Saint Patty’s day
It was Saint Patrick’s Day and I was checking ids at the bar. This particular bar had the kind of clientele you don’t really want to see on holidays like Saint Patrick’s Day or Cinco de mayo or any other similar holiday. These days have meaning but for a certain kind of person they’re an excuse to get really day drunk. It’s the kind of day whose ideologies don’t have to get in the way of getting seriously fucked up. I was doing the 5pm to 11pm shift and thankfully wouldn’t have to work the aftermath of straggling drunkards. I was close to done when a woman stumbled out of the bar. She was maybe late twenties or possibly early thirties. A tad portly, short, and blond. My first thought was that her night should probably be over as her fumbling footsteps pulled her body towards the smoking area out front of the bar.
I checked a few more ids and didn’t think about her for a few minutes. Bothering me the last couple hours were a couple of panhandlers who were Ludlow street regulars. One of them was a dude we called Johnny cash. He usually wore sunglasses and was from the south and wouldn’t shut up. He’d go on and on with a slight drawl talking shit about anything under the moon until you would literally beg him for a bit of peace and quiet. I didn’t usually give any of the regular panhandlers money. It’s a slippery slope. All the beggars had you as a captive audience because you couldn’t go anywhere to get away from them. The job required that you guarded the door your whole shift. The old dude I usually gave money to was an old Jewish guy named Nate who hung out on a bench in front of the American Apparel store on Orchard and Houston. He definitely looked like he needed it and he didn’t do any drugs or drink too much so it was a safe bet your money would go towards food or shelter. Very occasionally I’d resort to paying Johnny cash just to leave me alone on the nights that he really wore my ears down.
On this particular night Johnny cash was pan handling with this tiny emancipated crack whore lady. She tended to flirt shamelessly and say really lewd shit. She was pretty horror show repugnant and occasionally made a great or horrible team, depending on your perspective, with Johnny Cash as they were both extremely proficient in being persistently annoying.
Earlier in the night someone had obviously gotten fed up with Johnny cash’s shit because all his front teeth were punched in. This had happened recently as his gums were still a bloody mess. He smiled a lot, primarily sarcastically, which was not a pretty sight this evening as each time he opened his mouth blood would drip down his chin.
I looked up at a certain point from working and there was Johnny cash, the crack whore lady, and the drunken woman all making out together. It was a pretty awful sight that I will unfortunately never be able to un-live. Not minutes later the young woman tried to re-enter the bar.
” I’m sorry darling’” I told her,” but not only am I not letting you back in, but I would strongly recommend that you go to the nearest hospital and get yourself checked for every possible disease known to mankind.”
“What? But I want another drink,” she complained. Her voice wobbled woozily in sync with her body. I could see the utter confusion in her face. She was way beyond understanding the consequences of her actions.
It took some time but I convinced her to get into a cab and soon after I was done with my shift. I walked up Ludlow and as I was passing Max Fisch my buddy Shannon called out to me, “Wolff. What’s up? You all right?”
I told him about the bloody make out session and about how the image was bothering me and he said, “Man, that’s nothin’. I’ve got a few stories that’ll knock that shit right outa your head.” And here are the two stories he told me…
It was a busy night and the bathroom was occupied for a really long time and customers were complaining so after 20 minutes or so I busted the door down. There was a man standing in the middle of the bathroom with his pants down around his ankles. His torso was wrapped in saran wrap and there was shit everywhere. With one hand he was jacking himself off and the other hand was raised to the ceiling above his head. He had apparently unscrewed the light bulb in order to stick his finger in the live socket. He turned to me as the door opened, a shit eating grin plastered on his face, and said, “That’s right… I’ve been doing coke.”
I laughed at the story. My friend Malik had wandered by part way through it’s telling. He’s a very large man, friendly and gregarious. He said to Shannon, “Man, I was working that night. Why didn’t you come get me?”
Shannon replied, “Dude you’re too young. You didn’t need to see that shit.”
Malik nodded slightly and got introspective for a moment. “You know… In a way I really respect that dude.”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“Well, think about it. How deeply do you have to plunge the depths of your depravity to discover that that is the combination of shit that’s gonna do it for you. He didn’t just happen upon that sequence of events. Ya gotta figure he went through a whole bunch of shit before settling on that combination. Yeah man, I really respect that dude. I’m not sure I could be that honest with myself.”
“I see what you’re saying,” I said after I’d thought about it for a minute. “I mean, who wants to see the deepest darkest depths of themselves clearly enough to find that shit out.”
“Whatever,” said Shannon. “Another time a dude was similarly holed up in the bathroom. Customers were getting pissed. This time when I slammed the door open there was a regular passed out on the toilet with a dirty heroin needle sticking out of his arm and there was another Dude kneeling down on the floor and sucking the passed out guy’s dick. I woke the regular up and kicked them both out and the very next day the dude that was passed out tried to come back into the bar. I told him “dude you are 86’d forever,” and he got really pissed.
“You can’t just 86 me and not tell me why,” he said and I told him, “you don’t wanna know. Just walk away and never come back.”
“It’s un-American,” he whined and we went back and forth for a while and people were gathering around. Finally I said fuck it and I told him, “You can’t come in because yesterday I broke the bathroom door down and you were passed out on the toilet with a dirty heroin needle sticking out of your arm and there was another dude on his knees sucking your dick.” He went silent and stared at me for a while. I could see the gears turning in his head. He shook his head slowly and he said, “damn… I’m not even gay.”
“It was 6 months before I saw him again and he was trying to get into the bar again. I stopped him but he told me that he had checked himself into NA after that and that he was now a sponsor and he was just checking up on a dude in the program who might be relapsing.”
“I guess when you hit rock bottom like that,” said Shannon, “you either clean up or you die. Their ain’t no other way.”
I can’t really explain it but laughing about that shit put everything into perspective and the stupid lady didn’t bother me much anymore. I figure I’ll never see that lady again and hopefully Johnny Cash will stop bleeding and find himself some false teeth. Maybe I’d stop off and get myself some falafel from Mamoun’s on the way home. I walked home a happy man.