Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Catching Up and Contest Deadline 2/20

So I disappeared on the blogging front last week because I went to the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in downtown Chicago. Oh writerly goodness... It's always wonderful to be surrounded by thousands of others who love literature and the craft of writing in particular for a few days. I learned a lot, got to spend time with people I don't see often enough, but of course I fell behind on everything else. Yesterday Scott and I actually had a full day to spend together so I procrastinated more. I needed it. Honestly, I've been down in the dumps lately.

Okay, warning, this is going to contain a lot of venting...

Some of it is personal, weird Stephanie emotional crap. I poured a lot of pain into that blog entry I wrote a couple weeks ago about the abuse I dealt with as a teen and I still haven't fully recovered from that or all the emotion I put into revising my second book. Also there are some very painful things that I keep all tucked away inside and sometimes they just come out. Like my friend Marcel's death. It's been on my mind a lot lately. I'm just missing him. I got too drunk one night at AWP and like every time I drink too much since he's died, I ultimately end up sobbing (this time in the shower) over him. I've come to the conclusion that I really just shouldn't get drunk. Not until I've processed that more and with death who knows how long it will take to process that. I only recently realized that Marcel didn't just die, he was killed. I never termed it that way because someone who is murdered is killed, soldiers who die in Iraq are killed, but the thing is Marcel was killed too. My friend Frank, he died. A medical condition caused his death. That's dying. Marcel was killed by a negligent driver. It may have been an "accident," but he was still killed as a result of her actions. Anyway, I don't know what it is, but I have had a hard time coping with that over the past two weeks or so.

But, personal, emotional stuff aside, I think I'm in a funk mainly for the same reason a lot of people are lately: economic crunch. I feel like every time I go to work, I'm sending out desperate messages on twitter for people to come visit me because it's dead. No one comes. Mainly because my friends all live in the city and they are broke too. But it's getting seriously bad. I have a certain amount of money I need to make each month. This was the first month where I didn't make it. And meanwhile some of my bills went up. And I feel stupid complaining about it, mostly because I think a lot of people have this misperception that since my book is published, I'm making a decent living off of that. Here's the ugly truth about that: the amount I made off my book is less than a third of what I made in a year at the office job I quit. And nearly every penny of what I made goes back into promotion (buying my own book for giveaways, getting presents for my lovely web designer, putting myself on a book tour, getting bookmarks made, etc). What's left will maybe if I'm lucky pay part of my property taxes. Bartending is how I earn my living, pay my mortgage, buy food, etc. 

So yeah, I'm stressed because the last two nights that I worked, I made half of what I normally make. Partially because less customers are coming in, partially because people are being cheap with their tips since they have less money, which is so freakin' evil. I really believe everyone should have to work a service industry job so they learn how to tip. Oh and then there are the crazies who don't tip at all. I will pause in my venting about stress to share some crazy bar stories because I know everyone loves those.

The past two Saturdays I have had nutjobs who, when I cut them off or reprimanded them in some way, threatened to call the police on me. Um, WTF??? Example A: Crazy Dude comes in with his lady friend. He is already sloshed, but not really drinking more. She is sober, but then has like two drinks and suddenly is staggering around the bar with a dollar bill extended going "Music?" because she cannot find the jukebox which is RIGHT BEHIND HER. "Those people are definitely cut off," I tell my regulars. Then Crazy Dude shakes his beer glass at me. Which is rude. Totally rude. Putting your glass at the end of the bar or politely raising your hand are the polite ways to get bartender attention. When I walk over to Crazy Dude he shakes his glass at me again instead of using his words. I tell him (because I prefer to avoid conflict in the cutting people off situation whenever possible) that it is 2:30 and I am going to close so I'm not serving anyone anymore. Which is true. My regulars at the end of the bar are finishing up their beers and leaving. The only other customers are Creepy Al and his creepy, crazy, cracked out girlfriend, who I don't like serving anyway and tend to cut off often. This is when Crazy Dude flips and tells me that he knows the cops and will call them and I better have everyone out of the bar in ten minutes or they are going to be here and arrest me because if he is cut off, everyone should be cut off.

WTF. Go ahead. Call them. Last time I checked I have the right (and responsibility) to refuse service as I see fit.

Then this Saturday, it was like an episode of VH1's Sober House at the Beacon minus the D-list celebrities. This dude comes in who only ever orders a glass of water. He told me that he does this because he used to have a drinking problem so now he doesn't drink. But this time he comes in and orders a beer and a shot. Ohhhh-kay... I guess someone fell off the wagon. But then things get weirder still when a woman comes in and though she is tanked, the dude doesn't want her to know he is drinking. Yet he wants me to secretly pour him another shot. But he's not tipping me, so really why should I go to this trouble. Anyway, so the woman is totally nuts. She starts talking to one of my regulars who I overhear telling her, "Just get a cab, go back to the halfway house and admit you fucked up." 

Oh my god. Really? Is this my life or a TV show? 

But my regular is definitely giving good advice. Of course the woman is not listening. She also tells my regular that she became a crackhead because her ex-husband maxed out her credit cards and she can't pay her bills. "What the hell kind of reason is that to become a crackhead?" my regular demands. "Just file for bankruptcy! Don't make excuses. You're a crackhead because you want to smoke crack." She continues to harrass my regular until he is saying that he doesn't want to talk to her anymore. I step in at this point and tell her to leave my other customers alone. The only reason I don't throw her out is because she had me talk to some one to give them directions to pick her, so her ride should be her soon enough. At this point she freaks out on me and says, "My friend who is picking me up is a Maywood cop. I know cops. I can do what I want. You'll be the one in trouble."

Again. WTF. I almost told her, forget the Maywood cops, you are about to meet the Forest Park cops. Ugh.

So there are your crazy bar stories. This comes with the territory. I deal with it. But usually at least I am making decent money while dealing with it. Not so much lately. So I'm stressed. I know I'm lucky to have a job at all, but I worry sometimes. No I worry constantly. I worry that my little bar won't survive this economic crisis and then I won't have a job. I worry that even if the bar survives, I won't be making enough money and I'll be forced to go back to a horrible soul-sucking office job. I can't stomach that thought. I'd rather deal with these crazies than work in a cube under florescent lights for people who have no appreciation of creativity again. 

But even when I'm down in the dumps, I need to focus on the positive. The single most exciting thing I've heard in the past week or maybe even month is that Alyson Noel's book Evermore made the New York Times bestsellers list. I'm so beaming and proud because I met Alyson this summer and she is so sweet and deserving and I love her and her books. Also it gives me hope. Evermore is Alyson's eighth book. She persevered and eventually reached major success. It reminds that maybe, just maybe, if I work really hard, I can achieve my writing dreams too. I just want to be able to write full time (and bartend occasionally only for fun rather than my major income source). Maybe it can happen. So with that in mind, I'm going to spend the rest of this week really pouring myself into my proposal for my next book.

There is one tiny thing you can do to keep the smile on my face that I get when I think about Alyson and Evermore.... enter the "Inspired By" Contest! Please! The deadline is Friday and only one person has entered since I extended it a month ago :( So if you have an entry, pretty please get it in soon. Your entries always make me so happy! 


Micol Ostow said...

Just wanted to chime in about how hard it is to earn a living from writing...people assume that if you're getting published you're gold but that's only the tip of the iceberg. I'm glad to hear that EVERMORE was Alyson Noel's 8th book--I hadn't known that, and it's definitely inspiring re: the value of perseverance.


Liviania said...

I'm almost done with my entry - promise.

And I tip well.

Natalie Hatch said...

Hey Steph remember that grieving takes a long time and there's 5 steps to it. Shock, anger, guilt, denial, bargaining and acceptance. People flit in between all five stages as they learn to cope with the loss of loved ones. One minute you're fine and then you smell something or see something that reminds you of them and it's back to stage one all over again.
I keep forgetting that my mum passed away a year ago and I go to call her up and then sit there crying because I can't. Some days are good, some not so. Just let yourself accept these emotions as a healing process. It's hard, there are times that you just want to grab the universe and shake it to demand why them. In the end though life keeps going.
As for the drunks. Well hey they're not fully in control of their actions. Don't take it personally.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thank you all for your words of support. And Liviania, I loved your entry!!!!

Natalie, this meant so much to me and I'm so sorry about your mum. Hugs!