Category Archives: Helpful(ish) Advice

Rookie Bar Gaffes to Avoid

Watching the latest Game of Thrones season (I’m not going to expound on GoT. It’s just a TV show), my boyfriend pointed out how much Bran-as-Three-Eyed-Raven sounds like all of us after our first year of college. That I’ve been out in the world, I’ve learnt things about philosophy and hidden histories and now I can enlighten all you old people aura of smugness. We have all been guilty at one point or another of “schooling” an elder on the reality of things.

This reminds me of what it was like to be a craft bartender the first few months after training. Six weeks of memorizing drink recipes and scribbling tasting notes about spirits and all of a sudden I KNEW EVERYTHING, and I wanted to drop this wisdom in every bar I graced with my presence.

Ugh, the memories of trying to order a Bijou from some hotel pool bar, then trying to walk the flippant woman behind the stick through an inevitably wretched concoction. That was the start of a realization, that just because I made fancy-pants cocktails didn’t mean I could expect everyone else to make them for me, or be grateful for my definitely-not-annoying schooling.*

As time went on and I spent more time behind my own bar, I learned more about what it meant to be a good customer.  I’m all on the side of capital-H Hospitality, here, and definitely don’t think a guest at a bar should be eye-rolled or belittled, but if you’re in the industry, you should hold yourself to a higher standard than civilians. Here are some of the most annoying things bartenders do to one another, trying to show off how in-the-know they are. I state these in full knowledge that I may have perpetrated any number of them over the past five years.  Continue reading


Two Random Things and a Drink Recipe

Most of the media output here on the webs makes me want to put my face in a pillow and wail. So here are some things that soothe me, here in the age of anger.

Podcasts of smart/funny women talking.
There are differing opinions on how to subdivide podcast genres, but I like to think of them in two major groups: the people talking kind–which includes interview, monologue, and co-hosted shows a la WTF, Bill Burr’s podcast, and For Colored Nerds, respectively, and the narrative kind, like NPR’s empire of podcast/radio shows. I separate these by their use of sound effects and different storytelling techniques. I usually gravitate toward the narrative kinds, but lately a couple of talkies have me hooked. Specifically: Call Your Girlfriend and Los Feliz, the Podcast. There’s something entirely edifying about listening to smart and funny women talking together. That is all.


David Chang coming to LA!
We’re ready, booboo.  I know this isn’t going to happen, but I have a fantasy of him opening up shop in Far East Plaza down the aisle from BaoHaus and Chego! and Howlin’ Ray’s so he and Eddie and Roy and Johnny Ray can just bro out at a picnic table sometimes. Or that this would be a sitcom. Also I wish there were some lady chefs there, now that I’m writing this.

For summertime, try this drink I made up:

Ruby Jane
3 ripe strawberries
1 pinch cilantro
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz sugar or agave syrup
2 oz aged cachaça
2 dashes rhubarb bitters

I named it after my niece. She’s bright, sweet, and funky, too. Muddle, shake and dump into a bucket glass and drink it.

Rhubarb bitters are more versatile than you might imagine. They have a nice halfway flavor between fruity and vegetal/herbal. Those and celery bitters are dark horses. Celery bitters can surprisingly liven up just about anything. It’s the msg of cocktail flavorings. Underrated and unjustly maligned.

Are you a person who hates cilantro, that most divisive of leaves? Try mint, I guess. Or make something else. We frown upon substitutions.

30-year-old Wisdom for 20-year-olds

Dear friends and cousins born in the 90s,

Congratulations on graduating high school. As you look forward to starting college or career during the greatest economic uncertainty anyone but your great-grandparents can remember, it’s got to be a little daunting.

Some people would lump you and I into the same generation group, but we both know that there are some irreconcilable differences in our experiences. I ironically listened to the Sex Pistols in high school, you ironically listened to Journey.  My parents were just starting to dabble in attentive child-rearing in their post-hippie 1980s lives; you were most tightly scheduled, supervised kid on the block. We both grew up with the Internet at home, but your devices are smaller, cooler and more adaptable.

No matter.  There are still many, many things I feel qualified to tell you about, advice I wish someone would have given me when I was striking out into this crazy-changing world with no life experience to back me up.  I don’t know if it will help, but in the words of Uncle Bill, I’d like to offer a few simple admonitions for young and old.

1. When moving to a new place don’t become romantically involved within the first ten days. Particularly with anyone you share a laundry room with.

2. Casual sex is exciting, and not always a terrible idea, but don’t do it with anyone too annoying to eat breakfast with. Sleeping with someone you don’t even like makes you a jerk, can get you a stalker. Which sounds glamorous but is actually no fun.

3. Get used to using condoms and don’t wait to be asked.  I know the sex ed you received consisted of some nuns showing you barbie dolls with fake HPV lesions drawn on them with red sharpie chanting “bad! bad! bad!” but condoms really do work for most things.

4. Respectable drug dealers should be named after an insect or arachnid. Distrust pushers named “Brad.” Try out new substances in the comfort of your home. Stay away from opiates as a general rule. If you start craving something, stop immediately, seek assistance.

5. If you are compelled to use or drink before going to work/class, you officially have a problem. Shotgunning booze with water will not make you less drunk, will save your head in the morning. If you’re contemplating cheap tequila, you’re already over the line.

6. Go to class. It’s hard, nobody is breathing down your neck anymore, but self-discipline is one of those things you have to train for.  Might as well start now before you’re sucking away your sick days having Ferris Bueller moments at 26.

7. Get a credit card but don’t use it.  Purchase one pint of ice cream with it per month and pay the balance off entirely. Do this for as long as you can hold out without accruing revolving debt. Hide it somewhere you won’t remember when you’re drunk. Good credit history is more valuable than actual dollars when it’s time to apply to graduate school.

8. The best cure for drama is work. Heartbreak, turmoil, frenemies gone wild? Masturbation addiction? Get to work. Write that paper, do your reading, clock into your double shift at the Home Depot. Just keep going. You’ll make money and it’ll help you move on.

9. Do not believe people who say you can sleep when you’re dead. This is false.

10.  These are not the Best Years of Your Life. No amount of money in the world could induce me to relive ages 18-25. You’re still not really sure of what you really want to do, what you actually want out of life, what you’re capable of.  You look to others for examples and guidance, but nobody can really tell you because everything from media consumption to job skills is excruciatingly individual now. The only thing you can do is hold onto your friends and keep working.

Believe me, though: it’s so worth it. Nobody ever told me how much more interesting and fun it is to be an adult than to be a child. Sure, you have to worry about rent, health insurance, your carbon footprint, surviving in the decline of an empire. But once you figure out how to cover the basics there’s this amazing freedom in taking care of yourself. You need to be responsible, sure, but that includes the responsibility of making yourself pancakes for dinner or having sleepovers whenever you damn well feel like it.

Being a grownup is an excellent and wonderful thing. I know you’ll make the best of it.



So You’ve Decided to Join AmeriCorps…

At a family function last month, I discovered that 3 of my newly college-graduated cousins are going into the AmeriCorps program this fall, as these seem to be the only jobs available to them. I’ve been noticing lately that things I’ve been doing for years — e.g., being a huge cheapskate — are cropping up as novel and chic tips in fashion magazines and morning shows like crazy this year. I knew, knew, knew, deep down, that I was a trend-setter; living in poverty loooong before living in poverty was cool!

So it comes as no surprise that something I did 5 years ago – accept a $10K per year stipend to be a glorified admin-assistant at a Manhattan non-profit in exchange for flexible work requirements and government health insurance – is suddenly becoming fashionable.I’ve gotten flack in the past for perhaps being a touch jaded about all this National Community Service stuff. But I’m not necessarily alone in my criticism here, check out what the Chronicle of Philanthropy** has to say:

“While some AmeriCorps programs, like Teach for America, can demonstrate real results, others are less effective because they operate through thousands of different nonprofit groups that each set their own requirements and do little evaluation.”

Heck. Effing. Yes. The reporting I did for my AmeriCorps job was generally based in fact, sort of. But not really. And not enough to bring any of us volunteers any sense that we were accomplishing our “program goals.” Boo.

BUT, not to be a total wet blanket, I will support my underemployed kin in their impending vocations. I’ve even compiled a short list of tips and tricks to help you through your year of “service.”*

1. Don’t move out.
I know the whole reason you went to college and subsequently looked for employment was so that you could fly from your parents’ house at top speed. I know nothing would have enticed me to move back in with them when I was 21. But honestly, I’ve never been all that smart about these practical things.

The most happy/successful VISTAs I knew were the ones that lived with their parents or spouses. Unless your program is offering you housing, or you live in a place where rent is cheaper than food, you really, really need to think about sticking the year out at Mom & Dad’s place. For example: a 2-3 bedroom apartment share in a public-transport-accessible area of NYC goes for a monthly rent of typically no less than $600 per person. Probably more like $700 or $800 if you want a closet or full-sized bed. I’ve been told the “living allowance” is now up to $900 a month. If this doesn’t give you pause to renting, read on.

2. Remember hidden costs
As of this month, an unlimited monthly metrocard will cost $89. Your cell phone, I’m betting, will be between $40 and $80, if you’re not using a Smartphone, which I hear lots of the kids are doing nowadays. Also, unless you are really eager to take full advantage of of their unlimited mental health coverage, I would suggest you get Internet access. Asking a Millennial to live without Internet is like asking a pot-head to live without Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robins. It ain’t pretty. Let’s be generous and think that this could be around $30 a month. What’s the tally up to? 200 bucks. If your apartment is 700 that’s your entire paycheck, and you haven’t bought any food yet.

3. I’ve said it before: Never take your credit card to a bar. Try this instead.

4. Food Stamps. Even though your shouldn’t need to, for gods’ sake.
I know they tell you at orientation that you can apply for them, but REALLY? Isn’t that kind of taking funds from the populations you are attempting to serve? But yeah, off-setting your food costs will help a lot.***

5. Clothing Swaps, thrift stores, duh. It’s still New York. You still want to look good. Luckily that ain’t hard to do if you put a little thought into it.

6. Use that AmeriCorps ID as a student ID wherever you go and don’t let anyone tell you it ain’t valid! One of the hardest things about “serving” in a city like this is that you are surrounded by people with money, taunted by the amazing things you could be doing if you could afford it. So go see art films, go to shows, look at paintings in museums. Milk that sort-of-student identity as much as you can, because having mind-blowing cultural experiences will take your mind off how hungry you are.

7. Use those medical benefits, use ’em like you are going to contract something horrible tomorrow. The pace Congress is going, you may not have any for a while after you finish your year.

There is so much more, and so many other diatribes about how to live on the cheap. But I guess my best advice (besides not moving out, seriously) is to remember it is only temporary. And don’t be afraid to ask your cousins to feed you from time to time. We know how it is.

*And by service, I mean “hopefully not disillusionment and angst, but probably both of these things.”
**Yeah I read the trades. I’m a professional, bitches!
***I, unfortunately, used up my “I’m was at the foodstamps office” excuse one day to be 3 hours late to work after a night of furious, depression-fueled drinking (for free, mind you). So I guess don’t do that.


Oh where have you been?? You may, possibly, or probably not been asking. Well I’ll tell you.

There's me head


I went to the Grand Canyon. For the second time. With my family. Because we go backpacking every year and my Dad is a bit obsessed with the ol’ Hole in the Ground.

In the spirit of helpfulness, here are my reflections for anyone looking to embark on similar endeavor for the first time.*

In telling a new person about your upcoming backpacking trip, be prepared for their raised eyebrows. I was well into my college years by the time I figured out this was not something normal people did, at least outside of the Boy/Girl Scouts. Regular people go on vacation to lie on a beach, ride roller coasters, take awkward photos in semi-foreign cities or boring historical sites. But my father put the bug into us all very young with the wilderness vacations; 4 days every year in the Adirondacks at 8-10 years old, a week in the White Mountains in Junior High and the grand poobah trips to Yosemite, the Olympics and the Grand Canyon after high school graduation, when we were old enough to know that whining is embarrassing.

Whether you are raised to it, trying it for a lark or to prove our hippie credentials, be prepared for the following questions:

1. You’re not going to shower for 5 days? Like, not at all? (No, but there’s a river…)
2. Aren’t there wild animals out there? (Only ravens. Oh, and rattlesnakes. And maybe grizzly bears…)
3. So are there, like, bathrooms along the trail? (Umm…)

This last question should be handled with utmost delicacy if you are talking to your coworkers or someone you are trying to date. Some camp sites have outhouses. So you might want to tell your acquaintances about the privies and keep the real truth to yourself, so that they don’t carry with them the image of you digging a hole to squat over for the rest of the week.

Herein lies the least glamorous part of the wilderness adventure. The part they leave out of the epic novels you read as a child. Gandalf never, ever turns to the rest of the Fellowship to say “Boromir, can I have the trowel and toilet paper? I knew you were using it last. You guys keep on, I’ll catch up.” Another reason why you might not want to take the trip with people you are trying to impress.

On the flip side, one of the best things about being in nature is it does not matter if you fart, since so many things in nature already smell like fart. Additionally it is nice that you do not need to pay for anything since there are no stores in the wilderness. This is especially true if, like me, you are chronically unable to plan your own vacations and always wind up tagging along with your Dad. Then you may not have to pay for anything from the moment you get off the plane. (Yay for Dads!)

Dehydrated dinners are practical for keeping the weight of your pack downe. When shopping for your food provisions, please remember that while some dishes, like, say “Kathmandu Curry” or “Santa Fe Chicken and Rice” might sound appetizing on the labels, they are likely to rehydrate into “brown mush” or “orange mush (with lentils).” I suggest keeping it simple and staying away from geographically-specific dishes.

On the flip side, oatmeal never tasted so good as when you are ravenous and drinking iodinized river water.

Finally, be aware that without your phone, texting, emails, makeup, mirrors, headphones, tv, annoying strangers or anyone outside of your party to distract you, the truth of your smelly humanity and the real contents of your brain can get right up in your freaking face. And that can be difficult. But ultimately, between the silence and the vastness and the stink, I’m delighted to be there. Very weird.

But then again, nobody said we were normal people.

*Seasoned travelers, feel free to poke holes in my above statements all you want**. This schpiel specifically applies to short-term hiking jaunts in national parks; not sustained backpacking around, say, continents. I’ve actually never ventured to do that, because while I have no problem digging a hole to poo in in the middle of nowhere, I have a chronic fear of public showers, and other people in general.

**…On your own blogs.