Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hermosa Sunset.

I went to the Poop Deck this afternoon to say goodbye to "Uncle Bill."
     I didn't even really know him, but I know his one true love, and Hermosa Beach has lost another chunk of its old, kick-ass soul. 
     Bill bought the Poop Deck 35 years ago, and--by the looks of the place--he wrote the check, walked back to his house on The Strand, smoked a cigar, and never changed a thing.
     I'm not old-fashioned, but you could call me worse things than "old-school". 
     Now, the Poop Deck? That's some serious old-school.
     I hope it grows much, much older.
     The block it's on is for sale.
     Locals that love that place want every potential sale to fall through.
     The final one, too.
     The fragility of things; family and friends--the people, places and things that matter--all can slip away if we let them.
     Keeping an eye on that isn't wasted time.    
     Bill hired Gus and Mark--Vietnam vets--back in the '70's, back when neither had anything waiting for them here. Bill hired 'em, they stayed, and they were the rock, salt, and nails of that joint until these past few months.
     Bill, Gus, and Mark were tight.
     Gus and Mark tore that town up back then, too, and a lot of that piss and vinegar poured out of both of 'em every single day.
     I'd much rather negotiate a cold beer from guys like Gus and Mark than have some no-credits actor tell me that he's an actor, then either forget to get me my beer, or practice happy-chat while waiting for my tip.  
     Many (many) years ago, I had a confrontation with the Hermosa Beach Police Department in front of the Poop Deck.
     You can see out of the windows there (all the better to watch Amazonian volleyball chicks!), but you can't see in (better yet!)
     The City's Finest were intent on delving a little deeper into my business than I felt was necessary. I looked into the Poop Deck windows; black. Nothing. Couldn't see a thing.
     Then, Gus. Out of the Poop Deck door came Gus; big, flowing red beard and a maniacal smile. Like some sort of unhinged, dangerous, Belfast biker.
     He said something to the cops; it didn't really help, but I never held it against him.
     A few years ago I asked him if he remembered that night. He said no.
     Then, classic Gus: "I think I was on drugs back then, though." 
     Ah, the Poop Deck.   
     Gus rode his bike up front one day a few months ago. He was retiring. He had a backpack with him. He walked in, said, "Good-bye", left that rusty old Schwinn--unlocked--right out front, went to the airport, and flew to Florida. 
     Mark died just a few weeks ago. He lived a block from the beach in a studio apartment that he'd been in for years. It rented for $600.00 a month.
     Nobody ever knew exactly how he swung that one, yet everybody thought it was really cool.
     The rental on that place in that locale is worth over double that.  
     Bill was loyal to Gus and Mark for 35 years. That simple fact alone was all I ever needed to hear about Bill to respect the hell out of him.
     There was some gallows humor today; one of the regulars asked Stanley--a bartender of similar vintage--if it was his "turn" next. "Things come in threes," Stanley chuckled, "except for me."   
     Stanley went back to Nebraska for Bill's farewell. Before he left, he loaded a suitcase with Poop Deck T-shirts and sweatshirts.
     Everybody at the wake and funeral was decked out with rags from "The Deck."
     Bill was buried in shorts and a Poop Deck sweatshirt.
     Stanley mentioned the day that Bill bought the place, all those years ago.
     Bill had been a banker, and he stood in the bar that day in his coat and tie.
     He took a pair of scissors and cut his tie in half, and said he'd never wear another one again.
     Stanley said that he never did.
     Yet another reason for me to respect "Uncle Bill."
     Blue skies.
     And cigars at sunset all along The Strand...

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