Until three years ago, I was the most successful kid from my family. My cousins were in and out of court for not paying their child support. My two brothers decided to skip the college option and went straight into the shitty minimum wage workforce. My half-sister was on her third kid from yet another one-night stand; and my half-brother was just serving asshole big wigs at a catering company.
My five-year stint as a well-respected manager and bartender at the pub beneath my apartment was one of the more reputable things about my trashy family. For years my parents gloated on the fact that I was able to care for myself. Since the pub was small, my managerial duties only took up part of my day. Since I had no kids, no serious relationship, and already obtained my associates degree from an accelerated college – I just worked. Bartending was my “fun” job.
Unfortunately, my “fun” job ended up being nothing in comparison to what some of my other family members started to put together. My two brothers that skipped college, they joined the carpentry union together. Within a year or two they’ll have more money than they could ever need as single men. All of my cousins took up factory jobs and started paying child support. Word was that they were evening going to try and work things out with the mothers so that they can be apart of the kids’ lives.
The half sister with three kids – she landed a job in hospital administration. It’s just a entry level position, but it will make good enough money that she will be able take care of herself without much help from the rest of the family. To top all of the great news off, though, my half-brother just recently announced his engagement to a wealthy politician’s daughter and that he’d finally opted for the college course and would be starting in the fall to become a teacher.
All of this positive progression made my bar manager job look like shit.
And don’t get me wrong, I was extremely happy for them. Figuring yourself out and getting your life straight is a fantastic feeling. That’s how I felt after I started working as a manager at a bar I loved visiting with my friends. There is no part of me that would want to deny my siblings and cousins this opportunity to finally feel as though they fit into a puzzle.
But we do family reunions every three months – just so that everyone can stay in touch, you know? There are so many of us to keep track of anymore that it is just easier to do it that way. So every three months on the third Wednesday – everyone meets up at my folks’ home to dine and drink the night away. Generally, I always made the drinks for the obvious reason. It was my specialty – the thing everyone bragged about me doing for so many years.
The last three times, though, my father asked that I stop doing a mini bar. Everyone started to bring a personal pick of poison. Everyone, in turn, got drunk faster with those rarity favorites. I was attentive to the people whom were lightweights and those whom needed some loosening up. I always adjusted my drinks to fit the drinker – the sign of an incredibly thoughtful bartender, I believe very firmly. Anyway, with everyone getting drunker faster – truths came out more frequently.
The truths were never the problem, they were just things people used to say in the quiet of their own homes. It never really caused drama. Sobriety was something of my super power. For someone who makes drinks for a living, I really don’t ever drink in excess. So I had been sipping away on my soda pop, because I want to be available if anyone needed a ride home, and then my father walked up to me with a stern look and a slur in his voice…
“Put the drink down, son. Don’t you waste enough of your life on alcohol? You’re just a bartender. You don’t do anything with your life except order alcohol, make alcohol, and drink alcohol. How do you hide your addiction so well for such a fuck up?” I pretended he didn’t say it at first because drunk people can say some really shitty things. Nobody else had heard it because I’d been in the kitchen alone when he stumbled by to condemn my life choices. I’d gone to there for the silence because sometimes things just get too rowdy for me to think straight. As someone working in a pub – I frequently attested that there is never a quiet moment. There’s always someone drunkenly mumbling about the sorrows of life. When it’s not drunkards at the counter it’s vendors on the phone.
Within a week, though, my dad called me up and claimed that he felt bad for what he said that night. Then he explained why he said it – how he worried that he’ll have a son who isn’t capable of caring for himself in the future. He grumbled on about how being a bartender would provide me with no savings – how being a manager at a bar wouldn’t do anything for someone who will want to retire someday. I knew he was sober this time because he’d called earlier in the afternoon, likely when he’d gotten off work, which made his stupidity completely inexcusable this time.
For years he boasted alongside my mother about how I’d kept a steady job when none of the others could manage anything reliable. He showed off to anyone that would listen about me being a manager for a pub (which really is a nicer setting than your run of the mill bar – it has more of a homey and lounge sort of experience). I should have known when he stopped calling it a ‘pub’ that he’d stopped acknowledging my life as an actual success. Still, by the end of the phone call I was writhing mad with his impudence.
In fact, I was so mad that I called a bartender in to cover the hours I’d normally work. I left my office and told the crew I’d be in my apartment if they needed me for anything. Typically, they never need me. It’s not that my role is not important but rarely do the patrons of bars need to speak to a manager. On a normal night, those that need to see me usually just need to stop drinking and go home.
So I sat in my home office for a few hours staring at my business cards, staring at my associate degree, staring at the printed reviews of the pub. I’d done the owner proud and reaped so many benefits from this job. It wasn’t even just a job to me, it was a career, and it was high time that everyone around me started to acknowledge that as my reality.
It took me a few more hours, but I eventually realized that it was time for a bold change. It wasn’t to prove my family wrong but to prove to myself that I don’t need the people that would so easily change from supporting to judging me. I deserved to have something all my own that made me proud of myself. Running a pub in the same town as my family would never suffice that goal I’d laid out. I would always be compared and criticized for the work that I do in the restaurant industry. In the alcohol industry, as my father would have proclaimed with malice.
And that’s when I did it.
That’s when I wrote a business proposal for a new bar lounge – Red Revenge. It took me a few months to figure out where I wanted to go with this idea, but when I finally got an investor and found a good location? Everything fell into place perfectly. I guess I didn’t expect it to be so easy. Luckily, my regular patrons loved the idea and pulled some strings to get my through some hard-to-open doors. Turns out that the people that really cared about my future are the ones that showed up when I needed a hand to hold.
Funny how life works like that, huh?
Now I operate a successful bar lounge about sixty miles away from my hometown. A lot of my old patrons bring their friends out of town every other month or so just to treat them to my wonderful service. I keep a relatively low profile – dressing and acting no differently than I ever did before when I was just a manager. A lot of my new patrons don’t realize I’m the owner, which has been a great way to see what is and is not working for my business.
The support has been overwhelming, as has the constant social media exposure. Many reputable websites are naming my business as an up-and-coming hot spot for the area. I’ve even seen some critics suggest that I branch out when revenue starts topping out. I’d never considered that until recently when I saw just how much money the bar is raking in on a daily basis. Maybe someday I can make it a franchise – but that’s a long ways away.
For now, Red Revenge a popular place for dates. I love watching people come here to fall in love. Even better than that is when a couple has been together for years and they come here to reconnect. Red Revenge is a great place to be to get back at life for trying to always bring us down. Maybe I don’t keep in touch with my family these days, but that’s why I called the lounge ‘Red Revenge’ in the first place. It’s my “fuck you” statement to my family. They thought I couldn’t make a career out of serving people drinks they actually want and that I couldn’t make enough money to generate retirement savings. What I’ve done here has quietly proven them wrong. I don’t need their emotional support now that I’m successful – very similarly to the rest of my siblings and cousins. I’m not even bitter, because I recognize that they weren’t there for me when I stopped being the star kid. They didn’t encourage me, but rather kicked me when I wasn’t even down yet.
At least they kicked me through the right door, otherwise I wouldn’t have found the piece of me that I never knew I was missing.