In my early years at the Sea Gull there was a time when I lived upstairs in a converted liquor storage room. I hired Orval, the plumber, and Ed, the tile setter, to help convert one end of the small room into a bathroom with a shower. It was small, dark and it picked up some of the restaurant noise below, but it was convenient and sufficient. The room was at about the same level and only a few feet away from the siren on the roof of the Mendocino Fire Department. The first time the siren went off when I was in my room, it literally blew me out of the bed. I never really did get used to it and I kept ear plugs at arms length when I was in the room.
One quirky feature was a trapdoor that allowed access to the kitchen below. A midnight snack was never more than one tarzan-like swing into the kitchen.
One Friday night while I was relaxing with a book I got a call from the bartender in the Cellarbar.
“It’s crazy busy. People lined up three deep. D.C. has been drinking for awhile and he’s drunk and abusive. I cut him off but he won’t leave and he’s threatening to fight. I can’t deal with this, too many people. Get down here quick.”
I hurried down the stairs from my room to the ground level, walked to the stairs leading below ground to the Cellarbar. I could hear the noisy crowd inside. There were so many people inside that when I opened the door, a man leaning against it fell out and almost knocked me down.
It was busy, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. Several people said hello as I pushed my way through sweaty bodies toward D.C. who was standing just behind the row of barstools with a look of anger, frustration, and bewilderment. When he saw me he smiled as if he were my best friend.
“Hey, David. Your bartender won’t give me a drink. I been drink’in here, having a good time, and I’m not done yet. I spend a lot a money in your place. What the hell’s goin’ on?”
“Good to see you D.C. You know, it’s too damn loud in here. I can’t hear a thing you’re saying.”
“I said your GOD DAMN BARTENDER WON’T GIVE ME A DRINK!”
“What are you drinking?”
The bartender was in the middle of making drinks, but his eyes and ears were focused on me. I leaned over the customers sitting on the barstools and yelled to the bartender.
“R.B. Give me a bottle of Jack and two glasses.”
“I know, just give me the bottle.”
“I ain’t drunk! That twerp of a bartender just doesn’t like me. He’s embarrassing me in front of all my friends.”
D.C. was leaning on me and staring at the bartender. The bartender handed over the bottle and glasses with a confused look on his face.
“You know, I can’t even hear myself think in here D.C. This is crazy. Come with me. Let’s have a drink together and talk this over.”
The sight of the bottle and two glasses and the prospect of having a drink with me seemed to cool D.C. down. He followed behind me as placid as William Blake’s little lamb. I took him upstairs to my room. We sat at my table, and I poured us each a glass.
“You okay D.C.?”
“Yea, I’m cool. But I wasn’t drunk though.”
“I know you weren’t. My bartender is just trying to do his job. It’s a hard job especially when the bar is full like it is tonight.”
“Yea, I know. Hey, this is a cool little spot. You live here?”
D.C.’s wife sometimes played music at the Sea Gull and at other places around the area. She was going to play at the Sea Gull the next weekend.
“So, is M. ready for her gig next week?”
“Oh yea, she’s always ready. How do you sleep up here? It must be noisy with the restaurant and all.”
“The restaurant’s not half of it. You should be here when the fire siren goes off.”
“Jesus, I bet that’s loud.”
“You bet right. First time I heard it, I fell outta bed. You want another drink?”
I poured two more. It was getting late. I was tired, but I started this and had to see it through.
“So, how’s life in Comptche?”
“Hell, just like life anywhere. It’s tough. Working in the woods is tough. It’s beautiful out there though. Up on the hills you can see every star in the sky, other galaxies, everything.”
“Why do you drink so much D.C.?”
“I dunno. Why not? It’s fun it’n it?”
“Not as much fun as seeing all the stars in the sky. What difference do the stars make if you’re too drunk to see them?”
“I ain’t drunk.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
He swilled the rest of his drink and stood up.
“Shit! I’m leaving. I gotta drive home. I gotta big day tomorrow.”
“Are you okay to drive?”
“Hell yes I’m okay.”
We walked downstairs and back into the bar which was now empty. D.C. walked through the bar looking all around. There was no one to see him, to see that he was still there, to see that he hadn’t been 86’d.
“Thanks for the drinks, David. See ya around.”
He walked up the front stairs and across the street to his truck at a steady gait. He was back in the bar a few days later and again a few days after that. There was never another problem, or if there was I didn’t hear about it.