Thursday, January 15, 2009


One of my best friends when I was 14 was Vicki Moreno. I loved hanging out over at her house because Vicki's family was a bit, um, chaotic. Her parents were divorced but lived a few houses away from each other on the same street, and there were older and younger siblings plus step-siblings going back and forth between the two households so no one really kept track of who was coming and going...a perfect situation for teenage hijink-ery. Well that and her mom and her mom's boyfriend were total laid-back stoners who didn't really give a rat's either way. Her dad was married to a woman whom all the siblings despised and it seemed the feeling was mutual. She hated me, too. HATED me. Guilt by association, I guess.

There was one weekend during the summer that all the parents were going to be out of town (not all together) and they needed to bring someone in to supervise the brood. Someone responsible, dependable, with experience in dealing with kids. They called Uncle Dicky.

Uncle Dicky was a total drunk who had never been married and had no children of his own (that we know of). Good call! Immediately I tell my poor unsuspecting mother that I'm going to spend the night at Vicki's dad's house to "babysit" and can I please have my allowance first? When I arrived we promptly forked over our combined allowances and asked Uncle Dicky to please get some Old English 40 oz. for us on his next beer run, which he gladly did. That $5 allowance, back in the day, went a long way as far as purchasing malt liquor. And said malt liquor goes a long way in a 14-year-old's body. We all laughed and partied with Uncle Dicky for a while until he became incoherent and was soon snoring on the couch.

You know what sounds like a really good idea when you are 14 and drunk? DRIVING. Oh yes, we went there.

Vicki's dad's truck was parked in the driveway, just asking to be driven. I mean, it's just backroads, right? What's the worst that can happen? We called our friend Margaret, who was 16 and probably knew how to drive and she came right over to coach us through our adventure. All three of us piled into the tiny cab of the jalopy truck and our first (unofficial) driving lesson began.

Yeah, it went just as you might expect.

The first few blocks were amazing, we had never experienced anything like being behind the wheel of a car before...the freedom, the control, the exhilaration! It was all so exciting...we could go anywhere, anywhere at all!!! Where do you guys wanna go? We can go there! We can go there RIGHT NOW! We can go.....oh wait....we can go....oh shit, turn. TUUUURN!!!

When we uncovered our faces, we were looking at a tree. A big tree. With the front of Vicki's dad's truck wrapped around it. Well not WRAPPED, but there was a sizeable dent in the hood. No prob, he'll never notice, right? Right. We were drunk and we did what drunks do. We went home and passed out and blocked it out, in hopes that the universe would do the same. Except it didn't.

We were very rudely awoken the next day by Vicki's dad. But he wasn't angry, he was terrified. "Sweetie, WHAT DID YOU DO? WHERE IS HE? WHERE IS HE? WHAT HAPPENED?" He kept pleading...he was almost crying! What the hell was he talking about? Did something happen to Uncle Dicky? No, he was still sleeping peacefull through all the commotion, so he's fine, so what is so upset about? So Vicki tried to explain: "Dad, we took the truck, we hit a tree, I'm sorry, won't happen again, blah blah blah." Then Vicki's dad starts speaking REALLY fast Spanish and I can't understand but he's putting his hand over his forehead and then giving the universal "WTF??" gesture of palms outstretched. I'm looking at Vicki for interpretation and her eyes get all big like she just saw a ghost. This is not good. She goes into shock for a moment and then starts laughing. Like trying-to-control-herself-but-can't-help-it laughter. When he sees this, he gets even more upset. Now I'm freaking out and making the universal "WTF" gesture as well, wondering what the hell he is screaming about...then she tells me, in between gasps of laughter (we were still drunk) that he is convinced we ran over a human being, hence the dent in the hood that is exactly the size of a human head (hand over the forehead) and had some blood-colored stains on it (Northwest Redwood). Yeah. He thought we killed someone.

"Why are you laughing??" I asked her...and she replied (I am not lying):

"When I tell him the truth he's gonna be so relieved that he won't ground me!"

True story.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Memoirs of a Modern-Day Geisha

So you know when you're young you think you're totally invicible, that nothing can harm you and you can handle every situation that comes your way because you know everything? Yeah, right.

Two weeks after my 21st birthday I bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan because it was as far away from Olympia as I could get. I went there with the intent to teach English, which I did for a few months. Then I got a job offer from the Chinese mafia to be a hostess and of course I jumped at the chance. A hostess is basically a modern-day geisha. I got paid a great deal of money to play drinking games, sing karaoke, and make sure everyone was having a good time. Helloooo...? Dream job for a 21 year old! And no, I didn't have to anything more than that. Although I did get some pretty bizarre requests, though. Like the couple who were professional gamblers who paid me and my friend two-weeks salary to hang out with them at a swanky resort in Kenting for a week.

It was illegal though of course. Our boss moved us around every 10 days and bribed the club owners and local constables to let us work. It was a busy schedule (two days off a month) but I did get to see a lot more of Taiwan that I normally wouldn't have. It was also like playing with fire. Many times we would come home to find the police going through our apartment, looking for more bribes. We never got paid our full salary until the end of our 10-day run so the last night was always a bit nerve-wracking. But none so much as my very last night of my hostessing career before heading home after a year and a half of living this way.

My friend and I had worked at this karaoke bar for a full 20 days. That means we were about to be paid a lot of money and we were nervous as hell that they were going to completely screw us. The manager of the club was a very nice lady who spoke pretty good English and she liked us a lot. She even had us over to her house that night and cooked us dinner. This town was a bit remote and I'm sure they didn't see many foreigners here, which was probably why they liked having us around. Having her on our side was comforting. So after dinner we all drove to the club together one last time. We walked into the lobby and sat down and the manager lady disappeared into the back. A moment later, a dozen policemen came marching in, pointing their rifles at us.

The Taiwanese police buy their guns from the US military, so they carry no handguns, they all have AK-47's, which they mostly use as an intimidation tactic. That and the fact that they can look really fucking mean.

The club owner comes out looking very confused. The police chief steps out from behind the human wall and the two start arguing. My Chinese was rudimentary but I can understand the jist of it. "We agreed to them being here for 10 days and they have been here 20, you owe us more money, you have been dishonest", blah blah blah. This goes on for a while, meantime Sue and I are soiling ourselves, imagining them tossing our bodies into a landfill, no one the wiser.

Just when we are starting to say our prayers, the two men walk over to the cash register, open it, and the owner empties it and shoves the contents into the police chief's hands. Suddenly everyone is all smiles. "Okay!" says the chief, and the human wall lowers their guns. Sue and I are trying to catch our breath, our hearts jumping into our throats. The human wall then immediately go upstairs, followed by the chief.


The owner then tells us, "Okay, you work now!" pointing upstairs. The nice manager lady emerges again out of nowhere and puts a comforting hand on our shoulders. "It's okay! It's okay!" she keeps saying, smiling and cheerful. She practically has to carry us up the stairs because we are still shaking and we can't believe everyone is acting like this happens every night. She walks up to a door, opens it, and motions for us to enter. "Your clients," she says. We walk in and almost pee our pants all over again. It's the human wall and the police chief. "Come!" he says, smiling like an old friend.

"You've GOT to be kidding." I say, to which he replies with a laugh like he has just played a practical joke on me.

So, I purposely lost a few rounds of drinking games because I needed something to calm my nerves, then sang a disco version of the Love Boat theme song, which was a bit hit with me and Sue but the human wall didn't understand why it was so funny. But they were very nice and surprisingly respectful. And fortunately, they couldn't handle their aclohol very well so they didn't last long before they got tired and had to call it a night. We, however, had to keep working until 4:00 am, our bosses really milking that last night out of us. But the thought of greasy-spoon diners and supermarkets and Mexican food kept me going and soon after that I was on a plane going home, but not without another snag, which is another story...


So there was this guy Petey who used to come into the bar pretty much every night. He was a coke dealer and had nothin' but time and money to spend. He was very protective of us girls (all female staff and no door guys or security) so he was good to have around. He showered us with money and sweet-talk and even though he did copious amounts of cocaine he never got out of control or anything, just a little manic now and then. I only ever saw him get aggressive once and it wasn't towards another person, it was directed at himself.

I could tell something was wrong the minute he came in. He was tense and shifty-eyed and unusually quiet. He sat at the end of the bar and just stared down at it, thinking hard about something. "What's going on, Petey?" I said, but he just mumbled something and continued to stare at the bar. So I got him his drink and went on about my business, taking the hint that he wanted to be left alone. A while later he suddenly snapped out of it and became a little manic, buying drinks for everybody and accumulating a small crowd. "Well, at least he's feeling social," I thought. I was tending to a crowd at the opposite end of the bar when I heard a loud banging sound coming from his end. I looked over to find him playing that game where you spread out one hand on the bar while stabbing a knife in between the spaces of the fingers with the other. Now I've seen drunk people do this before with a pen or with a much lighter hand, but Petey wasn't fucking around. He was giving it everything he had, taking huge chunks out of the bar. Everyone was too stunned to say anything at first, then just too scared to try and stop him for fear of getting stuck in the throat. This went on for a minute or two, all of us looking at him in horror and looking at each other, hoping someone would know what to do. "Well I'm not risking my life to jump in there, and it isn't MY bar," I decided. Just as I was wondering how long this was going to go on for, someone behind Petey put his hand on his shoulder and he flinched. A moment later, the unfortunate person sitting next to him at the bar was sprayed from head to waist in blood. Petey had cut off his finger.

Everyone started scrambling either for towels or to simply avoid being sprayed. I went for the first-aid kit but when I approached him with it, he simply pushed me away, leaned over the bar and grabbed the vodka out of the well, and started pouring it all over his hand. "I'm fine!" he kept saying. "Enny you guyzz everr bin SHOT?? HUH? Czzz I have ann this izz nuthinnn..."!" he declared, waving his hand around, his ring finger hanging on by a flap of skin.

There was one of those driving-video games in the bar, the ones where you climb in and there's a steering wheel and you drive around a course, racing other cars. Our was particularly cool because it was all San Francisco scenery. You can race around Alcatraz, North Beach, etc. That game was our favorite, especially Petey's. He would spend hours playing that game, and nothing was going to stop him. Not even cutting off his finger. He pulled a handful of quarters out of his pocket with his good hand and stumbled over to the machine. There was a hipster guy leaning on the machine, talking to a friend. Petey walked up to him, grabbed his hand, shoved the quarters into it and slurred "Hold these," and casually climbed right in. The poor guy was standing there, stunned, with a handful of bloody quarters, not knowing what the hell to do. I have to admit that part was pretty funny, even at the time.

So I put my foot down. "Petey, if you're not going to go to the hospital, I'm calling an ambulance." to which he replied, "Fuck you!" and stormed out, almost running over Donald, the owner of the bar, on his way out. Donald came in and looked around at the mess that Petey had made. There was blood EVERYWHERE. "What the hell happened in here?" he demanded.

"Well," I said, "Let me start by saying I am NOT cleaning this up."

The Chronicles of Miss Andy, Pt. I

So I've been getting a lot of requests to put some of my bartending adventures into written form lately, and although I've worked many a bar in my 10-year run, the O'Farrell Sports Bar in the tenderloin has them all beat story-wise. So here goes:

You know the city gets pretty damn cold in the wintertime, especially if you're a ho in the 'loin. When you're standing outside on a corner in nothing but a bra ,a thong and 6 inch heels in 37 degree weather, dammit you're the hardest working girl in San Francisco.

Enter Brandy, the hooker with a heart of gold. She was very respectful of the fact she wasn't allowed to solicit in the bar, she would just come in to warm up with a stiff Courvoisier and 7up (in a snifter, yo). She was very sweet and a good conversationist, unlike her pimp Lucius. That was really his name. Often times, Lucius would storm into the bar and verbally abuse her (and sometimes physically too), thinking that she was playing hooky (no pun intended), and drag her back out to the corner. We all felt bad for Brandy, the poor ho was just trying to warm up, after all.

Things got worse between Lucius and Brandy as the winter wore on, their arguments being the main attraction of many a colorful evening. Lucius had a bit of a crack problem, you see, which made him a tad paranoid. One night, he was convinced Brandy was stealing from him. I could hear her screaming a block away before she even entered the bar, so I braced myself for whatever was about to happen. The door flew open and Brandy came running in, screaming "He gonna kill me! He gonna KILL me!" and ran right behind the bar and hit the floor at my heels. I looked down and asked her just what the hell she thought she was doing and when I looked up, Lucius was standing directly in front of me and pointing a pistol at my face.


"Goddamit, Brandy, if he doesn't kill you, I will." I said to her, but she couldn't hear me through her sobs. So I said "Please, Lucius, this isn't about me. You're gonna make a huge mistake that you're going to regret...blah blah blah" You know all that stuff they say in TV shows was the only thing I could think of, but it seemed to be working. I told Brandy to go into the basement and she did (didn't have to tell HER twice). Lucius seemed to be getting more and more confused. "Honey I'm going to pour you a shot, okay? Looks like we could both use one (damn straight)." So the pimp and I had a shot together. Then another. He began to cry. "I'm sorry, man! I just, you know, the bitches all out ta GIT me!" I nodded in complete understanding of the situation. "You know Brandy's doing the best she can, you gotta give her a break, you know?" I didn't know what the hell I was saying. One more shot. "Hey man you think you can put your gun away now? Everyone that's left in here is scared shitless. Thanks for driving away all my business, by the way (nervous laugh)." Fortunately he found this funny. "Aw, shit man, hey, are we cool?" He says as he tucks his gun away. "Where da bitch at?" I made him promise to not hurt her (yeah right) and coaxed her out from behind the kegs. I gave them both another shot and made sure everyone left drunk and friendly. I locked the door behind them and proceeded to hyperventilate and do more shots, in that order.

We never saw Brandy again.