On that Friday afternoon, when the guy awkwardly climbed over the roped-off section to get to the outside tables in front of Knock Back Nat’s on Seventh Street, I had a feeling we were in for trouble. Just a few minutes earlier, I had to step around the same guy at the Garfield Market just around the corner on Vine Street.
The man wasn’t standing in front of the cash register; he was sitting on the floor, looking at the gum selection. The guy behind the register probably didn’t know what to do about him. Paying for my cigarettes, I figured it was his problem.
My friend Greg was already at Knock Back Nat’s when I arrived. Before taking my drink to the roped-off area outside, I said hello to bartender Rikki.
I can’t say I know Rikki well, but I know she owns a home that has a garden. A few weeks earlier when I was at the bar she brought in some cucumbers. Having too many and not wanting to waste them, she was giving them away at the bar. She gave one to me. Over the next few days, I cut it up and had it on salads. It was delicious.
Joining my friend outside, we got busy catching up with one another. On our second drink, the guy who I had seen at the Garfield Market showed up. After he climbed over the fence, he placed the guitar case and vinyl bag he was carrying in one of the chairs. He then flopped himself down.
He was a large man with short hair. He was wearing an orange T-shirt and tan shorts. He was also wearing sunglasses and seemed a bit out of it as he placed a pack of American Spirit cigarettes on the table. As he put a cigarette in his mouth, he asked Greg for a light.
The man was trying to talk to us about something, but he was hard to understand. While he was talking, Greg and I looked at each other, both realizing the guy was totally bombed.
Rikki took a break from bartending and came out to join us. I asked if she had any more cucumbers. She said she had a couple with her but that cucumber season was almost over. I made a mental note to myself to ask for one before I left.
The guy smoking the American Spirit cigarette slurred his speech while asking Rikki a question. Rikki told him in no uncertain terms that if he wasn’t a customer he needed to leave the table. That’s when his profanities started.
Rikki told him to leave again. And again. And again. He refused. She told him she was going to call the police. He said, “Go ahead.”
When she went back inside the bar to make the call, Greg and I pleaded with the guy to just leave. We kept asking him why get arrested when he was being given every opportunity to go. Ignoring us, he sat there smoking.
Rikki came out and told the guy she had called the cops. This was his last chance to hightail it out. Again, he refused.
The guy with the guitar case took a beer can out of his vinyl bag and opened it. Greg and I looked at each other in amazement. He was now making the situation worse.
First, a female bicycle cop showed up, then two motorcycle policemen and then a police officer in a patrol car. Stone-faced, the four of them approached the guy.
The female cop asked him some questions while another cop threw the guy’s beer can to the side of the street. Another policeman told the guy to stand up, and he was handcuffed.
The three male cops led the messed up guy to the patrol car while the female officer went through the man’s vinyl bag.
In the bag was another can of beer, some candy and a can of coffee. While watching this, probably because I was drinking, I started to wonder if the cop would maybe pull out a cucumber.
Thinking it would be funny, I almost asked the cop if there was a cucumber in the bag, but when she pulled out six prescription bottles I wised up and shut up.
The guy being arrested was high on alcohol or pills or both, and the cops weren’t in a joking mood. Except for the prescription bottles, the policewoman threw the rest of the contents from the vinyl bag into a trashcan.
The cops almost forgot the guy’s guitar case, but one finally remembered to come back to get it. Then the bicycle cop, the two motorcycle cops and the cop in the patrol car took off. Knock Back Nat’s was back to normal.
Greg and I stayed for a couple more rounds, then decided to call it an afternoon. He got on his bus back home to Monfort Heights; I got on my bus back home to Westwood.
While riding home, I thought about the strange man who had just been arrested.
No doubt he was high on something, but why would someone go out of their way to get arrested? Why would someone want to go to jail?
As the bus turned up Queen City Avenue, I remembered how Greg, Rikki and I repeatedly asked the guy to leave, and then I remembered something else.
Damn if I didn’t forget to ask Rikki about those cucumbers.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]