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Day 1

Off the plane in San Diego, and ­it’s warm and sunny. Who ­knew?

After two and a half years in Boston, ­I’ve quit my jobs and moved down here. I did this for a lot of reasons, the main one being that there are things I want to do with my life, experiences I want to experience, and ­now’s the time. I am unbound like ­I’ll never be again. ­I’m 26. I have no car, no wife, no kids, mortgage, loans, pets, not even a religion that would preclude me from leaving. If I ­don’t do crazy and random things while I have the chance, I suspect ­I’ll always regret ­it.

So here I am, and ­it’s time to start looking for bartending jobs. My friend Sam is graciously lending me the use of his couch, so expenses are low. I ­don’t think ­it’ll be too hard, but this whole job search is something of a “good news, bad news” ­situation.

The good news is that ­I’ve got about $1500 put away, a solid résumé, and unlike the last time I tried to get a bartending job, I can say ­”I’m good at this” without it being a lie. The bad news is that I am a fairly plain-looking boy in a city where it is notoriously difficult to get a bar job, and ­we’re still in the throes of what is referred to on the news as a “catastrophic global ­recession.”

So ­we’ll ­see.

Day 6

Good Christ. I went to an open interview today for a chain fondue restaurant called the Melting Pot, and I waited for three hours. Apparently, ­I’m not the only one looking for a job right now. My mind had atrophied by the time my name was called, and when the exhausted, uninterested manager asked me what my five strongest attributes were, I said that I was “serious.”

­Serious?

First, no ­I’m not, and second, what the fuck does that even ­mean?

­“I’m no fun ­whatsoever!”

I had forgotten about stock questions. “Since you asked, my biggest weakness seems to be answering dumb ­questions.”

I need to build some canned answers. ­It’s funny — you know immediately when you butcher a question. ­It’s like a test, and ­it’s occurring to me that I need to ­study.

Day 9

I am all things to all people. Fun? Why, ­that’s me! Professional? Of course! Charming, enthusiastic, gay-friendly, whatever. All of it. I swear to God, ­I’d try to convince someone I was black if ­that’s what they were ­after.

I had a great interview today for a tequila bar downtown called El Vitral. I spoke with the bar manager, and I found that for the first time in nine days, I ­didn’t have to lie. As it happens, he has been to my old bar in Cambridge, so he knows what kind of work ­I’ve done, and I am all enthusiasm. ­He’s in his mid-30s and seems very pleasant, despite the fact that ­he’s a sommelier. Sommeliers, on the whole, are professional tools. ­They’re like investment bankers, except that they have ­talent.

That being said, I can learn a lot from this man, and I really want the job. As they share a wall with Petco Park, their business is tied to baseball season, which starts pretty soon. Fingers ­crossed.

Day 12

­I’m starting to suspect that employers take their job postings from an all-purpose mold. Every single one of the 50 or so listings ­I’ve read in the last week uses at least four, and often all five, of these words: professional, flexible, team-player, fun, fast-paced. These are written in sentences laced with gravity, as if to insist that the Linda Vista ­Applebee’s ­doesn’t want just anyone; no, the Linda Vista ­Applebee’s is looking for that one special someone ­who’s driven to excel. And every single job posting, from beginning to end, without exception, emphasizes that they want ­experience.

They often call for this more than once and in all-capital letters. ­“We’re looking for a fun, hard-working, professional, and EXPERIENCED bartender to work in a dusty shack under the 163 Freeway. Talented, flexible applicants only. EXPERIENCE A MUST!!!!!”

Intelligence, drive, and passion take a back seat to the requirement that ­you’ve done this before somewhere else. This yields some interesting conclusions. For one, every single person ­who’s ever waited on you ­must’ve, at some point, lied to get in the door, and then lied again to get to the next level, fine-dining or high-volume or whatever it ­is.

I know I lied when I started, and so did everyone I know. Which ­isn’t that terrible, I guess, because not one of these job postings asks for ­integrity.

Day 13

My sister advised me to go to the nice places first, and ­she’s absolutely right. I might as well try for what I actually want before I go slumming though the dark alleys of craigslist. My searches for mixology or craft-cocktails in this town have had disappointingly limited results — there are about seven places — but at least I was able to knock them all off in two ­days.

No one is hiring, of course, but ­they’ll keep my application “on file.” This is an undisguised euphemism for “no.”

Day 17

While I believe ­I’m good at tending bar, I have shown an incredible proficiency for making hostesses laugh. Sadly, I fear they lack hiring and firing ­power.

Day 21

I’ve been cruising around my new neighborhood, Ocean Beach, for the last few days, filling out applications at every bar I can find. This, I am beginning to realize, is a waste of time. There are a couple of dozen bars in O.B., but a man looking for bar work here is like a man looking for a date at a lesbian nightclub. You feel surrounded by possibilities until the realization slowly sinks in that actually no, no ­you’re ­not.

This neighborhood is the most insular in San Diego, and ­I’m told that aside from random flashes of luck, getting a job here works by (1) lust, (2) nepotism, or (3) both. ­It’s like Hollywood without the money. The ones who ­aren’t gorgeous young women are soggy, middle-aged townies ­who’ve held the same jobs since the Reagan era. ­Where’s liver disease when you need ­it?

Day 23

I was regrouping at a Starbucks downtown when three girls sat down at the table next to me, girls who, by the substance and quality of their ceaseless complaining, betrayed themselves as waitresses. I was trying to tune them out and decide my next move when the leader of the group, a compact and unfriendly teenager, said, “Yeah, but ­we’re desperate for bartenders right now…”

I am a dog who just heard the soft jingle of car keys. I bounce out of my chair, sorry to interrupt, I ­don’t mean to eavesdrop, but where do you ­work?

“Fridays,” she says. “Around the ­corner.”

Four hours later ­I’m holding a glass of scotch, standing in a semicircle with friends and neighbors around a fire pit, watching my unmarked T.G.I. ­Friday’s application bend and catch in a brightening flame. I may be unemployed, but I see no reason to conspire actively for my own ­misery.

Day 28

­I’ve had what I thought were a number of good leads, but I ­haven’t heard from any of ­them.

I was once in a long-distance relationship. ­I’ve made promises to every God I can imagine never to do that again, mostly to avoid feeling the way I feel right now. I get excited when the phone rings and I perk up, only to be let down when ­it’s not a job. ­It’s ­pathetic.

Day 30

I’ve sent out at least four dozen résumés in response to ads on craigslist. ­Here’s the routine: wake up, check craigslist, send résumés to whoever asks. But craigslist is a wasteland. I ­haven’t heard a thing back from any of them, not even a “no thank you.” When I close my eyes, I see craigslist as this enormous funnel, a funnel spanning 570 cities in 50 countries, into which people send their best selves, jobs, wares, things desired and desirable…and it all empties out of a rusty pipe behind the ­shed.

craigslist has helped me exactly as much as if ­I’d spent all that time reading, or sleeping, or doing whippets on a fucking playground. craigslist is the ­worst.

Day 34

I’m starting to internalize this process, which is definitely not a good sign. ­I’m on the bus headed downtown, and I find myself staring at the guy across from me. ­He’s licking chicken grease off his fingers voraciously, with the manic passion of a zealot, and even though he only has one sleeve, I think, ­I’ll bet he has a ­job.

Day 36

The one thing craigslist is good for is the open interviews. Employers need a new bartender, so they send out a call and specify a date and time. You show up ready to talk to someone and find yourself in a room: just you, the employers, and somewhere between 80 and 300 of the most attractive people ­you’ve ever run across in real ­life.

­Today’s “open interview” was for a brand-new high-fashion bar called Quality Social. Instead of talking to applicants in their own building, the owners rented a small conference room in the US Grant, a gorgeous and blisteringly expensive hotel in the heart of downtown. The choice of venue is troubling. So brazen is this waste of money, so asinine their commitment to being seen as trendy and high-class, that ­I’m not sure I even want to work for these people. One step in the door, though, and I realize I ­won’t need to make that ­decision.

I put “open interview” in quotes up there because ­they’re actually not interviews. They have nothing to do with interviews. Instead, two guys dressed like GAP dancers watch us fill out applications. Aside from them, I am the only man in the room — blondes everywhere, a sea of sun-colored hair bouncing slightly as they scribble in their loopy handwriting. ­I’m way outmatched and having trouble fighting the bitterness — I imagine that when these women ­aren’t snorting coke off the toilet-paper racks in nightclub bathrooms, ­they’re competing with me for ­jobs.

I turn in my application and wait for instructions, still expecting the open interview to include an interview. The two guys tell me ­they’re collecting applications, and if ­I’m the right fit, ­I’ll hear from them within a week. Smile. Handshake. We seem to understand each ­other.

“Thanks for coming in.” ­You’re not going to get this job.

“It was my pleasure.” I know.

Day 38

There are a lot of wonderful things about San Diego, but the public transportation in this city is unspeakably bad. Of everywhere ­I’ve lived — Chicago, Boston, even L.A. — this is both the most expensive and the least efficient. ­I’ve never paid so much for so little. ­It’s like an airport ­bar.

Ocean Beach is an hour from everywhere. I can hit Mission Beach with a fucking rock, but it still takes an hour to get there. ­I’ve spent well over $200 on the bus. ­It’s a pack-a-day habit. And not content to be merely bad, ­they’ve shot the moon for awful, having rolled back service on March 1. Of ­course.

Day 39

I showed up 20 minutes early to ­today’s open interview, this time for some fratty beer-and-Rohypnol place in Pacific Beach called ­Bub’s Dive Bar, but am still beaten by two dozen people. The girl behind me is named Brittney, which fits. She looks 21 and is pretty in a molded-plastic kind of way, her voice a hollow bubble as she explains to her friend that she already has two jobs, but what can she say, she just loves applying to jobs!!!

“My boyfriend is, like, ­’Don’t you already have a job?’ and ­I’m, like, ‘Yeah!’ and then ­I’m, like, ‘I apply to jobs all the time!’ and ­he’s, like, ­’There’s something wrong with you!’ and ­I’m, like, ‘I know, I just love to apply for jobs!’ ”

­I’m near the front of the line and trying to focus on what to say, but I have to stop what ­I’m doing for a moment so I can hate this woman with my whole ­body.

Day 40

This process turns everyone into a 14-year-old girl. I walk away from an interview and obsess over what was said. I measure facial tics and draw wild conclusions. I start to get angry with my ­phone’s stubborn refusal to ring. Why ­hasn’t he called!?

I wonder if Seventeen magazine has any suggestions on how to ­cope.

Day 41

Today I got a ride to the Old Town bus depot from a friend of ­Sam’s, an extremely chatty pothead named Aaron. “What are you all dressed up for?” he asks. I tell him ­I’m looking for bartending jobs, which he takes as an invitation for an endless, morale-crushing speech on how ­it’s impossible for boys to get behind the bar in this town, even before the recession. Apparently, he tried for three years, and even he ­couldn’t do ­it.

“You might as well walk into a hospital and ask if they need a brain surgeon,” he says, more than once, inexplicably pleased with this ­metaphor.

­I’ve run into this attitude a few times here, not just that ­it’s hard, but from people utterly unable to see beyond their own experience. “My God, if I ­couldn’t do it, you certainly ­can’t.”

This guy is an ass, but all the same, ­I’m widening the scope of my inquiries. I hated being a server, but ­I’ll do it again. I may have ­to.

Day 45

My résumé keeps getting better, despite the fact that I ­haven’t worked for 11 weeks. ­It’s like ­magic.

The bar I used to work at was crazy busy on the weekends, so ­it’s become “18 months of high-volume experience.” The Italian restaurant before that was a neighborhood hole with pink paper placemats and enormous portions, the decor stunningly classless in the way that only Italians can really be, but in the last week it has morphed, on paper, into a fine-dining restaurant. I, too, have morphed from a server-bartender to the head bartender, the ­restaurant’s contact for the wine supplier, and creator of the cocktail list. ­I’m quite ­something.

My favorite item is my tequila bar-back gig up in Venice, California. I was a bar-back there from late ’05 to May ’06, three days a week for about seven months before Angelica Houston got us closed down (that bitch). I wanted to be a bartender but was never promoted — at least, not in reality. On my applications, however, I worked full time and was either a bartender or a server, depending on what job ­I’m applying for at the ­moment.

God bless that tequila bar. It becomes whatever I need it to be. ­It’s the stem cells of my professional ­experience.

Day 46

I tried a new approach today by composing a long, pleading email to the GM of Cowboy Star, a steakhouse downtown, the substance of which is that I want to work there very, very, very much. This is not a lie. He responds quickly and kindly, graciously commending my enthusiasm, but ­he’s not hiring. He says ­he’ll keep my résumé on ­file.

I hate that file. My information is lurking in the files of about 50 places all over San Diego, sitting in the dark with other ­people’s information, waiting for someone to recognize its inherent ­worth.

I need to invent a résumé that beeps, like a dying smoke detector, until you call the number on top. ­I’ll be ­rich.

Day 49

­I’m still emailing people off craigslist, even though ­it’s an embarrassing waste of time. ­There’s only one type of place I ­won’t respond to, and those are the ones looking for a résumé paired with a “current ­photograph.”

­I’m reaching the point where ­I’d take a job embalming the dead, but I ­don’t know what to say about a restaurant that requests a head shot. ­I’m not sure what ­they’re looking for, but I know it ­isn’t ­me.

Day 51

Today, we broke through the ceiling of absurdity. There was another open interview, this time for the San Diego branch of a chain of enormous dive bars called ­Dick’s Last Resort. Their logo is an angry cartoon drunkard, and ­they’ve carved out a niche for themselves by being very rude to their customers. ­That’s their gimmick. Come, order wings, be ­abused.

I arrive to find every employee dressed as if ­they’re going to a fraternity costume party. The girl with the bullhorn has balloons in her shirt to look like the gargantuan breasts of an anime character and underwear over her pants that read, across the ass, “I Love Dick.” One server is dressed to look like a tennis player in the ’70s, and another has a two-foot-tall Mohawk ­wig.

Sailor Moon is barking orders at a poor girl onstage named Emily, an applicant unlucky enough to have drawn attention to herself, her face the color of a cherry tomato as she tries awkwardly to be a good ­sport.

“DANCE!”

She dances goofily, with no music. The lawnmower. The ­sprinkler.

“ACT LIKE A ­TREE!”

She mimes growing, her arms trying to figure out how to make more ­branches.

“NO, ACT LIKE A FIR ­TREE!”

She pauses, and tries, fails, to somehow grow ­differently.

“SWIM! SWIM THROUGH THE ­OCEAN!”

Relieved for an obvious movement, she swims through the air for about 30 seconds before letting her arms fall to her sides, hoping this horrible exercise is ­finished.

“I ­DIDN’T SAY YOU WERE DONE ­SWIMMING!”

The employees must wait for this shit all year. There are a few customers out on the patio, but for the most part, the entire cavernous restaurant is their torture ­chamber.

I grab my bag, intending to leave, because fuck this, seriously, but am interrupted by some sudden semblance of order. ­We’re given instructions by a woman named Betsy, whose khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirt are doing no favors to her rather equatorial figure. She hands out applications, saying that the interviews will come after, and when ­we’re done, we should find her and turn in the completed paperwork. “I ­won’t be hard to find,” she says. ­“I’m the one with this bright shirt.” I wonder how mean ­we’re expected to be and decide to let it ­go.

We turn in applications, and while waiting for the other half of the room to finish the applications, the employees get listless and order the girl next to me onstage. Dance, they say. So she dances, poorly, in a failed attempt to be sexy. Grab someone else, they tell her. She grabs someone else and they dance together, and then ­they’re ordered to grab a third. Then they came for the douchebags, and I ­didn’t speak up, for I was not a douchebag. They grab me. I go up and we dance, like idiots, to no music, all three of us trying to reconcile our human pride with wanting to appear as though we love doing stuff like this, ­can’t get enough, life of the party, whoooo!

In 20 seconds, ­we’re joined by a fourth, then a fifth, and within a minute there are 30 people onstage, dancing in place, laughing as though they want nothing more in the world than to be humiliated for the enjoyment of others. Most of my fellow applicants, it seems, have interpreted “personality a must!” as “be as obnoxious as possible,” loud, screaming, desperately trying to appear fun. ­We’re commanded to do a conga line around the restaurant and patio, and we do it, we fall in, passing the row of grinning managers, the annoyed businessmen, the amused tourists. It takes about five minutes, more than enough time to reflect upon my life, where ­I’ve been, where ­I’m going. This is a ­mistake.

I ­didn’t realize it was possible to conga against your will. ­It’s one of the saddest things ­I’ve ever ­done.

­We’re then called for interviews, four or five applicants to each employee. ­I’m taken by a bar-back named Mitch. Mitch is 30 years old, wearing a cowboy hat and a large, round, stupid-looking belt buckle that, as it happens, shares those three qualities with his face. “Why do you want to work here?” he asks. “What did you hate about your last job?” This is more my territory and I answer well, but I get the feeling ­Mitch’s job is only to weed out the obvious fools. Mitch ­isn’t qualified to interview a ­hamster.

While I was being raped by the conga line, I decided that I would stop this nonsense. ­I’ve got personality and I can be a sarcastic bastard, but obnoxious ­I’m not. I ­can’t imagine getting this job, taking a breath before walking in the door, and being expected to act, day in and day out, like some Chaucerian jester. I decide to do my best to act like me, and if ­that’s what they want, ­that’s what ­they’ll ­get.

Shortly after my interview, the managers compile their information and read aloud the names of people who made it to round two, like the first cut of JV football. Marco Roberts…Justin Langdon…Elisa Weiss…and with every name, the person shouts “YES!” and stands up, fist pumping in the sky. “BOOM! WHOOOOO!” Oh, how outgoing. How lively. I hate these people. My name is called, and again I consider leaving, but a glance at my watch tells me ­it’s been 90 minutes. I ­can’t deal with the idea of just walking away after all this bullshit. Beggars and choosers and all ­that.

Betsy reappears and gives us all numbers, 1–35, on Post-it notes that we attach to our shirts. The employees and managers form a ­judge’s table in front of the stage, and we are called five at a time onstage and given prompts. Pretend ­you’re an expert on something. Sing us a song. ­I’m Number 23, and when called, my prompt is a dance-off. Of course. I rock the Apache as if ­I’m channeling the Fresh Prince himself, and then ­we’re all ordered to tell a joke, one after another. I rattle off a dead-baby joke. It seems to work. ­We’re dismissed. I ­leave.

­I’m desperate and would work here if called. My God, though. ­That’s probably the dumbest thing ­I’ve ever participated ­in.

Day 52

Another interview today at a place called ­Rockin’ Baja, yet another corporatized profit machine masquerading as a dive bar. These are huge in San Diego. It goes pretty well, and walking away, I get a call from a 619 number, my first. ­It’s ­Dick’s Last Resort. They want me to come back tomorrow for a final interview with the general manager, to be a ­server.

I think I would hate everything about this job, but now is not the time for pride. Pride is a luxury, like steak, that accompanies ­income.

Day 54

Job-hunting subjects you to an almost limitless variety of ­indignities.

I had a 4:30 appointment today to go to a nice place in Little Italy called Indigo Grill and talk to Nick, the floor manager. ­It’s Saturday, so I spend most of the morning writing and reading. I shower and shave at about 2:30, iron a nice pair of pants and button-up shirt, get dressed, spend $5 for the bus, and spend the hour on transportation — take the 35 bus to the Old Town Transit Center, take the Blue Line to Little Italy — and show up at 4:25, ready to talk. I wait by the host stand for about ten minutes before Nick appears, all apologies, he ­can’t talk to me today, could I come back on ­Monday?

“Sure!” I say. “No worries! Thanks for your ­time!”

God. Damn. ­It.

Day 55

I ­haven’t heard back from ­Dick’s, which means I ­didn’t get the job. This one may be my fault. The interview with the general manager went well on the whole but may have faltered when I referred to the open call as “obnoxious.”

Why did I do that? I regretted it the moment I said it. Though, now that employment there is no longer a possibility, I have to admit ­I’m relieved. Yes, even though ­I’m running out of money. Yes, even though job-searching ranks somewhere between oral surgery and an enema on the list of things that I ­despise.

I think my mouth was trying to protect the rest of me. ­It’s nice to know that when called upon, an individual body part will rise for the good of the whole. ­I’m just glad my arm ­didn’t decide to slap him. That ­would’ve been ­awkward.

Day 56

I went back today to that place in Little Italy, but even though Nick told me the day and time, ­he’s not here. ­It’s his day off. I talk to the general manager, who is also very friendly, but he says no, ­they’re not ­hiring.

“But hey,” he says, ­“I’d be happy to keep your information on ­file.”

Day 57

I snapped yesterday. ­I’m tired of subsisting on bananas and peanut butter Balance bars, tired of the $5 bus passes and counting every single dime. So after Little Italy, I went alone to a bar in the Gaslamp, got a few drinks, and saw a bad movie, $8 popcorn and ­all.

It was satisfying on every possible level. But while the whole evening only cost me $35, it troubles me to think that ­that’s about 19 percent of the money I have left in the world. ­We’re getting down to it now. ­Something’s going to have to happen. If this were a movie, ­we’d be approaching the ­climax.

Day 59

­I’m still hoping for that tequila bar I visited my first week. Every time I drop in, the manager seems excited. He keeps telling me ­he’ll call, but nothing, nothing, nothing. Baseball has started, everything is in high gear, but still, he encourages me to ­wait.

How idiotic would it be if, after two months of ceaseless trying, I was hired by the place I visited the first ­week?

Day 61

I am becoming a professional ­liar.

­Today’s open interview was for Pizza Port in Ocean Beach, the fourth in an expanding chain of local breweries. I sent an email to the general manager about 24 hours after the ad was posted on craigslist and received back the email equivalent of overwhelmed ­mania.

Employers seem to have no idea just how many people are looking for work right now. Every manager ­I’ve talked to, at every open interview, always says the same thing, some form of “JESUSFUCKINGCHRIST ­I’VE TALKED TO 300 PEOPLE ALREADY.” By this point, ­they’re not even listening. Unless you get down on your knees and blow them, ­they’re not going to remember you. And even then, only if ­you’re really ­good.

This is why I come ­early.

This is a brewery, and they take beer very seriously. ­I’m more of a whiskey guy, so after an hour, when my time comes, I give the speech ­I’ve been writing in my head, different points of varying percentages of truth:

­It’s all about how I love beer (10 percent), how beer is important to me (0 percent), how ­I’m really excited about the prospect of learning about beer (60 percent), how ­I’ve always wanted to be a part of a brewery (3 percent), and how much I want the job (100 percent).

­I’m enthusiastic, and the manager seems pleased. But I ­won’t hear from them, because when my name comes up in their discussion, someone will raise the point that if I really loved beer, I ­would’ve educated myself by now. ­There’s really no answer to ­that.

Day 63

My sister ­Kelly’s been here for a few days, in from Chicago, and ­I’ve been thrilled to have an excuse to take some time off. I did go to an open call this morning, though, which went incredibly ­well.

­It’s for a new place opening in Point Loma. I get lost off the bus and show up 20 minutes after ­it’s started, and already, ­I’m going to have to wait 90 ­minutes.

While ­I’m waiting, I decide to research this place on my phone, and I find that I actually really want to work here. ­They’ll be doing craft-cocktails and good, natural meats, an upscale/casual atmosphere, affordable but nice. I want this. And now ­I’m nervous. ­Fantastic.

­Kelly’s being here reminds me of what it was like to apply for colleges. She was a junior at George Washington University when I was writing my college applications, and in May of ’01, I went to D.C. so she could help with the essays. I remember I had my personal statement pretty much done, 400 words or so about me, I go here, I go there, I do this, I do that. And ­I’ll never forget how she finished reading it, laughed for about ten seconds, mentioned something about how I sounded, in the essay, like the picture of banality, and threw it ­away.

­“We’re starting ­over.”

The worst thing you can do, she said, is be forgettable, and this was what was in my head when my name was called to be interviewed. I talked the ­manager’s ear off. I answered questions that ­weren’t even asked. The brewery interview went well because I took control of the conversation and preemptively answered the question, “Why should I hire you and not the 200 other people ­I’m going to see today?” That question is the point of this whole terrible process. If you speak directly to it, if you communicate enthusiasm, as opposed to just listing it as an attribute, better things ­happen.

I talk to the bar manager, a friendly guy named Daniel, and he ends the conversation by asking me if I can name seven types of gins. I can and I do and make no attempt to cover my excitement at being asked the question. ­I’m kind of a cocktail nerd, and I want to work somewhere that asks these ­questions.

Seven hours later, I get the call for a second interview on Wednesday. I ­can’t be counting chickens, not this soon, but I admit: ­I’m ­excited.

Day 65

Second outing, this time with the general manager, a seasoned, fast-talking guy named Kurt. I lay it on, the passion, the knowledge, the ­enthusiasm.

“You want to be a bartender?” he asks. Then comes a series of ­questions.

­“What’s the difference between scotch and Irish ­whiskey?”

“Do you know what Chopin vodka is distilled ­from?”

­“What’s in an Old Fashioned? How about a ­Negroni?”

I know all these things and explain them well. He nods with approval. I live for these nods. I am ­pleased.

He tells me that I have a great combination of experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm, and ­he’s recommending that they hire me. I think I shook his hand twice, like a cartoon baseball player ­who’s been told ­he’ll start the big game. “Yes, sir! I ­won’t let you down, ­sir!”

A couple of hours later, I got a call from Daniel, telling me to come in for a “meet and greet” on Friday. ­I’m too excited to ask what that means — meet and greet whom exactly? — and if I have the job. ­We’ll see, I ­guess.

Day 67

Let’s start with a couple of things that I am ­not.

I am not a server at ­Dick’s Last ­Resort.

I am not an on-call ­barista.

I am not waiting for a call from El ­Vitral.

I am not waiting for a call from ­anybody.

I am a newly hired bartender. Yes.

This place is perfect, exactly what I set out to look for, and an ideal fit for my particular skill-set. I am not happy, I am happiness. I am relief. I can barely believe ­it.

I have been looking for jobs, ceaselessly, for more than two months. ­I’ve submitted, either online or in person, at least 140 applications. ­I’ve had more than two dozen interviews. ­It’s over. I have a ­job.

­I’ve learned quite a bit along the way — how to be interviewed, what to wear, canned answers to canned questions — but ­I’ll admit, I lucked out. If I were to pay my credit cards right now, I would have exactly $22 to my name. Jesus. Too ­close.

I remember that, before I left Boston, I would often speak romantically about exploration and adventure. I was tired of hearing older people talk about how they wish ­they’d realized how free they really were when they were younger. The decision to up and move to San Diego has been a preemptive answer to ­that.

I had a good speech about it, but nowhere in there is any sense of prudence. I very nearly ran out of money, and I honestly ­don’t know what I ­would’ve ­done.

I hate job-hunting, because unlike hunting for other things, like apartments or quail, hunting for jobs involves persistent, festering questions of self-worth. You can get denied 300 times, and you only need to get hired once, but while true, it ­didn’t stop me from staring at sign-twirlers on the street with a mixture of envy and ­resentment.

While I still very much support the idea of trying new things and new cities in the name of a better life, I have to recommend having a job set up beforehand. Either that or a whole lot of money. Unless, of course, ­you’re a stunningly attractive human being, and in that case, do whatever you ­like.

So if you find yourself at my place, sipping a (hopefully) delicious cocktail, look for me. ­I’ll be the one behind the bar, working.

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Comments

monaghan June 10, 2010 @ 10:13 a.m.

Words to live by: "I didn't realize it was possible to conga against your will." This is a funny and scary story. Congratulations on becoming a San Diego bartender, but exactly what was the name of your college?

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Nalic June 10, 2010 @ 7:11 p.m.

Jason, I loved this. I literally just did the EXACT same thing, and was absolutely shocked/relieved when I came across this article. I just spent the last five months (whew!) living on friends' couches in the LA area, and eventually San Diego, where I spent the better part of my days applying for jobs online. I went with the understanding that my resume was impeccable, and I'd logged in enough months of internships to finally have dun dun dun.. a real job. The amount of jobs I applied for was unspeakable, to be honest, I'd rather not know. It's absolutely demoralizing, and yes, it makes you question your self-worth or if you are even employable! I had many other factors working against me, such as that I'm Canadian and can only apply for specific (highly competitive) jobs. I didn't have the luxury of applying for restaurant jobs (Which I did all throughout college, and definitely felt qualified for) I find a certain kinship or solidarity with you in your story. Thank you for sharing this, it is in fact a full time job in itself. Unfortunately, I was forced to return to Toronto, where I still continue on the job hunt. But yes, I too field questions about freedom and youth and adventure- it was a big risk, something that I don't regret, but I definitely have a great heartache for California. All the best with San Diego- it really is one of America's finest cities.

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MsGrant June 10, 2010 @ 7:15 p.m.

Nice story, Jason, and welcome to the neighborhood. We will stop in for a snort soon. And so glad you did not have to work at Dick's......

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SurfPuppy619 June 10, 2010 @ 8:21 p.m.

­Dick’s Last Resort opened in the Gas Lamp in 92, but I thought they closed that location, but don't know for sure. I had been in there once and did nto care for it.

It sounds like you had a taste of the San Diego sunshine tax-tons of quality people for every job opening who will work for less than market wages just to stay in San Diego.

Glad it worked out for you.

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Native619 June 11, 2010 @ 1:36 a.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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David Dodd June 11, 2010 @ 2:18 a.m.

Yeah, wow. That hostility is best harnessed for something more worthwhile. Although, I'd take a shot of that rot gut whiskey right about now...

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workingschmuck June 11, 2010 @ 7:58 a.m.

Be careful what you wish for, "welcome to the hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". You will be forever drawn to come back here, the seductive weather and geography are irresistible. You just described the harsh reality of "hell in paradise". There are so many in their 40's still trying to live on bartending jobs, life catches up with you fast in paradise. Oh yeah don't forget about the "ManDiego" phenomenon, 7/1 guy/girl ratio. Boston has a lot to offer....

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MsGrant June 11, 2010 @ 8:42 a.m.

Give the guy a break, he was just being honest. So what if he doesn't want to work at Dick's? He was willing to. And if having to work there doesn't knock your "dick" in the dirt, so to speak, I don't know what would. And yes, he is 26, and he worked hard to find a good bartender job. Do you want to know why? Because people from the east take bartender jobs seriously. They do not have plastic barbies slinging drinks on the east coast. They have professional bartenders, who know how to do more than draw a draft or open a bottle. These guys know how to mix DRINKS. San Diego does not drink much past the white wine, beer, margarita mentality, so they can afford to hire these airheads, but god help them if someone asks for a Sidecar or a Manhattan, because they are going to be met with the glassy-eyed stare of dumb-dumb bartending. I for one find it very refreshing that San Diego is finally waking up to real cocktails in venues that are NOT in Pacific Beach, which is where you go when the only drinks you know are shots, beer, and the simple booze and soda combos. I am looking forward to sampling some of Jason's wares, served by a REAL bartender. Maybe we need to have non-natives serving our drinks. They are the only ones that know how.

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SurfPuppy619 June 11, 2010 @ 8:44 a.m.

I would bet bartending pays a higher wage than the mean or median in San Diego.....but the donwside is your job revolves around serving, conversing and hanging out with, for the majority, drunks. I could not do the job, for those reasons.

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Native619 June 11, 2010 @ 8:49 a.m.

"Don't drink and post" --russl...you know what they say about ass-umptions. Yeah there is hostility... towards every transplant (which seems like they are always from Baaaahston)who do nothing positive for this city. Read that toilet paper scribble again and tell me "dude" doesn't have any hostility laced in and out of his diatribe. Year after year, especially summer after summer, jack-arrses, like Jason dream of "goin out West" with their colars turned up and their pink Le Tigre shirts halfed tucked in, trying to trend out the fashion that once died in the 80's. I totally understand the young man's plight, but actually complaining about the people that could, and did help is summation of every wanna-be San Diegan. "Dude" needs to check himself. He complains about the people, the possibilty, and the city..... 80% of the zombies that are here are not even originally from here, and to make judgments just needs a lil' bit more of an educated analysis. "Give the guy a break"-- Ms. Grant...why? Where was the break given to those that he felt he had to be critical of? Yeah there are a lot of spots designed to take that (your)tourists money, but it wouldn't of ev olved into such a sport if they didn't see you all coming!. By the way, pride in cocktails...REALLY? A perfect example of how slow things move out EAST. "Cocktail" the movie has stopped playing in theatres for some time now. Try to dig a little deeper, maybe develope some pride in somehing that is substantial. Pride in alcohol? LMAO

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MsGrant June 11, 2010 @ 9:01 a.m.

About this:

"dream of "goin out West" with their colars turned up and their pink Le Tigre shirts halfed tucked in, trying to trend out the fashion that once died in the 80's"

Hate to tell you, but fashion moves from east to west, not the other way around.

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Duhbya June 11, 2010 @ 2:20 p.m.

MsGrant: In case you didn't see this, it's a great account of just what you described in post # 9. Ran a couple of weeks ago.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/dining/28bruni.html

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MsGrant June 11, 2010 @ 2:38 p.m.

No, I did not see that, but thank you for it, Duhbya. I noticed bartenders of this caliber when traveling to New York and Chicago and became interested in their stories. We have gone to a bar in Chicago, come back two years later, and the same guy is there. Like I said, they are professional bartenders and do this until they retire, not like San Diego bars, who only hire attractive (sort of) women with questionable employment opportunities. These women move on when they meet a guy who doesn't like them working in a bar, to be replaced by one of the hundreds of applicants just waiting to take her job.

I've asked one New York bartender how long he had been working at his particular post and he told me 30 years. They make really solid six figure salaries, and they are fixtures. People come into the bar just to be served by them. So it's not being proud of alcohol, as insinuated previously. It is being proud of the people who treat a pastime that shows no sign of going away with respect and consideration and actually working at it, without bitterness for their good fortune, as they earned it.

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SurfPuppy619 June 11, 2010 @ 4:37 p.m.

with their colars turned up and their pink Le Tigre shirts halfed tucked in, trying to trend out the fashion that once died in the 80's

You may not believe this, and I am ashamed to admit it, but I still dress like this when I am on the prowl for babes!

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Native619 June 11, 2010 @ 7:28 p.m.

"It is being proud of the people who treat a pastime that shows no sign of going away with respect and consideration and actually working at it, without bitterness for their good fortune, as they earned it." -MSG

Holy crap! Trust me I am in no way bitter of the shepard of the drunks! Do the damn thang....Now that would be the definition of insuation... I guess we all have our heros. Some thank the firefighter, some thank the soldier, and some even thank the alcoholic for helping the esteemed bartender earn six-figures. That pedestal must be pretty easy to get on to..hmmm...if I could just be like them. A "pastime"? I guess I'll have to admit my ignorance then....did not know the capacity to measure and pour was right up there with baseball, hotdogs, and american pie. I also did not know that it takes a true professional to be able to watch you sip on your over priced 'tail, repeat, laugh at you for blowing your wad (many innuendos), have the graciousness to call a taxi, and know that "we'll be seeing ya" again real soon to do it all over again, was the mark of one who works on their craft. I guess it is no different than a violinist or a....a....doctor for that matter! Bravo MSG! Thanks for the enlightenment. I will label your soap box "Baaaaatendaaaaaaa!"

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RoRo June 14, 2010 @ 12:16 p.m.

I thought it was an interesting article from the job-seeker perspective. Very accurate. I have held innumerable jobs in my life, and my ambition got me back to SD my hometown 3 years ago. Good picture of what entry-level type work is like here.Anyways- the comments about OB were SPOT ON. I say if you want to come to SD and rock it come CREATE your OWN #$#$ JOB. Have a nice day~

PS- Bartending in this economy? Doesn't sound that lucrative but I guess summer is coming and so are more Le Tigres...

PPSS the comments by Native619 were hilarious...Drink that rot gut up visitors!

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Silvergate1 June 16, 2010 @ 2:36 p.m.

Great story Jason. No need to be discouraged by the comments of Native619. I'm willing to bet old "Native" wasn't born and raised here. If they were they wouldn't have made those statements. Hang in there! I fully agree with MsGrant

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sunlover June 17, 2010 @ 11:34 a.m.

Loved your story. I am glad to hear I am not alone. I was beginning to think it was JUST me. I have been looking for an admin job for a year now. It has not been easy. When I was laid off a year ago I took a job, any job, just to pay bills. Now there comes the problem. When applying for jobs they want you to come in between 8&5 to interview but I work 8 to 5. They have so many applicants out there, they have all the power. If you are not ready to just jump and come in you are out of luck and you can't keep taking off work to go to interviews, and you can't tell the job you do have that you are looking so they let you go. But companies want people who are working not sitting at home letting thier experience and skills go to waste. I have sent out so many resumes and a lot of the jobs on Craig's List are fake jobs too, or if they are agencies they just want you to come in and sign up, just to tell you they do not have anything right now, so they can keep thier jobs. It is so frustrating! I JUST WANT TO WORK, I just want a career again and not just a job. I know I should just be happy that I have something right now but I do not have years of experience at something I love to do just to do something different. Kudos for getting a career you love in just a few months!

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mike1 June 17, 2010 @ 11:38 a.m.

Good luck Jason. Enjoyed the story. Not sure if I caught where you work. Can you tell us what it rhymes with? : )

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Muttly June 17, 2010 @ 6:41 p.m.

Having experienced rough job searches, I would be sympathetic to Jason had he not been the male San Diegan equivalent of a Bimbo from Wisconsin chasing her pipe-dreams in Hollywood.

More disingenuously, he starts off saying that he has "not even a religion" to hold him back, yet he begins day 6 with "Good Christ!" San Diego has too many Bostonian Catholic transplants as it is, we certainly don't need any more.

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MsGrant June 17, 2010 @ 7:04 p.m.

Sorry, muttly, perhaps your level of sophistication is what keeps us all hanging on your every word and your denying entry to our fine city to all outsiders could be a religion all its own. Where do I sign up? Dick's Last Resort?

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Native619 June 17, 2010 @ 11:16 p.m.

"I'm willing to bet old 'Native' wasn't born and raised here"-- Silvergate1

I'll take that bet every time sucka! Born and raised since '75. Silvergate1, I hope you're not getting your betting courage from Clark Griswald (Vegas Vacation). Quick, place your bets....what number am I holding up behind my back? AGAIN...It's not anti-outsiders...it's anti-attitude of said outsider!! I can only lead ya'll to the water...

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David Dodd June 17, 2010 @ 11:42 p.m.

Native, what's your problem? Dude wants to live in San Diego, who wouldn't? His story was actually pretty entertaining. And it isn't like any self-respecting San Diego natives are tripping over themselves to work at Dick's Last Resort. That place is a zoo for tourists. Man, you come off as entirely bitter. This is supposed to be America's finest city, not America's most bitter city.

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Native619 June 20, 2010 @ 12:54 a.m.

Hijo le Vato... the Problem is stated over and over...and ..over again. I understand his struggle....happily ever after, yipeee! Read the story again and tell me where there is some appreciation for anyone who actually helped this modern day traveling fraggle!

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MsGrant June 20, 2010 @ 8:49 a.m.

"I can only lead ya'll to the water..."

The drivel of the arrogant.

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Native619 June 21, 2010 @ 2:42 p.m.

Hmmm....that tickled MSG! Thank you for confusing your perception and my realtiy. Square peg goes in round hole.

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Silvergate1 July 2, 2010 @ 3:39 p.m.

Well, well, well....Guess Native619 could be a "native" like I am. Yep, he is entitled to his opinion too, but very few seemed to agree with him. Hmm....wonder why?

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DeathNote81 Oct. 12, 2010 @ 9:29 p.m.

Nice story. I thought about doing the same thing you did back in the spring. Actually, I've been thinking about it for the past two years, but I didn't, and now I'm still stuck here in cold, gloomy New England.

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danfogel March 27, 2015 @ 10:54 a.m.

Since this story is 5 yrs old, you must have been trolling for something. I wonder what it was??

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