How to put this clearly…?
I had a band from Calgary, The Summerlad, play tonight, with Shawn Ladd and The Wall of Bees (Windsor) and they were wicked. They played their hearts out for a VERY limited crowd. You see, I made the mistake of booking them in advance and planning for a crowd. A nice, big, gargantuan event took place down the alley at another great bar, which is where EVERYONE, or nearly everyone (including the NCRC conference in town for community radio stations) went. It was a strong show, I’m sure, but nothing compared to the monstrous beast that was The Summerlad.
That said, I loved having them, and the dissenting NCRC folks who trickled over from the other big show.
Toward the end of the night, I had a skinny, drunk, prick of a guy sit at the bar and promptly fall asleep. I was schmoozing with out-of-towners when I was summoned by my bartender to do something about him. When I approached him softly, kindly, he was belligerent, because I woke him from his nap.
He was shouting and spitting and telling me to get away from him. I tried to escort him out, and he was not going quietly. Once outside, he decided to give the front door (glass) a nice kick while I was standing behind it. A shower of plate glass came down, cutting my elbow, and raining on the floor.
Flash back to 40 minutes previous. Two dudes are out front, wondering what is happening inside, but they are obviously reluctant to come in. They are black. They are the only black people NEAR the bar, while there are several others shades of white inside. I walk to the sidewalk and invite them in. They are wondering if I’m legit, and we start to talk. One guy tries to sell me his watch. He needs money, as he and his friend have gambled their money at the local casino and lost it all. They need coin to make it back to Detroit. They are sincere. They are Detroiters. I know a faker when I see one, because I see them again the same day asking for money to catch the “tunnel bus”.
Thomas and Mike, reluctantly come in at my urging, as they WANTED to come in, but were tentative because of the mix. Thomas asked me, “They’re gonna look at us funny, huh?” I said, “Who gives a shit? You’re coming in with me, I own the place, and no one’s going to care anyway.”
They come in, order beers, and watch the music. We talk intermittently, as I want to know where they’re from, and why they were in Windsor. We mix it up a bit, and realize that neither of us know who won the Laker-Celtic game.
When this event starts going down, Thomas and Mike stand up and walk behind me. I am unaware of this. When I turn around, they are standing firm, looking at the guy who is making noise and a scene. They are looking at me for verification that they can take him down. I calmly try to diffuse the anger of the drunk guy, and walk him out, with a polite shove for good measure. Next, the glass breaks, and next-next, Thomas and Mike come out to the street. I look around the corner of the building and the guy is running scared, and is long gone, almost 300m away, Thomas and Mike look at each other and nod, turning tail and running at top speed.
I turn away, shaking my head, wondering what the mess is going to cost.
Within 15 minutes, I am trying to make sense of the event, and Thomas and Mike return…with THE VANDAL. He is like a chained puppy, begging for mercy, offering up cash to pay for the door. They have not harmed him but simply apprehended him and returned him to justice. This bravery was beyond anything I have experienced in 5 years of running this bar, where bad things can happen now and again.
After all is said and done, the perp is on the run again, and Thomas and Mike are drinking a shot of Crown Royal on me. And can you think of what else they wanted? What in the world do you think they wanted for their selfless, brave act? Thomas looked at me and asked me if I would give him a job. Not money…not another drink…a job.
This reminded me of Tavis Smiley talking with Dr. Majora Carter. During their conversation, they discussed that the folks in the hardest hit section of the US, people know one thing, they want a job. Never would I have known this to be authentic until Thomas looked me in the eye and asked me for work.
I was dumbfounded. I was dejected, because I can hardly pay the bills and workers at the bar. I wanted so badly to have an option for Thomas. Mike expressed that he had a job in Detroit. Thomas told me that he has to hustle, and he would rather not. In a short exchange, I told him about labour laws and cross-border work illegalities, and then I took his number.
In a short discussion, I gushed about their heroism, and selflessness. They weren’t fazed. It was no big deal to them. “They could come back,” I said. “So what, then what?” Mike said. “Well, they could come back and rob me or cause more damage, or shoot me!” I said, worried about all of those possibilities. Mike looked at me plainly saying, “So you die. So what. Then you’re happy. Then you’re safe. Don’t worry about him, the worst that can happen ain’t that bad.”
I didn’t have an answer. I was nonplussed. I was in a conversation that I had no idea about. I was talking to someone who was not from this cushy lifestyle. I was listening to someone without fear.
Thomas gave me two numbers to reach him. How can I help him? How can I offer something small in return? He helped me, and now I want to help him, but I am unaware of how to do so.
Something that happened tonight, besides the terror of being a victim of vandalism and violence, touched me. Something extraordinary and humane hit me. I witnessed the beauty and ugliness of people in one swoop. The lasting impression is of Thomas and Mike, who gave their energy, their time, and their bravery for me, a stranger who welcomed them into a unwelcome-looking place. I think I will take more out of this experience than I have absorbed in years passed.
Thank you Mike. Thank you Thomas.