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By Brandon Wetherbee
Brandon Wetherbee hosts the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody the first two Friday’s of the month at the Wonderland Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Chicago once a month. Subscribe to it online at youmethemeverybody.com. He’ll be at the Wonderland Ballroom on January 6 hosting YMTE Live! with guest Aaron Gulliford, stand up comedian Justin L Cousson and music from Cigarette.

The most dangerous thing for a bartender that fancies himself an artist isn’t booze, drugs, unprotected sex with strangers, eating food that delivers diabetes within 24 hours at 4am or using weapons for pleasure, it’s getting an idea after midnight and the encouragement of friends.

I haven’t bartended regularly since moving to DC. This is a good thing. I had a lot of good years behind a bar. I made friends and enough money to pay rent. I didn’t get super fat or fucked up, but I did get fatter and somewhat fucked up. I immersed myself into a creative community that is supportive to a fault. This type of community is not as prevalent in DC.

People move to Chicago to get good, or at least try to get good, at things like music, comedy and theater. People move to DC to work in or around politics and not much else. One is not better than the other. The main difference is the bar culture. There aren’t many expense accounts in the bars I frequented in Chicago. Most are cash only and the idea of getting a receipt is usually laughed at. These are the type of places where the musicians, comics, writers, actors, filmmakers and other types of creatives I befriended would drink with me on most weekday nights. We drank very cheap beer very cheaply and made sure our insides would rot from overindulgence of whiskey by the age of 50. We also made a lot of stuff.

I have shared drinks with critically acclaimed jazz musicians that tour the world, comics that you see on network television on a weekly basis, filmmakers that now work for the likes of Werner Herzog, more than a few writers that have appeared on “This American Life” more than a few times and other people that are good at what they do. These people that are good at what they do have all been incredibly supportive of my late night flights of fancy and for that, I am appreciative and glad I’m not there anymore.

I bartended one night over the holiday season. I easily slipped back into my old role of equal parts idealist and negative guy that will give you booze. After setting the bar up and waiting for customers on a very cold, dead Tuesday night, I picked up the 20th anniversary issue of Lumpen, a publication that’s great because it caters to everyone that thinks the alt weekly isn’t left enough or artsy enough or DIY enough. It’s the rag that when you’re 15 you think is awesome and inspiring, becomes shit and a waste of time and space from the ages of 18-25, and back to great from 26 onwards. Within the first ten pages of perusing this kick ass magazine, I was inspired to paint again and make another zine and finally finish that film script about the guy and the thing and other dumb shit that would inevitably waste valuable time. Rather than take this issue of Lumpen back to DC, look at it one more time in 6 months and hoard it for no particular reason until I move, I put it back.

All of the distractions, the zines, paintings, bands, delusions of grandeur that I thought made me a unique and well rounded individual actually made me an unbearable, know it all prick that specialized in wasting people’s time. Remember when I told you about that band that was great? They were just OK. Remember that concept album I mapped out on bar napkins? That didn’t need to happen. Remember when you stapled all those photocopies into that free zine no one liked? No one liked it. The years spent on those endeavors wasn’t a complete waste of time. I met individuals that are my best friends and I can trust them til I die. They saw what I hope was my creative worst and they still pick up the phone. They continue to make art. What separates these folks from me, and most of the creative community, is that they took the time to focus on one thing and that one thing. I hope I’ve hit the point where I realize what’s a hobby and what’s a calling. I enjoy the talk show on a level I never did with the rest of the things that I thought would make me Orson Welles. I don’t have weird shame issues after each show. I don’t want to drink to forget after any show. I’m proud of what I’m producing for the first time and I think that most of the audiences and guests can see that. The only thing that can get in the way is an evening of binge drinking in my favorite bar with highly creative people. Either way, it’s going to be fun.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night.