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Bar Life

Laryngitis Commando

The end is nigh.

That’s fancy English speak for the ending is coming soon but I can’t know for sure. For the last three weeks, I have been disabled in the talking department with a case of laryngitis that has had me oscillating between Kathleen Turner and Tom Waits. Part of the time, I am able to wheezily squeeze out a couple of words like, “A number 2 super sized with a Coke.” Other times, I can huskily bark out, “Yeah, I want fry sauce with that.”

In short, it’s been a nightmare not having my voice.

If I were to take a full-bodied nude photograph of my body, I think I would be labeled a war criminal. I am a pasty, hairy, chubby mess of a man with thick legs and a torso that looks like a manatee. The biggest problem is that there isn’t enough makeup to put on this pig of a body to get it ready for the big county fair. I honestly haven’t bought any new clothes in almost two years—not out of budgetary needs but because I really don’t care what I wear. Because a woman’s best accessory is a well-dressed man, my poor Erin is always one piece away from being a perfect woman.

What has always been my saving grace is that I am a fair-to-decent talker. My ability to talk takes this mess of a body from a four to a mid six, sometimes even a seven. I learned early in life that humor and having a knack for banter can make up for lack of visible abs muscles. I’m chatty, loud and error a little towards the ribald in conversation. I have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of baloney, a PhD in nonsense and a post doctorate degree in 1980s action movies making me the life of any party. My seminars on the cultural value of the movies Tremors, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension alone should have earned me a Peabody.

And don’t get me started on the important work I’ve done on the original Robocop, Mr. Bungle, the San Diego Padres in the early 1990s, El Caminos, card tricks, animal husbandry, podcasts and my personal history with the taco.

In a way, I am a caricature of what Europeans think of Americans—loud, rude and dumb. Fortunately, I don’t live in Europe—I live in the greatest country in the solar system, America. People who love freedom and liberty enjoy this kind of conversation. Don’t believe me? Both Ron White and Kevin Hart have had undeserved financial success for being able to talk at length on subject that NOBODY cares about.

Take away my ability to talk and I’m no better than a biped walrus or your average German.

It’s depressing not being able to talk normally. It’s alienating to not being able to contribute to conversations. I found myself swimming in my own thoughts, almost drowning in ideas and not being able to share with people. Worst of all, instead of just resting my voice, I’ve acted like an aging pitcher who still thinks he has one more good inning in him when the manager comes to the mound to take the ball. I try to power through in talk only to give up big hits for the other team.

Admittedly, my normal voice is very whinny and nasally. So having a new level of huskiness to it is nice but I miss being able to talk freely without fear of cracking words or breaking into a high-pitched squeaks. People who spent almost eight years in speech therapy growing up for a lisp and stutter tend to be sensitive when they lose their ability to speak later in life.

But like I said, it’s good to be on the mend.

My sister Tee visited the Beehive State this last week. A colon rectal surgeon from Minnesota, Dr. Tee was participating in a robotic surgical convention at the Salt Palace. It was very nice having my only sister spend some time with me. Catching up with old friends is good—catching up with your best friends is the best. She is a relatively new mother and married to a guy who won an episode of Fear Factor. We visited Antelope Island and saw a menagerie of animals including buffalo, antelope, jackrabbits and a jogging coyote.

Antelope Island is a pretty good analogy for life in Utah. It is stunningly beautiful, hard-scrabbled and almost unusable. If the Great Salt Lake were a fresh body of water, property taxes in Northern Utah would be higher than Santa Barbara. It takes grit to live in the West and sometimes we forget the importance of water or what it takes to scrap together a living. Because of this, the West is the best. Those of us that can make it in a God damn desert are composed of twice to meddle than those slicksters living back East.

If visiting with your super successful, brilliant, surgeon sister without a voice is hard, imagine bartending with a series of hand signs. I am probably a little sensitive not being able to talk but Jesus Pete! People are ridiculously rude when you’re a little under the weather. When I had strong voice, nobody ever wanted me to recant the entire contents of The Boston Bartenders Companion. Get a slight case of laryngitis and they want you to recite The Iliad.

Case in point: There was a couple that was completely mismatched unless you consider he is about to sell his tech company to Google for a million dollars. She looked exactly like a young Rae Dawn Chong and he looked like Stephen King after being hit by a minivan. They sat in front of my well the entire night wanting me to tell them every single possible option that Midori Melon Liquor could be used in a cocktail. It didn’t help that the bar was extremely loud or that that they both spoke in whispers and I had laryngitis but what the Hell was she doing with him? And it looked like she was enjoying herself with this ogre as she grinded into his crotch for three hours while sipping Pearl Divers (Midori, coconut rum and pineapple juice).

They made out in front of my station for the last hour of the night with a passion reserved for newlyweds and high schoolers. Because their breath had to be thick with super sweet liquor, I’m sure they didn’t want to drive immediately from the club to a more secluded spot to finish rounding third and head home. But what was he waiting for? She looked like Rae Dawn Chong from Commando and she was kissing you?!? I don’t mind the extended public affection but you need to marry her immediately before she regains her ability to see or process using her other four senses.

I would have told them to hit the bricks but unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a voice.

It’s important to note that Guinness are built and not poured. Therefore, tip appropriately. You’re paying for the perfect pour, not the fastest beer. Want fast? Order a bottle of Bud. Don’t give me the eye while waiting for your beer because I will be more than happy to pour a ¾ of Irish foam into your glass.

Not having my voice also caused me to totally ruin somebody’s birthday. This darling woman who was drinking with two even more attractive women stepped up to the bar and ordered shots of tequila. She told me it was her birthday and I tried to ask how old she turned. She asked me to guess. As a rule, I don’t like playing this game even though I am really, really, really good at guessing people’s ages and weights. I guess in my heart of hearts, I am a carney. She was tall, blond and beautiful and I said 26. In that one moment, her face almost caved into a pit of tears when she said sadly shook her head. “I just turned 24. You really think I look that old?”

Oh boy.

A 24-year old Ben Raskin would have committed low grade felonies to have a chance to take her out to a steak dinner with no chance of so much as a good nights kiss and here I am trying to coddle a super hot and super vain young woman that 26 is not that old. Had I been fully armed with my entire vocal prowess, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Instead, I sounded like a skipping record, which only exasperated the problem. She left in tears but it might be for the best. For me, the difference between 24 and 26 is like a bone-in ribeye. Bone-in is better but I’ll settle for the deboned cut any day.

Fireball was a plenty as was the Coors Light but was more disturbing than those two libations being poured in large amounts was the constant request for Yukon Jack. Yukon Jack, coincidently which is my gay porn name, is a honey-based whiskey that is labeled as the black sheep of Canadian liquors. I can’t taste the honey but I have certainly felt the gut punch from this terrifying shot. The most popular variation of shot made with Yukon Jack is a Snakebite which is the honey whiskey with Rose’s Lime Juice. As somebody who recently got drunk on real Kentucky Moonshine on Friday and woke up on Saturday and thought that manscaping my body with a barber’s clippers was a good idea, I can tell you Yukon Jack is enough to put a fully grown grizzly bear into early hibernation. When I worked at the Tavernacle years ago, the drink of choice on karaoke night was a $1 Bud Light and a Yukon Jack. When I say that I paid for our house on Yukon Jack, I wouldn’t really be exaggerating. It is retched, foul and utterly a hoot to drink. It is the least douchebaggy of the douchebag drinks that I pour.

Frankly, it’s better than a Fireball…over ice.

Remind me to tell you about the hangover from drinking moonshine. I almost hosted my own bris.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast with no voice? Did you read the fucking blog? His spirit animal is a walrus sipping a bourbon highball with a side of sardines.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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