100 Beers of Solitude

The modern bar is becoming a very lonely place.  I feel like we never talk anymore.  Rather we sit atop our barstools, transfixed by our cellphones, oblivious to the potential company of other patrons.  The bartender, who used to entertain us with stories, is busy texting back and forth with his girlfriend meanwhile your friend, the one who called you to come meet at this bar, is totally absorbed in a game of “Angry Birds.”  So what do you do?  You mindlessly surf the newsreel on Facebook, eavesdropping, stalking and living vicariously through the people who are narcissistic enough to post a narration of their everyday lives.


You could come talk to me across the bar but you are afraid to interrupt my furious index-finger-typing I’m performing into my iPhone, as I frantically email Bar Tab Larry about why my column is late.


Technology has its advantages, but what kind of people are we when we allow a computerized device to transmit or even replace the majority of what once was human communication?


What if we could all just put down the smart phones?  Put them away, into our pockets and our purses, look one another in the eyes and just talk.   I know that many of us are out of practice so it might take a couple of attempts before we can get past the primitive musings about the weather.  But let’s give it a shot.  Go ahead.  Tell the person next to you an interesting observation or if you cannot think of anything, posit a question in their direction.  Use vocal inflection and facial expressions where emoticons would ordinarily be.  And if you should find something funny, don’t say “LOL.”  You can actually laugh out loud.


Should you find yourself at a loss for words, I’ve put together some discussion topics designed to get the ball rolling. 



1-  Would you rather have a tattoo of Justin Bieber or perform a nationwide shopping mall tour as a Justin Bieber impersonator?  If you get the tattoo, it must be large and prominently placed and you may never get it removed.  If you choose to do the tour, you must perform as if the job is a serious endeavor and the tour will last for one year.



2-  Which is the bigger taboo:  Sleeping with your best friend’s mother/father or sleeping with your best friend’s ex?  Assume all players are consenting adults and everyone is single and unattached.  



3- You may drink at any bar of your choosing at anytime as long as you wear a giant Oscar Meyer Wiener suit whenever you are drinking alcohol.  Or you may wear whatever attire you like but you may only consume alcohol at Stick and Stein.   Which would you choose?


4- If you were sentenced to living the rest of your life on only one block of Key West, which block would you choose?  Remember, you must live, work, eat, play, etc on only this block.




5- You may acquire the ability to fly but you will lose the ability to enjoy all music.  Every song you once enjoyed sounds like a bad Jimmy Buffet cover and every artist or band you once loved now sings as if they are Teletubbies.  Would you choose to fly or forgo flying in exchange for normal music enjoyment?Image


6- You can drink any cocktail you like as long as you sing to the bartender/server a full chorus of Brittany Spear’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” each time you order a drink.  Or you may order without serenading the bartender but you may only order Yukon Jack shooters.  Which would you choose?Image


7- You are dating a person whom you find to be very attractive, intelligent, funny and interesting.   It is your third date and for the first time, you go to the person’s house to pick them up.   As they open the front door to greet you, you see a living room filled with toy unicorns, stuffed unicorns, unicorn paintings and ceramic unicorn figurines.  Your date lives alone so the unicorns can only belong to him or her.  Would you continue dating this person?  If not, how would you get out of the situation.


Image8- You are walking down Duval Street when a genie stops you and says that you are going to die unless you drink a potion distilled from the sweaty panty hose of a drag queen and the urinal cake at Rick’s Durty Harry’s.   The genie is willing to spare your life and allow you to avoid drinking the potion if you move to Pocotello, Idaho immediately.  Is it “Down the Hatch” or “Here I come Pocotello?”


9- You can go on a date with anyone you like, but Bar Tab Larry, wearing a blue tutu and under the influence of much booze, will accompany you and commentate the entire date as if it were a sporting event.  He will highlight all your flaws, missteps and all action within said date.  Will you still choose to go on this date?  And do your chances of getting laid go up or down with Larry’s commentary?Image

When Did We Start Wanting the Stick to Turn Blue?

By Leigh Pujado

Several years ago, a strange phenomenon began to occur within my circle of friends.   I don’t know if it was influenced by the tides or the alignment of the planets, or if it was the result of a massive failure in 1990‘s safe-sex education.  But for whatever reasons, during the mid 2000’s, many of my friends began to procreate like they were on a mission to repopulate the island.

I watched the baby epidemic sweep through the bars and restaurants.  Hell, for a while there, we all thought there was something funny in the Peppermint Schnapps at The Green Parrot, as the employees began producing children like they were in some sort of fertility contest. 

Bartender Kate Fago, (mother of TWO,) assures me that the Parakeet baby boom was a random occurrence, not linked to any paranormal activity or spiked libations.  But I’m still skeptical.

(Let’s see:  Between 2005 and just last year, we saw the birth of Teagan, Ryan, Colin, Paul, Jake, Jaqueline and Bailour.  And I don’t even want to think about all the pregnancies that occurred post-Suenalo shows!)

But beyond the fertility hot spot at the corner of Franklin and Einstein, babies were being born all over town.

My friends, of their own volition, began to nest.  They coupled-off, they bought houses and sent me invitations that required my presence in a church.  The women began talking calendars, biological clocks, temperatures, even musing about which pregnancy tests were easiest pee on!   Not only were they forgoing birth control, they were trying to get knocked-up on purpose!

Pregnancy tests aren’t something you buy in bulk with regular toiletries and a good faith candle while whispering to the person behind you in line, “We’re trying really hard for a baby.”  No!  No!  No!  Pregnancy tests are something you buy in the middle of the night at Walgreens, on a wing and a prayer, hoping like hell, no one you know sees you.  And if anyone does look at you sideways, you lie and say “I’m buying this for a friend.

Don’t get me wrong–some of my not-so-hitched friends were downright surprised that their little sticks turned bright blue when they peed on them…..that ALL of the little sticks turned bright blue.  But their reactions were what surprised me the most.  They were excited at the prospect of becoming mothers, and even more so, excited at embarking on this next chapter of their lives.

For me, the transition from “Key West Friend” to “Auntie Leigh” was awkward.  I just didn’t get it.  Knowing from a young age that I never wanted to have children of my own, I guess it was hard to understand the biological, normal longings of others.

It was a rude awakening, realizing that your friends, the people who were always there for you when you needed a friendly ear, moral support or just a buddy to share a beer with, were no longer available for ANYTHING because some little rugrat had taken over their lives.   Genuinely, I wanted to be happy for my friends as the children they so longed for entered their lives.  But a little selfish piece of me knew that our friendships would be forever changed.  That same selfish part of me mourned the loss of the child-free friend, and worried that the friendship wouldn’t endure.

 Not too long ago when my friend Jo Ell was pregnant, I had a heart to heart with her husband Landon.  I was worried about the arrival of their son; worried that things would never be the same, worried they would like him more than me.  Landon warned me:  “We ARE going to love him more than you.  And things will be fine.  Just different.”

And they are.  Things are fine.  But different.  I don’t get to see Landon and Jo Ell as much.  But when I do, the time is more special.  It’s, dare I say, precious?

Just last week I swallowed my anti-kid rhetoric and visited Landon and Jo Ell’s son, Tiberius.  It wasn’t hard to knock-off my unfriendly-to-kids crap as Tiber’s inherent cuteness turns off the child-repellent radar whether I like it or not.  He’s a much better audience to try out my humor than you, here, reading this.  With Tiber, all I have to do is say the word “avocado,” and he shrivels up his face and giggles as if I’ve just told the best joke ever!   Tiber rides a blue dog named “Woof Woof” (which is more reliable transportation than some of my childless friends possess,) and he sneaks his kitty bites of food, much to his mother’s chagrin.    He’s a gregarious little boy.  He studies you a bit….takes you in, decides how he’d like to react to you.   More importantly he’s the apple of his parents’ eye.  He is their whole world and I am honored to be a part of it.

As long as he remains an only child.

Time to Put Your Pants Back On

There comes a point in every Key Wester’s life when the bombardment of bare, saggy breasts, portly midriffs and various genitalia on display becomes too much to endure.  That point for me came this weekend as Fantasy Fest 2011 drew to a close.

It is a shame that this festival, which I’ve long considered my favorite time of year, has evolved into a nasty flesh fest in which large, non-athletic moms and pops (and grandmas and grandpas) from every dark crevice of the country gather on our little island to parade their pendulous gonads and hoo-hoos.   Every year the naked people grow larger in numbers as well as in individual size.  And I must ask you, WTF?  

Where are these voluminous nudists coming from and why are they stealing our Fantasy Fest?

For those of you not from around here, Fantasy Fest is an annual October event that Key West has been hosting since 1979 which brings thousands of people to town and fills every hotel room in the Lower Keys.   Spanning ten crazy days filled with costumes, a coronation, contests, beads, body paint and parades, Fantasy Fest is actually a fund raiser for AIDS Help.   Each year a King and Queen are crowned, earning their throne by raising the most money for AIDS Help.

In the spirit of our “One Human Family” philosophy and the pride of our amazing gay community, the fest has always pushed the envelope when it comes to “risque” attire.  But in recent years the Obese Swinger Crowd have grabbed hold of the pasties, the leather harnesses, the ass-less chaps.  They’ve traded in their dignity for an extra small thong and began walking the streets of Key West in late October.

I’m not saying one must have a perfect body in order to dress sexy for our festivities.  I’m saying put some thought into your costume and maybe look in a friggin’ mirror before you leave your hotel room.  For example, a leather harness like this:

This was not intended for older, chubby gentlemen to wear.  So tell your horny uncle over there to put some pants on.

And if you really feel the need to shake your money makers in the buff, we have what’s called “The Fantasy Zone.”  There’re signs up for it and everything.  Basically it’s the downtown bar district where you are allowed to walk around with little more than body paint and a smile on.   I don’t want to see your mama’s 36 extra long tits and your dad’s elephant sock schlong when I’m on my way to work.  And when you enter one of our grocery stores, is it too much to ask that you put some friggin’ pants on?   For God’s sake, I don’t want your bare ass near any food items I may purchase.

On Saturday afternoon I saw a woman on Windsor and Olivia standing at her car, ass to the street, putting on her fishnets and thong.  I drove by her big, ole’ booty in the broad daylight and thought “Why am I forced to look at your ugly butt!”  This is a neighborhood.  Kids actually live here.  No one located within a block radius of Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea should have to endure being mooned by a fat lady in red fishnets.

It’s called a costume, People!  Get one.  A pair of panties and your un-exercised flesh doesn’t cut it.  And an animal sock covering a penis is hardly novel, it’s practically sex offender cliche.

The copious amateur drinking coupled with drunk driving, assault and this year’s tragic homicide……this has got to stop.  It’s bad enough some people can’t find a damn costume and litter our streets looking like jack asses, many supposed revelers behave like jack asses too.

It’s time to take back Fantasy Fest.  Our Fantasy Fest is not a free for all for fat swingers.  It’s not a time of lawlessness and amateur alcohol consumption.  It is NOT a time to show up on my island and act like a predatory imbecile.

Fantasy Fest is a giant costume party in the name of raising money for a great charity and keeping the Keys tourism economy afloat during October.  It’s about tapping into your creativity and your sense of charity.  It’s King Dave and Queen Surrey and all the other candidates past and present who work their thong-clad asses off to raise money.  It’s about Saturday night’s amazing assortment of lion fish and sea monkeys and mermaids.   It’s about rockin’ out to some Bahamian Junkanoos, eating meat on a stick and watching straight guys dance in tutus.  It’s about sharing this sense of frivolity that true Key Westers are known for and extremely proud of.   That’s the Fantasy Fest I know and love.

And what did I wear this year on Parade night?  A thong and fishnets!  What else?


Leigh Pujado’s new book, “Drinkslinger” is now available on Amazon.

Are You Ready For Some Football? And if so, could you explain it to me?

It’s football season folks and once again, that leaves me as the loneliest girl at the bar.

I don’t understand football. I mean, I know it’s a game about gaining yards, scoring touchdowns and defending territory. What I mean is, I don’t get what’s fun about watching football on television and feeling a part of a team’s spirit.

Before you roll your eyes, I should mention this isn’t one of those sports bashing articles where a non-fan ridicules football fans for their antics and team loyalty. Actually, this is quite the opposite. As the odd man out here, I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with me.

I want to participate, really, I do, and I’ve tried to watch and understand the love you all seem to have for the sport and its players. I long to be excited each time a player catches an exceptional pass. I so want to cheer when one of those monstrous linebackers tackles another player like he was nothing but a tin can waiting to be crushed. I want to squeal with you when a touchdown is scored and the player does one of those knee-wobbling dances by the goal post. I even want to paint my face, slap on a team jersey and scream at the television with you until we both have some serious laryngitis.

You all seem so very excited about your teams and I want to be excited too, but sadly I just cannot seem to connect to all the hoopla. And unfortunately I enjoy watching the game as much as I enjoy watching paint dry.

How did this happen? How can it be possible that an entire bar full of people are riveted by a football game, hopping up and and down, blood pressure skyrocketing, having the time of their life, and I’m not even marginally entertained. It makes not sense. I love bars. I love beer. I love dressing up in costumes…..especially “group-themed” costumes. I love to yell and I love to talk smack. So why don’t I like football?

Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe I’m missing the sports fan gene. It’s certainly no fault of my upbringing.

Based on my geographical history, I should be wearing only red and white this season and riding around town with an obnoxious Herbie Husker sticker on my car rear window.

I grew up in Nebraska, land where Husker Football-mania is as ubiquitous as corn and Republicans. Still, football never took root in my soul.

I even attended the University of Nebraska back when they were winning championships and NEVER SAW A SINGLE GAME. During college football season I struggled to find alternative activities to watching “our boys” play as roughly 97% of the population sat glued to their televisions while the remaining 3% were seated in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln watching the game live. It was lonely to say the least.

Football brings people together, people who under different circumstances, would never intermingle. For four quarters and roughly 4 to 6 hours, its fans are devoid of their individual ethnicity, language, religion and socio-economic status. Yet it’s as American as apple pie. And I am an awkward slice of rhubarb.

My best attempt at understanding this innate aversion I have to football is to think about my friend Melissa Shirley. Melissa is an Eagles fan. She’s nuts for the team, wears a jersey when they play, screams, hoots, hollers, gets cranky when they lose and sings and dances when they win. Melissa also, (and paradoxically,) hates musicals. She doesn’t get them. She doesn’t understand why the characters need to break out into cheesy song all the time and she really doesn’t understand why someone like me feels deeply moved by all that singing.

When I see a football game on at a bar with a happy crowd surrounding and I feel that inexplicable turning of my stomach, I just imagine that this is how Melissa would feel if she were forced to watch a group of theatre nerds watching “Oklahoma.” (And I don’t mean The Sooners, I mean Rodgers and Hammerstein.)

Doing this, in some, small, warped way, makes me feel connected to an Eagles fan. And if I feel connected to a Philadelphia fan, it’s pretty difficult to feel lonely during football season.

Check out Leigh’s new book, “Drinkslinger,” available on Amazon.com.

You Can Get Drunk in the Morning But You Still Can’t Bring Your Pig to the Beach

Did you know that there is a special law in Florida that prohibits unmarried women from parachuting on Sundays, lest she receive jail time or a fine?  Well, fortunately for all of us unmarried dames, we shall no longer sit idly by on Sundays watching our married friends have all the fun.  We can head to the bars and start drinking as early as we like because as of July 10th, the Key West “Blue Laws,” which prohibit the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays, have been repealed.

Long deemed outdated, the Blue Laws were intended to keep morality in check and butts in church pews on the Lord’s day.  While we may feel triumphant over the dissolution of an antiquated law on our books, many ludicrous laws remain, here in Key West as well as throughout this great, strange country.  Some of these laws are throw backs to a time when lawmakers were steered by the church’s moral compass and prudish, ignorant attitudes about sexuality.  Others are just inexplicably silly.

Test your knowledge of bizarre local and national laws.  No looking up answers on the internet!

1.  In Big Pine Key it is illegal to _____________ a Key Deer:

a.  protest

b.  molest

c.  smoke out

d.  impersonate



2.  In Key West, which species are protected by law?

a.  green parrots

b.  parrot heads

c.  chickens

d.  bubbas





3.  In Tampa, what must a woman not expose at a topless dance establishment?

a.  Her six figure salary gleaned from high rolling, horny suckers.

b.  Her cerebral cortex.

c.  Her deep disdain for her customer base.

d.  Her breasts.


1.  Oral ________ is illegal in the State of Florida.

a.  Roberts

b.  surgery

c.  argument

d.  sex





5.  With regard to “positions,” which of the following laws is on the books in Florida?

a.  Seat back upright, tray table secured for take off and landing.

b.  It is illegal for a woman to put a man between a rock and a hard place.

c.  Gassy on 1st, Sassy on 2nd, Jessica on 3rd, Faith is short stop, Inga’s catching, Sushi’s pitching.

d.  The only legal sexual position is the “missionary position.”



6.  In Alabama it is legal to marry _______________ but illegal to marry ________________.

a.  a monkey,     -a donkey

b.  your cousin,     -someone of the same sex

c.  your brother from another mother,     -your mother

d.  for love,     -for money










7.  In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for 16 or more women to live together because it constitutes:

a.  a lesbian conspiracy.

b.  an anti-male terrorist movement.

c.  a brothel.

d.  one week out of the month a guaranteed living Hell.



8.  If you are convicted of drunk driving in the state of New Jersey, how will this affect your vehicle’s license plate?

a.  You’ll never be allowed to apply for vanity plates.

b.  You’ll be forced to display a scarlet “D” for “Drunkard” on your plates.

c.  You’ll be forced to manufacture license plates from prison.

d.  Your plates will be fitted with neon flashers that display “Stay Back: ASSHOLE Driver.”



9.  In Fairbanks, Alaska it is illegal to feed alcohol to:

a.  Alaskans.

b.  Nebraskans.

c.  Bristol Palin.

d.  a moose.




10.  In Detroit, it is illegal to have sex inside a car unless the car:

a.  is a late model hatchback with an old Journey cassette playing in the tape deck.

b.  is a rockin’, then don’t bother knockin’.

c.  has a clearly displayed handicapped parking permit.

d.  is parked on the owner’s property.






11.  It is illegal to bring swine to the beach in the State of:

a.  sound mind and body.

b.  shock.

c.  the Union Address.

d.  Florida.


(1) b but let’s try c sometime and see what happens!  (2) c & unofficially d,  (3) a, b, c & d if she knows what she’s doing!,  (4) because of people like “a” the answer is d,  (5) The year 2011 and it’s still d,  (6) Ah, the last state in which marriage is a sacred union between a man and his cousin!  The answer is b,  (7)  Legally, it’s c, but anything’s possible with 16 women,  (8) a, but if I were the governor of New Jersey, it’d be d,  (9) d, possibly c…..I don’t know.  How old is the little dancing tart these days?  (10) d, but then what fun would that be?  (11) While pigs are a lot of fun at the beach in times of both serenity and crisis, the president prefers you keep them at home when he’s addressing the nation and Florida frowns upon their presence at the beach year round.

Poke Me Baby One More Time

I am not a Hipster.  And even though this is the “What’s Hot” issue of Bar Tab Magazine, I am not going to pretend to be one.  In fact, I am not even cool enough to be a part of this issue, but the longevity of my professional relationship with this magazine’s publisher (and the fact that he still owes me for recently providing transportation and “check out fees” at the Stock Island Hilton) dictates that I participate.  So here it goes:

I am not certain when exactly it happened, but sometime between the Reagan administration and the Tae Bo with Billy Blanks craze, I went out of style.  There was no singular, clear indicator that marked my exit from “Modern Generation X-er” to “Lady with Nostalgia-based Tourettes, a bad hip and three cats.” It must have occurred slowly, over time, like walking down a long hallway strewn with the shed belongings of one’s former glory days…

The poster of Kevin Bacon in Footloose.

The six pairs of Guess jeans.

The cute little coupe with the turbo engine.

The Pioneer stereo with 5-CD changer.

The interesting array of body piercings.

The Sub Pop t-shirt and killer CD collection.

The 9 pound cell phone.

(Ahhh, the 9 pound cell phone.   The coolest piece of equipment to call people up on simply to tell them you were calling from a cellular phone.)

But those days of basking in the the glow of my Ban de Soleil self tanner, listening to Ace of Base on my jeep’s tape deck are long gone.  Now I am just a working Key West stiff with an antiquated taste in music and a tragically unhip wardrobe.  And I’m not merely behind the times with just fashion and music, I’m resisting the changing tides of technology.   Don’t get me wrong, I love computers and smart phones, I’m just not comfortable with technology entirely replacing the traditional ways in which humans communicate.

Call me crazy but I like hand written thank you’s, tangible invitations that arrive by snail mail, the occasional phone call and once in a while, live conversation over a hot or cold beverage.  Oh I’ve tried to roll with the times.  I’ve gone digital, paperless, wireless; I’ve even cancelled my land line and learned to text message with the best of them.  But now, my old friend The Email seems to be on his way down the halls of defunctness along with your parents’ 8-track player and your brother’s Atari.  This is where I have to draw the line.

People don’t read their email anymore, giving exclusivity of written communication now to Facebook and I am resisting the damn social network like the state of Texas resists sex education.

Last Christmas I made the mistake of sending a Christmas party invite via email requesting an email RSVP reply.  With only 2 responses to the invite, I cancelled the party due to lack of interest.  When the invitees eventually (a week later) read their email invitations, my phone began to ring and my email inbox filled up with responses.   I was repeatedly quizzed as to why I had not put the invite out on Facebook.

“Because,” I said, “I emailed you.”

When did email become passé?  You’d have thought I’d asked my friends to page me from the arcade at the mall.

I get that there’s 500 million people on Facebook and I understand that you cannot hold ANY social gathering and expect people to attend without going through Facebook first.  Yes, it is a great way to share your photos and promote your artistic and business endeavors.  Most of my friends and family are on Facebook.  In fact, most of them friggin’ love it.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it too.  But since I’ve already resigned myself to being a feisty troglodyte, I may as well explain my beef with Zuckerberg’s pesky international contagion.

First of all, the very format which makes Facebook so popular is what makes it terribly public.  All that linking of comments invites 500 million people to your page and your personal business.  If your page isn’t already set to private, tell me who you are so that I can stop by your page, gather your personal info, look at your photos and friends, and then quickly commit a little identity theft.  I’m pretty sure I can figure out your mother’s maiden name, the high school you attended, and by all those enthusiastic birthday wishes, your date of birth.  Oh, and if you “check in” at a bar or restaurant, It’ll be easier to break into your house without getting caught.  And since I’ve looked at all your photos, I already know where all the valuables are located.

The other thing that really chaps my hide is how the entire institution encourages users to cyber stalk their friends, their friends’ friends and people they will never actually meet.  Whether we choose to admit it or not, cloaked in internet anonymity we all quietly spy on our estranged classmates, colleagues and lovers.  Worst of all, Facebook is working hard to ensure that every goddamned person you’ve ever met, from your buck-toothed neighbor in Fourth Grade to your colonoscopy technician, has the ability to connect with you, should you choose to accept their friend request.  Then of course, should you choose not to, you look like a snobby douche.

Every second, Facebook is updating the latest newsreel comments as users are commenting and commenting and commenting.  It’s a verbal diarrhea at the fingertips which lets you know what everyone is thinking about, from an important upcoming vote in the House to what flavor of bagel your sister ate for breakfast, and there’s no filter.

This isn’t normal communication, Folks.  This is an A.D.D. colony of rabbits on high grade cocaine.

I feel like we never truly talk anymore.  Maybe there’s the rub.  500 million people talking all at once leaves me feeling lonely and left behind.

I just want someone to talk to me.  Just me.  Not someone to comment on my pictures, or sign me up as a member of some cyber fan club or to virtual-poke me. And if you happen to be reading this from my blog’s Facebook feed (yes, I’m well aware that I’m a total hypocrite,) please don’t “poke” me.  That’s just weird, man.

I don’t want to just be Facebook Friends.   I want to be unfashionable, real, live friends who meet at The Porch and go interesting places together.   Who knows…if we hit it off, I may let you borrow my polyester double knit leisure suits and Barry Manilow albums.

(Hipster artwork at top by Pat Harpin)

How to Talk to the Kitchen Without Getting Hurt

In twenty years of working in the bar and restaurant industry I have to say that cooks, hands down, are the crabbiest, most volatile members of this business.  Don’t get me wrong, there a lot of cooks that I adore and respect, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t berate me at the drop of a dime and make me cry for asking if we could please substitute something else for the octopus infused scallion glaze.

All cooks, from short order cooks to Michelin starred chefs, are a different breed of humans.  How else could they spend countless hours over a hot grill for a laughable sum of money?  Key West line cooks tend to be cranky because it’s hot in that kitchen and they are tired and broke because they party too much.  Key West chefs tend to be cranky too because it’s hot in that kitchen, they are tired and broke because they party too much plus, despite years of culinary expertise, they receive very little recognition.

Feuds with the kitchen are common, namely because they see the job of a bartender or  server as an overpaid cake walk while we see them as slow, temperamental, sweaty people who like to give us a hard time.  Discerning which side is right or wrong is a slippery slope because we do indeed hawk their creations.  When customers gush that the food is great, we say “Thank you, I know!” and proceed to take all the credit and the handsome tip money.  But when something out of the same kitchen is amiss, we take none of the blame and throw our dear kitchen under the proverbial bus.

Cooks can get away with being angry and crabby because

  1. They carry knives,
  2. They work in a hot, sweaty kitchen with flames, burners and steam all damn day,
  3. They are constantly reminded how much more everyone else is making by selling their concoctions, and most importantly,
  4. They do not deal with the public.

Developing Détente between the kitchen and bar staff is crucial to ensuring a peaceful (ie non-homicidal) work environment and to keeping your customers happy.  Many of us know that an unhappy, maniac cook can literally ruin your income during a shift.  I’ve always found that going out of my way to be nice to the cooks works to my advantage.  Buy them a drink at the end of their shift, pay them a compliment, tell them you appreciate their work or even tip them out.  Sure it’s a form of ass kissing, but more than that it’s “self-ass-saving.”

Before I say anything further that may incriminate me, I am going to allow my dear friend, Chef Martha Hubbard to plead the case of the cooks:

CHEF MARTHA’S Rules for Kitchen Diplomacy:

“Pissing off the kitchen is the easiest thing to do on the planet!  “How Not To Piss Off the Kitchen” could be an entire book on its own. We are, as a whole, the most insecure egomaniacs alive!  You see, the Back of the House will ALWAYS have a grudge against the Front of the House based on the premise that despite making less money, if we, the Back of the House, did not make the food, then the Front, aka “the messengers,” would NOT have a JOB!

I took a vow of poverty 20 plus years ago to cook well thought-out, tasty food for people and the last thing any cook wants to hear is how much cash any waiter or bartender has made that shift!  Whenever some snotty little waiter walks into the hot, sweaty, balls to the wall kitchen and bitches that they have only walked with a couple hundred dollars that night, well then they deserve to lose a digit or two!  The best à la mode to that would be then asking for any “snacks” or if there is any extra food for them to eat because they are soooooo hungry!!  Poor souls!  So when I ask if they have any extra tips they don’t need to act as if I am the one who’s fucking nuts!!

Cooks are like dogs, feed us a bone and we will do anything for the Front of the House!  The number one rule with the kitchen is be respectful.  Being nice and polite will get you what you want from us especially if you can avoid making stupid requests.  People are stupid and diners for the most part do not know how to dine anymore!  Kitchen people put their heart and soul into every plate and when people want to rewrite a menu, I just want to go out there and ask these people where they live and go rearrange their house for them so that it suits me better!  Oh, and FUCKING VEGAN’S!  Seriously, Do not let them into a place that serves meat!”

Thank you Chef Martha!

(Martha Hubbard is a world renown chef whose culinary talents have been experienced in San Francisco, Maui, Bangkok, Portland and right here in Key West.   Many people rave about her scrumptious creations like domes made from Ahi Tuna and truffle laced soups but most folks don’t know that her breakfast hash browns are to die for!  Martha can still ride a long board and out-cook any cocky punk newbie fresh out of culinary school!   Her pet peeve is witnessing a waiter serve a bottle of Opus One from their sweaty armpit with their tongue sticking out.  For more than a decade, Chef Martha has blissfully cohabited with a bartender.  Martha will be on loan to Key West from Portland this season, cooking up spectacular things at Louie’s Backyard through May 2011.)


Bringing Sexy Back—Writers, Chefs and Food Porn

Q:  What could be sexier than food and poetry?

A:  Poetry that is about food!   Words slathered with culinary references, meter that tickles the ears as well as the appetite, and writers, (those sensory whores!) writing about humanity’s other favorite pastime.  (If you think I’m referring to baseball, please stop reading this and go back to the drivel on your Facebook page.)

The 29th annual Key West Literary Seminar “The Hungry Muse” is well underway this week and I could not be more excited about the theme.  Like a true grifter, I plan on attending the one and only free event on Sunday afternoon in which seasoned and scholarly poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Billy Collins, Roy Blount Jr and Molly O’Neill will be offering up utterings about edibles, as this year’s seminar explores the world of food in literature.

Word nerds and Foodies rejoice! This sounds like a recipe for a truffle scented Pushcart Prize with an R rating from Zagat.

Poetry geeks often wax rhapsodic about the hotness (not the exact adjective a poet would use) of a person who can write, while excitable eaters rant that there’s nothing sexier than a woman or a man who can truly cook.  This raises an interesting conundrum.

Which is hotter:  The Poet or the Cook? Let’s explore!

New Jersey Poet and Creative Writing Professor, BJ Ward maintains there’s nothing sexier than a woman who can write. He primes his new students by wielding a girlie magazine and announcing he is about to show them the sexiest woman in the world.  After building the suspense, BJ tears open the magazine to the centerfold page and presents a taped-in insertion of none other than the sexiest woman ever to walk the planet…….

(wait for it……)

That’s right!  Emily Dickinson.  She’s hot, I know.  Kind of makes you wonder what 19th century bloke hit that to inspire “Wild Nights!  Wild Nights!”

Writers, like Emily, have the ability to achieve a timeless sort of hotness, uninhibited by their own physical appearance in photos or even on television.  It is only what they had to say across the pages that truly matters.  Superficial hotness, like the kind we are inundated with on the E Channel or People Magazine, relies upon looks and clothes, hair and make-up, wealth and fame.  I’ll bet if we read a poem by one of those Kardashian sisters, no one would think she was hot.  I imagine it would go something like this:

I like my Prada

and enchiladas.

Life is a dream,

but sometimes I scream,

because my family is retarded

and I no longer get carded

and the photographers around here

only photograph my rear

Some people say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think a thousand words is worth more than a picture.  Which is why reading “Leaves of Grass” is a much more titillating experience than watching “Transformers 3″, but if you place Shia and Walt head to head in a photo competition, the results may vary.











Even the homeliest of writers can be sexy.  How else could Bukowski have gotten laid?  No one really knows what Greek sex poet Sappho looked like but as the Bob Guccione of antiquity, her immortal words roused centuries worth of loins back when loin clothes were popular.

But what about our darling cooks.  Do their skills in the kitchen translate to overall hotness?

When it comes to glamorizing chefs, Food Network appears to be both a blessing and a curse.  While it has brought Americans into the kitchen, teaching them the joy and bliss of cooking from scratch, it has largely de-mystified the cook as a sexual icon.  Think about Emeril.  And the Barefoot Contessa.  When you make their recipes, do you dare picture either of them naked?  Heck no!  You might just get a little giddy about whom you may be enjoying their concoctions with, but no teenage boys seem to be tacking up posters of Paula Dean on their bedroom walls.

So why doesn’t anyone want to sleep with the chef?  Being enamored with a behind-the-scenes-talent is not a new concept.  People swoon all the time over a song on the radio and admit their secret fantasy about the musician behind it.  Even filmmakers have their fair share of non-actor stalkers.  Writers enjoy long lines of fans waiting to simply meet them for a moment and obtain their signature.  Hell, in 1999, I waited in line for an hour and a half to meet Carl Hiaasen and nearly peed my pants when he signed my book.  Do fans behave that way when Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay are signing cookbooks?  And outside of Michelin starred establishments, do people actually sit at their table and wish they could meet their food’s creator?

I recall a teenage crush I had on the dough boy at Zio’s Pizzeria in Omaha.  Every Saturday for like six months I went to Zio’s for lunch and silently watched this cute boy toss the dough up in the air and skillfully press it into the pizza pans.  In my 16 year old brain, it was so hot.  One day I finally mustered up the guts to talk to him.  While I don’t recall the exact words of our conversation, I do remember discovering he was a student at the alternative school which meant that either he:

A) exhibited severe behavior problems and had been in trouble with the law, or

B) was developmentally disabled.

Still, he knew how to toss that dough!

Anyway, while food can be very sexy, I think seeing chefs on TV rather than simply tasting their creations, hinders their hotness.  Emeril would be so much better looking if I didn’t know what he looked like.  And Alice Waters?  Please, don’t let me see her in action.  Let me just continue to taste her concoctions.  In general, the experience of tasting a great bite of food is hot, more so than watching how it was created.  The simple act of discovering a great recipe can be sexy in and of itself.

About a month ago I made a pork roast which I bathed in Ephemere beer, apples and apricot preserves.  I emailed the recipe to my buddy Landon with a quip at the end suggesting that this recipe was so good that when he makes it, he will want to take it out back and have sex with it.   After hitting send, I realized I had just suggested my friend debase a piece of meat and I felt a little bit ashamed.  And strangely aroused.

I think the sexiest book I ever read was Isabel Allende’s “Aphrodite-A Memoir of the Senses.” It should be the consummate segway between the cookbooks and the soft core pornography on bookshelves everywhere.  And I think this helps answer the conundrum posited earlier before I went off on these bizarre sexy tangents.  Food writing is the sexiest.  Sexier than poets, writers, chefs, and people like Rachel Ray who call themselves chefs.

So, combining the two as this years Literary Seminar has done, must be better than a candy coated, spun sugar orgasm described to you personally by Pablo Neruda.

After Sunday’s seminar at the San Carlos Institute, I’ll be at Better Than Sex on Petronia Street, sipping an Ephemere Adult Apple and reading EE Cummings.

Knock, Knock?

I have a long history of answering the door inappropriately.  Allow me to rephrase that:  I have a long history of accidentally answering the door under unfortunate circumstances.  Just last Saturday, I opened the door in my underwear much to the malay of my friends, Scott and Zoe.  In my defense, I was simply trying to take out the garbage and I thought I could make it the five feet from the door to the trash can without anybody seeing me.  After all, I am fast.  I’m very fast!  Unfortunately, I’m also forgetful and I’d forgotten that early in the week, I’d invited Zoe and Scott over for Saturday brunch at 12:30.  Promptly, at 12:30, I made the garbage trek in my skivvies just as they were approaching the door.

I played the whole thing off as no big deal.  As if I answer the door like this all the time.  Harder to explain was:

  1. Why my poor boyfriend was also not fully dressed, wearing only a look of extreme surprise,
  2. Why our house was a complete pit, and
  3. Why two unclothed persons in a messy house with no food or drink prepared would answer the door to receive visitors.

It was not my most shining of moments yet not entirely an isolated incident.

There was the time I passed out in my underwear on the sofa in full view of my front door while awaiting delivery from Mister Z’s.  I’d forgotten that I’d called them.  They left a little note on my door which I woke up to the next morning in agonizing cheesesteak horror.  (Yeah, they didn’t let me live that one down for years.)

There were also the thugs who tried to break into my house the morning after Hurricane Wilma only to be greeted at the door by me, you guessed it, in my underwear, wielding a mop handle and a fairly homicidal scowl.  And then there was the most classic case of inappropriate door behavior….the time I knocked on my neighbor’s door while in my underwear.  I’m not a pervert.   I got locked out trying to set some garbage outside on my stoop.  (Apparently I’ve yet to learn my lesson about not taking the garbage out in my undies.)

Locking the front door is not my strong suit and weather permitting, it’s often wide open.  I’ve accidentally flashed the meter man, the mailman, countless landlords, one sheriff’s department officer, a process server and several Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Let’s just put it this way:  If I’m home and not expecting visitors and haven’t ordered delivery food, there’s a good chance I’m in my underwear.   (Sometimes those Chinese food delivery guys are so fast, I scarcely have time to find my pants.)

My friend Sydney came over one day for lunch.  She was early…..way early.   She walked in without knocking only to find me in the kitchen wearing only my skivvies and a snorkel mask.  I know I looked ridiculous but I was in the middle of chopping onions and using the snorkel mask keeps my eyes from watering.  And like I said, she was early.

Perhaps I need to consider rigging a large cow bell at the gate for unsuspecting visitors to ring, or perhaps a motion sensor alarm and a ready robe on a hook in every room.  Or I could simply start locking the front door.  Then again, you all could always call first.  Knocking on an open door way, shouting hello and walking in simultaneously doesn’t cut it.

Today another unsuspecting visitor caught me at my front door in a less than normal costume.  It was the asshole who lives behind me and he had waltzed through the street front gate and all the way down the inconvenient and lengthy pathway that leads to my front door to “discuss” my exterior lighting which he deemed to be “excessively bright” and “blinding.”  In the middle of cooking, I answered the unsolicited visitor at the door in a bra top and a frilly apron.  He was clearly uncomfortable.  He’d come over for some neighborly confrontation and if I had to guess, he was hoping to speak with the man of the house, not a half naked woman in an apron.  He complained about the exterior lights on our house that allegedly shine into his property all night long.  I smiled, wooden spoon in hand, and said I would turn them off by 10 O’Clock.   Redundantly, he complained that the lights were far too bright and I reminded him that I’d take care of the problem.  He complained about the incessant noise of a pump that he could hear from his living room.  Tooling with my apron, I suggested he shut his door when our hot tub is running.  Had I been fully clothed and not in the middle of delightful food on the stove, I may have told him to go fuck himself and thrown him off our property with a wee bit of force.  But the situation was awkward and somewhat comical given my costume and his obvious state of trespassing.  So, I let him stand in my doorway for a half a minute more of super uncomfortable silence before saying “Thank you” and “Have a nice day!” which any sane person would know are euphemisms for “Get off my property” and “Don’t ever come back or I will hurt you.”

The sun is setting and I really must go and turn on my super bright exterior lights for my rear neighbor to enjoy.  If you have something to say to me, email is my preferred form of communication but if you really must speak with me in person, please leave a note in my mailbox, or call before coming over.  It would be embarrassing for us both if I had to chase you off my property in my underpants.


more “The Bartender Hates You” -Separate Checks