I'm starting to think I should just have a tag called "last shifts" at this point. I seem to find myself at them quite a bit. But can you blame me? Who can say no to hanging out on a bartender's last shift, especially ones that promise to be epic.
When Nicholas Jarrett put out the APB on Facebook that he would be fully committing to working in New York and was cordially inviting folks to come down for his last shift at The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co., I instantly thought, "Weeeeeeelllllll...it is just a bus ride away..."
Two problems. Actually, more like a one problem that manifested itself in two parts. Due to the fact that this last shift was on a Tuesday, it meant that not only did I have to leave work slightly early to make a bus ride down there in enough time to get my time and money's worth of drinking, but also I had to be at work Wednesday morning.
I asked Nick if I was insane in thinking this, figuring he'd have some level-headed insight from two years of doing this exact commute. Instead, the answer I got was, "It's a once in a lifetime thing. It's going to be... something else."
Well, damn. I had to go if he was going to put it that way.
So after a brief period of agonizing and a lot of soul (and Priceline, Bolt Bus, Hotwire...etc.) searching I informed Mr. Jarrett that I would be in attendance with a simple, "Oh, shit, bus tickets have been bought."
What followed was quite possibly the most terrifyingly awesome 5-6 hours I have ever spent in a bar. For one thing, for anyone who's been down to the Franklin, it's not a huge space. The bar is even smaller. EVERYONE WAS STANDING IN FRONT OF IT. There was a smattering of folks sitting at the little tables, but I haven't felt that sort of crowd crush since...um...it's a tie between that time I saw Gogol Bordello at Terminal Five, and I'd say every Les Savy Fav show I've been to.
There was a strong New York contingent representing. It was kind of like a Boy Scouts jamboree, but, you know, bringing bartenders together. And I don't mean just people drinking, I mean folks behind the bar. Because, you see, apparently when Nick Jarrett works a last shift, he doesn't simply just work, he gets guest bartenders.
I waltzed blindly into the middle of this maelstrom close to 9 pm after my bus driver managed to get lost. Someone asked who the other guy at the bar was and I turned to see Brad Farran working behind the bar along with Jessica Gonzalez.
A quick sweep of the bar area and already I was spotting Frank Cisernos, Jason Littrell, Eryn Reece and Tonia Guffey, who hopped behind the bar with Damon Dyer. I was also running into people I'd met at Tales like Jonathan Armstrong as well as finally getting to introduce myself to Maksym Pazuniak.
For anybody following me on Twitter, pretty much the rest of the evening was a blur. I wish I could be all professional and say "Oh, hey, guys. Here are some totally awesome drinks that I tasted. And, gee, wow, it was just so enlightening having all these bartenders in one place showing off their expertise and I was just simply honored to be there..."
This isn't one of those classy posts with edifying details.
Throughout the evening I noticed some of the bartender folks had little marks on the inside of their forearms. The ticks made by Sharpies corresponded to the number of shots taken by the individual throughout the evening. I really don't know how anybody was standing at the end of the evening.
When Nick called last call and the house lights came up it still took a good couple of minutes clearning everyone out of the place. While some people tottered off to the next portion of the evening, I had to call it a night. There was no way I was surviving a full day at the office without getting some sort of shut eyes.
As the crowd reluctantly dispersed out into the evening, a somewhat miraculously (and just barely) standing Mr. Jarrett also stumbled out.
I wasn't really seeing him off or anything since I could just see him in Brooklyn, so I wasn't sure how to say bye besides, "Sooo, yea, I guess I'll see you in Brooklyn?"
As he was about to be be folded into a taxi Nick made the effort to turn to me and declare as best he could, "I told you...it'd be a once in a lifetime thing."