Strike Three, Yer’ Out!!!

Your friendly bartender nearly laughed out loud when he took in a recent article in the New York Times. It was about a bartender here in New York who’s become quite the star. The “bartender’s bartender” is what he was called who “had speed, stamina, dexterity, and an awe-inspiring memory.” Awe inspiring memory? High praise indeed. But that was just the beginning. By the time the article had run its course… the dizzying accolade run dry… this man was placed in the all-time pantheon of pourers. And I agree. I know the guy and he happens to be all those things.

So what in the world made me titter when I read that article? Well it brought back a memory that’s what, of someone who might not make that so-called pantheon. See I know firsthand the bar in that story… it’ a place where I used to work… and I wished as I pictured a fiasco in my head which took place there many years ago, that the author of the piece (Frank Bruni in this case) had been in the bar the day that fiasco took place. Talk about “awe inspiring”!

The bartender’s name was Jimmy, and Jimmy could be as mean as a bagful of badgers. Not always of course but definitely when rubbed the wrong way. Jimmy was well into his seventies at  the time, spoke through a box of a jaw, and his words were laced with an Irish brogue upon exit. And depending on what the topic was (or the customer’s prodding or cajoling), that brogue could be pure lilt or impure menace! Jimmy wore specs as thick as diamonds with blue eyes twinkling behind them, and his frown when turned to a smile could warm up an igloo. Get the picture? Sweet and sour rolled into one tough package. But on the day when the “man in tweed” walked in… yes, tweed cap, vest and blazer… I assure you there wasn’t a “lilt” to be heard within miles.

“My good man,” said the man in tweed, “would you mind pouring me a fine glass of your Guinness?” (Strike One!)

See, Jimmy and those who worked in this bar… guys who ate gravel for cereal and treated their eight hour shift like eight rounds of boxing…  hated to pour the Guinness, mainly because of the people who ordered that brew. For your Guinness man always made a big fuss while observing the bartender’s pour (revering the rite as preparing the Eighth Sacrament) and anything shortening the ritual bordered on sacrilege. And the fact that Tweed had said, “My good man,” sure didn’t help his case, in fact it placed his ass further in the sling.  Because if a customer couples the words “My good man” with “I’ll have a pint of Guinness”, and the guy is not from Ireland but born in the states, a big bag of wind has surely blown in the door. And Jimmy felt it.

So while Jimmy was pouring the Guinness, adhering not to the four or five steps the purists would prefer he be honoring, Tweed was spreading his newspaper out on the bar. (Strike Two!!)

Jimmy also hated newspaper readers and not just because they were sippers more than they were drinkers (though that was certainly a part of it), but because their newspapers took up too much bar space. Working space! And in this case, ironically, the paper was the New York Times so this guy might as well have laid out a fucking tarpaulin. So when Jimmy laid eyes on that newspaper there, spreading its printed wings wider than the man’s shoulders (infringing on neighboring spaces both right and left), the blue in his twinkling eyes quickly turned to flint. He set down the Guinness with a bang on the bar and while trying to decide whether to let the man have it right there, Tweed unwittingly made the decision for him. He produced from his blazer a scroll made of felt which unfurled to reveal a pipe and the implements for cleaning it. Strike Three!!!

Now bear in mind, dear reader, this man up to this point had absolutely no idea he’d done even one thing wrong, let alone three.  He thinks he’s still the country squire… the man in tweed with his pipe and his Guinness and the New York Times in tow… cutting a dashing figure for all to see. Which is why his reaction was triply shocking when Jimmy let go with this raucous screed from hell.

That’s it, yer’ out!” he screamed, slamming his massive palm down on the bar top. “Take yer’ pipe, take ‘yer paper and take yer’ fookin’ ass right out the front door!!!”

Tweed was flabbergasted. Again, having been given no warning up to that point he’d even done one thing wrong, this thing hit him in the nose like some kind of sucker punch. Pow!!! For it’s one thing to know you’re on thin ice so caution of course can be taken, but to think you’re fucking royalty here, showing the peasants what for, only to be told you’re an asshole can be quite alarming. Which is precisely what happened.

“My good man,” said Tweed, backing away in horror, “but what have I done?”

“You’re an asshole, that’s what you’ve done. With all o’ this shite here! The pipe, the paper, the pipe cleaners (bell, book and candle) where da’ ya’ think ya’ awr’, a fookin’ men’s club???”

“I thought I was in a fine establishment, that is what I thought,” said the squire, recovering. “Where’s your manager?”

“That’s ‘yer man sittin’ over thair in the cahwner.” And so Tweed walked over to the man sitting in the corner.

“Are you the manager?” he asked.

“I am,” said Jack the manager, regarding his querier with a wary eye, his one hand resting on the cane that aided his short leg.

“Well, for no reason whatsoever, Sir, your bartender called me an asshole and then…”

Jack didn’t let him finish. He rose from his chair with the help of his cane, held up his free hand as a Stop sign and shouted furiously, “Well if he called you an asshole you must be a fucking asshole. That’s it! Now g’wan, get the fuck outta’ here!!!” And when he raised his cane to make his point the man made a bolt for the door in record time. Bingo, gone! And one can only imagine what he said, not just over at The Blarney Stone Bar which was right across the street and to where the man fled, but for years to come when he related his amazing experience. “Wait til you hear this one, my good man. I walked into this bar you see, I wasn’t bothering a soul, I ordered my pint of  Guinness like always, then all of a sudden this bartender…”

Well, you get the idea.

But as I said, one can also only imagine what Bruni from the New York Times would have said had he been witness to this story, had he been witness to this old school “bartender’s bartender”. The times, they are a changin’, sure comes to mind!

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

23 Responses to “Strike Three, Yer’ Out!!!”


  1. 1 Ken June 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Scrib:

    The good old days. Sometimes they were very good indeed.

  2. 2 scribbler50 June 13, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Ken: I hear ya’, man, but tell that to the man in tweed! 🙂

  3. 3 Comrade PhysioProf June 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    For it’s one thing to know you’re on thin ice so caution of course can be taken, but to think you’re fucking royalty here, showing the peasants what for, only to be told you’re an asshole can be quite alarming.

    Great sentence, dude!

    BTW, I have been served many a time by the bartender Bruni wrote about. He has this fun “How are ya, darling/my man!” schtick, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he seems to really enjoy making customers happy.

  4. 4 Anonymoustache June 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Frasier Crane may have been fictitious but the character surely infests many places all over the world in the form of ‘Tweeds’, eh?

  5. 5 Belvoir June 13, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I’m picturing the guy wearing a hat with a long pheasant feather sticking out of it. Like Steve Martin in “The Jerk” when he strikes it rich.

  6. 6 physiobabe June 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Sorry I strolled in so late today Scrib, but I do love coming here.

    Anonymoustache: Frasier Crane indeed!

  7. 7 scribbler50 June 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Comrade: You’re right, he definitely has a shctick but it’s all to the customer’s good. Nothing wrong with that.

    Anonymoustache: Good casting, a Frazier Crane, people who clearly do take themselves seriously. Although the guy in this story was a bit older, my good man.

    Belvoir: That would’ve been the perfect touch… the long pheasant feather… perfect!

    physiobabe: Glad you finally made it, I’ve been worried sick over here! 🙂

  8. 8 d-a-p June 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

    i’m picturing a very angry barry fitzgerald behind the bar…
    to the good old days…
    d-a-p

  9. 9 scribbler50 June 14, 2010 at 11:54 am

    d-a-p: That’s the guy, but a little bit taller with hands like shop tools.
    To the good old days!

  10. 10 JSaw June 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Hmmm, normally I’m 100% with you. But your bartender’s reaction seemed so out of proportion to the offense. It’s not like the guy was being loud or belligerent or affecting the safety and security of those around them.

    Not sure why quietly saying something along the lines of the following wouldn’t have been more appropriate: Hey man, you’re presenting yourself as a preening asshole with your tweed and pipe and “my good man.” Could you take it down about ten notches please?”

    It also has the added benefit of explaining exactly HOW he’s been a putz.

    On the other hand — a**holes, putzes and affected persons of all stripes never realize or care how other people see them…

    … a sticky situation, my good man, a sticky situation 😉

    Thanks as always Scrib.

  11. 11 scribbler50 June 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    JSaw: I wasn’t defending the bartender’s reaction so there’s nothing to disagree with, it WAS out of proportion to the perceived offense. I was just recalling a performance that was so over the top and so unlike the one Mr. Bruni observed which caused him to write his glowing account in the first place, that I thought it was funny. Comparing then and now, that’s all.

    Those old timers from Clarke’s were from a whole ‘nother era, they said and did what they wanted, and probably couldn’t get a job in today’s climate. But they were a joy to watch, characters all, and a slice of old New York we’ll never see again. Comes to mind an All in the Family episode where Archie goes down to the TV station to express his views to the receptionist, which he’d like to express on a citizen’s public service renouncement, and the woman gets on the phone, rings the station manager and says, “I want you to come down here and see this before it’s extinct!”

  12. 12 HyeFye June 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Hey Bartender.

    Great story. Somehow I, too, pictured Frasier Crane sitting before Barry Fitzgerald.

    Speaking of assholes, and at the risk of tossing in an unsolicited anecdote…

    In a former life decades ago I started as a young reporter at a big-city newspaper. The city editor was a character right out of “Deadline USA.” You get the picture. I started the same day as another young reporter, Bob. He introduces himself to everyone as Bob, identifies himself on the phone as Bob.

    So Bob turns in his first story. City editor takes a look at the first line and screams “BOB. WTF! Get yer ass over here.” Bob comes over, city editor points to the byline. “What the hell is this: Robert Edison Jones IV”?

    That’s my byline, Bob says.

    City editor: “Bob, do you want everyone to know you’re an asshole BEFORE they read the story?”

  13. 13 scribbler50 June 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

    HyeFye: Hah! Another pearl, Sir, I love it! Thank you again for checking in.

  14. 14 Lucky Dog June 15, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Jeeze, I suddenly feel like the man in tweed as my complementary comment has vanished…did I offend?

    At any rate, a fine blog which I look forward to following.
    Best Regards,
    LD

  15. 15 Lucky Dog June 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Aw hell… Never mind. I was looking at comments from the wrong post. My comment is still there. Mia Culpa and keep the change….
    Best Regards,
    LD

  16. 16 scribbler50 June 16, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Lucky Dog: Your comment is in tact, how could I eliminate such a fine sentiment? Thanks, Dog.

  17. 17 Jager June 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I pictured Victor McLaglen rather than Barry Fitzgerald!

  18. 18 scribbler50 June 17, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Jager: Victor McLaglen, another great character actor and another great image. But nah, our Jimmy wasn’t big like that, just big in presence. I’d say he was somewhere in the middle of those two.

  19. 19 Jager June 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Scribbler,

    Since we are brother Jack drinkers, I’m going to tell you how I came to love Jack. My Dad had a good friend who owned a bar restaraunt and Kenny loved to preside over the “lounge” in the afternoon. The “lounge” was all dark mahogany, red leather and the back bar was one of those mirrored classics with glass shelves, subdued lighting and bottles and glasses stacked to the ceiling. The kind of bar all the new steakhouses attempt to copy. I wandered in at around two in the afternoon, out of the bright sun and into Kenny’s domain, there he was, a big guy, white shirt, half apron on polishing glasses and humming along to the swing music he always played. The place was empty, I climbed up on a stool in front of Kenny…his first words were, “your old man told me you just had a birthday (I had turned 21 3 days earlier) so I won’t have to throw your ass out!” I ordered a Bud, Kenny brought me my beer, leaned over with his elbows on the bar and said “for a kid who just turned 21, you look pretty damn down, what’s up?” I told Kenny I had gotten a phone call from my college girlfriend and that she might be pregnant. Kenny, snatched away my Bud and brought over a bottle of Jack, two glasses with ice and a jug of water. He looked me in the eye and told me, “a man’s problem, requires a man’s drink”, bless old Kenny (RIP) he talked me through the problem and showed me how to drink like a man on that quiet afternoon, helluva guy. (The pregnancy turned out to be a false alarm.) Kenny wasn’t Irish, he was a good Italian Catholic, I told my Dad the story years later, he laughed and said, “Ken should have been a priest, but it would have been a waste of great bartender!”

  20. 20 scribbler50 June 19, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Jager: Another beautiful anecdote, Sir, really. Which gets me to thinking, based on all the great stories you’ve shared (which are well told to boot) maybe you should be running your own blog site. Whaddaya’ think?

    Ahh, but then I’d be deprived of all those tales over here. Never mind, Brother Jack Daniels.

  21. 21 dumpster June 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Are you sure Mr. Tweed wasn’t Frank Bruni?

  22. 22 scribbler50 June 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Dumpster: If he was (which he wasn’t) that would certainly explain his gushing over the new prototype. Very funny, man.


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