A beer from the heart

When I came down the stairs, leaving the hotel on my way to the bar, my landlord was arguing with a skinny white man at the check-in counter.

"I've paid my rent!" said skinny white, and Mr Patel said something back, but his accent gets in the way when he's speaking, and it's more difficult when he's angry and yelling, and he was, so I can't tell you what Mr Patel said.

The skinny white guy kept saying "I've paid my rent," so I guess the dispute was over that, or maybe he thought paying his rent entitled him to smoke or deal crack from his room, I dunno. It's immaterial what they were arguing about, but I always enjoy watching a good argument, so I stood on the steps and watched until Mr Patel closed the wooden window of the check-in counter, leaving the angry tenant to fume.

He shouted at the wood, and then came toward the stairs, where I'd been standing and still was. He took a few steps up and even said "Excuse me" to get past me and keep going, but he said it harshly so I didn't budge. There was plenty of room to go around me, so I stayed where I was, standing on the stairs.

Squeezing by, the skinny white guy made momentary contact with my belly, which is easy to do. It's out there, protruding. But, "What the hell," I yelled, and then added in streetspeak, "mutherfucker!"

The skinny guy stopped and spun and came down a few steps to shout at me, "When someone says excuse me, you get the fuck out of the way, you fat muh-thu-fuh-kuh," taking his time and stretching that last word with panache. Then he spun again and went up the stairs.

His etiquette lesson was completely correct, but when he was out of sight, but before he was out of earshot, I said loudly, "Oh, the manliness of the man!" 

I regretted it as soon as I'd said it. What was I getting into? Why should I care if the landlord hates this guy?

Well, (a) I'm an ass, and (b) it's freaky to say this but I kinda like my landlord, and (c) I've seen that skinny white guy in the hotel, and he's always too loud and brash, like the second-string bad guy in an action movie.

But still, what the hell was I doing? Was I ready to fight some stranger over a bump on the stairs and a couple of "motherfuckers"?

Testosterone, science says, is why men have shorter life spans than women. 

Everything I'd said and done was stupid. I'm a fat man, and if I hold it right, my size might present the illusion of toughness, but I'm a creampuff — just a big-bellied wimp with a bigger mouth that'll get me in trouble one day.

Not today, though. If the skinny guy heard my last crack he didn't respond, and onward I went, toward my third night of washing glasses at the bar.

♦ ♦ ♦  

During a rare moment when I wasn't washing dishes, Gary tried engaging me in some slight conversations about the Giants, the mayor, whatever. I made it my goal to get him to say three sentences without saying fuck, fucker, or fuckin', but two was the most he could do. And the glasses kept coming, and he had customers, so there wasn't much time for fuckin' small talk anyway.

The waitress said a few words to me too, and she seemed nice enough, but too busy to talk. And so was I, really.

At about 10:30, I got pressed into bouncer duty, or assistant bouncer. Gary wanted me with him as he threw out two guys who were yelling at each other.

So I stood beside him as he pointed them toward the door. They didn't refuse or anything, and actually, they laughed about it, while still yelling furiously at each other. All I had to do was look tougher than I am.

I didn't like it, though. I'd put myself in peril on the stairs at the hotel, from stupidity. At the bar, though, I'd put myself in peril for $5 an hour, which seems even stupider.

And also, washing dishes all night isn't fascinating, and it gets me all wet, and Gary seems to have decided he wants to get to be a buddy, so he made several attempts to talk to me, and I wasn't in a mood for being talked to. I rarely am.

After the incident with the arguing drunks, I asked him about the weekend dishwasher's schedule. "Fuck, Doug," he said, "do you want the job? I'll fire that lazy fucker and you can have his waterproof apron."

The apron I'd been wearing wasn't waterproof, and all it did was soak up the soapy suds, but, "No, I don't want a better apron. I just wondered whether your weekend guy works only on Fridays, because I want to quit."

"Ah, fuck, man," Gary said. "I'm fucked."

"No, you're not fucked. I'm not walking out. I'll wash your dishes the rest of the night, and I'll wash your dishes tomorrow, and if your weekend man doesn't work until Saturday I'll wash your dishes on Friday . I'm just telling you, this isn't my career, and long-term I'm outta here."

"So you're quitting, but not tonight," he said, like the idea of someone not quitting on the spot was a revelation. "You're the fuckin' greatest."

To thank me, he poured a snazzy German brew, the first beer I've had in a long, long while. It was a beer from the heart, though, so I didn't tell him that I've never much liked any brand, any style. Even the bar's best lager was to me indistinguishable from your basic Bud Light.

Gary said that his weekend guy works Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so y'all hurry on down to a bar I'm not naming, where tomorrow will be San Francisco's last chance to drink booze in a glass washed by yours truly.

From Pathetic Life #24
Wednesday, May 8, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I fuckin' love this fuckin' guy. I mean, fuck! - Arden

    1. Adverb, adjective, exclamation. Ya got the big three. I'll be fucked.


    2. He was a great fuckin' guy. Not being a beer man, though, we didn't keep in touch.

      It's a thought that comes up often, re-reading and re-typing these yellowing pages. I should've kept in touch.


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