New York is packed to the brim with harried Irish bartenders thinking that their crazy exploits warrant a book, but few actually endeavor to put pen to paper.
The same cannot be said for Dublin-born writer Barry Reeves, whose new book, 'A Shot in the Dark,' unearths outrageous tales of his bartending days in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen from 1999-2012.
A disclaimer on the first page states that “names have been changed in order to protect the guilty,” and it doesn’t take long to figure why as Reeves delves straight into stories of trigger-happy cops, transvestites, prostitutes, sexual mishap and drunken debauchery.
“It started out as a series of letters to my mate Smithy back home about all that I was experiencing when I moved over to New York,” the NYU Film School graduate told the Irish Voice.
“I was looking back over these letters and I thought that they were kind of funny and light-hearted, so I decided to put them into chronological order and see what I could do with them. I also added in a few jokes. You know, us Irish are all about having a laugh no matter what the situation and I just wanted to bring that to life.”
The memoir, hailed as a “sardonic take on American culture” by the New York’s Daily News, chronicles Reeves’s first days in New York as a wide-eyed immigrant, and juxtaposes the new-found wealth he found in bartending with his childhood in his modest Dublin home, sleeping in between two brothers who both wet the bed.
“When my mother used to ask me which end of the bed I wanted to sleep on I used to say the shallow end. I learned to swim by the time I was three,” joked Reeves, who is also a freelance film editor.
“And then growing up, we didn’t have much so it shocked me to come over to New York and see a comma in my bank account for the first time. And then to see all that was going on around me...drunk cops coming in and shooting holes in the ceiling, losing their guns, girls around the bar all the time.
“The people I’ve met, the stories they have, it all makes for a good story I think.”
Reeves delivers all his stories with acerbic wit and fluid, every-man prose, providing the reader with his opinions on the beautiful chaos of New York City through a variety of anecdotes and jokes as well as recanting experiences that could only happen in New York, like the disaster that transpired when he finally seduced his first Asian girl, being held at gunpoint by a man that just wanted another drink, and befriending cops that had no problem partying hard in his bar in their time off.
Despite the book’s tongue in cheek nature, Reeves doesn’t shy away from more serious topics either.
He speaks openly and honestly about his various struggles with alcohol, a problem that befalls many Irish people in New York, and also recalls adventures with good friends that have passed away, such as “Scottish Stevie” and Kurt, who both tragically died young after illnesses related to alcohol abuse.
'A Shot in the Dark' is an unassumingly and refreshingly honest look back at what has undoubtedly been a colorful bartending career, and Reeves writes without ego or regret about a madcap period of his life.
“I have loved this city from the moment I arrived. I knew it was the place for me from the second I arrived here and asked for directions and was told to f*** off,” Reeves said.
“Hell’s Kitchen has become the perfect home for me and I wouldn’t change anything.”
'A Shot in the Dark' is available online on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and also available as an e-book, published by Bryce Cullen Publishing. A launch party for the book will be held on Wednesday, June 5 at 8 p.m. at Scallywags, 508 Ninth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets.