This was going to be my column about football and women; my male chauvinist view of how women are ruining my enjoyment of the sport. Not the ones that hate it, but the ones that feel the need to show us how much they love the sport. We get it: You like football, but you've begun to invade our space – and some of us don't like having to share our “Mary-Kay” party with you. But I'm going save it until next week. I figure the backlash will be severe enough that the Bulletin will be forced to shut me down.
I recently returned from a week-long comedy road trip through the Northwest – Seattle, Marysville (Tulalip Casino Resort) and Richland, Wash. It was in the town of Richland that I had the privilege of meeting Shelly from Finley. Richland is a town the size of Manteca, and is part of what's known as the Tri-Cities, with the adjacent Pasco and Kennewick filling out the three. It had the feel of Modesto, surrounded by farmland. I felt right at home. Much like our area, it was full of genuinely friendly people – and also a few “Shelly from Finley” types.
If Richland is Modesto, then Finley is Keyes.
In my best Jack Bauer from “24” voice, or Sgt. Friday from “Dragnet” if you remember the moon landing: “The following takes place from the hours of 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at The Uptown Bar in Richland, Wash.”
We had just left Jokers Comedy Club after our first show in Richland. The “we” being myself and friend Jason Resler, the tour’s headliner. The Uptown Bar was the destination. It had been recommended by an older couple that had been at the show, and by older I mean six years. I forget that I've reached middle age. It was like landing on Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. The Uptown Bar had the feel of the 133 Club, but not the current version. I’m talking about the old 133, dark and dank. The eight people inside had dust rings around them when they stood. We walked in as obvious outsiders.
We ordered drinks and I made my way to the outdoor patio where the couple from Jokers was sitting. Resler headed to the 1970s jukebox. I was less than a minute into conversation when I met her – Shelly from Finley! I had noticed her on the way in. Mid-50's chain smoker. The loudest person in a quiet room. She looked like an overweight Tom Petty – just less attractive. Her approach to our table had an immediate effect on the nice couple we were with. They gave an apologetic look as if to say, “We are sorry for what is about to happen.”
“Hey, pretty boy, are you the comic?” she slurred.
I was a bit thrown by “pretty boy,” but returned with, “Yes, you must be the mayor of this town.” My sarcasm flew right by her as she answered, “Naw, I'm from Finley.” She let me know that she recognized me, which was quite the ego boost. I asked where she had seen me. “On the comedy poster in the women's bathroom, ya idiot!” she cackled.
It was then I took stock of the situation. I was in Shelly's bar. She was obviously the Alpha Female in this establishment and wanted to make sure I understood that. However, the wry smile and delivery of her words let me know one thing: She was a pro. Not that kind of pro; get your mind out of the gutter. A professional BS artist. Someone that takes the art of “Verbal Bar Warfare” very serious, and for these types, a comic is their big game hunt … the proverbial lions head to hang over their mantle. I had to fire back immediately – but be sure not to show emotion. That is the subtlety to “V.B.W.” The first to lose their cool and show emotion over a verbal jab is the loser.
I returned fire. “Someone as pretty as you probably spends lots of time in the bathroom, you must recognize all the comics?!” The couple at the table remained motionless. It was as if they had been caught in Shelly's wake of collateral damage before. They gave me the “Please don't” look. I gave them the “You may want to leave” look, but they were statues.
What they didn't realize was I'm a Mantecan. I've cut my teeth on these types of battles – from orchard parties as a kid to Fred's Beer House as an adult. And did I mention I have a chauvinistic streak? I'm sure not going take sass off some lady wearing a sweater with a kitten collage on the front.
But Shelly was a pro, as I said. She moved right along to Round 2 of V.B.W. “Tell me a joke, funny guy.” For most comics this is the worst request. It's a lose-lose spot. If the joke bombs, they'll forever think you stink. If it goes well, they'll ask for another until they hear one they don't like. I, however, have a canned, extremely off-color joke I use in these situations; one that can't be written in this column. It's quick and usually shocks most into submission.
Shelly loved it. “Not bad. When you going to buy me a drink?” This was the olive branch in the V.B.W. All I had to do was buy her a drink and I would surely be left alone the rest of the night, but my Manteca gene kicked in. “Sometime between never and eternity, sweetheart.” As it left my lips, I knew I'd made a fatal mistake. Her eyes got big and she smiled. “How about I just take yours?” As I mustered up a retort, it happened ...
She stuck her finger right in my brandy and coke – 3 knuckles deep!
I stayed motionless. It was an old fashioned stand-off. She put her finger to her mouth, tasted it. My knees buckled. I was seeing stars! With my back to the ropes I dug deep – and to my surprise – caught her on the chin by taking a sip from the drink immediately, establishing that her little “I now own your drink” finger move had no effect. Yes, I realize the opportunity to catch one of many communicable diseases was at hand, but this was war.
My brain reeled. I managed to find my bearings when I heard a recognizable voice. “What's going on out here?” said Resler after his jukebox stop. “This is Shelly..I'm buying her a drink” I said..Handed her my drink and walked away...She stopped by my corner of the bar a few minutes later, and picked up the drink I'd bought for her...she left me alone..
I spent the next hour as I normally do in a dive bar, watching Sportscenter while jotting comedy notes down on cocktail napkins..and as I wrote of the V.B.W. Battle that had just taken place. I watched as Shelly roamed her bar. Mocking people, and become more and more unpleasant as the night faded. I even had a moment were I felt sorry. How do people get like that?.We have hundreds of “Shelly's” in our own hometown – and in our everyday lives – not just inside of bars. Manteca hasn't cornered the market on awful humans as many people bemoan. And sometimes instead of lamenting our surroundings with “I'm sick of Manteca” or “The tweekers are ruining our town” - it would be helpful if you just Grin and Bear it...because as my night ended, and there were only 4 people left in the bar. I encountered Shelly outside. “Please tell me you aren't driving..” I asked her...
“I'm no dummy..my cab is on the way”...That's right, even the “Shelly's” of the world have their moments..and as I helped her into her cab she said “Thank you”
My faith in Humanity restored...
And as the cab started to drive off, she held her arms out the window and tore my cocktail napkin notes in half,(she'd apparently lifted them from the bar)..”You stink!” she yelled..
Shelly, you are truly an awful person...Congrats!
Anyway next week we'll discuss why I refuse to give a woman a Hi-Five while watching football...
“It's not Where ya do, It's What ya do”