Every now and again, I like to remind readers — and myself — that I actually used to live in Augusta. It was not what I’d call recently, and the version of me that lived there then could have barely been called the beta to the full release that is present me, but still, it’s the only real connection to the city that I have left now that the remainder of my family is moving to another town. The worst part is that now I’ve got no one to text me pictures of quesadilla porn from Nacho Mama’s.
Anyway. The Masters just wrapped up — I know this because now I have to work on these freaking columns again THANKS AMY AND ALSO OBAMA — where you guys are and, as many times as you’ve done this, I’m sure you’re getting pretty efficient at rinsing the second-hand Maduro stink out of your clothes. So I’m not worried about ya.
For about six years, either my family or I lived in Augusta, and I pretty much ran the gamut on odd jobs while I was there, as current or post-graduation philosophy majors are wont to do: video store worker (remember those?!), radio producer, writer-of-sorts and bartender. As to the last, I’ve experienced the Masters as a bartender through two very separate venues: at a local dive institution, and at an all-inclusive resort-type deal that was hosted at one of the largest, oldest houses in Augusta, and truly one of the most magnificent homes I’ve ever seen. I’ve written about this previously, about three years ago. But I’m marginally less of a smartass now than I was then, so let’s see if I can approach this like a grown-up this time.
During that Masters week, I was home on spring break from college, I think in my junior year, so I was just old enough to tend bar. I couldn’t have asked for a more deceptive first experience, both in terms of labor/maintenance and of clientele. Prior to four o’ clock, I’d just be sort of on-call around the property, helping out with any odd task that needed doing, or being ready to prepare a quick drink for any of the vacationers that wanted one. At four, I’d roll out this sort of portable bar, stock it with ice and accessories, plus the most expensive liquor — and, counter-intuitively but not unexpectedly — some of the cheapest, crappiest imported beer.
Around 4:30 or so, the guests would be shuttled in from the golf course for pre-dinner happy hour. I’d never felt so out of my element… or maybe more accurately, never been so acutely aware of how little I understood how parts of our world worked. Not that it was difficult to tell what these guys did for a living — overhearing the conversations (they all sort of congregated right around the bar), it was obvious that almost everyone there was involved in banking to one degree or another. I am absolutely paraphrasing from memory here, but I got shrapneled with terms like “projected index of growth,” “fluctuating exchange” and more. Everyone was nice enough, but I was basically furniture, for them a temporary convenience and eternal inconsequence.
A couple of years later, I was bartending 30 hours a week or so at the Soul Bar (please tell me that place is still around?), and one of our busiest weeks out of the year was the Masters. It wasn’t surprising; the scene I described above was for the wealthiest of an already generally wealthy baseline clientele, so the rest of the golf tourists that descended upon the city for those few days were left to comparatively slum it. And yeah, okay, they weren’t as upper-echelon, stupidly rich, but it still provided a valuable anthropological observation experience when they walked into the Soul Bar during one of the busier times of the day. Remember, at this point (it might still be this way; I hope it is), most patrons were fellow industry workers, artists and teachers from right around the area, grabbing a drink on their way home from a job that likely included yelling, sweat and fire, so it was easy to spot the cigar-chomping Panama Jack who wandered in every so often.
I’d say I wondered what they were thinking, but I’m pretty sure that now I know. A sense of un-belonging mixed with hints of self-indignation brought on by that glaring lost-in-the-wilderness feeling? It’s disorienting, but also a strikingly mirror-image scenario of what I experienced in that grand old house. I guess what I’m driving at is: the best way to approach a sense of understanding between classes is to sling drinks for each other every now and then.
But don’t make a career out of it — that would be crazy.