The Prince and the “Popper”

Your friendly bartender promised last week to be “a bit nicer” this shift after taking sharp aim at our rookie credit card users.  And not being one to renege on his word he offers this following entry which he swears is “nicer”. And… he’s aiming his words in this outing straight at himself. But know this as you peruse, dear reader, I’d never have had the nerve to share this tale were it not for the fact that it happened when I was ten. Okay? Just too damn embarrassing.

{A-hem!}… {cough-cough}… {Ahhh-hemmmm!}

It should come as no surprise to me that I ended up behind the stick, though I’ve been behind many other things throughout my life. I’ve been behind a desk when I taught  fourth grade. I’ve been behind a shovel when I dug big ditches. I’ve been behind the scenes when I  produced a TV game show. I’ve been behind the words of a couple of radio spots. And I’ve been behind the remote when I’ve plopped myself for months on my big, fat sofa. (That last was my favorite.) But my DNA is definitely in this business I now see looking back, genetically placed in my grandmother’s Saloon and Boarding House. For it was there that this culture took hold and silently flourished. It was the first life I knew.

I used to, when I was a lad, spend all of my week-ends at her place, (and most of my summers if I could),  strutting around like the prince in some storied castle. It to me was that special.  Because I knew it wasn’t a house, and it certainly wasn’t an apartment, and no other kid I knew had access to such stuff. And always to ensure my princely entitlement… to live out my childish fantasy… I would walk through the bar at least once a day, always when the place was full, collecting sometimes two or three dollars in quarters. “Here ya’ go, kid,” this one would say, or, “Give me five,” that one would add, always ending with a palmed-off twenty five cent piece. Yeah, what kid wouldn’t feel like the prince of his castle?

See I never had a dad in my formative years and these characters who lived upstairs, these drifters and grifters and God knows what, unwittingly strayed into roles that a real dad does. In other words they taught me things. There was Ralph with the full beard, a hippie before his time, who showed me how to hammer-and-saw and how to make things.  There was handsome Jack Callahan, who’d chosen whiskey over a career as an artist, who taught me how to  sketch portraits and apply shading. There was sweet yet cranky Ed Downey who bought me my first fishing rod, and who taught me how to ride my very first two-wheeled bicycle. There was feisty Uncle Jack Milligan, my Grandma’s number one son, who taught me how to tell a joke and put up my dukes. And of course there were others along the way, some who would tell me about books, and later a guy who taught me how to drive a car. The problem with that last one however, (and much to Grandma’s chagrin) was that he then taught me how to point the car toward Steubenville. For “Steubie” (as later we would call it) was not only famous for being Dean Martin’s home town, but for some of the best damn brothels in the tri-state area.  So all that being the backdrop, and these guys the subjects of the realm, let’s now go back to that day when the prince was ten.

The Pirates were playing on TV… a rare occasion back then… and whenever they did I was allowed to sit at the bar. I’d take the very first stool, the one closest to the kitchen where the chief cook and bottle washer, dear old Grandma Milligan, (who was a hundred per cent German by the way having married herself a Milligan), could keep an eye on me as well as her food. And really feeling my oats that day with at least $2.50 to the good, I slid onto my barstool, sat up as tall as I could, and trying to act like a real live grown-up not only asked for a coke but ordered a double. “Whoa-ho,” said one of the customers, sitting just two stools down, “get a load of the kid, the son-of-a-bitch just ordered himself a double.” And damn that felt real good, dear reader, to hear that guy say that, I actually for the first time felt like one of the boys. But then long about inning five all hell broke loose. Quite literally!

For my stomach then started to rumble, probably from all that Coke which I’d downed too fast, and gas began to build up in my belly. Then, as I tried to contain this gas, panicking beyond all reason, another sensation took hold of my tiny psyche. The coke had also produced bubbles inside of my nose. So now I got bubbles inside my belly and bubbles inside my nose, and bubbles inside my brain as I tried to assess this. I mean I was now one of the boys (right?) so I oughta’ be able to handle a doggone coke. But of course I couldn’t. Then rearing back my head for the mother of all sneezes, I let go with Mt. Etna slamming my forehead against the bar, farting simultaneously from the impact, and then trying to retain my cool I fell off the barstool. It was, “Ahhhhh-chooooooooooo… Bang…. B-r-r-r-r-o-o-o-o-o-m… (fucking) crash!!!!”

Hey, what the hell was that?” shouted Joe, our most unfriendly bartender, who never liked me sitting at the bar in the first place. “It was the kid,” said that very same customer, the one who’d made me feel grown-up,”the son-of-a-bitch just farted from both ends.”

Well, after the laughter had finally died down, after what seemed like a good  fifteen hours,  I’d acquired a brand new nickname which I carried around for at least the next six months. It was no longer, “Hey, Kid, c’mere, I got some quarters,” it was, “This is for you, you Double Barreled Shotgun!”

See ya’ next week-end, my friends, I’m now gonna make me a double Jack Daniels on the rocks.

20 Responses to “The Prince and the “Popper””

  1. 1 goosenyc March 21, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    “double barreled shotgun” I love it.

    You gotta tell us more about your grandmother’s saloon!!!

  2. 2 jc March 21, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    HAHA! popper!

  3. 3 physiobabe March 22, 2009 at 6:22 am

    Another great post Scribbler. Thanks!

  4. 4 Anonymoustache March 22, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Outstanding post, Scrib50. Sounds like a life rich in varied experiences, and thanks for letting us get a glimpse!
    BTW, did the Pirates win?
    You know how I feel about baseball nowadays but I did watch a bit before the full decadence set into the sport. Sadly, the one image I cannot erase from my mind is that of Andy Van Slyke slumped over in centerfield after Sid freaking Bream came limping home on the Cabrera hit. Felt horribly bad for Drabek too–he was a great pitcher and had pitched a great game. That was the last great Pirate team, right? Killer Bees and all. Sorry for bringing up a downer dude, but there’s a ton of good memories in there too.

  5. 5 scribbler50 March 22, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Goosenyc: Glad you liked “Double Barreled Shotgun” and there will be more down the road about Milligan’s Saloon. Thanks!

    JC: Glad you didn’t groan on my “popper” pun, I couldn’t resist it. Thanks for checking in.

    Physiobabe: And thank you as well for checking in, I always appreciate your kind comments.

  6. 6 scribbler50 March 22, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Anonymoustache: I don’t remember who won the game in my story but I do remember (with searing clarity) Andy Van Slyke sitting in centerfield. A photo for the ages. And for it to have been Sid Bream to score the winning run, with a wrapped knee and and the speed of a wounded buffalo, makes it doubly heinous. You have some recollection of sports, my friend, I’d forgotten about Doug Drabek. And you’re right, that was the last professional team we’ve put on the field. We’re now a farm club!

  7. 7 Anonymoustache March 22, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Not that good a memory my friend. I remember that we had a really good second baseman who made an uncharacteristic error that inning. He was never the same player really after that too. Had to google the game to recall Jose Lind.
    Yeah, Sid scoring the run was salt in the wound. I remember rooting for Leyland when the Marlins made the classic and was thrilled when he won it. Of course, Huizenga’s dismantling of the team for profit after the win only hastened the departure of my interest in the league.

  8. 8 isisthescientist March 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Scribbler, you make my entire Sunday!!! When I read this story I can’t help but imagine wee Scribbler in an old timey, wild west style saloon surrounded by some scruffy guys in leather vests with Colt revolvers on their hips.

    But that’s the image “saloon” always evokes for me. I can’t help myself, I am a simple woman.

  9. 9 sandy March 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    This post reminds me of a book I read a while back… J.R. Moehringer’s memoir, The Tender Bar.

    If you haven’t read it (for all I know everyone in the business has, already), you might like it.

  10. 10 scribbler50 March 22, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Isis: Okay, I have a few miles on me but let’s not go too far. I wasn’t sharing the bar with Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley for God sakes. Annie was in the Ladies room and Buffalo Bill was outside rolling a cigarette!

    Glad I helped make your Sunday, friend, especially on a Sunday like this when you’re under the weather. Feel better.

  11. 11 scribbler50 March 22, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Sandy: Thank you for reminding me of The Tender Bar and for providing the Link to it. I might be the only person in this business who hasn’t read it. That said, I definitely intend to pick it up. Thank you again.

  12. 12 d-a-p March 23, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I think that’s one of the best stories ever…

  13. 13 scribbler50 March 23, 2009 at 10:50 am

    D-A-P: Thanks for the comment, I appreciate your checking in every week. And feel better, old friend, I hear you got the flu bug as well.

  14. 14 Jim March 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Fantastic story (as always). Thanks for starting the week off with a bang (sorry, couldn’t resist).

  15. 15 Donna B. March 23, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I am sitting here LMAO! I had an uncle who drove a taxi and spent every hour he wasn’t driving in a bar. (That is after he divorced my aunt, who spent all her hours in a different bar, but that’s a whole other story.)

    Anyways, my Mom would occasionally let me go “to town” with this uncle and my young “bar” experiences are a mere shadow of yours, yet make yours all the more enjoyable!

    We went back to my hometown last summer and my husband could not understand why I got such a kick out of sitting at that bar downtown… a rather dingy place these days. Heck, it was probably always dingy.

  16. 16 scribbler50 March 24, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Donna: It took me a second or two to figure out LMAO (still not Captain Chatroom over here) but once I did it made me Smile MAO. Thank you. And yes, if one can find the humor in it all versus perhaps the tragedy or sadness on display, people watching in a bar can be a most enjoyable pastime. Even for a kid. I know it was an education (good or bad) for me. But then it also depends of course on what kind of bar it is. My grandmother’s place was a friendly zoo peppered with umpteen characters and I wouldn’t trade for anything the times I spent there.
    Thanks, as always, for your comment.

  17. 17 Candid Engineer March 26, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Great story, I needed the laugh today! Reminds me of my husband actually, pretty sick.

    Be a doll, huh, and get yourself an RSS feed? This shit is too funny for me not to be reading every week, and I keep forgetting to check in.

  18. 18 scribbler50 March 26, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Candid Engineer: Thanks for the compliment but I don’t even know what an RSS feed is. As embarrassing as it is to admit that, it’s true. I’m (still!) not very computer literate. I just write and post. Sorry.

  19. 19 Candid Engineer March 27, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Hey, apparently you are all set with the RSS feed. It allows people to be automatically notified through their blog compiler (like Google Reader or Bloglines) when you have a new post. Now I will be back every weekend. 🙂 Cheers!

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