Monday, October 24, 2011

Waiting Alone In A Prom Dress

            My Flagrantly Gay Friend Roland is sad.
            “I just don’t know, Matthew”, he tells me over drinks at a bar in the Lower East Side.   
            I’ve never seen him like this. His usually casual brilliant face, regularly full of power and strength, is wrought with worry. His hair, normally in pristine condition, is tussled as he habitually brushes it back with his hand, over and over again, in a nervous manner. I order a shot for the both of us, not liking seeing one of my rocks of existence so tense and brittle. I clasp his shoulder and lean in close:
            “Roland, talk to me man. What the hell is wrong with you?”
            Roland, bringing his sad eyes up in defeat, looks right at me.
            “You know I’m a painter. You know I’ve been living all of my life just to paint. Working shitty job after shitty job just to afford oils. Slaving over the canvas, trying to make things look, if not genius, at least beautiful. I’m waiting on this guy who told me he could represent my work.”
            “Well, fuck that guy, Roland. You’re super talented, and on top of that, a real nice guy.”
            He chuckles bitterly.
            “Sorry, Matthew, this business in New York City doesn’t rely on ‘nice’.”
            “Then what is this guy’s problem?”
            He reels back, lifting the shot. I clank my glass with him and put the shot down.
            “It’s just this guy is really talented. He’s hot shit. He knows people.”
            I roll my eyes.
            “Yeah, whatever that means.”
            “No seriously, Matthew. You know me. I don’t take anyone seriously, unless he looks like Ryan Gosling or fucks like Iggy Pop. But this is really fucking with me.”
            I take a moment and look at the situation. The bar is full of drunks. We are at a dive bar, and most of the mess of drunks either are nodding out on pills or frighteningly staring at anyone who walks in the door that might pay attention to them. 
            Roland talks on: “This guy could really make a difference with my work. You think I want to manage retail all of my life, even if its retail in SoHo? It’s still gonna kill me. I can’t end up one of those F.I.W.’s.”
            I stop, mid beer chug.
            “What’s a F.I.W.?”
            “Fags In Waiting, Matthew! Waiting around for the other gray haired bitch to come and pay my bills. A Fate worse than death. It’s the 7th plane of Gay Inferno. Especially for a guy like me. But I really, really, really want this guy to help. He told me he’s interested. He told me he could get my work where it needs to go. And he means it! But I’m waiting on him. I mean, what am I supposed to do? I’ve done my side. I’ve got numerous canvases of varying beauty. But I need this other person to bring it to the next level! And it’s killing me waiting!”
            Suddenly, it hits me. There on my bar stool, I’m transported to another drunken realm. I think of every drunk I’ve ever served. I remember them telling me about the sadness of their lives.           
            And now, Roland, here before me, is currently being brought down by the worry of the world.
            This cannot stand.
            I will be the first to tell you that the world is a dark and terrible place. And I know that a lot of you are where Roland is right at now, especially here at the advent of the Fall Season.
            Let me be the first to tell you.
            Don’t let it bring you down.
            If those same ghosts are haunting you right now, remember these very important 3 THINGS before you go about your day tomorrow.
            THING 1: JUDGING

            Yep. Know very clearly right here, right now, let me tell you that someone, or several someones, are talking shit about you right now. Yes, they are telling you who you are, what you are, and what you do (lies or otherwise). They are judging everything you’ve done, and everything you might do in the future.
            Just accept that.
            They talk all the time. And they judge. The Christians judge. The Crazy Muslims judge us. Our bosses judge us. Our significant other is judging whether they should stick around with people like us.
            Let them.
            All these judging bastards prove is that we are worth talking about. That’s right. You certainly aren’t thinking about them in your day, right? But they are certainly thinking about you. That should be proof you are on the right track.
            They are just jealous of what you are doing, wishing they had the balls to live like you do. Because you’re actually just being you, with no apology.
            Otherwise, they would have nothing to talk about. Right?     

            THING 2: DOUBTING

            Everybody will doubt you. Yes, everybody has that one friend who believes in everything you do. But the rest of them, yes, they are doubting you. They too have tried and failed in the world, so they have no choice but to wield their little sword of doubt against your dreams and hopes.
            I wouldn’t worry about this.
            They doubted Einstein.
            They doubted Steve Jobs.
            They even doubted that the Earth revolved around the sun.
            Everyone doubts something they have not seen before. And if you truly listen to your heart, it will be original. I’m not even being a hippy here. It’s a fact. No one else can do exactly what you can do.
            That’s the beauty of it. No matter what you will do, it will have that fingerprint of your style to it.
            Like that guy said: “Argue your limitations and soon enough they are yours.” You start doubting yourself and you’ve just set the trap to your own killing. And the only thing you kill with doubt is the dream you thought you had. 

            THING 3: WAITING

            Here’s Roland’s problem.
            Waiting on someone or something to be happy.
            Guys, come close to the fire. Let me share something real quick.
            It just doesn’t work. How many John Hughes movies do you have to watch to realize this? You don’t have to be Molly Ringwald to realize that it’s that little cool thing inside you that makes your world tick (even if she turned down Duckie in Pretty In Pink which, in my opinion, was the better choice over preppy Andrew McCarthy).
            Roland doesn’t have to wait for this agent to realize that he’s the shit. Roland IS THE SHIT already. It’s that damn blind agent's turn to realize who the real talent is.
            It’s important to remember that the world is not waiting on you, so, like a proper duel, you should not wait on it to fire the first shot.
            You choose your life, it is not chosen for you.
            So be careful about waiting for something or someone to make it all better. Or you might end up like that little girl waiting alone in a prom dress, for that date that will never show up.






Monday, October 10, 2011

"We Laughed, We Cried, We Got 10%"

            When you don’t go to college, or if you get strange ideas in your head like living a life outside of office corporate culture, you will eventually find yourself scouring want ads for service work on Craigslist and trolling your local restaurant, appealing to small minded fools who also didn’t go to college and have zero interest in anything but fucking hostesses and drinking whiskey sodas until they pass out bathed in the light of cable television.
            I once had dreams of escaping what I thought was ‘slave corporate culture,' only to find myself entering into a lifelong blood pack with the Service Industry, a thoroughly different brand of hell. I, like many others, thought the allure of cash that day, night hours and flexible schedules would bring more freedom, creativity and autonomy to my life.
            The result was exactly the opposite.
            No one understands slavery more than those who serve people.
            I’m sure it was something to serve a King or Queen in opulent castles and beautiful riches of the Manor. But here in America where the only royalty is the dollar, anyone with a couple twenties or a credit card can have a perfectly healthy human serve them in some demeaning costume and hand tray, and thoroughly abuse them as if they too were Marseilles Royals.
            And those that live by doing this little dirty work are with me on this.
            There is a reason the phrase ‘everyone should have to wait tables for a year’ is so prevalent in the Service Industry.
            Only when you serve people can you learn the true nature of human beings.
            Let me make one thing clear. THERE ARE KIND AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. Not everyone is a total self-gratifying, obnoxious bastard. That being said the average person -- particularly tourists for some unknown reason -- possesses the worst condescending attitudes when you serve them. Something changes in the human dynamic when you approach a table of four, all sitting comfortably and staring at their menus. 
            The waiter bravely approaches, order pad in hand.
            “Good evening, everyone.”
            No one looks up. They stare coldly at the menus. Your palms begin to sweat. Another table lifts a hand, angry eyes wanting another drink. Your boss from across the floor signals that you have another table, pointing to four frat boys loudly charging in. Another customer snaps his fingers: “More water, waiter.”
            “What are your specials?” asks the big pink-faced man at your waist level. They never care about the specials. They just like the waiter to repeat a shaky and rehearsed list of leftovers that didn’t sell over the weekend.
            “Well, tonight we have a baked skate, fresh from New England water, touched with a butter and onion puree. The sides are garlic mashed potatoes and organically grown baby vegetables. The next is a pork roast,…” and you see his eyes glaze over. One of the kids at the table throws a baguette on the ground. Another snaps his fingers behind you:
            "Excuse me,” the other patron calls. “We want our check!”
            You calm them, turning quick. “No problem sir,” you say. You turn back, the whole table is angry that you even dared take your attention from them.
            The order is taken brutally and your boss comes over to you with heated breath on the way to the kitchen.
            “You’ve got that four-top waiting and Clarice doesn’t understand your drink order! Come on, this is the dinner rush!”
            You go over to the restaurant bartender Clarice’s service bar. She is an angry ex-dancer who now has to work service bar and hates every server she sees.
            “What the fuck is this? This order doesn’t make sense.”
            You argue with the bartender that you need a Cuba Libre instead of a Cucumber Martini. Clarice huffs and glares at you like you are an idiot, even though the order was clearly marked. The other servers impatiently grunt over your shoulder trying to get in line to receive their drinks.     
            The drinks spill over your tray as you rush back to the floor. The sweat builds under your arms in the over starched white-collar shirt you have to wear to work.
            The kids are screaming. The boss watches you like a hawk.
            “This is not what I ordered!” The old lady with badly rouged lips says over aging yellow teeth.  
            “I’m sorry, Miss,” you say.
            “Well, make it right. I’m not paying for this! Let me talk to your manager! And don’t call me Miss!”
            You go over to your irritated, sweating manager.
            “The lady at table 5 wants to talk to you.”
            He grunts: “What did you do this time?”
            You race back to the kitchen. The Chef, who demands to be called “Chef” though he has no degree, culinary fame or Michelin rating, berates a Brazilian prep cook.
            “Fucking wrong, you son of a bitch. You touch my knives again, I’ll stab you with them.”
            He turns, bald and agitated.
            “What do you want?”
            “Order 13, Chef. She claims it’s not what she ordered.”
             He grabs the ticket, smoke from the skillet rising behind him.
            “The hell she didn’t. Who took this out?” He yells at his food runners. “Which one of you motherfuckers took this out?” They all shrug simultaneously. “It’s the fucking dinner rush! You must have fucked up,” he threatens you.
            “Chef…” you say before:
            “Chef, I need a rush on table 8! Salmon, medium on the fly,” another sweating waiter yells in your ear. You move quickly out and every table in your section is looking right at you, all raising their hands with demands.  
            Friendly tables are even worse. The nicer the people are the more you open up, telling them about what you are studying, making jokes about your life. They finally treat you like a human, nodding with big smiles. You know there's is some kind of unspoken bond. You entertain their children and comp the wife's drink and grab the check with expectant glee. Your stomach drops. You walk with a lousy 10%. As if their smile alone paid the rent. Someone behind you snaps his fingers for refill of Coke.
            And don’t get me started about Europeans.  
            So as you separate the soaked one dollar bills from your pocket at night to tip the bus boy and bartender out, you stare down at the $75 you've earned in a 10-hour shift and start contemplating states with looser gun laws.
            This little ditty is my raised fist out there to the waiters of the world and anyone who has served. Like time in the military, the only ones who know the war are those in the fight.

            Next time, the drinks are on me. 









Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Which Drunk Are You?

            How in the world would we ever get by without it? Even Ben Franklin knew the beauty of it when he wrote: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
            It is a human favorite. Your plumber uncle assuredly drinks 31 Budweisers just to get over his workday. Your mother keeps a bottle of Vodka in the toilet basin to wash down her Valium. Your boyfriend drinks way too much whiskey and passes out when you want physical love.
            The most human intercourse is between the rocks glass and your lips and everyone is satisfied when it’s finished.  
            If rate of consumption proves anything, imbibing alcohol is the most repetitious act we do, other than sleep. Here in New York City, the capital of the busy drunk, where the term functioning alcoholic was invented, we gangsters of the bar rule. Yes, our women take whiskey shots. Yes, we drink before, during and after our workday and still have time for hobbies, hubbies, girlfriends, and brunch (the most important thing to do in life).
            There is no shortage of creative types weighing in on the beauty of drinking (and this blog could go on forever with the litany of amazing quotes from drunk writers, philosophers, and musicians). Jim Morrison said: “It’s like gambling somehow. You go out for a night of drinking and you don’t know where you will wake up the next day. It could work out good, or it could be disastrous. It’s like the throw of the dice.” Sure is Jim, and you got the snake eyes roll of a mysterious death in a bathtub in Paris.  
            And my good friend Friedrich Nietzsche had this to say about Grandpa’s Hittin’ Juice: “For Art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.” And this from a guy who hugged a horse in the town square before going completely insane from syphilis. I totally relate to the great Irish playwright Brendan Behan when he said “I am a drinker with writing problems.”
            Alcohol is man’s best friend, and you don’t have to feed it or bring it home leftovers. But there’s a dark side to this wild and untamed Booze Tiger. Careening towards a drunk and chaotic abyss, many have breached this whiskey soaked edge, only to ask oneself: ‘My God, what have I done!’ As old Papa Hemingway told us: “Be careful what you say drunk, you might have to do it sober. And that will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
            But the question remains: Which ‘Drunk’ Are You? There are many faces to the unbridled, bewitching power of intoxication and Lord, have I seen them all.
            Here’s a short list of ‘drunk’ styles you may unnervingly place yourself within, if you can remember what you did last night (just ask your bartender):
            They walk in. They are friendly enough, asking questions of the bartender about his or her life. They order a drink. “Just a quick one”, they explain plainly. You notice their clothing is a bit off, something mismatched. Every time you pass they start more inane conversations. “You live around here?” or “So, Matthew, what do you really do?” Your bartender Spidey-Sense starts tinlging. Then it happens. The third drink goes down. Their faces become sullen, devoid of life, like a mannequin. Their eyes grow cold. Now when they speak, they slur and laugh to themselves. It’s only 4pm.
            For these folks the alcohol is poison. And they want it, bad.  It’s truly frightening to watch. Alcohol should only accentuate or inhibit already present attributes. If this type of 100% switch happens, it is a sure sign of a problem. It reminds me the difference between the heavy drinker (me) and the problem drinker (these people).
            You don’t want to be this drunk. And if you are, you probably don’t even know it. So cheers!         

            You are so excited to be in a bar drinking! This must be your first time! Everything you say is at loud decibels. Those around your wince and smile anyway to be polite. They yell out at the bartender (sure-fire way to make the Help want to cut you and pour limejuice in the wound). They clap, laugh aloud, and throw their heads back, yelling with horrid ferocity.
            Let me ask. What is with the clapping? Is this a sports game? You know these people from after work happy hour runs. They’re the one asking for Jager Shots at 430pm. They’re the ones who think strip poker still should be played after college. They usually recommend Karaoke. You know the type. For these people, college parties were the highlight of their life.
            In the end, if you’re 42 and wearing sport jersey’s, clapping loud when there’s no games on, laughing obnoxiously at your own jokes and yelling at your bartender, it probably means a very little ship of hope has sailed past you and you’re sitting on that dock all alone, hoping the volume of your actions palliates the loneliness you feel creeping slowly around you.               

            Okay. My heart goes out to this person. I’ve been there.
            The world is a rough and dire place. The money is fucked. The rent’s overdue. There’s trouble with the partner and break up is imminent. You know who I’m talking about here. They sit by themselves in front of the candle at the bar, staring down into the fire. The little orange-yellow flame dances, elemental, strong against the darkness of the bar. And the Candle Starer sits blank eyed, wishing they could crawl out of their own skin.
            Buddy. I know. When I would see these types (the Abbey Bar in Brooklyn has a legion of these folk) at work I’d keep the shots coming, without question.
            Here’s a little free advice from your bartender.
            Keep in mind that depression is actually a guise of self-obsession. Talk to your fellow man. Buy someone a beer. Get the fuck out of the bar and see a movie. That little flame in the candle will only remind you of yourself, a little fire still fighting against the noise and dreck of the bar, a metaphor for the world.
            Go read a book.
            Get a hobby.
            Go do something. The world is literary falling apart around us. It is time to pick a sword and do something. At least get a job.
            Not all of these drinks are free.


            The night is going pretty well. Everybody is happy. The alcohol is flowing like some blessed river out of Greek Mythology. People are having all kinds of fascinating dialogues, stuff to rival legendary drunks like Ginsberg and Kerouac and the shots, dutifully bought by the attentive bartender, spread around the group and taste fantastic as they go down. No bad vibes. No pukey feelings. Everyone smiles and laughs (not at a loud volume). Things are adult, respectable and that cute person smiled at you. You nod, feeling satisfied.
            Then you feel a strange, clammy hand on your lower back.
            You turn. It’s Bob from Accounting. He’s smiling, nodding and keeping that hand on your back. You move away, shrugging it off as nothing and head to the bathroom.
            That didn’t happen, right?
            You go back. Bob leans in really close:
            “Look, I just want to say it was really great hanging out with you…”
            And then there’s that hand again. Bob smiles, like he doesn’t know how fucking weird it is for a man to touch another straight man in that area.
            Ah, the Touchy Feeler. Always putting their hands in uncomfortable places.
            And it’s not just Bob. It’s the older lady who, when you lean in to kiss her on her cheek, she turns quickly plants her old ragged lips right on your mouth. Or that guy, who you thought was just a friend, standing way too close to you, speaking right into your ear, his hot whiskey breath on your neck.
            Alcohol makes these peoples inner Creep come out and touch their way into a bar fight. Beware longing, odd stares and misplaced palms.


            Yep. Drunk people = Horny People.
            It’s got to be something the Ancient Egyptians knew about the properties of alcohol.
            They brewed over 17 different types of beer and 24 variations of wine, and this was back in 3150 BC! They also kept most of their booze around in the crypts so the dead rich folk could drink it in the afterlife.
            Some of the Egyptian leaders stressed moderation, but only a slim number of citizens followed that advice. Frequenting taverns was morally reprehensible because of the susceptibility towards drunkenness and prostitution.
            Fast forward to 2011 Williamsburg and not much has changed.
            When you give people alcohol, it can turn any decent, self-respecting person in a horny monster, wanting to fuck anything that moves. The girls get drunk and sex burns in their eyes, wasted enough to forget they have to hold back and be a ‘lady’. The fellas get drunk enough to get some balls to talk to strangers. The whole bar becomes a snake pit of lust, and if anyone remembers this summer (or any summer) in the back patio of Union Pool, it is a hot bed of Fuck.
            Alcohol is our permission slip to be who we really want to be. Or at least forget any rules of social tact and go right for the make-out.
            Admit it. You’ve been there. 
             Till next time!