“I’m a comedic actor, not this.”
This is what I tell myself over and over again when I’m behind an ice well pouring drinks and start to feel the weight of my apron more than I should.
Right now I’m a comedic actor who banquet bartends to support his rent/baby/acting/cell phone/credit card payment habit. Whenever I wear my uniform, I can’t help but think I’ve made a terrible terrible mistake in my life choices somewhere along the road.
But, comedian/actor/writer is my dharma. This is what I believe I was truly meant for. I have to keep on. If I quit now, then everything I’ve ever done in swimming towards this dream was for nothing.
So I suck it up, and keep pouring.
Today is a party.
It’s Joe’s birthday.
Sweet…Just fucking sweet.
He comes in with his daughters and already I know I’m in for it. They want old school drinks like the Grasshopper and the Pink Lady. The Glass Slipper and Whiskey Old Fashioned. I know these drinks but still need to look up the right measures because I rarely make these if ever.
Others follow in and soon, the room is packed. I get hit hard but soon I keep up and finally, it all dies as first course hits the tables. The guest of honor, Joe, comes to the bar. He’s a small man with either a German or Polish accent.
“I just wanted to say I think you’re doing a really good job!”
His face is weathered from time’s hands but from a deep somewhere his inner youth beams through it. He is warm and enthusiastic yet humble at the same time. I thank him and continue to sweat it out behind bottles of house Chardonnay and my own victim stories.
When time comes for him to blow out the candles, he gives a speech to the audience of friends & family.
This speech was so moving, I recorded it.
Here, my good friends, is part of Joe’s speech on his 90th birthday. I must warn you, it’s a bit long but read on and you’ll see why:
“….as we arrived it was after midnight when we got off the train. We all got into lines of five. Then the doctor went through & Dr. Mengele picked some sick people, old people, and young people and he said “You go to the left!” Now, if I had just come straight from home, I wouldn’t have known any different. But, being in 7 camps before I came to Auschwitz , I would always travel in the groups which had the biggest men I could find. So when Dr. Mengele told me to go to the left, and I looked around and saw all the sick, old and really really young kids in it, I told myself “No, this line is not the one for me.” As luck would have it, it was after midnight. So as Dr. Mengele moved further down, I quickly snuck away and ran back to the other side. And had I stayed in that line, I would never have been able to celebrate with you today my 90th birthday. The people in that left line were told that they were going to be taken on trucks because the camp was 6 km away. However, the next morning we all found out where that line had really went.
After being in Auschwitz for a while they told us that they needed to take us on a transport to somewhere (They never told us where, we never knew) They wanted to take everybody except for Polish Jews. They took German, Romanian, Italian…everybody except for Polish Jews. However they had room so they took a couple Polish Jews. I was one of them, among 300 people total on the train. We rode a couple days and I found out from one of the guards that we were all going to Warsaw. (That was after the Warsaw Uprise) Before I had went to the camps, I had lived in the Warsaw ghetto for four months. My brothers and I had bribed the guards to get us out of there and now I was going back. One post had tried to liberate us while we were there but they were unsuccessful. So the next morning they took us out and we broke free and ran to the town. I’m not going to go into detail because it would take too long but they caught us and we marched a few days to Dachau. I was placed in Dachau in ‘Camp number one’ for a few weeks where I worked in the field digging potatoes and so forth until I was placed in what was called ‘Camp number seven’ (which was near where Hitler wrote ‘Mein Kampf’ in the prison) We were there until the beginning of 1945 Where they had us all march on the road. While marching, we knew that the Americans were not far behind us. On May 1, 1945 while in a march, the Americans blew up a bridge which divided us. The few of us they had that were left, they marched us into the woods and left us there. One of the guys who was caring for the sick, came across a dead horse. They cut some pieces off the horse where I made a fire and we barbecued it. At eight in the morning the next day, the German police found us and marched us into the village. On our march, I saw my first American tank. I knew right then and there we were going to be liberated. I saw the Doctor Mengele twice more after that time. If he had his way, I wouldn’t be here tonight . But thank God I’m here with all of you tonight celebrating my 90th birthday. Thank you all for being here.”
What followed after his speech was thunderous thunderous applause.
This man got to live. Many many of his friends, didn’t. Life was tough but his will to live was even more so. If he had given up, then everything this man had ever been through would have been for nothing.
Suddenly me bitching about my apron became very very insignificant.
So here’s to you, Joe. May I be as great as a man as you are.
(By the way…the final song they danced to at the end of the night was “What a Wonderful World” at Joe’s request.)