Home Sweet Bar
I could not afford my share of the rent because I was paying back the bail money from my run in with the law.
A client had a bar and I talked him into letting me live there and work out of the bar. He agreed and I did his monthly accounting for free and moved myself and my computer into the bar.
I also became the bouncer. I was probably the oldest bouncer around (49) but I was sober and I knew how to talk to people. After a while he needed a bartender and I was able to get a motel room with what I made as a bartender.
It was a redneck bar. The bar was in a mostly black neighborhood in a strip of motels. I lived in the motel next to the bar. This was a section of a main drag that had some hookers, drug addicts and drug dealers. As with anywhere I lived I got to know the street people first off.
When I tended bar the clientele became mixed. My customers were workers from local businesses, regulars, hookers and drug dealers. I told the hookers up front that I did not allow them to solicit my customers. If the customers bought them drinks and took them out that was fine. I told the drug dealers not to bring in or sell their drugs. They could come in for a drink and my fantastic ½ pound burgers but they had to have their IDs.
My boss, Bill, was an alcoholic and my biggest problem. I would cut a customer off and he would try to buy them a drink. He would sit and stare at some of the customers. He would give me a hard time when I would pour a heavy shot.
One night it was close to closing time. This big customer came in. He was about 6' 6" and 350 pounds. All the customers left except for the bosses good buddy Red Neck.
The big guy was almost in tears. "My wife is dying of cancer. The doctors say she has a few days left. She is all doped up and still in pain."
I said, "I understand how you feel. She is in pain and soon it will no longer feel the pain. She will be in a better place where she can watch over you. She will still be with you in your heart. When you are hurting she will be with you. Think of the good times and how she would want you to be happy."
He was starting to come out of his depression when Bill, who was about 5' 6" and less than half his weight asked him if he wanted to arm wrestle.
The customer looked at him like he was nuts and said no. I went to Bill and told him to leave the guy alone. Then Bill started to bother the guy about it. The customer got up and Red grabs the gun from under the bar.
I said, "Red put that damn thing back and Bill you shut your mouth."
The customer said, "OK I will arm wrestle."
They went to the end of the bar and brought out the telephone books. Even with 2 telephone books they were not close. Bill was trying to get set and he was hurting the customers arm.
He was getting pissed to say the least.
Red pulls the gun again. I grabbed the gun and said, "Red, sit your dumb ass down and stay out of this. Bill stop making an ass out of yourself."
The customer said, "Thanks for your help. Even with the hassle with the two idiots I feel better now."
He left and I had to get rid of Bill and Red so I could close up.
The customers would ask me about the hookers. I would tell them just to remember the main rule of "dating." Do not go to sleep. The next day they would come back and say, "She stole $300 from me. Can you get it back."
I would ask, "Did you go to sleep?"
The answer was always the same, "Yes and when I woke up she was gone with my money."
I said, "I told you, 'Do not go to sleep.' What do you do? You go to sleep. She is doing her job."
One night one of the local girls made it big. The john had a brief case with $150,000 in it. The fool went to sleep. Luckily he did not meet her in the bar.
The were two brothers on the street. They sold some drugs and were wannabe pimps. The one brother had on hooker working for him. He was approached by a couple of guys in suits. They told him to find the girl that got the money. They told him if he did not turn her and the money over to them in a week he would get a broken arm and be given another week. He left town.
One of the hookers, Helen was in the streets with her daughter Elaine. Elaine would be in the motel when her mother was doing tricks. When Samantha was with me she would visit us. When I was tending bar Elaine would baby sit for Samantha's children when she would go out or come to the bar.
As with most of the hookers Helen had a problem with crack. This guy I met in the coney island next door fell for Helen. He said, "Lee, I want to let Helen and Elaine move in with me. I can take care of them and Helen will be able to stop what she is doing."
I said, "Jack, deep inside Helen is a good person but she is a crack addict and Elaine is always asking for money. You are asking for trouble."
He did not listen to me and he took them in. Helen tried but after a few days Jack came into the bar. He ordered a 7 and coke. He never came in the bar before and I wondered why now.
He gave me an answer, "Lee, this is the first drink I have had in 17 years. I woke up this morning and Helen and Elaine were gone with their things and my gun collection worth over $5,000."
I am a reformed drunk (Not a recovering alcoholic) and I hated to serve a recovering alcoholic his first drink after a long recovery. He was in every night after that for a month.
Elaine's 17th birthday was coming and Samantha thought we should give her a party. The boss said we could use the bar as long as it was over by 3pm. Samantha decorated the bar and we picked up some presents and had her friends there. Her mother got the ice cream and cake and the bar supplied the pop.
Helen said, "Look at her. She has never had so much fun. I am going to quit using drugs and straighten my self out."
Helen got a job that lasted a week then Elaine wanted things that Helen could not afford and she went back to the streets.
Elaine was visiting Samantha and the kids. I was tending bar. Helen was in the next room with a truck driver. He had $90 between the mattress and box spring, After Helen left it was gone and he called the police. Samantha and I were thrown out because Elaine was with us and they figured we were in on it.
We went to a friends for a month then I moved downtown and Samantha became a live in house cleaner for a older man.
One night the boss was talking to a black man outside the back door of the bar. This customer thought the boss was having a problem (he wasn't) and started to go out there to kick some ass.
Now this clown is about 6' 2", 300 pounds and 30 years old. I was 6' 1" 200 pounds and almost 50 years old. I got in front of him and told him to sit back down. He kept coming. I threw him up against the wall and told him if he did not sit back down I was going to kick his ass.
The next day he was sober and asked me if I threw him against the wall. I told him, "You own a bar and you should know that the biggest problem when the is trouble is a drunk ass customer gets involved. If you do it again I will kick your ass."
He said, "I used to break bones for a living."
I said, "I still do."
Never had trouble with him again.
The day bartender, her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend were in the bar. The daughter and her boyfriend were arguing and it was getting close to blows. The mother said she would talk to the daughter and asked me to talk to the boyfriend. We went over as I was ready to approach him a customer grabbed his arm. He thought it was me and swung at me and connected with my jaw. Realizing he made a mistake he apologized. I understood and accepted his apology but I was hurting for 3 weeks.
From that point on when I knew there was going to be a problem I went to the customers I though might get involved and said, "I am going to have to cut a customer off. He will argue with me and it will look like a fight is starting. Just sit down and do not get involved unless I ask for your help. I would hate to have to kick your ass for trying to help.
The customer comes in two or three nights a week and buys drinks for the house and at times bring in people of the street and buys them drinks. He would spend over $100 each time and would tip me at least $20. Each time I would have to cut him off.
"Jim I have to cut you off. If you want I can give you some coffee and you can sit a while before you go. I know you aren't driving but it is too dangerous out there if I let you drink anymore."
He would start yelling. I would come out from behind the bar and talk to him. I would walk with him to the door and he would yell at me all the way. We would get to the door and he would thank me and go.
The other customers would cheer and clap their hands and each gave me another tip.
A good bartender has to be able to talk to the customers. When they are down he has to help them up. He has to be their friend and shrink. He has to be able to talk his way out of a fight. Above all he has to stay sober.
© Copyright 2001 Lee W. Gaylord