I kinda dug NWA’s Straight Outta Compton. It was earthy and angry and yes, had a certain street cred to it, and I thought the way they laid down old 70’s tracks and riffed on them was cool. Coming of Age in the 70’s gave me a healthy appreciation for funk, and you had to be the WHITEST PERSON ON EARTH to not like bow wow wow yippee yo yippee yay or whatever the lyrics were. But good God, I hate Hip Hop. I think. I mean, I’m pretty sure that was what I was being assaulted by on Friday night. So heres the story:
You may remember that some friends of mine have embarked on a lifelong (hopefully) journey which is beginning with a hastily planned wedding. Being a friend, I went scouting locations for a reception. I wrote about it last week. The place I settled on is called The Zen Restaurant, and I met and really liked the owner. On, Friday, he informs me that he’s short two bartenders on what promises to be a busy night, and I agreed to bail him out and go and tend bar, that night.
Now, I have worked in the restaurant business my whole life. There isn’t a line position that I haven’t worked; dishwasher, busboy, server, host, bartender, bouncer, food runner, manager, general manager, and eventually, owner. I have worked some damn rough spots. I was the only non-black employee at a club in Pomona, California. I worked for guys in Vegas that made the Sopranos look like the Osmond Family. I’ve even worked in gay bars that were rougher than anyplace you will find in Nashville. Even my own joint was pretty damn rough on Thursday, (karaoke night) and Saturday (boys from Alabama would come to town to power drink and fight with Georgia boys) and I actually watched my bouncers put a guy’s head through the glass of my cigarette machine. I got into it once with an amateur wrestler in town to do a show, and whipped his ass so good my bouncers gave me a plaque with the remnants of my torn shirt. So, yea, I’m seasoned.
I was actually excited by the prospect of getting my hands wet again. I really love the feel of one liter bottles in my hands, and I always prided myself on my speed. Pour, and ring, pour and ring. No “Cocktail’ style flipping of bottles and what not, just building drinks with a slight flair and getting them to the customer quickly, with an honest pour.
So, I get there, find out where stuff is, you know, the ice machine, the bar towels, back up juices, back up alcohol, and I spent a whole 5 minutes learning the P.O.S. (point of sale) system. It truly felt like home. The sound of the Hobart machine hissing and blowing out steam as it washes dishes made me smile. The banter of the line cooks with the servers was strangely comforting. I soaked my towel in soda water and wiped down the bar counter and the doghouses (cabinets where they store liquor) and even enjoyed washing glasses in the triple sink again.
My first order was for some kind of red wine and a white zinfindel. (people still drink that?) So far, so good. The place hadn’t gotten it’s typical Friday crowd yet, so speed wasn’t an issue. I made a couple of margaritas, then a Long Island Iced Tea, which is fun to make because you use every bottle in your speed rack. By now, I’m feeling pretty good, maybe, if you looked real hard, you might have seen a slight swagger to my step, since I was pretty stoked at the fact that I could still do this shit. This lasted about 30 minutes.
Like a scene from the 1968 Democratic Party Convention, a wave of people of color descended on me, just as the DJ added an “11” to his amplifiers and cranked them on FULL. For the rest of night, I was reduced to “line of sight” order taking. If I couldn’t read your lips, fuck you, I’m moving on, and you can drink water from the damn men’s room faucet. “What? a blue what?” “How many Liquid Ecstacys again?” “Your girlfriend wants a what, a Screaming Orgasm?” “Who doesn’t, buddy!” And so on.
I’m pretty sure the avalanche of noise that hit me was music, mostly because the girls at the tables knew all the “lyrics” and I could see them singing along. But it all either sounded like the most whiny Michael Bolton type shit ever, or, worse, it was endless recitations of East Coast, West Coast, and some grunting accompanied by gunshots. Horrible stuff. Where the hell was The Electric Slide? Don’t people do The Bus Stop anymore? The Macarena? By 2:00 a.m., I was exhausted, not from the physical labor, mind you, and not even from being up at a time I’m normally experiencing REM sleep, but from the noise.
Bartending, hell, working in nightclubs is a younger man’s game, I’m afraid. When my shift was over, I grabbed my hat and coat and fled into the night. I never even took a share of the tips. I stepped over someone passed out by my car, cranked it, popped in a Steely Dan cassette, and took my sorry ass home.
The next day, the owner was nice enough to call and thank me for helping out, and said that there was an envelope waiting for me. I’ll go back and get it, but you can bet it will be before the DJ starts. Just sayin.