We are all put on this Earth to do something. Right?
I remember being a very young man (long before bartending), happy, playing make believe with swords and train sets (never forget the train sets). All things were okay (except when I got in trouble with my Mother). Until that Fateful day.
The day in question?
It was the day I realized how big the world was. Not just how big the world was, but how huge existence actually is. It hit me like later acid trips, hard, confusing, and totally overwhelming.
It was strange. I just remember laying there in my bed and feeling the exact moment I understood that there was a much larger universe outside of myself (some adults haven’t even learned this important fact). It was scary and dark, feeling so small, knowing how miniscule I was in this grand universe.
I wasn’t big. All of my issues and problems (as a precocious 10 year old) meant nothing. I started to cry. The immenseness was simply too big for my small mind to comprehend (nothing has really changed).
I cried out for my Mother: “Mamma!”
The dutiful mother she was, rushed in, me waking her from slumber with my cries.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” she asked.
I tried my best, kid-wise, to explain my horrifying revelation. I said, through tears, how big life was, and how scary it made me, and how I had no idea how to live through it all.
My mother, in her infinite wisdom, explained:
“It’s true, sweets, the world is much bigger than you and I. And there is trouble everywhere. But it’s up to you to pick something you love to do. Life is like a battle—like raising up those plastic swords you play with in the yard. You must know what your weapon will be. Pick one weapon and fight with all of your heart. If everyone did that, this world would be a better one. You just have to find your battle and fight it with all of your might."
Fast forward. Now I’m a bartender. Suddenly, I realize my life is totally meaningless. I could have been a lawyer. I could have been a doctor. I could have been a cop, a congressman, a private detective, a priest, anything, but there I was, listening to some kid talk about how New York isn’t shit and how life is ‘easy, and so boring sometimes...'
Then they ask me for a Gin and Soda and Tonic. Like at the same time.
“Is it hard to bartend?” The girl asks me facetiously. "What other kind of drinks can you make?"
I try to hold back the vomit.
I put my elbows on the bar and lean forward, almost in a whisper, almost in a grimace.
“I can make anything your Grandfather would drink, sweetheart.”
The whole bar goes dark around me. I can’t see straight. I think back to what my Mother told me about swords and what not. Then I’m at another bar, years later, sitting with a bunch of miscreant writers. More my kind of people. We want to write each other short stories.
“This will be fun. It’ll be like a boxing ring. But for writers,” one of them says.
“Exactly…” I say.
Another downs a shot, slamming the glass down on the bar. “So we write a short story a month,” his eyes water with whiskey drunk.
“Yes. But we do more. We write one a week…” I say.
“What?” They both simultaneously say.
I lean back, myself a little tipsy. “One a week. And we do it anonymously.”
“Anonymously,” the scraggily haired one says.
“Like we don’t put our names on it?” the short-haired one with whiskey eyes says.
“That’s right,” I say, “We write one a week, and we’ll put them right on the bar every…” I think to myself to try remember what fucking day it is (note: when you bartend 6 days a week, you forget what day it even is. Add whiskey, beer, serving thousands of people, listening to everyone’s problems, and trying to remain standing is a concoction not for the weak and weary).
I continue: “Every Sunday. That’s it. We write short story each week, anonymously, print them up, and place it right fucking here,” I slam my hand down on the end of the bar, “for all the world to read.”
All of us, giddy with writer excitement, run off totally hammered, to write short stories. Now I know. This was a good idea.
So the little anonymous experiment began. And before I knew it, more writers wanted to jump on the bandwagon.
“Can I write stories for this anonymous thing?” a random writer asked, walking into the bar on a Sunday.
I looked over at my cronies.
“Why not? It’s open to everyone,” I said.
Then something began. Each Sunday, we would print out more and more short stories, always placing them at the end of the bar. The end of the bar I first slammed my shot down and ran with this odd idea.
Something weird began. More and more people started to write short stories. Now our little group realized we had started something strange. We needed rules.
“Okay, rule number one. Never Stop Writing. Rule number two: Never Stop Reading,” I said.
“What else? Can we write whatever we want?” One of our cronies asked.
“Yes,” I said. “But it has to be a story. I don’t care what it is. It just has to be a story.”
“Is there rules on topics? Genres? Lengths?” Someone else asked.
“No,” I said. “The only thing is: We Don’t Stop Writing. No matter what.”
We all nodded. More people came into the bar, asking what the hell the stack of anonymous short stories were sitting in a pile at the edge of the bar.
“It’s Literate Sunday,” I said. “It’s an anonymous book club.”
“Can we read them?” A customer asked.
“That’s what they are there for,” I said. Then I had a vision. I blurted it out.
“Oh, and you can write what you think of the story on the back,” I had no idea where this idea came from.
The customers smiled, grabbing a short story. “Oh, that’s cool. It’s like a writer workshop. But at a bar.”
“That’s right,” I said.
“And no one does anything…there’s no readings or anything, right?”
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than a writer reading their own work out loud,” I said.
Nervous giggle. They grabbed a story. Each week, the submissions grew and grew. Literate Sunday was becoming legitimate.
People wanted to know. Why anonymous?
“We realize that most people judge stories by who’s famous, who’s their friends, what some rich person says. Then there’s all the judgments. Who’s a man? Who’s a women? Who’s gay? Who’s from Africa? Here at Literate Sunday, we realized: Who gives a shit? The STORY has to be good or perish!!!”
Cue random hand clapping from across the room.
More and more submissions were sent via email to our new shiny website. More and more people became members. Our numbers topped 100. Then 500.
And once The New York Times wrote a piece about us, it exploded. Readers and writers from all over the world joined this weird thing that started in a dark bar by a bunch of drunk people.
The New York Times, you ask? Bartender Matthew, are you lying to us?
Nope. Read all about it HERE, YES, THE NEW YORK TIMES, PEOPLE.
So in honor of The Bartender Knows coming to an end, let me ask you guys a couple questions?
Do you like reading?
Do you like writing?
Do you want to read submissions from all around the world?
Have you ever wanted to write a short story?
Have you ever wanted to write a short story?
Then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
That’s all you have to do. You’ll get an anonymous short story once a week, every Sunday. We don’t know who these writers are. We don’t care. The stories could be written by me. The stories could be written by you. It doesn't matter.
There’s only 2 rules.
Never Stop Writing.
Never Stop Reading.
Do it, people. Just email:
Time to pick up a sword.
Be a part of us. Whoever we are.
Until next time.
Only 4 more blogs left. It’s been a great ride. Thanks for reading.