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!