Winedale nation

A man, his guitar, and a last-chance bar on Greenville Ave.

"She's great!" hollered the little freak, stalking toward Pedro. "You suck!" he ranted in meth-driven rage. "You suck, she's great, she's better than all of us!" he went on, now jabbing his finger.

"You're outta here!" Pedro yelled back, hopping over the bar.
"I suck!" the freak shot back, continuing his odd outburst with passive aggression. The guy insulted himself profusely, which confused Pedro enough that he shrugged and headed back behind the bar.

Lance was ultimately banned from the Winedale. Though he behaved commendably on my night, he apparently crossed over the line, prompting another evening's bartender to brand him persona non grata. If one Winedale bartender saw fit to ban a customer, all other bartenders upheld the decision. Lance, sans patch, may have whispered one of his hair-raising sweet nothings into women's ears at the bar: "How 'bout lettin' Lance in yer pants? Any chance?"

Thereafter, Lance began to appear like an apparition at the door each Monday night, peering in like a pauper at a Christmas store. "Hang in there, Lance," I'd announce through the mike. "This ain't no Shangri-La, this ain't no promised land. It's just the Winedale." A round of "amens" rumbled from the privileged class inside. But a tear fell down Lance's cheek from his one good eye. Cold, weather-beaten, having lost weight, he was too cowed to enter. My wife, who considers Monday a school night, had come on a rare visit. He gingerly tipped the front door and whispered to her, "Is it OK if I open it a little, to just listen?"

With Pedro's threshold for tomfoolery down to one strike, more regulars received permanent evictions. Especially music fans, stripped of citizenship at the Last Stop on Greenville Avenue. Banishment from the London Tavern, Service Bar, Nero's, or Simply Fondue was taken in stride. But Winedale banishment was a humiliation most found hard to accept. Excommunicated winos and old hippies paced before the window each Monday, pining to come in, awaiting forgiveness, shouting their favorite requests from outside.

I spoke up for Lance, but Pedro wouldn't budge. Ironically, it was another bartender who banished Lance, and neither Lance nor Pedro had a clue as to why.

"Speak to Pete," Pedro shouted to Lance outside. "Clear it up with him. Until he says yes, you can't enter."

"What'd I do?" Lance would ask week after week, from the door. He claimed not to know the bartender who banned him, couldn't fathom the infraction.CR>CR> But Pedro held steadfast.

I played "Thanksgiving At McDonald's" each week for Lance, who beamed at the door with other undesirables, slapping each other five. Among my sidewalk audience was Ray the Poetry Mugger. A black street hustler, he cornered yuppies on Greenville Avenue with his tip jar, jabbering psycho poetry as they stared vacantly. Stalking college coffee houses, he'd hold a whole table hostage with an epic like "The Days Of Your Week": "Monday is a work day, berserk day, get up early wash yo' shirt day..."

I often bring traveling guest musicians to the Winedale. A recovering Texas blues guitarist made the pilgrimage. "Give this man a hand," I told the audience, as he strapped on his guitar. But he'd fallen off the wagon that night, and fell, mid-song, off the stage. He collapsed in sections, out cold from a combination of beer and hard dope.

"Is that the blues?" asked two ingenuous SMU boys, hovering over his body, seeking musical knowledge.

"Not exactly," I said. "B.B. King don't collapse onstage. Now, give this man a hand."

Pedro began giving me the brush-off. Whenever I ordered a drink he'd say, "Get it yourself." When I finally got my own beer, he saw this as the ultimate affront to his authority. A three-strike offense. The worst infraction a musician can commit against a club is to help himself to a beer. Might throw off the books. He rallied his corner of the bar against me. A Mexican who ran illicit cockfights began flipping cryptic hand signals my way. I knew one of us--me or Pedro--had to go.

Then Lance appeared at the door. It was winter, and he'd bottomed out with the shakes. He stared into the bar mournfully. I was whipping out final songs of the night before two dozen hardcore customers. Suddenly, Lance began a game of cat and mouse. He opened the door. Pedro put his hands on hips. Then Lance took one step over the border line of public sidewalk into the establishment. Pedro shot out his thumb: "Outta here!"

At this moment, the crowd sCR>tarCR>ted rooting for Lance. I began my oft-played bouncer's march, "Howdy Doody Time" (sung to "Tra-La-La-Boom-De-Ya"). The whole bar, rather than hushing, became the Peanut Gallery, and I was Buffalo Bob Smith. The joint went bonkers, all the winos clapping and singing along. Especially Lance, a demonic, overjoyed grin on his face, stomping an Irish jig. He danced into the Winedale singing, "It's Howdy Doody time, it's Howdy Doody time!" Pedro, summoning reserve strength at the end of the night, bolted over the bar, locked an arm around Lance's elbow, and backpedaled him out. A weakened, underweight Lance danced madly backward, belting out the chorus. He fell in the gutter.

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