Tuesday, November 26, 2013


            I assume this will be a 37 part series.
            In the time-honored tradition of the holidays, where the average person consumes more than their share of alcohol due to stress, travel, and parents (all of them combined can push you over the edge), The Bartender Knows is here in good cheer and full of bourbon. The bourbon part is a lie. I’ve been off the hard drink for 3 weeks now and may I say here before a jury of my peers that sanity is boring. You think I’m kidding, but all this ‘lightness’ and ‘clarity’ makes me yawn. I’m healthy and bored, in bed with Chinese food watching Wes Anderson movies by 930pm.
Will I start wearing sweatpants now? If I buy a yoga mat, please hunt me down and shoot me between the eyes because I’ve been abducted by foreign entities and my personality has been compromised.
Now I understand those men at the old home are about wearing slacks and a beige sweater, seemingly staring into space. Calm and comforted, alone, watching the sun fall behind the old buildings in Brooklyn, the light fading just right.    
See what happened right there? I faded off, happy with the last sentence, feeling a floating sensation beneath me, my heart happily rising in my chest. Please, dear reader, save me from the slow suicide of mediocrity.
However, there have been one or two occasions where mediocrity could have saved me from some deranged decisions when it came to ‘drinking heavily’.   
            Sitting with my aunt last weekend, she, smiling over mimosa’s and the French guitar player doing his best Django Reinhart impression with the small, brunch hour band playing, said: “Everybody loves a drinker. Everybody hates a drunk.”
            Flashback. New Orleans, 2007. The city is ravaged from Katrina, trying desperately to build itself back up from the failure of the City Corp, the Federal Government, the corrupt police, and the usual rampant chaos that fuels that city’s frail and beautiful existence.
            I’m there writing my first novel, living on my friends floor uptown above the Buddha Belly on Napoleon and Magazine. It’s in the middle of a dead heat, June in the South, and sweat is a commodity every one shares with glistening skin together. I’m on some kind of 15 dollar a day budget and have taken to stealing cold cuts from the local Sav-A-Center off Tchoupitoulas. Now, if there ever was a town invented that specializes in living and drinking cheaply it’s New Orleans. But even 15 dollars doesn’t stretch too far. My usual routine would be to print up the writing from the day before, head down to the café off Magazine (Rue de la Course, which I’ve heard closed down, a fucking shame) to edit the manuscript and write up a couple new pages, and than take the long walk back to the apartment. My lovely friends set me up a little writing desk by the window and there I would type up the new works, print them out, and take them out to the local bars to do a night edit. At the time Miss Mae’s (still there!) was the cheapest game in town (beers 2 bucks, shots too). Although habitual hanging out at Miss Mae’s increased chances of both personal and spiritual injury, no one bothered me and I edited and drank and quickly learned art of pool hustling (I’ll save that story for future blogs).
            However our friend, ‘Simon’ lived with us but worked down in the Bywater. I would grow bored with the routine and to change things up ask Simon to let me lean on the bar from time to time. The mission down through the Quarter and to the R Bar was to drink before his shift. The only problem, on my minimal budget, would mean I would be stuck in the Bywater until Simon got off his shift. Which means he’d be completely smashed by the time he got off work, and I as well. But he’d have enough money to get us back. Let me tell you that Magazine Street walk from the CBD uptown to Napoleon was a long and dark walk.  
One night trying to catch a taxi off Chartres to get back uptown, both Simon and I had lost all type of reason. We sloppily fell into the back seat of the smoke smelling cab, the back seats torn in places, and the windshield was cracked in the corners.
            The cabbie exhaled hard in his collared shirt weathered, as if he’d been sitting in an OTB overnight waiting on some bets. He tisked when we entered, putting the car in park.
            “Where are you going?” he asked harshly. Simon, cross eyed drunk, cigarette in one hand and a plastic cup of beer in his other hand gave a big smile. The driver growled as the old taxi screeched forward down Chartres.
            “What are you doing?” The cabbie asked Simon with glaring yellow eyes in the mirror. Simon senses the anger, and even completely hammered, breaks from his drunken abandon.
            “What’s your problem, man?” Simon asked quite innocently. "Napoleon and Magazine."
            The man grunted and turned quickly down Canal Street. It was 5 am and the streets were still packed with throngs of people stumbling around, draping around pay phones and standing out in front of liquor stores. The dull purple from Harrah’s neons glowed along side the red light of the sun through the streaked windshield.  
            “You cannot smoke and drink in my car. No.” Angrily, he twisted his neck to look a Simon taking a long puff from his Marlboro, beer splashing over his knuckles, looking like a neo Pagan God, smiling with glee wearing women’s sunglasses. He blew out a cloud of smoke. “This is New Orleans, man.” 
            “Get out of the car. Go. Now!” He slammed on the breaks, we both lurched forwards, hitting our heads on the damp drivers seat. “What the fuck?” I said loud. 
            “No, you go. Both of you, get out!”
            Before we knew it, Simon and I were amongst the drunken masses on Canal Street.
            He looks at me as I squinted, holding a hand over my eyes, the light now an enemy. 
            “Go to the Alibi Bar?" He asked. "It’s where the working girls hang out.”
            “Sounds good.”

            All in all this was just another night in New Orleans. At any given time, you can find yourself outside strange bars, smoking unknown substances with foreigners, ending up on odd blocks, and waking up in homes of people you do not know. Folks still smile at each other when they pass on the sidewalk. So this cabbie was either new or just another attitude problem in a city trying to heal from one of the worst natural disasters in America. There was a born, well-known hedonism in the city. We could die any moment so let's live it well. New Orleans was never just about wanton drinking and sex. Not all about it anyway. In New York, people look at people who dance as assholes. In New Orleans, if you the one not dancing, you’re the prick.
            Fast forward. Two weeks later. My novel was going well, clocking in past the 200 page count. And the time came for celebration. I again followed Simon’s path, off Royal Street drinking wonderfully, on his way to work. The night went long and Simon and I found ourselves very drunk coming out of Molly’s on Decatuer Street. We signaled for a cab, me holding up Simon. A car slid up in front of us.
            I fall into the back seat, laughing. Simon hugs lamppost in the gold light. “Get in fool,” I said to him.
            “This is madness!” He yelled with glee. Some other people across the road yelled back. Simon raised his glass. Then shrugging he let himself into the backseat. “Okay, where are you going? What’s happening? Where are we?”
            “Just down Magazine sir…” I told the driver. Simon slammed the back door closed. “We going! Yessir!”
            The car jutted forward. The damp smell returned. And then I knew. It was the same cabbie, the one that took umbrage with our own hedonism. I looked to Simon. He seemed to find a quiet place, staring out the window, a smile imprinted on his face in the moonlight.
            If we could just keep quiet, everything would be fine. We crossed Canal Street, further now than we had made it the other night into the CBD. Then Simon turned to me, a mouthful of smoke:         “Hey you got the weed, right, man?”
            I did. But all I could think about was watching our driver, who at the mention of weed, turned and noticed the little neon ember end of Simon’s cigarette. “What is going on?” He asked.
            I breathed in deep. I wanted this guy not to remember us as the wild people he shunned out of his vehicle on Canal Street. But I could see in the rear view mirror the man’s brow furrow, he knew instinctually we were ‘bad people’ even if he couldn’t place exactly why. His eyes continued to dart back and forth angrily in the rearview.
            Simon was happily oblivious, sucking on the cigarette. The cabbie yelled back: “No smoking in the car!”
            “Whoa, calm down man, okay, okay.” Simon flicked the cigarette out the window. The cabbie continued muttering under his breath: “Fucking Americans have no goddamn respect…”
            Simon not even skipping a beat, brought out a whole new cigarette and lit it, his beer sloshing around. I chugged my down hard.
            “You can’t be drinking in my fucking car. You can't be smoking…” The vehicle lurched forward hard as he slammed on the accelerator.
            “Careful brother,” I said.
            “What? What! I am fucking careful.” He turned quickly over his shoulder. “What did I say? What did I tell you?”
            “Chill out man…” Simon said, scratching his head and dropping the cigarette to the cab floor. Thank God we were nearing the intersection. “Right here, buddy.” Simon said, digging in his pockets for money.
            “Fucking bullshit. People come and they do what they want!” He fumed.
            “Simon, you got the cash, right?” I asked.
            “I’m looking for it. Shit. It’s upstairs.” Simon opened to the car door. “Wait here, man.”
            Fuck. The engine purred low as the steaming driver sat huffing in the drivers seat. I was directly behind him. I tried to ignore the man, but he was wheezing with anger. 
            “It’s cool, man, my friend will be right back and…” I started to say.
            “Fuck that! There is no respect. Americans are unbelievable.”
            “Take it easy now.”
            “I’m not going to take it easy!” He eyes glowed in the rearview mirror.
            “Man, I told you. It’s not me. We’re just drunk. This is New Orleans. Just chill out…”
            He exploded. “Bullshit. You come and you smoke in my car and drink in my car and I tell you…”
            I was fed up. “Buddy. It’s over. We’re leaving now.”
            I went to step out of the cab when he turned. “You are not going anywhere!” And he hit the petal. I was a quarter out of the car as it veered a hard left across the red lighted intersection. Somewhere out of the corner of my eye I saw a blissful Simon walking down the steps, money in his hand. But it didn’t matter anymore.
            My body had already taken flight swinging out of the backseat and rolling onto the concrete street. In these moments everything happens in slow motion. The cab peeled around the intersection. I remember falling towards the sidewalk and Simon, standing mid pace, stopping still.
            My wrists, elbows, and knees were scuffed, and little blood patches slowly formed. The cab soared off, down the opposite direction. Simon rushed over. “Fuck. You okay?”
            “I need a drink,” I said, brushing myself off. "Maybe 5."

            Sober people in their right minds find themselves to happy places. When there’s heavy drinking involved, the chances of odd things happening is assured. It just could go either way, that’s all.





Thursday, November 14, 2013


           We’ve all been there.
The break-up.
All the hopes and excitement put into the basket of dreams. Then some sick bunny with a meat cleaver and a bloodied butcher’s apron comes to tear it to pieces.
It’s not our faults, why it hurts so much when someone (or yourself) decides to ‘move on’. I’ve found it almost impossible to ‘move on’ from any of my ex’s. Maybe its my inherit loyalty that not even for my own good can I shake. Hell, if any of my ex’s walked into this café right now, I would be compelled by some odd force to charm them, to make them smile, and at least get them to share a congenial drink with me, no matter what flying ball of fire our relationships may have ended in.
It’s a lie Hollywood perpetuates to the public. True love. Shit, I’ve had handful of ‘true loves’, and I’ve been very lucky in my life. And just because it doesn’t last forever, doesn’t make it any less real or awesome. Love is not something you can keep in a glass jar without it suffocating. But the mindless popcorn machine carries on, and we pay 12 dollars a ticket to keep it alive in our hearts.       
We’ve watched a thousand movies regarding the matter, about couples who try to make the ‘big dream’ work out. There's always the dumb male, the guy who takes solace in his hockey games and beer, and a sly woman, always 3 steps ahead of the goof she fell for, patiently standing with her hands on her hips and wry smile. There’s some schlocky schism that occurs during the play, he messes up, spends too much time with his buddies and doesn’t ‘listen’. But learns eventually that life is more than just a series of wins for his home team.  
But maybe it’s the lady and she’s the one with the problems. She wakes up one Sunday morning, peeks out through the condo they mutually spilt in downtown Chicago (can you already see Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn playing these characters?) and there’s her beau, frumpy in a sports jersey, munching on some potato chips and raising his hands in the air when his team scores. She has the realization: “I deserve more than this.” Then the rest of the film is about her moving on, and in the end, after a myriad of less than fruitful dating partners, realizes her original man knows her just so and everything ends up roses.
Both of these scenarios are obviously ‘love porn’ (i.e. completely unrealistic in practice). The schlub guy in the first run will never stop drinking beer and loving hockey, and he shouldn’t have to, and maybe he should tell his nagging girlfriend to get some hobby for herself other than giving him shit.
And the woman in the second scenario, looking at the guy she knows ‘she’s deserves more’, does just that—goes out and gets another more stand up dude, better looking with a little more cash. Simple as that. Natural selection. Survival of the prettiest.
This is the reality. Break-ups never end. It doesn’t. Just like a drug addict, you will always want the drug, you simply have to remove it from your being and space. But also like drug addicts, you can’t tell them anything, and they are going to do what ever they are going to do. So if you folks are going to continue to fall in love/break up/listen to Eliot Smith records alone high on Percocet, The Bartender is here (we are always here for you, injured drinker) to give a couple of tips on how to assuage the bleeding heart.


Seriously, stop. Do not pick up the phone to fight them. Don’t. Stop with the texts, stop with the Facebook, stop with the unbearable urge to call them in the middle of the night and vent/scream/insult/attack/slander/cry/profess love/beg to come back. No. No. No. No.
This is why the days before cell phones were lovely. You could put the phone off the hook, unplug it, and that would be that. Disconnection. Now breaks up are harder to dissect that pulling a thousand shards of glass from the skin of a car crash victim.
I know you want to call them. I know you want to yell and get it all out once and for all. But like I said, there is no end. The black hole goes on forever. Aim for Venus, folks. It’s a much prettier place.


Shit. It’s hard enough to stay off alcohol/drugs in day to day affairs, let alone after a ravaged break up. But seriously guys, taking that extra Xanex, pounding four shots of whiskey after chugging 10 Budweiser’s is not going to be a good look at the bars. Okay, do all of that at home, sure, and save your self some dignity. Trust me, I’ve been there. There once was blonde named after a wonderfully haunted little town in Georgia I was wrapped up around like a elastic band. And because of a couple horrid situations, I then proceeded to loose my shit—publicly. Yep. Weeping at bars. Throwing pint glasses. Arguing with friends. All the nasty things that come along a broken heart. Lick your wounds in your bedroom. Scream in the shower. Break glasses in your kitchen. But once you cross the barrier into public life, you are now subjecting everyone to your madness. And then you will start seeing people back away slowly from you as if they smell a strange odor.     

The old, wise adage I wish I invented:
“Nothing makes you forget one person like lying naked in the arms of another.”
After such self-esteem murder, a break up can leave you feeling as attractive as the dog shit under the heel of a hipster on Bedford Avenue. It’s tough, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s completely, unbelievably, horrifically shattering to the ego for anybody. Especially if there was some cuckolding involved. Christ. It’s enough to make someone slit their wrists with barbed wire and watch the pools of blood shine off the dark lamppost light in the gutter.
But if you can muster the strength, please, above all else, sleep with someone. This will help in three ways:
a) makes you feel that at least someone wants you still.
b) it’s hard to think about someone else when someone is going down on you.
c) at least, when you lie there feeling guilty/bad/used, its better than throwing glasses in your kitchen, screaming in the shower and taking drugs and alcohol in public, making a nasty example of your own theater of pain for all the world to see. You are not Christ. Only one person is allowed on the cross.

Just know, dear reader, that I am with you. I know because I been there. You are not the first person to have been lied to by Hollywood and you shall not be the last. This should bring you some comfort. Just start a new profile on OK Cupid. Name it BROKENHEARTBROOKLYN. Somebody will come to your aid. Or just come with you.
Either one will work.   

Till next time!





Monday, November 4, 2013


            This is something I may know a thing or two about.
            It immediately jolts a memory from when I was younger of the strange mailman/Tasmanian Devil that delivered his route speeding in a converted jeep with a US Mail Service sticker slapped on the side. The man himself:
            Who knows if that was his actual name, but you knew Cha-Chee was en route from the black smoke that would plume out from behind his makeshift jeep. The kids loved him. How could you not?
            Wild grin, streaming curls of his black hair spouted out from under his worn blue mailman cap. His brown skin, tanned by the sun and his Panamanian DNA, he was a force. A smiling, wide toothed force. Always those cop glasses gleamed behind the windshield. He’d pull the truck to a stop and yell out: “Stay outta trouble keedz!!!”
            By far, the greatest mail man to have ever lived. Our friends knew when he was near, and we’d run up just to collect the mail from this man. He was always blaring rock and roll music out of the rolled down window, and some other kind of smoke could be smelled from the interior of his unruly mail truck.
One day when my best friend and I were playing out and about in the docile suburban track we grew up in, we saw Cha-Chee sitting in his jeep from down the road. No music. Silence. An eerie and frightening silence - all except for the subtle purr of the engine in neutral.
            My friend and I snuck up to the mail jeep. We were thrown off, a little scared. None of us had seen the jeep not racing around corners, not with Cha-Chee’s hair wildly flowing out his window less mail carrier.
            We came to the corner. Cha-Chee was there all right. But gone was the hyper excitement that usually came in his presence. There he was, slumped in the drivers seat, hat still lodge over his skull, hair less wildly curled, down his shoulders, his mouth slightly open. In his hands, the half filled bottle swirling with the brown liquid from the shake of the engine.  
We looked at each other with disbelief. Cha-Chee! What happened? We snuck away with devious smiles.
I flashed back to several moments; adults laughing, holding bottles in their hands high. Fourth Of July fireworks exploded behind them in the black sky of Cranston, Rhode Island.
There were the strange, dirt covered men behind the super market winking at me as my mother rushed me into her car. White teeth smiled at me through the dust smeared face.
“Who were they?” I asked, trying to get a good look through the back windshield. My mother, not taking her eyes of the street, said: “Those are drunks, Matthew.” But I immediately was intrigued. Who were these people? They were obviously oafish, to be sure, but the way they smiled. I was a convert. There was some strange freedom in the drinker.
Flash forward, Williamsburg, 2013.
“You’re a motherfucker.”
That’s what I heard from the kid, built like Kate Moss, not a God’s year over 21, lanky and cocky, eyes angry, ready to fight. The time, 3:30 a.m. He was definitely drinking heavily. The day, Saturday Night, probably the worst night in the history of bar shifts. The money is good, but it’s blood money mainly. You lose a part of yourself every shift.
I smile. This guy has no idea what is about to happen to him. My bouncer, a man who certainly should be immortalized in literature, is already behind him. This does not stop the skinny kids vitriol.
I have to laugh. The kid takes it even worse. The whole bar is walking out, but the young man decides to continue with his aggressive defense.     
“You’re a fucking pussy!’
“You are what eat,” I tell him.
“Fuck you!”
I am a world of indifference. Then my bouncer lays his hands on dude’s shoulders, whispering in his ear, “Time to go.”
The kid is strong. He tries to be bad-ass against my bouncer. Half of me is annoyed, I’ve seen wasted people before - but there’s a shaky empathy to those who can’t even walk. But the other half of me is almost impressed. This kid being a young drunk, standing up against a supposed enemy (the bartender. Always a wrong move), shit, it’s so cute. His sad, doomed arrogance made my heart quiver.
He steams at the bouncer, least to say a large man from Bed-Stuy, with aggression. My third feeling now is pity.
Everything thing he probably learned in his life about masculinity is now challenged. The look on his face is like an icicle melting on fast forward. He looks back at me once the bouncer’s hands are placed on his shoulders, almost with an urge for help. But I don’t have any. It’s almost four in the morning and the last thing you said to me is that I’m an asshole. No, wait, pussy. No, wait, who gives a fuck. The kid was removed through the crowd fast like some devil’s whip had him around the waist. He was gone in seconds. It’s true. Some of these drunks can get buck in all the wrong ways. But like my favorite prostitute, eh-hem, ‘call girl’, Alabama from the film True Romance once said:
            “Sometimes it goes the other way too.”

Stay tuned for the next installment of DRINKING HEAVILY (Part 2).