Saturday, April 25, 2009

Been thrown outa better bars

I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Irish, not only for what they suffered under the English, but more, for the camaraderie they shared with mexicanos during the 1840s war against the U.S. That culminated in U.S. troops illegally hanging Mexican citizens of Irish descent, a chapter of American history that seems intentionally buried, so that few Irish Americans are familiar with the legacy. The historical moment was (almost accurately) depicted in the 1999 Tom Berenger movie One Man's Hero.

Each St. Patrick's Day I ask Anglo/Irish celebrants what they know about the San Patricio Brigade and am met with the kind of silence one gets from asking the best way to pit-roast a goat. Despite ignorance about their heritage, my soft spot normally remains intact.

However, on a recent trek to the Irish Rover pub in Denver with a group of fellow teachers--mostly Anglos--I found that soft spot threatened. What started out as the weekly FAC to blunt the edge of a torturous week of the standardized testing of children, threatened to end like a scene in an old Bruce Willis movie.

Now that I'm rapidly slipping down the over-60 hill, I've lost my youthful tendency to act in any way that might get me thrown out of bars. Once upon a time I might have shattered a mirror in what passes for a Mafioso bar in Denver, although I tossed down enough cash as I left to insure I didn't get leveled like the old ice cream shop across the street that became their unwilling parking lot.

There were other bars, here and elsewhere, that I've been asked not to return to, but I usually knew when it was my fault or the fault of too much alcohol in the bloodstream. This time was different.

As the FAC drew to a close, purely by accident our Anglo friends left, and only a South American teacher and I stayed to finish our last drink. She was hungry and wanted something to eat. When the waiter who'd just started his shift came by, she told him she wanted to order some "crap." He said they didn't serve any "crap", and in less than a minute the situation promised to escalate into a different kind of afternoon.

In her defense, the Latina is still learning how and when to use minor profanity. For a foreigner, it's not easy getting accustomed to how loose Americans are with foul language. Forget about rap or hip-hop or the cinema; network television would have you believe the useage of lots of bad words is the way we communicate. She's just been trying to fit in and was showing off her acquired English proficiency.

In the waiter's defense, the Latina is quite well-off and accustomed to being waited on by the staff of pricey restaurants I can't even afford to enter. The fact that she's not very underweight may also have contributed to her demeanor coming across as less than uncondescending.

Growing up in the Southwest, like some Chicanos I'm hypersensitive to racist displays, but in this instance I couldn't detect any obvious signs behind why the waiter went from intimidating to outright physically blocking most of my view with his over-six-foot frame. He loomed, he threatened, as I tried to catch the eye of the bartenders who'd courteously waited on us the previous hour or so. I thought they might yet call him off of us, at least so we could finish our drink. To no avail.

In a matter of seconds my colleague and I were pelted with a firm "Get out!", a firmer "Now!" and the appearance of another male employee, who I assume showed up in case his burly, muscular colleague couldn't handle an out-of-shape, 5'7, 2nd-grade teacher. Or maybe he was there to help lift the Latina if she'd had to been decked.

What I do understand were the sensations passing through me in the time it took to get from the table to the door. My imagination left no doubt I might be only inches or seconds away from a hand to my face or onto my body. I could have survived the first, but wouldn't have made it past the second. A macho, even an aging one, has his limits, which stupidly include not allowing a male's hand on the body. Luckily, the moment passed with at least no physical harm, or this post would have been created over the sheets of a hospital bed.

I don't know if the waiter's subprime had just kicked into some obscene interest rate or if he didn't relish serving the combination of an uncorpulent Latina and not-so-well-dressed senior Chicano or if he'd just been listening to too many Rush Limbaugh episodes and assumed we were the undocumented thieves of good-paying American jobs. (He wouldn't have known how little Denver teachers get paid.) I have no idea.

But it did turn out that the waiter was quite deft at using bulk and voice to herd us out the door and onto the street, figuratively. The Latina and I hadn't gotten over our shock when we parted ways, never to come to agreement as to what had transpired.

In the pub's defense, perhaps something in my behavior warranted being thrown out of their establishment. That's not impossible. Perhaps a customer whose reputation there still allows their entry can uncover that.

I'm tempted to dispute the last credit card charge for the drinks we never got to finish; the hassle might not be worth the cost of a Crown Rocks and a Patron. But maybe I can itemize it next year as research for a comedic screenplay about a male-female Laurel and Hardy take-off in modern-day Denver. Of course, I'd have to inject much humor, since the reality contained little of that.

This post may seem irrelevant to La Bloga's mission nor be comparable to my fellow contributors' quality articles that readers normally expect here. In that respect, I beg forgiveness for resorting to blogging in its lowest forms and promise not to frequent such practice.

And to fellow teachers who sometimes FAC on South Broadway, I won't suggest you boycott the pub. There's not definite evidence warranting such. However, you might consider not leaving the non-Anglos to fend for themselves. Especially if they act, look, or sound much like the characters described herein.

Lastly, don't take your next FAC for granted, and ¡que viva la Brigada de San Patricio!



Unknown said...

Rudy - thanks for the mixed feelings on your experience in the Denver Bar.

I read a similar blog entry by none other than the poet Mark Doty and his recent bad experience in North Beach in SF.

I have provided the link so you can appreciate how each story has two sides and how sometimes those who tell the story often don't see what the other side saw.

After you read Doty's original blog entry, click on the responses and see how the entire incident changed when the owner of the establishment responded.

And no, I think your column was important for all of us to realize that we live in the real world more often than our literary one and that all of this affects everything, like it or not.


Gregg B

Mo said...

I like this post, and in fact I think it´s very well-written and not sub-standard in any way. Then again I also find bars, the Irish and verbal profanity to be of the highest calibre of human expression. (I´m Scots-Irish, living in Spain, with a degree in Chicano Lit, so kind of fits, really). And I hate discrimination of any kind too. So here´s to more bar-room brawls!