Believe the crow. Writing “professionally” is way overrated. Professional drinking? Sounds better.
How long have you been a bartender?
About five years here in Seattle, and before that, in Texas. I’m from a town called Tyler, about 80 miles east of Dallas.
I transferred to Seattle University to finish my Bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and stuck around.
It seems like being a bartender is a lot like being a philosopher, but with cocktails.
They definitely have some overlap…
Other than bartending, as a philosophy major, what would be your ideal job?
Probably writing professionally.
What kind of writing?
Short fiction is what I work on right now. Eventually, I’d like to write a book.
Is your writing ever inspired by your bartending experiences?
Absolutely. The human interactions you have with the many and varied people you get to interact with and get to know… that definitely informs your writing.
Do you have any favorite philosophers? Are you a Kierkegaard man, or a Schopenhauer guy, or… okay, that’s about all the philosophers I can think of.
I really like Edumund Husserl. I enjoy reading Kierkegaard, although I don’t agree with a lot of his stuff, although he’s just beautiful to read. There’s a lesser-known philosopher named Karl Jaspers, who’s a big influence of mine.
Can you sum up his philosophy in a nutshell? Although, as Kierkegaard said, “You define me, you negate me.” So, how would you negate him?
It’s hard to distill his ideas into a soundbyte, but he’s an Existentialist.
Do you live on the Hill?
I live about three blocks away, on Harvard and Pine.
Bartenders are kind of like celebrities, in that a lot of people recognize them. Do people ever come up to you outside the bar, and expect you to remember them?
A lot of times the opposite is true. I make an effort to remember people’s faces and names, so sometimes I’ll come up to someone and remember their name and occupation or…
Or their credit card number?
My memory’s not that good!
Do you ever find yourself having to be a sort of “drink psychic” for people like me who can’t decide what to order in a bar?
I feel like the seasons and the weather of each day is a huge influencing factor, even if people don’t realize it. If someone’s been out in the sun all day, you don’t want to give them a heavy bourbon-rich cocktail. But the key to making a cocktail someone’s going to love is interacting with them over and over again. I have regulars, and I know what they’re going to like.
Is there any one seasonal beer that you think people should know about right now?
We’re getting on the Ayinger Octoberfest Marzen. To me that is the penultimate fall beer. To me, it just embodies the changes in the seasons.
When you’re not working, what are some of your favorite places to hang out on the Hill?
I spend an inordinate time at Caffé Vita, reading. Also, as a bartender, I have to do a lot of research and development, and try new cocktails, so I have to drink a lot, professionally.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
What do you do for a living?
I work as an admin director for two environmental organizations.
What are you up to this evening?
So, I’m phone banking for Approve 74 with Washington United for Marriage.
You must feel strongly about this issue. Why is that?
A couple of personal reasons. For one, I have a transgender sister who has struggled with approval and bullying throughout her life, so it comes form that place of having a family member who had to deal with that. The other strong reason I’m supportive is that I’m bi-racial. Even though my mother and father were wed at a time when it was legal for them to get married, relatively recently in history they wouldn’t have had that freedom. Even certain family members of mine didn’t want my father to marry my mother because she was a minority. That showed me that the freedom to marry is about freedom for all people.
Phone banking sounds really scary to most people. How is it going?
There are a lot of people who have very strong opinions. There are some people who are open to having a conversation, at least, and it’s very nice to have that.
Here on Capitol Hill, we might get a skewed opinion on this issue—here, it seems everyone is for it, but…
Once you get out of the King County bubble, there are stronger anti-marriage-equality viewpoints. But I think people are really open for discussion.
Other than volunteering for marriage equality, what do you like to do in your free time?
I like to hike, and during the winter, I’m a skier. And recently, I’ve been learning to scuba dive.
Where do you scuba dive in Seattle? And how, pray tell, do you avoid freezing to death?
West Seattle! And, yeah, there’s this one part of the top of your head that gets really cold, but other than that, you’re in a suit. The marine life here is world-renowned.
And you can see the fish? It seems like it’s so dark…
In the winter you can, so it’s the best time to go scuba diving.
What are some of your favorite places on the Hill?
I have to go back to Canterbury, I like arcade places. Also, I’m a huge Liberty fan—the 15th Avenue places are a little more mellow, they’re the ones I tend to go to.
What’s the sexiest spot on the Hill?
Vermillion, when they have the Breadline poetry readings. They’re really fun, and different from your usual poetry readings. I mean, they’re not … how do I put it?
Yes, amazingly, they’re not boring at all!
Do you dance yourself?
I tap dance. I’m not good—I’m just a beginner. I’ve only been doing it for a year and a half.
What was your impetus to learn tap dancing?
It’s something I’d always wanted to do, so I decided it was time to do it.
I’ve always loved watching tap dancers, but think I’d be too intimidated to try it…
That’s the thing, you’ve got to just go out there and not be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
What’s been the hardest thing about learning to tap dance?
To not compare myself to the other people in the room.
I guess that’s true for everything in life?
That’s true. Exactly. The way I play tap dancing is the way I play life.
You sound very philosophical.
I am very philosophical. Very self-aware.
What do you do for a living?
I’m in the awareness business.
Really? Wow. So is business good in the awareness business?
That must be an interesting line of work.
I own a company called the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision. It’s an international company based in Boston, but I live here. It teaches people how to take care of their eyes, and how to see more clearly on all levels.
So, it’s not just about ocular vision, but about your… “third eye,” or…?
It’s about seeing clearly in life, and focusing on clear images of where you want to go, all that.
What brought you on this path?
Well, I’ve been doing it for probably longer than you’ve been on the planet. I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years. It began through working on myself, and improving my own vision and clarifying my own sight, and going on from there.
Do you live on Capitol Hill?
I live downtown, actually.
Here on the Hill, are there any places you find energetically awesome?
I love them all. I love Remedy Teas, and the place down there to get breakfast…
Yeah, I go there once every other week. There used to be a Thai restaurant down the street…
It’s still there, but now it’s a different Thai restaurant.
Like this Lebanese restaurant [Harissa]—it used to be a different Lebanese restaurant. I’ve only been here for two years, so I don’t know all the places.
Where are you from?
The East Coast. I’ve lived everywhere from New Jersey to New Hampshire, but for last 30 years, in Boston area.
What brought you to Seattle?
A major life change. I was deciding between Seattle and Portland and Eugene, and I ended up here.
More CHS Crow:
- Lou, Carrie & Yohan — ‘The ghost messed with me a lot’
- Jorge, Monica & Jake — ‘… so I blend in’
- Ben, Azul & Mike (& Alfred) — ‘People in Seattle are from all over the place’
Marguerite Kennedy is a freelance writer, semi-professional thumb wrestler, and recovering New Yorker who currently resides on Capitol Hill. She blogs at www.marguerite-aville.com, and does that other thing @tweetmarguerite.