Colin Wilson



We take a seat with Bardog Tavern and Slider Inn bartender Colin Wilson to talk about empathy, careers, life and the importance of being yourself.


Photographs by Bethany Reid Goodman


"


By the time I was 14, I had already entered the workforce. I taught martial arts after school, worked part-time stocking at a drugstore, and had several odd jobs here and there.

I wasn’t much of a sports kid growing up. But I’d been doing martial arts since I was about 10 years old, and even before that I was training myself by mimicking and imitating the scenes in movies.

Maybe I had an exaggerated or blown-out idea of what martial arts were. But watching Bruce Lee movies and others within that genre, I felt like they were superheroes. Like Batman, but without the gadgets.


I mainly studied a karate style called Kenpo. But I also studied a Chinese martial art called Wing Chun and a Filipino martial art called Kali.


The school I studied at, and eventually taught at, was called the Memphis Martial Arts Academy. The owner, Michael Talley, taught karate, but there were a lot of other teachers there too who focused on different martial arts.


I was a tall, skinny kid. Maybe martial arts gave me a kind of physical presence that kept me out of trouble in high school.


But I think mostly what helped me in high school was mainly the confidence I had in myself. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove anything to anybody. So, I carried my head high.

But I think mostly what helped me in high school was mainly the confidence I had in myself. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove anything to anybody. So, I carried my head high.


I never felt that I had to back down to anyone, and I never really had to stand up to anybody either because I didn’t make an excellent target for bullying.

Throughout high school, I was in a pretty serious relationship with a girl who was a junior while I was a freshman. After she graduated, she moved to New Orleans for school. We kept dating long distance, and I knew that I wanted to get there as soon as possible, so I took as many extra courses as I could and even took some summer school classes so that it would expedite high school for me and graduate a year early. I had been held back in the first grade because of a late birthday, so I would be 18 at the end of the year and would have been free to go.


I was on the precipice of starting my third year of high school and was on a path to graduating early. I was finishing summer school for the 11th grade, going into my ‘senior year,’ and my best friend was killed in a car wreck leaving my house.


That sort of tail spun those plans. I wound up dropping out about six weeks into my senior year. I talked to my principal there at the time, and he was understanding and supportive of the whole thing. And I just couldn’t handle being around other kids at that time. I needed space. And so my mom, she saw this. She knew I was working full time and had saved some money, so she encouraged me to go.

My mom was already supportive of the relationship that I was in, and she knew I was moving for love. She believed that whether it ended up working out or not, I needed to have that experience. She also knew that the death of my friend was too much of a burden for me to deal with on my own. She was hoping that my partner in New Orleans would be able to help draw some life outta me again.

So I ended up moving to New Orleans when I was 17-years-old. Since we had been dating so long, her parents invited me to live with them to help me get established and find a job. But, as you can imagine, that situation didn’t work out. So, after I turned 18, I moved back to Memphis with the plan that she would move back here. But, it all crumbled.


That relationship was dissolved by the end of 1998, and I was alone in Memphis, just hanging out and working at Cats Music Company. I loved it. I loved music. I loved playing it, and I loved just being around it. So that’s where my focus was.

But I ended up meeting a girl who was going to Rhodes College. After she graduated, she wanted to move to Columbus, Ohio, for school. I didn’t have much holding me to Memphis, so I went with her.

At that point, I had only really worked in retail, aside from teaching martial arts, so I got a job at a Borders bookstore. In fact, it was the second freestanding store they had opened in the country. Anyway, I took a job as the manager of their music department. It was pretty cool for the time.

So at this point, I’m 21-years-old living in Columbus, Ohio and working at Borders. The relationship that brought me there had started to dissolve, but it was there I met my wife, Michelle, who worked at the same store I did.


Funny enough, it wasn’t the first time that we had actually met. We first crossed paths at a Kung Fu class that I was enrolled in at Ohio State University. Her friend Mary was in the class and had brought Michelle in to check it out.


Anyway, we met while we were both in relationships and knew each other as co-workers and then as friends. Both of our relationships had fizzled out, and after about four months of working together, we started seeing each other romantically.


Eventually, Michelle introduced me to a friend of hers, an older hippie fella named John, who had an electrical company. He was always looking for people to hire for projects here and there. At the time, he was actually renovating his home, so my 'interview process’ consisted of me coming in and just helping renovate his house. I did a good enough job that he hired me. I would do the lion’s share of the labor, running conduits and installing junction boxes, then he would come in and do all the dangerous shit. He would essentially tell us how many circuits and gauges, give us a drawing of how it should be laid out, and then come in, inspect the work, plug everything in, and pull the permits.

While I was dipping my toes into that trade, Michelle started getting involved with a theater company in the city. She had started running lights on productions and was getting into that world.


She made friends with a bunch of cast members that were coming through the city. Many of those actors and stagehands lived in New York, which obviously has a more significant theater culture than Columbus did. They started inviting us to hang out in the city and encouraged her to move there. So we ended up developing a couple of connections to New York. As she kept working with the theater, she started considering pursuing those opportunities.


So, as soon as she asked me if I wanted to move, all I could think of was, ‘Why not?’

In our early to mid-twenties, we were young and in a blossoming relationship. I didn’t have anything locking me to Columbus, Ohio. I had moved there for a relationship that didn’t exist and found a new one. So, as soon as she asked me if I wanted to move, all I could think of was, ‘Why not?’


When my previous girlfriend and I moved there, I thought of it as ‘Okay, we’ll go here. She’ll finish grad school. I’ll be closer to the northeast than I’ve ever been, and maybe we can wind up in Boston or New York, you know, someplace a little more ‘happening.’ We don’t have to go back to Memphis; we can use this as a stepping stone.’ I’d deviated from that path a bit, and my journey was with someone new, but the sentiment was still the same. That jump happened faster than I expected, but I also returned faster than I expected.


In July ‘02, Michelle and I had been dating for several months and went up to the city to scope out apartments. It was just beautiful.

It’s what I call the ‘modern medieval empire.’ It’s just absolutely breathtaking, walking through these canyons of the sky. It was just mesmerizing for me.

While we were there looking for a place to stay, we ended up at a friend of a friend’s party. We met some guys who were about to move out of their apartment in South Brooklyn while we were planning on moving up.


We took a train down to South Brooklyn the next day to see the place, talked to the landlord, maintained contact with him for the next few months, and got the keys.


We were both pursuing art and music. I wanted to take my music further, start making connections in a bigger city, meet other musicians, and so on. New York is an artist’s dream in a lot of ways.

We lived in a house divided into a multiple-family residence. One family occupied the bottom floor of the home, and another family occupied the second floor. So we basically lived in an attic that had been converted into an apartment.



It still had a full bathroom, kitchen and a couple of rooms, but it was small.

It cost around $900 bucks, which was the most I’d ever paid in rent before, which is hysterical now. I can only imagine how much that unit would cost today.


But, the benefit of living in a city like that was incredible in the early 2000s. It’s since dramatically gone down, in my opinion, but it seemed like it was almost the only way to make it in those artistic careers back then. Before the internet really took off, you almost had to exclusively live in those metropolitan-type environments to get your music heard.


So, the main thing I wanted to live there for was the cultural connection. I wanted to go to good record stores. I wanted to be around musicians and artists. I wanted to eat at the cool, weird restaurants. I wanted to meet people that lived genuine urban lifestyles. I wanted to learn their stories, and I wanted to be that type of person. I was really hungry for that experience.


It was in New York that I got my second ever industry job. Michelle and I got a job together at Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. It was wildly popular at the time because it had just been featured in “Sex and the City.” It was popping. I remember coming into my second shift there, and the bakery had a line wrapping around the block.


The staff was basically a ragtag team of young people — aspiring artists, actors, musicians, writers. We were doing counter service and had a team of bakers baking in the back. I was icing cupcakes and taking counter orders as fast as we could. Looking back on it, the energy and urgency were more akin to bartending than any other bakery I’ve ever been to. It was more like bartending cupcakes.

The bakery itself was small, but there would be a line down the block of just hundreds of people. So you’d be walking into work for your shift, and you’re just like, ‘Holy shit, these people are very serious about their cupcakes.’


The bakery itself was small, but there would be a line down the block of just hundreds of people. So you’d be walking into work for your shift, and you’re just like, ‘Holy shit, these people are very serious about their cupcakes.’

We loved New York, but our stint was short-lived. We only stayed in the city for about a year, and it was ultimately just the harshness of living in that environment. That winter was one of the coldest in over a decade. It was just a really harsh winter, and the nights were rough. We were working so much that we didn’t get to do what we had moved there to do, which was to pursue the arts and be a part of that culture. We didn’t feel like we saw enough trees or experienced the nature we were familiar with back home.


And as special as New York was, it felt like we couldn’t escape the city. What once felt illuminating was now feeling overwhelming. The impressiveness of the skyscrapers started to seem more like a cage covering the sky. Maybe the wonder of it all had faded.


But it was a harsh winter that was really hard for us to live through. Financially it was really taxing and challenging, and we didn’t have the money or time to be able to pursue what we had set out to do.

The reason New York was so great for the arts in the ‘80s and ‘90s was because it was cheap. So artists moved there in droves because they could afford it. But over time, that changed. The city was redeveloped, and as you know, money changes everything.


So, we moved back to Columbus. I had started getting into electrical work before we left, so when we came back, I picked that up again. Michelle went to work for a restaurant that her friend had opened. In fact, it was the same friend that had initially brought her to the kung fu class we had met at.

Michelle’s working at the restaurant, and I’m working for John again doing electrical work. I really liked that kind of work, and I learned a lot working for him. He was a cool guy, but he was not a great businessman. He was consistently having a hard time paying me, and I had to stop working for him.

When that ended, I went to work with Michelle and Mary at the restaurant. And, not to throw them under the bus, but they didn’t tell us that they knew they would be closing their doors in a month and a half.


We find out they’re closing a couple of weeks later, and at the same time, we find out that Michelle is pregnant. So, I found myself in a very immediate situation.


I reached out to my buddy James, who had just gotten married to a friend of Michelle’s. He was a truck driver for a company that sold auto body panels. Essentially, they were a warehouse with auto body parts that would deliver parts regionally to different shops in Ohio.


He helped me get a job there, and I developed a truck route. The money was good, and things started looking hopeful for a minute. It wasn’t really inspiring work, but it was honest and stable. We were crawling out of some hard financial times, and things were looking good for a minute.

However, about two months into this job, we came upon some much more difficult times. We lost our first pregnancy that spring of 2004.


That was very, very challenging. It was just a bleak time. We had debt and sorrow, and it was just really hard to crawl out of it...

That was very, very challenging. It was just a bleak time. We had debt and sorrow, and it was just really hard to crawl out of it, especially for Michelle, who had to bear the physical aspects of the situation. But, of course, it was undoubtedly emotionally draining for both of us.


But, you know, the work was plentiful for the time. But I got to a point where I just didn’t like driving all the time. I was starting to get nervous being behind the wheel all the time. I had a couple of close calls while driving, and I just decided I needed to get out of that line of work before my luck ran out.

Around that time, John reached back out to me with the promise that he would be able to pay me accordingly. He made good on his previous debts, so I went back to work with him. His work was abundant at that point, but I did have some hesitations about going backward.


But I thought, ‘Okay, no problem. I’m in the interim. This is what guys do when they’re down on work. They slide back into trade work that they know. This is why I was always told to learn a trade. So that’s what I’m doing.’


And I did that for a while. And as Michelle healed up, she started working with a friend named Michael, who had a house cleaning service. So, she started working with him, and through her job, I met my next employer. John had started going back to his old ways, so I started looking for a new job, and I was introduced to a man named Dave Matthews, not the musician. Anyway, Dave had an irrigation company, and I took a job with him in 2005. I worked with him for three seasons or so. At this point, I had been away from home for a long time. I really missed my family. I missed the friends I had grown up with.


Michelle and I had our daughter Astrid in 2006, and I really wanted my mother to know her.

When I moved away originally, I always felt I was following the art and music. That I’d end up somewhere that I could pursue more artistically. Again, I initially had no plans of staying in Columbus, and New York didn’t work out either.


Growing up in my personal life, I always felt like I was following my friends, that they were teaching me and leading me. So when I left, I felt like I needed to go out and work on my chops and really work on something.


I finally felt like I’d been away long enough to develop some of my ideas and skills, and I had something to bring back. I wanted to bring that back and start jamming with my buddies again. I felt like I had something sincere to bring to the table finally. And again, I really wanted my daughter to know my mom.


Also, I knew the cost of living was cheaper in Memphis, and I thought there would be a lot of job opportunities in the electrical world. So we packed our bags with a baby in tow, and I headed home.

We moved to Memphis in 2008 and lived with my mom for a while. I did find a couple of jobs, but the opportunities in the electrical world were not as abundant as I had hoped.


That year the Memphis Police Department had a massive hiring campaign. It was a strange career jump, but I had just had a child, moved back home, and was open to anything. I had a very optimistic view of what it meant to be a police office, but I was not naive to the challenges and problems that plague police agencies.


I was almost 30-years-old and was desperate to make my mark in this world, to impact people’s lives in one way or another. I knew that art was the path I could follow to do that. But I also knew that social service was as well. And even though I view art as a form of social service, I also see clearly a need in this world for social services for humanity. Which is how I viewed policing at the time, and I genuinely feel it should be.


I’ve said this many times in my life, you know, many people learn their morality from their parents. But I think that you also learned from the lessons that you absorbed. And for me, most of those fundamental lessons about what I interpreted as right and wrong came from Star Wars. You know it came from fantasy, from these exaggerated tales.


I had a solid idea, ethically, about what policing was or what it should be. It was a profession I was fascinated with when I was a kid. Because between that or being a soldier, it was the closest thing to being a superhero in the real world. Or at least it was theoretically, in my mind as a young child. Just the job description has the potential to put you in the right place to perform acts of heroism, that’s for sure. But I don’t exactly know if I would call it a very heroic profession in reality.


I had a solid idea, ethically, about what policing was or what it should be. It was a profession I was fascinated with when I was a kid. Because between that or being a soldier, it was the closest thing to being a superhero in the real world. Or at least it was theoretically, in my mind as a young child. Just the job description has the potential to put you in the right place to perform acts of heroism, that’s for sure. But I don’t exactly know if I would call it a very heroic profession in reality.

So, right before my 28th birthday, I applied to become a Memphis police officer. For the first six months, I had no idea whether I was even still being considered for the job. I kept doing electrical work, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Maybe they’ll call me back. Maybe this will happen.’


Eventually, they called me in for an interview. Policing was looked at a lot differently 14 years ago, so there were quite a few more candidates than there would be today. The interview process was long; I think the whole ordeal took nine or so months. But eventually, I was accepted, sent to the academy, and joined the Memphis Police Department.


It had its challenges. The social climate was not quite what it is now, but I certainly saw that on the horizon for sure. I witnessed a lot of injustice while there.


It is a dangerous job, both physically, emotionally and ethically, and I took that seriously. You’re entrusted with responsibility and power that can quickly consume you.


I wasn’t a 21-year-old kid joining the force. I had been in the world. I’d lived some life. There were lines that I knew that I was not going to cross personally. I really trusted myself.


But, I was looking for these other things within the job. I hate to say it, but maybe it was to gratify my own ego. I was also looking for that stability in my life to help provide for my family. They, at the time, had pensions and insurance. I knew if something happened to me, and excuse me if this sounds melodramatic, but I knew if I died doing this job, it would be in an admirable way — for a purpose. I also knew that if something happened to me, my family would be taken care of.


Dying on the force is probably a little overly romanticized because of movies, but it is real. It’s very real, and it happens. So you can very easily find yourself in a dangerous position where you have to make very immediate choices.


There’s a lot more grimace and a much darker reality in that field than people really realize. But, again, I felt that by being an ethical person, I was making a change from within, and if something happened to me, my family would be taken care of, and I would have gone with the honor of trying to protect society. But, that all changed in 2014.


I had already come to resent many aspects of policing and the culture of the department. Personally, I was not satisfied with my experiences in the department nor with the interpersonal relationships within the department. I saw things that I knew were not ethical. As a result, I knew I did not want to be involved in that organization anymore.


I was really wavering between leaving the force or trying to make it better. I knew my instincts of protecting and running toward danger did not start with me being a police officer.

I was really wavering between leaving the force or trying to make it better. I knew my instincts of protecting and running toward danger did not start with me being a police officer. What I got from the police department was additional training, although I had already been studying martial arts for most of my life.


Additionally, a lot of the training that I received while I was in the department was not through the department. So I sought training on my own because I knew the department would not meet the requirements that a person truly needs to be out there doing this kind of work.


I wanted that Batman-level training. So I went to all the classes I could: defensive tactics, criminal investigation, every weapons class they offered, mediation, and so on.


My lieutenants were constantly signing me up for that stuff because no other officer wanted to do it. They’d send me as a liaison for our shift so that they could say someone went. Everyone else just thought it was bullshit. To be fair, a lot of it was definitely not top-tier training compared to what I’d studied personally, but it is definitely worthwhile. Almost every one of those classes should have been mandatory for the entire department. They absolutely should be. I have a whole lot of thoughts about police reform, but that’s another story.


So, I’ve been an officer for about five years and was already becoming disenfranchised with the department. But, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the pension reform for the department in 2014. It was a huge deal and was all over the news. But, I was a part of the group of officers who had been there for less than 10 years when they opted to replace the pension option and roll us into a 401k.

So that whole reassurance for my family kind of started to dissipate. That, coupled with the realities of what the police department actually was, really manifested in some inner struggles with who I wanted to be.

Around that same time, I met Michael Clarence Blackmer II. It was through him that I saw the potential for another life.


He was a young guy, about 19 years old, and lived in the same apartment building as we did. One day he saw me working on a Batman costume on my porch. He still blasts me about that. I just can’t live it down. I’ll skip the details, but we started hanging out and instantly formed a connection with my family and me. And we still have a strong bond today.


I think Michelle was the first person to really talk to him. I was probably in a mode where I didn’t want to meet anybody. I felt super isolated at the time because of the police force, and I knew that there might be barriers to meeting anyone in new social scenes due to my job. I was always apprehensive. But again, like I said with Michael, I just knew he would be a good friend.

After he saw the Batman costume, we started talking more. He started inviting me to ride bikes with him, and he started doing some martial arts with me.


At that time, I had stepped away from playing a lot of modern music, and I started focusing on Indian classical music, which was a sort of secret passion project of mine. I had gotten really into that genre, but Michael began to introduce me to more modern music that he was listening to.


As a result, it’s kind of Michael’s fault for drawing me back into wanting to play modern music and get back into that whole scene — the concerts, the mingling and so on. Remembering that part of me also helped me realize that maybe I wasn’t interested in a full career with the police department as I thought I was.


I started looking back into technologies that had just started to become affordable, like home studios and digital instruments.


I thought, ‘Maybe I have an opportunity to make honest work here. Maybe I can actually get out of the house and develop a band. ‘



I saw that there were some potential lifestyle conflicts with the police department. For example, the art and music I was into would have probably been seen as actions unbecoming of an officer.

Social media was blossoming and budding a lot in those years. People were getting roasted really hard. Pictures started showing up on the internet of officers off duty who had been out drinking and partying.


There were a lot of social, and sometimes official, repercussions for those sorts of things.

So, I knew that you never really know who you’re mingling with when you go out to shows and meet new people. Even the people you think you know may surprise you.


But, the department was looking to burn people who posted things that might just be considered tasteless.


Since I left high school, I had not been involved in any vocal acts. So the entire time I was in Columbus and New York, I focused on super weird instrumental explorative music.


I knew that music would not turn the department’s nose. People just thought I did weird shit, but that I kept to myself. I’m sure they made sure I was drug tested more often, but that’s all that would have manifested with those pursuits.


When I met Michael, he introduced me to all of this music. I knew that I wanted to be in a band. I knew that I wanted to write songs and use music as a vehicle for expression.


I returned to the aesthetic of the music that I loved in childhood, the music that inspired me.

Basically, at that point in my life, I was hanging with Michael and confiding in him. I told him that I really wanted to leave the police department. Michael, at the time, worked in the restaurant industry. He had just moved to Aldo Dean’s Slider Inn from Aldo’s pizza spot downtown.

I returned to the aesthetic of the music that I loved in childhood, the music that inspired me. Basically, at that point in my life, I was hanging with Michael and confiding in him. I told him that I really wanted to leave the police department. Michael, at the time, worked in the restaurant industry. He had just moved to Aldo Dean’s Slider Inn from Aldo’s pizza spot downtown.

When we were talking, he just told me, ‘If you want a job, I can tell Aldo you’re looking for one, and I’ll see if we can get you on at Slider.


I was like, ‘Awesome. That’d be great’ I remember thinking about it a lot. The only food industry job I really had before was the bakery, and this was something completely different.


I liked talking to people, even though the police department had compartmentalized that part of me. I enjoyed socializing.


Michael and I biked around a lot, so I’d been to most of the restaurants he’d worked at and met a few of the managers in passing when we’d stop for water or lunch.


It was really cool meeting all of those new people. I remember thinking, ‘Even if this isn’t something I want to do for a long time, I’m really enjoying it.’


I had no real knowledge of bartending or the bar industry, but I knew I could learn, and I knew I could hustle. I also knew I would be coming into an environment where I’m working with younger people with a lot more experience in this field than I have, and I’m going to have to learn from them. I had already learned a lot from Michael, and I was okay with the fact that I was older than him.


And I was good with that. In fact, I was looking forward to the change of scenery because for almost my whole adult life, I had worked with ‘fuddy duddies’ at construction sites or with bitter aggro dudes at the police department.


Anyway, Michael got me an interview with Quinto, Aldo’s brother. I would have taken almost any job from them, but I think I was applying to be a server.


It was the best job interview I’d ever had. It was just us, talking, chilling, having a conversation. I’m telling him about my life, past jobs, etc. He’s just throwing questions at me about all sorts of different shit.


I think the plan was to train me on food running, then serving, and then eventually bartending. But, Quinto told me they’re looking for a new bartender and that I was to be trained on that in case they ever need me to fill in from time to time.


At the end of that initial training period, management will decide what job I will get. In the first week, I remembered people whispering that they were training me to be a bartender. I just remember being like, ‘What? Why are you saying that?’


But, it turns out the bartender that was there originally on Sundays and Mondays, Isaac, was leaving his post because he was retiring from bartending. So, I think I only had a couple of training shifts before they put me behind the bar, and I’ve been behind it ever since.


I specifically remember my first solo Sunday night shift. It was trial by fire and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.


I’m much older than most people who first come into the restaurant world. A lot of people start when they are teenagers, and I was 34-years-old when I first started bartending.

But I immediately loved it. Anyone in this industry knows there are many different styles and kinds of bartending, and it takes different types of personalities to do each of them. But, what I really appreciate about working at Slider Inn and Bardog is that I can come as I am. The person that I am behind the bar is who I am. I don’t ever feel like I have to become a character to come to work, and that feels really good, man; it feels good to be appreciated for just being yourself and being a part of a community where you can serve people’s needs, even if just a little bit.


Again, like policing or playing music or presenting artwork — really offering anything meant for people — bartending is an act of service. And I think living in service to others is an excellent way to live your life. I think it helps you maintain humility and gratitude for the experiences you’ve had. It helps you better understand the blessings that are all around you.


Again, like policing or playing music or presenting artwork — really offering anything meant for people — bartending is an act of service. And I think living in service to others is an excellent way to live your life. I think it helps you maintain humility and gratitude for the experiences you’ve had. It helps you better understand the blessings that are all around you.

That’s my philosophy around bartending and about life. I try to be aware of that and to keep that present. This job entails dealing with many people, and it’s not always easy being patient with customers, especially when they’re frustrating and often intoxicated.


I’m not saying I never lose my cool, right? Because that person I described as ‘This really cool, humble person’ is who I want to be. That’s who I try to bring with me to work, and that’s who I try to take home with me.


Sometimes you have to do a certain amount of policing in this industry, so patience is a virtue — until it becomes a liability. And as a bartender, you need to know when that time is. It’s an integral part of maintaining the correct temperature of the environment, and it’s not always easy to keep up that atmosphere.


But, there are definitely ways to manage those situations while still treating people like people, without making them feel like they’re a hassle.

My first instinct is always to be polite and direct while juggling humility and seriousness. I try to always look at those situations as making a professional decision.

Whenever someone is overly intoxicated or making an ass of themselves, I try to think about if that was my mom, my friend, my wife or my daughter in that position. Maybe this person’s had a really fucked up day. Maybe they’ve lost a parent or child.


You just never know who they are or what they’re going through. Alcohol can make people do things they would never do, and it’s our job as bartenders to keep them safe, even if from themselves sometimes.


I just try to bring some empathy to this work. I try to treat people like they are assets, not obstacles. Because that’s what people are; assets. If you lift people up and treat them like they’re important, they will elevate your experience in life by teaching you something that can be an asset to your growth.

Anyway, I liked that part right away. But, I had to learn the technical side of bartending. And how to deal with that level of anxiety that comes with being in the ‘weeds.’


I also remember the joy of being a part of a team working through something together. There is a certain rhythm and flow you learn working in a restaurant – coordinating the bar with the servers, the support staff, the management, the kitchen, the customer, etc.


It was extremely stressful for me in the beginning. But once I picked it up, it became one of the most enjoyable parts of the job. Of course, I prefer a slower pace of bartending, and I think anyone who has been bartending long enough eventually does prefer a slower pace.


Truly at the heart of bartending is enjoying talking to people. Unfortunately, some bartenders become a salty piece of leather and only want to speak to the people they know. Assuming they talk at all. But again, I think a big part of this job is human service. Bartenders always get compared to therapists, and in many cases, there are a lot of similarities. The main one being we’re both essentially professional talkers.

Truly at the heart of bartending is enjoying talking to people. Unfortunately, some bartenders become a salty piece of leather and only want to speak to the people they know. Assuming they talk at all.

But again, I think a big part of this job is human service. Bartenders always get compared to therapists, and in many cases, there are a lot of similarities. The main one being we’re both essentially professional talkers.


Now, not every bartender is that way, and I understand and respect that. And I was never trying to be that myself either, but I find that it’s become a big thing for me — meeting and talking with people and eventually forming some really great bonds.


I think that’s the real dedication that comes with this job. I think anybody can learn how to give somebody a beer, but it takes persistence and patience to dedicate yourself to people and serve them.

Most people, not everybody, but most bring the experience they want to have into the bar. So if you’re in a good mood, you’re bringing in a good experience. And even if your server is bad or your service is bad, you might still have a good time because you’re bringing a good heart and a good attitude with you.


On the other hand, there are some people that no matter how good the service was, no matter how good the food was, it may not be enough to satisfy that person. So I try to read the needs of people before that happens and try to fulfill that need in the most honest and humble way I can — by truthfully being myself and not making any excuses.

I spent too much of my life not doing that.


Your 30’s are younger than ever. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and I feel happier than I have ever been.


Completely changing career paths was a scary thing, especially with a family. But by running towards it, I found a way to control that fear and learn something and grow through those experiences. Continually growing is all I’ve really looked for in life.


There are still some serious questions that you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to be able to pay my bills? Am I going to be able to take care of my family? Am I going to be able to eat?’ But, also, ‘Am I going to be happy? Will my family be happy?’ Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about that, but I worry about being happy. I worry about my family being happy, financially and otherwise.

There are other kinds of securities that, as people, we need. Exploration that’s a part of the human spirit, right? That’s who we are; we’re explorers. Changing careers can feel like the modern-day equivalent of jumping on the Mayflower and setting across the ocean.

And if that’s the way it is, then embrace it with the same gusto.



I really appreciate being in this industry. Honestly — to anyone reading this— if I’ve ever served you in my life, thank you. Thank you for coming and being served by me. I feel continuously humbled by people’s generosity and kindness.

I really appreciate being in this industry. Honestly —


to anyone reading this— if I’ve ever served you in my life, thank you. Thank you for coming and being served by me. I feel continuously humbled by people’s generosity and kindness.


Often humanity can be a really fucking ugly place. But, while I’ve seen a lot of stupid shit and I’ve been met with a lot of bad attitudes, I’ve encountered infinitely more people who are generous, kind, fun, loving and just wanting to have a good time.


"


If you like Colin's story grab a drink from him at Bardog Tavern or Slider Inn Midtown. Also,

give his band, The Pop Ritual, a follow!