I Used To Party Until 4 A.M.
Five years ago, I decided to quit my full-time job as an editor at financial media platform Seeking Alpha. I also curtailed my freelance writing work.
I didn’t want to sit in a chair at my kitchen table all day. I wanted to do physical work. I wanted to explore creativity outside of writing.
I have always been fascinated by the social life of bars.
So I explored becoming a bartender. Just another stop in my non-linear life.
That exploration led to a job at a dive bar in Santa Monica.
In less than two years, I became part of the opening team at The NoMad in Downtown Los Angeles. This was a big deal, in part because of the hype surrounding the January 2018 opening. Los Angeles was the first expansion from New York City for the The NoMad.
It mattered personally because I was able to surround myself with some of Los Angeles’s top bartenders at the height of the city’s craft cocktail movement.
That association ultimately landed me a job at one of Los Angeles’s iconic craft cocktail bars. By January of 2020, I was general manager at Melrose Umbrella Company.
Then My Hair Started Falling Out…
And I got kind of fat. I was drinking all of the time, though it didn’t seem like it. I was eating cheeseburgers on the regular. I was working 12-to-18 hour days/nights a minimum of six times a week, though mostly seven.
I told myself I loved what I was doing. And part of me absolutely did.
I have more of a love and talent for hospitality than I do craft cocktails. I enjoy playing host and making people feel special. I would stop at nothing to ensure my guests (they’re not “customers”) were having a good time. It became an obsession. And, ultimately, an unhealthy one.
In the middle of those long hours and even longer nights, I recall clumps of hair falling out of my head in the shower.
I chalked it up to getting older.
I lamented the belly I couldn’t get rid of even though I was only eating a meal or two a day. Sometimes I’d even eat the cheeseburger without the bun and imagine not finishing the fries.
I chalked stubborn fat up to getting older.
Then the pandemic took hold of society.
On a Sunday in mid-March, the City of Los Angeles ordered all bars and restaurants to close at midnight. I sat at the bar and cried before buying a case of Budweiser, pouring it in paper cups, and passing it around.
I was devastated. I spent the next three days, mostly in bed, depressed.
On the third day, I snapped out of it. I told myself I couldn’t wallow in my furlough. I didn’t know how long this shutdown was going to last, but I was going to live my life like it would last forever.
I started going to bed between 9:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. I started waking up between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
It was only weeks earlier I recall walking in my apartment at seven in the morning after pulling an all-nighter with co-workers and friends at the bar.
I reignited my freelance writing career.
I started doing push-ups every day.
I fell back in love with walking. On most days, I walk at least four miles. More than ten miles has become a regular occurrence.
I started and continue to eat well. I drink minimally. I do edibles once in a while, not several times a day/night.
I have tons of time. I’m not moving frantically from place to place. I have lost about twenty pounds of fat while gaining an unknown number in muscle. I’m in better shape than I was during high school. That belly is almost gone.
And I’m no longer losing my hair. Thank goodness because I have often said my hair is the best thing I’ve got going for me.
But, most of all, I’m no longer indiscriminately dumping liquids down my throat. Because that’s so much of what bar life is. Drinking for the sake of drinking, on a whim.
A regular walks in. Let’s do a shot!
Josh just started his shift. Let’s do a shot!
We survived that rush. Let’s do a shot!
It’s the end of the night. Let’s do a shot!
It’s 5 a.m. We’re having so much fun. Let’s do a shot!
And that’s in between an untold number of beers and cocktails.
Outside of the widespread loss of life, abject governmental failure, and reduced social connections, the pandemic is the best thing that ever happened to me. I won’t go so far as to say it saved my life. But it has certainly made it a heck of a lot better.
At the same time, I’m not trying to paint bar life in a wholly negative light. The people I work(ed) with take what they do — craft cocktails and good hospitality — seriously. Even the ones who party the hardest. And quite a few bartenders don’t partake in the up-all-night, unhealthy party ethos.
But bar life isn’t for me. I can’t let it be for me. Even if part of me still craves it.
When you run a bar, you have to be at the bar all of the time. If you’re not, you’ll think you’re underperforming. And the people around you, even if they tell you to take a rest, want and expect you to be at the bar all of the time. When you’re at the bar all of the time, it’s difficult to resist the party. Because, let’s face it, it is a lot of fun.