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

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Friends at Table 31

Here's to Table 31, aka Nearest Booth to the Bar.

He's had three Long Islands, and she's on her second bottle of House Chianti (one glass). It's no wonder they can't keep their hands off one another, even after they're seated, and it's slightly distracting when I catch a glimpse of them from the bar. At one point, I was certain he would swallow her.

She gets on her cell phone and asks her friend what she should order for dinner. Apparently (I'm told later), her friend asks if a long-haired girl named Jennifer is working the bar that night, and she asks her server my name. When he tells her it's Jennifer, she squeals in delight to her cellphone friend. Afterward, each time she goes to the bathroom, she waves and smiles, "Hi, Jen!" which cracks me up, in the moment. I haven't an earthly idea who she is.

They run up a $189 tab and give the server two Franklins, walk out for a smoke, and never return.

So, of course, the rest of the night , I get an earful about the couple at 31, the boy and girl who swallowed each other and essentially skipped the tip, my friends. My buddies. My good pals.

The relationship you have to your favorite bartender should be precious. Don't just throw our names out to common fools. We mean more to you than than they do... think about it?

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

Johnny Cash, "I Walk The Line"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Don't Get Crocked at a Bar in Texas

Now, this kind of thing just pisses me off.

Texas arresting people in bars for being drunk

Carolyn Beck, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage spokeswoman (how do I get that job??!!?), said that "Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness."

Texas, you're just always disappointing me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tins of Frustration

So, I have this coworker who drives me crazy, always getting the pint glass stuck in the mixing tin, and always at the worst possible time on a Saturday night.

He pounds and pounds that stupid tin, then uses all his force to try to twist and pry the glass out.

I always stand there with my hand out, saying "Give it to me," but being a stubborn, proud newbie bartender (and a male) he refuses. It always ends the same way... he takes the glass and tin to to the kitchen, smashes the glass against the dish tank, throws the shards in the trash and we're back in business. Of course, we lost a pint glass and we have to make a new drink, but that just doesn't seem to bother him.

Now, having tended bar for far longer than I'm ever going to admit, I can unstick a glass from a tin in fifteen seconds or less. It's a relatively simple maneuver; you just tip the glass to one side, and pound the other side of the tin gently on the bar wood. Works every time.

Why is it that new bartenders let it go to their head, and quickly? It's really not that cool or glamorous a job, you know. More importantly, what is it about men that they won't ever let you show them how to do, well, anything?

You don't have to prove your manhood to me constantly
I know you're the man, can't you see
I love you righteously
Why you wanna dis me after the way you been kissin' me
After those pretty things you say
And the love we made today

Lucinda Williams, "Righteously"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy National Drinking Holiday!

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Every bartender loves St. Patrick's Day. It doesn't matter if you work at Hooters or the freakin' Olive Garden or the Russian Tea Room... today is the day we cast aside our differences and come together as a nation, to drink green beer, eat stale soda bread, and watch college basketball.

Most importantly, St. Patrick's is a day bartenders can always take to the bank, but when it falls on a Friday... well, that's just the perfect storm. May we all be blessed with a pot o'gold at the end of our shift tonight!


Below, the classic Irish shooter, which, I imagine, most regular readers of this blog have experienced. Today's the perfect day to try one if you haven't, or, hell, even if you have.

The Irish Car Bomb

Pour a half-pint of Guiness into a pint glass
In a 1.5 oz shot glass, pour an ounce of Jameson's Irish Whiskey.
Slowly float Bailey's Irish Cream on top until shot glass is full.

Drop the shot glass into the pint glass holding the Guiness (try not to splash it on bystanders), and chug before the Bailey's turns into cement.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Frank Infante, et al v. Blondie

I don't know about y'all, but I found the little Blondie outburst at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions to be nothing short of delightful.

A little shit-talking, a little bitchiness, and a lackluster performance by a pasted-together, aging band that doesn't sound good; now that's punk rock. At least they had the balls to show up, warts and all, unlike the Sex Pistols (I'll admit to enjoying the part in their bitchy letter where they rip off Jon Stewart. They're just getting lazy).

I'll always adore Blondie, and the era, and besides, it was the most interesting thing to happen at that event in years.

It's a shame, really. I've searched all over but still haven't figured out what the band rift is about... did someone try to tour and call themselves Blondie, without, well, Deborah Harry, or something?

I thought Chris Stein died years ago. I was pleased to see he had not.

Now, this I find interesting... The Cars reunited (sans the late Ben Orr, of course) to tour with the new Blondie (sans Frank Infante, et al).

That music still has a little bit of a grip, in a deep, neglected part of my rock-n-roll heart, so I know I'm going to wince if the whole thing turns into "Puppet Show and Blondie and The Cars and Todd Rundgren."

When I met you in the restaurant
You could tell I was no debutante
You asked me what's my pleasure
A movie or a measure?
I'll have a cup of tea and tell you of my dreaming
Dreaming is free

Blondie, "Dreaming"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tattoo You


A coworker gets her first tattoo. She proudly displays it during her shift, because, well, who wouldn't? It's ginormous, sprawled across her lower back, a four-word sentence, written out in a kind of Olde English block script. It looks like it still hurts, but it's a beauty, it really is.

While admiring it, I notice a clear, obvious typo. A permanent typo... ouch. Tat-o? What do you call that?

What am I supposed to do? I'm not sure anyone else noticed it immediately, but somebody's bound to, right? Should she hear it from me first? Will she think I'm a bitch, forever, and associate me, forever, with her forever tatoo? She's the coolest girl, and I'm in a quandry...

In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works, yeah nothin' gets done
We hang fire, we hang fire
You know marrying money is a full time job
I don't need the aggravation, I'm a lazy slob
I hang fire, I hang fire

Rolling Stones, "Hang Fire"

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Blogger Tag: 25 Questions

The most excellent blogger Travis of WireCan has "tagged" me to answer the following 25 Questions. It's kind of like a bloggy chain letter, really, and since I'm avoiding housework, I think I'll accept the challenge.

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18 and find line 4

  • most promising premise for a new group, but there was a recording contract waiting for the Drifters at Atlantic Records, which was already established as (Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll)
2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, what do you find?

  • A two-month old bill from the Cincinnati Eye Institute. I'm not very good at throwing stuff away.
3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?

  • The Amazing Race.
4. Without looking, guess what time it is.

  • 5:17 pm.
5. Now look at the clock, what is the actual time?

  • 5:21 pm. Not too shabby!
6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?

  • Fuckin' Wolf Blitzer yammering on CNN. I really need to put some music on.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?

  • To get the mail. I get a lot of mail, I'm here to tell you. Junk mail hearts my house. I even get the Winston coupons from some couple two streets over.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at?

  • Does this mean, what did I look at online? This really cool photo of a furry lobster.
9. What are you wearing?

  • A red twinset pajama from VS. It's warm, it's comfy, it's my day off and I don't have to get dressed if I don't want to.
10. Did you dream last night?

  • I'm not sure.
11. When did you last laugh?

  • On the phone earlier today with a coworker who was telling me about how bad lunch sucked today.
12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?

  • Nothing, really. I need to paint...
13. Seen anything weird lately?

14. What do you think of this quiz?

  • It's kinda longish and I have a short attention span.

15. What is the last film you saw?

  • "Walk the Line." Finished it right before the Oscars came on.
16. If you turned into a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?

  • A Corvette Z '06, an elaborate trip to Thailand, and a politician.
17. Tell me something about you that I don’t know.

  • I got suspended from the third grade for flushing sandwiches down the school toilets.
18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt and politics, what would you do?

  • I'd force the wealthiest nations on earth to finally acknowledge the problems and suffering in Africa.
19. Do you like to dance?

  • I absolutely love to dance. I'm even better at it if I'm drunk.
20. George Bush

  • He's the older one, married to George Washington, right?
21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

  • Ava.
22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what would you call him?

  • Noah.
23. Would you ever consider living abroad?

  • Absolutely, in fact, when I was younger, I lived in northern Germany, and I still fantasize about going back for good.
24. What would you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?

  • You really don't have to come in if you don't want to.
25. 4 people who must also do this theme in their journal.

I'll Have Nothing, Thanks.

A banner evening, really, one for the books. My first five customers, each a single party, sat at my bar and ordered.... well, nothing.

In my many, many years of tending bars, from shady to sophisticated, that has to be some kind of record. Five separate "customers" who order nothing. I've just never seen it before, in the wild.

"Well... ok. Would you like, maybe, a glass of water?" I asked.


"Well... ok! Hey, let me know if you change your mind," I said, with a cheery disposition the customer didn't earn or warrant.

It's that midwestern nicey-nice thing, sneaking out again. I'd prefer to just tell them to stop hogging barstools and wait in the lobby like any self-respecting, non-drinking customer would, but can't bring myself to do it... snark is bad for business, you know...

At one point, a wine rep brought me a dummy (an empty, enlarged-for-promotional-purposes bottle) of 2000 J Brut, my favorite bubbly, it's divine and exquisite, to display at the bar. Since I had no drinks to make, I spent my time deciding where to place the ginormous display bottle, setting it up all over the bar and then walking away, looking at it, shaking my head and moving it again.

One of the boring, non-drinking paperback-readers looked up long enough to add, in what I'm certain he thought was his own clever way, "What's the point of having some empty bottle sitting at your bar?"

I just smiled. "You're telling me!?" is what I thought...

As the bar crowded up a bit, my paying, drinking customers were finding themselves standing behind the barstools of those who would prefer to languish there, flipping through a paperback and sipping on a glass of nothing while waiting for their party.

Bar ettiquette advice: To a bartender, a barstool is real estate. Sit at it, and expect to pay a little rent, at least. It really takes balls to just sit there, order nothing and read your magazines while others stand, drink, pay and tip, don't you think?

Or, just be yourself, all entitled, little queen, just sit there and flip through the latest Marie Claire, as relaxed as you were this morning at Starbucks, nursing on a three-hour Latte, just order nothing at the bar in the evening while the thirsty gather uncomfortably around you... nothing, thanks! Are you sure? Yes. Nothing. Nothing at all. Thanks, ever so.


Did I ask too much
More than a lot?
You gave me nothing, now it's all I got
We're one
But we're not the same
Well, we hurt each other, then we do it again

- U2, "One"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Clocks and Spoons

A little shop talk... we go on a wait pretty early on a Friday night, which naturally backs up the bar. I'm the only bartender scheduled tonight; didn't imagine being this busy and now I'm in the thick of it, alone.

A large walk-in group parks itself at the bar, sitting out the wait, and they immediately get under my skin. They want to taste every wine in the house before committing to a single glass. It's just annoying. The lone liquor drinker orders a Citron on the rocks, and I appreciate the way he keeps it simple. I serve the cocktail briskly, with a lemon garnish.

"Did I ask for lemon?" he says with disgust, as if I had insulted his humanity, by garnishing a lemon-infused vodka with a lemon, and he slides the fruit from the glass and slaps the helpless wedge down on my bar, with all the affected flair of a failed actor. I look at him more disapprovingly than I should have, but his whole act strikes me as unnecessary, and anti-social, somehow.

Sensing their nastiness, I ease up and away from the party as best I can, and get chatty with some of the other customers. Eventually, these customers are seated, and the walk-ins become my lone bar patrons, but at least they're laughing heartily and having a great time, so I want to play along. When I find myself at the end of the bar, making espresso, I try again to reach out to them, so I join in their laughter, and ask them what they're talking about.

A woman in the party shoots me a look that says, "I don't talk to the help" and goes back to her party's private frivolity.

I'm offended, and a little bit hurt, before it occurs to me that I am, indeed, the help. It's something I should realize more readily, but it still stings, if only for a moment. It's not so often that bartenders are shocked into their own reality.

One look is all it takes.

All in all, it was a slow, depressing Friday. And there's a kicker... The Nastys tipped me $3 on a $62 check.

At least I had a great (and unexpectedly therapeutic) song running through my head all night, just when I needed it most.

Clocks and spoons and empty rooms
It's raining out tonight
What a way to end a day
By turnin' out the light
Shoot the moon right between the eyes
I'm sending
Most of me to sunny country side

- John Prine, "Clocks and Spoons"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Calling Tom Paine

I haven't been this hopped up about a film in years.

V For Vendetta

I don't like to know or hear all that much about films before I see them, but the movie just has buzz, and then James Wolcott, who I can never resist, added this, which sent me over the edge of anticipation. (There are a few minor spoilers in his piece, in case you're sensitive.)

Call me a fangirl, but this is the kind of movie I want to see the day it opens.

I was curious from the first time I saw Natalie Portman in US Weekly with a shaved head. Who wasn't?