When I was fresh out of high school, I wanted to go and learn how to make movies. I was lucky enough to get a part-time job at our local arts school, when it was still just called just “NCSA.” I figured that would be the best way to see if I really wanted to go to film school. While there, I became acquainted with many of the faculty and students and naturally, asked their advice. The resounding answer I received from many was, “See the world. You’re just a kid and don’t know shit yet.” They told me to come back when I had some stories to tell. 

The How-To Show:

Orders. Some semblance of a routine. Deal-making. Counts. Rent. Late nights. Clopenings. Antiquated online systems staffed by crews built to handle a tenth of the capacity. Scheduling. SALES. Salespeople of all stripes dropping in unannounced. Responding to bands, DJs, and crusty guitarists you’ve never heard of wanting to play at a dive they’ve never been to. Employees. Off-time. Repairs. Days with lists so long that you barely make it in time to actually work. Dismantling a toilet to find a vape or a pair of glasses has stopped up the works, again. Multiple right ways to mix a drink. Multiple liquors not to carry. Code-switching to avoid scaring older white people. 

The Sitcom/Drama:

Regulars asking to be employees. Employees asking to be regulars. Every personality type from the quiet loner to Everybody’s Best Friend. The same faces, day after day, interspersed with weekly “guest stars” who may be asked to become series regulars provided they have the chops. The ones who evaporate into the void after finding love or a job in Philly. The ones who return to make appearances on the Christmas episode or the season finale. Guy with unleashed ancient dog. A Very Special After School Drug Awareness episode. The attractive and mysterious stranger who shows up, alone, night after night, inspiring speculation until a courageous stumbler finally uses some cheap come-on. They’ll be living together in a week, and the stranger becomes a regular by rights, with a backstory just as mundane as anyone else’s. The bad guy who really isn’t. The good one who really isn’t. Random famous people who appear in episodes like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. Destination episodes (The Gang goes to DollyWood). Bad nights. The occasional glance into someone’s life outside of the bar. Crying in the car before a shift (and after). Personal loss. Crushes. Lost loves. Infidelity. The “will they or won’t they” friendships. A secret from someone’s past. 

Trade Street’s West Wing:

Afternoon opinions from the after-workers. Occasional guest spots from local movers and shakers. City business, city news and city scandals. Crime dockets with juicy details (probably false) not mentioned in the papers. Real Estate Hour. Rent speculation. Discussions on mental health and social safety nets after daily visits from a homeless person who has been on the street longer than anyone can remember. Getting to know your new property owners. Car Talk. Parking-fine Fridays. Hot takes from the quiet guy who might be racist. Hot takes from the person who lived in Brooklyn for a year. Hot takes from the oldest regular who voted for McGovern. The most popular topic on Mondays is “Who’s open right now?”

Reality TV:

Real Pranks. Fake pranks. Bad acting. A line of women sitting together at the bar taking separate selfies upon arrival. The guy who is FaceTiming the whole time. Bluetooth speaker guy. The influencers who cross the street to avoid the bar but imply that Reynolda Village is a quaint English countryside town, tweed and all. Mural photo shoots. Dude wearing butterfly wings on a brightly lit one wheel. The guy who still calls a cab. Hearing, “Do you guys have Apple Pay?” multiple times a night. Drone guy. The guy who asks if we take crypto. The “let me move some money around” person after their card is declined. 

Storytellers should do a residency at a dive bar. 

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