Rainbow Liberty

Independence Day

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.

Scotch Rocks

Down That Road

"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.


The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears

"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?

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.

"Barmaid" Wine

Lounge Act

"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.


Yes, All Barmaids

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.


Yoo Logo

Dinner Is Served

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.



New World Man

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.



Coming Home

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.

Rainbow Liberty

(Just Like) Starting Obergefell

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.