James Bond-ing

When this sweet young couple slid onto their barstools your friendly bartender pegged them in their early twenties. The guy however was hell bent on acting much older. He said, “The lady will have your best Chardonnay and I’ll have (all in one rapid-fire exhale) an extra dry Beefeater martini, shaken not stirred, on the rocks, straight-up, water back.” And he said it so fast it didn’t sink in til I grabbed the scooper and went to pull up some ice. (WTF?)

“My friend, you said ‘on the rocks’ and ‘straight-up’, which is it?” He’d obviously memorized this James Bond riff and somehow screwed up the ending.

“Pardon me?” He was still clueless.

“”On the rocks means with ice, straight-up means no ice. You said both.”  And believe me I said it nicely for I could see his rehearsed James Bond-ness swiftly going south.

“Oh-ah, of course, make it straight-up.”

“Twist or an olive?” I continued, again not breaking balls but guiding him through this.

“Umm… you know, either way.” Then, “I mean, no, make it both!” Then he winked at Chardonnay to assure all was well. It wasn’t. He looked like he’d swallowed an oyster laced with Tabasco.

But I don’t bring this up to make fun, dear reader, but rather to bond with young Bond, for your friendly bartender has been there himself many times. Yes, he’s made his share of mistakes acting cool out in Bar-land. Like this time…

On a long ago Friday night, when your friendly bartender was your friendly school teacher back in his hometown of Pittsburgh, with half his monthly pay in his pocket and packed in his new three-piece suit, he climbed into his Oldsmobile Cutlass and headed a mile down the road to a place called Mary Stark’s. Stark’s was a grown-up cocktail lounge (a far cry from the screaming college bars) and it held all the promise of all kinds of mischief and intrigue. Men in sharp, fashionable suits, sophisticated ladies on the town for adventure and grown-up play, was the milieu in which I was attempting that night to immerse myself.  For I’d thought about doing this for quite some time and this was the night I would do it, this was the night I would say hello to the cool world. So I parked my car on the gravel stoned lot, slid out into the night, and slammed the door on my car and hopefully my youth. Then I ground across the noisy stones and opened the thick wooden door of the famed Mary Stark’s. And what a sight!

Dimly lit and made all the gauzier by billowing wafts of cigarette smoke, what lay before me was a scene from the TV show Mad Men. A seemingly sophisticated older clientele (particularly older women!) was seated around a copper-top bar strewn with martinis and rocks drinks, each person planted and poised for the ritual of nightlife. This was it! But alas as I ambled across the thick, burgundy carpetiing heading for a seat at the bar, I felt all of a sudden more like in a scene from a cowboy movie. You know, where the stranger in town walks into the saloon and everyone turns and whispers, for I swear every person at that bar seemed to give me the once over. Here we go again! I thought.

See the problem I had when I was young, dear reader (at least in this regard) was the fact that I looked too young to be going into bars. Way too young. I was easily and always a good five years off the pace. So with my mop of sandy-colored hair on this night draped goofily across my forehead, and the dusting of freckles that lurked and danced just beneath it, it was clear by the expressions on the faces observing I was Opie in Andy’s suit looking for Aunt Bee. In other words I didn’t evoke, “Ooh, who is that?” in any of these sophisticated ladies, but rather, “Didn’t I see him serving 10:30 mass last Sunday?” And of course in rounding out this bar-wide scrutiny no eyes were more discerning than those of the bartender.

“I’m gonna need some ID, pal,” he said when my ass hit the stool, which brought out a tinkling of laughter, most of it female.

“I’ll have an Iron,” I said with some force, once I’d proven I could vote any time I wanted. Iron is short for Iron City beer, at the time mother’s milk to our working class, and the bartender set it down with a tall, fragile pilsner glass. Aww, shit! I internally winced at the sight of this tapered vessel, having always just drunk from the bottle and dreading the pour. For this wasn’t a mug, which I had poured into, but rather a tall fucking test tube testing my skill. But I raised the bottle and thank God pulled off the pour. (Every drop observed by the still unconvinced bartender.)

Well, as things can sometimes happen in life I finally got settled in, bathed in the glow of those first few swallows of beer. I was no longer feeling the “stranger in town” like before. And to add to my newfound ease and comfort and painting the picture just right, was the voice of Tony Bennett soaring from the juke box. He was belting, “I want to be around to pick up the pieces, when somebody breaks… ” etc.,  which richly added to the cool of this most cool setting. I took out a Marlboro, lit it with care but aplomb, then exhaled my contribution to the overhead cloud.

Well, here I am, I pondered, finally sitting in Stark’s, finally taking a shot at this grown-up drinking stuff! Fuck those stupid college bars, it doesn’t get any better than fucking this. Or at least that’s what I thought just before it happened…

I’d caught the eye of an awesome woman who was at least an awesome thirty five awesome years old, and she was staring at me for God knows what kind of reason. But she was staring, that I knew. So I reached for my drink to gesture her way, to give her a suave “Here’s to you,” but being in the habit of drinking from the bottle I reached for the bottle and knocked over the glass with my elbow. How appropriate then were the words to that Tony Bennett song. The glass hit the copper, the copper made it shatter, and the beer from the glass soaked a good three feet of good bar space. Fucking unbelievable!!! And the woman along with the whole bar shared a fun moment. Opie spilled his milk! I could hear them thinking.

“Awww, fer’ Christ almighty sakes,” yelled the bartender, “what the hell happened here?” sounding more like my principal than my bartender. Then he approached with two damp rags, he mopped and picked, mopped and picked, carefully gathering all the shards, then finished by giving me a look of, “Do you really want to be here?” And as I scanned the bar at the myriad expressions painted on my fellow patrons, here was my unspoken answer to the bartender’s query.

In less than a half hour’s time I had paid for my Iron City beer, gone home and changed into chino’s and a crew neck and was standing in a raucous college bar in Shadyside where I belonged. That was my answer. Stark’s would have to wait, I figured, this was more my speed…  at least until I could lose that goddam Opie thing. Or handle a glass!

And so to you, my young James Bond… Mr. Shaken-not-stirred-on-the-rocks-straight-up, if you please… I know what it’s like to screw up, my friend, your friendly bartender has been there, so don’t take to heart the encounter we had in my bar. In other words, don’t be “shaken” just “stirred” to do better next time.

Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end!

25 Responses to “James Bond-ing”

  1. 1 Anonymoustache August 15, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Beautiful post, Scrib50. I’ve been there too, and I suspect pretty much every one of us has.
    Every guy I knew growing up was afflicted with a bit of Bond-itis—of course, I was the Connery Bond, so I was waaayyyyyy cooler than my compadres who favored the Moore Bond…..just sayin…

  2. 2 scribbler50 August 15, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I’m with ya’, Stache, Sean Connery WAS James Bond… the rest were stand-ins.
    Thanks for your comment, friend.

  3. 3 jc August 16, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I’m totes stealing “awesome thirty five awesome years old” from you, and will be using it until I Die Another Day.

  4. 4 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Hmmmm, JC, could someone be… Oh, I don’t know… say thirty four and a half years old? Or maybe thirty five?
    Just askin’!

  5. 5 Comrade PhysioProf August 16, 2009 at 10:46 am

    He looked like he’d swallowed an oyster laced with Tabasco.

    When I swallow an oyster laced with Tabasco, my face reflects pure bliss. BTW, I never knew you were such a dork! Breaking the fucking glass and everything!!

  6. 6 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Ya’ learn something every day, CPP, and if breaking a glass is dork-ity call me “dork”.

  7. 7 jc August 16, 2009 at 11:22 am


  8. 8 Isis the Scientist August 16, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Aw. Poor little dude was just looking for some action with Chardonnay!

  9. 9 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Yeah, dear Isis, and what about THIS poor little dude who was just looking for some action with “sophisticated ladies”? What about him? Have you no sympathy there???

  10. 10 d-a-p August 16, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    “oh my”…as dick enberg would say… we all remember..how cool things were…then so quickly…how uncool things were….. you’ve helped us bring back those memories…and you know what…we’re the better for it….a long time ago i was out on a first date with a young lady..and i took her to the local hangout..they knew me…i was going to be so cool…over the intercom..my good friend who was a matre’d at said establishment, said my name and then said “your date has a face like a catchers mitt”…and added..”you have a phone call at the desk from your wife…if i could have only replied, “the young lady will have a shaken,stirred,straight up,olive,onion,cherry,martini…my life may have taken a whole new direction…
    thanks scribbler, for just being the best blog sight on the whole damn internet…
    back on a river in the south,

  11. 11 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    d-a-p: Good lord, you didn’t have a chance to screw up, you were hit at the one yard line before you could return the punt. Funny stuff though, at least it is now many years removed. (And yeah, I know who the maitre’d was!)

    Enjoy your travels, Bud.

  12. 12 Jennifer August 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    LOL! Maybe the young lad meant his relationship was now on the rocks.

    Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve pictured Opie (young or old) once while reading these posts. I know who pops into my head, but I’m not saying since he’s at the other end of the Opie spectrum.

  13. 13 scribbler50 August 16, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Jennifer: All Opie means is I was “fair-haired”, but now you’ve got my curiosity up. What’s the opposite of fair-haired? Hmmmmmmmmm… oh, why of course… tall dark and handsome. Fooled ya’! 🙂

  14. 14 scribbler50 August 17, 2009 at 8:39 am

    And…. Jennifer, (it now comes to me with a clear head on a clear Monday morning) if the other end of the spectrum is indeed “tall, dark and handsome”, figure it this way… you got two out of three right!

  15. 15 jc August 17, 2009 at 8:48 am

    “In other words, don’t be “shaken” just “stirred” to do better next time.”

    In otherer words, don’t be “on the rocks” just “straight up” to do betterer next time. And hey, nothin wrong with dorky 😉

  16. 16 scribbler50 August 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Nice play on words, JC, I’m glad you were “stirred” to write that. I’m “shaken” by the whole experience!

  17. 17 Jennifer August 17, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Scribbler… actually, I was thinking of Aunt Bea…

  18. 18 scribbler50 August 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Jennifer: Touche’! 😦

  19. 19 robe August 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    I once took a girl to dinner at a place like Starks. I was 18 and dressed up like an adult. I’m sure the waitstaff were howling at my mature act. I ordered two white wines. As I was gazing into my date’s eyes explaining to her the culinary magnificence of chicken piccata, my menu exploded into flames. I was of course holding it a few inches above our sexy red candle. The menu was huge and created quite a ball of fire. I had to stomp on it. The entire place was gazing at me. All thoughts of getting lucky later in the evening were fading like the last clouds of smoke for the infamous burning menu.

  20. 20 scribbler50 August 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Robe: I swear to God I’m laughing out loud. That is hilarious, a scene out of a freaking movie. Especially the part where you had to stomp on it! I’m just picturing your date’s expression through all of this. Really funny!!
    Thanks so much for sending that along.

  21. 21 blue girl August 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Aw, this is the sweetest post ever! My son’s got a little bit of this going on now. He wanted to buy his prom tuxedo so he could take his girlfriend out on “fancy, grown up dates.”

    I gave him a few ideas. They could go to dinner and then the orchestra. Stuff like that.

    I was chuckling inside but I would never let him know that! I remember wanting to be grown up like that, doing cool stuff.

    And….laugh out loud! at robe. lololol

  22. 22 scribbler50 August 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

    blue girl: You’re right, if we can get past the “funny” of it all it really is sweet, this trying to be all grown-up for the first time. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all done those silly things whether it was standing in front of a mirror trying to imitate James Dean (or Bette Davis if you’re a girl) handling a cigarette, getting the proper door lean when driving a car, (Jesus Christ) how to lead in a slow dance without the knees buckling, and, as Robe so hilariously shared with us, how to order a meal in a grown-up restaurant. Without burning it down!

    I remember a situation once, again in my early twenties, being in this woman’s apartment (and I emphasize the word “woman” because she was at least 40 years old for God sakes… my Mrs. Robinson moment) trying to get all cozy when she asked if I’d like to have a glass of wine. “Sure,” I said, convinced we were on our way. Then she walked into the kitchen, came back and handed me a bottle and a damn wine opener. Well, believe it or not, to that point in my life I had never opened a bottle of wine EVER, so the task before me seemed no less daunting and no less a test of my worldliness than had she asked me to sing a medley of Sinatra songs. In Mandarin! So I hesitated for a moment and then handed her back the bottle and said (as if there were thirty types of openers) “Geez, I’ve never used this kind before, would you mind?” I figured it was better than fumbling around and possibly ripping the cork… and maybe even a hole in my amorous progress. Of course she knew what was going on and being protective of my fragile ego, she came to the rescue and opened the bottle of wine. Good grief, Charlie Brown!!!
    Glad you enjoyed the post, BG, thanks for stopping by.

  23. 23 scribbler50 August 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    To anyone who read the above comment of mine:

    I was just asked by a friend if I was older than God, the fact that I used Bette Davis above as a smoking reference. The answer is “no” (Moses maybe) but I couldn’t think of another female star strongly identified with smoking. Faye Dunaway in the seventies? Then smoking became uncool from the eighties on. Oh well, I guess every word really counts when you’re doing this blogging business. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my nap!

  24. 24 mvpalex August 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

    I worked nights in a busy coffee shop forty years ago and we would get many guys who were over thier limit (booze wise). I would get quite a few orders for scrambled eggs, up. Well, not to confuse them with Mr. Bond, you can also be older drunk and order like novice, or idiot for that matter. Such a shame the lady didn’t adore your situation and take you under her wing, so to speak.

  25. 25 scribbler50 August 19, 2009 at 9:06 am

    mvpalex: Hah! “Scrambles eggs, up” I love that… the perfect variation on my young James Bond. Given my many late night visits to all night diners over the years (under the influence), I’m sure I was guilty at one time or another of, “Poached Denver omelet!”

    Caught your recent comments on my other posts, thanks, mvpalex, and welcome.

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