Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So you come to Athens and start school and discover the joys of downtown and eventually the thought crosses your mind - all of you, that is, at one time or another - about how it might be cool to work in one of the watering holes that you and your friends frequent on the weekends.

You could be a bartender!, you think. You'd be "slingin' drinks" like the other bartenders do around town. They seem to do it so effortlessly and from what you hear, they make a killing. Plus...they look so damn cool doing it, right?

Whipping up complicated concoctions of liquid that everyone will be amazed to watch you do would be fun, you think, especially when you throw some bartending "flair" into it, just like you saw those guys at Firehouse do.

Sometimes the guys want to "bounce", and make sure everyone knows how tough they are. These are the guys spend a lot of time in the gym so they can look good..and big, too. They want to be assured of their dominance over the frail looking 20-something frat boy who will inevitabely cross his path at one point or another and get tossed out on their skull or beat to a pulp in some dark back alleyway somewhere downtown. Shit, you get into enough fights while you're downtown drinking anyway, might as well get paid to do it, right?

And so, the career, often short-lived as it is, of a bar employee is born. They'll do it for a few months - or longer if they can last - before something will happen. Normally, it's one of several things. Most commonly, they'll flunk out of school and move away because of all the late night drinking and partying. Or, they'll graduate and move on to bigger and better things, take a "real" job in Atlanta and begin a career in some financial firm while setting up their new Buckhead digs. Sometimes they simply tire of the late nights and recognize that the job's just not for them.

Or lastly, they don't quit and get caught in the never ending life-sucking vortex of downtown nightlife work.

Sort of like me.

I'm the rarest breed, having done this for what seems like forever. I think I've found myself to be thought of around town as one of the "lifers" who don't get out of "the business" until they're damn near their mid-30s.

There's a number of us working around downtown who have been doing this for waaay too long. We've overstayed our welcome and have outgrown our target demographic. We used to be the drunken college kids who wound up behind the bar, but now we're far removed, age-wise and intellegence-wise - most of us, at least - than the new crop of kids coming in to fill the vacant positions at the bar.

But for some reason we stay. Perhaps part of it is to hold on to our last shred of college innocence in a town where care-free days by the pool and night after night of partying continue on year round. Maybe it's because there will always be girls coming out to the bar we work at who are drunk and willing and ready for some late night action, where subsequently those elsewhere who are older know better. It could be that some of us never graduated college - or even started - and we're not really sure what else to do with our lives for the time being besides make jagerbombs and pop beer. Some of us have a real job and only do this on the side for extra money or for fun, or simply for a combination of reasons above.

Either way, I'm still around. A lot of us are. We were around years ago when smoking was allowed in bars. Back when Insomnia was a late night alcohol-free dance club where kids went to sober up after drinking all night before heading home (or so they touted). Or back in the days of Uptown Lounge, Gator Haters, Bird Dog, the original On The Rocks and Mean Mikes. We could walk down the street and get a coffee at Blue Sky before heading into work. We could hang out at One Love or head to Engine Room to get the hell away from the main part of downtown when we went out.

Either way, things downtown have changed and yet still some of us remain. We'll all have our own reasons for that, but it's always interesting to watch the changes happen downtown over the years, and I'm still around to continue to watch.


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