The Foundation

Somebody once described me as being “idealistic to a fault.” I’m still not entirely sure if I agree with that or really even understand what it means, but it’s out there. The truth is: I have a few very strong beliefs and, while I am open to having them challenged and questioned, until something big changes them, I am unwavering.

I decided that I’d share a few of them with you today in no particular order.

  • I believe in “going out” karma. This is the bartender in me. I truly believe that when you go out and leave a shitty tip, it will come back around to you. On the other side of the coin, if I receive a shitty tip, as long as I still offer the best service I can, it will balance out for me in the end.
  • People are good by nature. If given the option to do something evil or something good, people will choose good over evil. Not everybody and not all the time, but speaking generally.
  • Honesty is the best policy. I’m not talking about conversations or white lies or small omissions, but honesty to yourself. If you tell somebody that you love them and you know that it’s true, then you’ve done the right thing because it will all work out in the end.
  • It will all work out in the end.
  • Smiling is the second first best thing you can do with your lips. Kissing is second. Unless it’s a kiss that makes you smile; then it’s first.
  • The only thing you can ask of yourself is to do your very best. It doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed in the way you thought you would as long as you’ve done everything you can. Also, nobody can ask for more from you than you ask from yourself.
  • Whatever you do, do it with conviction. As long as you believe in what you do and you put everything you have into it, you’re doing it right.
  • It will all work out in the end.
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When my parents first separated and my dad moved out, he didn’t go far. In fact, he just moved down the street into an apartment building on the lake – about 4 blocks away. It made it a tiny more bearable for me while I was trying to deny that my family was changing forever.

The best part about all of it was actually that it was right on the lake. Seriously. It had a private little beach. Summer in Chicago is already the greatest thing ever, so when you have a private beach it’s even better!

One day during the summer my dad came and woke me up and got me out of bed. To this day, I have no idea where my sister was or why he didn’t wake her up as well if she was there, but it was just the two of us. It was early. It was still dark outside.

As a pre-teen in the summer, you can imagine that the last thing I wanted to do was be awake before it was light out. My dad insisted that I come with him, though.

We took the elevator down to the lobby and walked across to the giant doors that opened onto the patio above the beach. Despite being mid-summer, it was frigid from the night and the breeze coming off of the lake. We sat in two chairs by the stone rail and looked out at the lake.

I don’t remember what we talked about or if we talked about anything at all, but I remember seeing the sun peak above the horizon on the water.

It was completely calm. It was one of the first times that I felt completely at peace since my parents had announced their divorce.

This is not my photo

Chicago Sunrise

To this day, watching the sunrise is one of my favorite things. It’s relaxing and clears my mind. It’s beautiful. It’s something I see a lot less of than I’d like. It reminds me of sitting on the patio with my dad in the summer.

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Memories are funny things. They’re like short recordings of our own lives… except that they’re subject to manipulation. I could tell you a story about my childhood that is entirely different from the story my sister may tell even though we were both there at the same time. It’s even possible that neither of us is telling the story with complete accuracy.

There’s more, though. Each person keeps different memories; so while I may be able to recall a kiss with a girl from 5 years ago, it’s entirely possible that she doesn’t have that memory available right away. So let’s say that I remind her.

“I always think back to the time when we were out on the trampoline after everybody had gone inside and kissed for the first time.”
“Wasn’t the first time we kissed in your room?”
“No, that was later in the week – this was the day we’d all had dinner together”

Then she remembers, but it’s different. She remembers that we kissed inside while everybody stayed outside on the trampoline instead of the other way around.

Who is correct, though? More importantly, does it really matter?
Then I wonder if maybe it does matter; she didn’t remember that kiss at all until I reminded her. Was it that insignificant to her? Of course not. I have a plethora of memories of completely useless and meaningless events and, at times, cannot recall important events for the life of me.

Memories are strange things. I don’t really know if they serve much of a purpose but to share over conversation. Maybe close groups collectively have all the memories from their time together, but each person holds different episodes. You know, as a way to make sure that they reconnect every now and then in order to piece together the whole thing again.

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Chronicles of Unattended Goods

It’s not always that people get to go to bars with nothing on their person.

People bring purses, coats, umbrellas, sunglasses, backpacks, the list goes on. But what happens when you get up to use the restroom or, even worse, leave the bar and you don’t have one of those things on you?

Don’t leave your personal belongings unattended at the bar. If it’s not busy and you know your bartender you can probably get away with asking him to watch something or hold it behind the bar. If not, though, ask someone you’re with… or take it with you wherever you’re going.

Things get stolen.

If you come up to me while we’re busy and say “I came in with a bag, then I went outside to smoke and it’s gone now” my response will be simple:

Don’t leave your things unattended. It’s not my job to keep tabs on everybody’s personal belongings. If I can, I will. Sure. But don’t expect it.

Don’t return to the bar where you lost your sunglasses over a week ago. Chances are we don’t have them. Somebody else picked them up or one of us is now wearing them. The same goes for umbrellas and other miscellaneous items. If it’s a credit card, there’s a good chance we have it and the same goes for something of real value, otherwise it’s gone.

People: the bar is not your friend’s house so stop thinking that it is. You can’t leave little things around and expect them to be exactly where they were.

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We kissed and it started a fire.

I had an image in my head. A conversation and a picture and it was clear. I had no words, though. I had a pen and a notebook, but no words. Until I thought of a kiss I shared with a girl once. No, more than once.

And then I had words.

I told the paper about the time when we kissed. Not the first time, though. Not the second or third either. My pen wrote about the time when that girl and I kissed in complete disregard for everyone but ourselves.

Suddenly I could write again. I had a story to tell. There was fear and romance. There was laughter and jealousy. There were secrets.

I told my paper about the time when I kissed a girl and it was exhilarating. The writing, that is. The kiss, too.

It was like a fire. The kiss, that is. The writing, too.

The first challenge since the last time it happened. Not the writing, just the kiss.

Before I jinx it, though, I have a story to tell you.

Just not here yet. Soon, though.

Posted in Adventure, CT, D.C., Passion, Past | Leave a comment

Bartenders: Lifestyle vs. Career

Most of the time a bartender can be grouped into one of two styles. A lifestyle bartender or a career bartender. There is a lot of grey area in the middle and overlap (think of a Venn diagram), but the distinctions are important.

Your lifestyle bartender does it as a side gig. He’s usually on the younger side of working, but that’s not the major point. The point is why he does it: because he can often drink for free and he can meet tons of girls who throw themselves at him.

The lifestyle bartender shows up at 5:55 for his 6pm shift and when he’s cut at 3am he’s gone by 3:15. He does the requisite side work in order to keep his job, but he takes everybody’s number and sleeps with all of them. He only wants to work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to make the big money and then have free time all week.

There’s nothing wrong with the lifestyle bartender, he just offers a different experience than the career bartender.

Your career bartender does it for a living. He works in bars 5, 6, and 7 nights a week. He appreciates the craft, whether it be through learning to do flares and juggle bottles of liquor or through creating unique and carefully built cocktails.

The career bartender shows up early for his shift because he knows unexpected things come up before the bar opens. He’s not out of the bar until 4am or later because he knows that since he made the mess and the money, he needs to leave the place clean for the next person.

The career bartender is no better than the lifestyle bartender necessarily, just different. Sometimes your lifestyle bartender will keep his comps low and stay sober all night and sometimes your career bartender will take your number, sleep with you and never call you again. In general, though, you’ll get more genuine attention from the guy who treats it as his career rather than just a way to meet girls and drink for free.

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The Bartender Chronicles v.20

These are the stories and the commentary from behind the bar.

It’s a bartender’s job to be attentive.
It’s not necessary to notice certain little things like the fact that you’ve pulled the straw out of every drink or that you don’t squeeze the lime and just set it aside or that you always ask for two lemons. Little things like that allow me to adjust the way I serve your drink so you have the best possible experience.

There are other things that are important to notice, though. The guy at the corner who has been here each night with a different girl using the same stories is obviously dating around or cheating. The girl who used to talk nonstop about her boyfriend, but now downs drinks like there’s no tomorrow with red eyes probably just got dumped.

Sometimes all the practice we have being attentive just allows us to watch and listen… to things like this:

Guy and Girl make out at the corner of the bar for just under an hour. Hardcore making out. Tongues all over each others’ faces and major groping.

Guy: You wanna get out of here and go to my place?

Girl: No. I’m not going to cheat on my boyfriend.

Guy: Baby, it’s not cheating if you’re drunk.

That’s logical GOLD for you.

Posted in Bartender Chronicles, D.C. | 3 Comments