“I hate you,” said the guy, with a wink and a smile, as he slapped a twenty dollar bill down on the small table next to me on the stage.
I was playing the Yukon Tavern in Portland for the second time. Last week, I had been invited by Steve Rodin (who plays there two Saturdays each month) to come take a set. I ended up jamming with him at the end of the night, as well. It was then that Michelle (the bartender) offered me an evening to myself, which is what brought me back to the Yukon last night.
Most folks caught on that my CD seller was doubling as a tip jar, but one or two just tossed money onto the table that occupied the stage with me. I felt no need to argue the point (especially with the twenty sitting there).
And then there was Jack.
To use an old phrase, Jack was a few sheets to the wind. Hell, Jack was damned near roaring drunk, to be fair. Somewhat at the request of some of the other patrons, I had played James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”.
“That’s okay, as far as it goes,” said Jack, “but I think you’re chicken. You need to play something with some balls to it.” So I played “Move It On Over” (an old Hank Williams tune, revived by George Thorogood some years back).
“Not too bad for a chicken shit,” says Jack, and struts about the room making chicken noises and giggling at his own wit.
Then he got my wife up to dance with him. Pony shot me a look that said ‘you will pay for this, somehow’. I got another such look when Jack’s hands slid down over her butt. He complimented her on her nice butt.
I don’t think I’m going to live this down for awhile.
There was a bar in southeast Iowa I played some years ago, where the bartender complimented me, saying she had never seen any musician handle drunks as well as I do (I figure it’s the result of my years as a summer camp counselor, back in my high school days). I cherished that somewhat unusual compliment. But now, at this moment, I was wondering if I still had that knack.
Eventually, Jack just quietly wandered out of the bar. A couple of the other patrons leaned in close to Pony. “Tell your husband we’re awful sorry for all that,” they said. “There’s no excuse for that behavior, and he’s a mighty fine musician. He shouldn’t have to put up with that. Neither should you.” [Pony recounted that exchange to me at the end of the evening, as we were driving back to the RV park]
I thought of my sister, the kindergarten teacher, and the occasional challenge of trying to take care of all the kids in a class when there’s one kid in particular drawing attention. Yeah. Drunks are a bit like kindergarten, all over again.