Louisville Magazine

MAR 2017

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 3.17 33 that hung upside down in front of the mirror and exploding against the wall. e lounge went silent. en a woman said, "Oh, my goodness." After we cleaned up most of the glass shards, Euan told me to wait on Table 18. "Actually," I said, "I'd prefer if you did this because I don't have the necessary experi- ence yet." He looked at me. en he said, "You better cowboy up and take care of business." I wrote Table 18's orders not in short- hand — S for "steak burger," T for "tortelli- ni" — but in cursive, as if I were submitting a calligraphic scroll to the kitchen. "You can wine me," one of the women said. When I dropped to my knees in front of the cooler of white wine behind the bar, I heard thread ripping in a ghastly crunch. My eyes bugged. en I looked down. e crotch of my pants had split open. I had on a server's apron that reached to my knees, and I tugged it down as far as I could. When I stood up, someone gripped my shoulder. It was Euan. I started to apologize for messing everything up. "No, man," he said. "We got your back." He nod- ded at Table 18. "ey look like they've got more issues than a Grand Central Station kiosk." When we closed down at the end of the night, I was scurrying behind the bar — gathering up the sugar caddies, plunging a towel in a bucket of sudsy water and dous- ing the counters — when I slipped on the booze-slick tile. Airborne, I went parallel to the floor, looking straight ahead at my feet. I slammed down, hard. Two servers sitting at the bar craned forward, peering at me, as if I lay at the bottom of a canoe. Fitting a cigarette into his mouth, Euan reached down. I gripped his arm and he pulled me to my feet. He looked at me. en he said: "Listen, man, I don't know you. But you're a jabroni." I was ready to quit Bistro 301 after my first night, but I decided to work through that week and then leave. A few people had just gotten fired, so I was al- ready scheduled to work doubles — morn- ings with a server named Stuart on the floor and nights with Euan in the bar. Stuart was a little shorter than Euan and about 20 years older. His hair was gray, and a bald spot glared atop his head. Yet he sported that bald spot with a debonair confidence, as if he were Federico Fellini. "Most of these new people are as useful as tits on a bull," Stuart told me. "So I don't bother learning anyone's name till they earn my respect." Stuart was a fan of the University of Florida and Tim Tebow, and if Stuart re- spected you, he added "bow" onto the end of your name. Euan was "Eubow." He was "Stubow." And Euan and Stuart taught me how to mix cocktail sauce on the fly, how to balance three glasses of ice water in one hand, how to pour coffee into a customer's cup while the pot was still brewing, how to roll our nightly "50 silverware" so quickly that my hands seemed to hover in the air while the linen bundled around a fork and two knives as if by incantation. By the end of the week, after we all clocked out and Euan was serving us at the bar, Stuart grasped my shoulder and said, "You're a worker, and you've got Stubow's attention. You're not Charlie. You're Charlie-bow. e Sheriff wants you on his team." Euan laughed. "I love you, Stu." "What's not to love, Doctor Watson?" Stuart said. "I'm so lovable I spoon myself." Almost as soon as Stuart and I became friends, Euan and I became friends, too. At the beginning of one shift, I remember him saying, "I'm going to love you and leave you tonight, Charlie." He had to be some- where in a few hours, so I closed the bar on my own for the first time. e rule between bartenders was that we split tips 50/50, and I left an envelope for Euan with half the money we'd made. But the next day he fit the cash into my breast pocket. "Keep it," he said. "If money was everything, we'd all be bank robbers." One of the first things I noticed about Euan was his love for music. Bistro's radio was set to '70s Easy Listening — Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne's "e Pretender," "We Just Disagree" by Dave Mason, Stuart's beloved "Margaritaville." After work, we all used to go to karaoke nights at Bearno's on Bardstown Road, and Euan sang the Stones' "Tumbling Dice," "Up on Cripple Creek" by the Band, John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery." And I knew our friendship was cemented one day when we were setting up the bar and "China Grove" by the Doobie Brothers came on, and Euan didn't word the refrain, "Whoa-oh, China Grove" but "Whoa-oh, Charliebow." At first, I couldn't believe that I was working at a restaurant. e only reason I was here was because I had been accepted into a master's program in London, so I needed money for tuition, and one of my aunts was friends with Bistro 301's owner, who hired me as a favor. Somehow, after all that schooling, I had absorbed the notion that I didn't wait — I was waited on. But Euan taught me to love the work we did, and to respect the dignity of work itself. And work was fun. With a bar of regulars and the tip jar wadded with cash, it was like a dormitory at night with the headmas- ter out. "What's up, ninja?" "What's up, killer?" we'd say. "My man!" "My man from Amsterdam!" I remember those days when we opened at 10 a.m. and worked past midnight; when the cooks pushed through the crowds around the bar to fill up yet another cup of ice water before diving back into the kitch- en; when Euan poured yet another beer into two pints at once and yelled, "Let's make this movie happen!" at the height of the rush; when we flipped the chairs and smoked in the alley, where some of the cooks — guys with gauges built into their ears and beards that bristled like the fray of a broom — gathered in the drive-in lane of a bank next door, smoking weed out of a fingerling potato they'd fashioned into a bong. Overhead, the twin Waterfront Plaza lighthouses sent beams lancing through the starless sky. Months after he called me a jabroni, Euan and I were working behind the bar and I said something that made his wrists bend and his arms collapse into his chest as he lunged forward in roaring laughter. en we were both laughing, for five minutes of abysmal customer service, as orders spooled out of the bar printer like ticker tape — laughter that now echoes in my memory. On Saturdays, when Bistro 301 was only open in the afternoon, I used to pick him up and we would drive to work and brew a pot of coffee and mop the floors and set up the bar. Sometimes Euan's sister, a server named Mhairi, was there, too, and we sat in the alley and sipped coffee together. One time, Euan nodded at me, saying to Mhairi, "is is the hardest-working man in show business." "I know," she said. She leaned against my shoulder. "I love me some Charliebow." I shook my head. "You give me too much press, man." "No, I don't. We appreciate you," Euan said. He slid a fridge magnet shaped like a Euan reached down and pulled me to my feet. He looked at me. Then he said: "Listen, man, I don't know you. But you're a jabroni."

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