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Maybe I’m America’s 2nd Next Best Bartender?

Last weekend, a reality show called “America’s Next Best Bartender” had a casting call in Sacramento. As someone who is interested in booze production, serving, and consumption, I decided to go and see if I was America’s Next Best Bartender material. There was also some prize money attached to the title, which also helped persuade me to try out.

I have no idea what's going on here.
I have no idea what’s going on here.

The day started at noon, with a line of 20-30 people and some paperwork, followed by a lot of waiting around. This was my first reality TV casting call, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I could tell from the outfits and the over-the-top “attitude” that nearly everyone else there was a professional reality TV contestant.

Imagine, if you will…

Me (thinking): It just struck me that I’m the oldest person here. I hope there isn’t a dance competition as part of this thing. These seem like nice enough people, but they’re pretty loud. Am I not loud enough? Well, I’m sure my knowledge of bartending, beer, wine, and spirits will be far greater than any of these kids and I’ll get to be on this show. Do I want that, though?

Almost everyone else (very out-loud): Hey! Let’s get pumped up! Woooooo!

At around 2:00, I was called in for an interview with the producers and asked why I want to be America’s next best bartender. I said I didn’t care too much, actually, but I thought it could be fun. And, also, I like to drink. They told me to come back at 5 for the 2nd round.

I went back to my office, worked a little, prepared some snappy answers to the questions they were sure to ask (how about: “What qualities make a great bartender?”), and returned at 5.

After waiting for an hour or two in the crowd of other contestants (the 2nd round, oddly enough, seemed to be larger than the first round), I was called in for my 2nd audition, or interview, or whatever.

They asked me if I see myself as “The Parent,” “The Coach,” or “The Underdog.” I had no idea, except that I know I’m not a coach or a parent. I bumbled around a bit and then asked “what do you mean?” They asked me if I’d be able to handle the pressure and I assured them that I’m not afraid of anything, and I’m especially not afraid of being on a TV show.

There were no questions about bartending, or even about what the primary flavor in Galliano is or what’s in a Perfect Manhattan and what should it be garnished with. Ah well, I did well enough that I was invited back for the after party and casting announcement at 10:00.

I brought 3 of my nerdy friends with me to the party and we waited and people-watched. I drank a Gimlet, a couple beers, and some horrible shot from a test tube. The show producers watched the crowd of contestants from a balcony over the dance floor, and I thought my cool and aloof demeanor was sure to win me a spot on the show.

Oh boy was I wrong! At midnight, the chosen ones were called to the stage, one at a time, to dance around. Pretty much every one of them would have been my last choice for someone who would (in my opinion) make a great bartender. These were loud people who could dance and weren’t afraid to take their shirts off (but leave their neckties on, oddly enough) in a club.

I left the after party feeling relieved that I wasn’t picked, but a little disappointed as well. I’d be curious to see what this show ends up being like, but I won’t watch it, because I can’t stand and don’t understand reality TV.

Goodbye to the Crazy Sideburns

I shaved off the insane sideburns that I had been sporting for the last couple of years. They served me well. I enjoyed the attention and compliments that I would get on them, and I did a great Martin Van Buren impersonation (see figures). But, alas, it was time to move on. Also, they were less than comfortable in 100+ degree weather.

Is this the real Martin Van Buren?
Or is this Martin Van Buren?

I’m worried now that no one will recognize me. I wouldn’t.

I have face blindness, aka Prosopagnosia. I didn’t know that there was a name for my condition until very recently. I just thought that I had a bad memory and that there were actually only 3 or 4 actors in the world: Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, and Lawrence Fishburne, right? Well, when I scored below 50% on this test, I started to suspect that I may have a problem besides forgetfulness.

My chops were about more than just face decoration: they were how I recognized myself. Now that I don’t have them, I feel lighter and cooler, but a bit worried. I rely on extreme features like huge sideburns, beards, unicorn horns, mohawks, and Frank Zappa noses to identify all but my closest friends and family. When these things change, I get confused and uncertain.

If I see someone I’ve previously met, but they’ve changed their hair, or lost weight, or aren’t in the context that I associate with them, I’ll sometimes get a feeling that I’ve seen this person before, but I’ll have no idea who they are. This has happened with people I ought to know quite well…including some relatives and business contacts.

So, just in case you have face blindness like me and you’ve met me within the last few years, here’s the before and after shot. Unlike with the Martin Van Buren pictures, both of these are actually me!

Me, two weeks ago, with chops and long hair.
Me, today, with short hair and no chops.