Shameless Plug

This time last year I had written approximately a dozen columns and I honestly thought I a chance of winning blogger of the year in City Weekly’s Best of Utah. Man alive was I out of my mind.

I recently re-read the first blogs I posted on Google’s BlogSpot and was surprised I didn’t get more traction with the hard hitting social criticism I wrote. Some of the topics I tackled where others wouldn’t dare were doing poop patrol in the backyard, battling cellulitis (a swollen ear), how to pour a martini, why bedazzled jeans are ridiculous and why you shouldn’t eat any of the fruit in the trays at the bar.

Serious journalism.

With the exception of discussing my two-week ordeal of getting antibiotics for an ear infection, I might have well just thrown a bunch of Scrabble tiles at the computer. Not only was I writing at a 3rd-grade level I wasn’t talking about anything. It was just rambling jibber-jabber about things I saw at the bar and why I felt I should be tipped more than I was.

Really serious journalism.

When I started writing the blog my perspective at the time was really skewed. I had just recently sold The Woodshed.  I was still working at ARUP Labs and started bartending a couple of nights a week at Keys On Main. To say that I was depressed would be an understatement. Running The Woodshed had not only bankrupted my bankroll but it decimated relationships and friendships with people I cared very much about. I hurt people out of ignorance, made horrific business decisions and let my health collapse to the point of no return.

Being depressed and working behind the bar don’t make for good bed company. The rule of thumb is that complaints are pitched towards the bartender not the other way. Fortunately, Keys On Main is a busy club and you don’t get a lot of people belly up to the bar on the weekends to cry into their beer. I was able to mask how I felt by throwing myself into slinging drinks and slowly recover from the three-year beating I took at The Woodshed.

It was a struggle to get the courage to show up to work. I was constantly nervous that I would be called out as a fraud when I was bartending. I think it was proven beyond a doubt that I was a failure as a bar owner and I was terrified that whatever skills I had tending bar would be called into question. This made for some really bad decisions in what I put into my body. I was drinking more and eating more meals frantically out of a fast food paper bag.

 I remember very vividly calling my mother before going to work one shift and telling her that I thought I was having a panic attack. I was breathing irregularly and felt faint. She talked me through it and told me to push through the night and call her the next day to check in. I remember standing out front of the club trying to catch my breath when I had an epiphany: What the fuck was I afraid of?

I had been bartending for over a decade. I knew how to make more drinks than anyone I knew. I’ve broken up dozens of bar fights with barely a scratch. I had survived a Winter Olympics and had supported myself through thick and thin tapping kegs with little problem. For Christ’s sake, I ran a bar in Utah for three years.

I honestly walked into work and felt like I shaved a 100-pounds of guilt right off. I wish I could say I had a Rocky Balboa-styled night but I screwed up major league that evening. I lost somebody’s credit card and I think I screwed up the cash drop. Nonetheless, that was the beginnings of starting to feel better about what had happened for the last three years.

I think I wasn’t taking the time to appreciate that my family and friends forgave me for what I did during The Woodshed years. I had done all I could do to make amends with people and I realized that making right with people doesn’t have a finish line. You always have to be moving to get to that point. Being nervous behind the bar was just a reaction to feeling bad about myself and not taking into consideration that wrongs could be corrected.

In a way, I was a beaver that was looking to build a new dam. I wasn’t afraid of not being able to pour a gin and tonic—I was afraid that I wasn’t doing anything with my life. If it wasn’t for the hours, I think I would bartend for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, Utah doesn’t have a nine-to-five cocktail industry making it hard to keep regular hours.

It wasn’t until a chance encounter with a Salt Lake Tribune sport’s writer stumbled into the bar. I met Bill Oram a little over a year ago and we hit it off at the club. He came in on a weekday and we started talking about books. He is a quick-witted guy who speaks in a staccato manner who told me about Twitter. I had heard about it but never explored it before. He suggested I sign up and start tweeting about things behind the bar.

I gave it a whirl and realized that there was a world of opportunities to crack wise with in the interweb. I found Twitter to be chockfull of interesting and funny people who were sarcastic and hysterical. 140 characters is the perfect length to call out people behind the bar and I loved the feeling of getting a re-tweet.

Not everything could be said in under 140 letters, so I started up a blog. I was all over the place when I started writing. Talking about poop patrol and fruit trays was fine but it definitely lacked any reason for people to read my stuff. Thank God for Aunt Dee for being my most devoted reader. I wanted instant recognition but I knew that would come with time and that certainly means that I needed to put out enough content.

That is in a nutshell how Raskin’s Rhetoric made its way to WordPress. I honestly write for myself. I love the feeling of accomplishment of sitting down in front of the computer and hammering out 1,500 words twice a week. To say it is hard would be an understatement. Writing does not come easy to me but neither does bartending. It’s work and I like the results. Some are better than others. Some get more reads than others. Some should never see the light of day. Through it all, I am generally pleased with the results and I have been genuinely humbled by the response.

This blog is not monetized and never will be. However, I would I am asking for a favor. This time last year I deserved a kick in the nuts more than a nod for blogger of the year in City Weekly’s Best of Utah. If you’ve enjoyed the hot bar talk, DABC debate, Affliction T-shirt affair and notes from outside the bar, be a mensch and vote for me for blogger of the year.

Win, lose or draw I’ll be writing this column at least twice a week. With bartending I get instant gratification with my performance based upon the amount of tips I make. With the blog, downloads and comments are the lifeblood. This shameless plug is the only one I’ll make this year but man alive, you’d sure make my day if I got the nod.

One final note, I started a podcast called the Salt Lake City PubCast. You’re going to be hearing a lot more about this project in the upcoming weeks. We’re finally up on iTunes and if you want to hear my nasally drone of a voice talking about bar life in Utah, subscribe. I am going to be balancing the blog and the PubCast with a show going up once a week.

Nonetheless, thank you for reading. Writing the blog didn’t save my life but it certainly changed it for the better.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Try the Salt Lake City PubCast. He promises to make every drink a double for a week if he wins.

One thought on “Shameless Plug

  1. I’ve loved your blog from the beginning Benny. I admire how well you write. I wish I could write like that. And, I just voted for you for blogger & tweeter of the year. 🙂 Good luck!

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