I’ve been meaning to start Horizontal Ambition up again, and although there’s been plenty of things going on in my life to write about, but I guess I’ve been blocked. By who knows what. So, in hopes of having a laxative effect on my writing, I’m going to tell you a story from way back in the past. 1975 to be exact. Or fairly exact, the time blends together. I spent the early years of my adult life supporting my self with a wide variety of jobs, seasonal and part time, in order to have blocks of time to work on my art. They way that worked out is another story. I have lot’s of stories, this one’s a bartending story.
The bar was the Black Forest Inn, a German Restaurant that’s still going on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis. I’m going to say it was the spring of 1975 when he first started showing up at the bar. Some of you may remember Ben Davidson who played defensive end for the Oakland Raiders in the late sixties and early seventies. A huge man, 6’8″ tall and 275 pounds, with a fu-manchu mustache and a mean look that got him a few movie parts after he retired. This guy was a dead ringer. Just as big and a little bit meaner looking. This was a man on a downward spiral, drinking heavily and getting mean when he was drunk. Not a good combination, huge, drunk and mean. One morning after spending the night playing after hours backgammon I came blinking out to the parking lot and found him sleeping in his beat up black Linc0ln Continental. He was obviously living in his car.
In those days we had an amazingly diverse clientele. Swells from Kenwood and mumblers from the halfway houses along Blaisdale. The Children’s Theater, Art Institute crowd and people from the neighborhood. We were pretty tolerant of our patrons and you had to really mess up to get thrown out. So even though Big Ben had caused some trouble, he hadn’t gotten the permanent 86 yet, but he was walking a fine line. He was one of those guys who would come in early and drink until they were almost falling down, leave for a few hours to sober up and then come back to drink until closing. Like I said, downhill spiral.
Finally one night he was acting threatening,Â yelling incoherent, obscenity filled blatherâ€” not really good for business. I’d kicked him out before and given him the last chance ultimatum. I read him the riot act and told him he was permanently eighty-sixed. Something like, “Get the hell out of here, and don’t EVER come back.” He objected to that. Seemed to be of the opinion the “No one eighty-sixes me.”
“Sir, I just did. Now leave.”
We didn’t have bouncers. The bartenders were pretty much it. Sometimes if Stubby the cook caught wind of trouble he’d come out and stand by the kitchen door holding a giant chef’s knife and crossing his arms to display a very impressive set of biceps.
Some have you may know that I have what is known as the Keller temper. I share it with my siblings and my father, my mother was much more effective with her passive aggressive anger, but the four of us all have been known to completely blow up. It’s a little bit like an out of body experience. I seem to hover above the situation and watch this wild eyed, red faced person cursing a blue streak, sending spittle flying through clenched teeth. One of my triggers is when someone doesn’t seem to take me seriously.Â Â Apparently I didn’t think he was taking me seriously. I’m really not much of a fighter, but when the bolt pops, I lose all sense and fear. So when he told me he was going out to his car and get his gun and come back and shoot me, I only got more aggressive and sent him out of the door behind a string of colorful language that I’d picked up in my youth hanging around the stockyards with my dad.
The adrenalin was just starting to settle down when I saw him coming through the outside door with his hand tucked in his trench coat as if reaching for a gun. Â I was standing there exposed, nothing between me and him but 20 feet of smokey air. A smart guy would have run through the kitchen and out of the back door at that point. Or maybe tried to crawl under the dishwasher. But as I said, the Keller rage blocks all fear and good sense. I looked him in they eye. I pointed my finger at him. I advanced toward him yelling, “I said get the fuck out of here. Now get the fuck out of here!”
He got a beaten look on his face, slumped and skulked out the door, never to come back. Luckily for me he was bluffing, I think he just wanted to see me shit in my pants. But that’s another story.