"You can stop training," my coach said to me. "The contest is off." I put down my weighted shaker, took my headphones off, wiped the sweat from my brow and looked up in disbelief.The suicide drills between the kitchen and the bar, squats on full cases of beer, lunges with magnum Champagne bottles in each hand, and shaking drills have filled up my free time - and for what? There would be no Best Bartender Category this year in the Source's Best of Bend issue.
"There's just not been that much interest," said the editor.
I immediately thought about Lance Armstrong and how he created a new spectacle in American cycling. I wondered if perhaps it was my duty to create more energy and excitement in the Bend bartender scene. (Would it have been helpful if the bartenders of Bend had worn little brown rubber bracelets to bring attention to cirrhosis of the liver?)
It's always a fascinating competition; there are no rules, other than being a professional bartender. You can win because of personality, speed, efficiency, style, hairstyle, or because you can balance 15 pint glasses on the top of your head while riding a unicycle and throwing flaming shakers in the air. The letdown of not even being able to compete is greater than not winning.
"What's next?" I asked my coach. He looked as baffled as I was. But we both agreed on this: this was the one time of the year where this profession got some glory. That all of us who were supposed to become doctors and lawyers, but who are still slinging drinks got notoriety for a week. Now that it's gone, well, it feels a little sad.
So I declare this week, The Week of The Bend Bartender, because there's no doubt that you deserve it. Come on down, I'll buy you a drink.
1 chilled shot of Crater Lake Vodka
Editor's note: Columbine Quillen bar tends, and bar tends well, at the Blacksmith Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Bend. She is a former Source Weekly Reader's Choice for best bartender in Central Oregon.