Category Archives: The Drink Slinger Story Time

Random Rambling

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. 

 

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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?

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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

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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.

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.

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)

Bye Bye Beer Thugs

In the Spring of 1990 I inadvertently became an Aheuser-Busch customer.  My underage friends and I were drinking Natural Light (in a can) which we purchased for the bargain price of twenty-five bucks a 12-pack from the enterprising older brother of one of our classmates.  His name, (and I am not making this up) was Tony Randoney and although he too was under the legal drinking age, he was a linebacker sized white boy with several stunning gold teeth, an appearance that superseded the necessity of presenting a valid ID.  His hulking pretense also facilitated a very lucrative price-gouging part-time gig for old Tony and not a single beer-seeking   teenager at Westside High School (including me) questioned his prices nor his beer selection.  So we paid Tony’s obscene prices, drank our Natural Light and pretended it tasted good.

By college we all realized that Natural Light cost far less than twenty-five bucks a 12-pack and was the official beer of the homeless.  Far from the clutches of our parents and outside of Tony Randoney’s canned beer racket, at college we existed in a free market and of the myriad of choices made available to college freshmen, none are more prolific (and present) than choices of alcoholic beverages.  The average freshman learns very quickly that at Frat parties alcohol, from the Everclear spiked punch ladeled from a garbage can to the Keystone Light beer can tower,  is simply a means to an end.  It is a vehicle to get people drunk so that they can either (a) have sloppy meaningless sex or (b) experience an extreme episodic loss of consciousness known as  “Black-out Drunk.”

By sophomore year most college kids figure out whether they want to be social drinkers or black out drinkers.  The former generally discover that beer is not merely a cheap way to get hammered, but is available in a multitude of bottled and draft forms varying in taste, color and appeal, and if consumed in moderation, can be enjoyed along with a little thing called “memorable experiences.”

I love beer.  I love the taste, the hops, the barley.  I love the bubbles, the cold, thirst quenching river of delicious fermented delight.  I love lagers and ales, Belgium Wheats and Irish Stouts.  I love frosted mugs and beautiful glass bottles and even lambics that call for stemmed glassware.  In college I could barely afford to pay my electric bill but I kept a decent stock of imported beers to enjoy.   Red Stripe, Newcastle, Dos Equis Lager and Guinness were generally on hand.  When Samuel Adams Boston Lager first became available in our state, my nerdy beer friends and I rejoiced that a domestic beer was finally up to snuff.

Then I moved to Key West which in the bar business might as well be known as Bud-Land and once again, I accidentally became an Anheuser-Busch customer.  I started drinking lighter and lighter beer, eventually settling on Michelob Ultra since its inception about ten years ago.   Looking back, I think I was simply the credulous victim of marketing, as Michelob Ultra was touted as the “runner’s beer.”    I thought, “Hey, I’m a runner.  This must be my beer.”

Ten years is a long time to be partial to one brand but recently I’ve made a conscious effort to make a change.   I am trying not to purchase or consume any Anheuser-Busch products.

A perfect storm of events led me to make this odd little decision.  The first thing that happened was actually Chris Shultz’s fault.  He opened up this awesome little bar earlier this year called The Porch which specializes in delicious craft beers.  Reading his beer menu and tasting The Porch’s offerings was a taste bud re-awakening.  It was like I’d been eating at McDonald’s for ten years and all of a sudden a Chez Panisse opened up on the corner of Caroline and Duval!

Shortly after becoming a faithful follower of The Porch’s Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat on tap, I happened to watch a documentary called “The Beer Wars” which actually was made nearly two years ago.  The film explores the seedy underbelly of the distribution side of the beer industry, highlighting how the giant three (Anheuser-Busch, Miller & Coors) have such a strong hold on the distributing tier of our nation’s three tier alcoholic beverage system, that this imbalance of power has created a monopoly which quells and often prevents fair competition between beer brewers.  My views on the Three Tier System is an entirely different blog (which I’ll write up soon, I promise,) but suffice to say, “Beer Wars” incites the viewer to scan the beer isle, to look past the rows and rows of Coors, Miller and Bud products, try the little guys of the beer industry and taste for yourself.

So, I’ve been tasting for myself and I realized that for the past ten years I’ve been drinking (and selling) beer flavored water.  In my quest for better beer I’ve discovered some tasty craft brews off on the side shelves at the local supermarkets and I hit up Conch Republic Liquors regularly for Dog Fish Head Punkin Ale and Left Hand Milk Stout.  (“Punkin” is not a typo.  The bottle says “Punk” and the beer is delicious!)

This past year I also found myself in the position of selecting and purchasing all the alcohol for a small, local licensed establishment.  We are only open in season and sell mostly wine and cocktails.  I made the mistake last season of only carrying Bud and Bud Light and holy cow, did I hear some major beer bitching.  “Bud?  All you have is Bud?!  That’s not even real beer.”

This season I have yet to purchase any Budweiser stuff to sell but circumnavigating the Big Bud people is not as easy as one might think.  Since the 2008 merger of Europe’s InBev corporation with Anheuser-Busch, AB-InBev is now the world’s largest beer brewer with 25% of the global beer market.  They own 1 out of every 4 beers!   Besides the well known Bud, Michelob and Busch families, they own Stella, Bass, Beck’s, Kirin, Hoegaarden, Shock Top Wheat and even Rolling Rock!  I was careful to select outside the AB-InBev family and last week we opened for the first time this season, offering a great domestic craft Pale Ale and a tasty imported lager.  To my surprise, I heard quite a few “What?  No Bud Light?” As if denying anyone access to watery flavored beer was an abomination.

So my great better beer experiment continues and just as I once successfully severed my ties with big boned, gold-toothed Tony Randoney and his crap beer scam, I am severing my ties with Anheuser Busch.  It’s not what I want to drink and I’m not willing to settle.

Life’s too short to drink crappy beer.

 

 

 

“I’ll take a Beck’s with a Side of Career Counseling”

Many folks go to bars to get away from work.  In Germany, some people go to a bar to find work.

At the Kindl Klause pub in Berlin nearly one quarter of Michael Hasucha’s customers were unemployed and living off of the German jobless benefit known as “Hartz IV.”  So Mister Hasucha decided to give his patrons a little something more than a beer buzz.  He began offering free job advice.

No joke.  There is now a desk at the Kindl Klause Pub operating between 2 to 5 PM on weekdays manned by two social workers offering advice on how to get back into the workforce.

I’m guessing the councilors don’t look like this:

The Bartender Hates You #9