Devil’s Nest Cycle: The Art of Bartending

[DOINA, early 50s, quick and hardworking, explains to EMILIA what's to be done around the bar. Devil’s Nest Bar is a shabby watering hole with four tables, a jukebox with Eastern European folk tunes and international pop music. The TV set, high up in a corner, plays Romanian stations. The room is decorated with shabby paper flowers and Romanian folk art. There is a kitchen area with a hot plate and a fridge. The air conditioning unit is dripping right in front of the entrance. On the door it is written: Members Only. DOINA washes glasses with a rag. She uses steel wool for the cooking pots. EMILIA eagerly helps her around.]


This is such a great work place! It couldn’t be better. I’ve never had a better work place. I’m so sad I have to go. I’m glad I’ll be seeing my daughter and my son-in-law and parents, but I’m so sad I have to leave here. The girls are kind and sweet like sunshine! Very correct and they’ll pay you! They’ll pay you $60 every day! They’ll give you no grief. In the year that I’ve been here, not once did they behave unpleasantly to me. All you have to do is be honest, though you can easily steal from them. Say you gave this man one coffee instead of two, but it would be a sin! The deed would cry to the skies! They are so kind.
It’s easy work. I don’t want you to work in a factory. I did. Here, you’ll have it easy, easy.
All you have to do is to clean in here and the bathroom in the morning, and then serve the clients. You write in this notebook, Sandu: one coffee $1, one beer $3, that’s $4. You tear it off and stick it on the pin. That’s all. You keep the tips separate. I keep them here, in a corner.
When Margareta comes in the evening, you add up the bills. She leaves a hundred in the cash register so that you can give change, and you give her back the hundred and what you made that day. I always put a paper napkin between my bills and the previous shift.
You have to pay attention: here is the one-dollar slot, here the fives, here the tens and here the twenties. Don’t mix them up, God forbid, because then you’ll be in the red.
You press this button and it opens. You push the drawer back and it closes. That’s it.
You place the hundreds and fifties here, under this tiny tray.
First thing in the morning, you come and unlock the door. You’ll have the key if you work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are slow. You open the door, then quickly do the tablecloths and napkins. If they are soiled, put them behind the screen, where you’ll find clean ones. If they only have crumbs but no splashes, just shake off the crumbs and then vacuum. We have a vacuum cleaner! It’s exactly like at your home. You do whatever is needed to run a house. I don’t know what kind of house you keep, but you clean your house, don’t you, Mariana? I don’t know why I called you Mariana. You don’t mind, do you? I’ll have to buy you a lamb! Alright. Then after you vacuum, you put the beverage supply in the fridge.
I’ll show you in a minute.
Here, you wash the glasses sparkling clean, because if the client sees you give him a dirty glass or one with hair in it, he’ll never step over your threshold again. You’ll lose the customer. You wash them and then you place them on the counter on this paper towel to dry. Then you put them on the shelf pe căprării/by regiment, this way: here are the marines, here goes the infantry, then here the cavalry and so on! The stem-glasses are for wine, the tall ones are for Coca-Cola--there are some clients who don’t like drinking Coca-Cola from a bottle, so you give them a glass. The middle ones are for water—for each coffee, we give them a glass of seltzer water. If they ask for more you say, "Sure!" and pour them tap water. There is a guy who always asks for four, five seltzer water glasses, but you give him tap water. Seltzer is expensive. They don’t charge enough for coffee anyway. You just give him tap water! Fuck him.
Alright, these are the shot glasses. These with the thick bottom. The other ones are just for decoration. Here: this is a small coffee cup; this is a large coffee cup.
Oh, it's so important that someone shows you the ropes. When I went to work at the factory, no one showed me what to do! I asked Mariţa, may God guard her and bless her steps wherever she is and wherever she goes! I told her, "Show me what to do!" because no one, not even the boss showed me because he didn’t know, and she said, "Come on, I’ll show you how to sew this and you do it this way and this way…" and not that I’m bragging, but in a month I was the best in the factory! When the boss sold the factory he said, "I’ll sell it to you, Doina!" but what the heck would I do with a factory? So here I am.
After you wash the glasses, you wipe the counter with a paper towel, then you rinse the muck from the sink, so that it’s not greasy. That’s it. Let me see: yes…
[Demonstrates coffee making.] You make coffee like this: you turn this button on, this way,--it’s electric,--you turn it on high, then you pour in one small or one large cup of water and one teaspoon of sugar and when it boils, one teaspoon of coffee. You mix it so that it doesn’t have any lumps, then you let it come to a boil again and then you take it off. Turn the stove off because it’s expensive, and then if you have two coffee cups, for example, you pour a bit of froth in both cups, so that it’s strong for the clients. They like it with froth. Good. Then you take it to the table. Let’s see you do it. Oy! Come on, don’t be afraid, it’s alright. Give me the paper towel. Come on, steady, steady. This is not an atomic bomb, it’s a coffee cup. Don’t worry. Great. Come back now. This client would like more sugar. No, no, you don’t take the spoon and the sugar bowl. Here is the sugar shaker and the teaspoons are in the drawer.
That’s good. Let the client put in as much sugar as he likes. Don't put it in his cup! You can’t tell their taste. He’ll fix it. Great.
[They quickly store the bottles.]
Now you take the beverage supply and put it in the fridge. If you don’t have any cold bottles, you put some in the freezer and they’ll cool there. Just a half an hour or so! Now, you take these bottles from the boxes. You don’t have to worry about getting them. Margareta’s husband brings them to you. But if you run out of sugar, go and buy some from the grocery store on the corner. Now, you take the bottles and put them in the fridge: see, the top shelf, horizontally, the soft drinks; the second shelf, Perrier waters; here is Heineken; here is Beck’s and here is Corona. The Heineken sells faster. The wine goes at the bottom.
I’ll explain to you what’s going on with the large wine demijohns. Let’s just store the bottles for now. Give me some. If you can’t open [She vigorously tears the paper.] the cardboard boxes, use a knife or a pair of scissors. Good. Put the empty ones in the boxes behind the screen. Great. That’s it.
[They head to the restroom. Small space.]
Now the restroom: the restroom, come in, close the door. Don’t forget, when you clean the toilet, you have to lock the front door because someone can, God forbid!, come and steal the money from the cash register while you’re in here!
Now [Puts on a plastic glove and picks up the cleaning spray.] put the glove on because some people have wiped their arses with the paper in the basket. You don't want to touch it. You tie up the bag like this, and put a clean one in, like at home. Then you clean the shithole. You take the brush and scrub it thoroughly. At times it's gross. They vomit and shit all over it, clients, like anywhere. Once a negroică/Negro woman came and shitted all over it. I thought I'd die. Don't let people from the street use the restroom; only clients. I let her in and I was sorry afterwards. Everything, everything was smeared with shit! Now, you clean the floor! You take the mop and you rinse it like this in the sink, then you twist it like this. Do you know how? Well, I didn't because we didn't have mops like this at home. Five years ago there weren't mops like this in Romania! Then you squirt cleaning fluid on the floor, here and here and here, and then you mop the floor, and it immediately smells better! At times it’s awful how it stinks in here. There you go. You clean the sink and that's it.
It’s really no big deal, like at your home. Then you go and sit at the table, and do what you want to do all day long. The clients, poor dear hearts, won’t bother you.
[Takes the remote control and surfs the TV channels.]
Let's see the Romanian news. There are four channels. At ten is the Pro TV newscast.
Beware, decent-looking folks can be robbers. Ilie Popescu was robbed by a team made of a so-called mason and his female assistant.
As the mason was talking to me about the job, his assistant searched my drawers and when she found the money she gave him a sign and they left saying they'd come back tomorrow.
They never did. Two brothers beat each other up over a bottle of wine.
[On the kitchen shelf some cans and pasta bags. On the fridge a few cooking pots she's washed up, then put inside each other. A strainer.]
We don't really serve food here. So when you’re hungry bring food from home, or you go and buy a sandwich. Sometimes I just drink coffee all day. I wash everything by hand. If there are loads of glasses, you can use the dishwasher, but I never do.
[Washes dirty glasses and cups with water only.]
They have to be sparkly, so that our clients don't go away.
The ashtrays go on the dishwasher, under the counter. Smoking is forbidden, but everybody does it anyway. The clients leave if you don't let them smoke. The police never bother us about it! They came only once, but no one was smoking, thank God. The girls from the neighborhood bars alert us. They call, "Look out, the cops stopped by." Don't leave the ashtrays lying around! Grab them and throw them into the garbage! But you can speak English. Everything will be fine. I wish I could speak English. English just doesn’t stick in my brain.
If you’re smart, you'll have a good life here! It's like your own house. What did you do before? $60 every day is good money. You can't make more. If they want to tip you, great. Always write the bills on paper and then stick them on the pin, otherwise you'll forget.
Oh, I'll tell you about those demijohns later on, but it's not your job. See, you pour American wine from this demijohn and then stick the cork in and it goes into the fridge, on the lowest shelf. It's much cheaper than Romanian wine. The clients don't know what they are drinking anyway.
But this is not your job. Also, the other girl who comes four times a week will take care of the tablecloths. God forbid you mix up the wine and pour red wine in the white wine bottle!
Now, about prices. It's easy: a cup of coffee is one dollar, a water bottle is also a dollar, a Coke bottle or a large coffee is two dollars, the beer is three dollars, a glass of wine is four and all the shots are four dollars except for the green bottle, the Martini and the black label whiskey. Those are five. The red label whiskey is four too. Easy. I'll write the prices down for you.
Okay, dear apprentice, don't be late on Monday! You can't come late and say, "Oh, I overslept!"
Come at 8 o'clock sharp and open the bar and everything will be fine.
Even if you make mistakes, they won't yell at you. No one was born knowledgeable! They understand. Don't worry. It’ll be great.
I'm just so sorry I'm leaving!



Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.

New York
June 24, 2013


  1. Nu inteleg, de ce trebuia sa-si paraseasca jobul?

    1. temporar, mergea in romania sa-si vada familia ptr. 2 luni.