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drinking on the border and an asshole bartender
singapore sunset
amw
I am a professional drinker. In the sense that from the age of about 15 on, i have visited bars all over the world. Occasionally i put on my pretentious upper-middle class hat and attend cocktail bars, snooting around with the well-to-do, but for the most part i visit dive bars. I have been to dive bars in many states of the United States, big cities and small towns in Canada, places Down Under, all over Europe, China and even Namibia. The one common thread of my traveling is that i will always seek out a dive bar and get drunk with the locals.

I have never been cut off.

Or, perhaps, i have never been told "you are cut off".

That changed last night. After days of miserable jet lag that left me feeling physically ill, passing out at 6pm and waking up before 4am, Tuesday i finally slept 8+ hours through and woke up at a sensible hour for people in the Eastern Time Zone. We spent the day eating Canadian (American) Chinese food, then headed out on the town. We picked the first bar because it was a typical American-style sports bar that had taken the time to put one or two veganish things on their menu. The waitress treated us like gold - the kind of fawning that never happens overseas and honestly rarely even happens in Canada because it's only America where the wait staff are so desperately underpaid and hunting for tips. But it was lovely to experience such attention and good humor. I was all set to put the place down as a top-notch sports bar worth returning to.

We left, then headed to a proper dive bar where a very drunk guy was trying to explain something about being a traveling electrical engineer who was just back from a business trip in Cleveland and something something something. I mean, that place was proper Great Lakes. Flyover country and proud. No fucking bullshit "craft beer", ice hockey on the television, a bar full of very drunk regulars, and plenty of "eh". Canada, fuck yeah.

After a few beers we hit the road, because R kind of wanted to give me the full bar crawl experience. The last time i was here we crawled to a country and western bar that actually kicked us off our bar stools because they wanted to turn the joint into a nightclub. I didn't know that country and western fans had nightclubs, but apparently they do. I've traveled all through America - including Texas - and never knew country and western nightclubs were a thing until i visited Windsor. But that was last trip. This trip R wanted to take me to a strip club.

Windsor is a border city. It's across the river from Detroit and one of the few parts of Canada that is actually south (!) of the United States. Like Detroit, its economy is/was built on automobile manufacture. Unlike Detroit, it's extremely white. The most famous thing that ever came out of Windsor is Richie Hawtin, aka Plastikman, one of the most successful (white) techno DJs in the world. But outside of Canada he will forever be known as a "Detroit" DJ. For those who don't listen to techno, i think this city is also the place Michael Moore visited to make a point about how nice (white) Canadians are in his movie Bowling for Columbine.

So Windsor is a city that is mostly famous for being next to Detroit, except with more white people and less murders. For the kids in America, it's the place they can go to legally drink between the ages of 19 and 21. Before Detroit decided to allow casinos to dig itself out of bankruptcy, Windsor was also the place where Americans could come to gamble legally. Plus, strip clubs.

I've never been to a strip club. I've been at the door several times in groups and i left when i found out you have to pay cover charge. I only know strip clubs from the movies, as places where the punters give cash money to the girls, not places that charge cover presumably pocketed by the promoters/pimps. The whole concept of paying a man cover to watch women take their clothes off creeps me out, even at my drunkest moments, which is why i have always left before going in. But this place was "only" 7 bucks to get in and R spotted me so whatever.

We went in and the music was great. It might be the only joint in town that plays hip-hop. The drinks were disgustingly expensive, but it looked and felt like a gay bar. Perhaps gay bars were patterned after strip clubs? I don't know. Mirrors on the walls and disco lights and dark corners. My kind of place. There were also topless women pole dancing and busty women coming to offer "tit shots" and whatnot. Plus single dudes sitting around not drinking at all. It was less sleazy than i imagined, but also more sad and pathetic than i imagined. Still, i like music that isn't fucking classic rock, and i'm on holiday so don't mind spending a bit more on drinks, so it was an okay place to hang for a while.

Because we are old, and i knew today i would have to leave back to Toronto, we headed home early. We decided to drop back to the place where we had dinner for a nightcap. The bar was almost empty. We ordered two beers. We were having the usual argument about who to pay - R put some cash on the table and i handed over my credit card to start a tab - and then the bartender told us he was cutting us off. At fucking midnight. In a town whose main industry - after the collapse of manufacturing - is selling alcohol to underage Americans. Like. Are you fucking kidding me?

I have been (too) drunk at bars all over the world and this is literally the first time i have ever been "cut off". We weren't being racist or sexist or refusing to pay the bill or starting a fight or doing any of the things that bartenders are supposed to kick people out for, we were just a couple of drunken fortysomething women hanging out. Jesus, we probably would have headed home after that one beer anyway, since that's where we were going in the first place. But the bartender - the bartender!!!!! - getting fresh is a whole new thing for me. I didn't know how to handle it.

Obviously i was drunk - i was at a bar for fuck's sake - but that doesn't mean i am okay with being treated like trash. Since it's the closest joint to R's house, i asked her if it was okay to say something to him, and she gave me the go-ahead. So i told him that we specifically decided to come back here because of the good service earlier in the night and that i didn't appreciate his tone or his manner in preemptively "cutting us off" as paying customers who were not being abusive or causing any kind of drama. In response he literally took our (paid-for) drinks off the bar, poured them out and told us to get out.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Never. Never. After 20+ years of being a drunk, i have never been treated that way by a bartender. I had enough sense not to make a scene. I just shrugged and took R home where we listened to Katy Perry and drank gin and passed out. But now i have woken up i am still pissed. I have seen plenty of racist bouncers and asshole bouncers and bartenders whose schtick doesn't rub me the right way, but i have never been "cut off" as a paying customer in an empty bar who was literally just hanging out with a friend talking drunken nonsense.

I mean, being a bartender is a huge responsiblity. It's like being a nurse or a therapist. You are guiding someone through their drug addiction, keeping them safe and dealing with raw emotions and hearts that will never open up the same way in other environments. People are vulnerable when they are taking drugs. You're the fucking caretaker! It doesn't take a strong man to dominate drunks, because they are emotional wrecks to begin with. The only way to respect your clientele is to use a soft touch. And if you try to score a point as the one sober guy in the room, it just makes you look like an insecure asshole.

I can't. I really can't.

Tomorrow i have to meet up with J and finalize the divorce. I also have to pick up my passport that may or may not have a visa in it. Meanwhile back in China one of my documents has been marked as "delivered" online but apparently it still hasn't arrived, which is going to fuck up my work permit application. I have no idea of my immigration status and i am in complete limbo and high stress. This is not the time for some douchey white male bartender to get on some power trip with his fucking paying customers, for God's sakes!

Yeah, Canada. Apparently it remains the country where i have the best friends and the worst experiences. I love it and everything - i didn't choose to become a citizen for nothing - but fucking hell. People are such assholes. Even in America it's not this bad. If my visa is refused and my whole China dream gets fucked in the ass, this is where i am coming back to. I guess i'll just become a hard drug addict again because dealing with this nonsense sober is depressing. Oh wait, dealing with it drunk is depressing too. Sigh.