the bar-cat

Fast approaching the 58-year mark, here. Now in that span of years, there have been remarkably few in which I lived as a "bar-cat". This fact will, of course, deeply disturb some of the Wannabe Chroniclers of Panther's Life, although they are showing rather constantly that they have little interest in fact.

Alcohol is, in my informed opinion, an exceptionally inferior drug. I've always enjoyed drinking beer, from a very early age, but with little more effect upon consciousness than from those latest crazes in "soda pop" (I was a "Dr. Pepper" fan, myself, for a time). But as a way to change levels of consciousness, alcohol leaves much to be desired, no matter how relaxing and refreshing a quenching of thirst it may provide.

The first bar-cat phase was a very brief one. My good friend, lover and mentor, Edward Meneeley, and I had gone to London. Thanks, indirectly, to Conrad Hilton, I had lots of dollars in my pocket and acquired a substantial wardrobe in the trendy shops of Carnaby Street and the more rarified atmosphere of the Cardin salon in Paris. Returning to naive Manhattan with such rags, the denizens of the newly-opened Studio One assumed we were celebrities. That was fun for a few months. Then I moved to London where they had enough sense to know better.

Again in London, after a five-year interlude of no alcohol at all, but loads of hashish and other more desirable substances, I embarked upon a career as a "regular" at Yours or Mine, a terribly trendy little nightclub underneath a restaurant called El Sombrero in Kensington High Street. I went there to get drunk on Scotch-and-water, dance to the Stones, ooze over David Hockney and Bowie, find some way to get laid before dawn, and forget about anything else. That went on for almost a year until I ran away to India, partly to escape it.

Decades passed with no interest in bars or alcohol, aside from an occasional glass of wine with dinner, a beer or two with curry.

There were a few rare exceptions, especially the pub crawl made on the evening of July 4, 1976, but that falls under patriotic duty which only comes around once a century, quite outside the "bar-cat" arena.

I moved to Hawai'i. On that score, life didn't change much. I'd buy a six-pack of cheap beer or a bottle of wine, and my nephew and I would drink a beer before bedtime or a glass of wine with dinner. Rarely went to bars. Then Gordon Biersch opened.

The lunch hour downtown had always been an extreme bore for me. In earlier days, it was possible to take only a half-hour, get paid extra for the half-hour not taken. But then a haole Golden Boy came in to manage the office and one of his priorities was to look good with the Home Office in NYC by cutting the budget. So it was to be a full hour again, and there was Oahu's first micro-brewery which, under the excellent direction of Patrick the Brewer, produced some fine beer indeed. They opened with a staff of some of the best bartenders I've ever encountered, and the location was superb. I became a regular, was there every lunch hour. Once my nephew returned to England, I often stopped over after work as well, became such a "member of the family" I was invited to staff parties, became such an enthusiast of the place I encouraged gatherings there, including the earliest ones of the Jai-called "lynch mob".

That, of course, was an error of sorts. Some of the best bartenders left for better places, some of the staff who remained resented my position there. One server, who was especially pissed off because she thought the "lynch mob" didn't tip well enough, decided to go for me. She spread the story that I had been writing "bad things" about GB on the Internet. A bartender who'd never much liked me (and vice versa) picked up on it, so I got tormented at each visit with the accusations of having been nasty about GB on the Internet, even though no one could tell me where or produce a print-out of such a thing. It was small consolation later when she got fired after a "shopper" reported her for complaining about a tip.

The situation was complicated by the addition of a new bartender who is a very pretty young lady but a totally lousy bartender. One afternoon, I was especially irked by her co-worker, explained to her that I intended to pay my tab and leave no tip whatever, would make it up to her. The next time I saw her, I took roses and a pre-tip as an apology, but she still chewed me out for not having tipped the first time.

Foolish enough to still go there, the evening came when the bartender of the mutual-dislike, after having nagged me all evening about the supposed Internet nonsense, started handing me free beers and seemed quite transparently embarked on an effort to get me drunk so he could complain about my bad behavior. I wasn't having it, got up, gave him the middle-finger and walked out.

Ok. Urban Legend Time. That's the first occasion I was "thrown out of" a local bar. Yep, I was banned from the place, but nope, wasn't "thrown out".

There is one time I was asked to leave a bar on Oahu. I have spent hundreds of delightful afternoons and evenings at Duke's. One night it was especially crowded. A young woman, there with seven or eight friends, was annoyed because I was smoking at the bar. She complained to the manager that I was trying to pick her up and was harrassing her. He told me with a smile that he didn't believe her, but he'd appreciate it if I'd leave, my tab would be covered, and he'd look forward to seeing me the next day. From an economic viewpoint, his position made fine sense, and I left without protest. From a more long-term view, it was an absurd request and even though I've frequently gone back to Duke's since, the episode left me with reduced feelings of fondness for the place.

One of my favorite bartenders once refused to serve me any more. She was quite right, and I apologized to her later. Most of my favorite bartenders probably should refuse to serve me more often, but they know I am not driving and know I am not going to make any more trouble than perhaps being a little more noisily enthusiastic about the music than usual.

So what are all these bars the Urban Legendeers are now repeatedly saying I have been thrown out of? Pier Bar? Hot Lava Cafe? Mai Tai Lounge? Lobby Bar at the Regent? Kincaid's? Hernando's? Steck's? Shipley's? Manoa Garden? Nick's? (thanks, H.R., for the reminder about Nick's).

I can't think of anywhere else I have been remotely close to drunk. I can't think of any bar I have been "thrown out of".

I absolutely refuse to feel guilty for not living up to the "Legend" but even though this Bar-Cat Era has essentially ended, I shall happily strive to get thrown out of a bar if anyone wishes to send me, hmmmmm, let's say about five hundred bucks to attempt it.

Watch the panhandler-hating-piranhas thrash in the water ...


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