‘Here I Am in New York, and I Plan on Being Here for a While’
Cam is a unique individual. He is a bartender at Boxers in Washington Heights, sharing good times, laughter and fun. Weekdays he has a serious and very responsible job, both of which he enjoys. I spoke with Cam regarding both his employments. He was very candid, interesting and descriptive. You can laugh with Cam at Boxers Washington Heights every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Cam, I know that you are a superstar bartender at Boxers, but you also have an interesting day job. What exactly do you do?
I bartend, and I also work for the City Health Department as a Public Health Advisor for the Bureau of Tuberculosis Control. I am a part of a team that is responsible for those individuals in New York City who are either positive for tuberculosis, at risk for tuberculosis or they are a contact of someone who has tuberculosis. So with these individuals I have to make sure they are linked to care and adherent to their medication. It is case by case, but typically someone with TB can be on antibiotics for six months and sometimes over a year. But the great news is that it is curable! TB is an airborne disease, so it is strongly recommended for a person to get tested if they have been around someone during long periods of time with active TB.
Aren’t you afraid that you might catch it?
No, because they give us personal protective equipment. I have a mask whenever I go interview them or meet with the patient that has TB. We are very well protected, and our risk is very, very low.
This is very informative, because I didn’t think that people still get tuberculosis.
The thing is, there are two different types of TB. There is a TB infection, and then active TB disease. If you have TB infection, or LTBI, it lies dormant, and it is not currently causing any harm to the individual. This is because your immune system keeps the bacterial infection suppressed. However, over time, if you become immunocompromised for any reason including stress or medical, the TB infection can multiply and then become active TB. At this stage, you are considered infectious and will start showing symptoms with time. Some symptoms include coughing lasting three weeks or more, coughing up blood, fever or chest pain. Our most difficult population to treat are those individuals that just have the infection. If you just have the TB infection, you have no symptoms and you feel 100% perfectly fine. However, we strongly recommend that those who have TB infection start on antibiotics. You are better off clearing it now and not risk it multiplying into active TB years from now.
So then, what prompted you to start bartending?
I started bartending because I love the idea of being a part of a safe atmosphere where people can come and have a great time with no judgement. It makes me happy to be a part of someone else’s enjoyment through the drinks I serve and conversations I have with my guests. It is a fun, fast-paced gig where I get to connect with everyone at the bar and ensure that they know they are always welcomed to our establishment.
How do you compare bartending to working at the Health Department?
It’s a completely different dynamic. At the health department, I am a part of a healthcare team that strives to prevent and cure a disease. I am tasked to present my cases to my team and the community health physician to come up with effective plans for our patients. It is satisfying to know that my work contributes to saving the lives of others. On the other hand, as a bartender, it’s a lot more relaxed. It’s fun; it’s more engaging. I’m entertaining all guests that come in, I’m joking and laughing with them, and everyone’s having a great time. So it’s a completely different atmosphere. One I get to have fun at while the other one is like, oh no, I’ve got to get this person on treatment. It’s like two completely different worlds.
What is your favorite thing related to bartending?
I just like to be assured that everyone is having a great time. People come to the bar for different reasons. But they ultimately want somewhere they can be safe and feel welcomed and feel comfort. So I love the idea that I can help provide that. I have fun with all of my guests. I really want to make sure that everyone leaves with a smile on their face. So it makes me feel good knowing that I am a part of that.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I am off, I enjoy spending my time in the gym. I have several fitness goals I am looking to accomplish that involve achieving both body mass and strength. Lifting weights has introduced me to a new focus that has helped better me in my everyday life. It is important to be healthy both mentally and physically. Spending time in the gym allows me to stay motivated, helps release stress and pushes me to become a better version of myself.
What’s the most fun you’ve had at Boxers?
The most fun I have had at Boxers was during NYC WorldPride. Watching everyone full of life and excitement to celebrate love and equality was very impactful. I have never experienced more joy as a bartender with Boxers than when I was able to celebrate how far we, the LGBTQ+ community, have come. I look forward to working more Pride events to continue to spread love and positivity to all.
With the new outdoor patio set up for dining at Boxers, Saturday is a very busy day for brunch and munchies at your bar. How do you plan to compete and bring those customers to your station after dining outside?
Well, the music and party will still be inside. Guests can step outside to have their drinks/food at our great new patio. They can either stay outside and enjoy the weather or come back into the bar to have fun with yours truly. I love having fun with my guests, so I would naturally attract them to come back to the bar.
What is your favorite thing on the menu, and what types of music videos do they play at your bar on Saturday? What is your favorite type of music?
I love onion rings, bacon and BBQ sauce, so the outlaw burger is my favorite dish by far.
During the day on Saturdays, we play a variety of different music; this includes hip-hop, throwbacks, top 40s and some house music. We also take song requests, so we’re able to ensure our guests have a great time by catering to their interests.
What made you leave Tampa and head to New York?
Not to sound cliché, but I decided to move to NYC for bigger and better opportunities. This is a city I have always wanted to live in, so once the window opened for me, I took a leap of faith and have not looked back. Leaving Tampa to ultimately move to NYC was a difficult choice. However, I believe stepping outside of your comfort zone is a key component to personal growth. I am excited to see what the Big Apple has in store for me in the near future.