Archive for October, 2014

The Declan Chronicles

Posted: October 23, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

Among my favorite customers at the bar where I work are Scotty and his little boy; Declan. Scotty and I usually shoot the bull about sports, cooking, movies and music. We don’t discuss women, because being married his life is essentially over in that sense, and I don’t want to make him feel bad. He’s easy to talk to and I enjoy his company. He usually stops by for a beer or three with Declan after getting the little boy a slice of pepperoni pizza from the pizzeria next door. “Fold it in half and then eat it…You’re a New Yorker boy, and you’re going to eat you pizza like on”. Declan promptly ignores this and picks off the southern most slice of pepperoni and eats that before going into his own unique slice consumption technique.
While Papa Scotty drinks beer, Declan has a ginger ale which he asks for with a “Please” followed by a “Thank You”. I’m thrilled in this day of so many entitled little brats and their enabling clueless parents walking around that someone is teaching their child good manners, how to share and respect for elders. ( Although I hate being thought of as an “elder”, even to a three year old ) I once made him a Shirley Temple, but the sugary grenadine made him act like a Tasmanian devil under the influence of 3 double espressos.

I also thought I should address a little boy being in a bar. I can certainly understand the concern or disapproval of such a thing. Our owner is from rural Ireland where people bring their kids, dogs etc. to the local pub. It’s a warm and” neighborhoody” place and these are Declan’s neighbors who he has grown up around his whole life. We also take pains to ensure that no one swears or discusses anything “adult” near him.

Declan is a cute little boy with angel-blond hair. He’s quick to smile and laugh, plus he’s reasonably well behaved for a 3 year old. Frankly if he was anymore well behaved, I probably wouldn’t be so fond of him. I like kids with a touch of mischief to them. I have a low brat threshold and an appreciation for childlike devilry…Probably because I can relate to it. He reminds me a little of Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes I am also fond of the name “Declan” which is the name of an Irish saint. My employers also have a son named Declan. He’s never bratty near me, and on the rare occasion that he starts to cry or whine all I need to say is “Declan stop whining” or “Declan, be a big boy” and he’ll stop immediately. My best friend has expressed a great deal of frustration that this technique doesn’t seem to work with me. She has tried “Putting me in time out” but has found that I am generally more responsive to corporal punishment and yelling.

Recently Declan has been asking his father to drop by the bar to visit me more frequently. ” I want to go visit Uncle Scott”. Now I know I’m lovable and marinated in particularly potent awesome-sauce, but my little 3 year old friend has an ulterior motive in coming to see me. I have been bringing my computer to work and I take care of the bar’s ( and my) social media updates. A few weeks ago I went on youtube and found some clips of “The Swedish Chef” from The Muppets that I thought Declan might like to watch while his dad and I discussed the shortcomings of each other’s football teams. As I said, we don’t swear in front of the boy…so we spell out all the no-no words. “The Pittsburgh Steelers eat dead wino C-O-C-K” Declan was promptly hooked on The Swedish Chef. Scotty and my theory is that because Scotty likes to cook at home and Declan “helps” him in the kitchen that he relates to the chef. Plus, of course, the Muppets are wonderful for people of any age.

“Wanna see the Weedish Chef” Declan will exclaim when I plop my laptop in front of him. “OK…OK…hold your horses” I say (God, I loathe being a grownup and saying crap like that. Next thing you know I’ll be belching out parental clich├ęs like “It’s good for you” and “Because I said so”) So I cue up “Weedish Chef” clips for him and seeing the rapturous delight on his face makes my life a little more worth living. We’ve watched every Swedish Chef clip at least 5 times, but he hasn’t tired of them yet…He even has some favorite clips which he has titled based on whatever the hapless chef was attempting to cook. “Popcorn” or “Pum-kin Carving” or as the Chef says “Kar-vin dee Pooompkin” he’ll request. as those are a couple of his favorites.

Scotty and I have attempted to introduce Declan to some of the other Muppets like Kermit, Statler and Waldorf, Pepe the King Prawn, Gonzo…No dice. He wants the chef and pretty much only the chef.

I am a huge fan of Beeker the masochistic and anxious lab assistant Muppet. I collect Beeker toys and I find him hilarious and cute. Today, I tried once again to introduce my young friend to one of my favorite Muppet characters and I cued up a clip of Beeker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew for Declan. Declan patiently indulged me and watched for a few seconds, and then his face changed to one of sad concern. I hadn’t thought about it until I saw the little boys face, but Beeker’s lot in life is pretty horrifying. He works for an incompetent scientist-inventor who uses him willy-nilly as a crash test dummy or ( dangerous ) product tester. I felt bad as Declan pointed at the screen and said to me and his father “He needs help” Yes, I suppose Beeker could use some help. I also felt hopeful in that this little boy of 3 is already learning empathy, pity , kindness and a desire to help others who might be having a hard time. Don’t ever lose that Declan…it can be in short supply in this world.

“Be a good boy, or there wont be any beatings for you”

In addition to the Muppets, I like to put Declan on my shoulders, toss him around and roughhouse with him. In the back of the bar where I work are some lounge areas with couches and small tables. I love to grab my little buddy, sling him over my shoulder and carry him to the couches while I announce in a loud voice ” OK boy…that’s it, you’re getting a beating” When we get to the couches I drop him on top of the cushions in a slamming motion and I punch the cushions next to him pro-wrestler style. “Arrrrgh” I exclaim, picking him up and pretending to slam him again. ” Oh, Ladies and Gentlemen…This once great fighter “Declan Dynamite” is in big trouble here at Madison Square Garden…” I say as I pretend to punch him and then tickle him mercilessly. Declan giggles and shouts. “Again!!!” I pick him up and “slam” him down a few more times, tickle him and make wrestling commentary until I get tired. He is the only human being I have ever met who asks to be tickled more, instead of begging the tickler to stop. I used to hate when bigger or older friends and relatives held me down and tickled me, and my ex girlfriends would start to look for heavy objects to brain me with whenever I tickled them.

After his beating, I usually announce “That’s it boy…get outta here now, yer buggin me” and will run gleefully back to his fathers side. Scotty will ask “Did you get a beating?” to which Declan will squeal blissfully “Yeah!!” Sometimes I carry him back to where his dad is and ask. “You want this back?” Scotty will answer nonchalantly ” I dunno, let me think about it”

Sometimes Declan wants to “Play in his cave”. What he means by this, is for me to put a couple of the small tables together for him to crawl under and in to…like a cave. I don’t want to deny him any fun, but I get a little worried he’s going to bang his head a good one on the low ceiling of his “cave”. I sound like an old lady telling him “Watch your head…don’t hit your head”. When did I become such an old lady?

These shenanigans have become quite routine. I started asking nonchalantly “You wanna beating Declan?” He immediately brightens up and squeals out a delighted “YEAH”. I make an exaggerated mean face and grab him, tossing him over my shoulder, then we make our way over to the couches. Scotty and the other regulars think this is hilarious. I suppose it is.

This routine has lead to some problems. Perhaps unaware of the literal meaning, Declan with his young child’s gift for horrible timing and brutal honesty will exclaim in public to his dad…”I need a beating” or ” I didn’t get my beating today and I’ve been good”, and all adults within earshot give Scotty a look of utter disgust prior to hopping on their phones to child protective services.

I experienced a similar reaction when Declan’s mother; Denise came in one day, and Declan piped up “Uncle Scott gave me a beating today”. Denise flashed me a less than pleased look at this and I shrugged sheepishly trying to explain.

Luckily now Denise is with the program, and even uses our game as incentive. “Declan, if you can’t act like a big boy, them I’m taking you home and No Beatings”

Top 20 Lists

Posted: October 17, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

My cousin just sent me a “20 Things That Annoy Your Bartender” list/article online which I read both eagerly and dutifully. If someone was kind enough to think of me and send something that they felt I would be interested in or entertained by, it’s the least I can do to read it and thank them.

Thank you cousin Sharon.

There are lots of these types of articles bouncing around in internet-land. I have come across several and from many different professions. Strangely I haven’t read any listing the common laments of billionaires…well, just National Review and Fox News. I suppose it is safe to say that nearly everyone who has a job has something or some-things they can gripe about. The world’s a tough place, and as I am fond of saying “The general public isn’t generally very pleasant” People are entertained by lists of grievances and gripes that cover the pitfalls of their occupation. Everyone’s got them; from the triangle player of the philharmonic to the Walmart greeter, to the cops, ambulance drivers to soldiers( Getting shot at probably trumps my annoyance at the drunks who tear up coasters and leave messes for me)…Teachers and nurses always seem to have lots to be angry or frustrated about, but I’ll bet prison guards and meter maids, on the whole, have worse jobs. Prison guards routinely have feces thrown in their faces by inmates. How does that hold up to the jerk in your office who keeps taking your yogurt from the office fridge? Yeah? I thought so. Perspective is important.

I have even written my fair share of these types of essays. I’m not so much of a list maker, which seems to be the contemporary substitute for biting satire. I guess things move too fast these days to read and analyze something. It’s much easier to burn through a list. I’d like to earn a living writing or performing comedy, or just writing. However, I am well adjusted and possess enough self honesty to realize that there is a whole new top 20 list out there for successful ( a very relative term) or at least an employed writer or comedian with the things that make it an effort to get out of bed some days and sit in front of an audience, computer screen, or if you’re particularly good and in demand; both.

Stephen King, Matt Taibi, Danielle Steele, Bill Maher, or whoever, they all have very real gripes with their jobs that some of us can only imagine, and many that we probably cant. The latter is where your average Joe say’s “Aw Poor Widdle Baby….Is ooo having twouble wif aww doze millions of dowwars for tewwing jokes?” I do it too. Nothing makes me roll my eyes so fast I am in danger of ocular injury than seeing someone like Kanye West angry with his lot in life. Kanye seems very pissed off. Somebody give him a hug, huh?

I sometimes wonder how I’d handle literary fame. How many people have pestered Stephen King to read something they wrote? “Oh your roommate liked it, well that goes to the top of Mr. King’s Must- Read List.” Stevie seems like a nice fellow, so I’m sure he takes the essays, smiles and thanks them kindly.

As interesting and apt as some of these lists about my profession are, I am always equally fascinated with the commentary that follows. Lots of people like to kvetch…significantly less like to listen to or read kvetching. It has, what I like to call a “socially short shelf life”. It’s a precarious balance. We need to purge ourselves of the frustrations of our occupation, and the ever accompanying “How clueless so many people are, and how much they suck”. Similarly we need people to listen and to commiserate or agree with us. What people really like, and probably hope for, is to actually educate others on how to behave toward their waiter/waitress, police officer, dentist, doctor, or drug dealer. This all too often becomes a “Fools Errand”. Not surprising, but that’s a favorite expression of this particular curmudgeonly author.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when reading and especially writing these essays and lists, is that those annoying behaviors that make you fantasize of shooting sprees…Well, the culprits see things very differently, and for better or worse, very, very few of them are going to change.

My best friend who also often acts as my editor, literary agent and a plethora of other thankless ( and sans pay) jobs used to be a waitress and a bartender. When I lament to her, or write a piece about the nightmare shift I had consisting of trifling old ladies or mean drunks; she gets it. I was a salesman briefly, and I’d like to think that I get it in regards to the garden variety nonsense that salespeople must contend with.

So keep pumping out those lists. I enjoy “The Bitchy Waiter” blog. He’s funny, entertaining and I can relate. And I encourage my friends and family members to keep sending them to me. At the very least it shows that you’re thinking of me, and that I’m not alone.

However, I think it would be a wonderfully emphatic exercise for us to make a list of the 20 things that drive some other occupation crazy. Yet someone you feel complains too much or has it easy at their job.

Give it a shot…and send me the list.

Misanthrope

Posted: October 4, 2014 by S. Trevor Swenson in Uncategorized

I have said it a million times( OK…OK…I’ve said it 5 or 6 times give or take); I LOVE Words. I think more than using new and cool words, I really love to discover them. When I say “discover” what I really mean is that I figuratively get off my literary fat ass and look up a word I have heard several times before, and yet I’m not entirely certain of it’s definition. I do like to misuse words, but I like to know that I’m misusing them, purposefully and for my own entertainment. My favorite example of cool word discovery is when I looked up the word “pedantic” after being told I couldn’t go to the bathroom by a teacher…IN FUCKING COLLEGE. In hindsight, maybe if I had held my groin, crossed my legs and squirmed around, maybe he’d have taken me more seriously. After hearing about this another teacher mentioned with a chuckle that “certain teachers at our college could be a little pedantic. I agreed and then I looked up the word, because looking smart and educated always takes precedence over being smart and educated.

For weeks afterward I used “pedantic” whenever possible. I slipped it in during lovemaking “Oh take that you pedantic slut…you know you want it” I took an extra special delight when I used it and others got a look on their face that they didn’t know exactly what it meant…Morons. I started using it incorrectly to see if I could get away with it, which is another one of my favorite word games.

“Hey Scott, you tried that new Mexican place “Loco Louies” on Astoria Blvd…how was it?”

“You know, I have eaten there twice, and I found their tacos and rice to be…pedantic, very pedantic Mexican food.”

“So, you liked it?”

Then in my most wonderful Coach Bill Belichick moment, I narrowed my eyes and mumbled ” I think I was pretty clear about how I feel about their food”

Once during a Pity Party and Reassurance Reception with my best friend, she once told me “Well honey you’re not the most prolific writer.” I became very quiet, told her I was tired and was going to bed, and then, after hanging up I wept. The next morning I woke up, still very depressed and finally decided to look up “Prolific”. It turns out, she was right…but I’ll never tell her that.

My latest word is “Misanthrope”. Now I knew contextually that it had to do something with hate or disliking, which sounded right up my alley. So last night I broke down and looked it up.

Misanthrope or misanthropist.

A person who has a general dislike or distrust for the human race. Although they dislike the majority of the human race they can function considerably well in sexual and friendly relationships. They are often humored and disgusted by the human species. They are not often harsh or bitter people.

Oh Great Spirit…It’s ME!! There is a dictionary definition of ME. Oh Happy Days. I’m going to send Miriam-Webster some photos of me to put next to the definition. I’m thoughtful that way. I am a misanthrope…not a selfish douchebag.

I find it fascinating that a person who dislikes humanity so much has chosen to spend the past 20 plus years in a city of eight to ten million other humans. I’d be so much better suited to working solo at a research facility in Greenland, playing Scrabble online and yelling out my window at penguins “Hey you kids, get off my goddamn lawn, I’m not telling you again”

Maybe the reason I’m in NYC is that it is such a paradise for misanthropes. The city that never sleeps is chock full of people just begging to have others shake their head in disbelief and disgust at them. Some of my favorite conversations with my NYC friends ( Yes I have friends, Misanthropes can have friends…it’s in the rule book) have to do with our shared annoyance and hatred of others.

“I wish they’d build a bridge over Times Square for RESIDENTS only, then not only will I be able to get around without crawling behind stupid tourists, but I’d still be able to spit on them”

“Oh I know. I was trying to cross Broadway the other day and was stuck behind two dumb assed hicks taking pictures of Bubba Gumps”

(In an exaggerated Southern drawl) ” Looka thar Jethro, that buildings got more’n FIVE floors high”

“Ah knows Bubba, Dat thar guide book said that Applebees is right ’round “chere”

I’m an agnostic ( Yeah, I had to look that one up too), and I still pray…sometimes several times a day. I was thrilled to discover that I could do both. I’m equally thrilled to discover that I can hate humanity, and still love individuals as well as have friends.

With the exception of humanity…the world’s an alright place.