The fee for having a successful night behind the bar is found on my forearms.
They should be sticky.
Covered in the remnants of shaking countless cocktails and shots, my forearms with their Irish red hair catch all the flying booze and mixers that make the diesel fuel of a great night. I power through the evening on the strength of whatever bartender I am partnered with. I prefer Rebecca but I’ll work with any of them. They are all good but Becky is fun—she makes me laugh. It’s like working with your younger sister providing your sister is covered with tattoos and has the mouth of a trucker.
Besides that, Becky is a good bartender.
The second indicator will be my glasses.
Good nights mean that I drive home with smudged glasses coated with what missed my forearms. The sweat and tears of the night cling to my glasses creating lens opaque and spotty. Loaned to a high school student, they would pay good money to slowly lick my glasses to absorb the shot and a half of hooch that dry on them. What a gross sentiment, having arms and glasses covered in alcohol but this is the life that I have chosen, the life that I have lived for almost 14-years.
Going home, I like a beer and the occasional shower. It feels good washing away the evening and being clean while slipping between the sheets. There is something very gratifying pouring myself a quiet drink as Erin sleeps in the other room and having the dogs join me in my small office in the basement. I watch Netflix on the computer or cruise through websites waiting for sleep to grab me and force me to bed.
Most nights it is a quick sojourn with the exception being Saturday where I like to have a stiffer cocktail and a few moments to myself before my weekend begins. Bartending means I work while others relax. Once I clock out and make my way home, I am off my guest’s clock. I am home for myself and my family. I value being at home more than anything else in this silly world and that is enough for me. I don’t know what your little nugget of home is but I assume you do and fight every day to get back to it.
Saturday was a zoo. The bar was full for the second night of our Marti Gras party with a full band backing up our incredible piano players. They played and sang Dixie at an unseen level of talent. I am always impressed with what happens on stage but this weekend took the cake. There were amazing and it is a shame the weather prohibited more people from making their way to the club. Nonetheless, those that made it probably enjoyed the show as much if not more than me.
Battling a head cold this week made work more challenging than usual. With Erin out of town working one of her three jobs, I was alone during the middle of the week and was left to my own devices. By my own devices, it meant eating like a raccoon and wearing less than the prerequisite amount of clothes I am forced to have on when she is in town. I struggled through my Wednesday to Friday shifts with a fogginess reserved for London nights and SLC’s ridiculous inversion. I hate feeling sick. Makes me feel weak and destroys the only leg up I have on most people—my sense of humor. I am not very good at being serious and when I can’t be loose or glib or flippant, I am the thing that I detest more than anything on the planet.
I am boring.
Saturday was different. I showed up to work happy and fat with Erin home and able to dress in casual clothes. I threw on my favorite jacket and went to work. The jacket was a gift from Erin from two Christmases ago. It is a charcoal wool coat that whisks away weather and looks good. As somebody who doesn’t own very many nice pieces of clothes, it is a favored coat and probably the only grown up piece of clothing that I own. I drove through the garbage snow storm dumping in the valley and began the arduous task of getting the staff to prep the bar for work. For the overwhelming part, I am lucky to work with good people. Even though they have good intentions, they still need to be whipped into shape. There are many managerial styles to getting them to work and the most exhausting part of my job is tailoring different motivations to each person who works under me.
We went through the night in the fast and furious manner which makes us the best bartending staff in the valley. There might be more financially successful bars in the city but none of them have the skills and dedications that Keys On Main has. Of course I am biased but there isn’t a better staff. I’d be happy to wager a night’s wages against the stones of any other staff in the valley. From my perspective, that is the safest bet I would ever lay.
We got through the evening and spent the last two hours of the night trying to clean up the catastrophic mess created from the countless beads that failed to deliver uplifted shirts and the garbage a “normal” busy night makes. As a staff, we grinded through the crisis and worked our way to that most beautiful part of the night. I hold the rare privilege of saying the sweetest words in the English language. Once everything has been cleaned, cleared and reset, I get to yell in my baritone voice my favorite part of any night:
Cocktails clear out earlier than bartenders because we spend 20 minutes counting our tips and dividing them up. I let my people grab the buckets while I went looking to collect my stuff. I own two sets of keys, work and home. My work keys are the keys to the Keys On Main castle while my home keys are for my truck and house. I found my work keys in my pocket but couldn’t find my home keys. In fact, I couldn’t find my jacket. I had it when I came to work but it was nowhere to be found at the end of the night. While the staff were counting money, I was anxiously looking for my coat.
It was gone. More than that, so were my home keys. Selected members of the staff helped me look but my coat were nowhere to be found and I started to get angry. It is not enough that I spend my entire evening looking after the needs of others but why couldn’t I find my jacket? I figured I left it on the railing early in the night but folks usually look after it. I went through the normal hiding places for my coat until I realized that it was gone. Panic hit me quickly because I left my keys zipped up in my coat. How the Hell was I supposed to get home without my keys?!?
I went to the host stand and started flipping through the drawers when I saw something that made my heart stop. In one of the drawers, I found my car keys. These were the same keys that were zipped up in my coat. It hit me like a bucket of water—somebody had stolen my coat but had a change of heart when they discovered car keys inside the front pockets. Not willing to return the jacket, they thought they were doing the Christian thing by returning the keys to the front desk. They were planning on fucking me but at least they were going to give me a kiss on the cheek.
It hurt. My God, did it hurt. I can’t believe somebody stole my jacket.
To the piece of shit that stole my jacket, thanks for leaving my keys. I hope you get raped by a hobo and left for dead. Good job reaffirming my faith in strangers, fucknozzle. There is no way that jacket will ever look good on you because you never loved it. It was a gift from Erin from Christmas two years ago. It isn’t the fact that it cost $200 but the fact that Erin knew how much I wanted it and why. I had just been hired by the Salt Lake Tribune and I didn’t have anything to wear to our weekly pitch meetings on Monday. Because I have a weird body type, very few things fit me and I was very uncomfortable with my attire going to the meetings. I have never owned nice clothes and the clothes that I do have, I treat as if I am running through a briar patch. In getting ready for my first couple of pitch meetings, I went to REI and I saw this jacket. I tried it on but I couldn’t justify paying the money for the coat. My self-esteem didn’t allow me to have the nerve to pay for such a beautiful coat. Instead, I went to those first meetings dressed under the frumpy sweaters that I have made my own and tried to make the best of my appearance.
Smash cut to Xmas where Erin had opened up all of her presents and she gave me this large box wrapped up in green paper. I opened it up and inside was the coat that I wanted to buy. She had gotten it for me. She listened to what I wanted for Xmas and found the exact coat that I wanted. It fit great but more than that, every time I have worn that jacket, it reminds me of the care Erin paid to me. It’s the kind of thing that makes a man weak with love and another example of why I am a lucky guy.
And in an instant, some cheap, stealing, fucknut of a human being stole it from me. It was taken and they knew they had sinned by returning the keys but still took my coat. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. There is no way you will look as good in it as me in it. You don’t deserve it. You will never know how good it felt to slid on for the first time and remember how wonderful that Christmas evening was when Erin handed me that oversized box. You will never know how special that coat was and if you think I am over acting, I hope you get hit by a fucking bus.
Way to ruin my weekend and leave a taste in my mouth that I didn’t deserve. I am pissed, angry and instead of reclining in my small office, I am grinding through a blog post trying to figure how I can replace this wonderful present. Money is too tight to go out and replace this coat, you piece of shit.
Erin awoke when I came home and was incredibly supportive when I told her what happened. I apologized for not protecting the jacket better and she was the best telling me it wasn’t my fault that it was stolen. She always makes these things better and I hope that the person who stole my jacket knows that you’ll never have the love of a good woman like Erin.
So, I am back to square one. I will be wearing the dumb, thread-born jackets that I owned when I moved to SLC 12-years ago and I will be on the lookout for the douche-nozzle who stole it. Return it post haste and there will be no problems.
Nah, I still probably would want to still kick your ass.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast, ugh! He is really, really pissed about this jacket being stolen.