Posted by Jeff Burkhart on November 18, 2011
Called in on a Tuesday morning. What a drag. One of the drawbacks of the restaurant business are the odd hours. Of course that is also one of its many advantages too. When you work in the highest grossing restaurant in the nation ($37 million) you are going to have to make some sacrifices. Especially if that restaurant is in one of the City’s most iconic landmarks.
This particular Tuesday it is breakfast for a group of insurance people (contain your excitement). Oddly people who work with numbers all day long are notoriously unable to figure out a proper tip on a bill, inevitably their math is wrong, and invariably it is in their favor. I don’t know why this is; I just know that it is. On top of that they are British, meaning that a 10 percent tip will be the starting point. Double ouch.
I didn’t know Robin Williams. Sure I’d met him a couple of times, waited on him a dozen or so, saw him perform locally and ran into him in the general environs of the small town that is Marin County. Plus, working in a substance-providing industry probably elevated my exposure, unfortunately. For every feel good story in every bar there is an equally painful one. Every pleasingly served chardonnay to Robert Redford is tempered with every time I’ve had to cut off Steven Adler. Booze can be a pleasant respite or an unshakeable curse. It’s one of the realities of the service industry. What follows are two experiences I had with Mr. Williams.
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for us that night. It was already going on 10 o’clock. The bottom half of the hour loomed with the next hour’s top representing the end of our collective evening together. Closing time has a way of, well, closing things down.
We rolled up to the bar as if we were Charles Bukowski, Hank Moody and Charlie Sheen.
Nothing teaches you what you don’t know more than going somewhere else. I suspect this idea is the basis for every pilgrimage out there, be it religious, vocational or what have you.
I am now officially “one of those people.” I didn’t mean to be, but there I was, 10 minutes to 9 p.m. with no dinner at home and the only option being fast food I have written many times about people who come into a restaurant at the last minute, so I do understand the dynamic. But having been on the other side, I also know that open is still open.
When I first started writing Barfly, nearly nine years ago, I received a letter. Not a nice letter, but a long letter. In fact, longer than any column I had ever written.
It was as innocuous as a day could be; a late morning, a poolside visit. There are some times when working the night shift is the best thing in the world. To complete my sweet summer day I swung by the deli counter at the local market before heading into work.
Join Jeff Burkhart, celebrity mixologist, Barfly columnist and author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: the spirited adventures of a real bartender” at the ball park for specialty drinks and conversation.
Books and autographs will be available.Game #39 Pacifics vs. Vallejo – Barfly San Rafael Pacifics Baseball Sunday, August 17, 2014 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM (PDT) San Rafael, CA
Jean-Paul Sartre spent his life arguing that there is no madness in individuals and that it only occurs within groups. Dealing with both on a regular basis I have to respectfully disagree.
The waiter came quickly over to the bar with a combined look of stress and perplexity upon his face.
“That guy over there,” he said pointing back over his shoulder, “wants to see our wine connoisseur.”
Now I had the confused look.