"Amateur" can be used to say something is good, or something is bad.
Amateur contractors, for instance, are bad. but amateur politicians can be very good. Amateur musicians can be painful, while amateur night at the improv is totally hit or miss.
In a city desperate for workers, desperate for so many trades and professions, amateurs abound. So you've got to be on your guard in New Orleans nowadays. Or not.
When I first got back to town, just four weeks after Katrina and right on the heels of Rita, I came to understand this first hand.
I was working long, late hours. The family was still evacuated, so I was doing the bachelor thing, you know, eating canned food and drinking beer at every meal. So when they reopened The Italian Pie on Magazine and Joseph, man what a beautiful sight that was!
One night, I was sitting at the bar waiting for my pizza, and the cute young bartender asked me what I wanted to drink. "Jack and seven," I said, and was amazed at the reply. "Jack Daniels?"
Okay, flashing lights and sirens could not have been more obvious. It was as if a duck dropped from the ceiling with a placard that said, "AMATEUR."
I chuckled to myself and said yes. I watched as she began to search the rows of bottles for the world-famous "Old No. 7." She found it, and then began to search for the mixer. After looking high and low, she consulted with the shift manager, a tall fellow with a 70's mop of brown hair parted right down the middle. I saw Chandler shake his head to indicate the negative to her.
"We don't have any 7-up," she reported. "Would you like it with Coke or lemonaide?" I shuddered. Lemonaide? What Baptist town did you escape from, I wondered. "Just give it to me on the rocks," I said.
She smiled sweetly, and then returned to the bottle of Jack. With a few cubes in the glass, she started to pour. And pour. And pour.
She delivered the full glass and charged me $4. Suddenly, she was in my estimation the best bartender in the city of New Orleans. I tipped her generously.
Chandler wandered by a couple minutes later, glanced at my drink, and his eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Is that all Jack?" he asked.
"Not only that, she charged me for a regular drink," I said.
He shook his head, "She's new," he said. "This is her first day."
"Well, she's FABULOUS," I said, and we both laughed.
I suppose if I had ordered a Long Island Ice Tea or a Bloody Mary, she'd have made a bloody mess of it and I would not be writing so kindly of her. Any bartender that tips the Jack longer than the 7 is a good mixologist in my book. But one that pours double or more is worthy of worship in my world.
I returned to The Italian Pie several times over the next month, but sadly my amateur bartender was not to be found.