Love’s Leaver’s Lost

Losing things can be a tremendous nuisance. There are the tangible losses that sting: a scarf, an umbrella or a cell phone. And the abstract losses: your innocence, your inhibitions, and perhaps, your self-respect as a result of several booze-induced bad decisions. Alone or accompanied, you wake up and wonder, “What was I thinking?” The bar is a place where you willfully go hoping to lose something intangible and perhaps unmentionable, while praying that your belongings and daily mentionables don’t tumble out of your purse or pocket along the way. After all, a hat or scarf can be replaced, but that favorite hat or scarf that you bought during that trip to Ireland, and all the memories associated with it, cannot. You walk through the door courting a kind of self-inflicted amnesia, and you do so at your peril. You wager on your future and the quality of your evening . Win big, lose small, and most of all, know when it’s time to go home.

The best bartenders know a lot about losses and gains. They recognize that the bar is a kind of casino where bets are placed; often by people who don’t even know what game they are playing.  In the abstract, you can win big in the form of closing a big business deal, or you can meet the love of your life. You can also come so painfully close to success with either that you will want to cry like a baby when it is suddenly snatched away from you.  We are the Croupier, the Pit Boss and Casino Manager all rolled into one. Things get lost or left behind, people spend far more than they intended to, and we dispassionately bear witness to all the comings and goings. When the item is something material, we store it, label it like an archivist and (usually) hope it gets back to it’s rightful owner. When it is something we covet however, this becomes more of a challenge. The woman whose shameless flirting seems to grow in direct proportion to her date’s lateness or dull conversation. The new iPad or digital camera someone left behind. These things can inspire no small amount of temptation. But I feel pretty secure in saying that our guilt at keeping an item from the lost and found directly corresponds to its material value. It is the cheap and mundane, the crass or comical things, neglected and easy to replace, that we consider fair game.

Take umbrellas for example. I haven’t bought an umbrella in twenty years. I’ve had all sorts come into my possession. At one point I counted an accumulated two dozen umbrellas in my apartment. I eventually gave most of them away and all but two I don’t have anymore. Why? Because I left them in a bar somewhere. Believe me, I am more likely to buy an Aston-Martin than I am to buy an umbrella.

I don’t smoke, but I have dozens of cigarette lighters. Bics and butanes, large, small, plastic, aluminum, I even have a $500 DuPont lighter that I probably should have sold on Ebay long ago. Scarves and jackets, a couple of amazing raincoats courtesy of the unclaimed lost and found bin; I could build a façade of accessories that would make Ian Fleming proud. But please don’t think me a thief or cold-blooded opportunist. In every one of these cases I have at least waited the requisite 2-4 weeks before taking possession of the orphaned items. I confess to being a bit of a calendar watcher on occasion, but at least as often, I have gone on the internet, or Facebook, and called credit card companies and told them to inform the card holder of their lost item.  Certainly, that lambs wool sweater feels far less itchy with a clear conscience.

Some things that get left behind are just plain weird. Opening a stranger’s bag can be akin to opening the prize packet inside a depraved box of Cracker Jacks. Someone once left a beautiful leather golf bag behind and upon opening it I discovered, among other things, a nice, but weathered dop kit that, along with the usual toiletries, contained a diabetics insulin testing kit and several syringes and medications. Worrying about the persons safety should they not get their meds, I scoured the bag for anything that might identify the owner, but to no avail. I was once haunted for months by a woman’s lost Korean passport with all sorts of difficult and complicated stamps and visas stapled in it. Try as I might, I couldn’t find her via the internet or any other source and she never called or returned for it. The documents are probably still in that office right now.

But it is the birthday parties that yield the most colorful left behinds. The half-consumed customized cakes, and tons of delicious designer pastries. Kooky balloons withering on their strings, the thoughtfully chosen oversized cards with scores of signatures that the drunken birthday celebrant completely forgot about. I once had a guy celebrate his birthday at my bar. Kinda hip looking in a Maroon 5 sort of way, he intended to move to a table but wound up having such a blast at the bar that he just stayed and reveled the night away as his friends continued to give him all sorts of various and sundry gifts. When he left, many of them were left behind in a bag (they were unwrapped) and a partial list included: an iPod Charger, a bottle of 1999 Dom Perignon, a bottle of K-Y warming lubricant, and an enormous 12” black dildo called “The Emperor.” I suspect the last item  may have explained his hesitancy in calling to retrieve them. We kept everything for quite a while until one day, the dildo mysteriously vanished along with a never-been-kissed Jehovah’s Witness cocktail waitress of ours. The timing may have been a coincidence, but at the end of the day, I’ll never know. I can only view it as the detritus of a night well enjoyed, that in some mysterious way, rippled outward and made a few lives better.

When the evening ends, the inventory of things lost and found can begin, and one hopes that they are only vague and ethereal. A few cares and inhibitions, perhaps a forgotten stop or two during your bar crawl.  This along with a few dollars and you can happily declare that you’ve at least broken even. If it’s a tooth or a pair of underwear, well, it still could’ve been worse. William Shakespeare must have just awakened after a long night out when he wrote, “Praising what is lost, makes the remembrance dear.”  Indeed. And if you’re lucky, we may just be holding on to it for you.

Cocktail Epilogue

The Casino Cocktail

2 parts Old Tom Gin

¼ part Maraschino liqueur

¼ part fresh lemon juice

2 dashes Orange bitters

Combine all ingredients along with ice in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied Maraschino cherry.

Source: New Diners Club Drink Book, 1968, by Matty Simmons



  1. I once worked improvization skits with a middle school group and I would have a paper bag with 6 to 8 random items, in which they had to tell me the story of how these things alll ended up in one place.
    Oh, the adventures, the murder mysteries, the tales of unrequited crushes and other stories they told. Your “lost and found” items made me remember how seemingly unrelated objects can be made to tell their own stories — true or invented.

  2. Thanks for the trip into your world. Very entertaining, well-written, and with soul. Do you happen to have the number of that cocktail waitress?

  3. Tonight we’re going to pour glasses of champagne and adjourn to the living room where the sun will be setting in the west, and the Golden Gate Bridge will be standing off to the right. I’ll read this aloud, and everyone will sigh when it’s done, and we’ll clink glasses.

  4. Nice writing, a very good read. Have you considered publishing a compilation?

  5. I love this! Found you on Freshly Pressed. As someone who worked in a bar for many years, I completely relate- especially about never needing to buy an umbrella!

  6. One of the things that I am learning is that sometimes it’s best to just let things be what they are and not worry so much about the how’s and whys!

  7. I’m grateful that I spend a lot less time in bars than I used to. I had more trouble with the things I picked up in bars than the things I left behind. 🙂

  8. OH – and congrats on the FP!

  9. hilarious stuff that…i understand the holding of the treasured stuff (to ward of guilt) for sometime though hoping the time to fly by before the owner comes back 😉
    the waitress, though sheer coincidence, i hope has a good time. (she is surely a hit on the post)
    absolutely humorous.

  10. HelloJenLee says:

    I was a bartender for years… I stumbled upon your blog just now and I love!!! Will definitely follow your blog for updates!

  11. Lol..the Emperor…that must have been one of the most interesting discoveries!

  12. scarlettsands says:

    Cool post x

  13. Reblogged this on My Notebooks Revealed.

  14. My girlfriend tends bar at a club one night a week. The money is just too good and easy to walk away from. She is never without wonderful, embarrassing and some down-right scary Saturday night stories.

  15. Very entertaining…

  16. Reblogged this on AVampyres.

  17. What a read! Thoroughly entertaining!

  18. As a self confessed people watcher, I loved reading this post! I’ve never worked behind but spent many hours on the customer side of the bar – watching the contortions of the bar staff with awe. There’s a certain dexterity of mind, body and soul which makes a great tender and it’s really picked out in this piece. Great stuff!

  19. Really well written and hilarious stuff. As it turns out, I only ever lose stuff when I’m sober. Inebriation makes me a hawk and the only thing lost is a serious demeanor. 😀

  20. Insightful words…fun and entertaining. The black dildo, the umbrellas, watching the calendar…hilarious!!! Congrats on FP!

  21. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  22. Loved this! And I love bartenders! Something about a bartender always made me feel looked after. Little blues bar I use to go to, could go alone just to have a drink and the bartender always made sure I wasn’t messed with so I could just listen to my blues. So what did you do with all the broken hearts and hopes left behind?

  23. Great!!!
    Follow me too!!

  24. Wonderfully written. So inspiring 🙂

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