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(Scroll down the blog a piece for 'Bourbon Street pt.1: The Big Game')

Following my first real shift bartending on Bourbon Street, I got canned.

Over the weekend, my new boss had rushed me through three, three-hour training sessions (pay: $20 a shift, no tips) to ready me for the surely-lucrative Ohio State vs LSU game on Monday. At the end of those long short-shifts filling beer bongs for crosseyed-drunk Ohio State meatheads -- then waiting for hours into the night for my managers to cut me checks for $20 for gas money tomorrow -- I then declared to my new boss, “I am ready to make some money Monday!”

“No way man,” my amnesiac boss responded. “I got bartenders been working here all year waiting for this shift. You gotta stick around here a while and earn the good shifts.”

Crappy. But not strange. Who can you really trust on Bourbon Street? This particular bar is famous for Jaeger bombs, yet uses fake Jaeger in a green plastic bottle branded with a variation on the Jaeger logo. But because I wanted to bartend Bourbon through Mardi Gras -- to save up and move away from New Orleans for a while -- I flowed with their b.s. Let the bad times roll.

In answer to my earlier question though: luckily you can’t trust anyone on Bourbon; when some irascible bartender showed up absent Monday, my new boss turned to me to work the big game.

Of course the bar was packed. Oddly, not one red jersey in the house Monday night, after a weekend of servicing only out-of-towners. Still, we sold a lot of fake-Jaeger bombs. Rather than meathead rock jams (Kurt Cobain howls in his grave when they hit the eight-funnel beer bong to, ‘Heartshaped Box’), the girl with whom I bartended blasted Morning 40 Federation, and we got along fine. Twas also her idea to tell the LSU fans that the beer-bong was broken, sorry. Though packed, the bar wasn’t necessarily busy; all eyes fixed on LSU, people often forgot to drink between commercials. From behind the bar, I watched the people watching the screen more than I watched the game. I caught only one or two drunk youngsters in the crowd fading, falling out, their crossed eyes closing. Some wasted young man with his parent’s black credit card ordered, “The most expensive pitcher of beer you have! Whatever it is, I want it!” I tried to talk him out of it, but in the end he laid down $60 for a pitcher of fruity Framboise -- tasty stuff, that jocks would just hate. “Fag beer,” his friends called it. It being my first night, I turned down many offers of shots, as well as requests for free drinks. But an incredibly gorgeous skinny blonde girl with drawn-on eyebrows, who admitted to being a Louisiana Republican, did drag me into the beer cooler to smoke something funny smelling. All in all, the night was fascinating, anthropological fun. An exploration on another planet from mine.

LSU won, I think, by a lot. But the purple-and-yellow crowd had been drinking since 9 a.m. and were pretty much done. So around 3:45 a.m. I found myself wiping down the silent, empty dirty-as-hell bar -- thankfully I was not in charge of the bathroom, or its sink full of puke like catfood.

Finished, I sat and waited three hours for the manager to come around from another location, and cash me out. When he hadn’t arrived by 5:15 a.m., I walked outside and sat on some slimy steps. Bourbon was down to its dregs, it's last few zombie stumblers framed in walls of hot-colored lights. Near sunrise, after a huge cheesy party, Bourbon is an amazing sight -- especially if you happen to be, by some miracle, sober (the most twisted state to be in right now), Bourbon looks like one huge dying flame, menacing and beautiful, all alone now, puking only on itself.

As I relished the strange, sublime scene, along comes Jude Matthews -- Gambit cartoonist Bunny Matthew’s son -- and Matt Russell, former lead singer of black metal band, Mangina. “What the hell are you doing here Welch?” they ask.

“What the hell are y’all doing here.”

They do not believe that I work here. They think I’m drunk on the steps. None of us should be here. They walk on up the street a block, and run into famous one-man-band Quintron sitting on his bicycle, just people-watching. Hipsters dog Bourbon, but no one can stay away completely.

Finally my manger arrives. Throughout the night, he’d commented on how organized I seemed, how experienced, what I good worker I was, “And we definitely need good workers, with all the half-asses we get on Bourbon…” But damned if he didn’t count my drawer at the end of the night and find me $60 short. I immediately thought of the Framboise yuppie kid. But I’d definitely paid close attention ringing that up. I’d paid close attention to everything; it wasn’t busy enough to confuse me. And I didn’t even drink. This was impossible.

The manager assured me it was not impossible while counting my money again. In the end I had to forfeit $60 out of my $200 in tips.

“Well, I still owe you $40 in shift pay,” the stoic manger noted. He told me to wait while he ran and got that check for me. “I’ll be back in about an hour,” he said. He seemed surprised I couldn’t wait until 6:30 a.m. He locked the door for the night and I rode my bike home.

The next day I rode back for said shift-pay check -- plus another surprise check for credit card tips: $60! Thus solving the mystery of last night’s missing money. The manager who’d trained me had instructed me to continuously take money out of the register for my credit card tips. But solving this mystery didn’t save me… “I hate to do this to you,” this other manager said, “especially now that we know this wasn’t all your fault…”

“It was not my fault at…”

“Still,” he interrupted, “We’re going to have to let you go.”

It usually hurts to get fired. But the upside to this one was so shiny that I pedaled back home, not at all depressed. And thus ends the saga of Bourbon Street. Or at least my tiny part.


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