Matthew Lickona 2:45 p.m., Dec. 10
One chilly Fall Thursday night long ago, my English friend Roger and I agreed to meet at the Princess Pub in Little Italy after attending a meeting of the Ryan Aeronautical management club. Since our after work "pinting" sessions typically ended by 6 or 7, we were not prepared for the level of late night popularity that the then "dive" enjoyed among the demented denizens of downtown.
Needless to say, at 9:30 the place was packed to the gills. When I arrived,
Roger had just secured the last available seat, which was at the bar next to a very stylish fellow indeed. I stood by quietly as he chatted with his new acquaintance.
For 1992, "Jim" was quite the trendsetter. Slight and fiftyish, he had thick hair, cut in a stiff, 6 inch Mohawk dyed the colors of the rainbow with the sides shaved clean. He wore a ragged sleeveless Union Jack T-shirt exposing skinny arms and outrageously violent tattoos. Completing his look was a red plaid kilt with calf high, black Doc Marten storm troopers. The most interesting feature about Jim, however, was the thick, shiny stainless steel “bull ring” that hung from his nose, encircling his goateed mouth of rotten teeth. The bullring was connected to his matching "Mr. Clean" ear rings by dual steel chains. Jim was definitely loonier than the Mancunian Roger and twice as drunk.
They engaged in lively conversation and chain smoked their Marlboros, washing them down with pint after pint. Much to my surprise, Jim turned out to be American, as evidenced by his gravelly SoCal accent. In any event, Jim and Roger were enjoying a spirited discussion on a variety of subjects, and as the night wore on it became obvious that Jim was developing some affection for his new friend. Initially, Jim would slap Roger on the back after every punch line, but he soon began to slap Roger's thigh as well. Roger seemed to interpret this as simple camaraderie and thought nothing of it.
Eventually, the conversation turned to romance, and after a time Jim told Roger how much he enjoyed having his dates pass their "Johnsons" through his bullring. Roger, now very drunk, glared back in shock and loudly asked "Why… you're a faggot, aren't you?" Dismayed by Roger's sudden rejection, the equally drunken and now sullen Jim looked away, mumbling "You leave us faggots alone." Roger then ignored his spurned lover, preferring instead to talk to me. Jim fell silent for awhile, but then started to interrupt our conversation with loud outbursts accompanied by a swift squeeze of Roger's thigh or “arse”, at which point Roger would slap his hand away and cry "Fook off, ya shurt liftah!" or "Leave me aloon ya toord burglah!" This went on for about an hour until Jim finally gave up and staggered through the crowd and out into the night.
What amazed me about this entire encounter was that even though Roger seemed to be disgusted by Jim, he nevertheless tolerated his presence as long as he more or less behaved himself. Most people would have punched or threatened the guy or simply left the establishment, but Roger was content to fend off Jim’s advances and calmly return to his pint. Roger's patience caused me to consider what a man will endure for the love of beer at his local pub. Maybe it’s a British thing.
The next morning at work, I couldn't resist the opportunity to "punk" Roger, so I dialed the outside line and asked for his extension. In my best "Jim" voice I asked "Hey Roger, remember me?" Roger was concerned at this point, repeatedly asking "What do you want from me?" so I proceeded to harass him unmercifully, demanding that he "leave us faggots alone" until, with obviously relief, he realized it was me and angrily slammed the phone, ending his ordeal.