How I became a bartender and other tall tales
Here’s some news: I’m not unemployed anymore.
The last two weeks have proved to be a true 180-degree turn from the life I led just six weeks ago, but as of now I am officially a bartender with a steady editing freelance job, meaning after only one month of unemployment I am once again able to support myself in New York City. I’m pretty damn proud of this, but more importantly, I’m happier than I’ve been in a couple of years. I’m quickly making the life I’ve always wanted for myself here a reality. It feels really good. Let me tell you how it happened.
Two Saturdays ago, I was at my favorite dive bar, Spanky and Darla’s in the East Village, alone at 2 a.m. No, I wasn’t out all night drinking alone, my friend had left and I stuck around to fill out an application to work there. This is the second application I have filled out to work at this bar post-midnight.
I’ve been drinking at Spanky and Darla’s since I first moved to New York and one of my best friends introduced me to its grandeur. This bar is the diviest dive bar you can imagine—it sits in a space as large as an airy hallway, has a killer jukebox full of Fleetwood Mac and Jimmy Buffett and nothing produced after 1990, sells pitchers for $6.50, and always has a fresh supply of beautiful young lady bartenders. I love this damn bar. It’s cheap as dirt, the bartenders are sweethearts, and the men aren’t as creepy as you’d expect them to be. The first bathroom door lock has been broken for a year, dismembered legs of mannequins in fishnet tights line the walls, and there’s never a crowd. I had a friend once fall asleep in the bathroom for a half hour before anyone noticed. It’s a place where everything is simple and nothing hurts.
So there I am, alone, chatting with my bartender friends and filling out my application, when one of them alerts me that the owner had just walked into the bar. This was my chance!
I sat and watched as he put money into the jukebox a few feet away from me, chatting with some guy. Suddenly, he turns around with his arm around this guy, comes over to me and says, “This is the most beautiful girl in the bar, and she’s all alone! That’s not right!”
Could this be happening? Was the owner of this establishment that only hires “hot chicks” calling me a hot chick while I’m filling out this application?
I pulled up my application and showed it to him. “I’m Jillian, and I want to work here. I’ve always wanted to work here.”
He takes the application, writes down his phone number, and tells me to call him the following day at midnight, then he wandered over to the bar to order a drink. I proceeded to strike up a conversation with the cute guy he had brought over with him.
The next night, I called him at midnight on the dot, and he told me to come into The Duck in Harlem, another one of his bars, to train on Friday night. I went in having absolutely zero experience bartending, and within a couple of hours I was busting my butt making everyone drinks (thank god everyone orders beers and well drinks) and working that cash register like a pro. When I left the bar at 5:30 a.m., he told me I was hired.
Tomorrow will be my second day working The Duck alone. They really throw you into it, but I think I will be better off because of it. Give me two weeks and I’ll be able to make you anything you want—I hope. In the meantime, I love talking to people all day long. I’ve already met a Staten Island ferryman who’s been divorced three times, and an Irishman who told me about the wife he lost, and an old man who worked his way through 12 PBR’s but was sweet as pie.
Standing behind that bar for 12 hours at a time has made me happier than sitting at a computer for that same amount of time ever did.
And that guy who the owner of the bar introduced me to? I’ve seen him six times since the night we met.
As far as I can tell, good things come to those who take risks. The next step: freelance writing on my days off. It’s actually a reality for me now to chase writing projects I care about in my free time, and I’m still pinching myself to make sure this new life is real. I never saw myself here, and now that it’s happening, I almost can’t see myself going back to a sad desk in Midtown. I will eventually, I think, but I also think it won’t be anytime soon. And I’m finally embracing that. Life is embracing me in return.
Represents 100% of the decision making processes at this stage of my life. Thanks for the support, Forever21.
Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which one fits me?
— Sylvia Plath (via sylviaplathings)
My mother, my muse
Left: Me bartending for the first time at The Duck up in Harlem last night.
Right: My makeup when I woke up this afternoon after going to bed at 7 a.m. This can’t be good for my skin.