good morning ~
(click the link / Albany underpass to listen)
today's track is a super gentle bloomer with a chewy nougat of fuzzy drone at its center
i've got an extremely rad show tonight - - I'll be opening for the ambient/experimental/techno producer Debit at Basilica Hudson, doing an extra zoney set - - a special one, to be sure, tickets and info:
I'll also be playing at No Fun in Troy next Friday ~ I'll remind you again next week. it's nice to play :)
I like bartending - I just finished an all-night solo shift and I've got a smile on my face and a wad of singles popping out of the breast pocket of my shirt. I like being the last one in the building, the exertion of closing, how the most difficult part of the job is the very last thing you do. I like dragging a mop heavy with dirty water across a checkerboard floor, watching the footprints disappear. I like running a pine-scented rag over the smooth veneer of the bar and then unplugging the christmas lights, turning off the OPEN sign. I like putting on gentle music after I yell last call. I like turning all the lights on to clean and turning all the lights off to leave. I like stacking up the chairs and the satisfying clang of the big bag of empties after a busy night. I like the satisfaction of the bolt going into the lock, such a satisfying machine, and now I am done. I like hearing all the people smoking cigarettes out front decide where they ought to go next while I count my tips.
I like serving people. I like making eye contact and I like remembering people's names, but I also like coming up with little names for people or calling them by their drink order. I like it when someone wants something from me, they're sure of it, and then I am able to provide it. How clean, how simple. They hand me the right amount of money and I hand them back the right amount of change and then they leave the right amount of tip on the bar. That's when it's best. I like it when the bar is busy and I become simply a drink-providing robot - it really is deeply meditative, responding to requests and inputs as speedily as possible. I like for those two hours or so how the most pressing problems in my life are who got to the bar first, wiping down the counter, whether or not we have that particular beer. There's no room to think about anything else - it's blank and serene underneath all the running around, a rag tucked into my belt loop.
But I also like it when the bar is slow. I like it when people spill their guts, or when they offer to grab me a coffee from across the street. I especially like it when after making pedestrian small talk for half an hour I learn something completely wild and unpredictable about the only other person in the place. Oh, so you're a psychic? And you feel the presence of ghosts everyday? That's simply remarkable, please tell me more. Oh, your father was convicted of murder? And this is your first date, you two? How wonderful. And I like it when people are bored - I like watching someone play pool by themselves or stare out the window. I like putting on terrible, royalty-free action movies on the bar TVs and then discussing the plot points with the three dudes there at 4:30pm (check it out, he's got a speedboat!). I like spacing out, awaiting the activation of a customer. I like needlessly wiping things or carrying flats of beer to and fro.
There is a lot I don't like about bartending, too. I've had horrible conversations with tedious or mean or poison people. I have been lectured about crypto. I have deeply mixed feelings about getting people drunk, and I don't like the energy in the room when people get too wasted, that edginess. The volatility can be scary. After midnight it can really feel sometimes like anything could happen. It's tough sometimes to stand for ten hours, my heels sing. Sometimes I don't like walking home late with my pocket full of tips.
But then there is this thing of never quite knowing what the evening will bring. No two shifts are ever alike, truly. There's always something surprising, like deeply so. Tonight there was a young woman on rollerblades twirling on the dance floor. Later, someone came up to the bar holding a bouquet of blue oyster mushrooms, like something her prom date had given her. Then, in the smaller hours, a buddy of mine who usually beams a smile and lights up a room appeared to be racked with sobs at one end of the bar, his girlfriend patting his back. And you never know how much money you're going to make - sometimes I'm lucky to take home fifty bucks cash, other times I can pay my month's rent. It activates a deeply reptile part of my brain, slot machine mode, I start getting superstitious about it - if I count my tips too early in the shift, I'll jinx it. Magical thinking, flirting a little bit with everyone who buys a beer.
I hardly ever go to bars myself and despite access to unlimited amounts of comped or very cheap drinks I still hardly ever drink. At gigs I'm constantly handing off one of my drink tickets or asking the people working if they happen to have decaf coffee available. I'm not sure I fully understand what the people on the other side of the taps want or need from me, exactly. One of the worst people I know once told me that, as a bartender, what he was really trying to do was to curate a vibe. At the time, I wanted to sock him one good, what an asshole, but then I find myself setting the lights just so, truly believing that friendly service can improve my town's little community, if ever so slightly. Not sure about all that, but I do know that the soggy singles I'll fold into my wallet tomorrow are sweeter and steadier than any dollar I ever earned sitting at a computer professionally - hold hard the mop handle.
But what about you? Do you like what you're doing? Are you wiping the late-night sweat from your brow?