7th St. and Western, St. Paul
He strode up to the pool table with jeans like Hammer pants and gray hair mashed under a cap. Maybe it was the spacious fit of his pant legs or his alcohol-blood level, but something made his body movement look gelatinous and barely controlled. He fought his pant pocket for six quarters, and pounded them onto the pool table like a teenager slamming pogs.
This gentleman had spent much of the evening by himself a few tables down here at Keenan’s 620 Pub. I’d see him raise his Bud Light bottle to song verses, and hear him talk loudly at no one in particular – or at least nobody in this world was listening to him. I noticed his posture, like that of a cartoon character oozing onto the floor. My wife and I had a brief, unresolved argument over whether he was a homeless man (he was carrying a backpack) or just the neighborhood sauce-head.
Whatever he was, he wanted to play pool.
Sure. Rack ’em.
I greeted him with a simple self-introduction – bar names, of course. Christopher Spires, nice to meet you. That’s my wife Marion. He greeted me with some garble about having killed a family member, and assembled the rack. I gave him a second or two to admire it before vaporizing it with an absolute plate-shifter of an opening break.
“Don’t let it get to ‘eer head,” he sneered.
“I’ll try not to.” You could’ve slid a Frisbee through my smile.
Around us, Keenan’s was turning to a different bar. Again. It was, in each of its forms, the gathering for those little pockets of people who didn’t fit in at The Liffey or that Hockey City whatever down the street. At first, it was 50-somethings my wife was certain smoked pot; at our departure, the bar would morph into a netherworld for restless frat spirits.
The last person to speak to us would be this pillar of a man, with an outgrown buzz cut and untucked button-up. His speaking points would be, in this order: Jesus, a party bus, and a fund-raiser. The last thing we’d see was this Christing party pillar perched on a chair, lurking about as a circle of dressed-like-MILFs-but-not-quites bitched about kids.
But wait – Hobo Patrick Star wanted a rematch.
Or, maybe he wanted to rack the balls and hold them hostage while he blathered about sovereignty. Because that’s what he did.
Please don’t ask me to paraphrase it. I hardly heard it. His voice had become the layover point between a Rush Limbaugh rant and the Tazmanian Devil’s jabber. He didn’t always address us – there were times it seemed he was speaking beyond us to an audience far, far away. My wife waved her hands in front of his eyes to snap him out, but he went about his monologue as if she didn’t exist. It wasn’t until the bartender stepped in (I didn’t even notice how loud he had become) that he finally came to.
He was ready this time, but I was still feelin’ it. Like the monsters in the Rampage game, we punched everything dead. He dropped the 8-ball, but the cue ball rolled on home behind it.
“‘Eer welcome,” he said. I just smiled.
And that’s how Keenan’s became our favorite bar in St. Paul. The end.
RELATED: Read how the story began! Burgers! The Wife Rule! A hole in the floor!