I joke about my childhood plan to be a chemist, a goal that held sway at least until puberty hit in earnest and “being cool” became important in relation to my ill-conceived hopes about girls. In my latter years, I’ve become convinced that my real interest in chemistry was less about figuring out the basic structure of material than in the glassware. This pretty much explains how I’ve ended up behind bars, mixing drinks for people.
For most of my adult life, I’d made my living in publishing, first as a book editor, and then, in the mid-1980s, turning my attention to electronic publishing after learning about CD-ROM and becoming intrigued by the prospects of new types of publications that would have the editor at their core. Back then the possibility seemed real, and I built my education about electronic publishing through trade journalism and then at the helm of various electronic publishing trade periodicals, while also and pursuing actual electronic publishing efforts, until I concluded that the industry had matured sufficiently in less interesting ways than I had hoped for, and that the means and mechanisms to create the sorts of publications on which I had early on set to pursue were unlikely within my professional lifetime.
Not being particularly bright, it took me quite a while to figure out that my working as an analyst of digital publishing technologies and business processes was advancement beyond my interest, but I had already started in on making things. I chose to leave the hyper-abstract world of the analystic, a change that got mixed up with leaving Cambridge, Massachusetts, and moving to the Berkshires, where I would rebuild a house and build a studio for making things. Please loop back to the start of this paragraph and review my comment about not being particularly bright.
Jump ahead past the years of rebuilding and building and terraforming and doing for-pay work of the professional sort, and I find out that literary writing and art are not great ways to get money. I mean, who knew?
But the art I had started back in Cambridge is still compelling for me and I have sold some things and had a few commissions, and some gallery shows, and while this is a comfort, it remains an improbable source of sufficient revenue. After a couple of abortive business efforts out here in the Hills, like starting a gallery and pursuing research and development on a digital toolset for construction aimed at lowering costs of deep energy retrofitting of existing homes (a whole other story), I needed to find a living. In part because I talked a good game about cocktails and liquor and in greater part because I was an adult, I got invited to help start a new restaurant’s bar. And once again the question emerged: Who knew that one needs capital to start a business? As it turns out, effort is necessary, but not sufficient, and this first bar effort fell victim to the chef/owner’s own lack of capital, alas.
My next bartending gig was at the wonderful Prairie Whale (Great Barrington, Massachusetts), but that quickly enough fell victim to my needing rotator cuff surgery, and by the time I recovered, I found myself at The White Hart Inn, in Salisbury, Connecticut, in the Tap Room. By the way, while recovering from the surgery, I managed to write a 130,000 word first draft of a novel, because, well, typing is one of the few things a guy can do with an arm in a sling. (And by the way, after a year in a drawer, the manuscript revealed itself to be a pretty lousy novel, even if it may still prove to be a good start on several thrillers in a series, when I get back to it.)
I really like the Tap Room and its interesting parade of guests, whether celebrity or mortal folk, but it was a far commute and I have a limit on the number of black-ice-induced spinout crashes on curvy dark back roads, and I was frustrated by the pace of cocktail program development that is a big interest and goal of mine, so when Castle Street Café—now Number Ten—came calling, I recognized the congruence of Vern and my interests in craft cocktails and American whiskey, and interestingly enough, I signed on.
So, artist, writer, bartender.
Now you know.