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BARTENDING SCHOOL

THE SOBER EMCEE

BARTENDING SCHOOL

Kofi Carmichael

I am coming up on my 40th birthday in less than 2 months and I feel good, and sober. As I give thanks for everyday and move forward in life, I also use this as a time of reflection. I think back to 13 years ago back the summer of 2002. I was on my way to turning 27 years old and going through a low point. At the time I was completing community service for a minor drug(Weed) charge. A few months prior to that I was on the run, sleeping from hotel to hotel because a close friend and business partner who had been raided after an investigation. Then to top it off, my girlfriend/common in-law wife kicked me out of our apartment after being fed up of my drinking, cheating and all around drama.

Life was on tilt and my drinking was spiking higher than ever. I had become accustomed to the finer drink mixtures like Errol Flynns; a mixture of 1 ounce Cognac (Usually Hennessey) and 1 ounce Grand Marnier. Sometimes I'd drink a 26oz bottle of Grand Marnier in 1 night then pass out on my chair with my ex probably shaking her head at me in disgust. My business partner and I would enjoy bottles of Don Perignon (I think aged since 1996) and have a bottle each..minus the glass. I had a customer that would use fraudulent credit cards that would buy several bottle of the expensive champagne at $120 a bottle. Then he would come and sell them back over to us at $60 a bottle or he would use the bottles to work off the tab that he sometimes would accumulate with me due to drug debts. It was like one addict feeding another in a fair exchange. My business partner and I were under the impression that we were the real life versions of who our favorite rappers wanted to be. We were the street guys that they portrayed in their songs.

At the time I had no day job, I hustled, ran our record company and my street team. However by 2002 the street team promotion had started to dwindle with the inception of online download sites such as Napster and Kazaa, as well as the hefty fines that record companies were starting to receive for vandalism. City officials and citizens were getting tired of seeing their street light poles covered with cardboard posters. Record sales were dropping causing record companies to cut back on employees as well as promotional materials. The phone starting dying for street team gigs adding fuel to the fire that blazed through my 2002 life.

One positive is that I had lost over 50 pounds for the first time with the help of a personal trainer. During the weight loss process I was introduced to the white liquor, brown liquor theory. This is the belief that drinking white liquors like; vodka and white rum were better for people watching their weight. Brown liquor requires additional sugar to make it brown, therefore being less conducive to weight loss. I was adamant about cutting down on my pop and juice so I started voiding the chaser in my alcohol, which just upped my tolerance exponentially.

So what does a 26 (and a half) year old alcoholic do when his world is crashing around him? When his best friend is in jail? He is potentially under a drug investigation? His legal music industry gig is dying and his girlfriend of 7 years leaves him??...... He joins a bartending school! Yes, The (Non)Sober Emcee decided I wanted to be the black Sam Malone. I felt the decrease of the music industry income, mixed with the decline in hustling business from the excess movement that I was doing from being on the run.

In January 2002 I rented an apartment in Yorkville. For those not familiar with the downtown Toronto area, Yorkville is a very expensive and ritzy area and I rented a one bedroom apartment that cost me $1400 a month plus $125 month for parking. I was convinced that I needed to get into the workforce. I took a bartending course down on Broadview Avenue and Danforth Road in the east end of downtown. At school I learned how to make a real Long Island Ice Tea, Cosmopolitans and several other drinks. I learned about the ingredients for my favorite liquors as well as ones that I never knew that I liked. The brown liquor, white liquor rule was reinforced and I discovered the value (non-value) of Gin for someone watching their weight. Gin is essentially made with Juniper berries, berries are healthy equalled Gin is better for me. Right? Wrong!

An alcoholic in a bartending school is like a banker robber at Brinks security guard school. It was like a crack-cocaine addict not only learning how to transform cocaine into crack, but also how the cocaine was created itself and all the ingredients. This was a dangerous education. I never took homework as serious as I did for this class. Especially when it required memorizing popular bar drinks. I would buy all the liquors, the liqueurs and even vermouth so that I could practice making drinks for quizzes. I was naturally one of the best students in class. I was the best host when anyone came to my apartment. I would use my guest (and myself) as my guinea pigs as I mixed all kinds of drinks for us from my textbook as my "Homework". This is the time where my tolerance rose to where I thought I needed a whole 26oz bottle to be satisfied. I discovered the after hour bottle delivery services, had a crazy balck out with some strippers (See Entry #21 Blackouts Part 2) and I became more familiar with the after hours underground club scene. This would eventually become the scene that was part of the setting for the beginning of my demise but eventual sobriety....

Bless