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The Barmaid Blog™: Life for a 30-something Manhattan Barmaid

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

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July 12th, 2016

Independence Day

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Rainbow Liberty
May 23, 2011

"Listen," says Herb as he waves my résumé around, "I took this meeting as a courtesy to Lanie, she's been a good friend, she's thrown some business my way over the years, and I have a great deal of respect for her. If I were looking to hire a new employee, a recommendation from her would get you at least halfway there. I'm not hiring new employees."

"Oh, I know that, sir. But that's actually sort of why I'm here." He raises an eyebrow. "Lanie told me that she got the sense you were thinking about retiring altogether."

Herb lays my résumé down on his desk. "Thinking about it, yeah. I haven't made any decisions yet."

"Do you mind if I ask what you're planning to do with your business when the time comes?"

"I don't mind if you ask, Miss K__, but I haven't made those decisions yet, either. I might sell it, I might let one of my current people take over."

"Forgive me, sir, but if you thought there was someone you could trust with this company who also had anywhere near enough capital even to start buying it from you, I have a feeling you'd be on the phone looking for good tee times by now."

Herb's eyes narrow. "Lanie told me you would probably make me want to throw you out of my office, and that I should fight that urge and listen to what you have to say."

"I appreciate that. Listen, sir -"

"Please call me Herb."

"Herb, I have nothing to lose here. If you're not interested, I take my ball and I go home. Sooner or later either I'll find the right business for me to acquire, or I'll start one of my own. But if I really want to own a consulting firm for bars, I would be foolish to start one from scratch with no reputation and no book."

"Miss K__ -"

"Please call me Debra."

"Debra, I met you ten minutes ago, and a few of my employees have been with me for ten years. Why on earth should I trust you more than I trust them?"

"Right now? You shouldn't. Frankly, I'd be worried about your judgment if you did." Herb smiles a little. "But I'm willing to make a pretty significant bet that you will."

"What did you have in mind?"

"I'll work for you for the month of June, without pay." He's already raising an eyebrow again. "Put me on client relationships, mixology, training, layout, compliance, undercover, wherever you think I can help. I'll even try to bring in new business. At the end of June, if you don't think I'm the best consultant on your staff, if you don't think you can trust me to take over when it's time for you to retire, I'll respect your decision, and you don't owe me a thing."

He looks me in the eye for a few moments. "And what if you prove yourself? Then what?"

I reach into my briefcase and pull out a thin, bound booklet, which I slide across his desk. "It's not publicly traded, so admittedly some of this is spitballing, but here's my analysis of what your company was worth on April 30." Herb picks up my report and starts flipping pages. "The bottom line figure is on the last page. On July 5, I'm prepared to offer 105% of that amount for your company and all of its assets, debts, and receivables, with the intention of a September 30 closing. But that's only on the condition that you agree to stay on full-time until June 29 of next year, and be available to us by phone until December 28 of next year, to make sure the transition goes smoothly."

Herb reaches the last page, looks at the bottom line figure, looks at me, then looks at the bottom line figure again. "How you expect to get approval for a business loan of this size by July 5 without getting paid during June?"

"It'll be an all-cash offer, Herb."

"All-cash? Where did you -"

"None of your business. Here's a proof of funds letter." I reach into my briefcase again, and hand him a document from my bank that shows I'm prepared to back up my offer. He studies it for a couple of minutes.

When he finally looks back up at me, he has a strange little smile on his face. "Do you play golf, Debra?"

"No, not really. I've tried once or twice, but I've never gotten the hang of it. I'm more of a tennis player."

"Any good?"

"Well, I was varsity in high school, and I turned down a couple of scholarship offers from colleges I didn't want to attend, but I haven't played seriously in years."

"It's funny, you know, I'm not very good at golf, and I don't get any better no matter how much I play, but I love it anyway. It's social one minute, and solitary the next. I can close a business deal in the middle of a sand trap, or I can stand there in hideous madras pants and pretend I'm putting for the U.S. Open championship. And even if I play the same course the very next day, it'll be a completely different game."

"Sounds like you're looking forward to doing more of that."

He nods, and thinks for another moment. "I've got an owner who's concerned because repeat business is down the last few months. What's your approach?"

"Any major staffing changes?"


"Menu changes?"


"Entertainment changes?"

"He's not aware of anything having changed nearly enough to have this kind of impact."

"Okay. Depending on his budget with us, I'd send in three undercovers on a rotating basis for a week or two - a solo, a couple, and a small group. I'd also think about having someone interview the staff individually to see if they have any insight, but I would be clear with the owner that I don't expect that part to be very illuminating. I think the undercover is where you're going to learn what's going on."

"That's what I think, too. He asked me to interview the staff, which I suggested would be a waste of his money, but I would do it if he really wanted me to."

"What do I win?"

"You get to lead the undercover team and be the solo. We'll start next Wednesday, which is June first. I'll put together the rest of the team. Be here at two o'clock dressed for an Irish pub, have a strategy ready for me to look at, and plan on presenting it to your team at four. You'll go on at six."

I can't help grinning. Suddenly I feel as nervous as I did the first night I ever guest-bartended at The Bar, and I wonder if I'm really up for this. "Sounds like a plan, Herb." He nods, and we shake hands, the wheels finally set in motion.

As he's walking me to the door, I ask him, "Do you have any fun plans for Memorial Day weekend?"

"I was thinking about going shopping for some new madras pants."

I laugh, and start counting the minutes until next Wednesday.

May 27th, 2016

Down That Road

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Scotch Rocks
"Debra, have you ever thought about writing songs?"

Monday night we're watching NBC's "The Voice," and finalist Alisan Porter has just finished singing her original song, "Down That Road." We'd already gotten to know her as a great singer over the course of this season, but now it seems she's a really talented songwriter as well. I make a mental note to download the song from iTunes later, because my stepdaughter has asked me a question, and I don't want to be rude.

My stepdaughter. No, I'm still not used to that phrase, thanks for asking. And don't even get me started on the fact that I'm a stepmother.

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, you're pretty talented at blogging and fiction, I just wondered if you ever tried songs."

If you've never helped raise someone else's teenagers before, let me help you out for a second: A seventeen year old girl calling her stepmother "pretty talented" is roughly equivalent to awarding a Nobel Prize. My heart warms, and I start checking my pockets for an acceptance speech.

"That's sweet of you to say, Katy, thank you."

She rolls her eyes. "That wasn't my point." I decide to put off booking my flights to Stockholm for a little while longer.

"I actually did try writing songs for a little while, back in college. A few of my sorority sisters and I were huge fans of Destiny's Child, and we tried to start a girl group. Let's just say it wasn't a huge success."

"Who's Destiny's Child?" asks... my stepson. Yeah, not used to that one yet, either.

"Do you know who Beyoncé is?" I've learned never to make assumptions with these two.

"Of course," Ryan replies. "Hey - you're not secretly Becky with the good hair, are you?" Warren and Katy laugh.

"Trust me, I've never met Jay Z."

"I don't know, Debra, you're leading all these double lives. I'm pretty sure for a while people thought Rachael Ray was writing the Barmaid Blog." We all laugh.

"Anyway, Destiny's Child was Beyoncé's group before she went solo."

"Before she went solo? She's been a huge star forever, and she's barely thirty, isn't she?"

"Not really sure how old she is, but I think she was still in middle school when Destiny's Child got started."

"And you two complain you don't even have time for all your homework," interjects Warren.

"Get me a record deal, Dad, and I promise I'll find the time."

Katy says, "You couldn't carry a tune if it had handles and a hoverboard, Chewbacca."

"Coming from you that's a real compliment, Maz Kanata."


Warren stifles a smile. "Can I just say that it's a nerd's dream come true that my kids love 'Star Wars' enough to mine it for insults?"

Katy rolls her eyes again, and I wonder if her mother's ever warned her they might stick back there someday. "Dad, if you start talking about opening night in 1977 again, I swear I will Instagram all your Bar Mitzvah photos."

"Who pays for your phone again, Katy? I'm having trouble remembering, you know how it is with us old people."

"Get me a record deal, Dad," Katy says in a voice clearly meant to mock Ryan's, "and I'll pay for my own phone."

Ryan comes right back, "You couldn't carry a tune if you lived in an open carry state, Hopalong Chastity."

"Anyway," I interrupt as Katy whacks Ryan with a throw pillow, "it turned out I had no talent for writing lyrics, and none of us were all that good at singing to begin with."

Warren asks, "What did you write songs about?"

"Um... I can't remember?"

"Oh, please!" says Katy.

"Fine - fine. I think I wrote one about a UNH hockey player we all had a crush on."

"Which one?" asks Ryan.

"Mike Lubesnick," I mumble.

"You could've ended up being Mrs. Lubesnick?" Ryan asks, laughing.

"Not if he'd ever heard the song I wrote, I promise you. And by the way, it's not easy finding words that rhyme with 'Lubesnick.'"

Ryan starts crooning immediately, "Oh, you're so hot and dreamy, Mike Lubesnick, it's enough to make a perfect ten sick!" We all applaud, even Katy, who can't help laughing.

"That's not bad," says Warren. "Keep it up, you may get that record deal yet."

"Please don't encourage him, Dad," says Katy.

Warren hits the button on his DVR remote to unpause the Voice finals, and I settle back into the cuddle we had going before Katy made her inquiry. Don't get me wrong, helping raise someone else's kids is a huge challenge every single day, but I love my stepfamily. Some days, I wonder what the hell scared me so much.

Other days it's easier to remember, but this is one of the good ones.

May 14th, 2016

"Do you even remember the Eighties?" Warren asks me. We're watching a recent episode of "The Americans" from our DVR.

"I have some vague memories of the 1988 presidential election. I remember thinking Gary Hart was really dreamy."

"You weren't the only one, unfortunately." I smile and adjust under his arm for a closer snuggle. "You really think Keri Russell is hot?"

"You don't?" I poke Warren in his side.

"Maybe if she weren't quite so skinny. Is she on your list?"

"My list? You mean like my Ross and Rachel list on 'Friends,' celebrities I have your permission to sleep with? I didn't know I get one of those." I hit pause on the show.

"I think you deserve it. Besides, if you don't get one, then I wouldn't either."

"Aha, the real motive!" I poke him in his side again, and he swats my finger away. "Who's on yours, then? You tell me first."

"Okay, well, definitely Jennifer Connelly," he says, rather immediately.

"Take your time, honey, I'm sure you'll think of someone."

He laughs. "Jennifer Morrison would be next."

"Which one is she?"

"Zoey, from 'How I Met Your Mother.'"

"Oh, nice. But I thought she was prettier on 'House' when she was a brunette."

"Not the first time you've been wrong."


"Number three, Isla Fisher," he says, only he pronounces it "Iss-la".

"That's pronounced 'Eye-la,' honey. And she's married to Sacha Baron Cohen."

"And I'm married to you. Maybe Mrs. EYE-la Fisher Baron Cohen has a list, and I'm on it."

"You know, she converted to Judaism to marry him?"

"I don't think it occurred to me that he was Jewish."

"Seriously? Sacha, Baron, Cohen?"

"I am occasionally...a little obtuse."

"If it makes you feel any better, obtusity is one of your many endearing qualities."



"Number four is Elisha Cuthbert. Or is that prounounced, 'El-EYE-a'?"

"Dude, she's younger than I am."

"I think you'll find that many millions of women are younger than you are, sweetie. And this is a list of celebrities I'd like to have sex with, not a list of celebrities I'd like to grow old with and with whom I have lots in common, that's a much shorter list."

"Wait, what celebrities do you want to grow old with?"

"Debra K., creator of the Barmaid Blog."

I snort. "At my peak, I had maybe a few thousand readers, and only a few of them knew what I looked like. Now I'm lucky if a few dozen people are even aware of when I've written something new. I wouldn't call that celebrity."

"You're certainly more famous than I am."

"My few thousand readers also knew about you, remember? And about your incredible washboard abs, by the way."

"Thank you for that. Anyway, what was I up to, four?"


"Fifth would have to be... Olivia Munn."

"Oh, I approve. She's smart, funny, and hot."

"Right, so after she has sex with me, she can make jokes about my technique and then wisely never come near me again."

"Are you ready to laminate your list?"

"Laminating the list is so twenty years ago. I think uploading my list to the Cloud will suffice."

I laugh, and desnuggle for a minute to pour us each some more wine. "Okay, so, I've never given this much thought, so it might take me longer than it took you."

"That's true of quite a few things, sweetie."

"Hey, now! It takes me longer to get ready to go out because I want to look beautiful for you."

"You always look beautiful. You were wearing a t-shirt and a Yankees cap the night I met you, and you looked beautiful then, too."

I blush, and kiss him hard. "I love you, honey."

"I love you too!"

"Now, about those other people I'm going to have sex with." He chuckles. "First, the five men."

"Wait, you're going to choose five men and five women?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"Are you saying that you should get twice as many people on your list just because you're bi?"

"Are you saying that you should get twice as high a percentage of your appropriate pool of celebrities just because you're straight?"

"I guess I never really thought of it that way. But you're still getting double the number of free passes I am."

"Isn't this all hypothetical anyway? Isabella Rossellini wasn't ever going to sleep with Ross, and Keri Russell isn't going to stop me on the street and say, 'OMG I must have you!'"

"Well, that's true."

"Are you saying Keri Russell won't find me attractive, Warren?" I ask, deadpanning insult.

He pauses, mouth open, then says, "I am absolutely not going to win this one."

"So, five men! Paul Bettany."

"That's convenient, since he'll need something to occupy him while I'm sleeping with his wife."

"Jason Giambi."

"Haven't you already slept with him? Oh, wait, that was just a bunch of sex dreams you used to have about him."

"That's right, honey, but magically, I stopped having those dreams the day we got married."

"I should hope so, it was in our ketubah."

"Third would be Chris Hardwick."

"I approve. Just imagine the hashtag war afterwards."

"Fourth is Michael B. Jordan. And before you ask, no, not the basketball player, the actor from 'Creed.'"

"Very nice. Hey, we should see that again."

"Last but not least, Daniel Craig. But only if he's willing to pretend he's James Bond while we're having sex."

"James Bond, the suave yet emotionally unavailable spy who uses women and discards them, and then they often die shortly afterward?"

"I want to have sex with him, not have sex with him in a James Bond movie."

"That's good, because I'm not sure I could handle watching you have sex with Daniel Craig in IMAX."

"Okay, the women! Rachel Bilson."

"I don't think I know that one."

"Remember on 'How I Met Your Mother,' when Ted dated his future wife's roommate? That was her."

"Oh, yeah. She's a real Betty."

"A what?"

"A Betty. A hot babe. You've never heard that before?"

"Not even once. What is it from, Betty Page? Betty Boop?"

"I have no idea. Honestly, it could be from Betty White for all I know."

"Well, she is pretty hot for 94 years old."

"She's not on your list, is she?

"Not yet, she isn't. Second is Malin Åkerman."

"Man, talk about someone who was prettier when she was a brunette!"

"Your turn to be wrong, I'm afraid."


"Third is Alicia Vikander. And by the way, we're going to go see the new 'Tomb Raider' movie on opening night."

"There isn't a single part of that I have a problem with."

"Fourth is Jenna Ross."

"Again, no idea."

"Porn star."


"Again, I'm not planning to settle down with her. She's just got this gap-toothed innocence thing going on that I find intriguing. Plus, I figure she's got to be pretty good at sex if she does it for a living."

"I suppose." Warren furrows his brow a little.

"What's the matter, do you want to go back and get a do-over, swap in a porn star for Olivia Munn or something?"

"Hell, no. Besides, I don't think I know any of their names."

"Oh, I'm calling bullshit on that right now!"

"Okay, I know Jenna Jameson's name, but everybody knows who Jenna Jameson is. Or was. Well, I guess still is, it's not like she died. And she's not my type, so I'm keeping Olivia Munn."

"Ms. Munn will be quite relieved, I'm sure. So number five is Maria Kirilenko, the tennis player."

"Wait, what happened to Keri Russell?"

"Nothing. I never said she was on my list, you just asked me if she was."

"So all this time, you could've had sex with Keri Russell, and I would've been all, like, 'Forget it, dude, Keri was on her list, nothing you can do about it,' and you'd still have ten freebies left, while I only have five?"

"Yes, honey, that's exactly what could've happened, because that's what our lives are like. If it helps, you should know that I would've assumed Sophie Marceau was on your list."

"Shit. I knew I was forgetting someone."

"Okay, but if you get six, I get twelve."

"This is so not fair," Warren says, refilling our wine glasses again.

"Would it make you feel better if we added a more concrete 'freebies' clause to our ketubah?"

"Ah, just like our ancestors in the old country," he smiles. We go back to snuggling, and I hit play. Keri Russell and her co-star Matthew Rhys are now together in real life, I hear. They make a nice couple, but not as nice as Warren and me. I wonder who's on their freebies lists?

May 4th, 2016


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Green Drink
"Hey, are you new? I don't remember seeing you before."

"I'm just filling in for a week," I smile. "I'm Debra. What can I get you?"

"I'll have a Sam Rebel IPA, and I'm Caleb."

"Coming up, Caleb," I say, and grab a pint glass. The few Samuel Adams craft drafts this bar serves are in the row of taps closest to me, so I don't have to go far. I'm pouring off a little extra head to top off the pint when Caleb starts in on the questions.

"How do you hire a bartender to fill in for a week, is there a temp agency or something? Is someone on vacation? Why don't you have a permanent bartending job somewhere?"

I set the 16 ounces of hoppiness down on a coaster in front of him. "I'm a Soviet secret agent sent here to gather military intelligence in Brooklyn, and tending bar is just my cover. If I stay in one bar for too long, they'll find me, and that'll be the end of Natasha. I mean Debra."

I expected a chuckle, or at least a smile, but Caleb's look is blanker than the page at the end of a standardized test booklet. "What's a Soviet?"

You've got to be kidding. "Russian. Russia used to be part of the Soviet Union. You know, like on the TV show 'The Americans'? Keri Russell plays a Soviet spy pretending to be American."

"The girl who played 'Felicity' is in a new show? Man, she was hot."

"She still is. Anyway, I used to have a permanent bartending job, but filling in gives me more flexibility." And allows me to observe a bar's operations from close-up to do a good job as a consultant without having to pretend I'm a customer, I don't add. "That's seven dollars."

Caleb digs around in his wallet, looking at neither his wallet nor me. "When I first moved to New York after college, I used to binge-watch 'Felicity' on Netflix all the time. Then they got rid of it a few years ago. I used to masturbate to fantasies about Felicity having sex with her roommate Meghan all the time. Here you go." Did he really just say what I think he just said? He finally throws a credit card down on the bar, and for a moment, I'm afraid to pick it up. Of all the reactions I could choose, I opt for pretending I didn't hear him.

I'm putting the charge slip and a pen down in front of him when he asks, "So, do you masturbate to any TV stars?" So much for pretending.

"Why would you think it's okay to ask me that? You barely know me."

"Tracy and the other girls who work here talk about stuff like this all the time. I guess you're not cool with it?"

Danger, Will Robinson! goes the red-flag meter in my consultant brain. Do the women who work here encourage customers to talk about sex in order to get better tips? Is the owner aware, complicit, insisting upon it? This could create serious issues, up to and including for the bar's liability insurance. I file that away and deal with the more immediate problem.

"No, I'm really not. I'm a pretty friendly girl, but the only guy allowed to ask me about my sex life is my husband."

"You're married? Why aren't you wearing a wedding ring?"

Crap. Because it doesn't fit the character of "sexy fill-in barmaid" I'm supposed to be playing right now. "Debra's not married, but Natasha is. Her husband's back in Moscow praying for her safe return."

Caleb nods slowly, and sets about filling out the charge slip. Hard-won experience tells me not to count on much of a tip. "Nice save, Superstar," I hear Vince's voice say in my head.

"Am I allowed to talk about Keri Russell's tits? That's not about your sex life, right?" I'm getting paid well for this. I'm getting paid well for this. I inhale, remind myself that "Choose your battles" has always been one of the most difficult personal rules to follow working behind a bar, and smile.

"I'll tell you what. If you're willing to refer to them as 'breasts' instead of 'tits,' we can talk about any celebrities' breasts you want."

Caleb smiles. "Okay, then --"

"Porn stars don't count," I quickly add.

He shrugs. "So what do you think Keri Russell's breasts taste like?" He takes a few sips of his beer, looking at me with what seems like genuine earnestness, and I try not to cringe. This may not have been the conversation I intended to agree to have, but I did agree to have it.

"A White Russian," I reply, and Caleb laughs hard enough to dribble beer on himself. Great day in the morning, people, victory is mine.

April 19th, 2016

Lounge Act

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"Barmaid" Wine
"Did you know that we can take a tax deduction for the cost of renewing our liquor license?" Vince asks, sifting through a stack of last night's receipts.

"In fact, I did know that."

"Of course you did. Jill knew it, too. Why didn't I know that?"

"Because you didn't have to know it. You pay an accountant to know these things every spring, and he and Jill have your back. Besides, you know it now."

"But you knew it, and you don't own a bar."

"No, I don't, but it's my job to know everything I possibly can about owning and operating a successful bar. That way, when I tell bar owners my hourly rate, it's much less likely that they'll collapse in fits of hysterical laughter."

"Did you know that we can hire some convicted felons to work here, but not all of them?"

"Well, of course not - I mean, there's only so much room back there."

Vince smiles and shakes his head. In some ways it feels like no time has passed at all, and we're hanging out at The Bar in midtown Manhattan, where Vince started working as a barback only a few weeks after I started my blog. But that was almost ten years ago. We're both married, we've both started growing gray hairs here and there, and we've both gone into business for ourselves.

Vince and Jill went into business for themselves, I mean. It's a pretty sleek place, with a great downtown location and a trendy, lounge-y vibe. When they asked my advice a few years ago, I was pretty blunt in warning them about the risks of following trends in New York City. If you change your business too often to try to keep up with what's hip, you could easily lose whatever "regulars" you have in the name of chasing after new ones, and then fail to attract the new ones anyway.

Vince told me that their idea was "design versatility" - so they can "change with taste without losing the overall aesthetic." This bar would have atmosphere that's not "painted on the walls." His pitch sounded familiar, but it wasn't until I was telling Warren about it later that night that he laughed, then reminded me where it came from. It was the restaurant concept Dean Keaton was explaining to potential investors before he got arrested and pulled back into a life of crime in "The Usual Suspects."

When I called Vince on it the next day, he told me it had been Jill's idea, not his. He hadn't even seen the movie until she showed it to him. "That said," he added, "she's not just blowing smoke. You need to take a look at her notes." And damned if he wasn't right. Not that there's any guarantees in the bar business, especially not in New York City, but I thought she had a great concept.

Three years later, their bar (which I'll just call "The Lounge" for anonymity's sake) is still going strong, and changing just often enough - and just subtly enough - to keep it from becoming stale, without alienating the devoted. Right before they opened, I offered them a "friends and family" discount on my consulting services anytime they wanted some help, but they haven't taken me up on it yet. I'm just hanging out before opening time because I'm meeting The Lounge's business manager to take her out to lunch.

As if on cue, Jill walks in the front door, and the baby in her shoulder sling shouts and gestures at the moving lights in the ceiling. Even at eight months old, Alex is still on the small side, but he's active and charming, and unquestionably has Vince's nose. I give both Alex and his mother big kisses, and after Vince follows suit, he goes back to his receipts while we head to the diner down the block.

April 5th, 2016

Yes, All Barmaids

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I've told stories in this space about customers who treated me, or my colleagues behind the bar, poorly or even abusively because we were women. As unfortunately happens to so many women, our male colleagues didn't always have our backs - and plenty of people, including some we considered friends, questioned the veracity of what we'd reported. Even in my job today, as a consultant for bars in and around New York City, I see more often than you'd ever imagine that barmaids are being treated disrespectfully by customers, and male managers don't have their backs. "It's just how men are," they say, or "I'd lose customers."

I'm not aiming to start a debate over whether all men behave that poorly. I know from my own experiences that there are some genuinely good men out there. I'm simply moved to share with you a recent Facebook post by Jordan Gleason, the manager of a bar called Black Acre Brewing Company in Indianapolis, about a customer who got out of hand but then asked to be let back in. I encourage you to read the post...


...and then I encourage you to patronize the establishment if you ever have the opportunity:

Black Acre Brewing Company

The customer tried to make the interesting point that "what he said would have been okay 20 years ago," and although Jordan wrote an incredibly thoughtful and moving post in general, I think he actually missed an important opportunity to address that suggestion in particular. The customer may think what he said would have been okay twenty years ago, but in truth I think that's only because nobody was willing to stand up to it twenty years ago. The women to whom he spoke like that twenty years ago were afraid for their jobs, and their potential male allies were afraid of being labeled as soft, weak, or even "gay" for sticking up for them. It wasn't okay twenty years ago, it was just tacitly accepted. It was tolerated.

What he said was never okay, and the more we're able to understand that as our reality, the less we'll have to deal with "meninists" or frat boys or Gamergaters claiming that it's not fair they should have to keep up with constantly changing rules and shifting expectations. Here's an easy-to-follow guideline for you men who find this difficult: Start treating every woman in your life - not just your mother, sister, coworker, or random stranger on the subway, but also the woman who's serving you drinks, no matter how she likes to dress - just like you would want other men to treat her if she was your mother or your sister. And I can pretty much guarantee you that the rules of that aren't likely to change.

Jordan, I've never been to Indianapolis, but I have friends there and friends who travel there, and I can assure you that I'm going to recommend without reservation that they go spend money in your establishment, because you've demonstrated that you're an ally to be reckoned with. Thank you.


March 30th, 2016

Dinner Is Served

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Yoo Logo
November 12, 2012

"So you don't bartend anymore, but you still work for bars?" Ryan asks, twirling spaghetti with his fork and spoon in exactly the same way his father does.

"Sort of, yeah," I reply. "I'm not a bar employee, though, I'm a consultant. Owners of different bars hire my company to take a look at how they operate, and help them find ways to improve. Sometimes I actually do tend bar, but it's all part of doing the best analysis I possibly can."

"Oh, kind of like 'Bar Rescue'?"

"A little bit like that, but I don't swoop in with a huge budget, give each bar a complete makeover in forty-eight hours, and then ride off into the sunset. It's a longer and more complicated process."

"God, what a stupid show," interjects Katy, rolling her eyes. "So fake. So fake!"

Ryan smiles. "Sorry about my sister. Around the time she turned thirteen, she started automatically hating everything I like. I've been thinking about declaring my love for boys and makeup just to see what happens."

Across the table from me, Warren snorts, and barely manages to keep all the pasta in his mouth.


"Sorry, honey. Ryan, your sister is entitled to have opinions and tastes that are different from yours. And you're too young for makeup."

Katy snickers, Ryan shakes his head, and I grin and reach for more cheesy garlic bread.

Later on, Warren and I are washing and drying various instruments of cooking respectively, and his kids are in their room doing homework. Tomorrow morning, Warren will deliver them to school at the end of their three-day holiday weekend, and their mother will pick them up at the end of the day. They'll be with her until after Thanksgiving day, which I can't imagine is easy on Warren. Or on them, for that matter.

"Your kids are fantastic, and I'm genuinely sorry I haven't met them before now," I tell him. "I must have seemed incredibly selfish about it when we were dating."

Warren shrugs. "After we broke up, I wondered for a long time if it was because I pushed for it too hard or too early. You were ten years younger than me, your mother split when you were a kid, and we'd never even really had a conversation about where our relationship was going, then I spring my kids on you? That seems selfish to me."

"I still am ten years younger than you, champ."

"You always were good at math."

"Anyway," I continue, "your kids were a huge part of your life. I never held that against you, I was just too busy dealing with my own shit. I wasn't ready for anybody else's."

"So are you saying you're ready now?"

I pause to consider what he's actually asking me. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, we've reconnected as friends, I asked you over for dinner, you said tonight was your only free night this week, and I made sure you understood that my kids would be here. You said yes anyway."

"Oh, that? I just really, really like cheesy garlic bread."

Warren looks me in the eye for a few moments, and I give him my best poker face. He smiles, shakes his head, and goes back to scrubbing the inside of his garlic press.


March 22nd, 2016

New World Man

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McCroskey: Jacobs, I want to know absolutely everything that's happened up 'til now.
Jacobs: Well, let's see. First the Earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes-Benzes.
October 22, 2012

If someone told me to meet them at "that new hipster bar in Brooklyn," I'd probably smack them upside the head. Only high-rise apartment buildings are proliferating faster in Brooklyn than hipster bars, and it's a close call - especially since every new high-rise means more hipsters moving into the neighborhood who'll need a stupidly-named drink at an overpriced, equally tweely-named bar.

Tweely is so a word.

So here I am standing across the street from a new hipster bar in Brooklyn (let's call it "Hipsterville," for blog purposes) late on a Monday night, making notes on my phone as people go in and out. Not very many of them, though. It's only my third night observing, but I've already started to form an opinion about why, which I'll write up in detail tomorrow along with some relevant data analysis. My impression so far is that the owners wanted it to be a hipster bar, so they tried to make it a hipster bar, and few things are more fatal to hipsters wanting to go to a bar than the knowledge that the bar wants them to be there.

I know. I never claimed hipsters made sense.

The stream of pedestrians coming from the north has picked up, which probably means that some event or other has ended at the new Barclays Center several blocks away. That arena has also only been open for a few weeks, and I'm sure it's why a handful of new bars have opened up in this neighborhood that's not quite Park Slope and not quite Prospect Heights. Even this steady, new supply of people isn't increasing the population inside my client's bar, but then again, most of them seem to be men over thirty-five, which doesn't exactly fit the hipster profile. I back away from the middle of the sidewalk to lean against the wall of the building behind me, to let people pass more easily, and refocus my attention on Hipsterville. I've got an under-cover employee observing from the inside, too; I learned pretty quickly after getting into this end of the bar business that I'm "not forgettable enough" that I can pretend to be a quiet, people-watching customer. Flattering, I guess, but standing on the street is both less interesting and shorter on Scotch.

"Are you waiting for anyone in particular?" I turn to see a small group of men who've stopped just to one side of me, and the tallest and best-dressed of them is smiling. It's Warren, and I'm immediately smiling, too. I push off from the wall, and go in for a hug.

"How long has it been?" I ask as I look up at his face. "You look good."

"Too long, and you look amazing. Guys, this is Debra, we dated sometime back in the Mesozoic Era. Debra, these are the Guys."

We all wave at each other. "Where are you headed?"

"We were just looking for a place to get a drink - ideally somewhere that's not too loud, we're coming from the Rush concert and my ears are feeling a little old and fragile right now."

"Well, confidentiality prohibits me from encouraging you to go across the street into that bar right there, but I do notice that it's not very crowded."

Warren looks over at Hipsterville, then looks back at me, tilting his head a little bit. "That sounds like a story I'd like to hear at some point. Do they have Weihenstephaner?"

"I have it on good authority that they do," I nod.

"Can you join us for a drink, or are you forbidden under some kind of non-compete blood oath?"

I laugh. "I am forbidden, and in fact I'm really not supposed to be socializing right now, but thank you."

"That's right now. What are you doing Thursday night?"

I check the calendar on my phone. "Taking an old flame out to dinner," I reply. "Do you still like Thai food?" He smiles, and the Guys let out a collective laugh.

"Sounds good to me. My phone number's still the same," says Warren as he and the Guys start to head across the street. I wave again as they enter Hipsterville. I check my watch, and discover that I've fulfilled my stakeout duties for the night, so I start walking toward Flatbush Avenue. By the time I'm in a taxi on the way home, I'm already starting to think about red curry duck and navy blue NYPD sweatshirts.


March 18th, 2016

Coming Home

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The day Warren and I got married, this story was in the program our friends and family received:
A poor Polish Jew named Isaac, from the Kazimierz section of Krakow, had a dream about a treasure hidden near the Charles Bridge in Prague. He immediately set out for the distant city, where he found the bridge filled with soldiers.

One of the soldiers approached Isaac and asked him his business there. When Isaac explained about his dream and the treasure he was sure would be there - even offering to split it with the soldier if he allowed Isaac to dig - the soldier laughed at him. "Only a naive fool would come so far for a dream! I keep having this dream myself that in a house of a Krakovian Jew named Isaac, son of Jacob, there is a treasure hidden under the oven. But I'm not so foolish as to go to Krakow and look for it. After all, every second Jew in Krakow is named Isaac, and every third, Jacob!"

Isaac thanked him, returned home to Krakow, dismantled the oven, and found a great treasure. He became one of the wealthiest citizens of Kazimierz, and founded the famous Isaak Synagogue in Krakow that still stands over 300 years later.

There are some things which you can seek the world over, only to find them in your own home. But before you realize this, you often have to go on a long journey, and search far and wide.
A little cheesy, I know, but it's how we really felt after finding each other again. We'd been together in 2006, but we didn't understand what we had when we had it.

Okay, I didn't understand what we had when we had it. no title

I've been writing lately, but it hasn't been blogging - it's been some short fiction, some little vignettes, some "thinking out loud" about issues I've been pondering, a little bit of work on the two novels I started forever ago but haven't finished. But the more I've thought about it, the more I realize that I miss blogging. And on the rare occasions that I've surfaced on Facebook or Twitter (or blogged here, the one time I did it last summer), a bunch of you have tried to convey the message that you miss me blogging, too. I do think I understood "what I had" when I was blogging - a community, a place to improve my writing, a fun and sometimes therapeutic way of sharing how I felt, and an audience. But you don't have to be oblivious to the value of something to realize later you want it back.

So I realized I wanted it back. What next? Everything has changed so much since you last had that lens into my life, and I just felt I was lacking motivation. Then, two things happened more or less simultaneously: 1) A bunch of y'all wished me happy birthday on Facebook this Tuesday, and 2) I stumbled on the Patreon page of a favorite cartoonist of mine. As soon as I had made my pledge to sponsor him for a small amount of money every month, knowing how much enjoyment he had brought to me over the years, it occurred to me that I might have my solution.

I'm going to start blogging again. Seriously. When I have an entry ready to post, I'm going to post it over at Patreon first, where my "patrons" will get to see it a little earlier than everyone else. If you want to encourage and support my blogging, you can still show me some love by commenting here, following me on Twitter, friending me on Facebook, or sharing my blog with friends who haven't seen it yet. But if you choose, you can also motivate me to keep blogging, and blog more often, by becoming a "patron" at Patreon.

Before you ask, no, I don't really "need" the money. I'll get into the whole story at some point, but I sold my father's house a while back. Warren and I bought a new apartment together so we could merge into one semi-unconventional household, and I invested in a business. I'm earning a living; I'm not rich, and I'm not poor. I wouldn't expect this to generate "life-changing money" anyway - very few people make huge amounts from Patreon, even someone as talented as Jon Rosenberg. no title It's more about the motivation. I want to know that when I write about what's been going on in my life, there are people who care about sharing those moments with me.

So that's the deal. If you want to support my return to blogging regularly, visit my Patreon page, and make a pledge. It'll send a message that you want to read what I have to say, that my stories are worth telling, that I have some talent at making people smile, laugh, cry, think, and feel.

That you're ready for me to come home.

July 11th, 2015

There are sensations in this world to which I will never grow accustomed, no matter how often I experience them: Turbulence during an airplane flight when we’re already in a pitched turn. Biting into an apple and finding that part of it spoiled.

Waking up because a cat is licking my scalp.

“Stop it.”

She doesn’t.

“You just ate last night.”

Lick. Lick. Lick.


I groan a little, and as I sit up, I feel the bedsheets shift around me. Grabbing my phone, I pad barefoot down the hall into the kitchen, littler and faster footsteps tapping behind me. As soon as I pull the tab on the can of food, I hear a happy “Thrrup!” in the distance, and another rapid set of taps is followed by another entrance to the kitchen.

“Morning, Cady,” I say to him, and he ignores me in favor of digging into a pile of something chicken-flavored. Yertl chows down with similar abandon, and I smile, then I yawn.

I linger and watch them eat for a while, relishing the quiet time to myself, and open the email on my phone. For a moment, I forget how to breathe.

To: Debraxxxxxxxx@gmail.com
From: jxxxxxxxx@gmail.com
Date: Jul 10, 2015 10:34:42 PM
Subject: Long Time, No Anything

Dear Debra,

I hope this note finds you well, and more importantly finds you happy. It’s all I ever wanted for you. Maybe timing really is everything, but it wasn’t fair to you what happened, and it certainly wasn’t your fault. I’m sure I didn’t tell you that enough times when it mattered, and it may make no difference now, but it wasn’t your fault. Depression doesn’t work that way.

I’m writing now because the Supreme Court’s ruling a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for all the other stuff you and I had going on between us, the catalyst – what my revolving cast of therapists calls a “trigger” – was Prop 8 passing in California the night after we elected Barack Obama President. Can you believe it was that long ago, or how much has happened since then?

I got married last year. She coaches high school sports, and yes, I can hear you rolling your eyes from here at the stereotype. I’m sure you know it’s been legal in New York for about four years now, but I was single for a while until I had some real confidence that I was looking for a partner, and not for a savior or a crutch. I think you and she would like each other, but I don’t have any illusions that we’re all going to start hanging out anytime soon.

I checked your blog a few days ago when I first thought about writing this email to you, just to see what your life’s been like, and I wanted to say that I’m so sorry about your father. I know how special he was to you, and you to him. I hope you’re doing okay now, whatever you’ve been doing in the four and a half years since you last blogged, whomever you’re doing it with and wherever you are. I also want to let you know that it was a revelation to read what you wrote about our last few months together, and I hope that you’ve made your peace with it as I have. You owe nothing to me but what you gave me when we were together, and that was already more than I think I had any right to expect.

Take care, Debra, and be good to yourself. Someone has to.


There’s a moment in the best New York summer storms when you think the rain has passed, and the sun is shining brightly through the trees and reflecting off the soaked city’s million windows, and then the rain starts again, just for a couple of minutes, but the sun stays out. If there is a Creator, I imagine that in those moments, He is mourning what’s been lost but unflinchingly optimistic about what’s to come. That’s how I feel right now, leaning against the counter in my new kitchen and sobbing into a pile of tissues with a broad smile on my face.

After I pull myself together, I put a little dry food in the cats’ bowls, and start a pot of coffee brewing. It’s a little early on a Saturday morning for me not to try to go back to sleep, but I know it won’t happen. I walk back to the other end of the apartment nonetheless, on my way passing two empty bedrooms – empty this weekend, anyway. I open the door quietly, and slip back into bed, trying not to jostle or make noise, just so I can lie next to my husband for a little while longer. He stirs despite my best efforts.

“What time is it?”

“It’s about a quarter to nine. Sorry I woke you, honey. I just had to feed the cats.”

“Mmkay. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Warren rolls toward me and kisses my shoulder, then rolls away. Within minutes, he’s asleep again, and all that’s left on my face is the smile.

December 8th, 2010

On the Naming of Cats

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"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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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.


"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..."


"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?"


"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)

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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)

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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

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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?"


"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.

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