I have a theory.
No, actually I have an observation.
As one of the three managers at Keys On Main, I am bestowed with an odd privilege that rank-and-file staff members do not get to enjoy. It’s not a carte blanche with Miller Lites or an endless supply of free Red Bulls or nachos (all of which I try not to abuse), I get to control the music while we setup or breakdown.
Our house music is powered by the streaming music site, Pandora. It allows you to enter in a band or genre of music or even song and they’ll develop some personalized playlist for you based on some algorithm. For the most part, computers know us better than we think because we are simple, dull creatures. Enter in Michael Jackson and get a lot of 80s and 90s pop but a surprisingly little amount of MJ. You’ll probably hear Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” more than “Thriller.”
I liked “Straight Up” when I was a kid—still do. I don’t feel the same way about Paula Abdul. Fame made her less desirable for me. Also, I am almost 40 years old.
Because I have control of the Pandora, my go to station is Fugazi. A DC hardcore band from 1987, I had a renaissance with Fugazi and to the staff’s chagrin, so did they. My observation is that the cocktail staff at Keys On Main have listened to Fugazi more than any punk rocker in the 801, 435 and 385 combined. Because I mostly work with women, I guarantee my staff has heard cuts from Repeaters more than any other women in the state…nah, the entire intermountain west. Aggressive bass lines with staccato drums and haughtily static driven guitars with angered vocals is the recipe for your ears today, Ladies.
Take a bow, girls. You’ve earned it.
Because Pandora knows me better than I know myself, Fugazi becomes The Misfits, to Bad Brains with a dusting of Black Flag and the occasional Minutemen thrown in for good measure. Problem is that I’ll hear more of Glen Danzig than I do Ian MacKaye. I guess if I wanted to outthink Pandora, I’d put in a deep Henry Rollins cut into the search engine. That way, Pandora would scorn me with the tunes I actually want to hear.
I guess my theory is that Pandora is designed to play crummy music that never quite satisfies. It’s an endless buffet table with nothing but vegetables while you’re waiting for them to put out more chicken skewers and crab cakes. You’ll nosh on carrot sticks in ranch dressing but you really want something a little more substantial.
Speaking of substantial, I had a Millennium Falcon moment on Saturday night. I’m not talking about screwing around in the galaxy on a beer run but a straight-up Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs outrunning Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers but the big Corellian ships. She’s fast enough for you old man, now what’s the cargo?
Posted up in my well (that’s the cockpit or flight deck where I make drinks—you know, the big pit of ice I stand over for eight hours while idiots named Trevor or Kelsey yell at me because it’s their birthday and they want to know why the piano players haven’t played their song yet and why they can’t have a triple), I am trying to get out a round of shots to a group of Trevors. I think we should call two or more Trevors a Trample of Trevors or a Tulip of Trevors. Or we should outlaw the name. While the Tulip of Trevors barked out shot orders at me, I slipped behind the stick of the Falcon and got ready to hit it into warp speed when I had a mechanical breakdown.
Working three shaker tins at once, I was lining up my shot glasses when Trevor’s girlfriend asked for another Washington Apple after I already had poured five of them. I refill the shaker with ice, pour in the Crown Royal, apple puckers and cranberry and give it a quick violent shake (faster than shooting Greedo) and move to slam the shaker into the ice.
You always want to let anything shaken rest in the ice for a 2-count. It lets the booze slid from the glass back into the tin while keeping it cold if you still need to rack up glassware on your bar mats. As I was moving to shove the shaker into the ice, Trevor’s girlfriend yelled again distracting me for a crucial moment. Instead of finding pay dirt in the ice, I caught my left middle finger against the concrete bar and drove the cocktail shaker into my hand.
Talk about making point five past light speed.
I literally saw stars. My eyes exploded in tears and my hand went completely numb. I could feel the color draining from my face as I honestly thought for one second that I might actually pass out. The outer most knuckle had just taken a wallop of blow and I had nobody to blame but myself. I instinctively grab my paw as I try to regain my composure but it hurt. Just this week, I slashed my calves with a weed whacker line, dropped a hammer on my knee, took an eye and lung full of drywall dust, ate Pie Hole and pulled a full construction staple out of my arm. In the past, I’ve had my shoulder separate, broken my arm, blew out my knee, been punched in the orbital socket, face, ear and neck and kept my composure. Somehow the pain from a cocktail shaker filled with Washington Apples almost put me down for a ten-count.
I regrouped and gingerly pulled the pint glass from the shaker and poured out the drinks. They were oblivious to my injury and actually putout that they had to wait ten extra seconds while I got myself put together. The knuckle was immediately turning blue and that wasn’t from the AMFs. The Tulips wandered off after shooting me a hateful eye: “You ruined tonight because we had to wait and I hope gangrene takes your finger, you fat pig of a bartender and I hate your glasses.”
Well, that’s what I saw in their eyes.
Mercifully, and yes, I usually end every blog post about bartending with a mercifully or thank heavens the night is over, last call came and went. The piano show ended and Pandora came back on. Because I am cruel overlord to the cocktail staff, Fugazi came to life while I cleaned one-handed. It was only the promise of Miller Lites and a chance to get the Hell home that I pushed through the last hour of the shift.
I woke up this morning with a plum on the end of my hand. Another reminder that speed kills and Washington Apples is a poor usage of Crown Royal. On the bright side, I was humming “Repeater” first thing in the morning.