With Each Empty Glass, A Romance Fanned…

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restaurant table

A man and a woman walk into a b… no, not a bar… a busy restaurant.

Dressed nicely, smelling lightly delicious like apple blossoms and musk, they’ve prepared themselves for an evening full of promise, of hopeful enjoyment.

Let’s let the evening begin.

When, in my summer seasonal job as a bartender in a local Greek restaurant I pour a glass of Pinot Gris, a shot of Ouzo, or mix up a chilly Pineapple-Coconut Mojito, I feel an inner joy, a sense of accomplishment. A halo of sunshine, a curve of multi-hued rainbow arches over me like a good friend’s hug.

Isn’t life simple sometimes when that’s all it takes to bake a good sensation inside?

I’m not the world’s greatest bartender (yet!), but I’m learning and improving my craft with each shift I work.

And sometimes, even more enjoyable than pouring drinks is the opportunity for people watching.

Bartending is almost like sitting in an airport lounge waiting for your flight and gazing around at all the interesting faces, the multitude of individual stories scattered across a night sky like glittering constellations.

As the hours pass by, my feet grow fatigued and sore but I smile, watching the clock’s evolutionary force as the clock ticks the minutes past and fuzzy alcoholic chemicals begin dancing waltzes inside peoples’ heads.

Just as music enchants the brain, so too can alcohol.

The young man and woman are huddled, just to my left, at a small table in the corner, next to large glass doors abutting the enclosed outdoor patio filled with luscious clay-potted plants overflowing with aromatic mint and basil.

She nervously fiddles with the little gold ring on her thumb while waiting for a Caesar and the Dirty Martini that I’m preparing for them; his hands stay formally perched on his lap.

Before the beverages arrive at their table, he sneaks little peeks her way, reservedly drinking in her pretty face. Her softly tanned legs, bare from mid-thigh downwards, rest comfortably crossed behind the leg of her chair.


Glancing somewhat shyly at each other across the white linen-topped table – she poised slightly back in her seat, him vaguely leaning forward – they work to build a conversation.

Though there is no physical contact – none – there is a hint, maybe just a whiff, of comfort in the air that suggests to me a previous encounter, perhaps a second date signal of encouragement.

Bear with me, it’s my blog writer’s game to play detective and sniff out the back story. I should have worn my camouflage lampshade hat from a bad party years ago.

I’m able to snoop and catch a profile glimpse of them every few minutes while I pop caps off Budweisers and Coronas and notice the subtle shifts in amorosity as she sips at her vodka-laced Caesar, and a gin injection settles over him like a warm fog cloud.

Looking about the crowded restaurant, surveying the cosmos as patrons sip their fermented Cosmos, it comes as no surprise that stories on people’s faces change as the sun slinks away behind the Okanagan Valley hills and the warm glow of candlelight gently suffuses their features.

Though I’m not imbibing any of the alcoholic elixirs, I absorb the glow of warmth around me. My intoxication rises with the patrons’.

The couple’s meals are placed on the table and they both lean in with amiable smiles, absorbing the heady scent of the warm tomatoes, the spicy cinnamon, the feta and oregano wafting upwards, an immersion of sensuous scents.

Grinning, he lifts his glass towards her. Before forking a mouthful of dinner, they kiss the rims of their glasses in a quiet ting, sipping as an anticipatory glint of shimmer emerges in their eyes like a ray of moonlight reflecting dreamily on the lake.

What is it about an alcoholic drink that soothes and elevates an occasion? Why those familiar feelings of release and freedom that alcohol produces and why do we tend to think very little of our surrounds, yet discover great close focus on the object of our attention, or affection?

I know this liquid elixir I pour is a double-edged sword of pleasure/poison. But while I’m here mixing drinks I can only think on the positive spinoffs of light inebriation.

From the corner of my eye, I see the man nodding his head, yes, to his server to bring a second set of drinks.

Caesars and Martinis are simple concoctions for me to make.

I feel like a little kid free on the playground mixing up mud pies. I’m drawn to the blend of green lime and red clamato juice, olives speared in a sexy sloped martini glass.

After a nip of icy martini, he slips the final bite of chicken souvlaki left on his plate into his mouth, while her dish sits still half-filled with moussaka and tomatoes and cucumbers. Her fork gently massages the plate but rarely returns to her lips.

One hand of each is delicately interlaced with the other’s and I can see now that their legs are rubbed gently together beneath the table. A rhythmic nudge of her blue-painted toenail gently kneads the back of his calf.

While the light in the room has grown dimmer, I can see the sweet young lady’s apple cheeks are warm and rosy in a pre-coital flush. They lean forward across the table into the breathing zone of the other, talking in soft smiles and hushed tones.

A Day in the Park

I feel a rising stream of personal… embarrassment… as if I’m peering through a hole in the wall into an intimate boudoir painting just waiting for the drift of clothing like romantic snowflakes floating slowly to the ground.

A short while later they rise to leave.

The young man and woman walk slowly, arm in arm, out of the restaurant and… well… I won’t take you any further along this twilight road where the destination clearly seems to be set.

The evening’s promise appears near fulfillment.

With a touch of disappointment, this little voyeuristic story ends for me, and I return to the focus of MY evening, pouring drinks.

As my bartending shift ends, I feel my skill at making drinks for people to enjoy is getting better and stronger… I’m a better “drink chef” now than I was just a year ago.

Without the young couple’s knowing, I’ve filled my tiny role of bartender… and… love matchmaker… fairy godfather… a Fiddler on The Roof Yentl.

I feel good. That’s progress.



Shake It Off … Set The Expectations Free

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horse leaving barn

Spring the horse from the barn.

Let the dog out of the house.

Scoop the shit out of the henhouse.

What are we waiting for…?

I spent a whole lot of my years trying to be something … to be someone and do things that my parents and the neighbours would have approved of.

I was always secretly watching from the corner of my eye to see if they were clapping their hands or frowning. Even after they were long dead.

Expectations weigh on us like concrete boots strapped onto our feet by the Mafia. We just stand still with a silly grin on our faces as they pour the concrete to send us to sleep with the fishes. DUMB.

cement shoes

I’m trying to live my life now like I have feathers instead of concrete attached to me.

I used to blame my father for being cold and uncaring and perhaps making my life more difficult than it really should have been.

I was young. It was useless energy expended on being negative and finding a scapegoat for my sorrows.

We all have sorrows. We all have tribulations. We all have miracles.

Hell, I was born into a rich, peaceful society with limitless possibilities. Billions don’t have that luxury.

My Dad wasn’t perfect and neither am I, nor will I ever be. But that doesn’t give me any reason to dwell on the negative when I can use that energy and forge onwards doing things I enjoy, hopefully helping others who are struggling.

As a parent, I imposed the same sorts of ideas and values on my kids that I grew up with, forcing the sweet little round critters into square holes where they didn’t want to go. It’s a shame that we learn so many lessons about ourselves by inflicting our raw character on our innocent little offspring.

Perhaps we should live our lives backwards and emerge into the world as elderly grandparents filled with knowledge and wisdom of what makes people tick. Maybe there’d be less violence, fewer wars. More love. More kindness. I don’t know.

life lived backwards

I’m working more hours as a bartender this month than I’d like to. I want to work one or two shifts each week for the pleasure of being around people and doing something totally different than what I’ve done before.

Putting in four or five stints a week is like taking mind-blowing sex and making it a chore. Orgasms are always better when there’s some waiting and delicious anticipating space between.

A paycheque and tips at the end of the night are kind of nice, but that’s not the reason I chose to do this.

I have to remind myself that I made this choice.

If others try to slap concrete shoes on me because that’s what they have on their feet, then I have to step away before the concrete sets.

I’m choosing to work where I want to work because I love it, to play at what I love to play. The expectations of others should have no control over me. My expectations shouldn’t control you.

As always, I’m a work in progress.

I have my own expectations.

I want to be creative in all areas of my life, and live large, or at least larger than I have for many years. There should be luscious internal music meandering like a river through the days of our lives.

That’s my expectation for me. Just me, not you or anyone else.

Not my parents’ expectations. Not the neighbours’ expectations.

And when people look at me and my expectations, that’s what I hope people see.

No lectures. No finger wagging. No disappointed looks. No fretful expectations.

Just me shaking it off, letting that horse run free out of the barn.



It’s Back to Work I Go … Diary of a Male Bartender Prostitute…


LArry the Bartender

Bartender? … Prostitute?

… synonyms really …

You didn’t know that?

Well, I didn’t either until …

Hold on, I don’t want to confuse you, so let me retreat a bit here.

A few weeks back, for some fun and variety, I spent 4 hours each day, Monday to Friday, at Bartending School in Kelowna. Plunk down $400 tuition and a week later you finish with an official Bartender’s Diploma.

Hour after hour, I mixed and poured about 5 billion drinks of coloured water that looked like fancy cocktails into chilled martini glasses and shooter glasses and highball glasses. “Would you like that as a double?

Bartending Certificate

Then, the following week, with my official Bartender’s Certificate in hand, I went to a few local Penticton restaurants and dropped off my resume asking for a day or two a week of bartending work.

Within hours of leaving my resume behind, one of my very favourite restaurants, a local Greek culinary landmark, interviewed me and, in a moment of obvious weakness – or perhaps heat stroke – they offered me a shot at being one of their bartenders.

Hell yeah”, I said.

And now, looking like Sam Malone in Cheers, I’ve run and sweated and poured and mixed my way through 3 bartending shifts.

And despite feeling exhausted at the end of each stint, I kinda like this stuff.

Especially the Prostitution part. Yeah yeah, I’ll explain that in just a minute.

It’s a hot summer here in the Okanagan Valley, so I’ve dished up a ton of chilly Pinot Gris wine and foamy Cannery Brewery draft beers and spicy Caesars and even a few Mojitos and GreyHounds and Gin and Tonics.

I’m still waiting for my first requests for the candy-coloured fluffy drinks – a Red-Headed Slut or a Cosmopolitan or a Singapore Sling, but I can be patient. Manhattans weren’t built in a day.

red headed slut

OK… now let’s go back to the beginning of this story where I told you that bartenders and male prostitutes are kinda the same thing.

Prostitutes offer a desired service that makes their customer feel warm and fuzzy and light-headed, maybe even a bit flushed and elated (I won’t go into detail of the services offered right here if that’s alright, you can paint that libidinous picture according to your own desires and carnal proclivities).

And then the client hands them cash in appreciation for the service. Right? Am I right?

Well, I’ve just discovered, bartenders do the same thing.

I stand behind the bar, wiping the counter with a bar rag, looking so understanding and approachable. My warm eyes tell you that you could rip your heart out, hot blood pulsing onto the bar top, and hand it to me and I’d just nod in empathy, all ears for you.

Then I pour my client a shot of Ouzo or Baileys on the Rocks. I know I’m helping to make that individual feel warm and fuzzy and light-headed, maybe even a bit flushed and elated.

When they’ve finished their meal and drinks and reached their happy place, they slip a few appreciative dollars to the gaggle of (mostly) female servers (pimpettes).

At the close of the evening when it’s dark and the humid night air begins to cool – after the satisfied customers have all departed with a spent sense of inner serenity, the (mostly) female servers come to me one by one.

Quietly, they each slip me a few $5 or $10 bills in appreciation for the “happy” services I’ve rendered their clients throughout the evening.

I smile at them and flush a tiny bit as I accept the cash they call “tips”.

I feel a tiny bit dirty accepting payment this way, but I manage to quash my moral “inner voice”, rationalizing – perhaps fooling myself – that no one is actually being hurt because of the services I offer.

In my head I whisper soothing things like what I do is keeping the economy humming along.

gstring $$

It’s always said that Prostitution is the oldest profession.

I beg to differ.

Alcohol and bartending surely must have been precursors to sales of the flesh.

Who believes that alcohol wasn’t served as a soothing prequel to the idea of paid passionate pairing?

Just watch any movie about bawdy houses, brothels, whore houses… they all begin with “appetizer” drinks served liberally around before couples slip away to private quarters for the “main entree”.

Yes, bartenders have been prostituting themselves ever since Jurassic beasts abandoned our neighbourhoods and we humans rose up on our feet and discovered fermentation.

Today, I’m proud to go to work in what truly is the world’s oldest profession…

And you can take those $$ to the bank.

bar tips

BAM!! Head On Back To School …




I can make you one.

I could make you a BURT REYNOLDS shooter or a JAGERBOMB or a MANHATTAN. I could make you any one of a hundred or more mixed alcohol-based drinks.

Of course you’re asking WHY?

Well, as of yesterday I’m a certified graduate of Bartending School.

Yup, I spent this past week in a mock-up barroom with 3 other students and an instructor learning how to mix drinks from vodka, rum, tequila, gin, whisky (sorry, whiskey if you’re American!), scotch and a dozen or more liqueurs of a crazy kaleidoscope of colours and flavours.

In reality the spirit bottles were filled with coloured water or the course would have cost me 10 times more.

When you make 100 GIMLETS or SINGAPORE SLINGS or 50 BROKEN DOWN GOLF CARTS for practice you can’t afford the ingredients without Trump or Gates as your last name.

cocktail tom cruise

Learning should never stop. Many people die at 25 but are not put in the cold hard ground or the flaming hot crematorium oven until 75.

The learning stopped for them early.


I used to love eating at buffets … mmm … smorgasbords!

So many choices, a little of this, a little of that. Before I knew it my plate was filled to overflowing and I would sit down and consume it like a gluttonous boar who’d never seen a morsel of food before.

I kinda loved it then, but I hate it now. I’m older and my cuisinary buffet table has to morph into something with a different set of nutrients.

Whaddya mean, the buffet table has to change?

Life has become my buffet table. I want to sample liberally from it for the rest of my days. When I learn or try something different and outside my usual life experience, I feel alive.

A little volcano surfing, a little chicken raising, a little step dancing, a little cooking Moroccan tajine or Nicaraguan Indio Viejo, a little bartending. I’m looking to expand my list of samplers many times over because it makes my life a richer place to inhabit.

And if I want to make it an Emeril moment and yell out “BAM!!“, then what I really like is to visit a foreign locale and study something … anything.

This takes the whole concept of learning and life experiences up a huge logarithmic notch.

I learn about something I’m fascinated by AND I live surrounded by a different culture, different foods, different sights, different smells, different people.

It becomes an orgasmic life smorgasbord without equal… kind of like a shooter drink I assembled this week called a SCREAMING ORGASM!! (Recipe?? equal parts Amaretto, Kahlua, and Irish Cream with a smidge of vodka layered on the top.)

Meg Ryan orgasm

Nope… that’s a different breed of screaming orgasm …

It’s been years since I was in real school. When I think about formal types of education I sometimes think about how difficult the classes will be and then I second guess myself.

I can’t, I shouldn’t, I’m afraid, I’m shy.

The array of courses available means that I can study everything and anything I want to. I love the TV show Law & Order because of all the legal wrangling and technicality nuances involved, so I could take a class in criminal justice and learn firsthand how professionals do it!

Now imagine if I did the same at a college in New York City… “BAM!”

Maybe you dream about writing your family memoir. You could take a genealogy program and then a creative writing course. Do it at a school in India or Ireland where your grandmother was born and you have “BAM!”

Want to give a funny but emotion-laden speech at your daughter’s wedding? Sign on to a public speaking course… in Ottawa where silly people stand and give silly speeches every day. “BAM!”

There are a million reasons to learn something new and a million resources to make it happen.

And best of all?

Not only do you learn a new skill, or acquire new knowledge, but you surround yourself with other active minds… people young, and sometimes older, who have an enthusiasm for learning and reaching and being more.


We studied Spanish at a school near Machu Picchu in Cusco, Peru five years ago. Each week we found ourselves in a group of mostly young 20- and 30-somethings from a host of different countries.

We learned a language we can use in a whack of mostly winter-warm countries and absorbed an amazing cultural buffet of Incan history and architecture and Guinea Pig cuisine.

Summertime is here and it’s time to mix up some icy-cold fluffy drinks to sip by the edge of Lake Okanagan.

Drop in and ask me for whatever zany colourful fluffy drink appeals to you.

It’ll be good practice for my new-found bartending skills.

Maybe we can sign up for a wake boarding class while you’re here.


Okanagan Wake Boarding