Or . . . How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Little People.
I requested help from my friends on blog topics the other night. As you can tell, I've been having a bit of a block and haven't posted in a while. Their suggestions were all really great - they ranged from tacos to the vampire in modern pop culture to why libraries are awesome. I'm not going to write about any of those things. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the events that lead up to a midget grabbing my ass at Bernie's Distillery on High Street in Columbus, Ohio.
Bernie's was (is?) a great little bar. My freshman year at OSU Beck played there, and his show was mere weeks after "Loser" absolutely exploded on college and pop radio stations. The line for that show was wrapped down and up two city blocks. I did not attend. To put that line in perspective, Bernie's has two sections; a very small dining section, maybe about the size of a one car garage, and a small venue section, MAYBE about the size of a two car garage. And Beck played there at what was arguably the height of his popularity (yes, I do realize I just dated myself in a very unfavorable way. *sigh*). Bernie's had two dollar Tuesday Vodka and Cranberry, and an absolutely phenomenal sandwich that involved tuna salad on rye with muenster and spinach*. I can't remember the name of that sandwich for the life of me. Probably has to do with the two dollar vodka cranberries, no? High Street has been sanitized twice over since my day, but I'm 99% sure that Bernie's is still there**. Stop in and have one of those sammiches, and then tell me what the hell they're called, please.
*note - I truly do not remember if the ass-grab happened on the same night of the GBV show, but for the sake of my story, it did. Makes it slightly more interesting.
So on this particular evening, not Beck but a little known band from Dayton Ohio was playing. You might have heard of them. Guided By Voices? Maybe? My friends' band Platypus was opening for them. God, what an amazing band Platypus (later Kazowie) was. Simply fantastic. Sadly, I do not believe an internet record of Platypus exists, 'cause I would link you so hard you would wish I hadn't linked you so hard. Now, I realize I'm about to lose copious amounts of indie cred here, but that's OK because I don't care. I don't like Guided By Voices. I might have, had I not attended this show. But I did, and I don't. Bob Pollard was chugging dollar PBRs like they were his lifeblood (did I mention that Bernie's had 1$ PBRs and Black Labels? I was hipster . . . . when hiiipster wasn't coooool . . . ) and treating everyone in his orbit like complete dog doo. Just a wretched man. He even made fun of my friends' band, to their faces and on stage. Awful.
Besides cheap booze, punks and pre-indie kids, and crotchety indie-gods, Bernie's had Little John. Little John was a High Street bum who was always accompanied by a bottle of whiskey and a funk that would bring a tear to the eye. Little John was also a midget. Legend has it he was one of the little people in "Time Bandits" and allegedly the Other Paper even did a story on him. I've looked into both, and can find no evidence of either. "Neat," you might be thinking. "What a fun neighborhood staple!" Yeah . . . Little John was mean. He looked like a biker that had been left in the dryer too long and smelled like, well, a biker that's been left in the dryer too long. Burnt pee comes to mind. But that might have been tolerable if we had a jovial neighborhood midget who regaled us with tales of Terry Gilliam and Willy Wonka. Instead we had a neighborhood terror who spat insults and could apparently vomit on command. I have no idea how Little John funded his whiskey habit, because I'll be damned if I ever saw anyone give him money. A little advice for aspiring panhandlers from Auntie Kat: If you're going to beg for money, it's not a good idea to make loud, presumptuous observations about someone's sexual morals and/or preferences. It's just not.
So Little John was mean and broke, but somehow always wasted and somehow always in bars that had cover charges. I chalk it up to tourists curious about his stature and temperment; the former, possibly something they've never seen before, and the latter something they presumed to be an act. I assure you, it was not. "Oh, hey there grumpy fella! Sure, I'll pay your way in to this venue, and I'll even buy you a shot! Do you care if my pooka shell necklace wearing frat brother takes our picture?" Well, bub, three minutes later you're in tears because you got verbally served then punched in the nuts by a midget.
So on this particular evening I was chatting with my friend Sean. His band had yet to play and we were standing in the asshole and elbow crowd, I listening, Sean venting. Sean was venting about Bob Pollard, incidentally. So we're standing there in the middle of a conversation, when all of a sudden I furrow my brow and cock my head. I wore a skirt that night, as I often did. Probably a short one, definitely a black one. I used to have a bit of a goth problem, you see. I slowly turned around and who did I see? Why, it's Little John, visibly grinning in my presence for the first time, elbow deep in my skirt. And HOO BOY did he have a handful. I bet I even had a tiny little handprint on my cheek for days afterward. Truthfully, I was mentally torn. I didn't know if I should take a swing or just crack up. Just as I opened my mouth to politely ask him to remove his wee little piggies from my bum, he removed his hand, saluted, took two steps and punched Sean in the crotch. Then he moved on to the next skirt.
That's a true story, friends and neighbors. Little John had disappeared by the time I moved from Columbus, about five years later. And despite his horrifying behavior, it makes me a little sad to think that he's passed. I get a little melancholy every time I watch "Time Bandits," especially when I feel that tiny phantom hand, squeezing my right buttcheek.
*THE FILLMORE!!! I'm pretty sure it was called The Fillmore.
**Yup, it's still there.