Age: 33 | Location: Las Vegas, USA
A few weeks ago, for the first time in over two decades, The Bartender put on rollerskates.
‘This place nearby did a thirties and over night so we rented some skates. I hadn't been on skates for what felt like my entire life. I fell like one time, which is great. It's so funny looking back at when you were a kid and you thought you were invincible. You know, whatever bodily harm came your way, you’d just recover so quickly. Now as an adult those things are a deep consideration of do I have insurance for this? Do I have the ability to take off time work?’
Living in Vegas, there's endless dangers and adventures. Most are a little more exciting than rollerskating, he admits.
I've actually been once, to Vegas, I tell him, but since I was only thirteen I wasn't allowed to see any of the real highlights. Instead, I visited the Pinball Hall of Fame.
‘That's a really cool exhibit, actually. It's fun.’
The Bartender loves his city, and his state, but it’s not the only place in the world he could picture himself living.
‘I love Las Vegas, just from a professional standpoint, but coastal Europe is amazing. There's a certain feeling in Europe, especially Italy in particular, that I've really enjoyed. Life is just a lot slower. So if cost was no object, family could come visit whenever they wanted, I think living there would be amazing.’
Behind him, there's a row of glass bottles lined up against the wall, in all sorts of colours with all sorts of funky labels. I can't tell whether they're full of liquor or just favourites that he's choosing to display.
I also notice what he's wearing: an all-American baseball cap and a short sleeve t-shirt with a Ford Bronco printed on the front.
‘It's my dream to have a vintage Bronco. There's a few companies that actually find models and then they add beautiful finishes to them. I've been looking on marketplaces and thinking what if I just buy one and then fix it up? But even ones that are rusted are like thirty grand.’
Money is something which fixates The Bartender, much more than he’d like.
‘Living in the US and growing up in the generation that I did, we were kind of pressured into going to college at the time the cost skyrocketed. And because I wasn't like the perfect student, I wasn't awarded any scholarships, any great financial aid. I kind of felt like I was rushed into making the decision. I mean, I'm grateful for the experience because I believe it's built work ethic and appreciation for education. But I wish I wouldn't have taken out the amount of loans that I have.'
'I wish I’d realised sooner that the piece of paper that I got didn't mean as much as I thought it would.’
It was 2008 when The Bartender was in college, just at the time of the housing market crash.
‘I watched my parents more or less regress in terms of like, ‘financial success’. And it did drive them apart. They're not together anymore. But I'm proud of them, for, you know, showing what being human and being an adult really was. All the shit that we bury ourselves in.'
'I'm like man, I want to feel like human life is more than just trying to make money and pay bills.’
But his job goes some of the way towards doing this. He loves what he does, especially getting to connect with people day in, day out.
‘You know, most people are coming to a bar after their work shift, coming to celebrate something or to take a break mentally from their life and just enjoy space with other people. I've always seen this job as one of the best in the world. Because you're a host to a party every day. And you get to meet, especially in a city like Las Vegas, people from all over the world.’
I want his opinion on the Hollywood stereotype of bartenders: stood behind a dark mahogany counter-top, towel over one shoulder, sliding a glass over to the lonely soul sat on the other side of the bar and offering them the solutions to all their problems. Is he ever expected to act like the therapist in the way films make it seem?
‘Of course. Therapists will often just pose questions and let the person talk so that they can kind of work through it themselves, and there have definitely been moments where people just needed to get something off their chest. I've had regulars who have had traumatic things happen to them. I had one woman who lost her daughter and she was distraught and this was where she came just after she found out, because she needed a place to be. Those moments are difficult, but also it's special in a way because it's like, man, they trust you to at least provide a space where they can feel comfortable in a moment of pain.’
Even The Bartender himself has moments of vulnerability.
‘Nowadays most people look at me and they’re like man, you are crushing it. You are so confident. And I look at them, I'm like, you're out of your fucking mind, right?'
'I've been putting in so much work to make sure that I get over the inner voice in me telling me that I'm not good enough.'
I wonder whether his relationship with alcohol has changed because of how much he's around it. I imagine it's easy to fall into drinking too much too often when he spends most of his waking hours with a bottle in his hand.
‘I've been doing this since I turned twenty, so how much I drink now versus how I used to drink then is definitely a drastic change. There are plenty of weeks where I barely have a drink. Honestly, being around adults all the time who don't have that control, it just makes me, not necessarily uncomfortable, but it's like I look at that and I just... it's not for me.'
That being said, The Bartender loves cocktails just as much as you would expect.
His favourite? A classic daiquiri.
‘It's the perfect simple cocktail: rum, lime and sugar.’