For a quarter century, I have served the lads and lasses the finest libations and offered up an ear to those who needed to be heard.Where did time fly? Mixology has been and continues to be a most interesting vocation. Each day the regulars help to mark the passing of time while the occasional random drop ins always make for an interesting moment or two.
A bartender often is like a triage doctor having to make instant decisions about customers as it relates to their attitude and intoxication. You never want to serve someone alcohol who has already been drinking, or is under other substances and you should be ever vigilant of individuals displaying abnormal behaviour. The patron who walks through the door is immediately in your care and therefore an abundance of caution is required when having to make that triage decision.
One Tuesday night, oh so many years ago, a giant of a man walked into my bar. I call him a giant because I was 6’2″ and 250 lbs and he was four inches taller and wide; like a defensive lineman in football. He was heavily inked which at that time was not like today a fashion statement. It was a sign of affiliation with the wrong type of people or a bad habit. I judged him to be in his early twenties but his facial hair made him appear older. He was brash and insistent on the type of beer he wanted and seemed genuinely mad, maybe even disappointed when I had to inform him that we did not carry his brand. I assigned him a pool table to play on near the bar so as to keep an eye on him. It was a difficult read with this individual because he was in the company of an older couple that could only be his parents. He seemed out of place in my little bar.
In the matter of half an hour the giant, tattooed behemoth drank four beers quickly and then became quite animated in his actions. “Great!” I thought. A 300lb drunkard I am going to have deny service to. Three times he came to the bar asking for a specific song from our CD collection and each time I stated I was not a DJ. He was getting a little bellicose and kept moving his face closer to mine over the bar. I could have given him his music selection but he was not the most polite patron and he was making a few catcalls at some younger female patrons in what I considered a lewd manner.
It is tough and dangerous to confront a bear of a man who may be drunk – but what choice did I have. I leaned closer to him and explained in a very polite way that I was the one in charge and that he needed to be better behaved or I would show him the door. Instantly, he stepped back two steps and seemed to cower at my words – although delivered in a disciplinarian manner they were not harsh, just pointed. He leaned against a brick wall and seemed to shrink before my eyes. Just then, one of the regulars came in and upon seeing the giant went over and hugged him like a long lost brother. Words I did not hear were exchanged and the giant became a timid lamb. He went on and played pool with his parents and the regular an even thanked me when I played the music he had wanted earlier.
A few beers later, a happy, giant of a man staggered out with the assistance of his much smaller dad and the bar was mine again. I turned to my regular who I had know for several years and asked him to explain what I had witnessed.
It seemed the giant man was out of prison just one day when I met him. Tens of thousands of bars int he province and he had chosen mine. He had finished serving five years for robbing a convenience store with a machete while high crack. He was eighteen when incarcerated and had even escaped once, which lead to an extra year of incarceration at Club Fed. When he had been sent to prison he had weighed even more and as a rolly-polly child-man became the object of adoration for those that would abuse him for his size and relative youth. He found protection in the mothering coven of the trangender population and as such was safe for his stretch of time. He was housed in one of Canada’s harshest prisons and now had come to my bar because he needed a night out after having missed five years of his life due to bad decision making – albeit under the influence of drugs.
I got to know the Machete Marauder very well as he had very little to do and would often spend hours in the bar regaling me with the inside story on prison life. He really was not how he looked and behaved that first night. I found out, that generally face to face contact in prison often results in aggressive response and that is why he had backed off. He had learned to respect others, and that violence and drugs were not the way to succeed in life. He had finished his high school degree in prison and looked forward to moving on and getting a real job. The most interesting transformation I witnessed was when he became smitten by a young lady who frequented our venue. The Machete Marauder became Prince Valiant in pursuing and courting the young lady who was sixteen inches shorter than he and was tougher than nails. That is a story for another day. CHEERS.