When the crunch hits there’s no place I’d rather be than behind the bar. It’s a rush, it’s addictive . . . it’s like being in the big game.
This is what Johnny D’s looks like on a busy night.
Afterward, still all pumped up, naturally you want to party a little yourself. Good luck if you go home to roommates.
When I first moved to Boston, I stayed with two transplanted nurses who had been regulars at the bar where I worked in Albany.
It was perfect, staying with two women that I knew and really liked . . . but their apartment was small (I shared a small bed with one of them while the other girl slept in another bed three feet away, separated only by a nightstand.) This was meant to be temporary so during those first few weeks I actively searched for permanent living quarters.
Looking back, I would have been better off right where I was.
Shared apartment # 1 (the Boston elite) . . .
The first place I found was in a nice little neighborhood near Harvard University. I answered an ad in the newspaper and ended up sharing an apartment with a woman who was teaching at a local college, and a guy who was a first-year architect. The third roommate was a young woman who had lived in Tehran, Iran . . . now she was back in the USA still doing some type of diplomatic work.
By now I had a job behind the bar again, and that meant a different lifestyle, different schedule. My new roommates would be sleeping by the time I came home from work early in the morning.
I’d be sure to be quiet, and if I had a female companion that night, she and I would tiptoe and whisper . . . at least until we closed the bedroom door behind us. Everything was going well until an old college buddy of mine showed up for a visit.
Mark is a former collegiate football player and ex-Marine. He’s a big guy, and a fellow member of our Phys. Ed. fraternity, Beta Phi Epsilon — he’s a party animal. He’s definitely not the type who lifts lift his little pinky as he sips a cup of tea.
Mark and I did our partying in the bars, and when we came back to the apartment I thought we were relatively quiet as we sat in the living room having a few more beers.
But I don’t think it was the late night noise that bothered my roommates about Mark. It was simply that he was just so different from them.
He was a big, brawling, don’t-give-a-shit kind of guy and I think they found him more than a little intimidating. I think it bothered them that he wasn’t the least bit impressed by their elite credentials.
“We’ve all talked it over,” the young architect told me after the second day of Mark’s visit, “And we think your friend should find somewhere else to stay.”
Looking back, I should have told them all to go fuck themselves . . . but still new in town, and uncomfortably new in this apartment, I caved in to their pressure.
“I’ll pay for your hotel room,” I told Mark, feeling that I was letting him down even as I spoke, “This is a shared apartment, not my own. My roommates would feel more comfortable if you stayed somewhere else.”
As it turned out Mark had other friends in the Boston area, but as we partied for the rest of the week I felt like a schmuck that he had to stay with them rather than at “my place” . . . which apparently wasn’t really so much “my place” after all.
I understood that we restaurant people have unique lifestyles, and often our friends are larger-than-life, more than a little wild. But I couldn’t bring my friends back home with me? It was time to look for another place to live. Back to the classifieds.
Shared apartment # 2 (individual rolls of toilet paper)
My second shared apartment was more relaxed, with a big living room a considerable distance from the bedrooms. I lived with a mental health worker, a computer technician, and an MIT naval engineering student.
I was hardly ever around when they were there, so I don’t know how it got started but the two women in the apartment (the health care worker and the computer tech) starting squabbling.
It got so bad that no one could agree on how to deal with shared expenses, so soon everyone was buying their own dishwashing soap, their own ketchup and mustard, their own everything.
In the end, we each had our own toilet paper.
Yup, I’m serious. It got so bad that each of us kept our own rolls toilet paper in our rooms. We’d carry it back and forth. There was no toilet paper, no hand or bath soap, no toothbrushes or toothpaste in our shared bathroom.
At the time I knew this was a little weird, but it wasn’t until one night when a female guest got up to use the bathroom that I realized just how strange it was.
“Wait,” I said as she was opening the bedroom door on the way out, “Wait a minute . . . you’ll need to take some toilet paper with you.”
“It’s in the top dresser drawer,” I told her.
“It’s a long story,” I said.
But that wasn’t what made me leave this second, shared apartment. The last straw was actually an undelivered message.
At the time . . . and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this . . . I was having an affair with a married waitress at the bar where I worked.
I really didn’t trouble myself too much about it back then. We just happened to hit it off, and it was almost as though her husband was some fictional character. I didn’t know him, never met him, and so she and I would run back to my apartment after work . . . and then she’d leave.
But early one night when I was getting ready for work, I stepped out of the shower and one of my roommates seemed to be acting a little strange. I didn’t think too much about it because she was always a little strange . . . so I headed to work.
When I got to the bar, the waitress’s husband was there. I had to shake his hand, and say hello. I had to stand there and engage in small-talk as he looked me up and down. I had the feeling that he knew!
It was about as uncomfortable as I’d ever been, and it was the last time I had an affair with a married woman.
“I tried to call to warn you but your roommate said you were in the shower,” the waitress told me after her husband left, “I didn’t want you to walk in here unprepared.”
“Didn’t your roommate give you the message?” she asked.
No, she sure didn’t.
That roommate knew about the affair, and maybe she’d seen the wedding band. Maybe she figured this was God’s way of punishing us . . . to have me walk into the bar and be caught completely off-guard.
Anyway, it was time to find another apartment.
There were two more shared apartments (guess I’m a slow learner) before I finally realized it was probably worth it to get a place by myself.
So aside from the time I lived with a girlfriend in Tealle Square, ever since I’ve had my own living quarters.
An apartment of my own, and loving it.