The following article was originally published in San Diego CityBeat Magazine (June and August 2010) as two separate installments but combined here for your convenience.
LOCALS ONLY (Part 1)
Thanks for the Laughs
It was 11 p.m., and I was jonesing for some buffalo wings. So I strolled over to my favorite neighborhood bar, The Tilted Stick. Once there, I ran into an old bartender friend, Teddy Ballgame. I hadn’t seen Teddy in a long time, so I delayed ordering the wings, bought a round and started chatting. At one point in the conversation, I joked about a poster that hangs on the wall titled “Tilted Stick Rules,” which I began reading out loud to Teddy and doing a little comedy shtick on the rules I thought were silly. That’s when a stranger interrupted and said, “If you don’t like the rules, you can get out.”
Naturally, this took me by surprise. I was just joking around with Teddy and hadn’t intended to offend anyone, so I pondered his statement, then informed the guy—whose name (I later learned) rhymes with “snotty”—that we were having a private conversation, but “thanks for the advice anyway.”
“This is a locals bar,” Snotty insisted. “You need to leave,” at which point I thought I was at the Improv because this guy—this apparent victim of fetal-alcohol syndrome—was delivering what I considered to be pure comedy gold.
I mean, it’s hilarious that he was pulling this “locals only” nonsense at all, but what made it an absolute scream is the fact that I am an Ocean Beach local. I do live here—I live here a lot! The Tilted Stick is around the corner from my house. I’m friends with all the bartenders, the manager, the owner, the previous owner, and I even know the previous-previous owner—Henry—who owned it back when it was called The Texas Teahouse (an awesome dive punk-blues bar where The Jacks and Tomcat Courtney used to play), where I easily dropped a thousand quarters into the Missile Command game and drank a thousand Genny Screamers at a dollar per can. I’ve been boozing in that building since before Snotty was sucking on his mama’s scotch-sopped titty-milk, and the fact that he’s telling me I have to go because I’m not local enough is making little droplets of beer spurt from my nose and eyeballs.
“This is a locals bar?!” I asked, trying with all my might not to burst into open laughter. “Well, dang, I guess I’ll be moving along then—just as soon as you go fuh-fuh-fuck yourself.”
And so it went, back and forth, nose to nose, until bartender Jesse separated us, which didn’t matter much because Snotty and his snotnose friends continued talking smack, flipping the bird and basically mad-dogging my ass like I was the bastard child of a Klingon crack whore trying to get a drink in the Star Wars Cantina.
“We’re from here,” they kept saying. “Where are you from?”
I should have said, “I’m from Planet Earth, shit-smoker,” because, really, where the hell is “here”? Which arbitrary border defines you as an insider and somebody else as an outsider? Do they have to live on the same block as you to be local? The same borough? The same city, state, country or continent?
Not to mention—and I want all you “locals only” blowhards to pay close attention—you are not doing your neighborhood bar any favors by running off tourists and other non-locals. Newsflash: The bar wants their patronage, and you hurt the business when you roam in packs and start shit with tourists. But isn’t that how it usually is with these territorial “We’re From Here” queers? It’s this chickenshit mob mentality that says “We’re the insiders, you’re an outsider and we will mess you up because we have numbers.”
Anyway, after giving them several opportunities to cut the crap, Jesse and Jimmy, another bartender, kicked them out of the bar. However, instead of going home and being, you know, normal human beings and shit, they found a hiding place and waited—for an hour! So, Jesse snuck Teddy Ballgame and me out the back door and up the alley to another bar, Lucy’s, where we stayed for quite a while, until Teddy decided to go home and I figured it was safe to return to the Stick and order those chicken wings I still craved.
But it was not safe.
As I arrived at the Stick’s front door, Snotty lurched from hiding and connected a punch to my forehead. I charged full steam, took him down to the pavement with me on top, and repeatedly boxed his torso and neck while his crew kicked and punched my head, stomach and back. When Jesse rushed outside to help, one of the guys pinned him against the wall so he couldn’t break it up. Jesse broke the hold, and he and Jimmy pulled us apart. Jesse shoved me back inside the bar and told me to stay there, which I did. But, get this: They waited again, hiding, again, so they could bushwack me, AGAIN!
At this point, I just wanted to go home, but the bartenders, wisely, blocked me from leaving. It was another hour or so later when Snotty and his ignoramonauts went around to the back door to catch me sneaking out that way, and Jimmy whisked me out the front and walked me home, where I vomited, cleaned it up, then fried some eggs, having never received my goddamn wings.
Epilogue: Snotty and his comedy troupe, were 86’ed from The Stick. The next day, he returned to argue that I had started everything. Good one, Dangerfield! Because everyone who was there knows you started that fight. We also know you’re “from” New Mexico and have only lived “here” a couple of years. But, best of all, we know you cried when they wouldn’t let you back in the bar. You actually, literally, bawled actual, literal tears, which didn’t change their minds, so you said, “Fine! I didn’t want to come in here anyway,” which is pure comedy gold, baby. Thanks for the laughs.
Thanks, also, to everyone at The Tilted Stick (4970 Voltaire St.) for their support, especially Jesse, Jimmy and Teddy Ballgame, who put themselves at bodily risk to cover my back. Respect!
LOCALS ONLY (PART 2)
The Jackassorists Always Win
Some of you may remember a recent Sordid Tale about an encounter that occurred outside my favorite neighborhood slaughtering hole, The Tilted Stick, during which a guy named Scotty and several of his friends ambushed me because it was his opinion that I wasn’t local enough to patronize the establishment.
Well, two Sundays ago, Scotty and I crossed paths again.
I’ve dreaded our imminent reunion, largely because I didn’t want to be in the position of having to accept or reject his apology: I didn’t want to accept his apology because, well, how rotten-to-the-core must you be to gang up on a person over such absurd matters as his place of residence? On the other hand, I’m not a grudge-holder. I don’t give a crud about Scotty, except for the comedy of him, which I enjoy sharing with you. So, no, I didn’t want an apology, though I always assumed one was forthcoming.
Imagine my surprise to learn that not only was he not going to say “sorry,” but that this jackass would actually try to instigate another melée—“jackass,” incidentally, being the perfect word to describe him, as he is not quite a tool, not exactly a douchebag, nor hoodlum, hooligan, thug, punk or pissant, but, rather, a raging jackass with whom—on a lazy Sunday evening—I once again came face to face.
As it happened, the same two bartenders were present, as were several of the same regulars from the night of our first altercation. We were drinking and having a good time when Scotty came in. He made his rounds, hugging and shaking hands with everyone he knew. At first, he was oblivious to me, thankfully, as I enjoyed covertly observing him mingling about as if he were The Man, utterly ignorant of how not The Man he really is.
Everything went fine until about midnight, when I casually swiveled my head to steal a glance of my archenemy and—sure as rectums don’t like rolled tacos—Scotty was glaring at me with sweltering, red eyes.
“Is your name Ed Decker?” he asked.
“Yup,” I said, gearing up for a teary-eyed apology that I did not want.
“Are you the guy who writes lies in the newspaper?”
Wait, wait—what!? I thought. This is supposed to be the part where he tells me how drunk he was that night, how he acted like a jackass and that he is sooo sorry, followed by a slap on my back and an offer to buy the next round.
“Everything I wrote in that article was true, dude, and you know it!”
“Not the part about my mother having ‘scotch-sopped titties,’” he said, eyes glazed and burning red.
Oh, comedy gods, I thought, thank you for this gift you have given, the gift of the great giant jackass who brings joy to my otherwise joyless existence.
The passage to which Scotty referred came in response to his initial accusation about my not being local enough to be in The Tilted Stick: “I’ve been boozing in this bar since before [Scotty] was sucking on his mama’s scotch-sopped titty-milk” was the exact quote.
“Dude,” I said, “that wasn’t a lie, it was a joke—a yo-mama joke.”
“You don’t joke about my mother.”
“I wasn’t joking about your mother. I was joking about yo-mama. I don’t know your actual mother.”
“That’s right, you don’t know her, so you don’t talk about her.”
“I wasn’t talking about her!” I spat again, trying to explain what a yo-mama joke is. “I was talking, in essence, about you!”
I really get a kick out of these Yo-Mama-Joke-Over-Reactors—the ones who become enraged at the mere mention of their mother. I never understood this response. If you never met my mother and know nothing about her, any insults to her character will carry zero weight. You could say my mom fucks baboons in Taiwanese whorehouses to support a $300-a-day huffing habit, and I wouldn’t blink. I happen to know, for a fact, that my mom is sweet on Sumatran orangutans and nitrate poppers. Point is, you don’t know my mother any more than I know Scotty’s. Like my mom, I’m sure his mother is very normal and nice. It’s hiz-mama that’s all messed up.
You following this, Scotty? Your mother probably doesn’t drink at all. But yo-mama is a lush! See the difference? Let’s try some more: Yo-mama drank so much when she was pregnant, she thought you were a beer belly. Or, yo-mama was so hammered when you were born, when her water broke, it was 90 proof.
In her defense, yo-mama wanted a natural childbirth—Natural Light! In summary, your mother is probably a sharp, grounded woman, but yo-mama musta been a stumbling rum-whore to have given birth to a jackass like you.
Anyway, being that Scotty was never quite able to grasp the concept, he reacted the only way a one-dimensional jackass knows how to react when confronted with even the most mildly intellectual premise, and that is to kick back his stool and challenge me to fisticuffs. And, being a bit of an un-intellectual jackass myself, I kicked back my stool and accepted the challenge, at which point everyone in the vicinity rushed to separate us. The bartenders ushered Scotty toward the door as he shouted that I should join him outside, while two or three of the regulars held me sternly in place saying things like, “It’s not worth it,” and promising to buy me a beer if I didn’t follow Scotty outside, which sounded like a great deal for me since I didn’t want to fight in the first place.
When he was gone, we drank and laughed about the comedy of it all. Thankfully, no one jumped me when I left the bar, though I was pretty skittish on the walk home—and I guess, in that sense, the jackass-orists always win.