When I moved back to Iowa from LA, I didn’t know what I was gonna do. I literally walked away from my life I had been building for five years. I sat around my mom’s house, read the newspaper, and watched reruns of Seinfeld episodes for the first eight months I was back. What can you do with a drama degree? I had no idea.
Finally, I got a job at a consulting firm. BPG in Des Moines, Iowa. Unfortunately, after a year at it, our company lost the account I was working on, and I was out of a job. Great. What do I do now?
I went to a number of places, dropped off my resume, and landed a job a couple weeks later, at a coffee shop called Zanzibars. During this time, I acted in plays, and started a couple bands, singing in one, playing drums in another. After about nine months of working at the coffee shop, my buddy who I played with in one of my bands tells me, oh yeah, Brian Zwaschka from the Vaudeville Mews wants to talk to you. Cool, when did he tell you this? Oh…about three weeks ago. Great. Thanks for the head’s up. I call him, and we hit it off right away. He tells me he saw me in Suburbia, a play I acted in, and was impressed, and knows that I work at Zanzibars. Would you be interested in bartending? You can make a lot more money than coffee shop tips. At the moment, I was making $15-$20 in tips, so yeah, it can only go up from there. I tell him, I only have two problems. I’ve never poured a drink before, and I’m getting married in a week. He surprisingly says, not a problem, you’ll pick it up quick. Guy had more confidence in me than I did! He says, get married, go on your honeymoon, and then we’ll get this going. Wow. Sounds great to me.
I had a friend at the time that had bartended. What the hell do I do? I ask. Well, it’s all a three count. Start pouring, count to three. One, two, three. Ok cool. I can do that.
I remember my first night distinctly. I was working with two other bartenders, it was a hippie show, and we got slammed. The only tough part I had was figuring out where all the liquor bottles were at. I’d lean into my fellow bartender, and quickly say, how do you make a Long Island? Vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, sour, splash of Coke in a pint glass. Ok, cool. Where is that all located?
At the end of the night, my fellow bartender says, you’re not getting a third of the tips ’cause you’re in training, but we’re going to tip you out, here you go. He hands me a bunch of bills, I count it, holy shit, $80! I’m sold.
And now, ten years later, I’m still doing it, and I hope I can still keep on doing it, for another twenty years.
From my heart to yours,
Clint Curtis. Bartender.