Sunday, March 23, 2008

Here Comes A Regular...

This was the week of revisiting old jobs. I went back to Columbia for Story Week and then last night I bartended at the Beacon Pub where I worked during the last two years of grad school. My old boss needed someone to fill in, I needed some extra cash for my friend's upcoming wedding and my boyfriend's upcoming birthday, so it worked out for everyone. If you break it down to hourly pay, I made double what I make at my dayjob last night and I had fun doing it. Sure my feet are a little sore, and getting home at 3:30 am screwed up my sleep schedule a little bit, but honestly I prefer bartending to my current office job. I guess this is yet another reason why I suck at being a grown up. I'd rather sling drinks in jeans than dress up and be in an office. In fact the only reasons I'm not doing it are A. insurance and B. while I make double what I make at the office on a Saturday night, when I work an afternoon shift, which is what I generally worked before, or even a night shift during the week, I have days where I make half as much as I do at the office job. It's not very reliable. I'm sure I could work at other bars where the money would be better, but it wouldn't be the Beacon. And when I can afford to go back to bartending (ie. when I make enough money off of writing that I don't need a full-time job and am bartending for spending money and insurance plan money), it's gonna be at there.

What's so freakin' great about the Beacon? Well, it has ambiance like no other place. It's a bar that has been around since before or maybe just after prohibition, so it has the old tin ceilings, a traditional Chicago-style bar, and whenever it changes hands, no one takes their decorations with them. Above the bar is a gorgeous painting of the Chicago skyline in the early sixties, pre-Sears Tower and all the skyscrapers. The wall is filled with random photos from a nude Marilyn Monroe to a portrait of Marilyn Monroe to a document that outlines the eleven stages of drunkenness (it includes "witty and charming" phase one and two, ends with "bulletproof" and my favorite is number five "fuck dinner"). Model airplanes hang from the ceiling at one end of the bar and a pair of legs in fishnet stockings hang from a hole in the ceiling near the men's bathroom. The owner has not put a lot into repairing or updating the place, so sometimes when the people in the apartment above empty their bathtub, the water leaks down, which sort of sucks, but is sort of hilarious because it happens right from between the fishnetted lady legs. The jukebox hasn't really been updated since he bought the place in '97, so there is still a Ricky Martin cd in there along with all the bands I loved in high school from Nirvana, the Replacements and Jane's Addiction to guilty pleasure the Gin Blossoms. I've suggested some modernization for the jukebox, but was largely ignored although a White Stripes cd was recently added. And we'll never get one of those new-fangled download from the internet jukeboxes...

But more important than the fabulous decor, it is truly neighborhood dive bar. Not a hipster dive bar where the surroundings are scuzzy, but the clientèle are cooler than thou twenty-somethings. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I have no tolerance for pretentiousness. It bugs the shit out of me when the punk rock or "freak" kids are just as snobby as the kids they hated in high school. I didn't hang out with the Tau Gamma girls in high school (yes, we had a sorority at our high school and I am not trying to stereotype, but every girl that I met who was a part of it was bitchy to me) and I'm not gonna hang out with people who have the same exact attitude but happen to have cool tattoos.

Okay, rant aside, the Beacon is full of real people. It's a very motley crew-- from Molly and Tim, the couple who is my age and are types I'd usually hang with, to Dave, who is a bit older and is some sort of businessman (I don't know what he does, but he owns a Mercedes and season White Sox tickets which he gives freely to his friends when he is traveling, he's a very cool dude), to Pat, the carpenter who is in his fifties, to Mr. Howe, the retired labor negotiator, to Jim and Sue, the couple in their sixties who live down the block--but somehow they all come together as friends because they frequent the same bar. They're genuinely nice folks who don't give a rat's ass how many differences you may have, they'll focus on your commonalities. Case in point, Sue.

Sue's a retired woman from the South, on the surface level what does she have in common with me, who, when we met, was a twenty-four year-old art school student? Our love for cats and books. Sue loves to read. That's what she does all day. That's what she's done all her life. She'd write too and tells me she writes amazing letters, but claims she only writes well when she's drunk. Last night when I saw her, I showed her the advance copy of my book and she asked if she could just read the first page. Of course, I told her she could and when she finished reading it she had tears in her eyes and told me that my character, a teenager who grew up in the early nineties on punk rock, had a rebellious streak that reminded her of her own teenage years in the fifties when rock 'n' roll was born. Needless to say, that was one of the highest compliments I've received on my writing and I can't wait to see what Sue has to say about the rest of the book.

Jesus, this blog is getting long and I have so much more to say... I think I will make it blog about the Beacon week, so I can tell you more of my insights from my drink-slinging days. Because let me tell you, they were a real study in character and in humanity. So yeah, stay tuned in!

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