometimes he’d have a quizzical — don’t you know anything? — look.  But he was always there when one of us twenty-year-old bartenders had a question.

One day at The Lark a customer had the hiccups, and I stood across from him helpless.  I told him to try holding his breath.

Two bar stools away, another customer recommended drinking a glass of water upside down.  (This might be the funniest cure to watch, if you’ve ever seen anyone try it.)

More customers chimed in . . . eat a teaspoonful of sugar; try standing on your head.

While all of us advised him, Johnny La La grabbed a cocktail napkin, a slice of lemon, and reached for the Angostura Bitters.

(If you’ve been in the business for a while you may already know this cure.)

Johnny placed the lemon wedge on the napkin, poured some sugar on top of it, and then generously splashed on the Angostura Bitters.

He told the customer chew on the lemon slice.

Of course it worked.

This cure has never failed.

That’s what Johnny told me, and that’s what I tell customers even today as I set the concoction before them.

It has never failed.  It never failed Johnny La La.  It has never failed me, or any of the bartenders I’ve talked with over the years.

I once read on the web about a man in England who spent a year in the hospital with unrelenting hiccups.  The doctors were dumbfounded.

You can read on Wikipedia about a young American girl who hiccuped for five weeks non-stop.  Read further and you’ll learn about a doctor who has had some success with a vegetal stimulator implanted in the upper chest of the patients.

To stop hiccups?  Doesn’t sound like something you want your bartender to try on you.

Back at Johnny D’s, I gave the man the cocktail napkin which held something less invasive.

“Chew on everything but the rind,” I told him.

Afterwards, in answer to his look of awe, I said, “An old-time bartender taught me that many years ago.”

Maybe the doctors should consult with Johnny La La before operating.


2.)  MEL, at the Johnny D’s SUNDAY BLUES JAM

Hubert Sumlin, legendary bluesman. (Photo from

Speaking of a vanishing breed, the original blues musicians won’t be around much longer.  After Hubert Sumlin (then in his 70’s) played at Johnny D’s, one customer remarked,  “When guys like him are gone, there’ll be no one to take their place.”

Today all the pop stars are gorgeous.  Full of glitz, with special microphones that help them sing on key, their performances are as much about pageantry as about the music.

It’s as though they’re focused on formulas, techniques . . . doing what someone else has done successfully, repeating it with mathematical precision.

Not that their math is wrong.

But the old-timers sang from their hearts.  They played by ear.

Their music had soul.

There’s an old black man who stops in for the Johnny D’s Blues Jam now and then.  Mel is in his 70’s or 80’s, depending on who you ask, and he’s the real deal.  When he sings it makes you think that this is the way music used to be.

On a recent Sunday, Mel was on stage with some other veteran performers.  John Taylor on drums, Grant Kelly on guitar, Mike A on harmonica … and there was a new kid with them, a young man from the Berklee College of Music.

It was a study in contrast between the veterans, especially Mel, and the young kid just starting out.

This contrast was underscored as Mel was about to start his next song.  (I wasn’t on stage to hear, but Grant told me later.)

With one hand over the microphone, Mel had just informed the group what song he’d chosen and then he began to snap his fingers, “And a one, and a two, and . . .”.

The Berklee student interrupted him.  “Wait,” the kid said, “ . . .  What key?”

What key?

Maybe what was going though Mel’s mind is what I just talked about,  . . . but he turned and looked at the young man.  It was only a quick glance.

What key?

“This one,” Mel said, then immediately turned to the microphone and started singing.

(For those who love the blues, click here for a video of Hubert Sumlin.)



This note is about some traditional folk wisdom.

David Hayden is author/creator of the Hospitality Formula family of blogs.  (I mentioned his new book, Tips2 (squared) in an earlier post.)

Last week in Restaurant Laughs, David had a great little story about the delicate dance between customers and servers.  (Post title:  “I’m sorry.  I’m still kinda new to this.”)

It was a perfect restaurant vignette, . . . but there was something in the comment section that also struck me.  David went on to talk about his philosophy of blogging.

He said there are enough blogs out there already that simply rant.  Talking about his attitude towards writing, and his customers, he explained that he prefers stories that offer something more than a complaint.

He said there was a poster above his computer that keeps him on track.

Woody Guthrie (Photo from

Printed on the poster are a few words from 1930’s folk singer Woodie Guthrie (“This Land is Your Land”).

I hope Mr. Hayden will forgive me if I repeat those words here:

“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose.  No good to nobody.  No good for nothing.  Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that.”

“. . . But I decided a long time ago that I’d starve to death before I’d sing any such songs as that.  The radio waves and your movies and your jukeboxes and your songbooks are already loaded down and running over with such no good songs as that anyhow.”

— Woodie Guthrie

Back next week with more life on a cocktail napkin.

(Ed. Note, 8/11:  In his comment below, David Hayden was kind enough to send a link to the actual poster.  For a readable version of it, click here

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 13 Comments

A CHILD’S TRICYCLE (and drinking to forget)

(This isn't the porch, or even the same tricycle, but I love the photograph by Isadora Murphy.)

I was behind the bar at The Sunflower Café in Harvard Square when I got the call from Bruce S.

Bruce was a drinking buddy from my Albany, NY days.  He and his girlfriend Betty had been regulars at The Lark Tavern.  They didn’t believe in the formalities of marriage, so Bruce and Betty had been living together for three years after dating all through high school.  They were the settled ones, and in some ways they had given our gang at The Lark a sense of stability.

At least we had friends who acted like adults.

Bruce was calling now to tell me that he and Betty had broken up.

“She ran off with Greg,” he told me over the phone, “I thought that guy was my best friend.”

Bruce wanted to make a road trip to Boston to blow off some steam.  “I can be there tomorrow,” he said.

It turned into three days of non-stop drinking.

After Bruce parked his car in front of my building, we walked around the corner to the bank where I withdrew $100 in twenty-dollar bills.   Then we took the subway downtown to Boston’s Combat Zone, where the strip clubs were.

Bruce bought the first round at a place called The Naked I.

I bought the next round with one of the twenties, and I remember that the bartender studied the bill carefully.  She glanced at a note taped to the side of the cash register.

Fifteen minutes later, two guys were behind us and suddenly I was shoved face forward down onto the bar.

“Don’t fucking move!” one of the guys said.

They both had guns.  Bruce was now held face down on the bar, too.

“Where did you get the twenty?”  The guy with his hand on my back did the talking.  “Where did you get the money?”

They were undercover cops.  Apparently the twenties were counterfeit.  They asked us to stand with our hands on the bar, then frisked us.

After a few minutes, I convinced them that I really didn’t know what was going on.  “I got the money from my bank,” I kept telling them.

“You know, I could keep the rest of the this,” the detective said as he handed me back the remaining twenties.  “Just don’t spend any more in here.”

Bruce paid for the rest of the day.  With our drinks and the tips for the dancers, he spent a lot of money, but we laughed all afternoon that the bartender at a strip joint had spotted the phony bills, and the bank didn’t.

(I still think the bank knew all along, and having been stuck with the phony bills just wanted to get rid of them.)

The next morning we woke up early and headed for The Abbey Lounge, which was around the corner from my apartment.  It opened at 8:00 A.M.

For the rest of Bruce’s visit, we drank from eight o’clock in the morning until the bars closed, then we’d go home and have a few more beers before calling it a night.  Back to The Abbey the next morning when they reopened.

Of course I knew why Bruce had come to Boston . . . if only for a few days, he wanted to stop thinking.

He wanted to forget.

He wanted to drink.

What kind of friend was I, if I let him drink alone?

We drank, and drank, and drank.

Wednesday was Bruce’s last night in Boston, so we went to The Sunflower Café.  It was in Harvard Square on JFK Boulevard, where the Pizzeria Uno is now.

Tommy Talbor was working behind the taps.  He’d been a bartender with me at The Lark Tavern, and I’d gotten him a job here when he moved.

While tending bar, Tommy called another Albany transplant – a nurse who had also frequented The Lark before moving to Boston.

She showed up at The Sunflower Café half an hour later with some nurses who worked with her at Massachusetts General Hospital.

As the night wore on, I was thinking this was about all the partying I could handle.  It had been three straight days, non-stop.

But at closing time that nurse said we should all go back to her place.

I told them I’d had enough . . . I was going home.  There had been moments during the night with these upstate New York friends that I thought I might collapse.

We wound up at her apartment in North Cambridge; Bruce, Tommy, the nurse and I, and some of her friends.  By now it was probably four o’clock in the morning and I kept telling everyone that I really had to go, but no one would give me a ride.  At this point I had no money left for a cab.

It would be an hour on foot back to my apartment, but I finally decided to split, a long walk ahead of me.

I had three beers with me for the jaunt home, one in each coat pocket and one in hand.

When I got downstairs, there was a child’s tricycle on the front porch.  I stood on the porch for a minute sipping my beer, looking at the tricycle.

I decided to ride it back to my place.

It was a cold night, and I was wearing the second-hand leather jacket I’d bought for fifteen bucks when I first got to town, at a place called Una’s Experienced Clothes.

I rode the tricycle down the right hand lane of Massachusetts Ave, serving toward the curb when a car buzzed by.

Some of them honked their horns.  I could hear them thinking, “Another drunken bartender riding his tricycle home at 4:00 A.M.!!”

The three-wheeled bike was so small that my knees hit the handle bars if I didn’t keep my legs spread wide. I knew this was crazy, but at the time it seemed better than walking.

I turned off Massachusetts Ave and went over the short bridge onto Beacon Street. This strip of road between Porter and Inman Squares has been under repair for years. There are large potholes, dips and rolls in the broken surface.

I must have hit a pothole.

I started to lose control of the tricycle.

I struggled with the handle bars as I continued to peddle, trying to stay upright.  I was going to crash!

I hit the road, landing on my side.  The bike’s wheels were still spinning.

The bottle in my coat pocket had broken, and now the jacket and one side of my pants were soaked with beer.  I wrestled with the tricycle, trying to turn it back upright on all three wheels.

Then I continued the ride home.

At my apartment building, I carried the bike upstairs and went to bed.

Early the next morning someone laid on my apartment buzzer and wouldn’t let up.  It was the nurse.

“The kid downstairs at my building was crying this morning,” she told me over the intercom.  “You don’t know anything about a tricycle, do you?”

She followed me up to my apartment, and I gave her the bike.

All I wanted to do was to go back to bed, and she lay down beside me for a while.  I remember that she had the sweetest kisses.  But I just rolled over and fell asleep, and she took the kid’s tricycle back to North Cambridge.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 8 Comments

“What is this . . . GENERATION WHINE?”


When I started this blog, I had to decide whether to reveal that I work at Johnny D’s.

What if I had something negative to say about the customers, or the staff?

I decided if so, I’d just wait until the people involved had moved on.  This one group has been gone for a while now; here’s their story.

It was many years ago.  The band had finished, they’d packed up their equipment and headed home.  I was left with a handful of people at the bar — four employees, and one customer — all in their early twenties.

Before continuing, I’d like to say that I knew these five people did not represent an entire generation.  They were just individuals who happened to be sitting at the bar, and happened to be roughly the same age.  And who all happened to be on the same page . . . all of them whining.

I can kind of understand why.

The staff had just finished a difficult shift and it’s natural to bitch a little afterward.  Bitch about the customers who did this, the kitchen staff who did that, and about the managers they thought had their heads stuck up their asses.

But there was a customer there.

The staff didn’t care.  They launched into a litany of things that went wrong that night.  Legitimate complaints for the most part, but complaints nonetheless, and more than a few about the customers.

This customer didn’t mind.  He joined right in, agreeing with them about everything.

The five of them had a field day.  It was pretty funny actually; these were bright, energetic people and they cracked themselves up with the clever ways they tore some of the other customers to shreds.

Then it happened.

The customer sitting with them got up and went outside to have a cigarette.  He was barely out the door when the four remaining started in on him.

“He said yesterday he was going to quit smoking . . . Now look at him!

They talked about what he drank, the strange way he held his glass.  They laughed about how he danced, and the fact that at closing time he always left alone.

When he came back in, it was as though not a word had been said.

Somebody bought him a drink, and the five of them went back to trashing anyone who wasn’t present.

They carried on as though I wasn’t there, but I guess that’s the bartender’s persona.

I’ve seen customers look to the left, then look to the right . . . making make sure that no one can hear as they talk to the person next to them.  All the while, I’m standing right in front of them, an arm’s length away.

It’s natural for customers not to see us unless we’re serving a drink, or talking to them directly.  We’re invisible.

But I was there, and my thoughts went back to The Lark Tavern, and to Johnny La La, the old daytime bartender.

I was standing behind the bar with Johnny La La one afternoon, talking with two customers.  When one of them left, the one who remained started to complain about the other guy.  Trying to fit in, I went along with his complaints.

Later, Johnny pulled me to the side.

“Never bitch about one customer to another,” he said.  “Even if they start it, don’t go along with them.  They’ll think that when they leave, you’ll bad mouth them the same way.”

Back at Johnny D’s, the guy with the cigarette was gone for the night, and the four wait staff remaining once again went verbally up one side of him and down the other.

“Oh well,” I thought, “Maybe at the end of the night it’s a natural reaction to customers.”  Like a prostitute’s reaction to the johns afterward.

Then one of the staff left,  . . . and as soon as the front door closed behind the guy, the three remaining started in on him.

“He’s so strange, he gives me the creeps.  Don’t you hate the way he always fiddles with his collar!”

They complained about the clothes he wore.  They laughed about his awkward attempts to become part of their clique.

“Well,“ I thought, ”Even if they work together, maybe they just don’t like him.”

The three who remained began to complain about everything in general.  What was wrong with this, and what sucked about that.

“Jesus,” I thought, “What is this . . . Generation Whine?”

They were the BIG THREE, laughing hysterically, united in their mutual dislike of everything and everyone.  But always they returned to their co-worker, and the customer who had just left.

When it was time to close, the three of them got up.

One of them, a cute blond waitress, said, “I’ll be right with you . . . I just want to go to the ladies room first.”

The other two, one male and one female, watched her walk to the ladies room.  As soon as she was out of earshot, they began mocking her in a chiming tone, “ I just want to go to the ladies room first . . . I just want to go to the ladies room first!”

The two of them doubled up with laughter.

“My God,” I thought, “What will happen when there’s only one left?

That remaining one would have all the people in the world to complain about . . . everyone would be fair game . . . but there would be no one there to listen.  No one but me, behind the bar.

Fortunately when the blond came back from the ladies room they all left together

Over the next few days, I wondered if I should say something to the BIG THREE — something like Johnny La La said to me.  But those three never listened to anything I had to say.

Anyway, that customer never comes in anymore.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 15 Comments

TWO PART-TIME (Perhaps over-the-top) EMPLOYEES

One of the great things about working in bars and restaurants is the people you work with.

Restaurant employees are just not your typical working Janes and Joes.

Maybe it’s because this business is a little out of the mainstream.  Maybe it’s because so many restaurant workers have other jobs, or are just doing this until they reach a larger goal.  Musicians, artists, teachers, kids in law school.  They keep the place alive.

Today’s post is about two part-timers at Johnny D’s who consistently make work interesting.

Rick and The Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup . . . since 1893, the top prize in hockey. (Photo from

Four weeks ago I posted a story about one of our doorman, Rick Sabbag (real profession, art landscaping; he works for himself).  I told you about his over-the-top reaction when after thirty-nine years the Boston Bruins finally won another Stanley Cup.

Checking IDs at the door the night of the final game, Rick’s couldn’t take his eyes off the large screen TV’s.  People had to stand and wait if a crucial play was in progress.

It had been a long wait for Rick.  He had cheered the Boston Bruins as a young boy, and then for thirty-nine long years afterwards suffered the Stanley Cup drought.  He’d gotten married, had three boys (Nick, Tim, and Brandon), and still no Stanley Cup.

When the Bruins finally won Rick went a little nuts.  He was bellowing at the top of his lungs, arms raised high, spinning around in circles to high-five complete strangers.

It turns out that was just the beginning of Rick’s celebration.

Two weeks later in his home town of Lincoln MA, there was a Fourth of July parade, and Rick and his buddies cobbled together a Boston Bruins float.

Rick rode through the streets balanced precariously on the front of the flatbed, clapping his two large paws together, yelling, “Go Bruins! . . . Go Bruins! . . . Go Bruins!”  Until he was hoarse.

The crowd that lined the streets cheered him wildly which prompted Rick to yell even louder, as if he needed encouragement.

Then somehow — maybe it was because Boston Bruin’s legendary player Cam Neely also lives in Lincoln, or because of some of Rick’s other connections that I won’t mention here — but Rick managed to get his picture taken with the coveted Stanley Cup.

(For a hockey fan, this is like touching The Holy Grail.)

Here’s Rick (on the left) with Cam Neely . . . and the mythic trophy.













Way to celebrate, Rick.


Henry Parker, Renaissance man

Henry Parker (our part-time house photographer) is an interesting guy.  He makes a living in custom woodwork, but on the side he films and produces documentaries for the local cable access network.  (SCATV just won a national award for Overall Excellence.)

Henry travels more than anyone I know, both for photography and pleasure.  He’s covered most of the United States, and he’s also been to Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, India and the far east, Senegal, Cambria, Icenya and the Ivory Coast.

Photo by Henry Parker

When Henry’s in Africa he doesn’t rent a room in ordinary hotels.  He stays at the homes of local folks, and sometimes he visits the outlying areas.  On his last trip, he stayed with tribes who live in mud-and-grass huts — no running water, no plumbing, no electricity.

But for twenty years before all that, Henry’s background was in the martial arts.

This made for an interesting scene one day, in the park across from Johnny D’s.

Every year in that park, the Somerville Arts Council puts on “Art Beat”, a two-day festival filled with artisan booths.

Last summer a booth had been set up by a local martial arts academy.  They were offering free instruction, trying to entice people to join their school.

A black belt from that school was standing in front of the large crowd, demonstrating a variety of self-defense techniques.

For those of you who don’t know a lot about the martial arts, I have to explain one common misconception.  When most people hear the term “black belt” — they don’t know the whole story.  Certainly it’s a mark of merit, to be taken seriously, but having a black belt is a little like having a college degree.  Which school you receive it from is significant.

A degree from Harvard or MIT indicates a different level of competence than one from, say, Littleville Junior College.

I’m sure this black belt was skilled in his own right, but no way was he in Henry’s league.

Henry is a world-class fighter.  He studied with Grandmaster Suk Chung, a two-time world champion in Tae Kwon Do.  Henry himself has so many trophies he can barely close his closet door without one of them falling out.

(I finally persuaded Henry to haul out the first layer from his closet and take this photo.)

“That’s it?” I asked Henry one day in jest, “That’s all the trophies you have?”

“No,” he replied, apparently unaware I was busting his balls, “There’s more behind the couch and the chairs.”

“And I keep the plaques under the couch.”

Anyway, Henry was in the crowd watching as the black belt went through his demonstration.  Maybe something about the guy rubbed Henry the wrong way.  Maybe this black belt was just too self-assured, a little cocky.

Then the guy asked for a volunteer from the audience.  He wanted to demonstrate his techniques.

Henry stepped forward.

“Go ahead,” the black belt told him, dressed in his crisp white uniform as the two stood across from each other, “Go ahead.  Try to hit me.”

Henry was in street clothes; the instructor had no idea who he was.


Henry bounced a quick punch off the karate master’s forehead, pulling the punch expertly so the guy knew he’d been hit, but wasn’t harmed.

The guy was a little stunned as the crowd oowed and awwwed, but he recovered.

“Ok,” he told Henry.  “OK.  Not bad . . . not bad.”

He gathered himself once more into a fighting stance.

“OK,” he told Henry, “Now try that again.”

“Pop!”  “Pop!”  “Pop!”

Henry Parker, out of his "civilian" clothes.

Henry tapped him with three more karate strikes.

Now the guy was completely flustered and the crowd had become embarrassingly silent.

Then somehow he managed to switch back to demonstrating the techniques on his own.  Without help from the audience.

Later he pulled Henry aside.  “You show promise,” the black belt said, “You should join our school.”

“Naw,” Henry told him, “I think I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

He never told the guy the whole story.

Posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin | 11 Comments

GO BRUINS!!! (And way to go, David Hayden)

I apologize in advance because this post is going to be all over the place.  It’s just that two completely unrelated things happened this past week I feel compelled to talk about.

Goalie Tim Thomas raises The Stanley Cup! (; photo credit Associated Press)

FIRST, THE BOSTON BRUINS finally won the Stanley Cup title after thirty-nine consecutive years of coming up short.  (The Stanley Cup is the “World Series” of professional hockey.)

I’m not a big hockey fan but our doorman Rick Sabbag is a Bruins fanatic and his unbridled enthusiasm during the playoffs was downright infectious.

Rick stands 5’ 7”, probably weights 260 lbs.  He’s a broad-shouldered mountain of a man compressed into a fireplug.  He’s a hockey player himself, skating for an amateur team in the Boston area.

It was 1972 when the Bruins won their last Stanley Cup, and Rick must have been around five years old.  I can picture his father carrying him to the Boston Garden on his shoulders.  I can imagine Rick’s dad telling him right after the game:  “The Bruins are going to win again next year, son!  We’ve got a great team!”

Well, thirty-nine years later the Bruins actually did win another Stanley Cup title.

The night of the final game Rick was working the door at Johnny D’s (I was off), and I heard later that throughout the entire game he paced uncontrollably back and forth in his Ray Bourque jersey, lifting his Bruins cap to wipe the sweat off his brow.

I heard that when the Boston Bruins finally won, Rick clapped his two large paws together non-stop for five minutes, bellowing loudly, pausing only to high-five anyone within his reach.  I was told that he had to be restrained from running naked through the streets.

(Maybe that last detail was a bit of exaggeration as the staff retold the story . . . I’m not sure because I wasn’t there, but knowing Rick I think it might be pretty accurate.)

Anyway, congratulations to the Boston Bruins, and congratulations Rick.

ALSO THIS WEEK, DAVID HAYDEN has published a new book (today is the official release date.)

That’s big news in my world.  I’m working on a book myself, and three of my favorite restaurant bloggers have also been planning books.  (Along with David Hayden of The Hospitality Formula, there’s Scribbler50 from Behind the Stick, and Patrick Maguire who pens Server not Servant.)  David is the first of us to get his book out there.

(David Hayden’s new book, available at

As a fellow-blogger, David and I exchange emails now and then, and he was kind enough to send me advance chapters.  I’ve been reading them non-stop.  Based on the exceptional quality of his weekly blog I expected his book to be good — but not this good.

This is a gem of a book.  It’s a detailed took at the guts and sinews of our business, full of tips and techniques that can easily make any restaurant shift more pleasant . . . and more profitable.  (In counterpoint, David also points out the things we unknowingly do that can make a shift hell.)

For example, I was skimming through the book, I hadn’t been reading for more than five minutes when I came across this suggestion:  “Leave your troubles at the front door.”

That’s classic, standard restaurant advice, but it’s something that’s overlooked far too often.  How many times behind the bar have I seen myself or those around me forget this time-honed wisdom?

I immediately thought of Tommy Talbor who worked with me in The Lark Tavern days.

Talk about bringing your problems to the job, . . . Tommy could have been a poster-boy for the “bitter-bartender” syndrome.  For Tommy, listening to a man talk about his boss, or a woman say something about balancing her job and her kids — for Tommy, to have to stand there and listen even for a few minutes was like a life-sentence in bartender’s hell.

I’m not saying Tommy wasn’t good bartender, or fun to work with.  His caustic, biting wit was sometimes a riot.

One night a thick-voiced man walked up from the crowd and bellowed, “Hey . . . HEY!!!  What does someone have to do to get a drink in this bar?”

Tommy strolled over to the man and folded his arms across his chest.  “What do you have to do to get a drink?” he asked the man. “Well,” he said thoughtfully, “well, a blow job would be nice.”

“Yes, actually a blow job would be very nice,” Tommy continued, leaning forward. “Just like last night . . . all of us.”

But behind this wit and bravado, Tommy was not a happy camper.  He hated his job.  And the job hated him equally in return.

David’s book would have helped.

A few minutes later while reading David’s book, I came across this — “Don’t be THE SERVER.”  He was encouraging us to relate to the customers as people (Chapter 14).

There’s been a lot of talk in this business lately about “human to human” service, and the need for everyone to remember that we’re all just people, even if we temporarily have different roles as “customers” and “servers” in restaurants and bars.

Most of the discussion so far has been about what customers do wrong, but Mr. Hayden correctly points out that it’s a two-way street.  If bartenders and wait staff choose to see the customers strictly as “Johns”, they shouldn’t be surprised if they’re treated like whores.

Author (and fellow blogger) David Hayden

David details specific ways that servers can at least start the ball rolling in the opposite direction.  This is great stuff . . .  everyone in the business should take this book to heart.

And while the book is sure to make life easier and more pleasant for restaurant workers, it’s stated goal is to make them more money.  (I imagine that’s why most people will buy it.)

In one email exchange I asked David, “In this tight economy, who should buy your book, . . . and why?”

He wrote back, in part:  “I put a great deal of thought into that and decided at the very beginning of the process that I would not charge more for the book than I felt a server could increase their tips by in the first week after implementing the techniques it teaches.”

“ . . . There are nearly 2.5 million tipped servers in the United States alone.  They are dependent on tips for their living, but no one is offering the [knowledge and skills they need to be successful] in a simple, understandable, and easily implemented manner.”

I don’t mean to go on and on this book, but I was delighted to find such a gold mine of great ideas in one place.  In chapter after chapter, David turns the complex task of serving customers well (and making more money) into a manageable science.

And, yes, as a fellow writer I was glad to see that David actually got his book out there, and that it came out so splendidly.

Which is why this week I just had to say, … Way to go, David Hayden!

Back next week with a more typical post for “Life on a Cocktail Napkin.”

6/24/11 update: Sorry, I forgot to mention a generous offer David made to readers of this blog — anyone who would like to purchase his book by July 1st can get a 20% discount by using the promo code “Napkin” when they order at  (You can also buy/order his book at bookstores, referencing ISBN-10: 0-9836393-0-2 or ISBN-13: 9780983639305.)

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