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.
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.
Me: It’s not bad at all.
Snake: Have you ever done anything else sexual with anyone?
Snake: (nodding) Hmmm. Interesting. You think you could marry D.?
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?
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.
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.
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!
SERIOUSLY, LADY, GET OFF YOUR PHONE FOR LIKE 4 MINUTES AND MEET SOME PEOPLE.
ALL OF LIFE. A GIANT ACCIDENT.
TASTE THE RAINBOW!