Archives for April 2011

Eleven Tips To Keep Your Bartender From Killing You

I am lucky enough to have a regular job-type job these days, but I am still working a couple of shifts a week at a very busy bar in Manhattan. People often ask me what’s the worst thing about bartending. Is it the late hours? The lack of benefits? The noise level? The total lack of upward mobility? It is none of those things. Invariably, the worst thing about bartending is dealing with bad customers, and bad customers seem to be a growing segment of the bar patron population. Some bartenders let bad customers get under their skin, and will tell and retell stories of their encounters with said customers; I have learned not to do that. A bartender who dwells on a customer being rude is like a zookeeper dwelling on the monkeys flinging their droppings. If you choose to work with monkeys, you can’t really get upset about the things monkeys do; it’s the same way with bar customers, who in most cases are like children and animals.

In any case, bad customers can be super annoying, and put us (bartenders) in a mood not unlike that of a preschool teacher at the end of a crazy Friday: harried, tired, ready to snap. So when we get a customer who’s considerate and nice and patient, that customer sticks out, and is more likely than not to get a free drink or two before our time together is over.

So here are a few tips on how to be one of those bar customers. I gave myself five minutes to think of everything that gets on my nerves when the bar is stacked up four customers deep and I am operating at top speed, so that when you find yourself on the other end of that situation, you make a friend rather than an enemy. These are in no particular order, and don’t really apply to high-end specialty-cocktail kind of places (like where the bartender has a tie tucked between the buttons of his freshly-pressed shirt) or local establishments where voices stay at normal conversation levels and the bartender spends as much time hanging out as he does making drinks. This is for patrons of high-volume bars, clubs and meet markets.
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I Almost Ruined The Best Wedding Ever

Did I ever tell you about the time I nearly burned down a cabaña in Mexico?

In the summer of 2006, my wife Jen and I joined about 80 other people to celebrate the wedding of our good friends Chris and Sara in Tulum, which is about 60 miles south of Cancun. The assembled throng completely took over one of the beachside resorts, which consisted of a series of standalone cabañas, all overlooking the Caribbean. Jen and I were excited to return to Tulum; we had spent three weeks in the general vicinity for our belated honeymoon in the summer of 2001, and when we heard that Chris and Sara’s wedding would be happening there, it was like a wish had been granted — which it kind of had, because while there the first time we’d fantasized about taking one of these places over with our friends, and now it was happening. 

I also spotted a personal opportunity, which was to shoot a music video for “The Legend of Enrico Corazon,” a traditional Mexican folk song I had written a few years before, largely inspired by that first honeymoon trip. It’s a humorous song about “a legendary Latin lover” that had been a hit, insofar as a song whose biggest-ever live audience was probably 50 people, can be a hit. Which is to say, my friends liked it.

There were a few factors that made me feel I had to go forward with the idea. First, I could shoot entirely outdoors in the daytime, which eliminated the need for lighting setups, always the most time-consuming factor in filmmaking; second, since it would be a music video (I already had a great recording of the song, lovingly produced by my friend Larry Heinemann), I would also have no need to record any sound, always the biggest postproduction headache, as a music video is like a silent movie; third, I would have an abundance of friends on hand who I could beg, bribe, or otherwide coerce into appearing in the piece; and fourth, having already spent a good bit of time there, several shooting locations came to mind right away. It felt like the stars were aligning, and that I had to do this project.
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I’m Never Seeing Another Movie In The Theater

As a special treat for my birthday last week, my friend/supervisor/cubiclemate Chris and I skipped out of work for a few hours and went the catch the matinee of Your Highness. The movie was very funny (despite what the critics are saying) and I liked it a lot, but the experience underscored the reasons why I (and everyone else, it seems) haven’t seen a movie in the theater in many months.

In a strategic movie calculated to avoid both crowds and bedbugs (presently the scourge of New York City movie theaters), we chose the Battery Park multiplex, just south of the once and future World Trade Center. When we arrived in the theater to take our seats, we were pleased to see it mostly empty, so we positioned ourselves dead center. Settling in, we noticed that although the usual barrage of commercials was running on the screen, the sound was off. This was a little disconcerting at first, because as we all know these days, before you can watch the movie you have to sit through about 15 minutes of commercials, most of which are imported from TV (enlarged and loudened for a more cinematic shilling experience). Then you have to sit through anywhere from four to 19 trailers for coming attractions. Then, finally, the movie.

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Expel The Doors From The Classic Rock Canon!

A couple of weeks ago, they inducted a new crop of classic rockers to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that included Tom Waits, Neil Diamond, and Alice Cooper. Not the most iconic lot, but I’d say they’ve all earned it.

But let’s face it: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is not infallible; The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes mistakes. For every Led Zeppelin or Bob Dylan, there’s a Jackson Browne or a  Billy Joel or a Crosby, Stills and Nash. Some art does not stand the test of time, and what seems great or original or interesting today can sometimes seem stupid, weak, and overrated down the road. (I don’t really have a problem with Crosby, and Stills is okay from what I can tell, but I cannot stand Nash.)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a democratic body, voted on by I have no idea who, like Congress. So like Congress, it should be able to make amendments, to repeal bad rulings. I propose that every year when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts its new members, they should also take someone out. My first nominee: The Doors, inducted in 1993.

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