Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinky: A Smasher's Best Friend

Much thanks to Pinky from Pinky's Pub for all the support she's given to Smashwords writers.  She's an avid ebook reader who's decided to help as much as she can.  She displays covers on her Facebook Page, reviews books on her Blog, and just today did a feature on the Cathartes Aura series for me.

She's giving a huge hand to all of us independent authors and we can't thank her enough.

Happy Hour with David Priest

Your first sip.  A dip into the high-paced crush at the end of happy hour, when everyone in the house gets one last drink before they revert to full price.  This happens to me every day and it's my favorite sport.

Coming soon, 24 hours from the life of David Priest.  After-work socialization, copulation, inebriation, instigation and all that good stuff. 

Happy Hour with David Priest

Another happy hour.  Three lemon-drops, one cosmo, three drafts, gin-tonic, two reds, one white.

Reds first: pinot, merlot.  Then white.  I pour half a chard, grab a new bottle from the top shelf by the neck, drop it ninety degrees to my palm with a clean smack, stick it in the fridge and grab a cold one.  I pull the foil off whole, flip my corkscrew from my pocket, and pop the cork.

One more ticket up.  And one more ticket.  Grab four martini glasses, sugar three.  Set up four pints, one with limes, three with lemons and a sugar cube.  Double-tap the limes with my muddler.  Rinse it.  No lime in my lemon-drops.  Smash the lemons.  Rinse it.  Always rinse it.  Ice all four then one-two-three triple sec with four-five vodka over the limes, splash of cran.  Two shots citrus vodka, splash sour over the rest.  Shake and strain.  Rinse the shakers.  Put them down clean.  Bucket glass, ice, gin, tonic, done.

One more ticket up.  Three pints from the freezer.  One in each hand, I pull the handles with my forefinger, left then right, fill the beers and close each tap with my knuckle, left then right.  I pour the third beer as Carlene is garnishing and traying up.  Another ticket.

"Thank you.  Drive through," I tell her.  She dimples and lifts the tray on her finger-tips.  Good girl.  Nice form.  A quick glance and now I'm five tickets deep.

Carlene's was the long one.  These are short and I clump them together as servers gather at the rail.  Reds.  Open two bottles and launch the corks into my tip bucket left-handed.

"Nice shot," says the guy with the martini to the right of the well.

"Banked that second one.  Counts as a miss."

Bottle of white for the new girl.  "Can I get three glasses with that?"

"Yes you may.  Could you put that on the ticket next time, please?" I ask.  Big smile.  Something about the new waitresses.  The mystery.  Will she be great or will me burn her out in a few shifts?

I salt one pint, smash three limes with one orange, ice, one-two-three triple sec with four-five tequila, splash of sour, shake it, dump it.  First place I ever worked was a Mexican joint so I take pride in my margaritas.  Another ticket up.

"Thanks, Dave," Will says, traying his drinks.

"Party on," I reply.

"Busy tonight," says the martini guy.

I cock one eyebrow as I lay out a string of whiskey-cokes and vodka-sodas.  "What do you mean?"

Two more tickets up.  Three new ladies at the rail to my right.  Early to mid-thirties. I card them.  Girls like to be carded.  Eye-contact.  Smile.  One adjusts her low-cut blouse.  I wasn't looking.

While pouring three ice-waters, I tell them this week I'm mixing Midori with melon vodka and muddled citrus, served up.

For the guys on the other side of the rail, I refill two scotch-rocks, a whiskey-sour, and a beer.  I look around as I fill the beer.  Another ticket.  The ladies look through the menu.  The guy by the well's martini is dry.  I look at his glass and he nods.  The game is 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth.  The new girl has a strong tapered back and a nice ass.  I'll guess soccer in high-school and now aerobic kick-boxing.  Beer's full.

I shake a melon special and replace the guy's martini.  He wipes his forehead, grinning.

"Sorry.  You're in the sea-world seat," I tell him.  "Sit too close, you might get splashed."

I sink some red watermelon liqueur to the bottom of the green drink and garnish with a lime.

"What's that?" ask the ladies.

"This week's special."

"What do yo call it?"

"This Week's Special."  I'm no good at names.  I think of drink recipes while half-asleep Sunday morning, but most drink names just sound stupid or punny so I've stopped bothering.

They order three so I set up three pints with two limes and two lemons.  Smash them, ice, a shot each of Midori and melon vodka, splash of lemonade.  Shake, strain, sink the liqueur.  Bright green with a wedge of red at the bottom of the glass like a slice of cold watermelon on a hot day.  I did alright this week.

I deliver the drinks.  They order the crab dip and some calamari.  The guys on the other side ask for the clams, garlic fries, and the salmon sliders while the printer drops three more tickets.

Quarter to six and it's time to get digging.  I put food orders in the computer.  No time to enter drinks.  Back to the well.

"So what's on special for happy hour?" asks the martini guy, who's already been told.  I line up glasses for two Long Islands, some cokes and tonics.

"All drinks, all apps, half price.  Four to six."  I four-pour vodka, gin, rum, and triple sec with a splash of sour and coke.

"Even the martinis?"  Whiskey-coke, two rum-cokes, vodka-tonic, two gin-tonics, a rare Meyers-tonic.

"Yep."  Next ticket says mojito-not-sweet, bloody mary extra-spicy, bottle of cab with four, three bottles of beer and a B-52 coffee.

"Those clams smell good.  They on special?"  I fill a coffee glass with hot water then grab the wine.  Check the glasses in the sunlight coming in off the bay.  Spotless but lipstick on one.  I polish it, grab the beers, pop three caps.  Then I drop mint and limes in a glass, skip the sugar, and smash them.

"Love the clams.  They're half price."  Ice, rum, sour, shake it, add soda, and dump it in a tall glass.  In another: Tabasco, chili vodka, fresh-cracked pepper, mary mix.  Shake, salt the rim, and pour while a server strings an antipasto of vegetables and fruit on a bar pick.  "Whip?" I ask and receive a nod.  I dump the hot water, pour Grand Marnier, Bailey's, Kahlua, coffee and top it with an inch and a half of whipped cream.

"Whoah," the server says.

"This ain't a game," I reply.

"You got some white wine for the clams on Happy Hour?"


"You're kidding."

"Yes."  I hand him a wine list, grab rolled silver and plates for the guys and gals while eyeballing the tickets, return with stout, an IPA, two merlots and a chard.

Next ticket says martini-up-little dry vermouth-olive.  I don't have to look at the name to know it's the newbie.  I make the martini and garnish it because I'm a pal.  The printer keeps spitting tickets and I keep laying out drinks.  The expo delivers my food and it smells good in here, like garlic and fried bread crumbs.  The guys to my left get another round before six.  The ladies want another at happy hour price, but don't want it poured yet.  The guy by the well gets clams, garlic bread, and whatever white wine I like.  Sauvignon Blanc.  Three dudes squeeze up at the rail for beers and shots.  A keg blows as I'm pouring their second brew.  I pour the full into the empty and bring them three halves with their shots.  "These are just practice beers.  I'll have your real ones in a moment."  They're each holding debit cards.

I tap an extension on my phone.  "Amber, please."

I arrange nine tickets, looking for the easy ones, common drinks, and whoever's closest to the well.  New girl's martini is still there.  I get Carlene another bottle of wine, put a marg in the blender to spin, shake more lemon-drops, pour sodas, tonics, and cokes.

"86 Amber," I tell a Will, "For a minute."  But Corn is already rolling it around the corner.  He opens the fridge and removes the empty.  "Corndog, you are my ace."

Five-fifty nine.  The minute of my day guaranteed to be action packed.  "On your left," I tell Corn as I step next to him and pour wine.

"Fire in the hole," he declares as he shuts the door and rolls away the empty.

"Thanks, Cornelius," I reply loud enough for the bar to hear.  A few guests echo the thanks.  I pour the delinquent ambers.  The guys with a shot and one-and-a-half beers each want their checks.  I hold up four new tickets, smile, and say: "Just a moment."

The new girl is finally getting her martini.  Her eyes are focussed on a spot halfway between my chin and the drink.  She carries it away, holding her tray in both hands.  I choose not to tell her yet that martinis are up with a little vermouth by default and she doesn't have to tell me about the olive because she should garnish it.  Shake it off, little girl.  We need more strong servers.  We just lost two good ones.

Shortly the printer stops throwing ninja stars, the girls and guys focus on their seafood, the servers take the last half-price drinks and I wipe things down.  I top off the garnish trays, rearrange bottles and fix the ladies their last round.  At the computer, I reach back into my brain for the drinks I haven't yet rung and get things up to date.  I tell the nearest server I'll be back in three and step through the swinging door to the kitchen.

I need to wash my hair.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New Look

My blog is shifting from Post-Apocalyptic to Cocktail, for a while at least.  The David Priest Project is starting to roll.  I'll get back to Cathartes Aura Part Three in a couple of months, but first I need to get out "Inside the Skull of David Priest".

After some free-writing, I've decided to write in first-person prose.  I'm trying to find a nice free stream-of-consciousness rhythm.  It's tough to strike a balance between a character who is describing thoughts and events to the reader and a guy who just plain talks to himself.  Also tricky to write about a guy who, on the surface, shares a lot of your experience and work ethic yet on the inside is quite differently motivated.  I'll reveal that bit-by-bit.

For a long time, I've found it easiest to make up places, people, and situations and write about fantasy.  This is still a fictitious story in a made up town with characters I created, but it will cut personally into the mad hospitality business in which I've grown up.

For most of the last 20 years, I've been employed as a busser, waiter, caterer, bartender, and manager.  Currently I'm a hotel bartender at a great place.  I pay my mortgage and feed my family slinging drinks, serving food, making people comfortable, and being the classiest wise-ass I can be.  I have worked with a wonderful array of hard working professionals, losers, students working part-time, medicated mentals, addicts, and genuinely lovable people.

If you don't know much about the inside of the business, I hope you learn something.  Minimum wage plus tips can be good money.  That server probably makes more dough than her manager.  Titles can be a demotion.  There are numerous ways to short-pour a drink, multiple strategies for cutting someone off, and copious opportunities to skim the company.  Spitting in food is not as much fun as you might think.

Soon I'll be dropping bits of text.  As of this moment, it's all just too raw.  I'm laying out characters and setting.  Much of the stuff I've written so far looks like this: "Where you been?" asks (that dude from the kitchen) while stirring his Gibson.

I wanted to put at least a scene on the blog today, but all I have is a lengthy description and some new wallpaper.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two Men Walk into a Bar

Maybe I  can't stop writing ten-by-tens.
This week, I decided to start jotting down the odd things I hear and see while tending bar.  You'd be surprised how often they go in one ear and out the other if you don't write them down.  I'm trying to collect detail for the David Priest Project.
Here are ten lines about something that really happened a couple days ago.

Two men walk into a bar.  "Beer," one says,
"And vodka for my friend.  Cheapest you got."
I ask his friend: "Should I chill it for you?"
He shakes his head.  "Just neat.  It's for my ears."
I hear lots of things at my job.  Weird things.
Never heard this thing.  "Vodka for your ears?"
He nods.  "Went swimming and my ears won't pop.
I have no rubbing alcohol."  He dips
His finger in his shot, swabs his ears, asks
Me for a whiskey-seven.  "For your mouth?"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brand Names in Fiction

Sometimes social media works.  I asked Smasher Pinky (a big supporter of writers like me at Pinky's Pub on Facebook) if I would get in trouble for using real liquor brands in the David Priest Project.  Heidi C. Vlach chimed in with this link.

I don't have any lawyers on my payroll, yet.  Hell, no one's on my payroll.  Thanks for the help, Heidi.

Seems like as long as I don't imply that Stolichnaya causes retroactive birth defects or anything like that, I'll be okay.  Can't have David Priest reaching for "that Russian vodka" throughout the whole book.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Barman David Priest

I'm about to step away from the Cathartes Aura project for a bit.  I'll be able to tap into my life in the restaurant business through a first-person narrative about eccentric bartender David Priest.  It may be in free-verse.  It may be in prose.  I won't know until I begin to free-write and a form should become evident.

But first, a disclaimer.  For anyone who works with me or has worked with me, you may come to recognize my voice inside the character of David Priest.  He may sound a lot like me.  He may work like me.  He may even look like me, but don't get it twisted.  He is a fictional character.  The bugs in his head are not in my head.  His life is not and never has been mine.

Some of the characters around him may look like or sound like you.  If it is a flattering likeness, then maybe the character is based on you.  If you don't like what you see or hear, don't worry.  It's not you, just something from my imagination.  If I work for you and you fear that I may be behaving like Mr. Priest, don't freak out.  It's only a piece of fiction based on things I've heard, seen, or just made up.

I may be referring people back to this post if any part of the David Priest Project ruffles feathers.

Until then, please read "Cathartes Aura and the Apocalypse Zoo" and "Cathartes Aura on the Road from Nowhere".  I'd love for you to put an honest review at  I'll be working on Book Three before too long.  I just don't want to see another ten-by-ten for a couple of months.