Sunday, October 23, 2011

First music video. Enjoy. The music is mine; the video clips are from various public domain archives online.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nuts, Not Crazy, and a Childlike Grin

(This is a very long story. It's well worth it.)

Borderline schizophrenics shouldn't drink.

Really. It seems obvious, but the difficulty here was in recognizing the signs of dementia, not in recognizing the moral ineptitude of giving alcohol to one who is overtly and clearly batshit crazy. I didn't see the signs, but to my credit, it was because of the fight - one which, had I not curtailed, would have inevitably driven my remaining customers away. I was bartending, and nothing makes people tab out quite like two women screaming at each other. That is, of course, provided they also refrain from hitting each other.

The woman entered around 9:45. We close the doors at ten, and the bar closes precisely at whenever I feel like it, giving her, at the very least, a good hour of solid drinking time. I took little notice - she was sober, sat near her friends, and very insistent on paying up front. The remaining bartop consisted of a very vocal couple who were well at the end of their allotted beers, a friend of hers, and a friend of mine. He's the reason this story is funny, and not simply sad. He's also a rat bastard, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I mixed her a vodka tonic. The following conversation should have been my first clue, but, as I said, there was also the fight.
"Thank you so much for letting me in - let me pay now for one more round, and I can avoid last call."

- Thank you, ma'am, but there's no need to worry - we'll be open for another hour at least. You've got plenty of time.

"I just want to be able to have another drink before last call."

- No worries, ma'am. We're nowhere near closing - you don't have to rush yourself.

"I just want to be able to have another drink before last call."

- I...I'm telling you, honestly, you don't have to rush. I'll pay you out if you wish, but we'll be open for a long time if you want another.

"My husband hates me, and he doesn't think I'm pretty."

- Here you go.
(On an unrelated note, it's extremely difficult to type out long, awkward pauses in such a way that does them justice.)

Sad as it is, the comment didn't give me pause - for a sudden and awkward personal statement, it was fairly tame in comparison to the mammoth conversation-stoppers I'd collected over the past two years. Nothing says "please stop talking to me" after "so, are you from around here?" like the words "yeah, I take a lot of steroids." And that conversation hadn't even reached the minute mark. The woman (we had dubbed her "Nuts") started talking to her friend, a woman I'll introduce below, and I went back to cleaning.

Here the fight began. The vocal husband had stormed out, and his even vocalier (not a word, yes, but it summarizes what the woman sounded like after sufficient beer) wife began to accost the lady who was not crazy. I should introduce her here: Not Crazy Lady was not crazy. She wasn't - a fact upon which she insisted, with just enough force to make the rest of us curious enough to wonder, but not quite curious enough to ask. The insistence itself was odd enough to single her out, not because of content - lord knows most of the bar regulars had at one point proudly declared their sanity in loud, slurred tones - but because of placement. Nothing says "long, awkward pause" like "but I'm not crazy" after the words, "man, that movie was insane."

Vocalier Wife accosted Not Crazy. Myself and the bar regulars could spot it a mile away, mostly because Vocalier was shouting across the room that she wanted to talk to the, as she put it, "woman of low birth,"* but also because we'd grown used to the smaller signs of drunken anger - angry gaze, angry step, angry attempt at whispering what by this point you're yelling across the room due to a drunken inability to control the volume of your voice. And, given that Vocalier had been known to start fights in local supermarkets and video stores, the odds of a fight starting in an area with alcohol were greatly improved. So it was with great relief that we saw Vocalier smile after two minutes of questioning - she knew Not Crazy. Not Crazy was cool. Not Crazy had watched her kids. She must have heard someone else call her husband a jackass.

(It may have been me; I couldn't say. But in the name-caller's defense, "jackass" is a weak epithet for someone who starts throwing coasters at neighboring tables when he's drinking. And note that I qualify that statement with "when he's drinking" only because I assume he doesn't throw coasters all the time.)

This was one of the night's pivot points - all might have gone well, and gone home, had Not Crazy displayed one of her signature moves - insisting that everyone think very, very well of her, to the point of endangering her physical safety. I think this was a side effect of her being Not Crazy. I'm familiar enough with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to recognize the inability to stop a train of thought once it gets going - I've wasted hundreds of hours as a child stuck in the same thought-pattern, pacing around the basement and analyzing the same problem before my parents eventually wondered where I'd gone. You have to, as it were, derail the train. But Not Crazy put me to shame. Her train was a rocket, and at the mention of the word "jackass," Not Crazy promptly ran from her barstool, out into the parking lot, and stood directly in front of husband's revving motorcycle, moments before he took off. Anyone watching her make wild hand motions in front of his face would have assumed that, rather than trying to make him feel better, she was simply furious. And once he took off his helmet, it was clear he had the same assumption.

My friend and I stayed inside - it seemed like the thing to do. Husband was screaming that he didn't care what anyone thought of him, Not Crazy was shouting that she thought he was a great guy, and my friend and I were trying not to laugh. If a fight drags on too long, however, it's usually my job to intervene, and after a few minutes I went to the door to call Not Crazy inside. Nuts had beaten me to the punch.

She was holding the door open, screaming bloody hell at the top of her lungs, to the effect of "don't hurt her!" It was startling enough to make everyone stop and look, which, given her target audience, was no small feat. She was visibly shaking, angry as all hell, and shoved away my hand when I put it on her shoulder. Thankfully, I'm very much a passive person, and was able to back her into her barstool, all the while convincing her that Not Crazy was OK, and that in fact she was not being physically hurt.

This was clue enough for me to cut her off, at least. She cursed at me once, then decided to let it go in favor of staring lustfully at my fellow staff members. Again, the following conversation should have given me a clue:
"Do you think I'm pretty?"

- ...but of course. So, Paul, what do you think of-

"Do you want to date my daughter?"

- Sorry, ma'am, I'm married. (God bless wedding rings!)

"What about your co-worker? Do you think he would date my daughter?"

- ...he' someone.

"Really? You've met her?"

- Yes, ma'am. She works here.

"Is she prettier than my daughter?"

- I...perhaps not. I don't know.

"You want to meet my daughter, and then you can see? I live on 1600 Bonaught Way, yellow house."

- ...

"Seriously, you could come over...I'm having a party! You can bring your friends, and they can see if my friends are cute. I live on 1600 Bonaught Way, ye-"

- No, no, I got it. Thanks for the invite.

"My husband hates me, and doesn't think I'm pretty."
(Once again, the thing about the awkward pauses and the limitations of print.)

To be fair, the repetition of the "unloving husband" theme made me think she was just lonely, not simply nuts, and so I was grateful when she began to plan her annual Thanksgiving Day party with Not Crazy. I'd been waiting for the moment when this woman would finally start talking to her friends, and not to me. It gave me a chance to talk to the remaining person at the bar who made sense. He was sitting quietly, holding a tall pilsner of draft beer, with a giant, childlike grin on his face.
- I'm sorry about all the drama, Paul. You want a beer on the house?

"What, are you kidding? This is better than cable."
I should mention the other conversation that occurred simultaneously with the one I had with Nuts. Not Crazy had come inside, ordered a round, and began to review her actions over the past two hours to see if anything she had done had insulted Husband. She started discussing it with Paul, who, true to his nature, said not a word, smiled, and nodded his head. I tuned out for a time as I talked with Nuts, but she was still going strong over 45 minutes later, repeating the same sequence of thought and looping it around on itself. "I didn't mean to call him a jackass...I don't even think I did! I like people! People are nice! I'm a nice person! Nice people don't say mean things about other people! I stood in front of the chopper and asked him if he had ever seen my face could he think that someone he didn't even know would think he's a jackass? That doesn't make sense! If someone called him a jackass, it wasn't me. I didn't call him a jackass. Or, if I did, it was an accident...I didn't mean to call him a jackass...I don't even think I did! I like people! People are nice! I'm a nice person! Nice people don't say mean things about other people!"

And so forth.

I wouldn't have minded so much had she not insisted on punctuating her diatribe with questions like "do you think I'm a nice person?" and sat pointedly waiting for an answer. Nuts didn't help at all, reminding Not Crazy at regular intervals that she was a marvelous person, and that it was outrageous that someone thought she could call someone else a jackass. This had the unfortunate effect of starting Not Crazy over again. She grew louder, and the monologue grew longer, and I finally derailed her train of thought by offering to buy her a round if she would only talk about something else. Even then, it took a while.
"Thanks for the wine. I really appreciate it. It's just that I don't like it when people think I'm a -"

- Ah No more talking. Another subject.

"Oops. Sorry. I didn't mean to start thinking about that, you think I'm a nice person?"

- That's it. Give me your wine.

"No, no! I'll be good. I will. I'm a good person."
This was the point when Nuts started planning her Thanksgiving Day party with Not Crazy, and when I went to talk to Paul. The evening progressed nicely for 20 wonderful minutes, until I announced last call, and Nuts started arguing with Not Crazy over who was going to drive the other home. Paul had a while to finish his beer, so I saw no need to interrupt the conversation, which had hit the characteristic Infinite Regression of Not Crazy's conversations. And then Nuts went to the bathroom, and Not Crazy looked at Paul and myself, and said the following:
"Man, that woman's nuts. She's not going to stop insisting that she drive me home."

- Just tell her no. She's your friend, anyway.

"No, she's not...I've never seen her before in my life."

I paused, letting this sink in.
- You've been talking to her for over an hour.

"I was just trying to be nice!"

Again, the pause.
- You've been planning a Thanksgiving Party together!

"I didn't want to hurt her feelings!"

- By telling her you didn't know her!?

"She would have been sad!"
It occurred to me that I am grossly underpaid for the type of work I do.

It was now 11:00. I spent the next half hour drawing Not Crazy away from Nuts, something I was only able to accomplish after discovering that Nuts had been stealing large gulps of Not Crazy's wine when I wasn't looking. (She would have complained, but, as she said, she "wanted to be nice.") Nuts, as it turned out, had a quasi-violent side - she waited until Not Crazy was about to sip her drink, and then lunged a good three feet across the bar, snatched the glass, and tossed it back in the manner of a shot of whiskey. She didn't hesitate to shove. Nuts had also entered another round of "where is my husband" vs. "I just found this place, and I've been looking for hours!" while Not Crazy, sitting in a corner by herself, started another Infinite Regression of "I know she's a little nuts, but I just wanted her to feel better. I was just trying to be a good you think I'm a good person?" Occasionally, Nuts would punctuate Not Crazy's monologue with an emphatic "yes!" and I would be forced to pry them apart again, in the manner of a camp counselor watching over young teenagers. No good can come of their meeting.

Paul, except for when I spoke to him, still hadn't said a word. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.

I had pieced together enough about Nuts by this time to understand that, at the very least, I couldn't let her drive home - she had already been sitting long enough to process nearly all the alcohol I had sold her, yet still she clearly shouldn't have been driving. There was no way, however, that I was going to tell her that while she was inside - she'd grown progressively more violent, and I really didn't feel like filling out a report about a broken window or thrown barstool. I opted for calling the cops, giving them her license plate, and making it clear to them that she had better be pulled over before she reached the highway. The police pulled her address and had a backup waiting at her home; sadly, I already knew where she lived.

At 11:30 I informed everyone that I was closing up. I had already spent another round on Not Crazy in order to break her of the second Infinite Regression ("take this glass of wine on one condition - no more talking to her, and no more talking about how awesome you are...yes, yes, it's true. You're an incredibly nice person."). That, however, simply wasn't working - anytime Nuts spoke, which was every couple of seconds, Not Crazy couldn't resist acknowledging her, and they were off like a pair of racehorses. They had again begun arguing about who was going to drive the other home in a conversation reminiscent of newlyweds over the phone ("no, I'm going to drive
you home;" "no, I'm going to drive YOU home;" "no, I'm going to drive YOU home!").

It was clear that Not Crazy couldn't be in the room. I pulled out my cellphone, called the restaurant, and informed Not Crazy that she had a call. When she picked up the phone, I made it very clear that she was not to go back into the bar. Given her tendency towards Infinite Regressions, I had to make myself clear several times. And shell out the money for a third round, on me, if she would stay put.

Keeping Not Crazy in one place took a good five minutes ("yes, you're a good person, now
do not move"). Getting Nuts out of the building was much more difficult. I spent another five minutes explaining, several times over, that we were closed and that everyone had to leave. I had forgotten, however, that Paul was still sitting quietly in the corner.
"What about him?"

- Him? Oh...he's helping me shut down. He owes me a favor, so he's helping me clean.

"...oh." She bought it! I allowed myself an inner congratulatory nod. "Well, I need to drive Melissa home."

- No, ma'am, Melissa's left. She's gone home already.

"No, I need to drive her home."
Since you already know the pattern, I'll skip to the end. "My husband doesn't love me..." And this time I interrupted, lest the conversation start over.
- Ma'am, she's gone home - look at me, ma''am, no, no, look at me, stop trying to go back there. She's gone home. You are not driving her home, do you understand? You are not driving her home. You are only driving yourself home. Only yourself. Am I making myself clear?
I had forced eye contact with her for a good minute. It must have worked - she paused, and a look of realization came over her face. And as she tilted her head slightly, in the manner of one revealing a profound secret, she repeated back to me:
"...I'm not driving her home."

- No, ma'am.

"...She's...she's driving herself home!"

- Yes, ma'am.

"Oh my god...oh my makes so much sense. Don't you see? She had this planned the whole time...the whole time! She outsmarted us all...she outsmarted you! She had this planned the WHOLE TIME!"
Yeah. I had nothing.

She had gotten out of her barstool. She was pacing, back and forth, with this startling realization, and I took that opportunity to stand in front of her and step forward as she stepped back, so that she had nowhere to go but out the door.

"She's so smart...she's so smart! She had this planned the whole time! You didn't even see it! Not one of us saw it! The whole time!" This continued as she stepped out into the entrance way, and then out the door. I stood in place just long enough to hear the click of the lock.
- Boss! Alert the cops! She's on her way!
Paul, Not Crazy, and I waited a good five minutes until we were sure she was out of the parking lot. I had no desire to be interrupted by a loud knocking at the window. And, per her habit, Not Crazy started looping. It had been building in her as she waited by the phone, out of sight of the bar, and erupted forth, a violent tornado of words, all to the effect of "but I was trying to do the right thing." And given that I'd had to order her away, this particular Regression was very, very difficult to stop. Both she and Paul were on their last drink, but, as luck would have it, I was buying this one, too.
- So long as we move on to a new subject, you may have this last'''''am...Melissa! Seriously, let it go.
Stretch that out over five minutes - five very, very concentrated minutes, in which I was doing nothing else but assuring her that yes, she had done the right thing by talking to Nuts, and that she shouldn't feel bad about herself. I felt bad for her, frankly - the more she talked about it, the worse she got: more emphatic, more upset, and more stutteringly repetitive. She calmed down only when she stopped talking. And after those five minutes, she seemed OK. And that's when I made the foolish mistake of leaving the bar to turn in my money to the manager. I shouldn't have left her alone. At least not alone with Paul.

Paul's a good guy - I've seen him sacrifice evenings to chaperone people who didn't feel safe, buy rounds for friends and enemies, and help calm down angry drunks. He once stood up to an angry homeless man who was mumbling threats against those sitting around him. But tonight he was bored, and with Not Crazy silent, his entertainment had disappeared. And as I walked towards the office, down the hall, I heard him speak up for the first time all night:
"Why in the world did you do that? You were really egging her on for a while there...did you have to be that nosy?"

- @#$%!
I came back to the bar. Not Crazy was shouting and defending herself. And Paul was leaning back, a huge, childlike grin on his face. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. And I spent the next half hour calming her down and getting her out.

Paul didn't say another word, except to laugh when I finally got her out the door. I didn't say anything, either.

But I did flip him off.

* "bizzitch"

Monday, June 08, 2009

A Renewed Introduction

Three months ago a friend of mine sent me a link to the Hillsdale Collegian about my old college house, The Beat.

One week ago, while playing jazz for a wine club, I was informed by the owner that she finally was able to spell my name after searching for it online and being directed to a short blog post about only writing happily while drunk.

Two and two together later, I found the old link, and after a few Gmail searches, found all the old passwords. I had had no idea this blog still existed - some seventy-odd posts still exist (now all drafts), most of them categorical examples of why single, bitter, shy, and prolific shouldn't exist in the same body.

I've left my last post standing, and I'll filter out the less bitter posts and bring them back. Three to four years later, I've a wife, a child, a good deal more debt, and a good deal less bitterness. And, now that my wife has a new job which places me more in the position of homemaker than provider, I've more time to write the four years of entertaining stories I've collected.



(I should mention I've quit smoking. But not coffee.)