Last night a foursome of knuckleheads came into the club to watch the band rehearse for the Keys On Main Marti Gras party. They were from Denver and we textbook jerk-weeds. Dressed in bargain basement business casual, they ordered draft beer only to spit it out in disgust when they learned it was 3.2%. Per usual, I told them to take their business down the road. One of these days one of these groups of guests will actually leave. They were acting out but I let them—we weren’t busy enough for me to show them the door. The leader of the toolbags asked me if I knew what Jager and Red Bull mixed together was called. Thinking he was trying to stub the bartender, I told him it was a JagerBomb. He ordered a round and they choked them down. Asking me if I have ever made one of these before, I smile and nodded in the affirmative. Truth be told, I am living in the house that methadone built and furnished with JagerBombs.

Because the band was deafening, the leader asked if I had a screwdriver. I went to my well and started pouring one. He looks at me incredulously and said, “No, do you have the hand tool?” I told him I don’t loan out tools to people drinking excessive amount of Red Bull and told him I hope he likes drinking vodka and orange juice. He begrudgingly took the drink thinking that misunderstanding was on me. Customers come in all shapes and sizes but men acting like boys are the worse. I am happy to entertain anyone with a modicum of respect but idiots acting out need to take their vodka and juice in stride.

Speaking of vodka and orange juice…have you guys seen Flight? Denzel Washington is this drunk of a pilot who likes doing blow and screwing flight attendants. Between running rails and drowning his grief in a liquor cabinet the size of a Buick, he makes an impossible landing of a plane when there is a mechanical mistake. I saw it with my buddy, Gwyn (2011 Raskin New Friend of the Year winner), and we were in agreement—we liked watching Denzel pilot a plane inverted but didn’t care for the mirror into our drinking. It took a lot of courage from us to not hit Sugarhouse Pub and tilt back a couple of pints. I’ve always considered bartending like piloting a very important vessel through the night and as a responsible captain, I wait till we get to port before I open the port.

We saw the movie at Sugarhouse $1 Theater. We were stunned to see that the theater was actually filled to capacity with senior citizens with wet, hacking coughs. I was certain that we would be the only two people in the movie. Sitting in the tight, uncomfortable chairs, we watched a very powerful movie of a guy reaching his bottom. I was fascinated by how Denzel can physically transform himself as he spirals out of control. The airplane landing was incredible but his ability to contort his body is a wonder no amount of CGI can create.

Sitting in the dank theater, my mind wandered on occasion to other subject. How many people have had their first kiss in that cheap theater? How many pints of rum have been drank in overpriced soda cups? How many people have hidden from family/work/friends/the world outside in this theater? Why are their stains on my pants? How come there isn’t a support group for those that love chili dogs? If my dogs could talk, would they approve of my lifestyle? How come all of my shirts are too short? Am I crazy or am I going to look EXACTLY like John Goodman in 7-years?

Fortunately, Denzel brought me back over and over again. My favorite Denzel movie is Malcolm X. This Spike Lee joint is the last movie based on a book where I saw the movie before reading the book. Malcolm X’s autobiography is one of my top five most influential books. His story of lost and rediscovery set in arguably one of the most exciting and tumultuous period in American history is as fascinating as it was the first time I read it. No other work has contextualized the struggle of African Americans and the harrowing experience that every black has experienced in this country. Growing up in the suburbs of Las Vegas, I had some black friends but the West is different from the East in terms of race relationships. Most of my exposure to other races has been with the Hispanic community and it would be foolhardy to compare their story with African Americans—even if there are some parallels. Malcolm X put it in a narrative form that crossed almost 30 years of experiences that was easily digestible and compelling. For years, I would reread it every fall just to have some sort of normalcy—an academic exercise to remind me that my vanilla white life has been a cakewalk in comparison to most people.

Rounding out the other must read, influential books: Edmund Morris’s The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The TR book introduced me to the historic biography and Vonnegut is the great writer of gibberish and non-sense of all time. Morris made the turn of the century come alive and Vonnegut taught me it is acceptable, if not encouraged, to be glib and unafraid to think non-linearly. The Great Gatsby is the greatest American novel of all time and it was introduced to me by a very dear friend from college, Ross Taggart. Taggart would read the book every spring and I mimicked him by reading Malcolm X in the fall. Fitzgerald is unrivaled in creating a ghostly and desperate time and showcasing what decadence can do to a soul. More than that, Tom Buchanan is the worst son-of-a-bitch in literature and is a terrifying character.

Thompson rounds out the list. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the greatest pop novel I have ever read. It was done more damage to my thinking than any other book. It is violent, destructive and deprived. It is funny, confusing and a hot jumbled mess that has caused me to pick it up and thumb through pages for hours. My best friend from college, Fitz Whaley, and I would imitate Thompson’s writing and lifestyle. He was the excuse to lash out against authority and write pointedly and wickedly. It didn’t hurt he wrote about my hometown either. I think there is not a better blueprint for excess than in his book, between the characters and his misadventures. He taught me how to drink, dress and command the wheel of a Cadillac.

All of which I did very, very poorly. Think I am wrong? I still am very partial to Acapulco shirts and whiskey drank out of grapefruits.

I have never finished Ulysses or Moby Dick. There are a rack of books in the basement that need to be inhaled and processed but I have been distracted the last months with graphic novels and pulpy autobiographies. I think I read more when I took public transportation and didn’t listen to podcasts. Well, it’s good to have a truck and fuck it, podcasts are very enjoyable.

Speaking of podcasts, expect a new series from me next week. I’ve decided to redo what I was working on and start a show. I know talk is cheap but fortunately, I am full of it.

I am certain in the future that Red Bull will have been proven to cause testicular cancer, Coors Light creates short term memory loss and Jagermeister has caused more unwanted pregnancies than any other shot. Those knuckleheads from Denver will be my test case. Be a mensch and tell a friend to put down the Silver Bullets.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast, sure. He already looks like John Goodman with his shirt off, yummy.

One thought on “Screwdriver

  1. this one had me laughing out loud…and got me thinking about what my ‘canon’ of literature would be….the go-to books i reread every year and those that have impacted my life. john goodman? this had me nearly choking on my cup of tea when i read it!

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