Thursday, April 22, 2010

I REMEMBER...the Irish Pub Crawl

…traveling to Europe in the early 70’s (a lot of my life stories strangely happened in the 70’s) and spending time in Ireland. The pubs were a particularly intriguing phenomenon I had an interest in. Warm, friendly, a local tavern for food, drink and fun.

I was somewhat lucky at darts and Irish pubs harbored dart boards much like American bars have pool tables. I won my fair share of pints, dazzling the locals (who admittedly drank faster and in larger quantities than me…perhaps that was my asset in the competition).

So having met some new found darts & drinking friends at a pub one evening (they were off-duty ambulance drivers- I hope they were off-duty…) we forged a deal. The public taverns closed rather early during the week (so the workers would actually show up to work the next day) – the only bars that stayed open late were the ones inside the nicer hotels for the hotel patrons. They offered to treat me to a “Pub Crawl” (which is a much more apt description than the Americanized “bar hopping”. I observed that there were definite tricks for a successful pub crawl that seemed to incorporate rugby/roller derby moves and teamwork. A good pub crawl needs at least two big, strong, rugby/roller-derby guys that are socially ambivalent to under-breath comments and glares, the money man and the rest of the drinking team. Note: all the best pubs in Dublin were packed and everyone seemed to be speed-drinking, so there is no “getting a drink and going back to your table” – that action is too lightweight to survive. Each bar was packed and several people deep. Alone, I never would have even made it to the bar and if I had and then left – I doubt if I could have made it back for a second beer (pint).

So, the game plan was to have all of us (about six) line up behind the two bruiser “breakers (literally). They would elbow and push their way through the throng until, at last, the biggest and strongest found the bar (zygote!!). He would plant himself there and the second team member would be right behind him fending off all other drinkers to maintain a strong line. We would string out behind the first two, foot to foot, with the money man at the end. This was our fire line- like a bucket brigade with volunteer firefighters (except these guys were medics/ambulance drivers). Money man passes money forward through the line to get to the main bar position holder, who secures the pints and passes them back down the line until we are all properly lubed. This pattern is repeated, to insure an uninterrupted and even flow of suds until a. the money runs out or b. the pub closes ( or in my case, after b. comes c. – the acquisition to your “line” of a tourist with a pass to the after-hours bar in an upscale hotel- good for a couple more hours of drinking).

Note: I have no idea what these guys were talking about that evening (probably beer, women, and tourists) as their brogue got thicker and my hearing got fuzzier as the evening wore on. I remember we laughed a lot, so it must have been humorous.

I pick up accents fairly quickly and when motivated by inhibition, fairly well also. My biggest compliment of the evening was being mistaken for a drunk from Scotland. Hoot, laddy, not so bloody bad, eh?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I motorcycle & the stuck throttle

…when the throttle stuck on my motorcycle going through a small town in Northern California in the early 70’s. It was Easy Rider time and I had this beautiful BSA 650, chopped, dark chocolate teardrop tank, with chromed extended front forks and butterfly handlebars, banana seat and it weighed about twice as I did. I loved that bike, but I recall that I loved my perception of my image on that bike more. It was somewhat patterned after the bike Peter Fonda had in the movie, Easy Rider.
It was 1970. I had graduated from Chico State College and having fulfilled my promise to my parents to finish college, I launched on to the “go forth and seek the truth and find yourself” tour [that tour lasted about 15 years until I started my family and grew up]. Haight Ashbury San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Carmel, pretty much anywhere along Hwy 1 was a good ride. I had watched Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson) multiple times and listened to the Steppenwolf album (yes, vinyl) until the grooves wore out. It indeed was a Magic Carpet Ride.
So, I have my hair down to my belt, full beard, sunglasses, a monster bike, way bigger than me (could barely hold it up when I came to a stop) and I am cruising through the back roads out of Chico, Ca. Just as I approached the main street of a small rural community, the throttle stuck wide open on the bike and I was catapulted forward, screaming down the road trying to brake, steer this flaming monster and not crash. Thinking I was a dead man driving, I did not notice immediately the flashing red lights and siren trailing right behind me until I got a few miles out of town, burned the bejesus out of my hand trying to hit the kill switch. I finally coasted over to the side of the road, awaiting my fate, as the police cruiser slammed to a stop behind me in a cloud of dust. The officer was highly agitated. 1970, rural cop, long-haired hippy biker, speeding through his beloved, but small, town blowing through both of the town’s stop signs – I could feel my life slipping away, locked in a dungeon, for years.
Kick-starting (a motorcycle term) my yet to be refined sales career, I apologized profusely, addressing him as “Officer, Sir”. I explained the problem with the stuck throttle. He was quiet for a bit and said: “Let me take this thing for a short ride to see if you are telling the truth.” He was bigger, in authority, and had a gun. I said “Sure.” He was gone almost an hour. Just me standing in the dirt next to the locked police cruiser.
When he cruised back to where I was, he smiled and said: “You were right about the throttle – but I fixed it. You know, I always wanted to have one of these.” He advised me to keep going north and not to come back through “his town” and drove away.
I drove north. I went about 60 miles out of my way to make it home a different way. Sold the bike and bought a new Volkswagen van for me and my black lab with a stubby tale and a red bandana.