Dear my Billy,
I have found it.
The Holy Grail of Batshit Crazy.
Yes, I have found it, and it is in the form of one Barry Stapleton.
With his imposing mutton chops and his pirate swagger and his filthy clothes and blank stare, I simply mistook him for a drunk townie.
My Creepy-Social-Outcast-Radar was on temporary hiatus, apparently, because I assumed him to be an old high school janitor/beleaguered fry cook from the local Dairy Queen/my lost long cousin from Mars instead of what he really was, which was a nasty homeless dude high on the drugs.
Yes. My heart sank as Barry ordered a PBR and then immediately launched into a garbled account of how he had just been released from the Jaywalk Tank, where he spent thirty days not for jaywalking, but for jaywalking with a cigarette. That’s right, kids. In someone named Barry’s universe, taking a jaunty stroll mid-block across a busy street without any safety prompt is fine. But doing it with a controlled fire sticking out of your mouth will get your ass locked up faster than you can say “2-4-1 Doral Ultra Lights.”
I knew that giving Barry a beer may not have been the best of ideas, but he didn’t seem drunk. Only strange. And if I made every “strange” person leave the bar, we’d have to close up shop. I placed the brew in front of him and he grabbed it and said, “What? No PBR Pint Glasses?” I took a marker and wrote “PBR” on his flimsy plastic cup, smiled at him, and then decided to ignore him completely.
And ignore him I did, but boy, did I listen. And I listened for YOU, so that I could write this later, and I figured maybe I’d be able to give you a couple amusing anecdotes and then I’d be on my way. What I didn’t know is that I’d glean enough material from Mr. Stapleton in the next twelve minutes that I’d be able to write a full-length blog about my traumatization.
So I listened, as I said.
I listened while Barry offered my friend Shawn “a little Mary Jane” for a cigarette. Shawn’s eyes lit up, and my eyes looked up, and I was all ready to throw him out, but when I saw Barry reach into his pocket and pull out two little Mary Jane candies in their red and yellow wrappings, the deflated look on Shawn’s face was enough to make me go back to pretending to ignore them.
Shawn politely declined the candy, and then he challenged Barry to a game of pool. Barry looked at Shawn as if Shawn had asked if he could dip Barry’s left testicle in a cauldron of spicy hummus as a snack. “What in TARNAtion would I wanna play POOOOOOOL fer?” he asked Shawn. Shawn looked at me, shrugged, and slunk away, dejected.
It was then that my new friend Barry asked for a cup of Sprite. I gave it to him, all the while avoiding eye contact, but goddammit, peripheral vision is the best gift known to man, because I still got to watch as Barry took a handful, yes, a HANDFUL of Sprite and wipe it all over his face and neck. Apparently this was a refreshing reprieve from the last thirty days, for Barry was now sufficiently emboldened enough to demand what he REALLY came to the bar to order– a Singapore Sling.
“If you can list all the ingredients, I’ll make it for you.” I replied, just wanting to have a little fun.
“OH, UUUMMMMM, I dunno. UUMMMMM, OH YEAH!!! Cherry juice!”
I didn’t know what to say. So I just looked at him, assuming, praying, that he just had some sort of sans-punctuation-Christopher –Walken-inspired inflection, and that the rest of the ingredients were on the way out of his mouth. When no ingredients came, I simply said, “No. We don’t have Cherry Juice. Sorry, man.” So he ordered a Long Island Iced Tea instead, “Heavy on the Coke.” I made him pay up-front because I wasn’t about to change his $8.25 price tag even for a drink that was “heavy on the Coke.”
I placed the LITC in front of him and said, “That’ll be about all I can serve you tonight, Barry, okay?”
He was fine with that, and began regaling everyone and no one with stories about how he’s looking for an Apple laptop for under thirty bucks, how he’s got a friend in Wake Forest who has two little girls ages 3, 5, and 8, and how he used to hang out with Mia Hamm and Moon Unit Zappa at the old Eckerds before it burned down. Barry, Barry, why the weird? The entire time he’s talking, he is haphazardly attempting to combine his Sprite with his LITC, only both of the glasses are full, and he’s got to do this verrrry carefully. He’s sloshing shit all over the bar. When the drinks are sufficiently combined, he raises them both in the air and says, “Well, it’s been nice talking to yoooz guys!” and heads out the door.
“Oh No!” I said. “You can’t leave with those drinks!”
Barry stops and turns around with an incredulous look on his face. “What, yooz guys ain’t got yer ABC licenses?”
“Oh yes we do, Barry, but the thing is, is YOU don’t. You can’t just walk out of here with a bunch of liquor.”
He complied. He simply walked back to the bar, drained both LITCSs, and looked at me and said, “Aight. I’m out, can I have a cigarette? I’ll give you a quarter!”
I looked him square in the face for the first time and said, “Actually, it’ll be three dollars, to make up for the drinks you didn’t tip me for.”
He brushed me off with a wave of his hand and a spitty Calvin-esque “PPBTHH” and staggered out of the bar. But he did leave a little something behind, and if you don’t believe me, that’s what the picture’s for.
There, in the midst of his two empty LITCSs, his PBR Plastic Pint Glass (which I was hurt that he didn’t keep as a souvenir), and the pile of butts that he’d collected from each of the ashtrays and erected into a small monument/shrine to the tobacco gods, was a little saran-wrapped hunk of cheddar cheese.
Thanks, Barry. Don’t ever come back soon.
P.S.: He left his wallet, and I kept it.