Tag Archives: drunk

Night Life in Happy Jack’s: Carp

IMG_6070by Dell Franklin

For Donny Moore, In Memorium. He was a friend, an institution in Morro Bay, who got killed in an auto wreck. 

Homer Carp, a tugboat captain who holds the Morro Bay record for drunk-in-public convictions at 29, ignores my greeting as I slip behind the bar and begin my shift. The happy hour crew has moved to the middle of the bar because Homer sits at the elbow with his coterie—a carpenter, a fisherman, and a Cal Trans employee, Biff Thomas. Once every week or so they play poker and drink beer and eat pizza at one of their residences.

After I get my bank in the register I begin emptying ash trays, mopping the surface, checking fruit, but out of the corner of my eye I spot Carp eyeing me up because his longneck is empty and he’s been drinking since the bar opened at 9 and is ready to transition to CC/coke. He’s sneering at me with these remarkable teeth that buck out and prong in various directions, like every tooth has a mind of its own. His faded black T-shirt is from the Bear Flag Saloon in Moss Landing and his faded Levi’s expose a bulge of fish-scale white belly and the crack of his enormous ass. His ballcap is from a dive in Monterey and pulled low over two protuberant brown suspicious eyes. His head and neck could belong to a buffalo and Homer is basically composed of solid, powerful, whale-like blubber, about 300 pounds of it.

“Hey faggot, you working tonight?” he calls in a voice that could cut through a rock fest.

I ignore him.

“I asked if you’re working tonight, you goddamn swisher.”

I glance over. His ash tray is heaped beside a mash of bills, a pack of Camel nonfilters and a chain with many keys. When he sees me coming he moves his bills back out of my reach. I empty Biffs’ heaping ash tray. All the poker players are chain-smokers.

“How’s it goin’, Biff?” I ask, very friendly.

“Okay, Dell. Hey, I liked your latest article in the New Times. Awesome.”

“I would like a goddamn drink, Dell-Smell.” Carp says nastily. “Can I get a drink in this vermin-infested stink-hole?”

I take my time. He wants his drink in a chimney glass. Everybody watches me go to work. I pack his glass with shaved ice and shoot a quick three-second pour and splash in Coke with the gun, shove in a straw, bounce the drink in front of Homer so that some of it spills in his slopped-up area. I snatch three singles he extends tentatively and ring them up as he stares at his drink with persecuted dissatisfaction. I get busy, treading the boards, but I can hear Homer addressing his cronies and anybody within earshot over the usual jukebox and din of converging voices.

“I been coming in this shit-hole since I was sixteen and in all that time Dell-Smell is by FAR the worst fucking bartender I’ve seen. His service sucks, his attitude stinks, he’s got a putrid personality, he’s lazy and stupid and a know-it-all, considers himself some kind of authority because he gets his shitty articles in a shitty little paper, but what he is is a nothing, a nobody, a wind-bag, and on top of that he’s a flaming faggot!”

I continue to ignore him.

“I’ve drank in every dive from the Aleutians to Mexico, and never have I been served a worse drink by a bigger piece of shit.”

All 22 stools are occupied, the poolroom is packed, and I keep on hopping. Homer quickly drains his drink and pushes his chimney to the edge of the bar with three singles.

“You think that little boy could handle a real job, a man’s job?” He’s standing now—to emphasize his rising discontent. “That ass-packer’s never had a real job in his life, that’s why he’s tending bar in the lowest lowlife dive on the coast.”

I pour myself a shot, sniff it, sip it, put it down and stroll to the front end of the bar to talk to Beer Can Bessie, who’s enjoying Homer’s vituperation.


I take my time moving down the bar, dabbing at certain areas with my towel, empty an ash tray with a single butt before arriving in front of Homer, who growls, “I want a round for my friends and another CC/Coke and I want some goddamn booze in it, Smell!”

I place his chimney on the matt, leave residue in it. I empty the residue in the glasses of his friends, fill them about ¾ full with cubes, pour them generous shots, gun in mix, then cram Carp’s chimney to the rim with shaved ice and quick pour him a weaker shot before gunning in Coke. Then I mop the area of his friends and empty their ash trays before placing their drinks carefully before them on round coasters. Then I bounce Homer’s glass in front of him and sip my shooter with pinky finger extended while he scowls at his drink. The scowl deepens when I return his change, which he scoops quickly.

“You miserable dog-dick worm,” he growls. “You didn’t have this crappy job, you’d be homeless, begging for dimes.”

There’s another rush and I crank on. People are tipping me well. Homer watches me gaze at him with a smug grin as I stuff another bill in my toke jar.

“Can you imagine that weakling fishing for king crab in the Aleutians? He wouldn’t last ten seconds before he’d be puking his guts out and crying for his mommy.”  He swills his entire drink and slams the glass on the bar and points to it. “How about a real drink, you pile of slimy dogshit?”

I snatch the chimney and cram it with shaved ice, tamp down the ice with the scoop like a snow cone, then cram in more ice on top and dribble in CC and shoot in Coke and snag three singles and slam the drink in front of him as his retinue looks on.

“You think you’re pretty goddamn cute, short-pouring me and grabbing my money like a greedy little skunk, don’t yah, faggot?” I empty my toke jar, count singles. “Hey SMELL, I saw your latest article in that cheesy, gutless rag. Couldn’t read it. Pure garbage. You’re no writer. You’re no good at anything. No wonder you’re working in this turd-hole. You’re a turd.” I change singles into a twenty, stuff it in my jar. Homer swills his drink. “You don’t make me a decent drink, I’m coming back there and make my own, puke-breath.”

“You come back here and I’ll crush your thick skull with the Galliano bottle, Fatso.”

“You’ll need more than a Galliano bottle if I come back there.” He’s looking positively vicious now. “Sissies like you can’t fight with your fists. You never been in a real fight in your life. I’ll snap your chicken neck and stomp you ‘til you’re beggin’ for mercy. Any time, boy—right now, in the street! Pussy boy faggot!”

Some newcomers and tourists have come in, and they are shocked at the sight and sound of Homer, who I now purse my lips at and blow him a kiss and wave at him with a limp wrist. He grits his horrible teeth while I address the crowded bar.

“Homer is obviously homophobic. Hates homosexuals. Know why? It’s called self-loathing, because Homer’s a closet fairy. Yeh. He sneaks up to San Francisco and dresses up in sexy evening gowns, has to use a corset to stuff in all that blubber, wears perfume and earrings and lipstick and bra for his fatty boobs, and he swishes his ass in gay bars looking for manly studs in leather!”

His support group chuckles, as do others in the crowd. Activity in the poolroom ceases. “Homer wants romance, and a lotta foreplay and he loves to kiss for hours with his man. Can you imagine a man kissing Homer, with those bulbous lips and caribou teeth?”

They are all laughing now. Homer’s trying to glower, but those choppers are bulging over his lips. I begin prancing around behind the bar, sashaying. “My name is Homer Carp,” I declare in my best attempt at a falsetto. “And I wanna FRENCH KISS my man! I wanna get down and dirty and be a SLUT. I know there’s a woman inside me, just dyin’ to get out, and I can’t control her anymore. I’m GAYYYYY!”

His cronies rollick with laughter. Homer is grinning. His teeth look like a pitchfork that’s been sledge-hammered. He lumbers into the poolroom and starts a game. When he misses a shot (he has an excellent stick), he returns to his area, drains his drink, shoves his glass forward, points to it, tosses a century beside it, and flashes his remarkable smile. I make him a strong drink. When he returns from the pool table he neglects to count his money and flips me a five and I snatch it and stuff it in my jar and walk out from behind the bar and out the back door to stand on the sidewalk and get some air. Across the street Big Bill is taking down the American flag from his hotdog stand. Homer’s un-cherry 1960 Nash Rambler is parked behind my recently purchased and duct-taped, rusted-out and back-bumperless 1981 Chrysler Cordoba, as my Olds died. I stand studying the heaps, until Homer is outside, pool cue in hand.

“What an ugly toad your Rambler is,” I tell him. “It’s a disgrace having that eyesore sitting in front of a respectable place like Happy Jack’s. Why don’t you park it across the street at fancy-pants Circle Inn?”

“That Rambler’ll out-run and out-last that cancer-ridden Chrysler. Look at the duct tape on that thing. Just shows how stupid you are, covering cancer holes with duct tape. Everyone in town knows you’re a clueless idiot when they see you driving around in that ugly piece of shit.”

“That Cordoba, it’s stylish and classy, with Corinthian leather bucket seats. Your Rambler has no sleek lines; it’s like its owner—grotesque, like one of those giant sea turtles on those islands off South America.”

“The Galapagos Islands, dummy. I been there. You’ve never been anywhere but stinky dives.”

We spar a little longer and then I go back to work and stay busy. The after-happy hour crowd drinks themselves out and the dinner hour lull sets in, but Homer remains as the second wave comes in, munching crackers and nuts and beef jerky. He drinks at a methodical pace. Around eleven his eyes acquire a bovine cast, initial signs of his being tipsy. His second wife, diminutive, feisty, alligator-hide, Vera, calls. I hand him the phone and he talks to her briefly. I remark that he, Homer, is afraid of Vera and brag about being my own man, un-monitored by MY woman. He stands and grabs for his keys but I snatch them away. He demands them. I shake my head. He threatens me. I laugh at him. He sits down on his stool and orders another drink. I pour him a strong one. He sips it, settles in.

Rafe Monk shows up, carrying a load, sits beside him. Homer buys him a drink. They shake dice for dollar bills. The bar is clearing out. Vera comes in, tries to prod him home. Homer refuses to budge. I leer and smirk at him. Vera leaves. His son, a studious looking kid, comes in, tries to get him to leave. He won’t budge. The son leaves. Then his daughter comes in, a pretty, plump girl, his pet. Even she can’t budge Homer, who informs me he’s closing the bar.

He and Rafe drink and make slurred, asinine conversation. I have one with them. I play pool with Homer and slaughter him and win $5, which I’d never do if he was sober. Around closing Homer orders a case of beer to go so he and Rafe can drink on his boat down at the embarcadero. I begin cleaning up. Neither man is making sense at this point. They demand their case of beer, tossing bills at me. I get their case from the cooler and take my bank to the safe in the office. I lock the back door and let them out the front door and tell them to wait for me and I’ll drive them to the boat so they don’t get a drunk driving, but no, they’re walking the five blocks or so, and Homer says, “I’d rather go to jail then set foot in yer fuckin’ smelly jalopy, Smell!”

“Well, don’t open that case ‘til you’re on your boat.”

“Fuck off, flamer!”

I step back and adjust the burglar alarm. Lift two stools onto the bar, then step outside and lock the front door and when I look across the street, a squad car is at the intersection facing me and its spotlight pours a stream of light on Homer and Rafe, who are on the sidewalk, both with beer cans. Monk faces the cop in the squad car, while Homer teeters in place as he urinates against the Circle Inn and drinks at the same time. The spotlight moves off them and settles on me. I recognize one of the older cops, Sgt. DeAbrew.

“DELL!” he calls out over his speaker. “ARE YOU SOBER?”

I nod emphatically.


I nod. Homer protests, dick a-dangle, but DeAbrew pulls around the corner, refusing to hear it. I get in my Cordoba and drive over beside them and have to coax them into the car. They toss their case in the back seat and fall in. Homer grumbles about my car—smells bad, music (Miles Davis) sucks, filthy, uncomfortable, etc. I remain silent and drive slowly down to the embarcadero. They manage to get out, cumbersome and gimpy and deliriously drunk, tilting this way and that, Monk holding the case, flashing his incisors in a mad grin.

“Don’t fall in the water and drown,” I warn. “Because I sure as hell ain’t rescuing your sorry asses. I can’t swim.”

Homer grins, his teeth those of a barracuda badly needing an orthodontist. “Comin’ in for a nightcap, stupid?” §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his mate, Wilbur, a very needy chocolate lab he rescued from the animal shelter. He is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and is currently working on a book about his dad, The Ball Player’s Son.



Wall art on Clarion in Street San Francisco

by Dell Franklin

Fall, 1968

I was dwelling like a mole in a subterranean garret in San Francisco and trying to land a bar-tending gig after working the past summer at Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe as a bar boy. But I soon found out San Fran was a union town and there was no chance for a 24-year-old newcomer to break in. In short order, my priorities were finding a good watering hole, a job, and a woman, or, better yet, getting laid, as I’d been on a brutal drought.

The city economy was booming and I went to an employment agency where a savvy lady felt since I was clean-cut and an army veteran and scored high on an aptitude test and cheated to pass a psychological evaluation, I was prime salesman material.

Meanwhile, after considerable searching in the meat-market bar scene, I found Danny’s in the Marina, a hallway size affair with a pool table in back, and a blue-collar, working-class crowd I instantly forged a rapport with. Danny himself was enthused I’d found a job as salesman with Graybar Electric, a huge corporate supply company in the industrial belt across Market Street.

I reported to work in the same cords and white short-sleeve shirt and snap-on tie I wore to the agency interview and with the man who hired me, Bernie, to whom I reported at the monstrous drab three-story building after a night of celebratory boozing in Danny’s. The level on which I was to be employed was lined with desks of typing secretaries and salesman talking on phones, scribbling on invoices, or paging through telephone-book size catalogues of items and prices. Everybody was terribly busy. They smoked and drank coffee. There was no conversing among employees. Alongside this hive were private offices where older, rather portly men in beautiful suits signed papers, talked on the phone and, from time to time, patrolled the room, visiting, asking and answering pertinent questions, attempting amiability to boost morale. Pictures of these men were displayed along walls above their offices. I was issued a corporate handbook in which there were capsule biographies of these men, along with an outline for success within the corporation.

“To begin with, Rick,” Bernie said. “This is not exciting work. It can be confining for a restless person. You are always at your desk, working the phone, consulting the catalogue. This can be tedious and demands patience and persistence.” He watched me stifle a yawn. “Of course, after a while, you can move from the desk to the road. You’ll have an expense account, travel. I’ve done both. At this point in my life, with wife and kids, I like it here. I see you’re not married.”

“Not yet, Bernie.”

“Okay. Well. I’m going to start you out with one of our top salesman—Bill Rogers. He started out like you, and last year he was employee-of-the year throughout the country!”

I sat next to Bill at his large steel desk that was a-sprawl with manuals, invoices, and the giant catalogue. He was pale, clean-cut, chipper. A framed picture of his wife and two children stood at the corner of his desk. His handshake was solid. He was busy, working his phone, calling on trade in all parts of America, displaying an easy familiarity and rapport with each person, like old friends.

After a while, I asked, “You ever meet any of these people?”

“Oh no.”

“Don’t you want to meet them?”

He paused. “If I go to a convention. But I’m not one for conventions. I’m not a drinker or a partier. I’m a family man.”

“So they’re just voices…without faces or bodies, huh?”

He seemed impatient with my questioning, wanted only to discuss my training. He was not one iota interested in me as a person, like I was not a face or body. I was just a project.

“Some of these secretaries are cute. Do you have company parties, where I could meet some of them?”

He sighed. “No. Now, Mr. Kelso, the first thing you might do is take home a copy of our catalogue and study it.”

He was actually too busy to train me the first day. I paged through the handbook, reading bios. A striking red-haired man around my age, swinging his ass, dropped Bill off a cup of coffee and appraised me with fleeting distaste before dropping off more cups to other salesmen.

“Who’s the haughty queen?” I asked Bill.


“What’s his problem?”

He sighed. “Just read the catalogue, okay?” He returned to his phone. Time crept by slowly as I grew bored with the catalogue and handbook. I peered around in hope of finding an interesting face. There were no blacks, Latinos or white low-brows.The handbook contained no pictures of blacks or Latinos. I felt perhaps there were minorities in the packaging and shipping area downstairs.

At lunch I attended a room of long tables where dozens of secretaries and salesmen ate box lunches or food from the automat. Edward hung with the girls. The salesmen talked about clients, mortgages, their kids, vacation deals, the 49ers, etc. Bernie, among them, kept an occasional eyeball on me. From time to time he conferred with Bill. Some of the secretaries appeared uneasy and flashed me dirty looks when I stared at them too long, trying to keep my boner down as I fantasized fucking them in my miserable garret. Edward also shot me a look if disdain. So I polished off my sandwich and returned to the desk where Bill was still nonstop busy and I spent the next four hours watching the hands of the big clock on the wall inch toward 5. I was never so exhausted.

Afterwards I drank at Danny’s and later had a chili cheese dog at the Doggie Diner and passed out and reported to work at 8. Early on, I found myself closely studying not only the offices of the executives as I took little strolls to break up the monotony of studying the catalogue, but their smiling yet sober visages on the walls. One of these men caught me observing him, and I nodded as he peered up from his desk from paperwork, and he nodded back, but I could sense he was not impressed with me.

“Bill,” I said, after lunch the second day. “You like this job?”

He was very, very busy, since Christmas was near. “Of course.”

“Are you passionate about your work?”

He sighed, dropped his pen. “Listen, do YOU like the job?”

“I’m trying to.”

I kept drinking coffee, because there was nothing else to do. I became jittery, started sweating. I switched around a lot and cleared my throat and rubbed my itchy nose and made several trips to the water fountain and restroom to piss. After my second day I was so drained I could barely drag myself across the industrial blight and catch a bus to Danny’s, where I got drunk, forgetting to eat. Everybody wanted to know about my new job as I sat with tie in pocket, shirt open at the throat. Next morning I arrived at work an hour late with nicks on my face, some of which were clotted with dabs of toilet paper. I sat down beside Bill and he cringed at the sight and smell of me. I was sweating cold bullets. The red-headed queen flounced by me, sniffing sourly.

“Edward!” I called. “Get me some coffee!”

He halted in his tracks, hands on hips. “Pardon me?”

I flashed him a look of icy malevolence and he quickly slammed a cup of coffee on the desk and huffed off before I could thank him. Bill was on the phone and I blindly paged through the catalogue with quivering fingers when I was not staggering—on the verge of puking—to the drinking fountain to gulp copious spouts of water as salesmen and secretaries and Bernie at the big desk up front peered over. I finally visited the john to puke violently into a toilet. When I returned to the desk, Edward, to his credit, brought me another cup of coffee and appeared sympathetic. I had slept in my sweat-and-coffee-and-beer-stained shirt and now Bernie repeatedly glanced at me. I began to shake uncontrollably. My clothes were bathed in cold seat. My scalp itched and burned. I scratched at it like a man aflame with lice. My legs went numb. My heart beat like a parakeet’s and I gulped for breath.

San Francisco wall art on Clarion Street

Wall art on Clarion Street in San Francisco

“Bill!” I said, standing. “You’d better call the paramedics for me!”

He was on the phone, covering it. “Not now!”

“I need a fucking doctor, man.”

“Listen, jackass, what are you doing here?”

“I don’t know, Bill, but I gotta get the fuck outta here. I can’t breathe.” Sweat dripped off my face. A foul stench emanated from me—a toxic effluvium equivalent to a dead seal rotting on shore. I careened across the room, bouncing off desks like a runaway pinball while employees cringed and ducked for cover or stood to observe my demise. I arrived at Bernie’s desk gnashing my teeth.

“Bernie, I gotta get outta here!”

He stood. “Mr. Kelso, please calm down!”

“I can’t! I’m going nuts in here. I suffer claustrophobia.”

“Perhaps this is not the right job for you…”

“No job is right for me!” I ripped off my tie and hurled it at one of the walls. All the executives were out of their offices, stood at the doors. I reached out and shook Bernie’s hand with my clammy paw. “You’ve been more than fair.” I dashed to the door.

“We’ll send you a check in the mail,” Bernie called.

“You don’t have to. I did nothing but sit.”

“We have to.”

“Okay, okay.” I fled the place. Dashed across the industrial blight and caught a bus to Danny’s. The sweat dried up on me and I ceased shaking. Danny fed me two hotdogs and everybody bought me drinks and I told them I could not handle a white collar job and quit. Soon they were all advising me on finding a new job. I never found one I liked, and never got laid, and ended up thumbing across the country and working on a riverboat out of New Orleans. §

Dell Franklin tended bar and drove a cab for a living for many years before retiring to his hovel in Cayucos to write full time, and care for his very needy rescue dog, Wilbur.