Sunday, February 17, 2013


            This is a Public Service Announcement from The Bartender Knows (Cue Walter Winchell style typewriter key clicks and Morse Code beeps).
            After countless overheard conversations at the bar, hundreds of shit-talking neighborhood dwellers, a multitude of articles, essays, and journalistic endeavors by all kinds of major news sources have attempted to answer, describe, and assimilate this immortal and endlessly fascinating question:
            What the fuck is a hipster—and am I one?
            If so, what can be done about such a diagnosis? Are there levels of hipsterism? Is it something treatable? Or is it an honor to be one of this clan, brandishing a badge of a select group, an allegiance to a movement that has no true definition, no ground level identity.
            As a grown man living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for some years, I believe I have some kind of authority as to what a ‘hipster’ really is, since I live at Havemeyer and North 6th, dead center in a neighborhood that invented the­ phenomenon.
            I know Echo Park and Seattle, and even Portland (nope…sorry kids) claim to have invented this.
            Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the grand ole Aunt that created the monster that all second–tier cities merely emulate and receive our less than fortunate ex-patriots who escape New York’s grueling pace, high rents, and extraordinarily competitive culture.
            A place to open their Milk Bar in peace.
            Let’s just start with the basics, shall we?
            “Do you wear pants small enough to fit your 12 year old sister?” (quote by S. Chang, local bartender).
            “Are you so socially awkward that when someone smiles and says hello you freeze, eyes glazed, like a doe walking into the middle of a freeway?”
            “Do you look like you need to eat a burger or risk exhaustion?” (again stolen from S. Chang, local bartender).
            “Do you have a trust fund and buy already torn jeans?”
            “Are you so removed from human emotion that when someone confesses true emotive experiences you lack the empathy to identify with their suffering?” (this recently happened to me. Seriously. Weird, and slightly scary).    
            Now, these are merely cheap attacks on tropes any episode of “Girls” has locked on with deadly accuracy.
            Let The Bartender Knows make a statement for the court.  
            I fucking love Williamsburg.
            I do.
            I used to visit this place over a decade ago crashing at my sister’s place on Eckford and Nassau. Walking up the then mostly shuddered Bedford Avenue at 2 am, I remember certain wild evenings, jumping into strange cars, and odd demonic characters of varying ethnicity leaning in to put coke under my nose on little silver spoons.  
            This week, The Bartender Knows cordially presents a special two-part segment, dutifully titled: “Are you A Hipster?”
            This is Part 1.
            Strange luck this week. I’ve been looking through my previously erased files I lost when my bastard computer died in Paris (read here).
            There were several stories I forgot I even wrote. Most writers have stored hundreds of forgotten pages somewhere now lost. Discovering them is like bumping into an old friend on the train.  
            In honor of this double feature celebration of the hood, I’ll enclose a small little love-letter excerpt I wrote in 2004 on a little jaunt into fair Williamsburg:
            I wrote this at 27. Now I’m 35. Oh my.
            Bar’s open!
            It is my birthday. April 1st 2004.
            In ten years I’ll be 37.
            This worries me.
            I hope I will still have many erections. There are only a few things men must worry about. Erections are, to me, I think the most important. Well, okay, maybe not erections but the use of the erection. At some point—somewhere.
            This was the motif last night. Thinking that perhaps there are only a limited number of erections one may have and setting off to implement the erection with a willing participant. I was in New York, a city known for the usage of erections. More importantly I was in Williamsburg, which holds the highest percentage of hard-ons the world has ever seen.
            Imagine Bedford Ave the shaft aimed at the bulbous wet peninsula of Manhattan. I was staying in the balls, locally known as Greenpoint. No passerby cannot smell the trace of Vodka seeping from the lips of the babushka’s and the old men that shuffle, staring off to the dirty cement remembering, I have no doubt, their lost erections.
            I leave the balls and move up the shaft right into the heart of this hipster heaven. Immediately, passing the bars and shops and records stores, I soon realize that I do not have the pressed down flap of hair greasily laid upon my forehead. My clothes are not tight-fitting, I do not have slim hips. The arty girls walk easily next to their tall lanky men, cute thrift store hats pulled deep over their foreheads-unbearably cute.
            The arty kids are also hot for copulation. But this copulation has nothing to do with insertion, more IMMERSION. The tale of the tape for up and coming artist havens goes like this. 
            Take a ghetto, a scary place, crack infested, rats living as some peoples roommates. Then take that poor son-of-a-bitch writer/painter/musician who, because of the poverty punishment set upon them by our artless culture, are forced to live in such means to still have the mind and money to create their dying forms. Now the rats crawl in—those that dress the part and wear condescension like a badge on their face and the money-makers smell shit under their pig noses. The landowner too sees the shot—and raises the rent.
            Now some ‘hip’ bars are brought up, the place gets a buzz, the real artists are forced to move to whatever rat-trap is on the horizon, and the rest is festering history. Humanity is yet again destroyed, kill or be killed.
            Money wins.
            Artists are holding their bleeding asses across town.
            I hear Park Slope is getting sodomized as we speak.

            Yep. I think I was reading a lot of Henry Miller at the time. The story goes on for another six pages. Wow. Wow. 2004.
            I’ll spare you the rest.
            But for the weekend, we’ll mull over all the different types of folks who found themselves here.
            And anyone who doesn’t live here, let this be a travelogue of some odd land, often emulated and mocked, but always drinking more than any of you.     
            Stay tuned for “Are You A Hipster? (Part 2)” this week.
            I raise my glass:
            “To the working class!"





Monday, February 4, 2013


            Here we go again.
            The Bartender Knows receives a litany of fan mail because of two topics. The first is when I rail against terrible service, the arrogance of shitty bartenders, the inability to be greeted when I walk into an establishment, and hope to get a drink order in after five minutes at a bar that’s not even busy.
            Trust me, partner, you walk into my bar, you get:

            Greeted at the door.
            A smile and a “how are you?’
            A fucking drink in front of you before your ass warms the bar stool.

            The other topic that incurs such a multitude of letters, comments, and complaints is this:
            I have ranted and railed, disputed and attacked, criticized and condescended this fine mating ritual. 
            I'm sure you recall the last times I commented on said topic: (PART ONE) (PART TWO) (PART THREE) (PART FOUR)
            But this week, dear readers, we’re going to approach this immortal question a little different.
            Let me tell you a story.
            Before I dropped out of high school, I had this wonderful girlfriend from the Mid-West. She was beautiful, new to the school, somewhat shy, matched with a great sense of humor and a smile that could melt ice.
            So D. (we’ll leave it at that) sat behind me in Biology class, and being somewhat of a morose lad, clad in all black with raging nihilist tendencies (not much has changed), I wanted to learn how to charm her. However, without having any experience in the Cassanova arts, the best my little teenage mind could come up with was Skittles.
            I had over heard that she really loved the red Skittles, this being not only her favorite color, but she loved them for the taste. So, upon receiving this holy information, before each Biology class, I would buy Skittles and purposely separate out the red Skittles. Then, without even a hello or a greeting, I would quickly turn around in my desk, smile, and place these red Skittles right down in front of her.
            Of course, this ended up working. She was charmed, I couldn’t believe it. Neither could the audacious bullies, who viewed me as some strange pariah (yes, this was before nerd shit was cool. Back in the day, if you participated in half the activities now regarded as cool you would have just got your ass kicked.) The bullies wanted D., not only because she was new to the school, but she was sexy and damn sweet, and this made those punks want her even more.
            But no.
            She was with me. And we fell in love.
            And things were wonderful for a time. But, just like in the Garden of Eden, that Snake started talking some crazy shit in my ear. I actually remember the conversation verbatim:
            Snake: Hey. You got a girlfriend that really loves you.
            Me: Thank you Snake, that’s true.
            Snake: You’re pretty lucky.
            Me: Tell me about. We give each other head and watch Montell Williams afterwards, happily satisfied with our post fellatio/cunninglingus bliss.
            Snake: Nice.
            Me: It’s not bad at all.
            Snake: Have you ever done anything else sexual with anyone?
            Me: No.
            Snake: (nodding) Hmmm. Interesting. You think you could marry D.?
            Me: Absolutely.
            Snake: Hmmm. So you’d stay with her forever?
            Me: Yep. (sort of believing this)
            Snake: That would mean you would never know what another woman feels like?
            Me: True.
            Snake: I don’t want to seem out of line here, but would you be okay never touching another person? Would you be okay never knowing what another woman could feel like?
            Me: (no comment)
            Snake: Just sayin’. I’m happy for you. I really am. It seems like you got a good thing going. Love, man, love.
            Me: But I do love her.
            Snake: I bet you do.
            Me: Hmmm.

            And right there, right at the last’ hmmm’, that’s when I knew ole Snake was right. Corruption had begun. Now I’ve never been the cheating type. So after me and the ole Snake’s chat, D. and I consequently broke up.
            I thought of the great land of singleness and what adventures, one day, I would have,
            Now, after being sexually active for over 20 years (I lost my virginity the year Nevermind dropped, yep…) I can tell you exactly what I’ve learned in the trials and tribulations of dating in the 21st century:
            I’ve learned nothing. D. went on to marry the dude after me and had three of his kids.
            What worlds did I miss?
            What did I think I’d find out here in the land of promiscuity?
            Where does one end up after 15 cities, several unpublished books under the belt, and countless partners?   
            The dive bar, or course, where else?
            And there it was. What began as Skittles now ends in The Subway Bar (god rest it’s soul). I suppose there were worse deaths.
            I don’t regret anything or course (that’s a lie, but I’ll save those stories for future books).
            But that’s where I find myself, either on one side of the bar or the other. I’m typing this blog currently in an undisclosed bar in Brooklyn. The words come easy in this kind of light.
            I think about my average Saturday night working.
            I clean my bar rag, rinsing out the hot water through my fingers, twisting the towel tight as the nights wind away. The crowds from the boulevard trickle in. They are talking together and laughing in large groups. This is especially true on the colder evenings. Now Winter is really showing her face. The wind is the kind of cold that makes you cry, then freezes the tears on your cheek.
            The groups come in, order drinks. More parties stroll in. One or two solo drinkers prowl through the doors and order Budweisers quietly. A woman reads a book at the far end of the bar. I serve all without judgement, without concern, always with a smile. My favorite part comes round the hour of 1am.
            This is when the barriers melt. This is when the jukebox wars begin.
            Someone puts on Led Zepplin. Another fights back by putting on Rihanna.
            Someone throws on “Pony” by Ginuwine, people start losing their shit. Now there's dancing, people falling off their bar stools, splashes of whiskey dripping from shots glasses cheersing. People start singing along to Oasis songs, a couple ducks into the bathroom to make out, someone does the Roger Rabbit. People are cracking up everywhere.
            The groups start mingling with each other. The girl with the open book, closes it, takes her shot of whiskey and asks for the check. Two new strangers start talking.
            There is no Ok Cupid here.
            No one met on Facebook.
            Right here, on a random Saturday night, someone (if not several people) exchanged phone numbers. Next week they’ll be naked somewhere.          
            I was consoling a recently single friend the other night. I sat him right down:
            “Brother, the answer is right in front of you. So many people spend time thinking about meeting people other than actually meeting people. They rarely just let it happen. They’d rather stare into their phones than talk to the person sitting, also alone, right next to them.”
            And that is one of the scarier scenes from the bartender’s perspective. Seven people, all drinking solo, staring at their phones at the exact same time, each sitting exactly one bar stool away from each other; I have to start telling stories just to change the fates. Before you know it, I’ve got everyone talking. Anything to not let the ‘phone haze’ settle in. Not on my shift.
            And the same goes for dating. Why does dating suck in NYC? I’ll tell you.
            Because dating sucks.
            Don’t date.
            It doesn’t exist.
            As some guy so appropriately pointed out: “I don’t know what dating even means anymore.”   
            I would have never had my first blowjob if it wasn’t for some eavesdropping and Red skittles. You can’t get anymore random than that.    
            Let the moment happen. Start dancing to jukebox music. Start some political talk. Buy a stranger a shot. Ask your bartender who’s single.
            Everything good in life happens completely by accident. Your dating life should be the same.                      
            After all, how’d you think your parents met and had you? 
            Till next week, keep drinking!