The Dog In Me

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.



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19 responses to “The Dog In Me

  1. lolololol…what a GREAT story! I can just picture you in that whole scenario. I hope your envelope is stuffed full of Tens. 🙂

  2. Ha ha ha. Who knows, though? Maybe there’s a market for a bar for old people and you could open that. The hours would be different, since y’all start falling asleep about 8, but you could spend the early afternoon listening to Count Basie and the Andrew Sisters and serving mint juleps and vodka & pepto bismol.

  3. *SNORK*

    …and the volume would be around a 5 so you could hear what the customers are ordering. 😉

  4. Every story would start with “Back in my day…” The only drawback is that the bar fights would be particularly vicious because old people tend to have canes and walkers and wheelchairs and other things easily convertible to weapons.

    Once those old people have wheels fast enough to catch you and a stick big enough to beat you, you’re pretty out of luck until they get distracted by war stories or a nap.

  5. …you’re pretty out of luck until they get distracted by war stories or a nap.

    lololololol…If I were a betting girl, I’d put my money on the nap more than the war stories. I mean, I’m sure that most of Mack’s clientèle would be old draft dodgers. 😉

  6. Oh, hell, you are completely right! Ha ha ha ha. You win the internet today.

  7. nm

    Draft dodgers have stories, too: “when I was in Canada” or “when I was seeking sanctuary in this church” or “the 7,000 years I spent in college so my deferment wouldn’t expire.”

  8. The only drawback is that, if your bar was frequented by old draft dodgers, you’d have to clean up after all the old fogey orgies. After all, this is the make love not war crowd.

  9. democommie

    Mr. Mack:

    I used to bartend for a friend on his “private party” bar (made $180 in an hour one night–while somebody else took their clothes off!). Most of the time it was anniversaries, retirements, sweet 61’s… but every oncet in a while we’d get a bunch of self-styled “new ” urbanistas and they’d started ordering a lot of weird drinks. I’d just point to the stairs and tell them to go downstairs and get the drink, because I was not running a full service bar. If they whined enough I’d tell them I needed to see their ID’s. One guy said, when I refused, for the 4th or 5th time to make some silly drink he wanted, that I was a shitty bartender and he couldn’t believe the owner would put me on the bar. I told him it had nothing to do with mixology, it was all about honesty around financial issues and knowing when to 86 drunken assholes. He seemed able to find the other bar from there on out.

  10. nm

    Well, B, all I can say is that the guys I knew back in the day who were back from Vietnam had no trouble with the “make love” part of the equation themselves.

  11. The only thing about old fogey orgies in the bar is that Mack would have to provide padding…I doubt the old fart could get up off of the hard surfaces due to all of the stiff joints, back pain, you know…old fogey ailments and stuff.

  12. wait, I mean old farts…I wasn’t referring to Mack…I was referring to his clientèle!


  13. Damn, I’m mortified now. *blushing*

  14. Nothing like the restuarant buisiness, eh.
    Tragically, i’m bred into it, LOL.

  15. Ha! I would’ve loved to see you in action.

  16. I want a “Walk Me Down The Aisle Sweet Jesus”

  17. Newscoma, is that a drink or a gospel song?

  18. I like Nina Gordon’s version.

    [audio src="" /]

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