I just flew in from Texas and boy, are my arms tired. (wakka wakka wakka)
Back in Baltimore I am finally unpacked and reflecting on the incredible adventure I was fortunate enough to be a part of last week, driving through Texas with the Lush Life crew on the second leg of their Bar Institute Econo Tour. The theme of this leg centered on Mental Health and Wellness. My role, aside from leaving a trail of bright red hair and talking incessantly about flamingos, was to speak on functional movement and physical self-care for bar industry folks. Each stop brought a diverse crowd and vibe, but the reception was consistently enthusiastic. People wanted to make habitual changes to prolong their careers, but most did not know how to go about it. We talked about simple, economical, and practical approaches, and many shared their own remedies, helping add to my teaching arsenal when I speak to future bartender populations on this subject.
Through these classes, getting to know the Texas bar community, and my time in the van, one theme stuck with me that could also be seen emblazoned in gold at Juniper Tar during our San Antonio stop—Stay Humble. I am not sure any other ethos can properly capture this experience. Determined to promote social justice and its myriad of forms, the Lush Life squad has taken to the road to bring day long education to 25 cities at a suggested donation of $5. Where the hell else are you going to see that? And while this is fiscally approachable education at your doorstep, do not think for a moment the quality is diluted. The classes are downright baller.
I acted like a giddy child listening to a distilling legend (twice), learned advanced bartending techniques by both well-established and rising bar professionals, had frank discussions on “comp-ing”, got to geek out over spreadsheets for costing cocktails and tracking financials, discovered what some of our respected community members consider essential for owning and operating a bar, and reviewed how to execute an effectual charitable event (such as the one I was immersed in). There were more classes, but my word limit for this blog must be abided by. I engaged with bar owners who cared immensely for their team members, struggling to ensure they could send them to educational events to grow, and relishing in their achievements like a parent would their child. I met a dear friend of the van’s occupants, who drove all the way to Austin, then back with us through to his home in Houston, just to support his pals’ endeavors. Each night after the classes had ended, Lush Life threw a fundraiser in conjunction with the host bar of the day. The proceeds from this and the education portion earlier in the day went to benefit Children of Restaurant Employees (C.O.R.E.).
What are the habits of humble people? At the very base of it all, they put other people first and focus their energy on those who need it. They are conscientious, assume responsibility, and possess emotional and situational intelligence. This crew is living out of a van with a duffle bag’s worth of worldly possessions, sleeping a maximum of 4-5 hours a day, sacrificing personal time for seven weeks, and eating a less-than-wholesome diet (though I am happy to have met up with the team in Texas, where the diet consisted solely of tacos). But why be a glutton for punishment? Is social justice in the bartending community their burden to bare? That is a loaded question for sure. What I can say with certainty is this group not only recognized the role of the bar in reproducing and challenging the major social issues each leg of the tour centers on, but also their dynamic position within our community and ability to highlight and facilitate the discussions surrounding them. Through this tour, and calling on the respected leaders of our community to engage, the Lush Life team is helping to disseminate empowering forms of knowledge and understanding related to social injustices.
It was an honor to be with you on this journey, friends. See you again on the East Coast. And stay humble.