Tag Archives: aloof bartenders

Dryer Lint Makes Good Kindling

19 Feb

There was a guy on the radio who was talking about adaptive happiness, and how the human psyche adjusts to circumstance over time and provides contentment even in adverse conditions. My first thought was how I’ve managed to find satisfaction in my job, even thought it sure as hell ain’t The New Yorker (yet). But a few days later, my psyche did some nipping and tucking and reminded me as I nestled amongst perfect pillows and crisp sheets that really, I don’t even mind being “alone” anymore. I’ve cultivated the best version of alone, and I’m not sure I want to drop anyone into that scenario and ruffle things up.

Now a couple of months have elapsed and my adaptive happiness has dictated a new set of rules. No more trifling with this fragile heart of mine. To apply for my affection you have to actually show up. Aloof bartenders, elusive economists, cat-loving web programmers, methodical yoga instructors, astutely seductive editors, and wannabe actors need not apply. Now I just have to dispense with some pseudo-aloof percussionists and be on my way.

Which is how things stood when I received a series of emails from a gentleman in Carrollton over the past two days. Evidently he wants to see me. And there is a timeline. My adaptive happiness appreciates the forthright nature of the exchange. But I am not going to ascribe any value to it. They can all come and go, and I’ll be fine right here.



Come Closer

17 Feb

ryan_gosling_love_at_first_sightTalking of asteroids and meteorites, we found that we’d both chosen Bruce Willis as our captain for a time of distress. We quickly created a roster of the other celebretons we’d need to place in power to save our planet. George Clooney would definitely serve as interim president.

“What’s Ryan Gosling doing?”

And when he echoed it back to me in perfect imitation of my voice and tone I realized how cute and flirtatious I’d been. Ryan brings the best out in me, apparently. I hadn’t used this eye twinkling with my actual physical date all evening. But cue a scene where Ryan comes to the rescue and I’m all sparkle.

The sudden levity was actually brought on by a message I’d just glimpsed in my phone. Sent in reply to my distress call the night before, it said, “I’d like to walk along the river with thee.” He would travel to Texas to see me after all.

That’s all I need, really. A true heart once glimpsed eclipses all faltering and insincere attempts. When my date asked for a kiss late that evening, I opted instead for a long drive home.

“My heart is too frail now,” I said. I will not trifle with it.

But driving amidst swerving drunks between Dallas and Fort Worth, I realized that my heart was not weak. It was bolstered by the comfort of a real soul that provides real contentment. This person, this person who doesn’t live near me and probably thus could be seen as another deterrent to commitment on my part, is the person who makes me feel safe.

I will not skitter along the icy tundra of artificial affection. I will only accept real company. And Ryan Gosling.


Si se Descubre un Incendio

16 Dec

bunuelosThere was a space heater at our feet, bouncing comfort off cool white tiles that met at right angles behind us. The scuffed and varnished table was long and reserved for a large party that would arrive later. We were wearing sweaters and scarves. Our shoulders hunched.

We’d been assigned these seats out of sympathy for our aging souls by a server who saw us shiver. What she didn’t know was that my beautiful friend had a lover waiting for him at home, and if there was an icy chill to our appearance, it was out of mutual sympathy for the cold reception I was receiving from the middlewest while in the middle of Spain.

I was in hot pursuit of a sweet encounter on my final night of vacation. I knew exactly what I wanted, because I’d tasted it my first night in Madrid. Never a dessert person, I’d relented and sampled a chocolate buñuelo, which changed my understanding of the laws of physics forever. Fools who eat deep-fried Oreos might pretend to know what I am about to describe. But I defy them to compare their county fair disaster to the depths of contentedness offered by a perfectly formed and lightly fried crust encompassing a warm and smooth milk-chocolate center. All prepared by a somewhat hostile chef-owner who wishes you’d ask for the check already, even though this is Spain and you’re supposed to finish dinner at breakfast.

“You’d think he would have been more polite, as our bill was quite substantial,” sighed my friend.

The chef was not alone in his barely restrained rage. The proprietress was also in a fit of pique that first night. I was sure she hated my voice and my English and my inability to speak Spanish. But my French friend’s third language helped us to order dinner, and I hoped his status as neighborhood resident would melt the cold chocolate beneath the bitter sprinkles of cocoa on this woman’s soul.

How wrong I was. Despite our poor reception, we decided to make a round-trip to the restaurant of angry owners after my week in a city constructed entirely of cobblestones and concrete. Not surprisingly, we were greeted with more subdued rage. Our server was kind enough, but again the proprietress made it plain that we were an imposition.

“I’m really sorry,” I intoned, tightening my scarf into a thicker knot above my rejected heart. “I hope this isn’t the result of your bringing me here, the ugly American. Please, come back with your Spanish lover and everything will be okay.”

I felt a rare silence waft toward me from the right angle to my sharp corner, and then I turned to watch a withering in my French English Spanish friend’s sky-blue eyes. “How could you say such a thing?” His eyebrows raised in sympathetic horror. “Just the fact that you would even think like that…”

His sentence was completed by our mutual recollection of the many conversations we’d had all week. Hearts like ours are generous with what they offer, but need a little encouragement when it comes to receiving love. Oh, and I am a lot like that hostile proprietress toward my own heart customer when I ask for another glass of wine. “You want what? You want more? You want to enjoy? You want to feel good? Harumph. Forget it, you ugly uglykins.”

I looked down at my hands, which were gripping each other in a tight bind in my lap. My trip to Spain was ending with the same taste of sweetness from the first night, but now colored with the bitter regret of longing and rejection. As the light crust broke beneath my bite, I thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s winsome conclusion to one of his short stories: “There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.”

My Kinda Town

19 Nov

There’s a bar in Old Town where a book and a man provoke inquiry. Together they sit, and night after night, the mildly inebriated inquire with some edge of derision around their friendliness, “How do you read in a bar?” Emphasis on the final word tumbling a bit in the cadence of drunks.

He is that man. And when he is not accepting free drinks from firefighters and fellow football fans, he is texting me literary commentary.

This is the least ironic man I have ever met, and yet his sarcasm is spot on. That much is inherent because he is midwestern, from Indiana. He is taller than the Willis Tower, but his spoken voice is padded with the hesitance of a natural introvert.

I met him over a notebook, but I’m going to keep him in my phone book (app). Especially because now on a still-too-hot evening in autumn Texas, I can burrow my chin down into a cashmere scarf (pretend it’s winter!) and talk to my Chicago boy about books. You’re never alone when you have a book, and you’re even less alone with you have someone reading over your shoulder from one thousand miles away.

“I want to hear your take on it,” comes the calm and metered prompting. That is the hottest thing anyone could ever say. And if you’re also a sports fan who on a whim travels to Belgium to sample your favorite beers on their home turf, then I’ll be happy to give you my take.


11 Oct

The temperature in Fort Worth varies by a few degrees from that in Dallas. The radio man posts flags in each city’s number on the quarter hour, and that’s the only time I let my heart wonder how he feels in that differential. There in that soft, even light pouring in from north windows, he stands. Do we think of each other in the exact moment these meteorological facts are simulcast across the Metroplex? I know he makes note of stray Fort Worth facts, because he shared one with me when I went back. He pretended to be casual, but I saw a flicker of eagerness when he was able to tell me a street name in answer to my follow-up inquiry. He’s cool, but I’m one or two degrees cooler in Cowtown.

Pour Me

6 Oct

“For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
    So how should I presume?”
—T.S. Eliot, the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Bourbon’s too sweet for me. So why it’s wrapped around cold cubes in a glass next to me is definitely the vestige of some failed catch or another. There’s a bottle in my cabinet to keep the cowboy happy, and heck, it’s cheaper than the single malt scotch that is my primary flavor, so it will keep me company when the neighbors have a log on the fire and there is enough odor of smoke in the air to make up for the absence of it in my glass.

Cocktails composed of some combination of bourbon and bitters are my usual choice away from home, as well. Probably because bourbon is what’s typically available, and other than the occasional “float” of single malt scotch on a pretty concoction here or there, it seems like sacrilege to pour that beverage in the company of any spirit other than the ghost of its peaty past.

And so it was that I sat with a beautifully composed bourbon cocktail at a perfectly assembled “artisanal” joint in Dallas. For the second time. First it was with friends, and then it was on my own, sunlight smoothing the atmosphere flat and a time limit set by the event I was to attend that evening. I walked in, actually laughed out loud when I saw the textbook handsome bartender cut out of a catalog of Bunky favorites, and stepped over to the host stand.

“I just need to kill some time,” I actually confessed to the vest-wearing disinterested but friendly seat designator. “Can I just sit at the bar? And I can eat there, too, right?”

I chose a teetering stool between a couple and a solitary guy who looked like he couldn’t decide if he should put his sunglasses back on or leave them on the bar in front of him. New Yorker issue already open to the article about Joe Girardi I’d been trying to finish for weeks, I spread it open before me and awaited a menu while the bartender displayed the aloof characteristics that usually have me floored within minutes.

Yeah, yeah, I’m reading anyway. And I know which cocktail I’ll have. I had it before. And it was perfect.

Cocktail menu unfolded open in front of me, and a sideways look just like in the wild west. “Drinks under ten are all five dollars.”

And a quick pace away, back to the couple eagerly feeding on crumbs of wisdom he tossed from far away in his gray-skied malaise.

The solitary sunglasses man took up my cause and decided we would be in love forever. He was the chef owner of another place down the street. I was not interested. But kind to the stranger, just the same.

Days passed.

“Yeah, that’s a good deal and everything, but I think I have to have this one,” I said, naming the best drink on the menu, clearly, because the boy did the raised jaw single nod of approval. Again, I didn’t care. Didn’t need the guy.

The beverage was concocted in the corner well, far away and out of eyeshot. Then it was delivered, set just so on a cocktail napkin. I looked down at it and from high above heard, “Wait, wait,” and a straw was inserted with finger cap and I was silently commanded to follow it upward to a mouth that tasted my drink. It was acceptable. I was to drink it safely.

After I kept the conversation with solitary sunglasses tidy and never so much as giggled in his direction for twenty strenuous minutes, I finally had the chance to read a bit of my magazine when my food arrived. Ah, quietude, how I enjoy the chance to…

The bar was suddenly completely empty and the bartender chose to stand directly in front of me (no, I was not sitting in front of his well) and poured a short amount of a beverage. He was on his phone. Leaving a message about a beer cocktail he wanted to add to the fall menu.

Oh crumbs. How could I not take the bait.

Hang up. Look up, still chewing, “Alright, beer cocktail?”

That’s how it began. He locked in and just dazzled with multiple beer samples all poured in glasses that were appearing rapidly before me. I was surrounded in flavors, and the commentary was savory. Dammit. I am textbook myself, I suppose, in how my appearance demands a certain savvy in order to capture any attention.

I still didn’t need the guy. I didn’t. Until he dove into profound revelations about his personal history with not so much as an ounce of prompting from me. We were bonded for life at that point, but still, I wasn’t going to reveal any flicker of devotion. Bartenders, bartenders who frown upon the designation ‘mixologist’ but enjoy the elevation just the same, have broken me.

He took his dinner break and was around a corner in the kitchen again on the phone when I paid my check and left. Outside, stomping through the cacti-lined stone path, I heard a rapid rapping on glass. Look right, and there, through window is he, waving for my return to the indoors. Soon as I walked in, he was in front of me, shaking my hand, arranging for our next visit.

And I’ll go back. I’ll go back. Even though it prompted me to speak a line of poetry as I drove away. “For I have known them all already, known them all.”

These broken souls, the ones who pour themselves out in front of me, are my habit. They are not who I should imbibe. But they’re what’s available, and it seems like sacrilege to consume the good stuff that I really like.

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