“Every single night…”
“I was an amazing bartender and a great waiter. I think, in a way, that was my acting school.”
~ Nick Frost
I’m a shot and beer pourer who learned how to type.
I am basically a Buffalo, N.Y., bartender, who got lucky.
Now, the keyboard, is my bar. Over this bar I talk to you more so than write for you.
I have no classic training as a writer, I did on the other hand graduate long ago from bartender school. Certified mixologist, that’s me.
I look at the world as an old school bartender, all my life I have dreamed of owning a “Gin Mill,” an old oak wood bar, chrome stools with black plastic seats, some with duct tape holding the innards, in.
A “joint,” with a neon Pabst sign flickering in the window, highball glasses stacked on rubber mats on the back bar, a long mirror behind the bar with the good stuff liquor somewhat dusty sitting in front.
And a round corner for me to lean on, and listen.
Inside me is an old bartender, a neighborhood guy, with beer stains on his black orthopedic shoes.
That was how life was supposed to be.
“…every single show…”
I am shocked anyone wants to meet me.
Shocked that I’m asked for my autograph.
Shocked to be standing with strangers who want a photo of them with me.
Me, an old bartender with beer stained black ortho shoes.
Not how life, was supposed, to be.
Without the keyboard in front of me, without the curved oak wood bar to lean on, I hope when you meet me, I don’t disappoint you, hope I didn’t waste your time.
I feel I do.
I’m not sure I would want to meet me.
But for a couple of days during this Classic shindig I got to stand behind a bar, sort of, got to lean on the curve, sort of, got to be an old bartender, sort of, got to be as it was supposed to be, sort of.
The best part of bartending is not the pour, but the people you pour for.
It’s not the liquor, it’s the listen.
And that was the gift I was given this weekend by the bosses at B.A.S.S., and especially by April Phillips, marketing manager of the company, she built a round wood information booth on the Bassmaster Classic Expo floor…and she let me stand behind it.
And for three hours on Friday.
And for two hours on Saturday.
I was once again an old bartender with beer stained black ortho shoes listening to folks on the other side of the bar.
I loved it.
It was, where I was meant to be.
“…time to give…”
I wanted these two days behind the information desk to be about YOU, not me. I didn’t want our interaction to be just a drive-by meet and greet, I want to know you because knowing you actually helps me be a better writer.
You know me through what I write, but I want to know you as well…and that introduction always came through, “…are you db?”
Meet the Rawlings: Dad Jarrod, mom Lainie, sons “I’m almost six-and-a-half-years-old” Chase, and the young man with my hand on his head…Trip age 4.
This family photo is the one you are supposed to see, everyone all nice and proper:
This is the one though that cracks me up:
A second before April took the photo young six-and-a-half year old Chase zipped his Ike face up, and there we have a 3 foot or so Michael Iaconelli.
Mom and dad instead of freaking out laughed, I laughed, Trip laughed, I told Trip that if he went to the weigh-in the man weighing the fish on stage was also named Trip, and that he was my friend and a cool guy.
Jarrod told me they drove over from Augusta, Kan., that he was a “Dirt Contractor,” and that Lainie was “an engineer.”
“db, I’m a life member of B.A.S.S., signed up the last time you were here in 2013.”
“Thank you for that,” I said while looking down to see 3 foot Ike looking back up at me.
Meet Steve Cook and his Granddaughter, Callie Rogers.
Steve is retired from American Airlines in Oklahoma City and is now a full-time Callie booster, “My granddaughter is a great basketball player.”
Callie is in the fourth grade and is looking eye to eye with me.
I tell everyone I’m 5-7 but when I step on my doctor’s scale and they lift the ruler up and put the cold silver bar on my head, you know, you know…hmm.
“I fish with my grandfather, liked coming here, hope to keep playing basketball throughout school as well.”
Grandfather is standing behind her and all he does is smile, smile big.
B.A.S.S. Life member Steve Huegerich from Coon Rapids, Iowa, is leaning on the bar/info counter grinning at me, buddy Mike Hanrahan is vigorously shaking my hand like he is using a flat tire jack to lift up a car.
“So Steve what do you do in Coon Rapids?”
“I’m a pig farmer,” then he just stares at me with that ‘shocked you’ face on.
“Huh, cool, I cleaned pigs on a farm myself.” I have the ‘my turn’ face on.
Most summers growing up in Buffalo I was actually a Canadian Farm Boy.
We talk about pig farming, talk about Coon Rapids, Iowa, buddy Steve tells me he is an accountant, “I help him out when he brings home the bacon.”
I jumped that time, had my back to the front bar.
Meet Joey Potts and buddy Nick Price.
“Hey Joey, where you from?”
I stop shaking Nick’s hand and look over at Joey.
“A Potts from Pottsville.”
“Yep my great, great, great grandfather founded the place.”
I look at Nick and he just nods yes. “So are you from Priceville then Nick?”
“Nope, Pottsville too.”
Joey is a football coach and high school teacher, Nick is in home improvement.
“Hello, what’s your name?”
“Donnie Martindale, I’m a Facebook friend.”
Well now this is different, I’m face to face with Facebook.
Donnie is a retired Fire Alarm Tech from Azle, Texas, and we have had many facebook messages between us, and I think it always cool to meet my “friends.”
Donnie brought his wife Wendy and grandson Lee to the Classic, and we talked awhile about stuff, you know, stuff between friends even if in fact it is the first time you meet your “friend,” face to face.
By the way…this is what “hey db,” looks like, that’s John Maniaci from Detroit coming up to say hey.
“…thanks where thanks are due…”
I’m up in the B.A.S.S. Life member lounge stealing brownies.
I have a media badge with one of the most important, to me, access colored buttons on it…BLUE…for lounge.
I have just taken a huge brownie bite right between the “Hey,” and “db.”
“UM, hmmm, ummm,” that’s the best I know how to type mumbling words through a mouthful of brownies.
Meet Billy Ray and his son, Draven, “I named him after Eric Draven…” I’m about to ask what sport did Eric play when Billy says, “You know from the movie The Crow.”
Pretty happy I had a mouthful of brownie about right then.
Billy and Draven are from Plattsmouth, Neb., “about six hours from here,” Billy is a printing company production supervisor, Draven is a center on the Plattsmouth High School football team.
We talk fishing and brownies some, the two of them have fished together since Draven was 6 or 7, but now I’m lost some here, somehow me and Draven start talking cars, don’t ask me how, may have been another plate of brownies walked by.
But this, this snaps me out of dessert mode, “Yeah I drive a 1999 Chevy Metro.”
“It’s old you know, and um, dented.”
And to prove that Draven texts me a photo of him standing next to his dented 1999 Metro.
Next to me dad is laughing, “Little bit of hail issues there huh.”
Do what you have to do to zoom the photo up, you’ll see.
“A 1999 Metro, hmm…”
And Draven just nods his head and smiles as any 16-year-old would do as the owner of a car that runs.
Metro or not.
Hail or not.
I’m mid sweet tea swig.
Meet Matthew and Michelle Schwolert from Highland Valley, Texas.
Matthew is an Algebra teacher at Marcus 9 School in Highland Valley, Michelle works in Marcus High School and is also, “Mayor Pro Tem.”
Me: “Michelle do you like to fish?”
Mayor Michelle: “I like to catch fish.” Translation, the “fishing” part is okay, the “catching” part though is much better.
Matthew I can tell is a fan.
Michelle has no idea who I am or why I’m sitting at their table talking to them.
We talk some, both are cool, Michelle is warming up to me when she says, “I wanted to come to this event dressed as a fish, a bass.”
Most mayors don’t tell me things like that.
“See.” And then Michelle flips her phone around and yep, there they are dressed up as, “that’s me as a bass and he is dressed up as a fisherman and I’m his catch.”
Trust me, stuff like that never comes up in town council chambers.
Then Michele looks at me and says to me what I know to be the line of the day. “I booked this trip here as a romantic getaway for the two of us.”
And sitting next to her, Matthew just smiles.
A shaking hand reaches out and touches me as I walk by. I look down and see a small man with a sunken face with a badge hanging around his neck that says Life Member since 1981.
I know what I’m looking at and I immediately sit down and shake his hand.
Meet Phillip Rider from DeSoto, Mo., a Desert Storm disabled veteran.
“I don’t want to bother you just wanted to say hello, I was a United States Navy SeaBee from 1971 through 1991.”
I smile and in a squeaky voice say, “Thank you sir.”
“I was a plumber, got water flowing in the desert I did, was in Camp Nomad over there for seven-and-a-half months.”
I don’t ask what happened. I see his hand rubbing his knee over and over, the other leg twitches with each rub, at least one of his knees is messed up.
“VA doctors doing the best they can you know.”
We talk, most of it private, talk about money stuff, talk about “in country,” stuff, talk about “how lucky I am to be here at this here Classic.”
I sit longer with Phillip than any of the other folks I’ve met these last two days, no ragging on them, no disrespect but Phillip, Phillip I sensed wanted to talk.
When I left I told him again, “Thank you,” and he looked at me with a quizzed look on his face.
“Thank you Phillip and all the other guys like you, without you folks there wouldn’t be a Bassmaster Classic or a bunch of other things as well.”
I salute you sir, salute.
“…you all more than fans…”
I want to thank B.A.S.S., especially April Phillips, for letting me stand in their information booth and meet people.
I’m not lying when I say it made my Classic.
I want to thank all the people who stopped and said such nice things, you guys are the fuel that fires me up, I’m humbled and grateful for you.
I am an old Bartender from Buffalo, N.Y.
A bartender was what I was supposed to be.
Chapped hands from washing highball glasses, sore elbows from pouring shots and pulling open beer taps.
I am the old man behind the bar who has heard it all.
I am the old man behind the bar who still listens.
I am the old man behind the bar who still smiles.
Pull up a stool.
“…you’re my friends too.”
Thanks For Listening
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
~ William Butler Yeats