Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bar Fiends (Or, “Just Like In Pac-Man, These Are The Ghosts You Dodge When You Go After Your Fruit”)

            That’s right.
            Bar Fiends.
            Not bar friends. I’ve got plenty of those.
            Bartending in the same neighborhood for many years, especially at the local dives, allows you to meet all kinds of people. As I’ve stated many times, you are the welcomed face behind the bar.
            Many local inhabitants of the neighborhood, when they can’t sleep, realize somewhere in their subconscious minds that you work that late shift on Tuesdays and know that if they sneak out for some of that bedtime whiskey you’ll greet them without judgment or recourse for sussing out a midnight reprieve.          
            As famed filmmaker W. C. Fields once said:
            “You got to believe in something in life and I believe I will have another beer.”
            I’m with you W.C.
            I’ve met some amazing, game-changing individuals in the bars over the years. I remember my Mother chastising me about what I was doing with my life when I first moved to New York and got my dive bar job.
            “Well, Matthew, what are you going to do? I mean, you’re in the big city now, you got a good job, what do you want out of life?”
            I, stupidly, full of liquor, leaned against the bar and said:
            “Mom. All I wanna do is write all the time, drink every day, and fuck everything that moves.”
            All my Mother did was shake her head and say: “Wow. And I thought I raised you with some kind of imagination.”
             In the end, as the years piled on like lime slices along the rim of my life’s glass, I’ve been lucky enough to weed out the good folks from the perilously bad behind the 3 feet of oak wood separating me from the masses. 
            I’ve made best friends.
            I’ve met (and somehow seduced with drunken blather) some amazing, smart, beautiful women.
            But, like Alabama Wurley said in True Romance:
            “Sometimes it goes the other way too.”
            Now what beautiful ex-call girl Alabama meant was how we always expect love to somehow sour. But with great luck, it reveals itself gorgeously, without any effort or expectations.
            And like love, some of these dark bar nights can ‘go the other way’ too. And I’m talking about Bar Fiend kind of madness.
            It’s there. Under every ‘just one more please’ uttered thousands of times in all the bars across this great nation, a layer is peeled from the drunk onion, and yes, the bartenders catch the evidence of these demonic changes.
            There are nights that completely justify security presence. There’s bloody bar fights, lovers raging with highly public arguments, someone falling dead drunk to the floor.
            And it’s only 1130pm on a Saturday.
            Yes, you are in need of some protection from these more than common events.
            Then there’s the people who are true Bar Fiends, straight up alcohol demons, right when the booze hits, they change, like shape-shifters, into serious problems.
            In my illustrious history of bartending, I’ve only had three people throw pint glasses at my head and all of them have been women.
            It’s strange. When certain women get drunk, they turn far more violent than men.
            I’ve had men expose their dicks to me, I’ve see people crush beer cans on their heads and burn themselves on purpose with the candles lining the bar for fun (or just to feel something).
            But the one phenomenon that has always confounded me is what we’ll call the ‘hitter chicks’.
            For some reason, when certain women get extremely wasted, they just start slapping people. And most of the time, it is completely unwarranted.
            Nothing against the ‘fairer’ sex, but nine times out of ten when you hear that flesh slapping sound, you can be rest assured that it’s a very drunk woman smacking the shit out of someone.
            Let’s chat about a Certain Women that decided to wait until my shift was over at 4am. Seemed nice. Totally funny. Enticing accent.
            Good hair. I’m a sucker for that.
            So the night is going fine and liquor’s flowing like a psychotic waterfall, and suddenly, it’s the end of the shift. I politely alert the woman that we have to close.
            She doesn’t respond.
            She’s hovering in a blue dress, talking intensely into a very drunk, very frightened man’s ear.        
            I find it curious when attractive women lurk around whatever men are left in the bar at this late hour, and judging by the fear on these men’s faces, you can always assure oneself that you’re dealing with a serious ‘undesirable’. Usually there’s always ‘someone’ who will take them home. Most men score a notch above chimpanzee. But when all the takers look like they’ve just seen a ghost, that’s when there’s trouble.
            I ignore my instincts and carry on trying to close the bar.
            “Miss, I’m terribly sorry, we’re closed,” I say, “Everybody’s got to split.”
            The dude stands, ready to jump out of his skin from whatever this lady was telling him. He leaves quickly. And then I see it:
            She turns slowly over and with eyes that began with charm are now full of rage.
            I don’t have to do anything,” she purrs—and not in a safe way. Like how a murderer whispers in your ear kind of way.
            Nothing is about to go well.
            “Miss, I mean nothing personal by this, but you must leave. Its past 4:30a.m. I don’t want any trouble.”
            I’m falling into my customer service routine. Like some wild lion tamer, knowing the danger of the species, deftly stepping near, but not near enough to be on the receiving end of any claws.
            She, no doubt can sense this, now that the full Dr. Jeckyll/ Ms. Hyde has consumed her, and has no doubt been in this dance with bartenders before. She rises from her stool and leans over the bar.
            “Can I say something please?” She slurs, eyes fixed like a predator on me. I usher some of the other bar patrons out, dunk the remaining dirty pints into the water, and lean slightly close to her side of the bar.
            “Yes Miss?”
            She squints her eyes. “You’re a son-of-a-bitch.”
            And there it is.
            “I see,” I say, polishing a glass calmly. This is the Zen moment of bartending. This is when you see everything in slow motion. 
            You can see the bait of fury of her eyes.
            You must not react.
            “That’s fine, Miss. No problem. It’s just that it’s late and I’d like to go home.”  
            “Motherfucker. Come closer,” she says.
            I see her fists clenched on the bar. She notices.
            “What do you think I’m going to do, pussy, hit you? You like to be hit?”
            I breathe out quick, hit the music off, jam up the lights full bright, and walk slowly down the bar.
            “Listen lady, (I only use the word ‘lady’ when I’m seriously condescending) I don’t like your tone. You need to leave this bar now or…”
            “Or what? Or what? What are you going to do? You want put your hands on me? That’s what you want, don’t you?”
            Admittedly, I do suffer from slight BDSM tendencies, but I usually refrain from these activities until getting to know and certainly not when it’s obvious the woman in question wants to perform criminal action against me.
            “No. I would just like you to leave. Please.”
            She squints and grins:
            “I bet you wouldn’t even know how to handle a woman. Right?”
            She leans in, confident, the blood boiling, the fury glowing within her. She apparently believes this sort of emasculation will work on me. She probably doesn’t know I was raised by women and have built immunity to this form of attack.
            “Miss, please. Get the fuck out of here.”
            She stews: “Yep. I bet you never held a woman and drove yourself into her, feeling her come, shuddering on you, because of you. You probably know nothing about that.”
            “Look lady, we’re not here to talk about my sexual prowess. If you don’t leave, I’m going to have to call the police.”
            She lightens up: “Oh please do. Bring them pigs down here. I love those pigs.”
            There is no way to solve this. You can’t put your hands on a patron, especially a woman. And this lady was the type to start slapping the shit out of me. I even wage she’s a cheek biter type. She can’t wait to taste someone else’s blood.
            I walk away now, leave her to her spite. I wash some dishes at the far end of the bar, leaving in her shadowed end of the dark bar, the neon light in the window blinking like some beacon above her silhouette. Some kind of logic must have persevered in her deranged mind. Her silhouette slumps under the blinking neon light, and, filled a last bit of energy she could muster, grabs her oversize purse and storms out of the bar.
            I rush over and lock the door behind her. First thing I do is go to the bar, pour a double Jameson, and put that fucker down like it had the antidote in it.
            Now, I was lucky. I knew this. No cops. No hitting.
            Escaped again.
            The next week, I’m describing the event to a fellow bartender, who stares at me, shakes his head.
            “What?” I ask.
            He explains that he ran into the same women the other night. She got rowdy, rude, started creeping out the guys (“and these guys were desperate and still afraid of her”, he adds) and then, come four o’clock, refused to pay her bill, became angry, and started the same routine that happened with me.
            “What the hell did you do?” I ask.
            He chuckles: “I called the fucking cops on that bitch.”
            “What did they do?” I ask.
            He goes onto to explain that when the cops arrived she kept daring them to hit her, to manhandle her, to slap the cuffs on her wrists (“I love the feeling of steel, fucker, put them on me, come on!” was the quote he explained).
            “Yeah,” my colleague said, “they had to call a lady cop in because the guy cops feared lawsuits.”
            (Note: Upon the writing of this, I have spotted this crazy woman at several bars in the Williamsburg, and even more importantly, this evening, harassing two women workers at the bar. Thank God they were women, because this Bar Fiend specifically goes after men. There are others who go to the other way).

            Bar Fiends are Legion. They are everywhere. And you won’t know, at least until 3am, that you are sitting right next to one.





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