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The worst bartender

There's a reason I don't work at The Local


I cannot believe Keiger says he'd never hire me to work at The Local! Who the hell does he think he is? He hired goddam Grant Henry to be a bartender at The Local when the only bar experience Grant had was to sit on the other side of it and demand they forego the glasses and just pour the hooch directly into that Grand Canyon he calls a mouth, and yet I -- me, who was raised in a bar -- could not even score a side shift as, say, a busboy or something.

"No way in hell," Keiger laughs.

He says that after my guest-bartending stint in April, during which I guess I gave away almost every drink I made, he is so seriously not even ever gonna hire me as a bartender that I should immediately start looking elsewhere for a fallback career.

I cannot tell you how mad that makes me. I remember when Keiger first offered Grant his job years ago. We -- me, Grant, Lary and Daniel -- had been hanging out there since the place opened, and Keiger honed in on our foursome and plucked Grant up like a truffle in a pig trough, put him behind the bar and taught him everything he knew. Then Keiger simply let Grant radiate his Grant vibes and before you know it that place was packed like the last helicopter out of Saigon almost every night, especially on those nights Grant wore his hair in a beehive. Lary loved it, because Lary could go there every night that Grant worked and just sit there like the goddam barnacle that he is, with his tongue rolled out over the top of the bar. Personally, though, this new development made me stew like a dumped prom date.

And it did not help that Grant had said Keiger didn't like me bringing my daughter, Mae, in there. "This ain't no nursery," Grant had said. "This ain't no place for babies."

What? The Local serves all kinds of kid-friendly crap in there other than alcohol, like corn on the cob, grilled cheese and popcorn, or I'm pretty sure they do, anyway. Whatever. Christ, do I need to remind you that I myself was raised in a bar? I used to go to it after school to stay with my dad until my mother returned home from her day at work building bombs for the government. I am so seriously not joking when I tell you there are plenty of parents that bring their children to The Local. I am almost positive I can remember lots of them, or if not lots, then at least the one from back before I found out I was pregnant. She was tattooed and tiny and breastfed her little sprogette right there on the patio.

"I can't believe I'm being discriminated against," I bitched to Grant back then. I had brought one of those baby seats that hook onto the edge of things and serves as a suspended appendage of sorts, a kind of auxiliary pod for Mae to sit in while she played with her big, multicolored plastic caterpillar right there on the bar top, because the stools they have there are not safe for an 18-month-old, I tell you. So in all, I was really good about only having Mae's diaper bag spread out over the surface that was right in front of me, plus maybe, and I swear just a molecule, a little bit overlapping onto the garnish tray with all the lemons and limes Grant just got finished cutting, but it was early and we were the only customers in there, anyway. And I wasn't even ordering anything, I was hanging out, so what's the big goddam deal?

"Get out, bitch," Grant said to me, his face close. It was then I realized it was him, not Keiger, who didn't want Mae and me there, and it was then I remembered this was the second time a beehived bartender has tried to throw me out of a bar. The first was when I was 7. It was Kitty, my father's favorite bartender at the Thin Lizzy in Costa Mesa. Kitty got all upset that one night because I guess she had issues of her own, and it seriously did not help that she was really popular and her customers always bought her shots during her shift, my dad foremost among them.

Anyway, I think she got it into her head that I wouldn't ever make my way past the place we were in right then, and she was adamant that this place was not good for me. That night, Kitty had stayed to party with her patrons after her shift, even my mother came to join in, and there we were, my two sisters and I, being jostled about between well-meaning drunk people into the evening, when Kitty took me aside and told me to get out. "Get out," she implored. "This is no place for you." I was only 7 and liked that place fine, but her words have resonated with me ever since.

"It's because you care so much about me, isn't it?" I tell Keiger. "That's why you won't hire me."

"That's not it," he replies, and then he hugs me, but it's a real hug. I swear, he pulls me into the nape of his neck as if I fit there like a missing heirloom. "Seriously," he says, "you are the worst bartender."

Hollis Gillespie is the author of Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales from a Bad Neighborhood (Harper Collins). She was recently named one of Seven Breakout Authors of 2004 by Writer's Digest. Her commentaries can be heard on NPR's "All Things Considered."

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