Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Heathers...

Working there provides a very interesting and what some may consider a unique dynamic. By unique, i mean plainly bazaar. You can’t make this shit up type of odd. While the bar is in fact a business, like most businesses, in patriarchal societies like the one we live in, the bar, is a place that is also run by men. The thing is this, that working in a place made for, maintained and supported by gay men sometimes makes me feel like I’m in high school all over again. While the rest of the world seems to want to relive their youth, I never want to be a teenager again. I will go further on that statement. Anyone that thinks that high school was the best time of your life, then frankly, I’m not sure if we could be friends. It’s just a matter of opinion, like people who have kids real young and talk about how wonderful it is. I’m sure that miracle is glorious. Young parents often say stuff like “when he-she-it was born, it was the best time of my life!” I say, if you would of waited, better things may come your way dude. Some say tomato, others say ketchup. It’s just a different viewpoint. On the topic of high school again, I could barely stand teens when I was one, for this reason alone I know that I will never be that man. The one we all know and have met. The ones with the little red porsche and tupe (at least as long as propecia is in existence), who tries to relive their youth vicariously by pretending to be 25 for 30 years or surrounding themselves in young guys. Those guys always remind me of that witch in Hocus Pocus who inhales the children’s youth.

The bar is like every cliché after school special, Mean Girls, “California Dreams” (yes I watched this show. If you don’t know what it is, Google it.) and some random episodes of “Parker Louis Can’t Loose” all mixed together. I know I seem to say that a lot in these stories, but it’s true. High school was nothing in comparison to my experience at the Labyrinth. In high school we at least know that we are young and stupid. Here, some people just stay young and stupid for life. It's something that happens when alcohol mixes with the bad Kylie Minogue remixes I suppose. In high school I had no life, little drama, really it was depressing. I made Chelsea Clinton look like a rebel. For most of it, I was pretty A-sexual and oddly okay with it. I assumed that eventually life would just fall into place within 30 minutes and eventually I would join a cool click and have burgers at the Max with Kelly and Lisa by sophomore year. Who was I kidding? I really just wanted to hang with Zack, by hang, I wanted to be his best friend and eventually have that awkward moment where we made out in Mr. Belding’s office which would make him have to leave Kelly for me. Instead, I watched others around me have a lot of drama, sex and lives and I was just there. I was the observer. My high school life was metaphorically speaking like I was that fat guy that just sat at home watching reality TV for years while getting fat, eating twinkles and living vicariously through those I watched. The guy who never got off of his lazy ass and let the years go by and others experience everything.

There are the popular ones here at the Labyrinth, much like those you see in high school based TV shows. We (by we, I mean I) will call them Heathers for the time being and novelty purposes. Instead the high school girls all named Heather, with their blond hair, big-tits and short skirts who are a dime a dozen and run the school and it’s a similar social hierarchy. Or the brunette names Kelly who graduates a B cup and returns the college years a full D… Here, Heathers are men who have a specific mix of sass, sex appeal and often find their way to squish their fat asses into Diesel jeans 2 sizes smaller than they should just to keep up with the Joneses. Working here has a way of hypnotizing one into forgetting that there really is a whole world outside of this disco shimmering, limp-wristed maze of a Castro bubble. Like the Heathers of high school, they too can make or break someone in my shoes who has to deal with them 4-5 nights a week.

Within the 5 years that I have spent there, I have always noticed a clear clique that has remained constant during my time, the Heathers. They are Phil’s favorites. They often do not embody the specific, stereotypical image one may imagine a bartender to portray or look like physically. While being very different form one another, the quality that they all share is that they bloom in many ways via working at the bar. There are people who have worked there often for some time, some longer than others. Others have put it like this, “Phil likes to take wilting, unlikely flower buds and give them a chance to grow, just to eventually toss them to the curb or kick them out of his house.” It’s like this group represent the closest thing he will ever have to children that he can control. Often they go from quiet, mousy wallflowers to unlikely bartenders, who are cocky, sometimes money/and or coke hungry individuals (if not for a long period of time, at least for a small period of time most, but not all try the ski slope). While in my time there, I have seen many different Heathers groups manifested, they all have the same elements in common. Every 6 months or so this group changes reformulates, a new king emerges while another is dethroned or banished from the place all together. The Heathers are the ones who get the core best shifts at the bar and this is when they get sucked into the nexus that many bartenders fall into, somewhere between dawn and dusk, where your world is the bar. I just want to get one thing straight though, getting sucked into this world often has nothing to do with a lack of education, means failure at the “real world,” in my opinion it’s about comfort for most of us. The majority of their shifts are Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday. They end up making more money in cash per week than most blue-collar people like us can understand and more than most white-collar people make a week at the same time, where all the money goes, that is a whole separate topic. The Heathers are Phil’s favorite bartenders at the moment. When bartenders end up in this group they live in their own parallel bubble of reality. They/we live the lives of vampires, rarely seeing the light or life of day, but without stupid young teenage girl fantasizing about us. Often it is hard for the Heathers to maintain functioning, relationships lasting longer than the time it takes for someone to zip their pants. It’s hard to date one of them/us for this reason and hard for anyone to get past the trick title due to our incompatible/ horrendous schedule. I can attest to this personally, but that is a separate story and for another time, maybe a whole book of it's own. Since they work every time the world around them lives, they get stuck in the inner-workings of the bar. This becomes their air, water and life before they can realize it.

Since the Heathers mainly hangout with other coworkers who work these good shifts along side them, they rarely let new people into their world. By rarely let people in, I mean they do everything they can to shut the rest of the world out. This is for two reasons; a new person could compromise their good schedule by taking their spot, another reason to watch out for the marbles. Get in the way of a Heather and their ability to make money or keep their job and one should always assume that they could be knifed at any time (not really, but kinda). Often the ones they are weary of are new bartenders, who get promoted astonishingly quickly. We will call them “Floaters.” They may be younger, prettier and have nothing to offer the bar other than a new “fresh” look. These are Heathers in the making that think they are at the bar just for a hot second while “getting through school” or “paying off a few loans.” There are Floaters that come in and out of this group every now and again without a scratch or getting sucked into the Heathers’ world. A world with late-nights/early mornings, a possible coke binge now and again and some other delights. Often though, soon these saps too are also stuck in the inner workings of this place we know as the Labyrinth. The said new said person/child, Floater could also divulge the Heathers’ secrets to the rest of the bar and find ways to get them fired. These people either turn into lifers or miraculously get fired by Phil for no reason. These floaters threaten the Heathers whole way of life. Again, another reason to watch you’re back in these parts.

Working there, there will always those who wish to be a part of the Heathers. We all want a piece of the pie. Some of us want this more than others. James, being promoted only a few months back, barbacked like me, for years. Keeping this in mind, while he always claims to be there just to get by and pay off some bills, he always has had the key makings of a Heather. He would/will do anything it takes to become one of them, even if that means getting rid of one of them. It’s really not as viscous as it sounds since all of them would do the same to cute little James if they could get him out of their way. At the time, there were a few obstacles in James’ way of becoming the Heather king that he knows he can be. There is the current bar’s manager, a coked-out, condescending guy with the style of a one George Michael, and the sass of a one Charro, but with an ass the size of a baby watermelon. I mean this guy’s facial hair looks like is so manicured its ridiculous. His eyebrows are insanely plucked to divert ones attention from his natural uni-brow. He is one of those people that likes to bite on other people’s style. The guy that sees you wearing a jacket he likes and the next day he is wearing the same one, a replica or even your jacket if you don’t watch your stuff close enough. Not saying he is a thief, but wouldn’t be surprised if things happen to disappear around him. Greedy cokeheads sometimes will do that kind of thing, but we digress. We will call him Julio for this story to protect anyone from getting offended. While Julio, is an asshole to work with, as king of the Heathers he also is one of the best bartenders there. He is good at the bartending part, but as a “manager” he is greedy as hell and if he doesn’t like you, he will make your shifts unpleasant and long. It is though understandable why he gets all the best shifts based on the bartending skill alone and he helped write the bar’s schedule where he could help keep his other Heathers close by for support. Gina is a floater who soon becomes friends with Julio, the other Heathers during Julio’s reign and in turn becomes one of them for a period of time. On many a occasion, I bump into the two wasted roaming the aisles of the Castro. This is something to remember for later.
While many of us aren’t keen to Julio’s ruling of the bar, we are still all family. Correction, we are all family if your family has a couple members who will turn on ya’all every now and again. We all are brothers and sister at this place. If you ran out of cash and need a few bucks to go get a coffee or a beer, any of your coworkers here will give you a few bucks. No questions asked. We all trust while at the same time stay skeptical of each other at the same time. It’s insane.

We all tease each other as siblings do, with the occasional back handed compliment, something along the lines of “your boyfriend is adorable, was he in Life Goes On? What was his name? Corkey?”
Or something as simple as “love the jeans, they really make it look like you have an ass.” To which one replies with a smart backhanded compliment or downright insult.

Like I have said in other stories, it is important to have a thick skin to handle this place. While it sounds like abuse, this often is harmless teasing, but it is more often how friendemmies talk. This is often how the Heathers treat James. He takes the trash they dish and sometimes gives it back, but it’s because we all know that he is Phil’s pet. He is the only one of us that gets notes on his timecard telling him of how he is doing such a great job. He also is the only one besides Gina who can request time off of any kind without repercussions or getting punished with months of shitty schedules. While this may not be completely true, it is how it looks to me at the time.

I come to work on a regular Friday night and am ready to bear it all, Julio, the Heathers, the bar and all its perks. As I glance at the bar schedule to see who I will be working with besides the Heathers, to see who the Floater of tonight’s shift is, I am shocked to see that Julio’s shifts are whited-out. Confused by this I double check to see if I am still scheduled/employed at the bar, which I am and go on with my daily duties. One by one everyone scheduled that day shuffles in. They all take a moment to check the schedule as I do. They all have that same look of confusion/relief to see Julio not scheduled to work this Friday night. Did I forget to mention who is scheduled to take Julio’s spot on the schedule? It’s James. Until now, he only worked the daytime, no big deal shifts. James’ attitude now drifts from bar employee-drifter to a lifer. The question is, is he now one of the Heathers? While another one bites the dust, we are used to this aspect of the bar, people disappearing and getting fired for no reason. We all go on with our nightly duties and the bar goes on as though Julio never worked there. After a while there is little proof or memory that he even existed, much like that urban-legend of “Bloody Mary.”

my grandma

Monday, April 25, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Russians... so gay.

My first job out of college i worked for gay.com, doing ad sales. I was hired in part because i speak Russian. On my first day of work, i realize there is no nice or underogatory way to say gay in Russian, besides GAY. There are though 3354 ways to say "cute." There are also 4,342 ways of selling out a relative to secret police. Surprisingly, there are also 352 different ways to say the word "drink" and 250 to say "I don't know how how that body ended up there." That's Russian culture. Language is sculpted by it.

Russians also have this thing that I have commonly come against. Open windows. You can't leave them open ever. "Don't open vindow, you'll catch cold." It could be 110 degrees outside, "don't open vindow, you catch cold!" I grew up in Southern California, with a father who refused to use air-conditioning for this reason too. He was okay though, driving with closed windows and chain-smoking his Benson Ultra-lights. God forbid if I wanted to open a window though. I guess emphysema is a part of growing up? If anyone has an idea for this joke, please tell me. :)

When I was really little, my grandmother lived in this Russian apartment building, in Hollywood. It was one that little old ladies lived in in between visiting a park across the street, Plumber park. This was where they would go to fix each other's grand kids up and medal into other people's personal business gossiping, while fighting over who has the most ailments. It's the Russian-Jewish lady way. One thing I remember clearly about this place was my grandmother's apartment. He walls were covered with puzzles she had put together instead of pictures of relatives. She has waxed fruit on every table which I learned the hard way and old candy in an ash tray she kept near her phone which she was on fairly often. In her building, every day at around 2pm sharp there would be this change. Every old lady in the building would turn on their t.v. sets and watch these Russian stories. I hated watching this shit because well it was boring and took the attention off of what was more important which was helping me eat my way to love. Whenever the "stories" were on, i would try to talk to my grandmother, she would tell me that I needed to be quiet and behave, "because you never know who's listening and they can make people go away." She said this of course in Russian while taking her shaky old hand to some old hard candy that she would then offer me. Even at a young age, I assumed this was an early onset of dementia, schizophrenia or simply a part of her sick sense of humor, which I could dick. I was 10 when I realized that she was serious and that the KGB really had existed. Granted, we were in an old building, mid-hollywood, where the only people listening were the other old ladies just so they had something to talk shit to each other about.

(more to come soon)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Miss Aisha Tyler

I know it has been a while since i have updated... Sunday night I went down to Cobb's, which is a comedy club here in San Francisco. I went to see my friend Ali Mafi do his thing while opening for a one Ms. Aisha Tyler. Mr. Mafi was hilarious as always. Nothing like a gay, hilarious, Iranian to make you laugh. He is a very unique breed of funny that I can only describe as hilarious. It was amazing! Going there, I knew this would be good show. I have seen Tyler's special "Aisha Tyler is Lit," and watched some of her bits on youtube. For those who haven't watched this special, I suggest to Netflix it because she is phenomenal.

As someone who has seen his fair share of comedy shows, Aisha Tyler puts on a show. When you go to see her, you are getting your money's worth. Her comedy is relevant to almost everyone in the audience and not the standard standup-punch. She stays personable through out the entire show and normal. While she is famous, she still remains down to earth and able to connect with her audience in a way that I think is rare with comedian of her stature. In all seriousness, shows like hers are why I do standup.

My favorite quote of a night was when Tyler said something like, anyone here "love drinking, like it's a person?" Brilliant! Ms. Tyler even stuck around for photos with her fans cause that's how she rolls. My friend Yeg and I took several photos with her which was cool. After we left, we realized that the photos came out horrible, so I will not embarrass anyone by posting it here. Instead, please enjoy this from "Aisha Tyler: Is Lit" :

Friday, April 15, 2011

being Russian Cont.

Being raised by Russians is not as fun as it sounds like. Sure, it gives one an excuse to wear enough glitter and rhinestones to make Liberace himself throw in the towel. We do also like to eat, a lot, but those are just some of the perks. There is nothing like a russian meal or fancy restaurant. If you can see the table cloth, it's considered improper. There must be plate on top of plate of food at all times and plenty of vodka a flowin,' just to keep stereotypes alive. If anything, it's just plain awkward. As a child I grew up in a household that screwed up every American expression. My father, like Wayne Brady and most Russian men, thinks he's black. To this day he still fancies himself to be a meld of a one Mr. Mike Tyson and a mafia outcast. Unfortunately he is neither. That, of course didn't stop him from being the only fair-skinned fellow in the middle of the LA riots for no apparent reason and to still quoting Coolio and LLCoolJ whenever he gets a chance. He has worked out in Compton for the past 26 years because he watched "White Man Can't Jump," one too many times.

Whenever I was upset at the world for not understanding me or being made fun of for having a head too large for my body I would come home and cry. I didn't understand why kids were so cruel to me. I was bullied more than most kids. I was bullied by girls and guys alike. There was this one bitch who would spread awful rumors about me in elementary school, would bark at me and once thew yogurt on me. She did it just so everyone could see it. I had to walk home covered in that shit and it ruined my backpack. As a consolation prize I'm sure she became a stripper somewhere and still has a that ridiculous over-bite (clear sign of inbreading), not that I am bitter. I will have her to thank when I am famous. Interesting side-note, her side kick who I didn't have much of a problem with, but she did participate in the taunting, she was like the mother that watched her kid get beat by a husband and never spoke up... Anyway, recently she emailed me a long letter and apologized, 15 years later. It was both nice and odd. I plan on one day putting my rebuttal to the barking in my "standup act."

Back to my dad. My dad was a boxer, he always wanted me to get into a fight which I didn't. I would just eat until I felt better. That was when I learned that pop-tarts and peanut butter made a great afternoon pallet-cleaner. My father would light a cigarette while driving and keeping the windows closed, because he feared the wind would give me a cold, because that is one of the stupid neurosis that Russian people believed, even though he lived in LA and it was often 80+ degrees, but I digress. He would tell me in a really loud voice, because my father didn't know how to whisper, actually he has always been that guy in the theater that talks shit about everything so loud its just embarrassing. When I would ask him to talk quieter he would tell me that real men spoke up... Anyway, he would tell me about the kids making fun, "YYURI, they aRRRn't laughing Vit you, they aRRe laughine at you. Young blood." it was odd and probably why to this day when I heard gangsta rap, I think of good ol' dad.

Back to being Russian. It sucks. Every time you introduce your family to friends or significant somethings, it's hard. This is mostly cause Russian families can scare apple-pie Americans. Russians, when they learn english tend not to use words like "the" or "thank you" excessively and for this reason they sometimes sound scary. You would scare people too if you spent your entire life using newspaper instead of toilet paper! Americans just don't know what to do with us. Then there is that one uncle we Russians all have at least one of, the one who scares people, but actually is so harmless it's funny. It's like with a grumble, this uncle can make any grown man piss themselves. In my experience, most Russians often, also, have a relative that no one know exactly what they do for a living. For me, it's that uncle who also can scare people with a grumble. He is like a Russian-John Candy, Goodman type of fellow. No one knows exactly what he does for a living. At one point when we would ask him his response was, "we import meats." For some reason, this response always made me think of the Coneheads, "we are from France" response. He lived in Russia 3-4 months at a time and then would come home with nice trinkets from his travels. At the time, I didn't realize how odd it was. This uncle, whenever any of his daughters would date a new boy, he would pour them a shot of vodka, which is he Russian test of balls He would pour them the shot, if they refused, he would grumble and remind the daughter of how much of a pussy her new whatever was. As the two would leave on their date I always assumed the guy that didn't take the shot would piss themselves. If they did take the shot and drink the shot for some reason it was a proof of virility and not a sign of Alcoholism, because Russians didn't worry about those things.

When most people imagine Russian grandmothers they think of little old ladies that match the crap you see on television. For me it was not the case. Even though, my grandmothers were from right behind the iron curtain, they still remained vain enough to be able to compete with any American woman. One grandmother was like Zha Zha Gabore, when she had both legs (the leg reference is about Gabore, out of poor taste, I know). That one grandmother though, even sounded like Ms. Gabore, she always wore a ring on every finger to show her power and was once quoted at my 20th birthday as telling my friend, "I HHH-Hope u live to be as beauuutiFUL as me darRRlinG!" She had her face done so many times that finding an original piece was like finding Waldo. She had her hair done at all times. It was always so boufant that air-traffic control had it on radar. She is the same woman that once told me that there were no such thing as monsters in my closet, just people who come in the middle of the night to take away people you love to never see again.

My other grandmother, we shall call her Lilia for the purpose of this story. Lilia, always had bright ideas. As my other grandmother was self-centered and vain, this one well, was just careless. After my mother divorced my father, he moved back in with her. Whenever I visited my father, I would also see her. While I had never EVER seen my grandmother cook, Lilia, like most Russian women made everything in a pan. If it could be fried, she would make it. Oddly, every dish tasted the same. Her favorite thing to make was rice that was cooked so much that it was mushy and burned to the saucepan. Also, almost every meal was followed with tea because Russians love drinking tea and saving one tea-bag and reusing for a week to make at least 10 cups of the stuff. I didn't know if she did that because she was cheap or because she was used to rationing as a result of growing up in a country where stores would run out of food. As a child, I always assumed it was cause of the cheap thing.

Once as a small child, I came home, to my dad's house badly sun-burned. What do you think my father and grandma Lilia offered me? Aloe? No. Some sort of after-son lotion? No. My grandmother opened the fridge and started to cover me in sour cream. Which may have done something, but it mostly made me feel like I was wearing salad dressing. That was another one, no Russian home could be complete without sour cream. We use it on everything because well we do. The burning easily has always been the worst part of being Russian. many are like me, not meant for the sun. Like when am in the sun too long, I ignite and don't get me started on sweating. I hate sweating... Russians sweat differently than most people, when I sweat I automatically secrete this odd cheap cologne smell. The only thing that has set me apart from most Russians is my love of anti-persperant and lack of adidas track suits.

The other thing about being Russian was that my grandmothers often talked about the "black market". This, I always assumed was a market that black people shopped at. Whenever they would talk about the old country, they often would mention buying things at this market. Until I was 10 I was pissed that my mother never took me to this place. Later I found out that this was just their term for buying illegal or hard to get things in Russia that may have been contraband.

Point is that while we all have our axe to bare, I have a huge bowl of borsht and peroshki along with a crazy dis-functional family that is fun to talk about.

(more to come soon)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Me, I'm Russian, but don't worry, I'm not good at it.

Whenever people meet me, they always seem confused when they find out that I am Russian. Which is odd, since my name is Yuri Kagan. Big surprise. Sorry I don't generally wear track suits.

Being Russian, made for a difficult time growing up. While most kids got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I got chest hair at the age of 5... It was awkward. As a child I would always introduce myself to people and the second they would find out I was Russian they would instantly ask if I spoke German. It was odd.

To this day, when people first hear my name, I often get the stereotypical response, "where are Boris and Natasha?" I never know how to respond.

What if I responded this way? "Glad you asked. Boris knocked her up, is trying to convince Natasha to get an abortion. She doesn't want to... It's really uncomfortable for everyone involved... Oh, you meant the fictitious cartoon character from Bullwinkle? I don't know whats up with them asshole." Too much?

Being Russian is hard. I'm pail-skinned, light... My people aren't meant to be in the sun. I go in the sun and I ignite. I also hate anything that results in sweating. I hate hot weather, you won't ever hear about me moving to Miami beach to soak up the humidity and sun with all the other yiddishy punims ever. What people don't know about Russians is that our sweat is different than most people's. When I sweat, I naturally secrete this weird cheap cologne smell. Some call it Drakkar Noir.

Whenever I am at a comedy show, doing what I do, which is stand up, I will often ask if there are any Russians in the crowd. There is always the American person who raises their hand to start bragging about how they are Russian too, 5 generations back, once removed... That's cute and all, but makes no sense. Unless you know what it's like to grow up with parents who scare people and take almost everything seriously, you are not Russian and that's okay. Oh yeah, and you'd have to know what it's like to take a lunch to school comprised of a butter, caviar and pickle sandwich.

Being Russian is like being a bastard, society is only recently starting to accept it. That was just a bad joke, please don't take anything I say seriously.... In all seriousness it was hard being raised by people straight from the Soviet Union. When I would go to bed, as a small child I was afraid of the dark, monsters and stuff like that. I was a pansy. I would ask my grandmother to leave the light on. She would respond, "Yurachka, sveetzheartz, no monsters momma, no monsters... only people who take away people you love in the middle of night to NEVER SEE AGAIN..." And people wonder why I have such a sick sense of humor.

(more Russian stuff to come)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Story 22, edited & reposted, Tipping

Every single night these people come in here. They are the ones who simply can make or break the night for unsuspecting bartenders and servers alike. Anyone who has ever worked in the service industry has encountered these jackasses. We all have met them and most of us despise them. We have even dated them in many cases. We usually find out their shortcomings when it's too late. After the new toy aspect is gone, we learn what kind of person they REALLY are. It’s something that these people probably don’t even know that makes them bad people. I am talking about those know-it-alls that tell their friends how to tip even when they aren’t the ones paying, like it really matters to them. We know who you are and don’t appreciate your input. They are like the backseat drivers of tipping.

It usually goes down in several different ways. One thing always remains constant, the jackass part. To understand the dilemma, I will try to paint the picture to the best of my ability. Every night there, this happens. Two plus people come up to the bar and order drinks just like every other nomal-ish person in a bar. So far this is normal, expected, bar etiquette. Once they have all ordered, payed, received and maybe even started sipping on one of their drinks before they step away from the bar it happens. The person who received the change from this transaction puts down additional money for a tip as most Americans are accustomed to doing when they are in a bar and ordering drinks, standard protocall, not to mention good karma, since many people understand that we live off of the tip part of the night. Anyway, as the one with the money is paying, another person out of the group will make a move within 10-20 seconds of watching the tip being placed on the counter. This is the moment that you can literally watch a person turn to pure jackass. They will then reach down into the tip and pull out a few dollars if not the entire tip from the cash that is left of the counter from their friend’s tip before the bartender has a chance to intercept the original intended tip. Maybe this jackass decides that the tip is simply not necessary or too much for their taste? I am not sure. This often happens with larger orders, which take more time and effort on the server’s part. Regardless of the case, it’s downright tacky. To any hard working person in the service industry, this action is like telling them that you think they deserve to live on less than a descent wage and have no compassion for them as a human being.

Rule to the wise, do not mess with a bartender’s tips. It’s like taking food right out of our hands. To those unaware of how important tipping is for those in the service industry obviously hasn’t met my coworkers or had to work in this environment. If you don’t like our service, fine, don’t tip, no skin off of most of our backs, life goes on. If you don’t tip, are repeatedly rude or make the server/bartender’s life hell throughout the night be aware that we generally remember you. If you are visiting, maybe you simply don’t care, don’t plan on coming back, then who cares? If you live in a city like San Francisco, that is a mear 7x7 miles and then patron one of the most popular local gay bars on a regular basis (at least once a month), and still you don’t tip? If the bars you regularly patron also have the same type of catty bitches I work with, then the common courtesy tip would be my suggestion, because some of them will take it personally.

Most of us, the more passive ones I should say take the shitty tips with stride. We often do nothing because really it’s not worth the battle. Once in a while people like myself will actually hand the quarter or dime tip back to the customer and childishly tell them that they probably need the laundry money more than we do. We may even try to school them on tipping educate if they are from another country and unaware of our strange customs.

In my experience foreigners often appreciate this instead of a comment like my co-worker Aaron says “Honey, tipping aint a river in China.” Or “I love Jesus, but he didn’t tip in bills.”

There is another type of bartender who possibly takes the poor tips as a personal assault on their work and character. These are the ones you don’t want to mess with. They are the people who as servers will mess with your food. They are the ones who will make sure you regret your thoughtless move of being rude or not tipping. They are the ones who will make sure you get the plate full of something that will make you hate your life later.

There was this guy who used to work at the bar, Alejandro. At least once a night he would take a 2-minute bathroom break, where one could only assume he had a snowstorm brewing in his nose. He would come back with pupils so large, one could only assume there was something more than peeing going on during that bathroom break. On his way back to the bar, or once behind the bar, he would ask me for eye drops. He would ask for them in a very snappy way, as coke-heads often do. This is yet another thing I hate about people who do coke on a regular basis. It’s like dealing with a bi-polar freak at all times. Sometimes he would demand them from me while he was in the middle of bartending, while talking a mile a minute. I would hand them to him, walk away and not think about it. I assumed that all the cocaine in his system caused some sort of dry eye or maybe the fog shit they used on the dance floor bothered his eyes. I was so niave then, a little boy. I would later find out that Alejandro, being the catty, vengefull bitch that he was, would use the drops as a little additive to shitty customers and ex-boyfriend’s drinks! For those unaware, when eye drops are added to a person’s cocktail or food, it has a laxative effect. It’s like instant ex-lax. The Alejandro version of revenge I have since found out is not uncommon amongst bartenders at least. He later was fired for an unrelated reason.

When I worked in fast food at the age of 15, there was a girl who was angry at the world and would spit in the shake machine. There was this other guy there, who would do something even more messed up. When he would hear a customer at drive through do that thing where they pretend that the mic is cutting out and add static, he would get pissed. He then would laugh as he picked their burger up off of the nasty floor that place and then make sure that the drive through customer was getting what was coming to them.
The point is this. Try to put yourself in the service industry person’s shoes when you are out. Like my mother would say, treat them the way you would like to be treated, especially because they handle your food, one of the most delicate things you can let them do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Comedy, my mistress

There is something that happens when you start doing comedy. There is a moment when people stop chuckling when they hear that this is what you do.

There are always going to be those deuche bags who say stupid things like, "you think you're a comedian? Tell me a joke."

It's like walking up to an accountant at a dinner party and asking them do your taxes right at the dinner table. I wouldn't do that. I would though ask them to lighten up.

Then they always follow up comments with, "are you funny?"

This is the question we all ask ourselves. Comedian or not, one ponders this question at some point in their lives. To ask that of someone who has made comedy what they wake up to and go to sleep with, is just silly. To those who don't understand what the comedy world is like, let me break it down. We as comedians, those who truly want to work as this, live and breath comedy. We may be awkward people, but we wake up and think comedy. Even when we aren't funny, we think about funny. At least I do. The hardest part is to realize what's funny to me and if that will translate to the rest of the world. If only less than 20 percent of the world gets my fucked up hitler-dead baby-aids joke and do I care?

There is also this weird momentum that happens when you do stand up comedy. There is a fine line between hobbyist and professional. Most people seem to confuse this line. If I am going to 9 open mikes within a 3 day period, sometimes up to 14 a week, booking at least 2 showcases a month, pouring out my heart, soul and youth to complete strangers every night, I'm either deranged or working on my passion. I take comedy seriously, maybe a little too seriously. I consider myself a professional, refining my product which is "the act." Everyone starts somewhere. For comedians it's at the open mikes. We will do anything for stage time anywhere. It's kind of pathetic. Some people spend the rest of their lives in this phase and some move on. Either is okay.

I guess the reason I am writing about this, what it is to be a comic, is to explain what it is to be me. My name is Yuri Kagan, I write, i dream, drink too much coffee, drink, shit, do what everyone else does while in the back of my head I'm thinking about my mistress, comedy and then tell jokes. Sometimes the stage is healing for me. Other times, I bomb so bad that it takes days to wash the stink off. It's a roller coaster and without being able to fail I can't succeed. I am not trying to change the world, I am though trying to help the world. With comedy, we heal the world. When shit hits the fan, it's comedy and art that saves us. My personal forte is comedy that is crude, offensive, educated and rolls with the punches.

I explain this to you, to rationalize my decision to remain a poor, struggling comedian to myself. I am more broke than I ever have been, because I focus on just making enough money to keep having the time and energy to pursue my dream and passion. I once had a booming professional career, in an office, at a bar, both simultaneously. I had it made. I would sip my lates while updating my Facebook, chatting with clients about their ROI and filling out spreadsheets for presentations. I miss the money. I miss the benefits. What I don't miss is not liking myself. From time to time I get depressed because I miss buying the latest crap that I don't need just to go out and show it off to people who don't care. I'll say it. I sometimes miss the regard people give me when I work in an office a million hours a week feeling like a looser, but one they respect. Comedy, my chosen mistress, makes me feel full inside. While right now it doesn't pay my rent. It will. If I have learned anything from Charlie Sheen, it is this. If he can make it, and the Snookis of the world can make millions for being airheads, those of us who actually have something to say may just have a chance.

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