Thursday, August 31, 2006

Patio Regulars

Patio regulars are all over the map, and all but a handful are excellent people. There are various duos and trios, and a few loners; we even have a string quartet. Craig’s a loner, and so is Robert. Craig works for Amoeba Records, in Berkeley. He’s security manager, I think. He’s a guy of about my age, and just walked in one day. He noticed something on the menu about Pittsburgh, and mentioned that he was a Western Pennsylvanian. I told him I was from Pittsburgh, and that cemented the deal. Craig comes in most Fridays for a Cheese Steak Beast.

Robert works for Shakespeare & Co., a local book seller. He drifts in several times a day to smoke a cigarette, and will invariably buy a beer and sandwich every couple of days. We called him DD for a while because we couldn’t remember his name, but remembered him referring to himself as a “decent dude”.

Jasco, a Bosnian, is another regular, but I wouldn’t exactly call him a loner. He bops in almost every day, around 2:30pm, and orders a Cajun Chicken Sandwich with Swiss cheese. He’s quite gregarious, he owns a business with his Japanese girlfriend, Tomoko, and 2:30pm is when he can get free to eat lunch. There are a couple of others who come in alone—Mumbles, who has voluntarily 86’ed himself because he was caught with his fingers in the tip jar and hasn’t had the courage to return, and the Pabst Guy, who says nothing except “Pabst, please.”

Ben, Bill, and Cortez are all worth a paragraph or two. Ben is a statistical architect and a power lifter. He hides 215 pounds on a rather short frame, and is an excellent man to talk to. His great uncle was one of the WWII Hell’s Angels who also rode a motorcycle into Hollister, CA at the moment in history that was chronicled six or seven years later in “The Wild Ones”. Great family story. Ben’s a smart one. He’s a statistical architect with an interest in data sets that reveal the intersection of people, natural disasters, and interesting politics. Ask Ben about it when you’re in.

Bill’s a smart one, too. He’s in his mid-40’s, from England, and a statistician. He is also a believer in conspiracy theories, the most meaningful of which is the one that says the US government collaborated with the 9/11 terrorists. They ran war games on the same day using a hijacked aircraft as the model. As a result, so say the theorists, jets weren’t scrambled because everyone thought it was a game. You can choose to see the US as conspirators in the murder of 3,000 people, or you can choose to believe that Al-Qaeda’s intelligence is so great that they coordinated the attack perfectly with a secret war game. Bill’s struggling over the DaVinci Code, too, so he’s bitten off a lot.

Cortez is a musician’s musician. He writes charts for some big names. Right now it’s Elvin Bishop. He just retired from his own trio, but that’s a story Cortez can tell you himself. He’s a smart man, fun to talk to, knows a hell of a lot about music, and even encourages me to play my harmonicas, much to his chagrin, I’m sure. I sat in with the trio and did a James Cotton tune. People that had previously dropped money in the band’s tip jar came and got it back when I played. That’s how bad I am! Cortez is up in Mendocino, but I hope to see him soon.

Julian knows everybody, partly because he’s a rapper, but he often comes in alone. He was one of the crew who helped us by building the permanent benches and backrests. That job was mostly Julian and Basil, but Gill, Kaya, and Bird rounded out the construction team. Kaya stayed on after we opened, but he did something young and foolish and I fired him for failing to fess up when I gave him a chance. Gilligan stayed on until we were so restricted by a City of Berkeley and a partner issue that we could no longer afford to keep anyone. He was the last to go, and will be the first one back, should he be available. I think he’s got great life skills.

Bird is part of a duo and a quartet. The duo is Bird ‘n Heather. Sometimes they’re romantically together, and sometimes they’re not, but then they’re working together, or playing dominos together. They are among my favorites at The Patio, and are always very nice to me, for which I am grateful. Heather is really upbeat, and Bird is, too. Both laugh easily. The quartet I mentioned adds Steve and Frank to Bird ‘n Heather. Steve and Frank are also very nice to me, and I am happy to know both of them.

Frank’s a NYC transplant. A dark Irishman, Frank is level headed and not likely to be carried away by emotions. He is subtle. Frank’s a jeweler who makes rings, earrings, necklaces and such. He took a full time job with a well reputed jeweler with a “line”, and recently showed me a very lovely necklace he had been given at work. Kathy, his wife, must have loved it.

Steve is a budding photographer who makes a living building, and advising people on, computers. He is also very political, and currently full of admiration for Hugo Chavez, so he can’t be all bad! Steve is also a virtual authority on music, in general, and on several genres in particular. Comics too, apparently. You can’t prove that one by me because I know nothing about comics. Steve is also the only person I know who reads this blog regularly, which throws his judgment into question.

The common denominator for this quartet is dominos. They assemble around 5:30pm, get pints or pitchers of beer, and find a corner to play in, and so it goes until closing. I missed out on a lot of stuff because I never went to bars, pubs, etc when I was younger. I regret that, but I never had a taste for beer, and was a loner myself. Introvert to the edge of autistic, I’d call it, but that exaggerates it a bit. More on me later.

Very few people at The Patio make an impact like Capt. Phil does. Phil is not a captain, but a colonel, USMC (Ret.). He has a good pension, few needs, and lots of remora who feed off his generosity. When Phil’s here, people who otherwise never come in are there. I recognize them all, but all they ask for is a glass, with Phil’s approval. Phil’s seen some tragedy and is a remarkable man for working through it so well. I call a cab for Phil almost every night when he’s had too much to drink and doesn’t want to get busted for public intox on the BART or bus.


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