Kevin and Richard… - Kevin Crowley joined the staff because, despite the good money he made as a mud logger, he’d quickly grown weary of life off shore and on the road in the oil patch. One Monday night we were drinking and playing darts at Jimmy’s Pub when he asked me how long it would take him to learn how to mix drinks and tend bar at St. Michel’s. I hired him as a bar back and service bartender and put him to work as an apprentice with Zeke, and within a couple of months he was up to speed as a full trained old school bartender. He moved in to share a two bedroom duplex with a Cajun high school civics teacher and between the cash tips and eating for free at St. Michel’s, he made nearly as much money as he’d made working 72 hours a week in the oil patch.
Richard was an almost for real Indian Chief; at least he claimed that his uncle was part of the Osage tribal council back on the reservation in Oklahoma. Pushing forty Richard had left life on the ‘Res’ for life in the oil patch after he was honorably discharged from the US Air Force. Like most of the lost souls who worked in the patch, he lived 12 hours on, 12 hours off, six days a week, three weeks off shore and one week on the beach. On the beach he lived in motels, frequented strip bars, hookers and stayed pretty much drunk twelve hours a day. He arrived in a Yellow Cab at St. Michel’s about three weeks after Kevin started and became a monthly regular. Surprisingly well read for an oil patch refugee, Richard enjoyed bourbon and coke and never got obnoxiously drunk. He had a very dry sense of humor and an appreciation for Cajun food which included Andoullie stuffed Pork Chops from Lafayette.
He would bring them to St. Michel’s in a Coleman beer cooler and the chef would prepare them with red beans and rice and a Jack Daniels Black Label variation on Red Eye Gravy. Sometimes Richard and Kevin would come over to my family’s house in Pasadena and much to ‘Mac’s” great pleasure, we’d smoke those stuffed pork chops on the grill and enjoy a Saturday afternoon.
To look at him, you’d think that Richard was just another blue collar alcoholic, but he spent his 12 hours off reading history, religion and philosophy and had become a self educated sage of sorts. I’m not sure where he ended up but Richard always said that when he retired he’d go back to the reservation and see if he could study with a shaman.
… Zeke and the Crew… - Zeke stood six foot seven, weighed two hundred and fifty pounds and didn’t have a scrap of fat on his body. He looked like a bearded Viking warrior in street clothes, but he was funny as hell and he was followed by a crew of regular customers and very professional, very attractive cocktail waitresses. Perhaps the most attractive was Elena, the tall thin aspiring fashion model who was suing Vidal Sassoon for ruining her hair. Elena was also Zeke’s live in girlfriend and therein lay the roots of conflict.
Zeke quietly brought to my attention the fact that the Saudi waiter was hitting on all the waitresses and Elena in particular. He put it very simply, “If you don’t do something about that I’m afraid I’m gonna have to pound that rag head shit into a bloody pulp.”
I thanked him for his restraint and said, “When we finish the dinner shift, we’ll all go out on the patio, drink some wine and have a talk.”
…the Saudi Waiter… - Over the course of the evening I checked in with all the waitresses and confirmed that the Saudi waiter had come on to all of them and I invited them to join us on the patio. As he was cashing out for the night, I told the Saudi that we were tasting some new wine on the patio and invited him to join us. He looked at the bottle of expensive burgundy in my hand and switched on his charming smile. Zeke and Kevin were sitting on the edge of the fountain pouring wine for the ladies and I poured a couple of glasses as we sat down. I raised my glass and proposed a toast, “Here’s to teamwork and respect.” The girls giggled but everybody took a sip while I turned to Zeke and asked, “What was that you said to me this afternoon?”
Zeke looked the Saudi in the eye and answered, “I said that a certain waiter was bugging my girlfriend and that if you didn’t do something about it, I was gonna have to pound his ass into a bloody pulp.”
Before the Saudi could protest, I said, “Well Zeke, as much as you might be gratified by pounding this waiter into a bloody pulp, Francois pays me to manage this place and as your manager I have to advise against that. We’d have to call the cops, you’d get arrested and I’d have to go looking around for another bartender while Francois would have to find another waiter;” then I turned to Kevin and asked, “What would you do if some waiter was coming on to your girlfriend?”
Kevin grinned and said, “I’d tell him up front to back off.”
“And what if he didn’t pay any attention to that,” I asked. Kevin grinned again and answered, “Well I’d wait until he got off work, check for traffic, toss a bag over his head and break his knee caps with a tire iron. It’s real hard to find work as a waiter if you can’t walk.”
“Now, is there anybody here who has received unwelcome advances from a waiter here at St. Michel’s,” I asked. All the girls raised their hands and the Saudi threw his glass on the brick patio. “You’re all assholes,” he shouted. I held up my right index finger and quietly said, “So here’s the deal. For some reason that completely escapes me, Francois tells me we can’t run you off. Zeke is way the hell too big for me to stop him from turning you into a bloody pulp and I can’t rule out the possibility of broken knee caps; but if I were you, I’d keep my hands to myself and start looking around for another job.”
“Assholes,” he shouted as he stormed off to get into his used BMW.
…and Star Wars – Kevin and I were movie fans. When he was in town, we went to the movies at least once a week. We weren’t big on films but we took in our share of Fellini and Jean-Paul Belmondo and if we ran into a really good flick, we’d often stay in our seats and watch it a second time. I believe that from its initial release in 1975, we watched The Wind and the Lion at least ten times. God knows how many times we watched it on video tape during the years that followed. I have a Youtube download on my hard drive and I think I may still have the tape stashed somewhere.
In any case, it was during one of our weekly trips to the flicks in early 1977, that we saw George Lucas’ first teaser for Star Wars; it wasn’t the 20th Century Fox trailer, but a ten second graphic of the logo that flashed on the screen with the first few bars of John Williams’ main theme followed by another graphic “Coming in May.” The first time we saw it I looked at Kevin and said, “I don’t know who these guys are but they’ve got balls.”
He laughed and replied, “Yep we’re gonna have to go see this one when it opens.”
I’m not big on standing in line to do anything, but I stood in line with Kevin to see the premiere showing of Star Wars in Houston and I’m glad I did. From beginning to end it was a glorious movie experience and exactly what we all needed at the time. Not just freaks like me and Kevin, but everybody in America. In the two years since the fall of Saigon on April 30th 1975, we’d been licking our wounds and burying our heads in disco and cocaine. It was a national self indulgent sensory binge and hangover cycle until Star Wars burst onto the scene and presented us with good guys and bad guys with white hats and black hats and we all had somebody to cheer for. It was such a rush to hear complete strangers cheering in the theater and then come to their feet to deliver a standing ovation at the end of the movie.
I went through the events of 1977 on Wikipedia to see if there was anything that could compare to Star Wars during that year, and other than:
…I couldn’t find anything much worth cheering about.
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