From “Tales From The Emperor,” an opinion-editorial piece
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I’m sharing a story about an Irishmen’s bar fight from my upcoming book, Delusions of Grandeur.
I adhere to a three strikes rule regarding social invitations. If someone declines an invite three consecutive times I think it’s best to abandon the effort, otherwise it just becomes awkward.
I had moved across the Bay, from San Francisco to Oakland, and tensions had developed with my San Francisco-centric happy hour crew, The Castro Consorts. They gathered around five, but with my new job in Berkeley I could rarely make it before seven. After several failed attempts to connect, arriving just as everyone was leaving or after they’d already left, I was feeling disenchanted and started to think it wasn’t worth the effort. Plus they were only rarely willing to come to Oakland.
I’d declined two invites for events in the city when my friend Truman sent the make or break third. He wanted to meet for a drag show at the Midnight Sun, which had always been my least favorite Castro establishment for a variety of reasons. I felt it had terrible feng shui, for starters, and it only had two standing tables, if you could call them that, which were merely twelve inches across.
The name of the game at the Sun was claiming a table for your group, otherwise you’d wind up standing there holding your drink and getting jostled around the dead-end space all night. Although neither me nor my partner Damon wanted to go, we felt obligated and decided to arrive early to claim our territory, which we figured would make the evening more tolerable.
Upon moving to the city years earlier a brash and abrasive friend known as “the Crab” taught us how to go about this task, and we followed his instructions precisely. The tables were never empty, but you chose the one with two or more parties utilizing it, often two couples distracted by the campy videos high on the wall.
Then, standing a few feet away, you’d place one cocktail, arm extended fully, on the table. Instinctively people will allow for a little room, then a little more, and then when they leave the table would be yours.
A wrinkle in our masterful plan was not accounting for Truman’s trademark tardiness. After all of our strategic planning, the two of us were unable to defend our conquered territory, and a group of rough and tumble rugby players laid claim to half of it, six inches to be precise.
A cold war quickly emerged as we struggled to hold the line in an increasingly lopsided struggle, as their population grew. All parties tried to act nonchalant as each of our elbows were deployed at the line of scrimmage.
By the time Truman and the others arrived, they found four men facing opposite directions while pretending not to notice their triceps and shoulders will firmly pressed against the triceps and shoulders of complete strangers.
Finally, a bearded stocky white guy flipped around and exclaimed, “STOP! Would you please just STOP? You’ve been trying to push us away from the table ever since you got here!”
“HEY we’ve been here since SEVEN!” I shot back.
“NO YOU HAVEN’T we were here first!” he countered.
The guy’s buddies calmed him down, and although he turned away to watch the show, our cold war stance continued as his friends anchored their elbows on the disputed territory. The lights had gone down for the show and I began to gather cocktail lemons from old drinks to fill the pocket of their leader’s jacket, which was hanging below the table.
I’m not sure what the spark was, but the alpha of the group ended up grabbing Damon by the lapel. I threw a drink in his face then lunged over as one of his buddies returned fire with a drink in my face while another held me back. The house lights went up, the show stopped, and all of us were tossed out into the street.
On the sidewalk Damon extended an olive branch, which was warmly received, and we all decided to go to Moby Dick a few doors down. It was like we were old friends as we patted one another on the back and laughed.
“I’m sorry man, but I’m Irish and don’t take any shit!” the alpha said.
“I’m Irish too!” I exclaimed, and then he pulled me in and kissed me. We got shots, he kissed Damon, and all the while our friends who were tossed out with us shook their heads.
The next day I received a Facebook post from our new buddy:
“You put lemons in my pocket didn’t you?”
I replied in two parts.
First with, “People ask me the strangest questions!” followed by, “OH, but yes.” V
Written by Chris Andoe