For the past 4 years, I’ve spent almost every Sunday waitressing in a basement performance space on Cornelia Street.
Cornelia Street Cafe opened in 1977 and is closing January 2nd (2019), so I thought I’d share some memories from my Sundays there.
March 5, 2017
I spilled an entire bottle of Pinot Noir on a customer.
He was an older man and him and his wife left the show after that.
His wife told me I ruined her husband’s shirt and both of their nights.
She walked upstairs but the man stayed behind to tell me his wife got him that shirt but he never liked it anyway.
April 30 2017
A customer walked in and said, “I hate this place.”
He stayed for the show.
April 3 2016
A woman introduced her band.
She said, “This is Bill on drums. He’s so good I had no choice but to marry him.”
April 3 2016
I thought a customer told me I had an autistic looking face.
I said, “Did you just say I have an autistic looking face?”
“No I said artistic.”
Anyway I think she just meant I have a big nose.
February 14, 2016
A customer ordered Laphroaig so I asked if he wanted it neat or on the rocks.
He responded, “Meat? No I don’t want any meat in my whiskey.”
December 6 2015
The phone rang a lot this night and every time it did, the bartender JD would pick up and say, “Cabaret, where all your dreams come true.”
The performance was a magic show and two people came to see it.
I’d be surprised if anyone’s dream came true.
September 25 2016
This bartender Mike told me about a conversation he had with his therapist.
His therapist told him, “Your dreams play like a tragic comedy of a man trying to get from point A to point B.”
May 13 2015
Someone told me I’m the worst waitress they ever had.
March 5 2017
The woman who wrote the song ‘From A Distance’ performed that song.
Afterwards I said to her, “That was cool,” and she said, “You’re cool,” and I felt cool.
November 11, 2018
I was thinking about my dad.
I was wondering if he was okay. I know it doesn’t make sense to worry if a dead person’s okay but that’s what I was doing.
I was working with this bartender Paul and we were trying to figure out how these three customers knew each other.
They just seemed like an unlikely friend group so on their way out I asked them.
They told me they’d been freshman year roommates at the University of Michigan.
My dad also went to the University of Michigan and I like to think that was his way of telling me he was okay.
May 13 2018
I went upstairs to get silverware for rollups and this waitress Naomi told me she’s in love with her body.
I’d never heard anyone say that about herself.
May 13 2015
Before the show started, this guy was talking about his train ride over.
A girl sitting on the other side of the room said, “You look like a music teacher.”
He told her he was.
Then she added, “You look like a tired music teacher.”
May 28 2015
I was working with this bartender Steve and told him I had a date after work.
He got the band to start their second set early so I could make it.
July 2 2015
I was getting silverware from upstairs and saw this new waiter looking at me suspiciously.
He walked over to Glenn who was hosting and whispered something.
Glenn started cracking up and told me the waiter didn’t know I worked here and thought I came in off the street to steal silverware.
The last night it was open, one of the hosts of the show described Cornelia as magic.
I probably wouldn’t describe the place so nostalgically — Everyone hosting the show that night seemed to be named Liz and they were all in the way.
Maybe there was magic at Cornelia, but it was also a business and the food wasn’t always good and the sound board wasn’t always working and I wasn’t always a good waitress and the owner wasn’t always (ever?) sober.
But still, I’m glad I was there.