Strange Goings On at a Biker Bar (A True Memoir)
Sure, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to disagree with me, but when you do, you’ll be wrong.
I was raised to be a Sissy.
No, not on purpose--it was just circumstances.
I had three generations of women rearing my sorry butt and paddling on it. Discipline meant “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Nobody wanted a spoiled child! They’d settle for a Sissy instead.
I had no Daddy around--he had flown back to Detroit. I was stuck in Fort Worth without a clue as to what a manly man with manly ways could possibly be, or how I could become one.
I’d have no way of knowing how to hit a baseball, catch a tossed football, or throw a right cross over a left hook to take out a bully. Nope. I had a different set of skills to learn, such as saying, “Yes, Ma’am and No Sir.”
I went to bed at a decent hour without being told when that hour was. I got up early and had perfect attendance at school. I earned straight A’s and won the spelling bee.
Now, do I have to ask you if that sounds like becoming a manly man is my destiny?
Thank god for movies!
I found my heroic stereotypes writ large on the Silver Screen and I took to the task like a Terrier grabs at a rat. I seized the day!
Thanks to Glenn Ford in The Fastest Gun Alive, I learned to draw my six shooter and fire before the bad guy could pull off even one shot. Thanks to Will Rogers, I could toss a lasso around a fence post in one throw. Thanks to Jim Bowie, I was a deadly aim with a throwing knife. Robin Hood created the desire in me to be a dead eyed archer. I swung from tree to tree like Tarzan. When Steve Reeves appeared as Hercules--I went crazy slinging barbells and dumbbells three times a day to develop a perfectly chiseled physique!
Yet, for all that effort and fantasy, I was a Sissy. I was scared of my own shadow. Neighborhood ruffians squealed with glee when they spotted me out on my bicycle and made short work of me without raising a sweat. I looked exactly like what I was: easy prey, a Momma’s boy and a Sissy. If you were a bully, you got down on your knees at bedtime and thanked the Good Lord for placing Terry inside your territory!
In reaction to my situation, I always had a Heroic dream.
I wanted to be a person others admired, looked up to and celebrated and yet, in school--nobody celebrated a spelling bee winner over a football player. I memorized 5840 new vocabulary words, learned the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by heart, recited Pi to 50 decimal places and committed to memory a plethora of snappy patter songs from Gilbert and Sullivan and The Music Man--but I was still a Sissy!
When my first best friend convinced me to join his religious cult--I threw myself into being the best I could be as a door-knocking, scripture-slinging, religious fanatic. I even served time in Federal Prison demonstrating my steely willpower and unwavering courage in the face of persecution, declaring myself a Conscientious Objector.
I was terrified of Jail, Prison, convicts, and assault, yet I faced every one of those and came out the other side bloodied, but unbowed.
I was obviously trying to prove something about myself.
I was a flaming heterosexual interested in girls ever since before the 1st grade! But I was so painfully shy and non-athletic--there just didn’t seem to be a subtle, low-key way I could compete with the other guys. The correct adjective is Clueless.
What can you say about a guy six feet four inches tall with blue eyes, slender build, a quirky sense of humor, who sings Broadway songs and collects movies soundtracks on vinyl? I was a natural artist, music lover, and movie fanatic who never missed a new film. I knew all the Directors, lighting technicians, Directors of Photography, and scriptwriters to each film. I was an avid reader and I wrote poetry. Well--what could you say-- I mean, other than SISSY?
Having said all that, I can now begin my little story. . .
It wasn’t until a few years ago I met a “by God genuine hero!”This fellow was a winner! He was loved and admired and celebrated. He was everything I wanted to be and wasn’t. However--in meeting him and watching him--I suddenly learned a simple life lesson I want to tell you about.
If you’re still interested at this point, stick around. Here we go. . .
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
This ramshackle dive was a bar--a lowdown, loud music, pool playing, cigarette smoke kind of bar where members of the Punishers Biker Club (i.e. gang) gravitated on weekends. Hell, their oldest member owned the damned thing. He obviously didn’t give a rat’s diaper what it looked like because it was nasty in the sense of being a weigh station to hell. An old red carpet was worn down to wood round the regulation pool tables. The restrooms smelled like--oh, I won’t inflict a description on you. You’re welcome.
Behind The Four Horsemen bar was a large plot of land, fenced in and rendered not visible by outsiders on the old dirt road next to the seedy motel with its flickering sign. NO TELL MOTEL. Yeah. That one.
It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what went on in that backyard patio. Bikers and their kindred spirits could brandish the hash pipes and exchange dainty pleasantries in the open air. A CCTV system allowed these denizens of the darkness to spy out the front parking lot just in case a police car should happen to pull up.
Inside The Four Horsemen, always crowded with unique specimens of near-humanity, just outside the city limits of Fort Worth, patrons drank, cussed, played pool, listened to live music, fed quarters to vintage video consoles, and otherwise re breathed the thick, noxious lung soup of smoke and raucous merriment.
Into this fine establishment one fine night, yours truly walked in--a man surely as out of place in such a bar as a man could be.
Thanks to my good buddy, Bob, I had entered a world of nightmares and terror. Thanks Bob!
Bob and had been friends for a decade. His daughter and mine became fast friends at school and we found ourselves at Camp Carter twice a year for Father and Daughter weekend campouts. No two guys ever had more in common. Bob had played drums for a performing band in Calgary, Canada as a youth. He was an I.T. engineer, a movie buff, and music aficionado.
Once each week, on Friday evenings, Bob and I would search for Live Music venues where we could sip beer and talk music, life, and unwind.
Bob had spent much of his youth in lowdown bars and unsavory nightspots--he feared nothing! Wrongly, he assumed I too feared nothing. Actually--I feared EVERYTHING!
What do you suppose was running through my mind and the minds of that bar’s inhabitants?
Here I am, inside a rat’s nest called The Four Horseman, and every set of beady red eyes is sizing the two of us up. Are we Narcs? Cops undercover? Looking to score crack? Nitwits who are lost? I leave you to sort that puzzle toward its unsurprising conclusion.
Bob made his way through Biker chicks sporting love handles and enigmatic tattoos, weaving confidently around each cluster of bearded, bandana-on-head motorcycle ‘enthusiasts’ and sidled up the bar. A much bosomed young thang smiled and asked Bob “What’ll you have?”
Write your own dialogue.
She was way out of place, too young not to be dumb, an asset in many thinkable (and some unthinkable) ways which enhanced Bob’s appreciation of The Four Horsemen.
I joined him at the bar and tried to make myself invisible.
Bob was chatting up the tender bartender with the kind of silly ease guys assume when they were a real hit with the girls back-in-the-day, but which selfsame ‘skills’ are now defunct and no longer applicable due to the passage of time and--well--the cornball factor of an aging man and a young woman having ANYthing whatsoever in common.
I staged an intervention at once!
I smiled and tossed off my usual banter:
“Is this bar named after characters and descriptions contained in the Bible book of Revelation, Chapter Six?”
The young bartender, named Melanie, blinks wide-eyed. I may as well have asked her what a quadratic equation was.
A peculiar old gent with a scraggly white beard standing next to me sticks his head in close and startles me with his response.
“Original members of The Punishers are the four horsemen. When I bought this bar, I named it after us. I’m Fast Eddy. Who the fuck are you?”
Within the next ten minutes, Bob and Fast Eddy are great friends and drinking companions. Bob has that special way about him. I listen and observe and practice shallow breathing inside the cloud of smoke where I stand. My ears melt from loud music. My eyes sting and water. I resemble a white mouse with a head cold.
We all drink Killian’s Red beer on tap in a pitcher as our tympanic membranes stretch into crinkled trampolines of abused scar tissue. Miraculously, Bob understands every word Fast Eddie speaks. I, on the other hand, understand nothing, and yet I have a genuine flair for nodding as though I thoroughly comprehend the secrets of the universe.
Bob and I are sitting on a red, cushioned bar stool--the kind which swivels in all directions. He is laughing and telling me things. I am nodding and smiling. Every once and awhile, I toss in an expression of something or other--made up on the spot. It’s working.
Finally, the live band stops playing. If I were Catholic, I’d say my rosary...or whatever you do to give thanks. At any rate, the welcomed semi-quiet refreshes my spirit.
Fast Eddy has been challenged by a little redneck cowpoke wearing a straw bronco buster hat and ostrich cowboy boots. He’s not just drunk--he’s sassy--full of himself. He’s telling Fast Eddy how badly he’s gonna get whooped!
I see by Eddy’s eye crinkles that he is most amused at this runty little gnat.
Bob asks Melanie who the finest pool player in the joint is. Fast Eddy tops the list!
I explain to Bob where the name Fast Eddy comes from. He never saw The Hustler with Paul Newman.
Yeah, well--he’s about five years younger than me. Go figure.
Bob suggests we go outside in the back and sit on the patio so’s we can capture oxygen in our lungs and lengthen our lifespan.
I jump at the chance and snatch up the newly filled pitcher of Killian’s Red and off we go.
The smell on the patio is acrid--in a druggy sort of way!
I’ve never tried and never will try, drugs of any description. I’m a Sissy, remember?
Others, loitering as they are, on the patio, have no such reservations about drugs!
Bob and I sit way off on the extreme end of a wooden deck. There are lounge chairs aplenty.
We settle in and finally talk--real talk--about music.
Every now and then, the denizens of the dark waddle over and introduce themselves and offer us a hit, a toke, a smoke, a this and a that. I explain that I’m in recovery from congestive miasma and, as such, can’t violate the terms of my parole or I’ll end up back in Alcatraz.
I get sympathetic nods and solemn head shakes. They truly feel my pain.
I’m finally fitting in!
After a couple of hours and as many refills, Bob and I wander aimlessly back inside for bathroom duty and to check what condition our condition is in. The bar has dwindled down to a manageable rumble of voices, laughter, coughing fits, clinking mugs, and the sound of the cue ball colliding with kindred spheres.
We have taken up residence on the barstools just in time to see the end of that marathon pool game between Fast Eddy and Runty Ostrich Boots. Fast Eddy has lost!!
Lord Gawd Amighty!
He reaches into his pocket and peels off some impressive bills and hands them over to the winner.
“Go agin, old man?”
The Ostrich booted upstart inquires, obviously pressing his luck.
Fast Eddy pauses and snuffles. . .hesitates. . .smiles and shakes his head.
“Nope. You’re the better man.”
Folks who know Fast Eddy have paused to watch and listen. With those words hanging in the air, a titter of quiet amazement passes around the room kinda like the smell of a well aimed fart.
And that is when he walks in--the Man.
The mood suddenly shifts. Everybody seems to have won the lottery or something.
“Hey, Ray--how they hangin?”
The dozen characters remaining in The Four Horsemen are like kids around the ice cream truck on a hot August afternoon.
Hands are out for shaking.
Grins are hauled to the top of the flagpole to unfurl.
The very large, impressive black man has his back slapped, hand shaken, ear filled with good tidings and compliments enough to set Bob and me to wondering who the heck this hero is who has graced this shabby bunghole in hell with his magnitude.
Our latter day Moses parts the Red Sea of fawning worshippers and makes his way, lumbering on polished alligators, toward the barstool next me at the bar.
He’s big. His bigness is not simply a matter of size. He’s BIG, as in IMPORTANT.
To me, he’s anonymous and nobody I’ve ever seen before in my life. That’s what you’d expect from a Sissy, wouldn’t you?
Melanie’s beautiful young face becomes a starburst of fulsome energy! She dashes out from behind the bar and rushes up to the great man and throws her arms around him for a never ending squeeze that almost knocked the air out me just from watching!
Bob has cornered Fast Eddy to get the lowdown on our guest.
“Is he somebody important?”
Fast Eddy purses his lips and nods a slow up and down movement with his whiskered chin and says not word one.
Call me intuitive. I can suss out how it is--Fast Eddy doesn’t like Melanie and Mr. Big hugging on each other. I quickly theorize: Old Z Z Top here is infatuated with Melanie!
After the slobbering has ended and Melanie is back behind the bar, Mr. Big makes a glacial slow turn to his right and his eyes lock on to mine. My face is blank. I’m just watching and waiting. What rules of the road have delivered this demi-god to my side? Who or what or why or when or where?
“I’m Rayfield Wright. I’m a Humanitarian. I’m a two time World Champion Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl winner. You see these two rings? Those are Super Bowl Winner rings. I’m a most valuable player winner. Everybody knows me. ”
The big man reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a business card. He hands it to me like he’s offering a hundred dollar bill to a starving third world child.
Now, it’s my turn.
I arched my eyebrows and offered him my hand. . .the way the Pope does when he wants his ring kissed.
Now, I never played football or developed the quasi-religious fervor for the game your average Texan has. I don’t watch Super Bowls. I don’t know player’s names, as Rayfield Wright has come to expect every-damned-one-of us to know and react accordingly. It is his legacy, you see? My not being impressed has puzzled him for only a few seconds. Behind his penetrating brown eyes, inside that helmet-like skull, the gears whirred and a conclusion is reached.
“You’re a jokester!”
He grins and slaps me on my shoulder with his hefty boxing glove sized hand and I suddenly concuss like a test-dummy in a car crash at General Motors laboratory.
“Heh heh heh. You’re a jokester. Yeah, man.”
And that was that. First impression are over.
In the next fifteen minutes, Rayfield Wright has knocked back about nine shot glasses of J&B on the rocks--except, without the rocks.
He gets up and heads toward the bathroom. Melanie leans in and gushes about The Man.
“He’s a Humanitarian, ya know?”
She goes on to explain how Rayfield calls her up and when she needs money, he gives it to her to help her out. Her girlfriends too!
A picture is beginning to emerge in my dirty little crow’s nest of a mind.
“He invites all of us to his Suite when he’s in town on business. He gives the most wonderful parties!”
Gushy details just spin out of control and pass the boundary lines of “too much information.”
Bob gives me a look and I return the same look.
The bathroom door opens, and as Mr. Big emerges, guess who is standing right in his path with a cocky, hat-on-the-back-of-the-head challenge to a pool match?
Melanie has a sharp intake of breath, like you hear in horror movies when the Creature leaps out of the water with those webbed claws splayed.
Bob makes his inquiry and Melanie offers insights.
Little Runty Ostrich boots and Rayfield the Magnificent hate each other’s guts.
Runty is a racist of the down home, shit-kickin’ variety. But he’s a rarity in a couple of ways.
You see, Runty has been tossed out on his skinny ass by the Four Horsemen in the past for using racially charged language.
Oh--I left out the part where the black police officer was in the bar at the time! Otherwise . . .
Now what happened next is a story I’ve been itchin to tell for a number of years and simply haven’t done--mainly because it has to be told just the right way, patiently and with keen attention to detail. Otherwise, it’ll be wasted. I couldn’t risk that--no no--not my best story!
Next up: THE STORY! Strange Goings On at a Biker Bar (A True Memoir)