1.Quit pissing on my pity party with your goddamn pity party.
If Fulden Craig was being a bitch, then it must be Wednesday.
He knew as well as anyone who actually worked at the bar that the supper crowd would clear out by 9:00 and he could sit wherever the fuck he wanted, but he was determined to throw a capillary bursting hissy because someone had STOLEN ‘His’ seat at the bar. Goddamn if I could hold his seat and mix noxious Pina Coladas from a five gallon mylar bag. I was just pretending to be a bartender, and not quite cutting it. The group of square-hipped girls who kept ordering them were rapidly outrunning even their ample fat reserves to hold this much liquor, and a few of them were likely to pitch over in a storm drain on the way to their car, vomiting and weeping, which, I must suppose to some folks, is the charm of demon rum. They were crowding the bar, carping because I wasn’t actually cracking the coconuts and shaving pineapples with a machete.
If I’d had a machete, they would have been ruthlessly notified who was the biggest bristling and fanged monster at the bar, and might have been staggering to their cars without their stubby little fingers. And Foulden would definitely have taken a major vascular trauma to his manparts. He was in the bathroom now, pouting. There was a line forming. I’d been telling people to go the fuck ahead and use the WOMEN’S, because, when you get right down to it, there’s no technical difference between a closet with a toilet and a sink and a closet with a toilet and a sink, if you can get past the idea that one has a piss-saturated floor and a toilet seat that is almost spongy from a frequent bath of uric acid. And Fulden was in that one, crying in the mirror or beating off.
I’m being unfair to Fulden. He probably would not have indulged in self-abuse in a public restroom.That was for our purely seasonal clientele of middle aged jock sniffers and Duke basketball camp-followers. At least one of these creatures was a practitioner of a kind of late German expressionism, working in bas-relief, in feces, on the walls of the men’s bathroom. He was the reason I cravenly used my titular status as night-manager to avoid ever, ever, cleaning the men’s bathroom during basketball season. This is only one of the many ways life hinted to me I was either a crypto-Nazi, or predestined to purchase a Wendy’s franchise.
The other server/bartender that night was Theresa, and she’d been having troubles of her own with some scaly guy who kept subjecting her to some clumsy, drunken frottage. I asked her to let me know if she needed him escorted out before she inadvertently ruptured a couple of discs in his neck. She said she would, and I believed her. Theresa was good at finessing creeps out the door, and she proved over the years to be more of a help to me than I had the opportunity to help her.
At some point it occurred to me that everything wasn’t all right with Fulden in the bathroom, so I took the intermediate step of opening the door to the Fraternal Order of Police room adjoining the restaurant and telling the customers they could use the restroom there. The police had wrenched the taps off the sink during one of their collective bouts of binging, but one of them had thoughtfully replaced the handle on the toilet with a mini vise-grip plier, and there was no lid to even bother with. I told the customers that if the pliers went missing, the police would take it personally,devote considerable resources to figuring out who took it, and even more to beating them up in the elevator at the station.
As the crowd thinned out a little I had more time to devote to trying to knock the door down to get to Fulden and shake the teeth from his head. I discovered in the process that the door wasn’t so much locked, as blocked shut by Fulden’s inert body, stretched out full length on the floor. After pushing on it pretty hard I managed to fold him up against the wall enough to see inside. He was out. I didn’t want to be the one blamed for not giving him mouth to mouth at the critical moment so I left him there, hoping someone would find him and take the appropriate actions while I went to dial the funeral home across the street. Or an ambulance. Maybe one of the police/firemen would show up and stash him in the broom closet of the F.O.P. room for a pinata to use at their next party.
While I was on the phone to the dispatcher some students walked around the bar, half carrying Fulden, who looked shaken, but remarkably unsoiled for having lain on that particular floor. He brightened when he noticed the chair that had been taken from him was now vacant.
“I just passed out, I’m sorry. I must have had a seizure or something. Give these kids a drink!”
I filled the students’ orders and put Fulden’s Budweiser on his special beer cozy, shut and locked the door to the F.O.P. room, cashed out the women who were now visibly swaying under the alcoholic weight of their tanning-lotion flavored drinks and proceeded to the bathroom, where I briefly entertained the thought of locking the door and having a cry in the mirror.
Sometimes we’d shut the kitchen at 9:30 to let Darius and his daughter go home, but it wasn’t completely dead now, and some of the newspaper folks might show up. Darius could be passive-aggressive in the kitchen. I learned fairly early it was best to let him get the place cleaned up and shut after the dinner rush rather than risk another “incident”. A late customer might force him to set a portion of the kitchen up again, and someone’s “shredded steak” taco would be prepared with Texas Pete hot dog chili instead. That specific customer virtually spat on me as he threw his money down on the bar and walked out, saying. “Now THAT is the nastiest shit I have ever stuck in my Goddamn face, man. That’s just rugged. That fucking Taco’s got hot dog chili in it! Urrgh.” He walked down the long flight of steps and you could still hear him after the door slammed, cursing alone into the night.
He didn’t leave all that bad a tip, considering.

2. Three edifying tales.
Lou (I forget his last name) and Bob Sherrill showed up at the bar around ten, so we decided not to close early. They were solid drinkers, good tippers and knew a lot of stuff. Danny Firr, who was bartending at the Downtowner at the time, showed up with his boyfriend, and Vic Bund, one of the cops who’d landed a spot in Internal Affairs after the Vice Squad was discovered to be part of a vast Mid-Atlantic drug network. The Feds keel-hauled the whole damn police department. He’d come to pay the rent for the FOP room and decided to stick around for a couple of beers. Sherrill was wound up and telling stories. Usually he just sat and listened to other people’s.
He was having a weak Scotch and soda because he’d tried his customary Scotch neat the previous week “and it felt like it burned a hole in me all the way down. Maybe you should add some more water to that one.”
I knew Bob could help me with a piece of information I was looking for. i couldn’t remember what they called the thing they were trying to use during the Normandy landings that looked like water pipe that you screwed together and fed toward the enemy lines.
“Bangalore torpedo. Total piece of shit. It was supposed to cut a big enough hole in the wire you could start crawling through it. Guy told me a lot of them washed away while the teams were trying to get out of the water. It was in pieces, like sections of water pipe, and had a charge at one end. They just wound up hauling themselves up on the beach and trying to flatten out as much as possible with everybody else. That fucking metal hurts when it hits your ass.”
Sherrill hated Tom Brokaw and all that “Greatest Generation” stuff.
“You know who Tom Brokaw is? He’s the girlfriend waiting back home who wants you to wear your purple heart and your ruptured duck while he hangs on your fucking arm, when all your ass wants to do is get shitfaced and avoid loud noises. He’ll leave you the first fourth of July when a kid sets off a firecracker and you crawl under the bed and it takes a couple of strong people to pry your ass out of it. He’s a cheap slut. Read Paul Fussel instead.”
“What you, what everyone wanted to do, was get that million dollar wound. I knew a couple boys actually got them. One had a hole the size of a fist taken out of his back by an Italian machine gun. The other guy stepped on a schu mine and got blown several feet into the air. It mangled his foot so bad they took it off. You wouldn’t catch either of them dead at the VFW hut.”
Bund asked Sherril “You know when they quit using phosphorous grenades?’
“I don’t know they quit. They’re a motherfucker though.”
“We just convicted a guy on interstate arms trafficking today. I had to testify with some ATF agents about the shit we picked up at his house over on Geer. He had armor piercing rifles, old grenades- the ATF guys said some of them were white phosphorous from WWII, three of four makes of machine pistols, 6,000 rounds of ammunition. All in his basement. If his house had caught fire the whole fucking town would have gone up.”
“Was that Gooch?” Lou asked.
“Yeah. We always thought he was just selling cheap-ass marijuana to kids.”
I remembered Gooch. A friend of mine used to by quarters from him to resell in high school. He was still buying shit from him when he was home from GA Tech on vacation.
“I was at his house once, four or five years back. We went to buy some pot from him. Sleazy cocksucker. Had this big white gut hanging out of a brown T-shirt. It looked like his body was covered with pubes.”
“That’s him.” Said Bund.
“He was running guns then, too. That’s when we knew we were out of our fucking league. He was on his sofa watching Apocalypse Now on cable, and there were stacks of shotguns and pistols all over the floor wrapped in bubble plastic. He said he was waiting for some guys to drive them up north.I was shitting my pants to get out of there.”
“Upstate New York. He was selling them to the Hell’s Angels. I still can’t figure out what they use the phosphorous grenades for. Parties? Anyway, it took a hell of a time to catch him because we had so many fuckups. It’s not like he’s a fucking genius or anything. The ATF had us stake his place out on weekends. That’s probably why you look so familiar. Anyway, we had one guy watching him one weekend, and I get a call from him on the radio. The transmission’s pretty garbled so I figured there was some shit, or he’d been idling the car to run the AC and poisoned himself. On the way over the dispatcher radios there’s been an explosion in the neighborhood. I pull up alongside his cruiser and the roof is blown off. The flashers are hanging off the side, and Kinlaw is standing there with his hands over his ears.
“What the fuck, Kinlaw?”
“What?”
“What happened?” I asked him. He just stood there, cupping his ears. There was blood running from them.
I looked in the car and saw that he’d accidentally discharged both barrels of the twelve gauge mounted between the seats. Probably got bored and was fucking around with it. He was sitting there with the windows rolled up, idling the car to run the AC. The effect was like a pressure bomb. That car never was right anymore after we got it back from the shop. Neither was Kinlaw.
Gooch is the one who placed the 911 call and told the dispatcher he thought a squirrel had shorted a transformer.”
………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Danny asked me “I’ve been working on a recipe for a Bloody Margaret. Mind if I make some?”
“Be my guest. What’s a busman’s holiday for anyway.”
Val, the owner of the bar, had shown up while Bund was talking about Mr. Gooch, and ordered a Jack Daniel’s black label on the rocks. She didn’t like tomato juice. A guy who walked in about the same time ordered a rum and coke.
“Oh hell no” said Danny.”I only do Cuba Libres. I don’t know about you, but I’m sort of picky about anything I might have to throw back up.”
“Then Cuba Libres it is”, said the guy, who introduced himself as Joe.
2a.) Danny Firr’s recipe for Bloody Margarets and Cuba Libres
Theresa joined us at the bar. “I just want a coke.” She said. “Remember that guy who was trying to rub himself on my ass earlier this evening? He left without paying while you were dealing with Fulden. I never even saw him leave. Unless you cashed him out.”
“Asshole.”
“Was Fulden being a problem again tonight?”
“No worse than usual. Someone took his favorite seat at the bar.”
Danny pointed to the broken barstool nearest the television set. The seat itself was long gone. The rusty tube that once supported it was all that was left.
“Well as long as we’re calling seats, that one must be mine.”
“Always with the queer jokes, Danny” Said his boyfriend.
He was asking Val for various things we might or might not have around, being primarily a beerslinging bar. Incredibly, we had Maggi Sauce (Mexican). We didn’t have fresh ginger, but there was a jar of what looked like candied ginger in a jar with an Asian label. There was sour cream for the nacho platters and Chimichangas (served with the stabilizing toothpick left in, as I discovered to my horror when one lodged in my throat during a lunch break)
Bloody Margaret
In a pint glass
A couple of splashes Mexican or regular Maggi Sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
2 oz gin
1 tbs sour cream
1tsp horseradish
cracked ice
stir ingredients while adding tomato juice to top, finish with a couple of twists of fresh ground pepper.
Garnish with lime wedge and pickled habanero or serrano.

“Damn. That’s good Danny. I would never have thought of the sour cream. Why no Worcestershire?”
“I made it for a vegetarian customer. They don’t like anchovies. I think I like the Maggi a little better. The Worcestershire is mostly tamarinds and salt anyway.”

“Now. I hope this really is candied ginger and not some ancient Chinese dick remedy. Oh what the fuck am I saying?”

Cuba Libre
In a tumbler, place 2 oz dark rum
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp ginger juice (or grated candied ginger)
top with house cola from tap, garnish with lime wedge.
2b.) If it sounds too good to be true
“That’s an interesting take,” said Joe. ” The lime and ginger go really well together.
I should have known that. I used to run small charter boats out of the keys and there was an old Mexican guy who sold agua fresca mixed with rum or tequila. I think one of them was just mashed up watermelon with a little bit of ginger juice and lime. Good stuff. I used to get him to make me a water cooler full of the mixer for me and the clients.
He had a brother who lived in St. Kitts who was into all this dubious shit. Gun running, cocaine, bringing Haitian refugees over. One day as I’m about to head back to school, the guy tells me his brother’s looking for someone to pilot a small boat to St. Kitts. It’s a 31 foot metal boat with a couple of small engines and sail. I drove over to look at it. A relic. All mahogany and chestnut in the interior. Two dinky but nice little cabins, Loran, full hydraulics for the sail, really nice radio setup.
I was tempted, but it was getting near hurricane season, and I’d never really been out alone over open water. Said I’d love to, but school…
“He’s offering ten thousand. And he’s got charter work when you get there.”
“Fucking Done.” I said. I got my friend Eddie liquored up that night and talked him into coming along for a couple grand. He’d worked on his dad’s charter fishing boat from the time he was a kid and he had a few weeks before they went back to commercial fishing in the fall. He’d taken a lot of boats back and forth to the islands with virtually no crew. I showed him the boat.
“It’s pretty sweet.” He said. It looks like an old fishing boat someone’s converted. Sort of topheavy, though.”
The day we left we were introduced to our passenger. He was a youngish, skinny guy with a meticulously trimmed, almost vaginal, beard. He had several small pieces of luggage in riveted aircraft aluminum. They looked like guitar and travel amp cases.
We weren’t out more than eight hours when swells started coming up over the boat, and Ed told me to steer into them. He said he thought he could hear the welds giving. He took the wheel and told me to go get the flares out of the passenger’s room and check the pumps. They seemed to crank up alright, and he was going to give it an hour or two before he raised a distress signal.
“Distress signal?”
“Well, yeah. If I keep having to bear this way much longer we’re going to be way low on gas.”
It was a pretty impressive storm, alright. Everything belowdecks was wet already, and the bilge was getting pretty full. I thought I was beginning to panic, but the passenger had totally lost his shit. He wouldn’t unlock the door to his cabin.
“We need the flares, man. They’re in the stowage cabinet under your bed, or over. in one of those.”
‘Why do you need the flares? You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”
“No, it’s just we’re taking precautions. If we’re going to try and make it low on gas we’ll have to be ready to get help.”
“HELP!” He shrieked. “What do you fucking mean?! It’s the fucking sea, man. We’re fucking dead. YOU are dead, man. The water is going to fucking EAT us!”

“Do we really need the flares?” I asked Eddie.
“Why. He giving you trouble?”
“More like he’s apeshit.”
“I think this is easing up a little. How’d the pumps look?”
“They’re running, but the bilge looked to be filling up.”
“OK. You hold it here. I’ll go check them and get the flares. We’re probably sixty percent OK. I’d just hate to have to call the Coast Guard. They’ll rip us a new asshole for being out here.”
The waves were quieting down some, and there was a brief heavy rain that settled to a steady drizzle.
Eddie came back without the flares.”That boy’s all fucked up. The bilge took a bunch of water, but we can bail it. The carburator solenoid’s hosed on the inboard pump. They probably stashed some silicone spray here somewhere.
He’s truly fucked up. Praying to something down there. Maybe we should lock him in from the outside.” The weather had cleared, and we decided to hoist the sail more or less to see if it worked. Apparently the sound rattled the passenger, because he began shouting something incomprehensible. We unbolted one of the swivel chairs from the fishing deck and jammed it under his door. We were going pretty good and had pretty much stopped worrying about gas when we saw the coast guard vessel bearing down on us. They were already chewing our asses out when we opened the emergency channel on the radio.
When they boarded us, with guns, one of them with epaulettes started barking at us.
“What are you fucks carrying that you’ve got to be in a fucking hurricane. Must pay pretty damn good ”
A couple of them went below and freed the passenger by kicking down his door. They brought him up in handcuffs with his luggage.
“Do you kids know this man?”
“Not really. He just showed up the day we left. We’re headed to St. Kitts. This is Philip Asca’s boat.”
“The fuck. You’re going to Miami with us. And this dick here is probably going to do about thirty years.” They were going through his luggage on the deck with latex gloves and stuffing the neat little stacks of bills into plastic evidence bags.
A couple of empty-eyed guys with guns watched us the whole time they towed the boat to Miami.”*
“Did you ever get the passenger’s name?” I asked Joe.
“Something German sounding. Schirr, Schtirr?”
“Schtorr?”
“I think that’s it! It’s been a while though. You know him?”
“He knows all the fucking criminals.” Said Bund.

3. Closing time
My wife had come in to help me close out the register while everyone was drinking Cuba libres courtesy Sherrill and Bund who were both deeply amused by Joe’s story, and suggested he write it up swiftly and sell the option. Darius had already packed up the kitchen and was waiting to leave, so I unlocked the door and walked him downstairs so I could lock the outer door.
“Man, remind me not to get on your bad side.”
“Wha?”
“Ain’t you going to let that fellow out of the F.O.P. room? Been in there half the night, crying and beating on the door. We could hear him back in the kitchen.”
He shook his head “Distressing, man.”
“Holy shit. I didn’t know I locked his ass in there. Thanks, Darius. We just thought he left.”
By the time I unlocked the door for Theresa’s frottagist, he was silently sitting at one of the big tables in the dark, his head in his hands. I told him I was sorry for the mistake, and his meal and drinks were on the house.
As we passed the bar, there was the unmistakable sound of stifled laughter.
“Fuck this place, man.” Said the Frotteur. “It ain’t shit. Y’all are some meanass motherfuckers.”
The stifled laughter was becoming unstifled.
He was still shitfaced, so I had to help him down the stairs. He was already frail. Just feathers and bone. When I unlocked the door and let him out and apologized again he turned toward me “You think I got to come here and get my rocks off. I can get pussy anywhere. This place ain’t shit. I can always go home and fuck Grandma if I have to.”

*The essential plot of the ‘seafaring” story appeared in an old issue of Durham’s “The Urban Hiker”. It was so good I decided to steal it. I’ve changed it up a little, and adapted it as a vehicle for my petty animosities, so it’s not outright theft, but the original is better. If anyone has a copy of it, let me know, and I’ll type it up and post it in its entirety so the folks who read this blog can enjoy it.

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