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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.”


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?

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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?


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.


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......


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.


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

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


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...


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....


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.


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.


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


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.


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.



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.


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!


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!"


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!


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


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!


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? : )


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.


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?


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...


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.


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!


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

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

The drivel of the arrogant.


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.


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?


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.


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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