After hearing there was good money to be made working in Irish bars, I went on a mission to find a cool Irish Bar to work in. For about three weeks, I hit the streets with introduction letters and resumes showing all my bartending skills etc. I visited lots of different Irish bars in the city, but ended up narrowing the job search down to one bar in the financial district called “The Irish Bank.” It was a cool Irish bar that was super busy with young bankers and up and coming tech guys. With some persistence, I ended up getting a job there as a bar back (picking up glasses and making sure the bar was fully stocked at all times). I was prepared to do anything just to get my foot in the door.
When I came in for my first day of work, I got formally introduced to three bartenders, all from Ireland: Eamon from Kerry, Kevin from Donegal and a guy called Dahi from Armagh in the North of Ireland. That name sounded familiar so I asked Dahi where in Armagh he was from, not that I had ever been to Armagh. He said “Blackwater Town” and gave me a funny look, as if to say “What do you know about Armagh?” Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head and I heard that “twilight zone music.” Then I asked him, “do you know Dermy Finn?” This really threw him off. “How the fuck do you know Dermy Finn?” he said all serious. I then told him the story of how Dermy and I worked together on a building site in Australia and him telling me about San Francisco and the Burning Man etc... Here I was on the other side of the planet just by chance running into the guy my friend in Australia was telling me about. Pretty crazy to say the least!!!
I started working Friday and Saturday nights collecting glasses and within a few months I was working four to five nights a week bartending making decent money and at last saving a few dollars again. I loved it. Bartending in the U.S. is way different than bartending anywhere else. In the States, it’s all about being social, friendly and taking care of your customers and in turn, they tip you out well. In most other countries when working in a bar, it’s about dishing out as much drink as possible as quickly as possible. Customer service is not always the best -- in fact, it’s usually shit. But I guess when you’re relying on tips, you have no choice but to be personable, which I gotta admit came pretty natural to me.
There was a real good group of us working in the Irish bank. I used to work with a crazy girl called Melissa. Melissa was so much fun to work with. She was stone mad. She had a husky voice and was a hardcore drinker and smoker. We used to work some day shifts together. She was waitressing and I was bartending. We’d usually both come in a bit hungover and we’d start the day off with a few shots. Melissa would set up her tables in the restaurant and then come back into the bar, grab a bottle of bud and another shot, and put the craziest heavy metal tunes on in the jukebox, like “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. This was on a Tuesday afternoon at lunch time. We had people from all walks of life coming into the Irish Bank. That’s what was so cool about it. Every week like clockwork for about six months a lunatic called Kenneth (Crazy Kenny) used to come into the bar every week to visit us. He’d also put the craziest music in the jukebox and start dancing next to it as if it was last orders on a Saturday night. And Melissa would join him. It was hilarious. The business folks who came in for lunch didn’t know what to make of it. Some would laugh and some would frown. Kenneth used to tip me really well so, of course, I used to give him double shots. Then Jacques (The Manager) came in one day for some lunch on his day off and asked Kenneth to relax. Kenneth got all pissed off saying that he paid for the songs in the jukebox and was entitled to dance beside it. So Jacques fucked him out and barred him from the Bank (or as they say in the States, 86ed him).
Then, on the other side of the scale, we’d have some young executives from PayPal. I remember one guy in particular: Jack Selby. He used to tip really well. I asked him one night what he did for a living and he said he was out of work right now and wasn’t sure if he was going to go back. He was 29 and had the option of never working again. Now, that’s pretty fucken cool and inspirational.
Not only did I get a new job that I loved, I also got a new place to live. Dahi had a spare room in his house and offered it to me, Thank God. The hostel was getting a bit out of hand and it was time to move on. Dahi, his brother Mark and their friend Austy, all lived together in an apartment in the heart of Haight Ashbury. It was pretty wild to say the least. There was no shortage of people to go out on the town with. Sundays and Mondays were my weekend. So Austy and I would do a pub crawl every Monday day even though he was meant to be in working on the building site. He’d usually go back to work late on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning. We had some fun times on those Monday afternoon sessions in Haight Street. Through Dahi, I got introduced to a whole new group of friends -- a lot from the North of Ireland through his football team and a lot of people in the bar and nightclub scene. He was like an older brother to me and had no problem putting me straight when I got out of hand.
The two of us would work Saturday nights together and instead of having me just collect glasses doing the bar back work (as my job was) he’d let me bartend and split the tips with me 50/50 which was pretty cool. A lot of bartenders and waiters from all the other bars and restaurants downtown used to drink in our bar. It was unreal. We used to look after the other industry folks pretty well -- these guys would tip the best. Because I worked in the Irish Bank, I could drink for free in nearly all the bars in the downtown area. Once you get into the bar scene and you treat other bar staff well, it can be pretty amazing. Some nights after work we’d make our way up to the StarLight Room a snazzy nightclub on the top floor of the St. Francis Drake Hotel for a lock in. The manager at the time “Billy” used to open up the whole bar and a few of us would sit there till early hours of the morning drinking and chatting while looking out over Union Square.
Dahi was always talking about cool ideas and businesses he was going to start. He was a real go getter and was constantly working on something. When I first met him, he used to hold boat parties on a small boat called the “Angel Island Express.” He used to fill the boat up with booze and put a DJ booth in the corner and hold a rave on the boat for hours cruising around San Francisco Bay. In the beginning, it was all the Irish lads from the Gaelic football team and their friends that would come out to support him. Then slow but sure, he had clubbers from all over the Bay Area coming to party on much bigger boats. The word about his boat parties spread like wildfire. I remember in the beginning, a few of us would go out to Berkeley University with Dahi handing out flyers to students trying to hustle them onto the boat. And then a year later, tickets would sell out in a few days. It was so inspirational to see it grow.
One lesson that I took from this period in my life was, relationships (real relationships) are one of the most valuable things this world has to offer. Make sure to cherish them and appreciate the times together, as you just never know what the future holds.
Till Next Time