know your bartender: Pete Smith


Sometimes the best things about working at Imminent happen behind the scenes. Lately, something I’ve really enjoyed has been closing with our in-house jazz aficionado Pete Smith. Although I feel like I know quite a bit about music, I have a gaping hole in my knowledge about Jazz, so when we’re closing – once all of you have gone home and we are left to the dreary tasks of sweeping the floors and taking out the garbage – I’ll tell Pete to put on some of that music he likes, and he will then regale me with factoids about John Coltrane or the differences between Bebop and Hard Bop. Every now and then he hits on something that I know a little bit about so I will try to form some sort of salient point, or if I’m not quite sure I know what I’m talking about I’ll ask what I hope is an intelligent question. And sometimes this loquacious young man will just sort of start talking about modal changes and scales, and I’ll try to keep up but just can’t quite make it.

Five minutes into his monologue, I’ll realize what it’s like to talk to me about the cultural relevance of the Beatles music between 1965 and 1967, or why Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks is the greatest album ever made.

The kid’s got a passion, though. Don’t do anything to squash that.

Honestly, it’s really fun to talk music with him.

Pete is a senior at St. Olaf College who will graduate in the spring with a double major in Spanish and what essentially amounts to Pre-Med. It’s an interesting combination that has already proven to be very useful, both at Imminent and in the larger community.

“I’ve translated the menus at Imminent. Linguistically that was an interesting exercise because there is so much, rich, colorful language when you talk about beer. So that was really fun and it was great to improve my vocabulary and learn a few things. But also – I talked with Laura about this when she approached me – the translation will be presented in an equal way, which is really important. It’s not like, there’s the English description and then the Spanish is underneath in tiny, darker letters. Or there won’t be, like, a ‘Spanish’ menu. We’ll just have one side in English and one side in Spanish. Language can be a dividing thing or it can bring people together, and I just wanted to make sure that this wouldn’t put Spanish-speaking people at any sort of perceived disadvantage. It will just be there, and that conveys information. It means we welcome everybody at Imminent, whether they speak Spanish or English. It also just conveys facts. There are a ton of Spanish speaking people in this community, and we want to serve them. It’s an acknowledgement for those people that if they would like to come to Imminent, the door is open.”

He also has combined the Spanish with his medical skills to volunteer at Health Finders Clinic in Faribault, something he says has been an “eye opening” experience.

“When I first got to St. Olaf, I talked to someone who was a Spanish major. I told him that I was interested in both medicine and Spanish, and he told me the one thing I should do was contact Daisey Sanchez at Health Finders. So, I did, and after a little while I started to volunteer there as an interpreter.

“When you sit in the exam room you hear people talking about every aspect of their lives and they really open up. It’s just the doctor, the patient, and whomever the patient brings in, and me. There are some really serious topics that come up in the exam rooms. This stuff is heavy, but if it’s heavy for me, I can only imagine living with it.

“Life for undocumented people in this country is so dangerous and there’s a real fear for them, and there’s almost a shame – especially in the current political climate – so I think it’s great that they do have a place they can go to where they can open up, because everything they say is confidential, protected by doctor/patient privilege. They can open up. There is no risk of them being made vulnerable by what they tell us.”

His experience with Health Finders has been profound, and has helped him find some direction.

“In the spring and summer of my sophomore year, I started having some doubts about medicine and the classes I was taking and wondered if I was not considering all my options. So, in the middle of that, I was thinking about going into biology or research or something, but a huge thing that brought me back to medicine was the work I was doing at Health Finders.”

The work serving the Spanish speaking people of Rice County has now helped him develop some plans for after he graduates. He’s not quite ready to jump straight into medical school, so why not do a little traveling?

“I’ve applied for a Fulbright Scholarship. I want to go study Diabetes Management in Catalonia. It’s a confluence of a lot of different interests of mine.  I’ve studied in Spain and I’ve taken a lot of classes having to do with either the country or the language. With my Spanish speaking abilities it makes the most sense to do something in Spain.

“Part of the application process is finding an affiliation, whether it’s a research institution or some kind of university to support what you’re doing and provide you with resources and direction. Oftentimes what you have to do is just cold email an institution, and outline your proposal and what you’re looking to do. So, luckily – and this is kind of crazy – with my first email I secured an affiliation with the University of Barcelona, which was my first choice. So, at that point it could have been anywhere, but Barcelona is in Catalonia, which is in the Northeast corner of Spain. A big part of this is surveying and interacting with physicians that re not just in the city. In the city there are a lot of resources and there are a lot of people so it’s just easier to manage health care. But part of this would be going out into those small towns, and working with the doctor who serves a huge area, and going to see how their diabetes management programs are working or not working.”

The government shutdown has made things a little tricky , however.

“I hope to hear back from the Fulbright Commission relatively soon. Unfortunately, the commission is part of the State Department, which is shut down right now, so I don’t know when I’ll hear from them.”

While we keep our fingers crossed for him, Pete will continue to tend the bar at Imminent, most likely through the coming summer. So, if you want to talk about endocrinology, Miles Davis, or just want to practice your Español, strike up a conversation with him. He’d love to talk with you.