Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Wilderness Years - Norman Legend

There are stories that should be passed down from generation to generation, like fucking etchings on cave walls, they are the very essence and fabric of humanity, this is one of those stories, for they are of a place and time and that time will shine for it's moment or two and then slowly fade, only to be remembered by those of us who listen to the stories in order to teach the future generations or some such fucking non-sense...

And so i give you Norm, i'm sure Norm has been mentioned somewhere in the lounge, possibly under an alias ( but after 9 years of this shit one loses track), but in the history that this lounge has become i am free to revise, revisit, re-work, as it's all knowing lord and omnipotent master i shall make it up as i go along and so here is a tale of Norm, a man who i'm sure has long since passed from this mortal coil but who most definitely trod on the terra...

As a 23yr old aspiring barfly and part-time weed hustler Norm was straight out of Chinaski's hood, he was the opening bartender at Mitchell's Tavern (circa 1993-4), he worked 10am to 4pm, which means if you were going to get to know Norm you had to be there early, you see Norm was not what you'd call a morning person and he'd sit at the end of the bar smoking cigarettes and reading the paper, there was no jukebox, no television on, barely any conversation, you drank and read the paper and didn't fucking small talk until around noon when the telly would go on and Norm would watch the news and shake his head and begin pontificating on the days events, i could understand about every other word out of his mouth and usually could make sense of what he was saying before he'd let out a rasping, roaring sort of laugh or shake his head as the news unfolded, usually by this time Norm had started drinking...

The good Doctor and I were by far the youngest regulars in the bar and our hero was a bit leery of us at first but we were smart kids, we observed and understood the rules, abide by them we did and soon we were just the young bucks... of course it helps to know what Norm looked like, a barrel chest, about 5'9, the kinda guy who just looked strong, had the air of a bad ass in his youth, he wore glasses and had a glass eye, both thick forearms sporting what looked like old Navy tattoos, always wore button down shirts, hair slicked back, he was somewhere north of 60 but no one really knew how old he was, seemed to always have a younger (forty-something) woman meeting him when he got off and they'd sit and get drunk, the good Doctor and i always referred to his ladies as Wanda, he was the last of a rare breed, the sort i'm not sure you can find anymore or at least they're harder to find, and of course the whole fucking place knew him, he was like a fucking celebrity sitting at the bar when he got off, still smoking and drinking cheap bourbon on the rocks with a short glass of beer, he'd get fucking loaded with his lady friend, now and then i'd be next to him at the bar and he'd grumble and growl and laugh and slap me on the back, and i'd laugh and smile never having a clue at what had been said...

Now if you recall a little episode or seven of Raskolnikov's Blues there was a connection called the Finance Frat Boy, back when he was and undergrad at the local U. here in Steel Town he had worked as a cook at the restaurant next door that was connected to the bar by a side door, a situation beneficial to the owners of both establishments, now it was over semester break that Finance Frat Boy was opening one morning, he got there around the time the bar opened to do prep work and set up, it was the usual half dozen alcoholics sitting quietly around the bar, Norm could be heard ranting and raving which he knew was a good sign that Norm had tied one on the night before and was most likely still drunk, so Finance shut the connecting door and turned up the music and got on with the prep work, until of course he needed some ice and when he did he walked over and pulled open the door...

As he described it many to me many moons ago, the first step into the bar and something seemed a bit off, there was a smell, by the bottom step he wondered if there wasn't a plumbing problem somewhere, this place was a haven for bum shits, and often one could walk into the already filthy pisser to find a local member the homeless community evacuating his bowels, they broke so many toilets that the owner finally bought the stainless steel prison toilet, by the time he was halfway across the back half of the room and approaching the bar he was almost puking, by the time he hit the bar he had his shirt over his face and was gagging as tears filled his eyes, the stench of a horrible shit blinding him...

It was then the my old connection noticed the stain on the back of Norm's pants, a stain that then made it's way down both pant legs. Norm had shit himself. The half dozen drunks kept on drinking like nothing was amiss, my old connection got his ice from the basement and ran back up the steps into the restaurant and shut the door, he then told the owner of the restaurant the situation who promptly called the bar owner before heading down and investigating, the hi-jinx ensued, first his boss/owner came back up from being unable to stand the smell, Finance Frat Boy than told me the owner grabbed a towel and doused it with something to help kill the stench  and waited for the bar owner to arrive...

Of course the owners went down and laid into poor, old Norm, who still being half in the bag apparently gave it right back to them, cursing and yelling, he told them both he was the only one there and was afraid one of the half dozen drunks would steal the register if he went to take a shit and since he didn't know what to do and couldn't hold it anymore he had shit himself, and then proceeded to serve drinks to said drunks for over an hour without any of them saying a word, from what FFB told me the drunks never missed a beat, they sat and drank and pretended like the whole situation wasn't happening, it was a story that was to become etched in the lore of this old dive bar on the corner of Melwood and Centre...

A few years later Norm ended up having a stroke and though he survived it at the time it was the last we saw of him, another barfly, a 40-something hippie who hung around the bar as a half-ass bar back and who would pick up empties would soon take over Norm's morning shit shift, a shift that had you getting off right when the place was really picking up, but the continuity was there, Benny was the perfect guy to take over for Norm, but Norm was a legend, for a 23yr. old kid hung up on Bukowski he was like a walking, talking, graduate course in the art of booze and the barfly... and living...

4 comments:

Exile on Pain Street said...

I can't recall if I've ever actually been in a bar between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Las Vegas doesn't count.

Liquor beats poop every time and twice on Sunday.

When I moved to the Lower East Side, before it was cleaned up, a homeless guy used to crap in our vestibule overnight. The superintendent had to clean it every morning. He swore he'd catch that son of a bitch and one day he did.

Kono said...

Exile- I can say without a doubt that i have drank in a bar at every hour of the day, sometimes it was starting early or sometimes it was finishing up but i did, i'm sure my liver thanks me for it.

And back at the Big World Bank Machine, which someday i'll divulge what that actually was, the bums used to shit in the alcoves of the doors, the one day my big boss, a woman who spent most of her day perusing the shops of dahntahn, told me to go clean it up, i explained that i'd need a hazmat suit as that it's hazardous material, she didn't want to pay for one of those so she made my supervisor do it, he was a good guy and could only laugh, told me i was a smart fucker, to which i replied, it kept me one step ahead of the shit, he laughed so hard then gave me a card for a free lunch and the cafe.

Kenneth Noisewater said...

If you can continue to hold this guy in such high regard, despite not knowing what the hell he was saying and after he shit himself, I can tell he exuded awesomeness.

My first beer tonight will be tipped back in the honor of the late Norm.

Good piece you've written here, brother.

Kono said...

Dr. Noisewater - He was like a living, breathing, work of art, as if he walked off the big screen and into that bar... what a fucking gem.