Put Down The Gyro

DUI MATH: Eating a gyro while driving down a freeway at 73-mph is equivalent to being drunk on seven beers.

I was speeding down I-215 with my knees steering the truck while I was trying to unwrap the tightest gyro this side of Greece. I was struggling with keeping the tzatziki sauce off my new jacket while I was drifting from lane to lane. It didn’t help that I was also flipping through songs on my iPod and trying to pick out the red onions in my gyro. I don’t know when “no onions” means “extra onions” but Greek Hut in West Valley City doubled-downed on the onions. Onions are like mayo—a little goes a long way.

I can’t think of a more polarizing vegetable. Unless they are covered in beer batter and fried to a golden brown, you can keep the onions in the ground. We all know the good tasting vegetables. They’re the ones that can complete this sentence: “My Aunt Dee makes the most delicious cream of [fill-in-the-blank vegetable].” Never in the history of the culinary arts has the words cream of onion ever been uttered in a favorable context.

As I am flicking the quarter cup of onions off my gyro onto the floor of my truck, I looked up for a moment and realized that I was really out of control. If I had been drunk I guarantee I would have done a better job driving because I would have been trying not to get arrested. Fighting with a gyro and making sure I had the right podcast on was a little irresponsible considering that I was speeding and not watching the road. I made a big boy decision to put down the gyro and focus on not jackknifing on the freeway.

The club was slow this week. I think it’s the perfect storm of the doldrums of post-New Year’s, school starting up and the first credit card bills from December. Factor in that the fact that the weather in Salt Lake has been horrible and I am not surprised that people having been coming out. It’s counter-intuitive but the worst the weather the better the business. For whatever reason, if there are six-foot snow banks and blades of sheets screaming through the valley, my bar would be packed. If it is just cold and ugly like it has been for the last two months, people seem to spend their evenings at home.

I don’t blame them. Salt Lake City is like a woman that needs to put her face on before going out of the house. Ever see a picture of Charlize Theron without make-up? That wasn’t acting in the movie, Monster. Salt Lake City without the snow in the winter or all of the trees in the summer is a brown mess. Add some brutally cold temperatures and I am ready to give it back to the Mormons and head for warmer weather.

I think this is why people drink a Herculean amount of tequila during the winter months. It reminds them of some other place when there is the roar of the ocean in the background and calypso music pumping out of the speakers. Tequila is like an abusive uncle—you are always happy when he shows up but you quickly remember why your parents told you not to play with him in the backyard.

There are nights at Keys On Main which are frantic sprints to last call. It’s when every person in the club is named Ashley or Lindsay and they are celebrating their birthday. A cheap cavalcade of women in their mid-20s covered in body glitter and party hats barking like hyenas for strong drinks and free shots. Pouring German chocolate cake shots and white gummy bears for these girls really signify a personal growth for me. For starters, a younger Ben Raskin might have given away the entire bar for a chance to watch these girls make out with each other. Second, I didn’t feel nearly as bad about my drinking in comparison to the amount of shots they ordered. Nothing short of a silver bullet could put these women down.

In a recent visit with a physician, I was asked how much do I drink a week and I literally pleaded the fifth about my fifths. I didn’t think the doctor needed to know about my heroic intake of cocktails during the week. Like most working stiffs, I enjoy a baker’s dozen or so of highballs a night to take the edge off of the day. If I had to rank my cocktail consumption it would fall somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Winston Churchill–really nothing that needs to be addressed. In comparison to the cackle of women in the bar on any given Saturday, I looked like a God damn teetotaler.

The vast majority of all of my guests on Saturday were driven by a high-powered plutonium device whose half-life was measured in quarts. Shots of tequila went out into a single night with reckless abandonment. People wanted strong drink during the brutal Salt Lake nights and tequila tastes like better days. I shudder to think how many toilet bowls wake up to some drunk chick next to it.

Just like vultures searching the Serengeti for discarded carcasses to feast on, following the shot-slurping birthday girls were carrion-feeding men. The best way that I could describe the energy being put off by these predatory males was too many snowboarders and not enough snow. To eliminate the sexual tension in the club, Utah really needs a decent snowfall. Their attempts to get the women’s attention were as effective as herding cats. I am surprised that I didn’t sell more kamikazes considering how many suicide missions these guys went on.

One poor son-of-a-bitch was able to break into the ranks of the celebrating women. He offered to buy them a round of shots and they gleefully accepted. They screamed, I screamed, we all screamed for tequila but he quickly told the group that he can’t drink tequila. He defended not sharing a shot with the girls because he does bad things when drinking tequila. I wanted to ask him what kind of bad things. I secretly hoped he would lift his leg on the bar and show an ankle monitor or he would tell me about a series of arsons he’s committed after polishing off a bottle of Cazadores. Chances are he probably just threw up on his grandmother at an ill-fated family reunion. Needless to say, it didn’t work out for him.

It is just me or are people getting dumber? As an old man behind the bar, I am getting nervous about our future with every newly printed 21-year old that comes through the door. There is a stupidity that is not just strong but contagious. When I think of a potential dystopia, movies like Escape from New York or Children of Men come to mind. Now, it is Idiocracy.

Think of the dumbest person in your life. If you’re like me, it is probably somebody you work with. It’s probably some slacked-jaw loather who doesn’t carry their weight around the office. In my case, it’s a particular cocktail waitress who is a couple of notches dumber than my chocolate lab. And for the record, these are some pretty big notches. Dumb is as dumb does. Those of us that finish dead last in a game of Trivial Pursuit or like Wheel of Fortune for all of the bright lights aren’t the problem. There is a direct correlation between dumb and self-absorption.

Now, I am not talking about special needs people manning a register behind a Burger King or Seagull Bookstore. There are large portions of the population who, for a lack of better term, have been touched by God. Either dealt a crummy hand genetically or socially, they are doing their best to keep up in an ever increasing complicated world. These people get a pass. I am talking about the self-centered maniacal individuals who are oblivious to others. The real threat in this country is not the domestic terrorists trying to blow up federal buildings but those people who don’t care if bombs go off or not.

I bring this up because I think it time for everybody to put down the gyro. Be it work, driving a car, drinking tequila or trying to take the Ashleys and Lindsays of the world home. I think we have lost a lot of focus and for whatever reason, nobody really cares about it. Too often, we just cruise through life with social-blinders on and only concerned about ourselves. I am guilty of this in all facets of my life but I am trying to get better. And it starts with putting down the gyro.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. First one to guess the cocktail waitress gets ½-off one appetizer. For the record, he pronounces gyros with a “G.”

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