Friday, January 18, 2013

A BAR BACK'S LAMENT (By Guest Blogger, Wyatt The Bar Back)

            Greeting's everyone. 
            I know that we are all fresh from recently joining the War on Haters, our 2013 resolution. Most of our swords are now dipped in red from the blood of Haters, and as we continue this endless struggle, we will move on with pride and dignity, wiping our swords on our pant legs and letting the steel gleam in the afternoon light.
            This week we will continue with the theme of pride and dignity, and in honor of such a quest, we have a new guest blogger this week. As any of you who have kept up with The Bartender Knows exploits over the last year and a half, you have come across a character and close friend by the name of Wyatt. Not only is Wyatt legendary for his righteous humor and Gigolo tendencies, his beard even shares some fine repute, making him the first man that both his character and facial hair demands equal fame.
             Something y'all might not know about ole Wyatt, and that is his profession. He holds the fine title of Bar Back, a somewhat mysterious and understated position in the bar world. Over the years as a bartender (and yes, I, working up the ranks, have bar-backed a multitude of bars), I have worked with all manner of bar-backing types; drug-addicts, sex fiends, socially inept hipsters, arrogant break dancers, and even a tough lady Bar Back here and there. It does take all kinds, and like bullets in a clip, the Bar Back awaits their fine turn to eventually become a bartender themselves. 
             So, much like we occasionally hear from Diane, The Bartender's Bartender, allow me to introduce yet another guest blogger. 
             World, may I introduce Wyatt the Bar Back, in an entry we'll call, The Bar Back's Lament.
             Take it away, Wyatt.

            Hello there, faithful drinkers. 
            The time has come for something different. 
            My name is Wyatt and I'm here to tell you about a different side of spirits, and the establishments in which we imbibe them, not often thought about: the Bar Back.
            I know this blog is usually a dumping ground for gripes and sometimes-enlightenment from the self-important beverage slinger himself, but don’t be alarmed; our goal here is to be well-rounded alcoholics. And by its very nature, the Bar Back often gets overlooked. 
            Not today. I’ma learn you something.
            I know. The Bar Back is easy to forget. 
            He’s quiet. 
            He’s behind the scenes. 
            He seems to have nothing to do with you getting your paws on that drink you’ve been waiting all day for. But you do need him. 
            I promise.
            We are, in fact, the liaison between you, the customer, and the prima-donna bartender you're trying to get that drink from. 
            Remember: a happy bartender is a happy drunk!
            We carry the heavy shit--that beer you’re swilling had to get there somehow, brah.
            We provide a low level of security in your favorite little watering hole. We make sure your glasses are clean, going so far as to remove the tacky lipstick some asshole before you left on it (she was kinda hot though). 
            We change over the kegs when the taps run dry. We’re often charged with keeping the inventory of them spirits you love so much. 
            We handle the garbage.
            We clean the fucking toilets.
            All this for a mere fraction of the tips our rock star bartenders are taking home. And we’re listening to their shitty music the whole night, taking absurd orders at the whim of just about every other employee. 
            Make no mistake. 
            It’s a damn demeaning gig sometimes.
            Don’t believe me? 
            Just two months ago, readers, I was working at a particular ‘Parlor’ in Bed-Stuy, near the Marcy projects. The bartender got into an argument with a customer over the nature of a defective drink. This lovely specimen of a bartender responded with such maturity and professionalism that she drunkenly hurled this beverage--glass and all--behind her toward the garbage can. 
            And guess who was standing there to receive the remnants of this beverage all over him? 
            Yep. The hardest working man in the bar business.
            Needless to say, I no longer work there. After a sixty-one-dollar tipout after a gruesome fourteen-hour New Year’s Eve shift (that’s fucking terrible, by the way) ensured it would be the last time I set foot in this particular ‘Parlor’. 
            But back to the task at hand.
            If you ever see a Bar Back which, again, is somewhat rare because he’s usually bent over the sink washing glasses or in the walk-in smoking a joint and considering the life choices that led him to his current post, please, say hello. You can bet your bottom ginny-tonnie he’s just trying to get through the work night, and it’s gonna be a long one.
            You know what’s a great idea? 
            Ask him for a drink. Bartenders love nothing more than a Bar Back fumbling around in their sacred goddamn temple. Better yet, ask them to get the bartender’s attention, because bartenders are soooo open to suggestions that way.
            Yeah dude, I just mopped up some chick’s wine-vomit after she decided to get over her last boyfriend with a bottle of Vitiano. Lemme get you a drink, because it’s really important to me that you enjoy your buzz.
            Which brings me to the essence of why bar-backing truly blows: it’s pretty much being left out of the party for twelve hours. While you chat it up with that hammered bird you’re dying to get with (and dropping some pretty sad game in the process; yes, I can hear that) I'm working.
            I mean sure, I’m drinking too--you’d better believe it--but have you ever tried to get tight while you’re running up and down a staircase all night? Doesn’t exactly go over very well.
            Speaking of which, desperate girls cornering the Bar Back in his little corral at the end of the bar, rambling on incessantly about the creep they’re trying to lose, isn’t exactly a job perk.    
             I’ll take health insurance instead, thanks.
            And when it’s all over and getting home to put a cap on the whole goddamn affair is imminent, someone wants to argue about leaving the bar. It’s 4:30am, dude. 
            Go home.
            Come to think of it, I gotta get to the bar right now. It’s getting late and piss-splattered toilet seats don’t clean themselves.
            I’ll go ahead and assume a night at the bar is in your future. I’d also wager a guess that your establishment of choice was built on the shattered dreams of a Bar Back or two.  
            Do me a favor and be cool. The Bar Back’s not really having that swell a time. 
            Sure, he’ll smile and get your water and have a conversation with you, about you; but smoke a bowl or something with the poor bastard. He’s probably contemplating suicide as he cleans out the rinds of lemons and limes from the sink.
            One last favor: Try to avoid patronizing bars that rip off bar backs (or any of their employees) for their hard work. Especially cunty ‘Parlors’ near the Marcy Projects. There’s nothing sadder than shitty bar owners taking your hard-earned cash and refusing to share it with the very people who aided in the goddamn transaction.
            Adding insult to injury, I ain’t even been laid as a result of bar-backing yet. 
            Though I sure do feel fucked.




Friday, January 11, 2013


            Life is a battle.
            And, to be a good soldier, one must know exactly what kind of war you’re fighting in.
            Over the 20 years I have worked in the bar/restaurant industry (Christ, it’s been way too long), I have come to understand a little bit of humanity. I have been witness to great celebrations, I have been witness to crushing sadness. I have seen people propose to one other and embrace with tears streaming down their faces in joy, and I’ve seen drunks fall off their bar stools and crack open their skulls on the dirty ground.
            So, with some small authority, I have been privy to several things about human beings; their frailties, their strengths, their sense of humor. But as of late, I have been seeing a disturbing rash of a particular personality type that I believe, if we don’t act fast, might be contagious.
            I’m talking about the Hater.
            You know this particular person. Allow me to set the record straight about who a Hater really is.
            A Hater is a person who, when around someone who is ‘shining’, immediately and seemingly with great pleasure, begins to judge, criticizes, insult, or demoralize this ‘shining’ individual. What I mean by ‘shining’ (for those relatively unfamiliar with hip-hop culture) is a person who is extraordinarily excited, stoked or super-happy about ANYTHING.
            Take Example 1. The other day I’m polishing some glasses, as bartenders tend to do, and there’s a couple of customers hanging out, drinking coffee, sipping on some Budweiser’s, doing the cross word puzzle. In walks one of our regulars, a Nice Young Lady, who looks like she’s about to jump out of her skin with wild elation.
            I look at the Nice Young Lady, nod to her, and say:
            “Hey darlin’! You look stoked. What’s shakin’?”
            She puts her large, heavy looking bag on the bar, pulls off her coat, and starts shaking her head.
            “Oh. My. God. Matthew, you’re not gonna believe this. I just found out I got the funding for my new project (I won’t go into the particular thing she had been working on for a long time, but I can say it has to do with social activism and for a great cause)! It’s actually going to happen! I’m losing my mind,” she explains.
            I lean forward: “A drink then?”
            She grins. “How about five?”
            We get into it. She’s got all this new merchandise for her ad campaign. Stickers, website, the whole bit. I can’t help but to roll with her happiness, it’s completely infectious. She’s grooving, explaining all her plots and plans.
            Then I see it. The guy sitting next to her.
            I can spot one of these people miles away.    
            That’s right.
            A Hater.
            The Hater sips on his beer in a slumped sort of way. He puts his beer down on the bar gruffly, occasionally wincing every time the Nice Young Lady exclaims something positive, as if her elation has some kind of repulsive smell he can’t bare. Unfortunately, the Nice Young Lady is unaware, probably because of the dizziness of happiness, that this sad fuck is actually a Hater.
            He grumbles: "What’s your project?”
            The Nice Young Lady is a spree of excitement, detailing her project and how she plans to enact it. The Hater listens, but acts unimpressed, sipping coolly on his Budweiser. I wait to get involved, only hoping for a different result than the one my instincts are telling me. The Nice Young Lady continues explaining how she’s going to pull off this social activism.
            “Yeah, I don’t know. It sounds a little bit unrealistic,” he mutters. I see the Nice Young Lady’s eyes go slightly dull. She’s not completely effected, but you can see this first bit of ‘hate’ is doing its job.
            Now I jump in. “Hey, fuck it right? All great things start with dreams. You gotta be a dreamer to get anywhere in life,” I tell the Nice Young Lady, trying to bring back some of that joy.
            But the Hater continues.
            “Can I see those stickers you have there?” He says, pointing to his beer to me, a classic asshole move. You can’t just ask for a beer and say please, motherfucker? Either way, this still does not dissuade the Nice Young Lady. She tells him all about the use of these stickers, what’s the story with them, and her eventual plan.
            “What do you think?” She asks.
            He looks at the sticker, flips it back down on the bar, and sips on the new beer I just placed in front of him and says:
            “They okay. I just think the design should be different.”
            Again, bam! Hater strikes again. You can see the eyes of the Nice Young Lady grow duller even more.
            I pick one up and say (yes, actual quote): “Don’t listen to this fucker. No accounting for taste and all.”
            Hater looks at me and I just give him my grin I personally reserve for those I dislike. Me and the Nice Young Lady continue to vibe with each other until the Hater leaves.
            Now I’m not saying don’t be critical in life. Be constructive with it. Nor am I arguing one should agree with everything that someone says or does. I’m just saying if you go out of your way to shit on something that took time, energy, and practice, merely because you’re a sad fuck whose only enjoyment in your day is to dump your useless negative energy on a precocious 24 year olds project, then we are going to make a new rule. 
            If you don’t know about something, you are no longer allowed to say your opinion about it. Is that too much to ask? Am I going to start criticizing some photograph if I’ve never picked up a camera in my life? Am I going to talk shit on surfing if I’ve never stood on my own board and rode the sea?
            I understand we have become a nation of opinions not based in any kind of fact, but Jesus, can we just own up to the fact that many of us simply have different skill sets? I’m SO tired of people—and yes I listen to it every day at the bars—talk about things they have no idea about, and on top of that they judge, criticize, slander, and demean those that actually try very hard to learn, to practice, and suffer for their own projects, whatever they may be.
            Someone at the bar the other day literally said, and I quote: “God, you know, Bob Dylan really shouldn’t play the harmonica. He’s terrible at it.”
            First of all retard, it’s Bob fucking Dylan. That fucker could play a bassoon and make it interesting and beautiful. And second, how many albums you release, asshole? How have you contributed to the world of harmonica playing? You don’t like Dylan, fine, no problem, but that he ‘shouldn’t play’ anything is asinine.
            And you hear this everywhere; from film critiques to music, to personal projects, to people, there are a million Haters out there.
            Let it be known. The Bartender Knows, upon this fine day, has now declared full war against Haters.
            If you shit on people’s hopes and dreams, you are officially my enemy.
            You think you’re being helpful by being critical or trying to show ‘tough love’, the only thing you’re going to get is deep seated resentment leveled right back. Everybody’s got bad days, I know. Hell, 2012 was a never ending bad day and even I delved into some hating myself.
            But 2013 will stand in history as the War On Haters, people, and I say join me in this grand battle. Defend the dreamers, the mad ones, and the wonderfully positive.
            You’re greatest weapon in this battle is this small and yet poignant catch phrase I want you to use when find yourself either subjected to some kind of hate or the witness of someone being shit on by a Hater.
            I want you to look them dead in the eyes, very calm and firm, and say:
            “Hey, buddy. Go FUCK yourself.”
            Ready? Let's practice.
            Someone tells you something is impossible.
            Go fuck yourself.
            Someone hates on your favorite song.
            Go fuck yourself.
            Someone makes you feel like your dreams aren't worth following.
            Go fuck yourself.
            They’ll get the hint.     
            Jesus turned the other cheek. 
           Well, we ain’t Jesus. We just some people in the world trying to get things done while the rest just try to prevent it.           
            HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYBODY! (except you, Haters. You know what we want you to do.)