Jim Trainer

Bartending At The Track

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2019 at 6:30 am


Frozen out of focus, the Sunday crowd
started dreaming of television turned up too loud
And coded conversation, half baked and tired,
left us sleepy on blacktops burning the motor mile…
Archers of Loaf

They put us on buses.  They don’t tell you that.  There’s no parking at the track so you’ve got to show up a half hour before start time and get to the pickup.  Not that I’m complaining but there’s a gulf of difference between 3:45 and 4:30AM. We show up to the mall and park within the cones and they herd us in.  We wait in the dark for the bus. The bus isn’t bad except it smells of petroleum products–a rank, synthetic citrus smell, hair spray or deodorant on top of soap used to wash away the grease and sweat of bodies pushed to untenable degree.  Some cooks were working 19-hour days out there, from 5AM-10PM and then back in, 2:30AM next day. My point about the busses is that it’s a 1/2 hour to 45 minutes added to your day each way.   A 12-hour day on your feet catering to the public with an hour and half tacked on commuting and trying not to internalize the conversations around you, maybe in one yourself, packed in like hens, trapped and moving through dark walls of rock in the Hill Country and under a mute black sky that tells you nothing, the sleeping world bleating waves of silent pain into your muscles and bones through your eyes and ears and sense of smell–the whole thing can break you and it probably will.  You just want the break to be clean.  

You don’t want to be “cancer” on site, at the job, and you sure as shit don’t want to take it home.  Taking it home is the last thing I’d ever want to do with 60 hours over 5 days bartending at the track, outdoors in a tent in sometimes 40 degree weather and doing $4k in sales and breaking when you can, on your own or partnered up, hopefully with someone even slightly empathetic although even a great partner will drive you up the fucking wall.  I don’t want to address mine, except to say she was great, I don’t know what I would’ve done without her, except maybe take charge of the thing myself but anyway I stepped aside and let her do it, let her try and speak Spanish to the barbacks, in long and longer conversations I was on the outside of and eventually she’d be finishing my sentences, interrupting me as I was talking to customers and reprimanding me as they walked away.

On our last day I gave Henry all my cash.  It wasn’t the right thing to do, maybe it was, but I did it because fuck this country, fuck Trump and the miserable bartender I overheard telling a customer how “They all come up from San Diego…” and, mostly because it was only $22.  My partner was a controlling wench and better than most of the people I could’ve been partnered up with.  But even the best possible scenario can become tenuous behind the bar, working over 60 hours in 5 days serving hundreds of people beer and liquor while they watch a man drive a fast car in a circle and make millions for it.  By the way, I caught the race on the screen behind me and I had to look twice–he’s balding now the racetrack star. And he doesn’t look good. He had this experimental spine-fusion and now he’s back out on the tar but heavy lies the crown. He was better off fucking everything that moved in the sanguine early days of the New Century but who wasn’t?  I can only imagine what I’d look like to my younger self and I feel it–every second of every minute of every day passing. I feel it on my pinky-toe, bloody and nail less, and my right thumb–burned into a blood blister from a scalding hot pan the kid handing it to me didn’t warn me about. Charley horses up my calf but hopefully gone with a couple more hot salt-baths.  A tightness, clamping down the bridge of my nose and a jacked up back I could potentially throw out but live this life a few times over and never be able to afford the surgery a European race car driver can. Not that I’m complaining.











  1. […] Buddhism teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught. –Tiger Woods […]

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