Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Read Frank Rich, while he's still free

Off-Topic: Current Events Break!

Frank Rich never disappoints, and this week he nails the Rove/Plame scandal. He ties it all together, brings up things we'd all forgotten about, and manages to sneak in a "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" reference.

I'd forgotten about that last one. One of my the classic "flip-flops."

If you read nothing else about Rove/Plame, read this.

Eight Days in July (original NYT article, no longer free)

Eight Days in July - free version

Illustration: Barry Blitt for The New York Times

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Difference Between A Cool Regular, and an Annoying Regular

A cool regular pops in during happy hour. He's fun, he needles your politics, complains about your pours, and tips you 30%. He's the kind of guy everyone yells "Norm!" to, when he strolls in, and he eats that up with a spoon. He regales you with stories of cheap blowjobs during the Vietnam War, and educates you on the finer aspects of Panamanian smoke. He's a good time. He's cool. He makes the night go by quickly. He's interesting, and he doesn't wear out his welcome.

The annoying regular is the newbie, the guy who strolls in 15 minutes before close, orders a bottle of wine for himself, and some wierd margarita that he invents, instructs you pour-by-pour, and then complains about. He hangs out until an hour after the last dining room customer has left, and talks about his divorce. Endlessly. Until the point where servers in the kitchen snark at me, "Did you know that "Joe" is going through a divorce?"

It's our big delivery day, I'm up to my elbows in inventory, and Joe Boring comes in 15 minutes before close, complaining about his soon-to-be ex-wife.


He's ours now, because I was too nice to him the first night he came in.

We're onto him, and we'll make him comfortably numb, but that'll learn ya, being nice.

Well I ain't seen my baby since I don't know when
I've been drinking bourbon, whiskey, scotch and gin
Gonna get high man I'm gonna get loose
Need me a triple shot of that juice
Gonna get drunk don't you have no fear
I want one bourbon, one scotch and one beer
One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer

- George Thorogood/John Lee Hooker

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fire!!! OK, not really.

First, allow me to apologize to my dear, patient readers for the lack of an update. This isn't a daily blog; I only write when I have something to write about.

With gracious respect for some kind of fiery muse, I offer something to write about...

A relatively snappy Thursday. Crowded bar, wait list for tables, what have you. Everyone's happy and relaxed, until the piercing whistle of the fire alarm invades their ears.

I can't describe its sound... devilish, evil, forboding. See? I can describe it, but poorly. Makes you place your fingers to your ears involuntarily. Makes you snap into action. Makes you fear for your life, by effective design, I'm thinking.

Fingers in ears, involuntarily, I run to the kitchen to see if my life is in danger. My life, first. Then, yours. See? That two-top booth by the kitchen door isn't looking so distasteful now, is it?

It's fascinating, the way you act, in a way you wouldn't predict you'd act, in times of emergency, no matter how many times you've rehearsed it in your head. Try it, next time a fire alarm goes off when you find yourself in a place of public business.

The kitchen staff appear as befuddled as I, fingers in ear. No evident smoke. No danger here.

I zip back out to the dining room, and there isn't a server in sight. I'm looking at an entire dining room of fingers-in-ears customers. I'm on stage. Involuntarily. An appropriate and much-used word, given the fire alarm, and all.

"We're all safe," I reassure the room. I'm screaming, and I sound as obnoxiously loud as your stoned neighbor trying to communicate with you while Pink Floyd blares through headphones. Where the hell is the rest of the staff, I'm wondering? What am I expected to do??

To my amused bar patrons, I recommend taking their drinks outside until we can figure out how to turn off the hideous, screeching fire alarm whistle. The speed in which they exit the area, drinks intact, is impressive. The restaurant patrons remain glued to their booths, sheepish, while the bar folk, alcohol-infused, enjoy themselves porchside.

Fire Squad shows up, engines loaded, with ambulances. The servers apply lipstick. I start to wonder if one of them set off the alarm just to get a look at hot Fire Department Boys. "How's my hair?" I goof to one of them, primping. So that's where they are, taking advantage for a smoke break... God love 'em. How apropos.

Our GM should have realized it immediately, but the squad quickly determines that someone has pulled the fire alarm. Nearest the main exit.

The restaurant must be quite a sight from the main road. At least 100 patrons, half of them with drink in hand, and a fire squad to boot, just outside.

With the coast clear, we invite our patrons back indoors, out of the sweltering, soupy heat. I've got a rather full bar, and offer free refills to everyone, in apology for their eardrum damage, and in an effort to stave off lawsuits. The entire situation has been embarrassing, but our customers have handled it well, and in a jubilant manner. It lends itself to a festive mood, strangely.

Well, except for a woman, clutching an infant, running for the door, screaming "MY BABY!!!" a la Dumbo. I couldn't blame her. The screaming alarm would have freaked any young mother out.

Now, who the hell flips a fire alarm on the way out of a tranquil restaurant? Was the veal really that flavorless?

You try to give me your money
You better save it babe
Save it for your rainy day
I have only one a itchin’ desire
Let me stand next to your fire
- Jimi Hendrix, "Fire"

Friday, July 08, 2005

7-7-05: Champagne Toasts, No Caviar Dreams

It's been a horrible day. Watching the events unfold in London does not put one in the proper mood to go off and be chipper and amusing to all.

I arrive to work, exhausted by the news of the day, feeling sorrowful and overwhelmed, so I'm pleased by the distraction of significant changes to the beverage menu for Friday night's rehearsal dinner in the banquet room. It's a big party, and at the last minute, the hostess, the groom's grandmother, has phoned and decided she wants a champagne toast, after all.

Our GM is in a panic, so I just tell him to give me her number. We have less than two hours to place a specialty order of bubbly.

"What are you going to say?" he worries.

"I'll just ask her if there is a particular champagne she has in mind, because I need to order it for her," I reply, irritated at his hesitation.

"But she said she'd call back."

"She hasn't called back. Give me her number or she's getting White Zin for her toast," I snap. I just need something to do. Badly.

The phone rings and rings, and finally someone picks up, without saying hello. It's an older man, and he's yelling at somebody. I can't really make out what he's saying, but damn, is he angry.

"Hello...?" I interrupt.

"I don't care, I don't care, I DON'T CARE!!! GET THE PHONE!!!" he yells, his voice trailing off.

A smile breaks over my face and I decide to keep listening. It's the first laugh I've had on this horrible day. You have to be thankful for the little things.

After much background commotion, a cracking female voice comes on the line. "Can I help you?" she snaps.

I'm thinking, Hey! Isn't that supposed to be my line?

"Ma'am, hello, it's Jennifer from the restaurant. I'm calling to confirm your champagne selection for tomorrow evening's banquet."

"What? Aren't you people supposed to take care of that?" she says. I can hear her hand rustling over the mouthpiece as she attempts to conceal her side argument with her husband.

"Yes, of course," I say, and it's hard to hold back my laughter. "Is there a particular champagne you had in mind, though?"

"Oh for God's sake, how the hell do I know?" she literally yells. "Asti Spumante, Jesus, I don't care, do your job!" She ends the conversation with a swift hang-up, and I laugh uncontrollably. It's cathartic, and inappropriate, but that's emotion for you.

I really wish I had recorded the conversation. The two of them were a real piece of work, and I can't wait to meet the happy wedding party tomorrow. Good Times.

After I recover, I call my trusty wine rep and order a case of crap Asti. The episode turns out to be the brightest spot of my day.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Britain tonight.

I saw a film today oh, boy
The English Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
- The Beatles, "A Day In The Life"