Barcelona Wine Bar always had a two-and-a-half to three-hour wait list. We maintained it with paper and No. 2 pencil. When the line got that long I would tell hopeful diners honestly how many names were ahead of them but anything less than that — 90 minutes, 45 — I’d qualify per our manager’s direction as “a drink, a drink and a half.” Washington DC is a town of lawyers but it wasn’t my job to be precise. It was my job to help people feel welcome and settle in by the bar.
You shine through so well in this piece. Chapeau !
The perfect ending. Loved this little story. It shows that you've written stories before, You *have* written stories before, right?
Love it! Smart and sassy.
One of the greatest things I've read in a long time. Refreshing, inspiring, and grounding. Thank you!
This is so good. The edgy wistfulness is perfect!
Absolutely love how this piece turned out!
Great. So the Eagles were right: "City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile"
These men hitting on you reminded me of something that really made me laugh. I used to attend classes at a place called the BIshopsgate Institute in London. Just around the corner there's a Costa and I always went in there to buy a drink before the class started. The person who served me was really pretty, and in her 20s, so I always chatted to her about her ambitions for uni and stuff like that. I never hit on her as such. Anyway, another man from the film course and I met up there one afternoon for a bite to eat and a coffee, and we were served by this same girl, who gave me a lovely smile. When we left I said to my friend, "You know that girl who smiled at me? She fancies me you know." To which he replied, "Of course she does Terry, because in some universe a 20-something girl fancies a middle-aged man!" 😂 It also reminds me of something even funnier, which perhaps I'll write about one of these days.
I love this story, Alicia! So self-aware and indeed so joyful. Brava!
What a great ending! I want to know if you said yes after he called your bluff! (But don’t tell me! It’s better not knowing! Wondering I this happened more than once! Wondering if 3 days turned into 3 years into decades!)
After starting service work in high tea and graduating to working a country club bar in my 20s, this checks out.
so poetic and calming weirdly. I really miss this fully in person aspect of life :)
Loved this!! So impressive and awesome how you painted such a clear picture of your years of experience in relatively few words. I really felt like I could envision each experience as I read it. Thank you for sharing this, Alicia :)
What would life be without a little service industry experience? I love that you had a full plate of people and story. It’s fun! I was one of those early development kids and memorized anything, including the History of Rock-n-Roll and The Bartender’s Bible. At age seven, I escaped the waiting room during a modeling gig for a store called Chocolate Soup and rode the glass elevators up to the Hilton Rainforest (it was the 70s) and ordered a Tom Collins and a Pink Squirrel, until my grandfather found me.
When I turned 21, I applied for work in a French Quarter restaurant bar and fibbed about experience, but knew my menu. (In fact, nod knowingly and figure it out is how I developed a successful decade of design in SF.) You get to throw the party and listen to all the guest gab. And I sure did a lot of my own gabbing all over New Orleans and New York, my gosh! I did cocktail twice in NYC, also initiated with the nod knowingly approach, when asked by bar managers while sitting as a guest sipping on White Russians before I knew I was actually allergic to milk. The first was in what I called “the-leopard-lounge-not-a-strip-club” though happy hour was an inconsistent whenever with no receipts, such a headache of conflict! (Also, the place where I found Jacq’s inclusion from the most alluring red flag waver ever encountered) Just saying the name of it dropped giggle bombs at the bar in the Bluebell Cafe, my regular Gramercy hangout. A pal asked me to cocktail in an intense club called Hush, which I did only on holidays. I was a recruited bar guest from Mardi Gras town.
I wouldn’t trade any of it! Not the service industry, not my research library work in the Guggenheim, not the years as a Mardi Gras float rider. There is so much to learn from observing human behavior. - An observation in the Guggenheim is what causes me to suspect that 1000 page book on entertainment addiction was meant for tap-out awareness - from the Moving Pictures exhibition video room around the spiral top. I was actually positioned between the tail end of Mapplethorp’s orchids cutting a corner and Robert Smithson, who was a European architect magnet. Fun times indeed. I miss Mardi Gras and plan to visit for it next year. ... Back to journaling a letter to Eros. Cheers! And happy V Day to you and M. That’s the double arrow, my friend. 🏹🏹💞🥂
Really enjoyed this - a great read!
Love this, Alicia! It’s nice to know that people—men, in this case—are able to open that door and invite you in yet still be perfectly gracious if you chose to not walk through it.
I was going to mention Danler’s Sweetbitter but then you mentioned it at the end! Great book. I enjoyed your take on being a hostess in your twenties. It reminded me of myself. When I was 25 I briefly worked as a server at a busy pizza restaurant in San Francisco. I sucked at it. I once lost my dinner notepad. I hated working there. Line out the door the whole shift. Rude people. The pressure. Funny. They fired me. Creative people are strange. (Meaning me.) I remember thinking, How is it that I can write a goddamned novel, yet I can’t serve pizza? I later found out I wasn’t alone!
‘Sincere American Writing’