It was about 1:30 the night the Volcano reopened after COVID, not too long before last call, when a nice chill evening got less chill, and for once the trouble didn’t have anything to do with Carter. But there was a disturbance at the far end of the patio from where we were sitting, and it got everyone’s attention .
It’ll be easier telling y’all about it if I just give you the story. It happened pretty fast in reality, and it wasn’t until I was talking it over with Keaton and Jesse (that’s the new bouncer’s name) after closing that I got all the details.
It seems that there were two groups of people separated by a plexiglass partition. One of them – a dude and a chick – were minding their own business. The other group – two dudes and two chicks – weren’t. And told the dude in the first group through the partition that he should have his mask on.
Ok, let me make a few things clear. First off, we were on a patio, so we were technically outside, where there’s next to no risk of COVID transmission. Second off, there were plexiglass partitions between the two groups, so even if the dude without the mask shot his grossass droplets all over the plexiglass, they wouldn’t reach the people in the second group. Third off, the dude was drinking a beer, and it’s pretty obvious that you’re not going to put your mask back on again between every drink you take.
So these people telling the dude to put his mask on were totally out of line.
The situation escalated, which is when they started attracting everyone else’s attention. There were raised voices and Jesse came over to break it up.
This was the first time I saw Jesse in action. He looks solidly built and like he can take care of himself, so I wasn’t worried about that (and, if he couldn’t take care of himself, Keaton was in the other room.) Maybe he’s just a little too young-looking to pass for tough, because the jerkoff group started attacking him verbally.
The conversation finally got so loud that everyone could hear it.
“You’re a Mexican racist,” this one chick was saying to Jesse. “Admit it. You’re a Mexican racist. I want your name because I’m going to report you to the Pasadena Police Department.” The chick went on like that, and I could see that it was pissing Jesse off. It’d piss anyone off.
“I’m not a racist…and I’m not even Mexican,” Jesse said, although explaining and engaging was exactly what he shouldn’t have done. “My grandparents were born here.”
“You’re a Mexican racist!,” the chick said. “Isn’t he?,” she said, turning to one of the dudes in her group.
“How come you’re picking on us instead of the asshole without his mask on?,” the dude then said to Jesse.
“I’m not picking on anyone,” Jesse said. “But they’re within their rights to have their masks off when they’re drinking. Just like you. Nobody’s making you wear those things.”
“Guess you don’t care about getting sick,” the dude said.
“I’m vaccinated,” said Jesse, trying to be rational, which was rapidly becoming a waste of time.
“Just what a Mexican racist would say,” said the loud chick. Like it made any sense. “You can kiss up to your white bosses all you want…you’ll never be white.”
A bouncer isn’t supposed to lose it, but, at this point, I could tell that Jesse was at the end of his rope.
Lucky for everyone, Keaton saw what was going on.
“There a problem?,” he asked, coming over to the group. I could tell he was in intimidation mode, which is kinda like beast mode only a lot quieter. Y’all know Keaton does it dang well.
The loud chick answered. “Your racist pal was telling us that that super spreader over there” she pointed through the partition, “doesn’t need to wear a mask even though there’s a pandemic on. Or can’t you read the news?”
“I’d suggest you simmer down, ma’am,” said Keaton. “We’re all just here to have a good time…”
“I am not going to simmer down when I’m being attacked by racists who want to spread the virus. I…”
“I was standing over there,” Keaton said, “and I saw the whole altercation. The person who did the attacking first was you. And I’ll thank you not to call my colleague names.”
Writing that, it sounds kinda polite, but Keaton was being ice cold and scary. I knew he wasn’t gonna punch the loud chick, but I reckon he’d learned that intimidation is more effective than reasoning with drunkass jerkoffs at 1:30 in the morning.
“You can’t talk to her like that,” said the dude with the loud chick.
Not a smart thing to say to Keaton Penner.
“I think it’s gonna be better if you leave now,” Keaton then said, checking his watch. “It’s gonna be last call in 5 minutes anyway.”
“You throwing us out?”
“Nope,” Keaton said. “But I can if you’d prefer it.”
“Fuckin white supremacist with your fuckin Southern accent,” the dude said.
“Ok,” Keaton said, crossing his arms over his chest, “get out. Now.”
“You and your boyfriend gonna throw us out?,” the dude asked, looking at Jesse.
“I strongly recommend you get the fuck out now or we will.”
Keaton was in his ice cold mode at this point. And it worked. The group was muttering a lot and saying ‘racist’ every three words, but they cleared out.
Keaton usually gets applause from the regulars when he does his job. This time wasn’t any different.
“Hey,” Carter said after the disruptive people had left, “don’t look at me. I didn’t start it.”
“Not this time,” I said. “Sucks for the new guy, having to deal with people like that on his first night.”
“You know him?,” Dylan asked.
“No. Saw him for the first time when you did.”
“His name’s Jesse,” said Carter. “He’s a little small for a bouncer, but I understand he can take care of himself.”
“He just needs to be more assertive,” Dylan interjected.
On cue, Jesse came around and told us, in a super polite voice, that it was last call. That was the cue for most of the Parrots to get up and leave, although Sloppy Joe stuck around for another beer.
“I’m staying out late to show my independence,” he said. “Danielle wanted me home early, but I told her she was gonna have to get used to my spending time with the guys now that this COVID shit is finally coming to an end. Of course she wanted me to wear my mask out here on the patio too…”
“Your balls don’t belong in a vise, man,” Josh said as he was on his way out.
“Or a canning jar on a shelf in her garage,” I added. I was glad that Sloppy Joe had a girlfriend he might be able to get serious about, but this one may have been pushing him a little too hard. I don’t know how I’d react if Joyce tried to change me as much as Danielle is trying to change Sloppy Joe.
So me, Sloppy Joe and Carter had a last beer – I think it was only my third for the night. I don’t think I can come home shitfaced when I’m staying in people’s pool house and taking care of their kids. It was back to being pretty chill, although the place felt pretty dang empty: it was just us and the couple who were getting shit for not having their masks on left on the patio. I don’t know how many people there were inside, but the Volcano wasn’t exactly buzzing on its first Saturday night open since it got closed down due to the pandemic.
Then they flashed the lights, Sloppy Joe went out to wait for his girlfriend to pick him up, Carter’s uber came…and I went inside to wait on Keaton.
“Your chair of honor, sir,” he said, moving a stool into the corner. Just like old times, he pulled out some of those short story cigars he likes and handed me one. He offered Jesse one too, and he took Keaton up on it.
“This is where you gotta tell bubba that he won’t be so pretty if he gets ash on the floor.”
Everyone laughed – Dani was counting out her drawer behind the bar – and it was kinda like old times.
“Sorry I couldn’t handle those assholes by myself,” Jesse said while sweeping and trying not to get ash on the floor himself.
Keaton grunted. “There were four of them and one of you. Not an easy situation, especially when they’re throwing bullshit words like ‘racist’ around.”
“I’m not a racist,” Jesse said, very earnestly.
“I wouldn’t give a fuck if you were,” Keaton said. “All I care about is that you be able to do your job.”
“You had it wrong,” Dani said. “You gotta be the good cop. Let Keaton be bad cop. Ask people nicely to leave, then, if they don’t, Keaton can kick their asses.”
“Did you have to beat anyone up in this job?,” Jesse asked, looking even younger than before.
“Not really,” Keaton answered. “People I hit once usually stay down.”
“Fuck,” said Jesse, admiringly.
“You’ll be fine, buddy boy,” Keaton said. “You just need a little more seasoning. And this 25% of capacity shit is a good way to get it.”
Jesse went back to sweeping, Keaton went back to collecting empty cups, and Dani went back to counting. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a cigar. I was really enjoying mine.
Finally Jesse looked up at me.
“I know who you are!,” he said. “It’s been bothering me all night. I was sure I’d seen you somewhere before. You’re the dude from At Home with Maya.”
“Guilty as charged,” I said, looking down and feeling the blood rush to my face. Even if I’m ‘famous’ I don’t get recognized all that much, especially as I walk around in a mask most of the time. Since I was smoking a cigar, I had my mask off, so Jesse was able to get a good look at me.
“My mom and grandma love that show. My younger sister watches it all the time too…mostly,” he added, looking a little goofy as he said it, “because of you. She’s got a huge crush on you. What do they call you? Pool boy?”
“Fuck no,” I said, a little too insulted to laugh for a second or two. “It’s Baseball Boy. I’m the boys’ baseball tutor.”
“He takes care of them a lot more than that,” Keaton said, “but don’t call him a nanny.”
“Relax, bubba. ain’t nobody calling you a nanny.” He turned to Jesse. “He’s more like an older brother. He’s not responsible enough to be a nanny.”
Two-word answer to that one.
“I think it’s cool that you’re working with kids, Heartthrob. I’m sure they think you’re awesome.”
“Yeah, they do,” said Keaton. “I wouldn’t have minded being looked after by someone like bubba.”
“What I need is more pupils,” I said. “So if you know anyone looking for a baseball tutor,” I said to Jesse, “pass the word on. I’m trying to make enough money doing it to live off of.”
“I’ll see. Do you teach older kids too?”
“Yep,” I said. “Teenagers…anyone, basically.”
“Maybe there’s someone at school who’d be interested.”
“You’re still in school?” No wonder he looked so young.
“Yeah. At Rio Hondo. I’m only a couple credits away from graduating. Then I’d like to get into Cal State LA, I hope. I took this job because it’ll leave me time to study and shit.”
“Have you ever bounced before?,” I asked.
“Not…really,” he said. “But I’ve done some security work. I’ve got my guard card and everything. I just hope I can hang onto the job.”
“I told you, buddy boy, you’ll be fine,” Keaton said tossing a stack of used cups in the garbage. “We usually get a good crowd here, so there’s not a whole lot of action.”
“You just gotta look out for Carter Andrews,” I said. “Although he was on his best behavior tonight,” I added, turning to Keaton. “Maybe getting his ass kicked by his little brother taught him a lesson about starting things he can’t finish.”
“Can we get out of here?,” Dani asked. “It’s nice hearing you guys trade war stories, but I’ve got a girlfriend waiting to drive me home…and, no, she doesn’t drive a truck.”
“Yeah, let’s get the fuck outta here,” Keaton said. “You got a ride home?”
“I’ve got my car,” Jesse said.
So they closed up the place, and me and Keaton walked to the De Lacey garage where the truck was parked.
“I’ve got some disappointing news,” he said. “No IHOP tonight. They’re not back to being open 24 hours. I didn’t check Duparrs, since that place sucks. So I guess I’m taking you home before bed check.”
“We don’t have bed checks,” I said. “At least,” I added with a laugh, “I don’t think we do.”
So we got in the truck and headed back to San Marino. The roads were deserted so we were at the front gates of the Sharpman estate in less than 10 minutes.
“Jesse seems cool,” I said, while we were underway. “Did you have a problem with how he handled those jerkoffs?”
“Naah. He did what he should have done. But, like Dani said, he can just play the good cop and leave the rough stuff to me…if there is any. I was thinking, though,” he added, “you want me to ask him if he wants to come in with us on lessons with El Tigre? He’s opening up next week, and, since I don’t have a fancyass home gym at my disposal, I’d like to get back to working out.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said. We’ve been looking for a third dude to replace Steve, since he left town with his wife and kid a few months ago. Like I said, Jesse seems cool…and learning how to hit hard might come in useful in his new line of work.
“It just means I’m gonna be taking boxing lessons with two pretty boys,” Keaton said. “I hope that doesn’t come off looking too fuckin gay.”
Two-word answer. Then it was time to get out of the car, but I decided to do something I haven’t done since the pandemic shit started: I shook Keaton’s hand. It felt kinda weird, but it also felt good. I figure that it’s ok, since we’re both vaccinated and I reckon I ought to get something for those 36 hours I spent in bed after my second shot.
Maya doesn’t want me giving out the code for the gate, so I let myself in. I headed around the house and let myself into the pool house. I was hungry but not starving, so I decided that a couple scoops of strawberry ice cream with sweetened condensed milk would tide me over until morning.
So much for our first guy’s night out of the post-pandemic era…assuming that this is the post-pandemic era. At least the bar was open and we could get together, and it was awesome seeing most of the Parrots again after over a year. It felt like a relief, even if there’s still bullshit with masks and plastic partitions. It wasn’t really back to normal, but it was a heck of a lot closer to normal than I’ve come in a very long time. Maybe the end is in sight.
And maybe Brookside will schedule softball games again soon. We may be all be buddies and hang out together…but we’re also a softball team. And I for one can’t wait to get out on the field again.