Wasting away again in Margaritaville…
So the next week I went down to Margaritaville for the first time to meet Mr. Hock’s sons Bob and Jimmy who owned the place. It was one of the better known bars in the south side and it had a lot of regulars. If ever there was a bar that was like Cheers in Pittsburgh, it is my opinion that Margaritaville was it. As bad an artist as I was at the time, they were happy to have me and the regulars were extremely friendly and generous when I started working there. The bartenders were super nice too. It was a great fit for me and there were lots of other bars nearby that I ended up drawing in as well. And so as it happened, I was going to end up drawing at Margaritaville pretty much every night for the next 5+ years.
Michelle, the kinda sexy/salty bartender in the front used to give me shit every night about this or that but I gave it right back and it was very well received. Little did I know that this prepared me for the countless hecklings I got over the years from customers… Dena, the gorgeous bartender in the front used to stand behind me while I drew and make faces at the people I was drawing. She thought the faces I made were funny so she would imitate me. She was funny and cute and I think everyone in the bar had a crush on her… She was married to a cop and all of his friends used to stop in and get caricatures too while they were there. When I was a bike messenger I would see some of them downtown while I was riding and it was pretty cool to actually stop and talk to them at lunch sometimes, which made most of my bike messenger buddies suspicious, lol.
One of the police officers was a motorcycle cop who lived in East Liberty. I remember him well. Nice guy (for a motorcycle cop anyways, it takes a certain type of sociopath to become a motorcycle cop IMO but he was pretty cool.) He had wanted a drawing as soon as I walked in the door one night and while I was drawing him, he got a call on his cell phone from someone in his precinct telling him that there was something going on at his house. There was a breakin at his house and his daughter was there alone. He left immediately and as it turns out he was being set up by one of the gangs in his district. He was a victim of some gang member initiation with the intent to kill a police officer. He was shot 16 times. I’ll never forget that. Very sad.
One of the other bartenders used to live in Key West and he told me all kinds of stories about the places he used to go down there. Sounded like a fun place! He was a fun guy who loved a few bands that would come to the Ville on the weekends. His favorite was Brownie Mary. There were a lot of bands that would come there. Mark Eddie was a comedian who I have seen on TV since. He used to do a song called Marajuanaville that was hilarious and he added another verse to the Eric Clapton song, You Look Wonderful Tonight where the last verse ends in audible gurgling sounds. Use your imagination, lol! There was a light skinned black girl named Wendy who looked a lot like the singer Brandi. She called herself Honey Brown and her voice sounded so damned sweet and smooth. Like maple syrup. I saw a lot of blues bands too and heard Mustang Sally well past the legal limit. I completely wrecked my hearing and I am seriously going deaf! It may not be common knowledge, but Pittsburgh has quite a reputation for great blues.
It helps to flirt a lot when drawing caricatures in a bar and so it is also a pretty good way to meet the ladies as it turns out! I dated pretty frequently but the lifestyle of working in a bar and drinking lots of beer every night kinda ran it’s predictable course with all of the nice girls I brought home. The couple of relationships that held in there were lots of fun but probably not the kind you discuss in polite company and very few that you’d bring home to meet Mom… As anyone knows, flirting goes both ways and I got flashed and groped and treated like a piece of meat pretty often …and I loved every minute of it!
I noticed after a few weeks that there were some regular girls who came around a lot too and they always got a caricature. So often that after a few weeks I would just draw them for fun. We hung out after the bar closed sometimes and even though we just saw each other when I was working I considered them to be my good friends. I worked about every night of the week sometimes so it was like I saw them every day. I remember using peanut butter to get gum out of one the girl’s hair one night after she looked at the wrong girl’s boyfriend. Lol! I hung out with the kitchen staff and saw all of the shenanigan’s that happens behind the scenes at a restaurant. Used to play pool with a few of the regular guys too. Though guys my age that went to bars back then were kinda suspected of being douches and for the most part those suspicions were accurate. Lol!
Bob and Jimmy had a lot of friends who would come to the bar and visit. They were big into the Jimmy Buffet stuff so I learned a LOT of Jimmy Buffet music and about the “Parrot Head” lifestyle. The jukebox was full of it. They had a lot of oldies and classic rock. Very cool for the time. I used to put at least $10 a night into that jukebox when I was working.
Other than the times when I was working a day job like bike messengering, I used to drink till drunk every night as well. Not the thing I’m proudest of but I was having fun and making money, which was the most important thing in the world at the time… My drawings got better after a couple of beers. Everybody that knew how I normally drew commented on it actually. Which of course, firmly reinforced my bad habit. After a few though, things went downhill fast. I still somehow ended up closing the bar down about every night and working till the chairs were on the bar. I learned (and then promptly forgot) a lot about a lot of things, people, drawing, caricature in general, girls, guys, music, beer, etc… I realized at some point that it wasn’t the quality of my drawings that people tipped me for, it was the fact that I was doing them and that they were in the pictures I drew. This further reinforced my laziness and other bad habits, I would probably even have admitted this at the time. I was indifferent. Going through the motions… Stuck in a rut.
For a time, I lived on a street where many of my friends had migrated. It wasn’t much but when I came home from work at 3am my roommate was always up to something fun and there were always at least several people hanging out playing pool, foosball, video games and music in my house or one of the houses next door where my friends lived and we partied all night till the sun came up just about every day. I shot the shit and got into the culture and even had spending money for the first time in a long time. I was popular and having the time of my life and I was receiving the social education that I had not gotten in high school. Which also reinforced that habit.
As is common with many people, my habits changed when I turned 21, then they changed again when most of my friends could get into bars. Maybe not as common, my habits changed again when a few of those friends moved on to new habits and I didn’t. I saw where that was going and I grew up a little. Instead of going to parties, we threw them. We had the parties that people wanted to go to. Small parties where everybody knew everybody. We were the big kids now. We were choosy, safe and kept out of trouble.
I’m not under the impression that this is necessarily a bad thing or uncommon at my age at the time, but it’s not what I had intended to do with my life after graduating from college. It was the lifestyle of several of the bartenders, musicians, doormen, waitresses and even many of the people who tipped me in the bars I worked at every day, true, but I freely admit that it was my goal at the time to take it to the extreme… Because I was young and I could and that’s what I though was cool.
I realize that it was irresponsible and not good for me or anyone else. I wasted a few good years living like this. I was hard working and functional. I kept out of trouble, had a good time and lots of friends. Even a real girlfriend once in a while… I’m not proud of it, but I did learn from it and I moved on… I have even vacillated on whether or not to mention it here at all, but as it does come up a time or two and alcohol is such an integral part of my story it is worth mentioning. So there you go.
At some point in the first couple of years I worked in the south side I started getting the idea that if I really applied myself and tried to do better drawings I could do caricatures in bars for a living and make an actual business out of what I was doing. More about that next time! 😉
Copyright Adam Pate, 2013 All rights reserved.