I play D&D (or some version thereof) most every Thursday night with friends at a place called Cafe Mox. Cafe Mox is a clean, well-lit, newly opened bar attached to a gaming store. It's awesome. Not long ago we had a splinter faction decide to play other variations at a different location, the Baranhof. The Baranhof is not a gaming bar. It is not clean. It is not well-lit. In fact, walking into the Baranhof is akin to entering the cantina scene from Star Wars. You can be assured that one of the smoky drunks who has been there since time immemorial will corner you and have an intensely spirited and wildly misinformed conversation about SOMETHING, be it the disappearance of the white race, credit scores, or just that goddamn squirrel stuck in their wall panels at home.
Last week I decided to check out the game going on at the Baranhof.
It started innocently enough. I picked up a pitcher of beer and headed out to the dining room to pay some games with my pals Jonathan and Josh. Jonathan writes his own games and modules and such, so he's always looking for guinea pigs to try things out. We were warming up with a quick game of Dungeon, which is a super fun board game from 1981 that I'm now on a quest to track down.
We were near the end of our game when the ancient bartender, a stern but nice enough lady whose name escapes me, came out to see how we were doing.
"Listen," she said, "if any crazy people show up, let me know okay?" I fought back the impulse to ask how the fuck we would tell a crazy person apart from the usual Baranhof crowd, since I would not put it past her to smack me in the head. We agreed to keep an eye out.
Then, as if on cue, a very large man in both height and girth entered the bar wearing a dog collar (not like a leather spiked one or anything tough, it was just a normal dog collar you might pick up at Petco) with a cross hanging from it and complaining loudly of how he'd just been 86'd from a Chinese Restaurant across the street.
How in the hell do you get kicked out of a Chinese restaurant?
We didn't have time to ask, as he immediately set upon our table.
"DRINK ONE FOR GEORGE, GODDAMIT!" he loomed over us, "BY GOD THE SUM' BITCH IS GONE AND THERE'LL NEVER BE ANOTHER ONE LIKE HIM!"
"DRINK, GODDAMIT! DRINK ONE FOR GEORGE!" I finally raised my beer half-heartedly and finished if off.
"Who the hell is George?"
"WHY HE'S THE BEST, NOBLEST GODDAMN TURTLE THAT EVER LIVED!" I'm starting to think this man has escaped from an assisted living facility after being traumatized at the death of his pet turtle. "HE SWAM IN THE GODDAMN WATER, AND HE WAS A GODDAMN LAND TURTLE! THAT'S A FUCKIN' ACCOMPLISHMENT! LAST ONE OF HIS KIND, GODDAMMIT!"
It occurs to me that he's referring to "Lonesome George," the last Giant Galapagos Tortoise who recently died in Ecuador. It was a minor blip on some news stations. How it got to this man and affected him so deeply, I have no idea. But he was emphatic about honoring this fucking tortoise.
"To George! They don't make 'em like that any more!" I egg the guy on, much to Josh and Jonathan's dismay.
"DAMN RIGHT THEY DON'T! I'M GONNA GO GET A PITCHER O' BEER AND DRINK WITH YOU GUYS!" None of us are assertive enough to try and refuse the guy. He looks like he could swing wildly from "pumped about dead turtles" to "ready for a bar fight" in the blink of an eye. He almost instantly proves my theory when he offers us a deal: "I'LL TELL YOU GUYS THE SAME THING I TOLD THEM SUM' BITCHES OVER THERE. I GOT $9,000 IN MY POCKET AND IF YOU WANT TO STEP OUTSIDE AND TAKE IT FROM ME IT'S YOURS."
I stare at my compatriots, dumbfounded. Now I'm all about awkward verbal conflict, but I tend to shy away from fighting large drunk men. Josh is way too mellow to get into any sort of argument like this anyway, and Jonathan is very much like me in that he's very likely to talk himself into a fight, but probably not adept at actually fighting.
He repeats the offer, and adds, "HELL IF ALL THREE O' YOU WANNA TAKE A SHOT THAT'S THREE GRAND EACH." None of us have the wherewithal to realize we should be offended at his assertion that it would take all three of us to fight him. He leaves to go get his pitcher of beer while we think it over.
"I don't know, guys," I argue, "he's pretty drunk. I think we could take him."
"Yes, because I'm sure the guy wearing the dog collar has $9,000 in the pocket of his stained shorts," Josh deflects me coolly. Jonathan is equally uninterested. We're already considering packing up the games and calling it a busted night when our newfound friend returns, pitcher in hand. Before he can get to us, the bartender has him by the arm.
"Leave! Them! ALONE!"
"WHAT? THEY SAID IT'S FINE IF I DRINK WITH 'EM!"
"No. Leave them alone." At this point, we're all awkwardly staring at the ceiling, as if we could possibly not hear this Chris Farley impressionist howling.
"GUYS. HEY GUYS. TELL HER IT'S OKAY!"
"Uh, well, we're going to be playing a game," I mention, "I mean you COULD sit and drink but we won't be much fun." This kind of throws him off.
"WELL WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?"
"Whatever you want to do!" my voice cracks. I'm too much of a pussy to tell him no, but I'm also too much of a pussy to invite him over. The bartender convinces him to head back to the bar and leave us alone.
Not 20 minutes later he was 86'd. He was still yelling about that goddamn tortoise.