Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Gentlemen's Club


I was 21, still wondering what I wanted to do with my life as soon as I got out of college. I'd taken a lighter course load this semester and had done a few internships. Since I was living off campus and had to put up the rent and utilities, and general expenses, I decided I needed some sort of job, apart from swimming and training. So I scoured the local newspaper's classified section in the hopes of finding a decent job. In a town like this, the only decent jobs are bartending since you get paid a salary and then you can make tips. Plus, the hours usually aren't too bad. So, I decided I wanted to become a temporary bartender for at least the rest of my college career. But I didn't want to do that sort of stuff in a nasty dive joint or anything really sketchy. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm allergic to gunfights, knifefights, and bar stool fights. So I was looking for a relatively nice place, not too far away, with pretty good hours. With dumb luck, I stumbled across the perfect advert that fit what I was looking for:
"Bartender wanted. Gentlemen's Club. 21+. 8PM-12AM w/ tips. Must have outstanding knowledge of bourbon, scotch, and mint juleps. Call and ask for David."
Hey, I said to myself, not too bad. I know what bourbon is. It's that stuff they drink at the horse races. Scotch is of course made from the sweat of a drunk Scottish person. And as everyone knows, a mint julep is a type of flower that's popular at the Kentucky Derby. I guess the women or men pin it to their dresses and lapels. So I called up David and asked him about the job description. As it turns out, it's a sort of club for gentlemen to come and talk with each other and enjoy a drink. It also turns out that most of the members weren't born past 1940. Well, at least it could be interesting.
"So," David said "you know how to make martinis?"
"Of course," I replied. "I've done some extensive reading on the matter of making martinis." That of course was absolutely true. I had read just about every James Bond novel ever written.
"Ok, and you know how to make a gin and tonic?" "Puh-lease. You mean you've never heard of my gin and tonics? You just mix gin and tonic" "Ah, sure. Alright, you've got the job! Just send me your credentials tomorrow."
So after some creative phrasing, my credentials were postivily beaming at me, much like a bald guy's head. I drove over to the place, and gave it a quick glance. Hey, it's kinda classy, I told myself. Maybe I'll make some tips tonight.
I go over and enter the bar and start taking inventory. I have no idea what all these bottles are, but I don't really think that'll be a problem considering how much dust is on them.
Three old men shuffle into the bar. One of them is smoking a rather strong smelling cigarette, and they all sidle up to the stools and request drinks.
"Gin and Tonic" "Bourbon with mineral water" "Mint Julep"
"Gin and Tonic, Bourbon with mineral water, and a mint julep. Sorry, sir, but I think your mint julep's in the hallway in the vase."
"Nothing, I just coughed, sir."
"Well hurry up and make it! I haven't got all night to drink!" replied the old man with the cigarette.
"Yes you do, Kevin. Your wife's out on vacation. I'm Bob, by the way" said the second gentleman to me. I then went around and introduced myself to them all. The third gentleman's name turned out to be Weatherby, but he went by Dan. A reasonable choice, in my opinion.
So I mixed the drinks as best as I could and gave them all to Bob, Kevin, and Dan, with a scotch substituted for the mint julep.
The following conversation ensued:
Kevin: (taking a long drag off his Chesterfield King) "Ahhh, nothing like a good ol' G&T and a smoke. A HEM AHEM AHEM AHEM AHEM!"
Bob: "Jesus, Kevin, you really should quit. I have no idea how you're still alive."
Kevin: "I tell you, it's living! Yessir, nothing like it..."
Dan: "Say, how old are you, young man?"
Me: "21. I've just started today. I'm sort of new at bartending. I don't really drink."
All: "We could tell."
Kevin: "Why, when I was 21, let's see...1930 was the year I turned 21, I had two full time jobs and a part time job on the side! And you think you're working hard right now!"
Bob: "Kids these days. They think they've got it rough. Why, my father couldn't afford to buy another mule so he used to hitch me up to the plow while my older brother directed me. I can still hear him yelling 'Gee! Haw!' (pauses as if hearing his brother in the distance) Yessir, you younguns have no idea how hard it was back then."
Dan: "You think you had it rough? Why let me tell you! When I was your age I used to be out carousing and out with the ladies! I was a hepcat young man, drinking the devil's juice gin and falling in all sorts of sin! I used to make money bootlegging during Prohibition! And you think you have it hard by sitting here serving us drinks!"
Me: "When I was nine I fell down a well and stayed there for 33 hours until a rescue team could dig through the other side of the well to get me out."
All: "Kids.Hah!"
Kevin: "Was the well made out of brick?"
Me: "Yes."
Kevin: "Hah! Spoiled kids, in my day, all the wells were made out of wood, and if you fell down one, you could be expected to stay there for 48 hours and not 33! In fact, that used to be sort of a fad in my day! Falling down wells was the way we used to have fun!"
Dan: "No it wasn't you old coot! Sitting on flagpoles was the way we cityslickers had fun!"
Bob: "No it wasn't you idiots! We used to have fun by doing work in the fields! That was fun! Why, sometimes I've got half a notion to go out there and get hitched up again to the old plow and plow all day and night while someone behind me yells 'Gee' and 'Haw!'"
Me: "So anyway, have you gentlemen heard about the new movie that's come out? New York Times gave it rave reviews. I was thinking about taking my girlfriend to go see it. Any ideas?"
Kevin: "Young man, we were having an intelligent conversation between the three of us. So shut up you whippersnapper!"
I try to stifle my laughter.
Dan: "Taking a girl to the movies? What sort of a way is that to take a girl out on a date? I used to take girls out on the town. First we'd go to dinner, then I'd take her out for drinks, then we'd walk down Lover's Lane, and then we'd go to a musical show of some sort. And I did it all with 75 cents and I always had change left over!"
Bob: "Well, whenever I used to call on the ladies, I'd bring my fiddle, a pound of salted pork, and chitlins. That was the surefire way to get the ladies! Have you tried that young man?"
Me: "Er, no sir, I'll try doing that next time though."
Bob: "There's a good man."
Kevin: "Speaking of money, how much do these drinks cost?"
Me: "Well, you had the gin and tonic, and it's usually $4, but it's Friday so it's only $2."
Kevin: "WHAT? AAAARRRRGGGHHHH! (Clutches his chest)"
Bob: "$2 is mighty steep son. $2 in my day used to buy an old second hand automobile and a year's worth of gas."
Dan: "$2 in my day used to buy 50 bags of roasted peanuts and a brand new straw hat AND a Steinway piano. And usually then, for $2 you were getting ripped off by those swindlers!"
Me: "They had Steinways back then? When was this exactly?"
Dan: "1908"
Me: "(to myself) I think I'm going to cut these guys off. (to them) So when were you gentlemen born?"
Kevin: "I was born in 1878, right after the Civil war in a plantation in Virginia. And we didn't have any problems then! If you wanted a drink, the stream was a fine place to drink from! If you needed to go to the bathroom, the stream was a fine place to go! And tobacco used to be healthy for you!"
Bob: "I was born in 1857 right after the Crimean War. I was only born with one arm, but I willed myself as a young boy to grow it, and look what happened! (flexes his arm) Still strong as it ever was!"
Dan: "I was born in 1788 right after the Quasi War with France. It's said that when I came out of my mother I had a bottle of gin in one hand and a sheet of jazz music in the other."
Me: "Good Lord, wouldn't that have hurt your mother?"
Dan: "Of course not, young man. And don't leave your mouth open like that. It makes you look foolish. Now, in my day you didn't see all these girls going about with these narrow hips and the tight jeans. It causes their hips to close up. Women used to wear skirts and men used to wear pants! That was good times!"
Kevin: "And now today, women wear the pants and men wear the skirts! Why I remember when I was a youngster they had talk of women getting the right to vote! I thought it was the silliest thing ever! Don't you think it's the silliest thing ever?"
Me: "Well, it's 12:05, so I've got to go. Do I get any tips before I leave?"
Dan: "Don't wear plaid pants. They look hideous and clash with your hair no matter what."
Kevin: "Make sure your razor is clean before you shave with it. You could get an infected cut."
Bob: "Get married before you turn 18 so that you can have plenty of children to help you farm."
Me: "Gee, thanks."
All: "Kids are so ungrateful these days! I would've paid $1 to hear that sort of advice from my elders!"

As I walk out into the parking lot, I can't help but wonder what on earth they're going to talk about the next time I see them. Women in the workplace? Immigration to the United States? Having fun as youngster? As I turn off the light and slip into bed, I still have Bob's voice ringing through my ears as he demonstrated the proper way to yell "Gee!" and "HAAWWWW!"
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