Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 365 plus 1 - A Review and Lessons Learned

So it's all done. Rather, I'm all done.

Three hundred and sixty five days spent at one bar.

Every liquor bottle on the glass shelves sampled.

Every day at least one drink purchased. Usually a couple beers. I started with Blue Moon, but switched early on to Pabst Blue Ribbon. That works out to seven kegs of beer consumed. I'm proud of that.

Every day I tipped the bartender. Unless they waved me off.

Every day I tried to meet someone new.

Every day I tried to talk with someone I know besides the bartender.

Almost every day I wrote about my experiences. At first it was through this blog. Later I used Facebook to give "instant" updates, often texting the updates on my phone while hammered on beer and whiskey.

What have I learned from this experience? I've learned that San Jose and the Bay Area are filled with good, generous, beautiful people. I've learned what kinds of alcohol I do and don't like. I've learned that a bar isn't a place to try and disappear in.

People go to bars to talk; to find their friends and take a load off; to commiserate about shared experiences and common beliefs; to happen upon likeminded people and share the camaraderie that follows so naturally.

I've learned that bartenders, servers, chefs and cooks go to bars after they are done working at the bar or restaurant that employs them. These are the best people to know at any bar, in my experience.

I've learned I'm naturally shy, get nervous easy and worry too much. I'm still working on that. Not even a year at Jack's could burn these traits out of me.

I've learned there are beautiful, magical women to be found at Jack's. They have brilliant eyes, beaming smiles and a willingness to live life. They intimidate me by their sheer presence and prefer people be honest and upfront (always).

The best of them have a generous sense of humor and laugh easy (lady bartenders, I'm looking at you). If you are a man and try to surround yourself with such women, you can't not be happy (with apologies to Mr. Schultz, aka 8th grade English Teacher, for the double negative).

But enough of the dreamy stuff. Some other things I've learned that are worth sharing:

*It's just bar talk. It does not matter what someone (anyone; friends, acquaintances, lovers) says to you in a bar, whether a claim of fact, an opinion, a promise of some kind, a statement directed at you or the world in general. It's. Just. Bar. Talk. When you leave, it stays in the bar. There is more than one kind of freedom in this, if you think about it.

*Look around when you walk in the bar; don't just dash in and sit down. Figure out who the drunk people are—if any—and don't sit next to them, even if you know them. Keep your eyes open as time goes by and the drinks are consumed.

*Tip your bartender. Listen to your bartender. Give your bartender the leeway to make mistakes and even more leeway to make things right. Bartenders are not passive aggressive people. If they forget your drink on a busy night, you are not being singled out for punishment. Politely remind them you're still waiting and let them make it right. A bartender who has reason to believe from experience that you are a good, patient customer will do more for you than you might realize. Fast, instant service is just the tip of this very generous iceberg.

*If the bartender charges you less than regular price for a drink, include the difference in your tip.

*When you greet someone you know at the bar, look them in the eye and smile. Do not scan the bar or pay attention to others while you shake their hand or hug them. The bar is a place to socialize, but individual one on one manners still apply.

*Accept kindness. If someone buys you a drink, don't keep a mental tally to be paid back later. People who are genuinely kind to others garner happiness and a positive feeling from the act of being kind. Let them have that.

*Realize that everyone at the bar (even the ones you don't know) has the potential to make your day. The magic of the bar is this: someone could have just had the shittiest, most rotten day of their lives, but when they walk in the bar, sit down next to you and do any number of things as you talk to each other (mention a cool author you've never read before; instantly know the name of a song or movie or actor you can't for the life of you remember; relate a life experience in a way that draws you in to the story and expands your knowledge of the world and the unique person telling it), they've added value to your experience at the bar and made your day better.

*Learn a little bit about everyone at the bar. Talk and listen. Don't worry and fidget. Get in there and mix it up. Don't take offense if someone doesn't talk back.

*It's not always worth it to talk to everyone at the bar. This I know from spittle-from-your-drunk ass mouth-landing-in-my-eye experience.

*It does not matter if a man desires a woman. If she isn't interested, he will get nowhere with her at the bar.

*If a man is interested in a woman and she shows interest, he'd better be ready to respond. This includes being able to dance. This includes being able to ask open ended questions. This includes listening. Failure in this regard is the stuff regrets are made of.

*Never assume a woman who talks to you is hitting on you. Ever.

*Sometimes people who are angry and want to fight just need a good hug. But beware: if they're drunk they'll stay emotional and keep coming back for more hugs and handshakes. Sometimes they will hug-carry you to their friends, as though you're in a two-legged race together and lost your leg strap so drunk-guy is kindly carrying you the rest of the way. Another from-experience piece of advice there.

*Rely on the door people and the bartenders to take care of troublesome customers. Don't take matters into your own hands (even when you really, really want to crush some drunk motherfucker for putting his hand halfway up a random woman's ass as she walks by).

*Smile. Always and often. Breathe and let the alcohol flow through you. People are loosening up through their drinks just like you are. This is when the good conversations start.

*Never linger after closing time unless invited to. Otherwise you're in the way of the bar staff who want to clean up and go the hell home.

*Being in the bar is a privilege, not a right. It does not matter how much you spend, how many people you bring with you to the bar or how often you patronize the establishment. It's still someone else's business. Yes you are a customer, but that doesn't mean you have cart blanche to do as you will. Your continued presence will bring rewards, just don't expect it or demand it.

*I hereby declare I have gotten myself completely hammered smiley faced drunk at least once a week this year. 52 hangovers have taught me the following: force yourself to drink lots of water (one of the mid-size sport top bottles: mine are about 23 ounces and work great) before you go to bed. Then get as much sleep as possible because sleep kills hangovers better than any other remedy, in my not so humble opinion. If you're hungover during the week and have to get up early for work, drink one cup of coffee and a cup of orange juice ASAP in the morning. Then drink another 23 ounces of water before you go out the door (hell, drink it before you get in the shower while the water is warming up). Eat good (not greasy) food as soon as you can. Keep drinking water and only take aspirin if the headache refuses to go away. (NOT acetaminophen! Are you trying to burn a hole in your stomach and shock your still-drunk liver into quitting on you?)

*You can find true love anywhere. This includes Jack's Bar & Lounge. Just remember, true love takes work; i.e. several dates, enthusiasm and patience. True love is not getting drunk and bedding someone the same night you met them at the bar.

These are the main lessons I've learned. There are more lessons, I'm sure, but there's no need for that much detail. You can handle the rest on your own, Dear Reader, just as I'm sure your own bar lessons will differ from mine.

Thank you to everyone at Jack's, from the bartenders to the newest of the new people I met New Year's night, for teaching me some of these lessons and giving me the leeway to learn the rest on my own. I love you all.

See you in the future at Jack's!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 360 - Full Circle and All That

A note to Miss Stephanie:

Our last conversation didn't go as I'd meant it, because I didn't think it out well enough beforehand. That and I was nervous.

I always get nervous around women...but this is something you already know. ;)

What I should have said was this: back towards the beginning of my year at Jack's, you helped me realize that I didn't have the skill to talk to a woman one on one at the bar. (Remember that time we were alone at a table and I walked away because I was too afraid and just didn't know what to ask you when you said "ask me anything"?)

I resolved to try harder after that. A few months later I met a woman at the bar and asked her out on a "non date". That meeting led to another non-date, then another. Fast forward a few more months and now we're happily together and I want to marry her.

Thank you for teaching me that a man should be ready when a woman gives him her complete attention. Thank you also for teaching me that beauty is something rendered from who people are; it's a composite of their lives, their passions and their feelings. Beauty has very little to do with what people look like.

Discovering beauty in others comes from talking to them. You taught me this, with your descriptions about you and your life. Listening to your stories was like hearing a book being read aloud. Every word you spoke made you more complete and more real. I found that to be both amazing and hugely intimidating.

Thank you for that lesson.

It was good to see you at the bar tonight. You'll always hold a special place in my heart, Miss Stephanie. Please take care and please see to your happiness as much as possible. You are a beautiful woman and deserve all the happiness in the world.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 326 - Muppets Behind the Bar!

Today’s one of those days at work where I’m imagining which Muppet Characters would best fit the bartenders at Jack’s.

When Aimee came to mind, my first thought was Oscar the Grouch.

Then I remembered he’s not a Muppet. He’s also not a she. Hrm…

It all started with my idle mind conjuring up an image of the Muppets taking over Jack’s. It was just Kermit at first, and then I imagined myself as Jim Henson, operating Kermit from below.

As soon as the bar owner shows up, Kermit freaks and then disappears under the bar. An instant later he pops back up, but in disguise as Tanisha, complete with bee hive hairdo and big (yarn) boobs.

Then the owner says, “You aren’t supposed to be here,” to Kermit before saying hello to a customer, so Kermit flies underneath the bar again and reappears an instant later dressed as Aimee. He’s having problems with his disguise though; all of his press on tattoos (little kid ones) are peeling off.

Absent Kermit trying to be everyone, which other Muppets would match up to each bartender best? Tanisha as Miss Piggy? Charlie as Fozzie Bear?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 314 – Baby Beers

After-work bar visits are more fun when you’re in the bar, anticipating the moment when your girlfriend walks through the front door, her eyes scanning the crowd for you.

You imagine the smile on her face as your eyes find her brilliant brown peepers. You wonder what she’ll be wearing: warm sweater or winter coat with scarf? You can imagine the texture of both under your hands because you’ve held her close in both outfits before. Will she be wearing perfume? How will her hair smell? Or will you not be able to tell at first because she’ll be wearing the gray beanie that she looks so pretty in? The one you gave her the other morning when her hair was wet from the shower and she didn’t have time to dry it because you’d spent a good chunk of the morning shower time doing something else in bed?

You know you’ll feel the cold on her clothes and especially on her hands and you’ll be glad she’s in the bar where the temperature is set as much by heat emanating from the bodies of bar patrons as any warmth flowing out of the overhead vents from some unseen heating unit.

Regardless you’ll hold her close and make sure her cold hands find their way into your warm ones before she so much as touches a cold beer glass.

The best part is when she walks through the front door and all your questions are laid to rest.

Thanks go out to:

Thunder “Errol Flynn” P. for the Amaretto whiskey shot and the cherry vodka shot. You always go out of your way to treat everyone great at the bar, including those of us who may or may not have tried to insert large pieces of construction grade lumber into your rectum when you were passed out.

Tanisha for the baby beers. You kept me and Priscilla going while we waited for Christian to finish up so the three of us could head out and learn the fine art of Emma-sitting at his place.

Aimee B. for being an awesome bartender. I hope your piggy banks all fill up fast and you get to travel to awesome places.

See you Thursday at Jack’s!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

So last night at the bar...

...Rod, the former Marine Captain, had to walk himself in the rain to Der Wienerschnitzel to purchase coffee so Travis (the bartender) could make Rod an Irish coffee.

Rod announced that Der's coffee is pretty good. Travis even served up the drink in some sort of fluted glass with a handle that I've never seen before at Jack's, but that looked like it'd be right at home in some barista's arsenal of glassware to serve his or her customers with.

What the hell else do they have hiding behind the bar that I don't know about?

I think I need to get really drunk there and get myself locked in overnight. Then the exploring will commence.

And when I'm done, I can make a nice bed out of spent cardboard boxes (the ones left over after the restocking is done) to sleep on, like Charlie did once. I know this is possible because I saw the picture. It. Was. Awesome.

See you at Wednesday at Jack's!

[P.S.: Hi blog! I missed you!]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 277 (88 days left) - Why Do Big Women Get Dissed?

OK, let me preface this post by saying the men of the bar are pretty much good people. They're polite, well meaning and basically don't go out of their way to make other people uncomfortable.

For all that, if you get a few of us together you sometimes hear jokes or comments about big women who come into the bar. If one of our number hits on a big woman, the guys will laugh at and tease the guy doing the flirting (especially if he's in his cups and basically ambles right up to her and sits down after the woman so much as looks in his direction).

Let me state here and now I've done a bit of laughing at a friend's expense under just such a scenario.

More to the point: there are some ideas (memes) about big women I've heard repeated by several different men at the bar, whether the men are sober or good and buzzed.

The two most common memes are 1) that big women don't get as much sex as other women, and 2) big women are desperate for sex and relationships so they'll chase drunk guys (after downing several drinks themselves) just so they can get a guy and bring him home.

My response to these memes: bullshit.

First of all, what the fuck counts as a "big woman"? Do you go by height? Hips? Ass? General body shape? Women come in all different shapes and sizes...I've seen women get pointed out and laughed at who weren't truly overwieght, but just because they had large hips or a short, square-ish frame...why does that make them something to joke about?

By that measure, half the roller girls I've seen should be considered undesirable (wide hips and muscled thighs owing to skating). Yet in my opinion these are some of the most amazingly sexy women ever to grace Jack's Bar with their presence.

And as for the women that are truly overweight, so what? There are fat men...why aren't they the subject of jokes or under-the-breath ridicule from the ladies? Sure women will blow off men they find to be unattractive, but a confident "fat" guy can do pretty well with women because women tend to find confidence attractive (this is something I've heard repeatedly from several women at the bar over the past nine months; I've also seen it in action at the bar, time and again). Why don't confident big women get the same respect (hellz, even just half a chance) from men?

In my experience, big women are just as good in bed as any other woman. I'm no (s)expert, but this is one thing I'll hang my hat on: big women get just as wet, work just as hard at foreplay, come just as hard (and just as frequently) and want it just as bad as thin women.

From watching people at the bar over the last nine months it's my opinion that a "thin" woman who's not had sex in weeks or months is no less or more likely than a "big" woman to have some drinks, loosen herself up and find a partner. (Men, it should be noted, do the same thing. And they're far more obnoxious about it when they're drunk then women are.)

Please don't take this as me stating all women are loose. What I'm saying is that the population of women who will engage in this sort of behavior is comprised of women of all shapes and sizes.

You can't just pin it on "big" girls and some bullshit notion of desperation.

It frustrates me that pointless societal notions of what's considered pretty, attractive, sexy and desirable fall under such base, thoughtless criteria as body type and size.

Granted men are free to live their own lives, so they're going to have their own preferences about what kind of woman they're attracted to.

All I'm saying is that I wish for fuck's sake that men would pull their collective heads out of their asses and really stop to think and consider a big woman instead of automatically disregarding her because of her size. Big women are smart, sexy, have a life history worth knowing and are possessed of desires every bit as powerful as any other woman.

It's not a "big" woman's fault if a man is chicken shit* and not up to the challenge of approaching her, flirting with her, bedding her and pleasing her.

See you tomorrow at Jack's!

*You might be offended by this line (for which I apologize). If so, your mental response to my statement might be, “I’m not chicken shit, I just don’t like big girls.”
This all may be true, but have you stopped to really think about why you feel this way? I dare you to honestly assess your thought process. If you do, I'll wager you come to realize your reasoning is based on assumptions rooted in biases that you picked up when you were twelve years old. Ever since then you’ve been looking for half-truths to confirm the bias true, not looking for reasons to debunk it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 272 (93 Days Left) - Jeff Had a Stroke

Today I learned that one of the former bartenders at Jack's—Jeff—had a stroke.

My thoughts and prayers and those of your friends go out to you Jeff. I love you very much buddy and wish you the speediest and most comfortable of recoveries.

If any of you who read this blog from time to time get to see Jeff in the hospital, please do your best to remain as absolutely positive as you can when you see him.

Having read My Stroke of Insight recently, I can tell you that one of that book author's main points is that people who have strokes can recover from a stroke, but the recovery is contingent upon the victim being surrounded by extremely positive people who always encourage, but never lose patience and never give up.

If you see Jeff, please keep these ideas in mind. If the Doctor and Nurses seem to forget these concepts, remind them of these facts in a civil manner. Also, it wouldn't hurt to draw the blinds as bright light can exacerbate the pain in the beginning of recovery.

One of my favorite memories of Jeff is how he always stood up to people. He wasn't rude, just businesslike and to the point. If someone was rude to him or said something inappropriate (like bluntly implying or outright calling him a racist) he'd simply invite that person in close, lean over the bar and tell them to their face that A) he's not a racist and B) not to call him that again, especially when he's working and serving people at the bar.

It was like he knew where he stood at all times in the bar, and so was unshakable from that foundation. This is something I've always admired about him and always will.