Imported from MySpace blog
Once upon a time, I was a bartender. Not the fun kind of bartender, like in “Cocktail” with Tom Cruise. Not the flirty kind, not the skilled kind, just the low-wage variety that peddled unfiltered cigarettes, cheap booze, addictive machine-poker for loners and casual conversation.
I wore a baggy red t-shirt and always smelled like smoke. I wielded my sardonic wit with an iron fist, and managed to never get robbed, beaten or raped. I garnered much respect from the working-classers that frequented the establishment.
My favorite customer was a homeless man named Rocky. He was about my dad’s age, had a scruffy beard and only smelled a little. He’d hang out at the freeway exit and collect handouts all day, then cruise into my shitty bar to get out of the elements and bask in the blue glow of the Keno-TV screen (announcing a winner every 120 seconds!) and the flickering fluorescent lights.
Unlike my other homeless customers, he never asked me to marry him, gave me a copy of the New Testament, yelled incoherently or tried to borrow money.
Rocky was full of tall tales, and I never knew whether to believe them or not. One of his stories was that he wasn’t really homeless, he was just writing a book about homelessness and wanted to experience what the life was like. Even though, deep down, I didn’t believe him, a part of me wanted to. He was friendly, sharp, quick-witted and polite. I never gave him any money, and he never asked. He stuck up for me when customers crossed lines, and provided amusing commentary about life in general.
One day, my boss decided he had to go, and she thought it best if I told him, since we were so chummy. Kicking him out was one of the low points of my career at the Phoenix Purple Parrot. I saw him a few times after that at the freeway exit, and then he sort of disappeared. I often wondered what happened to him, and whether he ever actually wrote a book.
Today, I saw him again at the Ashland freeway exit. I rolled down the window and shouted his name. He looked disoriented and tired. Possibly drunk. It took a couple seconds for him to realize he was being spoken to, and then he came up to the window, where I asked if he remembered me. “Sure I do, sweetheart.” Then he asked for a dollar for a hamburger.
For some reason, I was surprised and embarassed. I gave him all my quarters and drove off.