The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 20-something Manhattan Barmaid

It's Like a 21st Century "Cheers." But Pinker.

Journal Info

Corona Barmaid
Name
barmaidblog
Website
Barmaid Blog RSS Feed

View

Navigation

December 8th, 2010

On the Naming of Cats

Share
"Barmaid" Wine

Sunday afternoon, Dara and I are lounging around my apartment, watching football, drinking a lot of wine, and playing Scrabble. I usually go over to her place for Sunday brunch, because let's face it, it's a huge, gorgeous apartment on Central Park West and I enjoy soaking up the environs. But I adopted a little kitten last weekend, and Dara wants to meet him.

The kitten is tiny - only about nine weeks old - but he's a beautiful, almost regal little fuzzy thing. He's a deep orange Maine Coon, and could probably pass for a baby lion if you didn't know better. Both of us are distracted from the game by his playful antics, but Dara is still kicking my ass. Just when I think I'm starting to catch up, she works off a P I've just placed and lays down "POETRIES" for a "bingo" and its attendant 50-point bonus.

"Fucking hell, Dara!"

She grins as she pulls her next set of letters from the bag. "Sorry, you taught me too well," she says. On the television, the Giants are systematically demolishing the Redskins, and in another corner of the living room, my kitten lays down for a nap while my roommate's cat Tattoo sniffs him curiously.

"Debra, what are you going to name him?"

"I don't know! I don't like the idea of just picking a name out of thin air, I want to wait until a name presents itself. Really, I kind of want him to tell me his name."

"You might be waiting a while before that happens."

I carefully align "AX" above her "POETRIES" to make "AR" and "XI," with the X on a double-letter space, and smile proudly.

To my horror, Dara immediately takes all seven letters from her rack once again, and starts laying them out... to spell "UNICADE." And then she starts calculating her score.

"Oh, hell, no," I say, reaching for my well-worn dictionary. "I'm challenging that one." I flip through to the right page, and once I've satisfied myself that it's not there, I show Dara.

"But it has to be a word," she says. She flips through it herself for a moment. "Look, right here: '-cade' is a suffix that means a procession, like with a motorcade. Well, I'm just saying that a unicade is a procession of one."

"What?! Dara, you're already humiliating me, I'm not letting you invent new words."

She relents, and after she selects another word, it's my turn again. While I'm deliberating, Dara sets down her wine, stands up, and says, "Watch this." She throws her head back, and starts strutting toward the hallway. When she gets to the end of the hall, she turns around, and starts strutting back.

"What the hell are you doing?" I ask.

"I'm a unicade," she says, and starts giggling. I can't help but laugh, too, but I roll my eyes, and Dara sits back down.

At that exact moment, the fluffy orange kitten stands up from where he's been napping, stretches out, then starts marching regally across the living room toward the kitchen, where his food is. Dara whispers, "Debra!" and points toward the kitten. "He's a unicade!!" We both burst out laughing, as the kitten continues his procession kibble-ward.

And that, dear readers, is how my new kitten came to be named 'Unicade.'

November 12th, 2010

When Country Wasn't Cool

Share
Fish

Thursday I'm working the 4-12 shift at the Pub, enjoying the brisk business from a nice, diverse crowd. It's my iPod's turn on the PA system tonight, and to my endless amusement, it's shuffling my iTunes playlist of rock and pop artists attempting country music.

Lisa doesn't seem quite as amused, though. "'It's cold outside of your heart'?! Good Lord, could you get any more cliché than that?"

"Hey, this is about as earnest as the Moody Blues ever got," I smile.

"Never heard of them," Lisa says snidely as she serves a drink to Tina, a friend of hers who tends bar at a restaurant nearby. It's a "Tinamopolitan," a variation on the cosmopolitan that substitutes something or other for the Cointreau - but I don't remember what, because Tina's only ever in here when Lisa's working, so I've never had occasion to serve her. On the other hand, I have tasted some overage from the mixing process, and it's a tasty drink. The song ends, and The Band's "Up on Cripple Creek" starts, eliciting a groan from Lisa and a laugh from Tina.

Not that I'm intentionally torturing Lisa, but I'll admit to that being a nice perk. She subjects me and everyone else to her trip-hop on a regular basis, and often insults me for not being more familiar with it. Like most people in their twenties, she thinks any music made before she was in high school is grossly inferior and not worthy of her attention - never stopping to think that someone younger than she is going to think exactly the same thing about her music when she gets older.

A while later, I'm pulling a few Guinnesses for some grad students when Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer" comes on - a quick, banjo-driven bluegrass shuffle complete with Jew's harp, of all things - and Lisa yells, "Kill me, just put me out of my misery!" from the other end of the bar. I smile quietly, and think to myself, A little misery will do just fine for now.

September 28th, 2010

Too Good for This World

Share
Beer

I've been at my father's law firm a hundred times before, but always with my father. Not today.

Today I'm sitting in the office of a partner named Charlotte. I've brought Jack with me just to have a lawyer there who has nothing to gain to hold my hand through the process. He was surprised to hear from me many months after the last time we'd seen each other, but as I explained, other than my father - and Jenny, who won't return my phone calls or e-mails - he's probably the lawyer I know best. Right now he's quite literally holding my hand.

My father's fiancée Elaine is also there, although she's already announced her intention to renounce any inheritance she would've received.

Charlotte has been writing numbers down on a piece of paper while she talks, but I haven't paid very much attention. Then she turns it to face me and asks me if I have any questions, so I look.

And I squint. "The house can't possibly be worth that much. Is that a current appraisal? I mean, with the market what it is right now..."

"No, that's - let me go back a few steps, Debra." Charlotte takes a deep breath. "These numbers make up the corpus of the estate exclusive of the house. The house will pass through probate separately, at which point it's up to you what you do with it. The brokerage account, the 401(k), CDs, basic checking, if it makes it easier, think of those as pure cash. The number at the bottom is the total."

I look again. "That can't be right." I squeeze Jack's hand harder.

"It's right, at least according to the papers we've been able to pull together. You shouldn't hold us to an exact figure, especially since the value of some of his investments is still changing from day to day. But as your father's executrix, I'll be liquidating those anyway. That is, unless you have some special desire to, say, hold onto some shares of stock instead of receiving what they're worth." I shake my head slowly.

Hold it together, I tell myself, even as my eyes start to burn. "He should have been able to enjoy this. This was for his retirement, he deserved to enjoy all this." I look at Elaine. "This should have paid for a beautiful wedding and a few dozen vacations." She pats my thigh, and I take a deep breath. I force the tears back.

"I don't disagree, Debra, and I'm terribly sorry," says Charlotte. "Of course a portion of the corpus will be used to pay the estate's expenses, but it'll be a very small portion."

"Isn't there some kind of estate tax? I mean, the government gets half, or a third, or something, right?"

"Not this year," says Jack. "Right, Charlotte?"

She nods. "There's no federal estate tax in 2010. There was in 2009 and there will be again in 2011, and no, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me either, but that's the way Congress chose to do it."

A short while later, Elaine has signed her Disclaimer of Interest, given me a long hug, and gone. Charlotte leaves Jack and me by ourselves in her office to talk. I sit there staring at my hands.

"I don't want it, Jack. I don't deserve it."

He leans in and strokes my hair. "You certainly deserve it more than the government does, and that's who would get it if you also renounce."

"Okay, then charity. I should give it to charity."

"Promise me, Debra, before you make any big decisions, that you'll sit down with a financial advisor to talk about it." I nod, and he continues. "Do you know any financial advisors?"

I laugh. "Will is a financial advisor. That won't be awkward at all." Jack smiles, and waves Charlotte back in.

A while later, I arrive home to find a package from Amazon.com waiting for me. I open it - a reader named Danno has sent me a Brian Vander Ark CD from my wishlist, "Angel, Put Your Face On." The note on the packing slip says, "I'm so sorry for your loss. We're all thinking of you." I slide down the wall until I'm sitting on the floor, I grasp the CD to my chest, and I finally start weeping.

September 21st, 2010

Gang of Mine (Part III)

Share
Booze Belt

In my dream, I'm standing in the middle of a dance floor in a poofy, hideous bridesmaid's dress, and the only other person there with me is the six year old flower girl, because we're the only single females left in the room.

Around the edges of the dance floor among the assembled wedding guests, I recognize a lot of the women from the last several years of my life who are married - Jessica, Jill, Redhead, cousin Rebecca, Jocelyn, Kira, even Lisa from the Pub. Everybody's cheering as Dara turns her back to us and pitches her bouquet of flowers over her shoulder, and the crowd goes wild when the flower girl makes an incredible leap and a one-handed catch right in front of me. The flower girl gives me a smug, satisfied look, sticks out her tongue, and skips away just before the band starts playing again and I wake up.

Luckily, the scene is not quite the same in real life on Sunday. Dara's still got a bunch of other single girlfriends, and there's shrieking as a bunch of them push at each other and grab for the flowery projectile. I'm content just to stand there in the middle and watch instead of fighting. Ultimately it's Dara's sister and maid of honor Betsy who comes away with the prize, laughing proudly, stray petals drifting to the floor after all the grabbing.

Plus, my bridesmaid's dress is gorgeous and not at all poofy.

September 17th, 2010

Erev (Part II)

Share
Green Drink
The first thing I notice is that my hair hurts. When I open my eyes, the room spins a little, then spins back the other way, so I close my eyes again. I hear a scratching sound coming from my bedroom door, and it's even more irritating than usual. "Fuck off, bitch," I croak in the general direction of my roommate's cat, on the other side of the door.

"Excuse me?" says a voice from behind me, and I open my eyes again in mild confusion, my mind struggling to catch up. Last night, Dara, bachelorette party... oh, boy.

We started with dinner at one of the nicer sushi places downtown. It was a good crowd - Dara, Dara's sister and maid of honor Betsy, my ex-roommate Jill, two other friends of Dara's whom I'd met before, and four or five whom I hadn't. We had a few bottles of sake along with dinner, and then set off on a bar crawl. It was a wet bar crawl, at that, because although the worst of the thunderstorm had blown through pretty quickly around 5pm, it was still raining and windy.

We started at a bar in the East Village... then Chelsea for a stop at a wonderful gay bar to look at gorgeous, unattainable hunks... then a tavern in the Flatiron... Murray Hill... and before long, it was close to two in the morning and we were in upper midtown looking for another place to land. I'm pretty sure I'm the one who suggested The Bar - Dara even asked if I was sure, but I steered us there anyway. It was a familiar place, we would probably know some people there both in the bar and behind it, and we'd probably get treated pretty well.

I remember who's behind me, and I smile a little before I roll over.

"Not you, Will. I was talking to the cat." I put my hand on his chest. "I feel like crap."

"I kept telling you to drink some water. You were pretty drunk." Something flickers in the back of my mind.

"You told me that a few times last night, that I was pretty drunk. Why?"

"Because I've known you for a long time, and I don't want to be anybody's mistake."

"I knew what I was doing. I didn't want to be alone, and I trust you."

He smiles. "That's what you said last night. Along with a few other things I'm not sure I should repeat."

My head starts throbbing, and my stomach churns a little. "Oh, man... I hope I'm feeling well enough to eat something before Kol Nidrei, or else tomorrow is going to be really unpleasant."

"Before what?"

"Um... Yom Kippur starts tonight."

"Right... the one where you don't eat."

"Will, I'm sorry to put you on the spot like this, but would you come with me tonight?"

"To your temple?"

"Yeah. I used to go with my father. I'm sure a hundred people I don't really know are going to heap on the condolences, and I don't think I'm strong enough yet to get through it by myself."

"Debra, I've got a - well, I've got plans." He strokes my arm.

"Oh."

"Yeah. I'm sorry."

"Listen, I feel like I should apologize, and not just because it's the time of year for it. I put you on the spot last night, and I didn't even really stop to consider whether you wanted to sleep with me. I hope you don't think I was using you."

"I've always found you attractive, Debra. I just don't hit on bartenders as a general rule, I find I get better service that way. The only reason I even hesitated was that you were drunk. I was worried I was taking advantage."

I smile, and glance at the clock. "I think I'm going to try to sleep for a few more hours."

"I wish I could join you, but I have to work. I think I'm going to be late as it is." He kisses me on the forehead and gets out of bed. I get my first look at his body in the daylight, and I swear I almost say, "Wow" out loud. In the four years since I first said he hasn't lost his football-playing physique, he still hasn't lost his football-playing physique. This guy could probably have pretty much any woman he wants, but he hasn't really dated since Samantha died.

When Will leaves, Emily's cat sneaks into my room and hops up onto my bed. "Hi, Tattoo," I say as I scratch her behind the ears. She boldly steps forward and starts licking my nose.

September 15th, 2010

It's the fifth inning, and the Yankees have a huge lead - this time in a game that really matters, because they're playing Tampa Bay, the team currently edging them out for first place in the American League East. Unfortunately, after pitching four fantastic innings, Ivan Nova's wheels start to come off, and suddenly the Rays are shelling the boys in pinstripes. By the time the dust settles, instead of 6-0 Yankees, it's 7-6 Rays, and we go into the sixth inning.

Luckily for me, this means that a lot of people in the Pub suddenly have a serious need for more alcohol, and Lisa and I manage to oblige them. By the time I have another chance to glance at the television, Robinson Cano is tying it up with an RBI double. I take off my Yankees ballcap, adjust my hair a little, and put the cap back on, pulling my hair through the opening in back. The cap isn't as much of a guarantee of better tips here at the Pub as it used to be at The Bar, but it still gives me the excuse for a ponytail.

A few minutes later, a small group of guys walks into the Pub, and for a moment I forget to breathe. One of them is Rick.

Cue shimmery camera effects...

--
In the couple of months after I stopped sleeping with Bonnie, and before I started seeing Jenny, one reason that I didn't post here was that I wasn't very proud of the way I was behaving. I had ruined my relationship with a guy I loved by taking up with someone who excited me more, and it was difficult to come to terms with that. Instead of pausing to take stock, I engaged in behavior that upon reflection seems... well, self-destructive. About half a dozen times during those couple of months, I violated one of my most essential personal rules of bartending, and I let customers of The Bar take me home with them after my shifts.

I like to think I wasn't obvious about it - when I left I would declare to Jocelyn, or Maya, or Simone, or whoever I was working with that night, that I was going to let this guy or other get me a cab or walk me home. I suspect they knew what was going on anyway, but it was a convenient little fiction that allowed me not to believe I was doing something a little sketchy or even a little risky. I always used condoms, but I have to admit there were a few times I was drunk enough that I'm lucky not to have forgotten.

On the night he was drinking at The Bar, Rick's appeal to me was that he was a tall guy in a Yankees t-shirt who had the courage to tell me he thought I was beautiful. If that sounds a little indiscriminate, you're not wrong. It really didn't take much during those months. He tipped well and insisted on buying me a drink, too, and that pretty much sealed the deal for him. When he asked for my number, I think I said something like, "You can have it if you make me breakfast tomorrow." Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Subtlety.

Because I did a few shots with him before we went to his place, the rest of the night is a bit of a blur, but I'm quite sure I had sex with him. I'm also sure that I gave him my number over Eggo waffles, and I'm just as sure that he never called me, and never showed up during one of my shifts at The Bar again.
--

To his credit, Rick approaches the bar himself, as his friends grab a table. "A pitcher of Yeungling, please," he says, and smiles.

I look for a sign of recognition in his face, and then I start filling the pitcher. "Was I that forgettable, Rick?"

He blinks a couple of times, and regroups. "Not at all. I just wasn't sure you'd want me to say anything here in a crowd."

I smirk, and motion for him to lean forward so I can speak a little more quietly. "You don't know how to say, 'Hey, it's good to see you again' without also saying, 'I'm sorry I didn't call you after we screwed'?"

Rick laughs nervously. "I am sorry, for what it's worth. I had a good time. I just got really busy."

"For two and a half years?"

"Hey, now, that's not --"

I hold up a hand. "You're right, that was out of line. There's an expiration date on these things, and I haven't been waiting by the phone. I just wanted to give you a little bit of a hard time." He pays for the pitcher, and I let him escape without further upbraiding. When it comes time for refills, someone else from the table makes the approach.

A long while later, Jorge Posada's solo homer gives the Yankees a lead in the top of the tenth inning, and Greg Golson makes a beautiful throw to third in the bottom of the tenth to put the Yankees back on top in their division. I'm adjusting my cap again when Rick comes back up to the bar and waves me down.

"Hey, um..."

"Debra."

"Yeah, that's embarassing."

"Don't sweat it, it's been a while."

"I really did have fun that night. Can I have your number again?"

"Nope."

"That's it, just no?"

"Just no. Sorry. Different times."

He shrugs and smiles. "I had to try."

"No foul," I nod, and he walks back to his table, where it appears to me he takes a bit of good-natured ribbing from his buddies.

Inside where my heart feels empty I'm saying yes. Call me, take me home, give me something to hold onto. Anything. Yes.

September 13th, 2010

Gang of Mine (Part II)

Share
Yoo Logo
The Sunday closing shift is about as dead as things get around the Pub, and tonight is no exception, so in a way, it should be a perfect time for me to return to work. After I finished sitting shiva, I took a few days to sleep and start to get my father's affairs in order, not that they needed much help with how careful he was. So it's time to rejoin the real world, and here I am, hoping nobody will come in and order any drinks. Actually, I'd rather be busy, as it gives me less time to think and dwell, but the truth is that it doesn't much matter. I'd also rather be anywhere but here right now.

"How are you holding up?" Jake asks during a lull in the overall lullness.

"Honestly? I can't shake the feeling that I'd be doing better if only people would stop asking me how I'm doing. Sorry if that sounds ungrateful, I know you wouldn't ask if you didn't care."

He nods. "It's okay. If I got offended that easily I don't think I'd make a very good bartender." I manage a weak smile. "Hey, your friend is getting married next weekend, isn't she? That's something to be excited about."

"Yeah, I was really looking forward to it."

"Sounds like there's a 'But' in there."

I sigh. "I'm just worried that I'll burst out crying at any moment. I don't want to ruin Dara's wedding, she's so happy and she's been looking forward to it for so long... I haven't figured out yet how to keep my shit together for more than an hour at a time. Frankly it's a miracle I haven't scared away any customers tonight."

Jake nods, puts his hands on my shoulders and leans down a little. "Debra, let me ask you a question. Do you think Dara would rather have one of her best friends miss her wedding, or have one of her best friends cry at her wedding?"

I know he's right. And just like that, the dam bursts, and I'm sobbing into Jake's chest. And just like my father would have done, he doesn't say a thing, he just holds me and lets me cry.

September 12th, 2010

Alan K. (1952-2010)

Share
Scotch Rocks
A year ago, I had never heard of Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma. I wish I'd still never heard of it. But about a year ago, my father was diagnosed with it after some routine tests during a physical. They immediately started treating him with a kind of chemotherapy called CHOP-R, and after a couple of months it seemed he was in remission. He celebrated my twenty-ninth birthday with his fiancée Elaine and me in good health and good spirits. But he relapsed in June, and despite aggressive treatment, he was dead within two months.

He died with me on one side of his bed, and Elaine on the other. She and I held each other for a very long time afterward, and we were inseparable at his funeral and while I sat shiva. Given the circumstances under which they'd met each other, I never expected to feel that close to her, but Elaine has one thing going for her: she really loved my father.

Elaine is also a successful physician. On the third day of shiva she told me that she knew Dad had written her into his latest will, but she intended to renounce it because she didn't need it - at least not as much as she figured I needed it.

So at the age of 29, I'm a barmaid in a Pub in Manhattan, I share an apartment in Brooklyn with a roommate and a cat, and I'm about to become the sole owner of a house in Westchester.

And I'm alone.

January 13th, 2010

July 2, 2009
"You were texting him while you were lying in my arms?! You already know how I feel about you texting this guy to begin with, and the fact that you lied about texting him, that you hide it when you're texting him, now you're doing it in my arms?" Jenny is loud, and other people around us on the grass in Union Square turn to look.

"I thought you were asleep," I say, and I immediately know that won't help.

"So it's okay as long as I'm not conscious to be aware of it?" Tears are starting to flow, but it's anger this time.

"You know what, you're right - it's a bad habit I have in general, I do sometimes spend too much time texting someone when I'm with someone else, and it sends the message that you're not as important as they are. I'm really sorry." Jenny takes a deep breath and, incongruously, smiles. "What?" I ask.

"It's a little bit of a relief to actually be upset about something for a change," she says, and reaches for the huge stash of tissues in her bag. I smile, while inside I'm trying not to burst into a rage.

Really? There is one person who's been reliably making me smile these last few weeks while you've been buried under a neurochemical pile of devastation and pain, one person I've been able to go for any sense of sanity to my life, the only person in my life who hasn't been telling me to get away from you for my own good and warning me about the consequences of trying to get you through this. Really? There's someone I can feel like I'm actually getting something from, the thing that I've been missing from you, but I'm still here, I'm still with you, I'm still sticking by you, and I have to be made to feel guilty about it? Really?

It's a stupid cliché, the lesbian jealous of her bisexual girlfriend getting close to a guy, but the fact is that I did lie about him. Yes. I did. But really? What else could I have done? What possible other way could I have phrased it to you, what possible way would you have been okay with this, full-well knowing I was getting from someone else what I couldn't get from you? In what way, what possible tactful and yet still honest way could I have phrased that? Tell me. Yes. I lied.

But I lied about him because you're clinically depressed, which is a pretty good reason, I want to scream, because it would've been just another thing for you to set you off, because I wanted to spare your feelings. The only thing wrong with that plan... was that you caught me, and that may have set you off even worse. And yes, I'm the one who insisted at the beginning of this relationship that we should always be honest, even though there can be consequences to that honesty. I told you that when it comes to relationships, I believe that lying is 100% detrimental to the ultimate goal, because once trust is gone... there's nothing.

This boy I met on a catering gig with awful timing, this boy who I've admitted to you I told "It's complicated" instead of "No" when he asked if I was single because before you were diagosed, all I knew was that you had become smotheringly controlling and irrational. Before you were diagnosed, when all I knew is that you were crying. And I couldn't stop it. And you couldn't stop it. And I didn't know why. And you didn't know why.

This boy who makes me laugh - this boy about whom Dara joked that I was the only person she knew with a girlfriend and a boyfriend, hitting uncomfortably close to home - I feel him becoming important to me, and inescapably, to you he will always be the boy I lied about.

And I can't help but wonder a little who should be seeking forgiveness from whom.

I don't want to talk to anyone anymore. I just want to go to sleep, I think as we pack up our stuff from the impromptu picnic and start heading home.

January 8th, 2010

Gang of Mine

Share
Cocktail Hour
Thursday afternoon at the Pub isn't particularly busy, so I spend a few minutes opening the mail I grabbed on my way out of the apartment. One larger envelope catches my eye immediately, since it was originally sent to me at the Bar's address and someone forwarded it. I rip it open, and the tell-tale tissue paper reveals that it's a wedding invitation. Redhead and Danny are getting married in March, and I'm invited - I guess because I helped convince her to ask him out.

I must just be "that age" or something, because this year is shaping up to have a lot of weddings. Jocelyn and Mario are getting hitched in June, and I'm going to be a bridesmaid for Jill and Vince at theirs in August and for Dara's and Dennis's in September, which is very exciting. That's not even counting the two other weddings for friends I've never talked about in the blog.

I can't help wonder if I'll ever be married myself. I think about how my mother left when I was barely an adolescent, apparently unhappy with her marriage to Dad. I think about how Warren was already thinking about marrying me only a few months after we met... then I think about how Jenny reacted when Proposition 8 passed in California, and about the clinical depression that set in (whether coincidentally or not) not long after I told her, quite honestly, that I wasn't sure I could ever marry a woman whether it was legal or not.

Lisa snaps me out of my reverie, quite literally. Then she snaps her fingers again. "Listen, Debra, catching up on your correspondence might've been okay where you used to work, but it doesn't fly at the Pub. I know it's not the busiest day of the year, but at least pretend like you're a little bit interested in our customers, okay?"

"You're right, I'm sorry," I say as I stash my mail back in my bag. Then I look at her left hand. "Hey, Lisa, what's it like to be married?"

"What?"

"I asked you what it's like to be married. It's been on my mind lately."

She furrows her brow and thinks for a moment. "It's like a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week eggnog enema with turndown service and a puppet show," she replies, and turns to walk to the other end of the bar.

"Well, that sounds appealing," I say to nobody in particular, before I start chatting up a small group of women nursing their Pinot Grigios.

January 7th, 2010

June 9, 2009
Jenny stares through the darkness at the ceiling. She isn't looking at me, I can tell, even though my head is on her chest, because she hasn't really been able to look at me now for a few days. "I feel like I've already lost you, you just haven't left yet," she says in a flattened tone that scares me. I don't really understand what she means, but I know enough to know that she believes it.

"You're going to get better," I tell her for the eleventh time today, and the fortieth time this week. But I'm certain this time she heard me. This time it'll make a difference. This time everything will be fixed and healed. This time we can get back to normal.

"Maybe I will," she replies. "I just don't see how we come out of this in a relationship. And right now, all I see is tunnel. I don't see any light, I can only see tunnel."

I lift my head toward hers, and she still doesn't look at me. "Listen to me," I say, "I'm here, aren't I?" Please let this talk-down be the last. Please, Lord, let it work this time.

And then she starts crying again, a wracking, sobbing cry that absolutely breaks my heart, the more so because I'm still convinced it's my fault. She turns away from me and curls into a fetal position, and all I can do is put a hand on her arm, stroke it gently, take a deep breath, forget my own pain, forget the questions of why, what I did this time, what I can do to stop this, what I can do to stop it from happening again, why all this has happened, why I said the things I did a few weeks ago, why, how, what... shove all that down, and wait.

January 4th, 2010

The four guys in the corner wearing red and white break out in shouts and applause, and I don't have to turn around and look at the television to know something has happened that I won't like, but I do anyway. Sure enough, Cornell has taken a 3-2 lead against my beloved Wildcats, and I heave a sigh. One of the Cornell guys comes up to the bar shortly thereafter to order another pitcher, and points at the New Hampshire hockey jersey I'm wearing. To his credit, instead of needling me about the current score, he asks, "Hey, is that a game-worn?"

I smile. "No, just your basic campus store replica. A boyfriend gave it to me for my birthday one year when it coincided with a playoff game. What about yours? Are those real puck marks?"

"Yup, it was [Player]'s away sweater for a season," he says proudly, where [Player] is a name I can't remember even five minutes later. I will remember while writing this later, though, that it doesn't sound familiar to me from the last really important UNH-Cornell match-up in 2003, and this guy looks like a kid, so I assume it's more recent.

"Very cool," I say, handing him his pitcher and taking his cash.

"Hey, chin up," he adds as he starts to turn back to his friends. "Your boys have tied it up twice already today, this has been a great game!"

A great game if you like watching your team get outshot two-to-one on their own ice, I think to myself as I count the cash, do the math, and make a note: if this group is at all representative, Cornell boys seem to be good tippers. For some reason, New Hampshire is dominating Hockey East this year, but we can't seem to get the job done outside the conference. That's certainly no way to set up a national championship season, something I've been pining after for a very long time. I stand and watch ESPN-U for a minute, as Cornell continues their cycling-and-possession demonstration and clinic, free of charge to their opponents.

Someone taps me on the shoulder. "Hey, Gretzky," says Lisa, "heads up. We have some customers who don't give a shit about a high school hockey game, get it in gear." I'm not used to being talked to like that, but this isn't the Bar, it's the Pub, and I'm low barmaid on the totem pole around here. I'm tempted to tell her snidely that it's college, something she wouldn't be familiar with, but that was probably her point - and I honestly don't want to piss her off, I need this job. I turn away, smile, and start to take an order, and my customer is still in between "Hefe" and "weizen" when the Big Red boys start cheering and high-fiving again.

Next time Game-Worn comes up for another pitcher, we've pulled our goalie during a power play for a 6-on-4, and we're putting a lot of pressure on, but so far to no avail. "Hey," I ask while I'm drawing their communal Sam Adams, "how did you guys end up here, anyway? Not that I would ever complain about you giving us business, but isn't there a Cornell bar or something anywhere in the city?"

"Yeah," he says, "on the Upper East Side. But usually an e-mail goes out beforehand, and this time we didn't see one. I live closer to the Pub anyway, and pardon my French, but it's really fucking cold out. We honestly had no idea one of the bartenders was a UNH alum. You've been a good sport letting us hang out."

"Listen, this next pitcher is on me," I tell him as I hand it over. "I don't care what color you're wearing, college hockey fans are few and far between enough - you're welcome here anytime."

He thanks me, tips me heavily, and goes back to his friends just in time to see his team put the nail in the coffin with an empty-netter. They start cheering and high-fiving again, and I go back to working my Sunday shift and trying not to get beer all over my jersey. It seems like the Yankees win a World Series every few weeks or so, why can't New Hampshire manage to win a Frozen Four?

December 21st, 2009

September 6, 2009
"Debra," says Victor, "it's absolutely not personal, and I hope you understand that." He's sitting on the desk in the back room, with Lanie behind the desk in the chair.

"Not personal? Victor, you're basically putting me out on the street, and unless I'm misunderstanding something, it's because I cost too much." I try to keep as calm as possible, remembering some of the lessons I learned about my relationship with supervisors a couple of years ago.

Lanie jumps in. "That's not exactly fair, Debra. With business down overall, we just don't feel like we need a manager on duty every weeknight. Pat has seniority, so if we're going to keep only one of you, it really has to be her."

"Well, I'd be happy to go back to being a barmaid. I'm not too proud to take that step backwards if that's what you're worried about. And I have good relationships with all the girls."

"We know you do, but the problem is, we've replaced you a couple of times over, and they're making less than you were when you moved up. So even if we got rid of one of them..."

"You'd still be spending more money on me," I finish for her, and she nods.

"Listen, we won't contest your unemployment claim," Victor says, handing me an envelope that contains two weeks' severance pay, something I'll be assured later by a lawyer friend that they weren't in the least bit obligated to give me.

Lanie adds, "And you're an incredibly capable woman, we know you'll find another job."

"With business down overall?" I ask, and Lanie winces a little. "Sorry. Okay. Can I have a letter of reference, at least?"

"Debra, of course," she says. "In fact, why don't you write it? Just say what you'd want us to say, and we'll sign it."

I laugh, pondering all the possibilities. It's not until I'm on my way home that it really starts to set in - six years of my life. Six years of dedication to a job is supposed to be a good thing, employers are supposed to value and honor that.

Oh, God, what am I going to tell Jenny? She's only just barely recovered from what happened this summer, this kind of bad news could set her back. I'm so exhausted from it all... and I can only imagine how she feels.

I have two weeks' pay in my hands, some money in the bank, and unemployment insurance on the way in a few weeks. If I get another job in the next month or two, I'll be just fine, and there's no reason she has to know I lost this one until I actually start the next one. I'll just find some place to hang out on the nights I would've been working. I'll even get some writing done for a change. This is absolutely the right thing to do.

It'll be much better this way.

December 18th, 2009

Debra 2.0

Share
Beer
Dara finally comes down to the Pub on Wednesday night, for the first time since I started working here a few months ago, and parks herself at the bar for a chat. We spend a little while catching up - on her wedding plans with Dennis, my Dad and how he's been dating the doctor who treated me in the ER a few years ago, and photos of Jessica's toddler Noah (who's just turned a year old!). We studiously avoid any mention of what happened between Jenny and me, partly because we discussed it to death while it was happening. Truth be told, I'm still considering whether even to blog about it, and we've covered that meta-topic enough, too.

Jake, the tall, blonde bartender who trained me when I started here, wanders down the bar from where he's been serving a bunch of college kids on a break from studying for finals. I introduce him to Dara. "Congratulations, when's the big day?" he asks with a smile as he shakes her hand.

"It's in September. How did you -- " She looks down at her other hand, where her engagement ring is revealed only by a bump in the half-finger of a convertible glove-mitten.

Jake spreads his arms wide. "Dara, I'm a single male bartender in Manhattan. It's my job to divine the relationship status of every woman who drinks in here, if I'm able to do it."

"That's impressive," Dara says. "And if I'd been single, or you thought so, what would you have done?"

Jake shrugs and winks. "We'll never know, will we? Anyway, welcome to the Pub, I hope we see you here often." He returns to the other end of the bar, where patrons await, and Dara watches him as he goes. When she looks back at me, I'm grinning.

"What? I'm allowed to look," she laughs. "In a way I'm kind of glad men are allowed to serve drinks here. I mean, some of the girls you worked with at the Bar were fun, but how about some eye-candy equal time, huh?"

"Vince and Diego the barbacks weren't enough for you?" I pull another Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from the tap for her, and she takes off her glove-esque things.

Dara shrugs. "Vince was taken almost as soon as I knew him, and, well, Diego was a devoted father. I think I might've just known them too well to look at them that way." She pauses to take a drink. "You know, I just thought of something."

"What's that?"

"Your new job at a new place, being single in a new apartment, starting up the blog again, even your father dating - it's kind of like one of those TV shows or movies that reboots. You know, like the new 'Star Trek' movie this past summer. Or that sitcom with Christina Applegate where at first she was a waitress at her father's bar, and then suddenly you were supposed to believe she'd been working in a doctor's office the whole time? They start down a completely new path, with new characters and new situations that never would've happened the first time around, and it's like the first time around never existed."

I think about it for a minute, nodding. "There's only one problem with your analogy."

"What, you don't get to hang out with Zachary Quinto?"

"No - the stuff that happened the first time around really happened, and I don't get to pretend it didn't." I excuse myself briefly to take some orders from a group of men that's just arrived, and I see Dara looking at her hand and fingering her engagement ring.

December 15th, 2009

...but for Broader Shoulders

Share
Yoo Logo
My father lights the Shamos, and after he uses it to light the one other candle in the menorah, we quietly say the two standard Hannukah blessings followed by the Shehechianu, which is only spoken on the first night. We exhange gifts - a beautiful pendant with aquamarines for me, a necktie for him - and long, warm hugs. Then we sit down at his dining room table, which is conspicuously set for two instead of three - or four.

"Where's the good doctor?" I ask as I spoon out some applesauce and sour cream for my potato pancakes.

Dad smiles. "She's with her father tonight, too. We'll have our own candle-lighting tomorrow, though without the latkes this time. Two nights in a row of deep-fried foods isn't allowed when you're dating a physician, I'm afraid."

"It's not allowed two nights in a row when your tips depend on maintaining a girlish figure, either. Which is why I'm having as much as possible tonight." Dad laughs, and we eat in silence for a few minutes.

"Have you heard at all from Jenny?" I take a deep breath, and Dad apologizes.

"That's okay, Dad. No, not since before Thanksgiving. And I wouldn't be surprised if she never speaks to me again."

"I'm sorry," Dad says for the second time. "And how's the new place working out?"

"Not bad. I like Emily well enough, for as much as I ever see her. I haven't figured out how to get her cat to stop scratching at my door in the morning, though."

"You know, you were welcome to stay here as long as you wanted after..." He stops there.

"It's okay to say it out loud, Dad. After Jenny threw me out. That is what happened. And I know that, but honestly, waiting an hour and a half after closing for the first train of the morning got pretty old pretty fast." I manage to add a smile.

"How is it you're not working tonight? I thought Fridays were great tip nights."

"They are, but I've only been at the Pub for a few months, so I don't have the seniority I used to at the Bar. And I probably would've asked for the night off anyway, or at least for a later shift - I wouldn't have missed your latkes for the world, you haven't made them in five or six years."

"Yeah, I probably won't do it for five or six more, after the mess I made."

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Dad, I'll clean it up - it's the least I can do." I take another few pancakes, despite starting to feel full. It's once a year, I remind myself.

My father wipes some applesauce off his moustache, and takes a long swig of his wine. The silence fills the space between us, and I can practically feel him reading my mind, until the tears start forming in my eyes.

"Debra, what happened to Jenny isn't your fault. It just doesn't work that way, no matter what you think you did or said wrong."

I move some pieces of browned potato around my plate. "Daddy, I lost the woman I love, and it wasn't because of anything she did or said wrong. So tell me, when is it going to start feeling like it wasn't my fault?"

"I don't know, honey. I don't know."

January 2nd, 2009

Barmaid Blog reader Eric sent me this e-mail a short while ago:
Are you okay? I was only a little bit worried like everyone else when you didn't post for a while, but then The Smoking Gun released their most recent collection of interesting mug shots today, and this one made my chin drop:



I know you're not the only attractive, twenty-something brunette ever to attend the University of New Hampshire and be a fan of their hockey program, but seriously, what are the odds? Anyway, I hope the story about you having no time to blog because you're supporting Jenny wasn't just a smoke-screen for a three-to-five stretch on Riker's.

Thank you, Eric - that e-mail and that photo were good for my first laugh-out-loud moment of the new year! I can see why you would be concerned, but honest to God, it's not me. I'm still at large.

December 23rd, 2008

Here's the Thing

Share
Yoo Logo
Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Todd gave his notice to Lanie and Victor. He announced that he was moving to Oregon, where he's going to work for a friend of his who owns a winery in the Willamette Valley.

The next day, Lanie offered me a job as The Bar's junior manager. I asked for some time to think about it. Although it's a step up in the world, the pay isn't that much better, there are more serious responsibilities, and I wouldn't really be doing the part of the job I love the most, which is interacting with customers for hours at a time.

The day after that, Jenny's law firm laid her off.

I accepted the job. I'm now a manager instead of a barmaid, or even a senior barmaid. Pat is still above me in the pecking order of managers, so I've suddenly gone back to having lower priority for picking my work days and hours. Luckily, that doesn't matter much since Jenny doesn't have to keep regular work hours for the moment, but it will matter when she gets back on her feet. She was upset for a while, but now she's starting to look at it more as an opportunity for her, and a loss for her firm. Her pet phrase these days is "Fuck 'em." Unfortunately there's not much out there right now - law firms are hemorrhaging associates, the entertainment business is slowing down, and we're just not sure what she's going to be able to find in her field.

So my life has changed over the last few weeks even more than I thought it would. Jenny got a decent severance package, but I'm the only one bringing in an actual income right now, and there's still a mortgage to pay. So just for the holiday season, I signed up with a catering company that does a ton of events all over New York City, especially this time of year, and I've been tending bar at their parties when I have time between manager shifts at The Bar. I've worked the last fifteen days in a row without a break. It's left me very little time or energy for blogging, or much else for that matter. In fact I'm heading out to tend bar for a corporate holiday party in just a few minutes, which is why I don't have time to tell you much more than I already have.

But I miss you, and I miss this. And I really don't want to have to give it up.

Jenny and I wish you all a Happy Hannukah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and whatever other name you call this (usually) joyous time of year. Be good to each other.

November 15th, 2008

The Bar of Love

Share
Scotch Neat
It's about half past seven on a Saturday in early November. I've been on since four, and I'm still not used to the fact that it's already starting to get dark by that time of the afternoon now that Daylight Saving Time is over. It makes me feel like it's later than it really is, so even though I'm a night owl, I keep checking my watch to see how far off midnight still is. It's also been raining off and on all day, and people have been tracking water in, soaking the mats we've taken to laying out on wet days since Bill took a header that put him in the hospital.

When Lanie and Victor told us at a staff meeting a couple of months ago that we'd be putting down mats on rainy days, Todd asked if that wasn't risky. He said he understood that we should make it safer, but by making our entryway less dangerous, weren't we admitting that it was dangerous in the first place, so that anybody who might have gotten hurt before (and he studiously avoided mentioning Bill by name at this point, even though he was also at the meeting) could use it as proof that we were careless in a lawsuit? Before they could respond, Diego piped up, "No, you can't use correcting a danger after an accident as evidence of the danger in court. If you could, people would have motivation not to correct dangers." The room was quiet for a moment as everyone looked at him kind of funny, then he added, "What? Someone has got to listen to Jack when he gets going about his job."

I smile remembering that comment, and glance over at Diego as he works at keeping the bottle cooler full. Simone's mixing some white russians, Bill is at the door, Lou Reed is on the jukebox, and it's a good, decently-tipping crowd with no troublemakers (at least not yet). I take an order for a bunch of interesting international beers from four guys who look like they're down for some serious beer research. As I'm collecting their tips, I see Redhead, the WingWoman, walking up to the bar with a guy in tow.

She looks great, as usual, and she winks at me as they approach. It's not hard to figure out what the wink means; Don't let on you know me, definitely don't let on I'm dating a former client, and I'll make sure your tips are lovely as usual. So I put on a big smile and take their order - merlot for her, and Sam Adams for him. Her client looks like a decent guy, and before long, Redhead is introducing him to a pretty blonde.

The truth is that I haven't seen her in a few months, so I don't know for sure she's still dating Danny, but they sure looked like a couple very much in love when they were in here one night this summer. In fact, he seemed like a different person altogether - more confident, better dressed, and I swear, maybe even a little taller. But the best part was that Redhead could not stop grinning the entire time. They'd been together five or six months already, and she was still floating. I was already in the middle of planning my move-in with Jenny, but I was still a little jealous of the difference they were obviously making in each other's lives.

"Hey, Debra," says Simone, "I forgot, who's coming on at eight?"

"Pretty sure it's Jocelyn, but you can go check the schedule in the back room if you want to take a minute."

"No, that's okay." She begins to turn, then stops. "Hey, Debra," she starts again, "when's the last time you took a closing shift?"

"Um... I would have to check, but I think it's probably been a couple of weeks. Why?"

"Actually, if you check, I think you'll find it's been a couple of months."

"Really? Well, I guess I prefer it that way now that I'm living with Jenny. She sometimes works late, but for the most part she has much more conventional work hours. If I get home at 4:30 and her alarm goes off at seven, it's no good for anybody."

"Okay, but that means that the rest of us have to work all the closing shifts. And sometimes we'd like to have a little variety and flexibility in our schedules, too."

I shrug. "So complain to the Senior Bartender about scheduling."

She blinks, and opens her mouth for a few seconds. "Debra, that's you."

"I know!" I grin, trying to be playful about it, but she doesn't buy it.

"No, I mean I already am complaining to the Senior Bartender, and the problem is the Senior Bartender. We're all friends, I was hoping you'd just be cool about this - none of us wants to talk to Pat or Todd, and I'm sure you don't want us to talk to Pat or Todd."

"None of us? You guys have been talking to each other about this?"

Simone sighs. "Of course we have."

I bite my lip, and start to feel a little like Chandler in an early season of "Friends" when he gets promoted, and all his old friends at the company stop hanging out with him. I even wonder for a moment if the other barmaids do impressions of me for each other, and then I put it out of my head.

"You're right, Simone, I'll talk to Jenny, and we'll figure something out. It's not fair to the rest of you."

Simone nods and backs up a little, visibly relieved. "Thanks, Debra. Hey, how's it been living with Jenny, anyway?"

"Great," I smile. "You know, I should really have everyone over for some kind of housewarming party. I mean, she's lived there for a while, and she owns the place, but the whole Brooklyn thing is new to me - and not everybody has even met her yet."

"Well, you know I have - I claim responsibility for the whole thing," Simone winks.

"What whole thing?" asks Jocelyn, as she comes around the bar to check in.

"Jenny and me," I tell her.

"Oh, yeah - I forget sometimes, I'm not the only girl who ended up with someone because of working here. Plus, it's not just the girls, Vince met Jill here, too. We really ought to put that in our help wanted ads when we have openings: 'Work at The Bar: good customers, good tips, and a one in three chance of falling in love.'"

I laugh, but Simone doesn't even smile; she just goes back to the other end of the bar and starts taking orders again. As I also dive back into serving customers, I realize she's never really talked about guys. They hit on her just as much as any of us, but she's just as good as any of us at shrugging them off. I wonder what she's looking for - and whether she's got much of a chance of finding it while she's modeling for porn. And then I wonder if I can figure out a way to return the favor somehow.

November 8th, 2008

Wednesday night there's a surreal, almost buoyant atmosphere at The Bar. Yvonne and I are slinging drinks at a good clip, and people are in a celebratory mood. But it seems as if every time I turn around, I hear another customer say something like, "I'm still not sure I believe it," or "I keep expecting to wake up and discover I dreamed it!"

They're speaking, of course, of Barack Obama winning yesterday's election as President of the United States, a fairly decisive victory as these things go, at least compared to the last couple of elections. New York went for Obama 62% to 37%, so I suppose you could say we're a pretty blue state - and most people in New York City, especially, are pretty happy with the results.

A guy wearing a "Yes We Can" t-shirt and drinking Sam Adams flags me down. "Excuse me, miss - is there such a drink as an Obama? Has anyone invented one yet?"

I laugh. "Not that I know of, though I'm sure someone's done it. Actually, now that I think of it, I remember hearing about an 'Obamartini' that someone whipped up somewhere, but I have no idea what was in it."

"Well, if I ordered an Obama, and just trusted you to mix something good, what would you put in it?"

"Seriously?" He nods and grins widely, putting his fate in my hands. "Let me think about it for a minute."

Yvonne passes behind me carrying a couple of glasses of white wine, and when she comes back my way, I stop her. "What would you put in a drink called an Obama?"

Without blinking, she says, "I don't know, but I'd probably start with a Blue Hawaii," and then keeps moving.

Of course, I think, and I grab a hurricane glass, then mix a Blue Hawaii over ice... rum, vodka, Curaçao, pineapple juice, and sour mix. I'm reaching for the orange slice and maraschino cherry, when I have an idea. I fill a pint glass with Coke from the fountain, then I hold a spoon over the Blue Hawaii and pour a little Coke onto the top. It doesn't layer terribly well - it mixes in more than a little - but despite the bright blue it's mixing with, it has the desired effect, adding a slightly chocolaty color to the top of the drink. Then, I finally add the orange and cherry.

"Here you go, my friend - I'm a little bit ashamed of myself, but this is my best shot at a drink named 'Obama' - a Brown Hawaii." Yes We Can laughs, then tells his friends, and suddenly I'm making Brown Hawaiis for the whole group. Once they taste their drinks, I get the sense they're not biggest fans of fruity cocktails, but they get into the spirit anyway.

Around midnight, I'm getting ready to cash out and leave Yvonne in charge, and Vince is washing glasses right behind me, when Yvonne taps me on the shoulder. "It just now occurred to me, you probably could have done a variation on the Bahama Mama, too - the Obama Mama. Maybe just use dark rum instead of light?"

"Sure, let's keep that in mind for Inauguration," I say, trying to count my tips in front of Yvonne and Vince without, y'know, counting my tips in front of Yvonne and Vince.

"Hey, you know who I feel bad for?" Yvonne says. "The second African-American president. Especially if Barack Obama is anywhere near as good as people seem to think he's going to be. How do you ever live up to that?"

We think about that for a moment, then Vince says, "I don't know, I think Michelle's probably up to the task." We laugh, and I head for the door.

When I get home around 12:30 in the morning, the living room lights are on, and Puppy is lying on the floor outside the closed bedroom door. He looks up at me expectantly and whines a little. Before I can open the door, I hear crying. I take a deep breath, and go on in. Jenny is lying on the bed sobbing, with used tissues all over the floor. I sit down next to her, run my hand along her arm, and say, "Baby, what's the matter?" She sits up and grabs me, and sobs harder, so I squeeze and hold her tight.

After a couple of minutes, she finally calms down enough to speak. "Prop 8 passed," she says, and immediately starts weeping again. Prop 8 - California's ballot referendum to make same-sex marriage illegal again, reversing their state supreme court's decision of earlier this year - was too close to call last night during live election returns, so the results must have come in tonight.

I'm speechless. I'm upset, I'm offended, and I'm angry, but I'm not moved to tears, and my next thought is to wonder if Jenny will take it personally that I'm not. I take another deep breath, and think about what it really means to love someone. I can't ever know what it's like to be inside her head, or inside her heart, so I can't really understand what she feels anymore than she understands what I feel. I'm simply left to wonder.

So instead, I try to stop wondering, and I focus on just holding her instead.

November 2nd, 2008

Meta-Blogging (Part II)

Share
Scotch Rocks
As long-time readers might recall, I use Technorati to track the Barmaid Blog's supposed popularity, based on how many people have added the blog as a "favorite," how many other blogs link to mine, and other mysterious metrics. I've found some really wonderful blog posts pointing to me that way, and I've even played a prank on some other bloggers as a result.

Today's interesting surprise? A travel blogger known as The Happy Hotelier (a.k.a. Guido J. van den Elshout) used Technorati data to compile a list of the 300 most popular travel blogs. As it turns out, food & beverage blogs are included in that category on the basis of being a part of the service industry, so I qualified for that list - and based on the numbers, Hotelier placed me at #69 on the list.

Among other things, I'm pleased to have whatever little additional attention that list and Guido's link to me will attract to my blog (after all, Guido's blog itself is "only" ranked at #65). Notwithstanding the sporadic nature of my posting of late, I really do love blogging about my job and my life, and every morsel of a hint that I still have a decent-sized audience is more motivation for me to sit down and write.

But more importantly, if I may be ever so slightly immature for a moment:

I'm #69, baby!!

*ahem* Thank you very much.

Powered by LiveJournal.com