A Note on the Bedroom Door
Sunday, 3:30 AM. I dragged home from the bar to find a note on taped to my closed bedroom door. I snatched it down.
Gone to the hospital. Anny fell. Don’t worry about coming up. Will call you later.
– Love, Bud & Mom
I was exhausted from hours of lugging cases of beer, four high, from a walk-in cooler, down a flight of concrete steps, through 1983’s dancing, partying elite, stacked nut-to-butt, to re-stock the main bar and one of two remote bars in Charlotte’s most elegant and popular private nightclub…
Or feverishly loading my hands seven high with hot, clean and freshly washed wine and spirits glasses, machine gun-sliding them back home in racks hanging above the solid oak hard top of the bar so the bartenders could grab one without looking as they bent over to hear a drink order yelled over the dance floor and bar crowd jubilation…
Or emptying 50 lbs. trash bags and re-lining and replacing them in five seconds so the bartenders and I could throw dead soldiers over our shoulders without looking and have them crash in the bin…
Or grabbing one-half of two bulls fighting over some slight, ignited by a look, a bump, a word, or a woman, clashing in a fury of fists, while a door man grabbed the other half. The door men where tall, solid and bulging, usually down-on-their luck former football or soccer players with the occasional professional ex-wrestler thrown in and they were not happy about being sober for a night.
It was Charlotte. It was the South. It was the ’80s and everyone was high.
I was fourteen and worked at Whispers every Friday and Saturday night, for a couple of years at this point. Frequently to make extra money, I worked straight through the night to help clean up from the previous night’s revelry and prep for the next night, or if it was Sunday, afternoon jazz on the patio bar before heading home, showering and walking five houses down to the church we attended for Sunday morning service.
Dancing in 4/4 Time
When I hired on at Whispers at age 12, I washed dishes. Thousands and thousands of dishes. Initially, I hated the work but didn’t have the luxury of choice. I needed the money to help my divorced, single-parent-of-two-boys, dating-but-not-yet-remarried mom make ends meet as well as have some cash left over to either spend or sock away for the stereo or guitar gear I wanted. I wasn’t old enough to drive so my soon-to-be step-father dropped me off at the start of my shift, 4:30 PM if I wanted to eat or 5:00 PM if I wanted to clock-in and start the festivities. I’d catch a ride home with one of my co-workers, until I started riding the moped and gave freedom to everyone.
Some nights I’d come right home. On others, well you have to do something with all the frenetic energy mingled with the curiosity of new experiences, I’d detour to a party at coworker’s house or apartment. packed with nearly everyone who worked the bar that night.
Over a period of weeks, I noticed a rhythm, a dance, to the work and it was smooth and hypnotic and adrenaline-filled. Wave after wave of bar backs and bus boys delivered racks and tubs of glassware to be cleaned and repacked so the bar backs could replenish the bar before the bartenders ran out. When the kitchen closed at 10:30 PM, I wouldn’t be slowed by scrubbing, washing, and stacking plates and cups. I un-racked bar glass after bar glass, rinsed them in the sink, re-racked them in a clean glass rack, shoved the square green industrial plastic rack in a round, scalding-hot industrial dishwasher, flicked the switch for the cleaning cycle to start and seconds later, shoved open the semi-circle dishwasher door with freshly clean, dripping hot glasses, pushed the rack to the end of the line. I danced these same steps hundreds of times in any given night and I was good.
In a bar, everything is a dance in 4/4 time. Bartenders slinging drinks, bar backs slinging bottles and glasses, ice and fruit, bus boys slinging remains, it’s all living, breathing choreographed happenstance. Lights flashing, bodies dancing, beats pounding, voices yelling, drinks spilling, life on the carefree carnival ride of youth, drunk on its own fleeting promise of tomorrow served by the glass.
That’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow’s another light. From one sojourner to another, all the best…