SUMMARY: Bartender/ Poet. Restaurants are immersive theaters where everyone knowingly or unknowingly plays a role. At some of the best of these food theaters everyone has forgotten that they are on stage and that they are acting. It can feel like a big deal to get fired or to quit from one of these places because you all become a kind of family– a cast for the show. Waiters and bartenders, whole staffs, are hired because they look and move and speak a certain way– sometimes in near conformity with each other, sometimes in great contrasts in size, ethnicity, attitude. Even how they interact is a part of the audition–is there a natural attraction, animosity, drama?  In a city like New York, the melting pot is brought onto the front of the house stage– the choreography and extent of the improv is as important as the cutlery and aesthetic of the plating of food. Sometimes an entire cast can be given an overhaul based on the General Manager, the Owner, the Head Chef or whoever might have influence– it’s rare, however, that a restaurant will have as coherent a casting as a Broadway show. Why? Because it is an artform; because there may be too many influences on who gets hired; because the press of the business. Bond Street, an American-Japanese fusion restaurant in downtown NYC, brought the intentionality of this kind of theater into my heightened awareness. To the point where I realized I had been selected for a certain reason and that reason was playing out exactly as intended. Meanwhile, I believed I was a faking-it-till-I-made-it bartender, making as fast a study as I could from the hidden confines of the service bar to graduate to nights in the lounge and, eventually, the main floor where I’d not only serve high profile drinks and food but be sure that Madonna’s takeout was ready for delivery. Of course, competency is important even though the sake martinis were mixed before the shift. Bond Street was the only place I ever worked that gave a $300 a night guarantee on top of tips for Sundays because they might be slow and they wanted everybody to want to be there. It’s also where I began the series that became the 108 Cocktail Poems when my co-worker–encouraged by the Owner– asked me out on a date by writing on a napkin she slid towards my side of the bar.