I’ve tended a few bars over my time. Sure, work can be a drag and bartending isn’t always fun but it’s a pretty decent gig, especially for a writer. I truly believe believe a bartender gets to see some of the best and worst sides of humanity. We see the celebrations and offer comfort in times of commiseration. I’m not going to lie and say I did it for the stories, I didn’t, I’d do just as well sitting on the other side of the bar if I was only in the game for the stories. I did it for the tips but sometimes the tips can be shitty, occasionally the tips can be great but still don’t seem worth it. Although when I found myself back in the U.K. I still tended bars, so maybe I was in it for the stories after all.
I was working at a joint in Venice, California. It was a particularly quiet night when this short, stout, bald-headed gentlemen took it upon himself to sit at the bar. With the only other customers outside he became my only source of conversation and I was his. I knew quickly into our interaction that it was not a conversation I cared to be a part of. He wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t sober but his words weren’t slurred and he was far too coherent for the shit that driveled out of his lips. He asked me who my allegiance was to. This is the point I knew I was in trouble. People I just meet don’t tend to ask me about allegiances. I asked what he meant, I didn’t want to know, but I asked anyway. He went onto clarify who it was I devoted my life to. A few more words were passed and I’d clocked the golden crucifix hanging around his neck and it quickly became apparent to me that he wanted me to say God or Jesus. I’m in Venice if you’ve never been to Venice beach you may not know this but the place smells like a skunk farm. It’s a land of hippies and barefoot people smoking pot, it’s not the place I’m expecting a ‘come to Jesus’ moment, yet there we were. I could have lied but I’m not much for lying. I told him I don’t discuss religion or politics in a bar, never have and never will. Okay… so maybe I lied but I don’t discuss religion or politics with strangers at a bar. He wasn’t happy with that answer. He pressed further. “When you leave the bar who’s your allegiance to?” I danced around the question asked him about his day, where he was from, shit, I even started spouting off nonsense about the history of the brewery of the beer I’d given him, but he was having none of it. In fact he was growing more determined until I told him, I’m not a believer. He was furious! “You have to believe and give your life over to God.” He started rambling on about not having false idols. This discussion began escalating until I told him if he didn’t calm down I’d have to ask him to leave. His voice was now raised and he was livid, I said we can talk but he’d have to remain calm. My friend was serving drinks to the patio oblivious of this ongoing confrontation, she was English like myself. She came to collect an order I’d made at the bar and I tried to give her that look with my eye as if to say ‘this dude’s nuts’ but she didn’t notice a thing and she continued on outside. He went rambling on to me about people who give their allegiance to anything or anyone other than God are vile and going to burn in hellfire.
I eventually asked him to leave when he tried to come around the bar and fight me in the name of Jesus. It didn’t seem very Christian to me but before he left my server friend came back inside from the outside area now noticing there is some sort of altercation occurring she asks me if everything was okay, I told her it was but this guy was leaving. He asked her “Who do you give your allegiance to?” Without skipping a beat she looked him dead in the eye and replied “Manchester United.” He never came back.