Light’s Out

It’s been a busy week. The King’s Speech won the Academy Award, I had a tooth pulled and I almost bartended an entire shift via Braille. I kicked a broncular infection, spent three days in bed and got my girlfriend sick. I got to meet Marc Maron, eat a crab dip and still lost ten pounds. Even with three days of snow, I feel like Utah is finally getting it out of her system and we’ll have spring here shortly. It’s been a rough winter. For all of Salt Lake’s natural beauty, we sure have crappy winters in the Valley. Snowstorms close to fireplaces in cabins in Millcreek Canyon are lovely; four months of the inversion in the Valley is the First Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.

I was still getting my feet underneath me. Last week’s illness really took a lot out of me. Having cold sweats is great when listening to James Brown but not when you’re sweating through bed sheets and shaking oneself to sleep. If there was ever a reason to take care of myself it is to avoid feeling like this in the future. Also, it doesn’t help that I am a puss. I think I would be a better bartender with a broken wrist and a back-brace than with a sniffle. I do everything short of yelling for my mother when I’m sick. It’s a lot easier to be stoic with a black-eye than a sore throat.

It was good to get back behind the bar this week. I think we all have “Safe Zones” in our life and for me it is with the bottles, shakers, taps and towels of the bar. Finally getting out of bed and stepping back into old routines felt good. As physically taxing as it is to bartend for nine hours, I’d rather struggle for a shift then waste away in bed. For the most part, it was a pretty normal week. With the exception of the lights going out, meeting Salt Lake’s most interesting man alive, have no less than three guys threaten to beat me up and serving a drink called The Flamin’ Nazi, it was business as usual.

The biggest adventure of the week was Saturday’s power outage. The club had been booked out for over a week and the phone was ringing off the hook with people looking for last minute reservations. There was a laser-like focus with the entire staff getting the club set-up. The bars went up quickly, the room was organized, everything was stocked and there was an energy in the club even before we turned on the neon and opened the doors. I am guilty of setting a dollar amount of tips I want to make for the night and for this last Saturday, I set the amount about $40 higher than usual. Everything seemed just right for a great evening.

We opened the doors at 7pm and customers starting pushing through immediately. I like a little pre-rush before the show. It’s the bartender equivalent of stretching before the big game. Knocking out a couple of beers and cocktails to the early guests is a good way of falling into a rhythm that usually serves you well throughout the evening. By ramping up for the night, I am able to get my drink pouring hands loose and my head straight. We had about 75+ guests in the bar at 8 o’clock when we heard a loud pop. Suddenly, the entire street block of Main Street was dark and half of the club was under emergency lights.

This wasn’t good.

I knew immediately that we had a problem. I checked with the GM and we started looking though all of the circuit panels to see if a breaker had been tripped. No dice. This was a city problem. Out on Main Street, two stop lights were out and all of the business on the west side of the road were dark. For whatever reason, Keys on Main has two main power feeds supplying all of the energy for the club. And by our best analysis, the one that we need to power the Berg machines, beer coolers and cash registers were affected by the power outage.

We probably would have been better off with all of the power out instead of just one of the two feeds. There was just enough power coming into the club to illustrate to our guests that we didn’t have enough power to take care of them. Yet without the limited power, the night would have been a complete disaster. If we didn’t have at least some of our lights working, the entire bar would have filed out the door. At least we were able to sell draft and bottle beer and wine and keep people from leaving in mass exodus.

I called the Rocky Mountain Power to register a complaint and found the woman at the other end of the phone to be less than sympathetic. She told me that I could except the problem to be resolved by midnight. Well, that wasn’t going to work for us. We already had a line outside the door with people trying to get in. The only way we could salvage this night was for everybody to do their best to keep all of the customers in the room. I am particularly proud of my co-workers for how they conducted themselves through the power outage. Calmer heads definitely prevailed. I think working in Utah clubs made all of us ready for an experience like this—we’ve spent most of our time behind the bar telling people they can’t have what they want. Still, time was working against us. If we didn’t get the club back operational then it would have been a bust of a night.

Miraculously, Rocky Mountain Power showed up and were able to fix the problem. At 9:05pm, the power was up and we were in business. The sound of the computers firing up was awesome and we ended up having a really good night. For the rest of the evening it was smooth sailing with shots and beers. Well, I wish it was that simple. The bar was over-run with people in TapOut T-shirts slamming Hennessey and Red Bull, accusing me of short-pouring and giving them the stink-eye. It’s amazing how quickly you can kick a cold when yelling at some mongoloid that nine shots of Goldschlager is more than enough and I’d appreciate if you’d stop threatening me. Like I said, business as usual.

The newest addition to the small roster of Keys on Main regulars was introduced to me. In addition to believing he is the most interesting man in Utah, he also looks like Jonathan Goldsmith. With a salt and peppered beard and the inability to tell the truth, this knucklehead did something that really got under my craw. When I call somebody sir or ma’am, it is never meant with disrespect. My parents were sticklers for being polite with people and resorting to formal addresses of people is not intended as an insult. This chucklebot who claimed to be from Rome, a retired general in the US Army, a business mogul dealing with precious stones and only drank the finest liquor in the world (his drink of choice was a Russian Quaalude: 1oz. vodka, ¼ oz. Frangelico, ¼, Bailey’s Irish Cream, ¼ oz. Crème de Cacao over ice and cream) was pissed off that I called him Sir. What I really wanted to call him was Cracker but he would have to settle for Sir while I was busy. Blowhards are just like bullies. The best way to defeat them is to ignore them.

On a lighter note, I had a tooth pulled this week. My back, right bottom molar had to go. I cracked my tooth on something a month ago and it was beyond repair. I went to the dentist on Monday, got a face full of Novocain and left a tooth poorer and a lollipop richer. If Irish American have priority on the professions of cops, firefighters and bartenders, Mormons hold court in the dental office. To be honest with you, I’d be nervous with anybody besides a return missionary working my teeth over with a pair of pliers. I wanted to come up with a drink to commemorate my extraction and came up with a couple of good names: The Tooth Tugger, Gravity Cavity, Cracked Tooth and The Chipper. Lacking imagination, every drink I came up with included Tequila and Midori with a Jager floater.

On a final note, people who complain about Utah liquor laws just haven’t burnt enough calories to find ways to make them work for their advantage. For this reason, I think Utah drinkers are the best in the nation. They have to work that much harder to get a better drink. I had a couple in from Wisconsin on Thursday and they clearly did their homework. They ask the appropriate questions, namely, “What flavorings do you have?” They then asked what we don’t pour and what do I recommend with only 45 minutes to get nice and tight. They drank hard, tip big and never once spoke despairingly against Utah’s drinking culture. For the record, The Flamin’ Nazi is a shot of Jagermeister, half-shot of Rumplemintz and a float of Bacardi 151-proof rum lit. There’s no propaganda needed with this drink. Be it here or Wisconsin, I guarantee this drink will mess you up.

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