"Americans used to say where there's a will, there's a way. Nowadays, it's where there's a pill, there's a way out." - - Burnt Toast

The Galvin Hat, Part III. . .

(For Part I, click here)
(For Part II, click here)

The angry voice again, "I said who dat white boy, homes?"

Hearing those words was like a kick to the stomach. I was twisted in knots with tension, my heart pounding in my temples, tunnel vision closing in, I kept my eyes on Galvin's back as we marched forward towards the entrance. And hopefully, safety.

I never turned to look at who spoke and Galvin never acknowledged the comments as we made it to the door. Several scurrilous looking fellow were congregating in the parking lot, smoking, drinking and it felt, burning a hole in the back of my head. We kept moving.

There was a rather large individual guarding the doorway of the club which was bordered by two large windows allowing a glimpse inside. I could see masses of people and loud music thumped through the doorway. The bouncer made no mention of identification as we passed through and he bumped elbows with Galvin as he passed; cold, dark eyes for me. To the left of the door was a long counter and behind it, a gigantic, friendly-faced woman and a couple of men handing out beer and taking money.

Galvin stepped forward and greeted her with his toothy grin, "Hey Shirl, whassup you big momma!"

Shirley, it turned out was one half of the "S&B" and laughed as she replied, "Bigger is better for skinny little bonesacks like you! What can I get y'all to drink?"

Galvin grinned at me. "I'll take a Bud and my boy here, he'll have a. . ."

"Uh, a Heineken please ma'am," I stumbled.

"Ain't gots no Heineken. All we gots is Bud, Bud Light, King Cobra and Colt 45." she said.

"Bud'll be fine ma'am, thank you."

Shirley reached beneath the counter and pulled out two 40 ounce bottles of screwtop Budweiser from the ice. We paid and carried our giant bottles into the next room.

I was still suffering from a tremendously debilitating case of tunnel vision and I could only hope that everyone else's vision was just as poor as mine. I wanted to vanish into the darkest corner and just fade away, molecule by molecule. I was in, but now what?

Galvin and I forced our way through the dance floor, attempting to dodge the dense universe of wildly gyrating and thrusting, sweaty bodies. More than once, I made contact with a flowing hip and was sent hurtling into some other throbbing body. For a moment in my mind's eye, I sadistically imagined myself as a helpless pinball bouncing uncontrollably among the flippers and bumpers of a vast pinball machine racking up thousands of points. Yet, no one seemed to notice me even though I floundered and bounced my way over, through and around various body parts trying to escape the throbbing mass.

I orbited out the other side of the dancing, my beer sloshing, to find Galvin sitting at a table with three other men and no other seats available. As I approached timidly, one of the men rose and offered his seat with a smile. He stumbled away at odd angles with no particular destination in mind and I sat, bewildered, shaking and disturbed. From here it was an endless series of introductions to uncles and cousins whose names I would never remember and I'm sure I met everyone within earshot at least once, if not twice. And, wait a minute, didn't Galvin just introduce that guy as an uncle a while ago? Now he's Cousin Lamar? I guess it didn't matter.

What mattered in that moment was the beer in my hand. I needed it and I had no choice but to dive into the bubbly goodness with superhuman zeal in an attempt to retake my emotional faculties, which were on full speed ahead, red alert, uncontrollable autopilot. I put the giant bottle to my lips and chugged.

I slurped down the crisp, hoppy brew feverishly, my stomach stretching as the frothy liquid ounces flowed down. I let out a muffled belch, not that anyone could hear it over the ever-growing din of music and loud voices. My eyes watered and I wiped them dry to take a clearer look around.

The place was jumping for a Sunday night. The men were dressed to the nines in their ghetto-wear and the ladies looking crisp and shapely in too-tight blue jeans and occasional mu-mu top. I was beginning to come down from the precipice of high anxiety and the outlook was seemingly brighter. It no longer appeared, at least in my narrow mind, that I was going to be knifed, beat up, stomped or run out on a rail and shot to pieces in the street. My pulse steadied as I took in more of my beer.

Galvin and his "cuzuncles" were hooting and hollering about Lord knows what, but they seemed to be having a good time and were generally ignoring the white interloper that Galvin had brought along. And this was fine by me. I've never been the life of the party by any stretch of the imagination and in a case like this, far away from any comfortable element of security, I was quite content with clamming the hell up, observing the goings-on, and being largely ignored.

I took a few more draws of beer when Galvin wandered away from the table leaving me with, who was it? Uncle Lamar? Cousin Quentin? Who are these people?

I drank faster.

I was doing my best to remain invisible as I admired the incredible gyrations on the dance floor when I felt a huge hand clamp down heavily on my shoulder. I looked up to see a behemoth of a man wearing a fedora, a long, black trench coat with a purple satin shirt underneath and a brilliant, metallic smile. All teeth top and bottom were capped with gold and even in the dim, smoky darkness of the club they shone brightly emitting an eerie glow from his mouth.

"Lemme tell you sumthin' boy," he grunted. I craned my neck around looking up behind me at a crazy angle, nodding submissively in the affirmitive. "If any of dees muthafuckas messes wit' you, you lets me know. I gots yo back." And with that, he was gone, disappearing through the crowd on the dancefloor, untouched.

My mind erupted! "Who the hell was that! What is this place? I must be out of my mind coming in this joint! I'm getting the hell out of here! Does this place have a back door?"

Galvin appeared with another round of "forties" and sat down at the table just as I was about to run`away somewhere, anywhere. Agitated, I told him of my encounter. He feigned concern with a straight face, but couldn't contain himself any longer. He exploded with laughter!.

"Yeah man, dat's Boozie! Shirley's old man, he my cousin too! Ain't nothin' to worry about man, we got you. We got you."

I took the fresh beer from him and drained about half of the cold liquid. My nerves settled a little bit and I could feel the familiar numbness in my face from the alcohol. I was feeling better now, slightly, but still jumpy and the tightness in my stomach still twisting and clenching.

The men around the table continued to laugh; myself, a total wreck. A calamity of stone cold emotional breakdown on the inside, yet I felt for certain that my exterior exuded the same calm, cool and collected Brett. All I could do was drink. And I did. A lot.

Two and a half forty ounce Budweisers later I felt like a new man. My anxiety had waned and in the passing half hour or so I was making friends quick. The clients of the club, Galvin's friends and "family", all seemed genuinely delighted to meet me. My simple charm amplified by the beer, I even managed to make one of the two young women who joined us giggle with my wit. I was having a grand time and in my reverie I turned to Galvin, slapping a flailing arm around his neck and proclaming that the only difference between the white clubs and the black clubs was that, "they give y'all bigger bottles to fight with!"


Galvin turned to me and to this day I'll swear with a tiny tear in his eye, put his arm around me and said, "Bricks, you da best friend a drunk ol' nigga ever had. Take this."

He reached up, pulled of his ugly, corded ski cap and handed it to me.

"I want you to have this," he said.

Our friendship was cemented right then and there as I put on his ugly hat.

I didn't know what time it was and frankly didn't care by then, but Galvin decided we need to leave and in retrospect, I later realized he was saving me the embarrassment of trying to dance with one of the girls in our company. He must have overheard my reply to the young lady's question about whether I could dance or not. My exact words, painfully remembered, were, "I can shake my booty."

Galvin seized me by the arm, navigated us through the dance floor notably easier than when we arrived, bidding fairwell to Shirley, Boozie, a gaggle of my new friends who's names I couldn't remember and out the door we went.

Galvin and I staggered through the parking lot, around the corner to the car and slumped ourselves inside. Galvin, always the good friend, offered to drive. I waved him off with a chuckle; he didn't have a license anyway. I felt good. Not just from the beer, but from the friendship, the camaraderie and the togetherness. I had overcome a great fear and there was nothing to it. They were people too, sociable, out for a good time, inviting and without discrimination.

I started the car and began to back up through the dark parking lot when a short gentlemen close to sixty years of age stumbled over to Galvin's window making a roll down motion with his arm. I stopped the car and the glassy eyed man spoke, "G, roll yo glasses down." Galvin lowered the window.

"G, I needs me a ride home man, can I go wit you?" Glavin turned and asked if we could give a ride to his cousin, he lived in the same complex. I agreed reluctantly and the inebriated fellow climbed in the back seat, sat directly in the middle of the seat with his feet on the hump. He mumbled something incoherent that I ignored and we were on our way.

I pulled out on the main street and kept an eye on our passenger in the rear view mirror. I couldn't see what he was doing, but I kept hearing the rattling of plastic. I had to remind myself to watch the road and guided our way down the deserted street through one blurry eye. I was being mindful of the speed and of keeping the car straight down the road. Galvin reminded me to make a right turn at the four-way stop ahead.

As we approached the stop sign, a police car glided up to the stop sign from the right. My heart sank into my stomach at the sight of the police cruiser and a tiny voice in my head was thinking, "One white guy, two black guys, nice car, ghetto, bad."

I kept hearing that over and over as we rolled to a stop. The police officer had the right-of-way to go, but he didn't, forcing me to turn. And after a complete stop I did. We turned right and he didn't even look at us as we passed him. As we drove away I felt an anvil's worth of weight lifting from my shoulders as I saw the policeman move forward as if to drive away, that is until he spun his car around in the intersection, flipped on his lights and sped towards us.

"Oh fuck," I blurted.

"Keep cool, keep cool Bricks, you didn't do nothing, you didn't do nothing," Galvin reassured.

Cuzuncle no-name in the back seat, fumbling with his plastic rapidly, starting hurling insane obscenities telling me to outrun the police, which in the moment didn't seem like such a bad idea, but I knew inside I wasn't doing any such thing. We were done. It was over.

The police car roared up behind us, squawking the siren as the blue lights coated us with a sickening, strobing beat; the spotlight pointed in the sideview mirror blinding me. I eased the car over and stopped. My heart was racing and putrid waves of nausea were washing over my entire body. Galvin remained calm and Cuzuncle no-name stopped with the plastic noise.

The cop stepped out and walked towards the car. I rolled the window down.

"Let me see your license," he said flatly as he shined his flashlight in our faces and around the interior of the car. My hands rumbling with fear I produced my license from my wallet and gave it to the officer. He studied it for a moment and said nothing, continuing his search of the car and our faces with his light.

"Mr. Brett, do you know these gentlemen in your car?

"Of course I do, this is my friend Galvin and his uncle."

The cop chuckled, "Yes, I know Galvin, but I don't seem to know this fellow back here. Glavin, is this your uncle?"

Galvin responded with his toothy grin, "Well, you see, he's mo like a cousin. You know how it is."

"Indeed I do." He grabbed his walkie-talkie mic and spoke some police jargon about a potential 10-55 and 502, assistance needed.

The officer switched the flashlight from face to face calmly.

"Where y'all going?"

I explained to him our evening of food, family and quick jaunt to S&B's for a beer or two, nothing special, just going home.

"How much have you had to drink?"

Oh, the dreaded question. I thought fast for a simple lie, but I felt my world slipping away and said, "I've had a few."

"Step out of the car please."

Please Lord, please Lord, please Lord. . .

(to be continued)

Linda  – (Monday, February 16, 2009 at 10:07:00 AM CST)  

that's just wrong to leave us hanging like that------

Anonymous –   – (Monday, February 16, 2009 at 11:41:00 PM CST)  

...And you've done this before. This is America; we're all about instant gratification. Don't leave us hangin'.


Burnt Toast  – (Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 7:23:00 AM CST)  

Isn't the whole idea behind 'suspense' is to be 'suspended' emotionally at a critical juncture?

Don't worry, the resolution is coming soon. Two more parts, I think.

Thanks for enjoying this true story. It's certainly something I'll never forget.

Anonymous –   – (Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:54:00 PM CST)  

I can't eat.....I can't sleep.....I just want know what happens next......don't leave me hangin'


Anonymous –   – (Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:54:00 PM CST)  
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