Just Life: Barely a bartender


I always thought that if I became a vagabond I would take jobs around the couintry and and perhaps work my way around the world as a bartender.

There are a few things that one can do if one is inclined to travel and pick up work along the way. Piano player is one. People who play the piano have it made. 

They can get a job anywhere on the planet because music is the universal language. I’ve heard some amazing stories from traveling piano players.

I remember talking to one woman who was the piano-player-of-the-week at a bar I worked at in Maine. Back in 1982 I was on a post-college cross-country trip by myself and a friend asked if I could stay and work the Boothbay Inn Bar for a spell because his bartender walked out on him the night before.

I did pretty well for my first time behind a bar without any training. Mostly it was the lobstermen who showed up early in the morning wanting their brews and Cape Cods after their all-nighters with the crustaceans.

They were sweet lobsterman and if there was a drink someone wanted I didn’t know how to make, they would guide me through the rows of liquor.

The piano player’s name was Vivian. She was in her 60’s and decided to see the country after her husband passed on earlier in the year. She had been a piano teacher “forever” and was “tickled pink” that she could finally play what she wanted for people she didn’t know. She loved ragtime, blues and knew every song in the Cat Stevens catalog like the back of her age-spotted hands. 

She told me how she didn’t really need the money but it helped pay for gas and food. She was traveling in a 1975 yellow Ford Station Wagon and after she sold most of what she owned in a yard sale, she hauled whatever was left to her daughters’ house in Idaho and hit the road.

I remember feeling envious of Vivian. She decided to spend the last few decades of her life wandering around the country, entertaining people from all walks of life with a little song and dance.

I’ve tried to take piano lessons several times throughout my life and for one reason or another I didn’t get very far. I still lug around my collection of songbooks so maybe some day…

There was a time I wanted to be like Vivian but because I didn’t play the piano I decided that if I was going to travel I would become the best bartender around. 

I made some calls stating I wanted on-the-job training and called the owner of Whiskey Creek asking him if I could train a bit for free. I did and I had a blast. 

I didn’t mind cutting up the fruit or setting out the mixers in the ice or cleaning what had to be cleaned.  

I learned that there are actual pictures of geese flying on the bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and that vodka comes in several different flavors like mandarin and raspberry. I learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to pour beer into a pitcher and I learned that it’s better to let the cocktail waitress add the trimmings to the specialty drinks. 

Most important, I learned that I wanted to try it again. 

Two years later I was hired to work in a local restaurant and part of the gig was to be a bartender during the day because an actual bartender didn’t exist for the lunch crowd. I thought I did okay but the more I poured alcohol the more I knew that I wasn’t the best bartender around. I just didn’t want to see people get drunk. 

I don’t like to be around inebriates so I kept talking to the folks sitting at the bar into either ordering food or giving them free scones. I wanted their alcohol to be sopped up by food. 

After a while it was clear that I was better waiting tables then selling alcohol and the owners of the restaurant made sure I was only behind the bar when absolutely necessary. I don’t know if there is any moral to this story but I do know that had I become a traveling bartender my life would look entirely different than it does today. 

Then again, maybe there would be a lot less drunk people around if I was the Mother Rocker of all bartenders behind the counter.

Stacey Powells is a local writer and radio host. She hosts the Exhausted Parent Network Radio Show every Thursday night at 6 p.m. on KMMT. She can be reached at stacey@exhaustedparent.com. For more of her work, visit www.exhaustedparent.com. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of the Mammoth Times.