Blogging in E minor
Usually just a bunch of silly crap.

Elba, Chapter Three: Of Bartenders and Mad Men

Apparently there are two distinct species of the genus Homo psychoticus, your garden-variety madmen. . . .

          Aldous Huxley believed that dictators – as well as other world-class criminoids – are born of two sorts of people: sociopathic ectomorphs and impetuous mesomorphs, body type being a major predetermining factor.

          The former variety typically starts out as meager specimens of boys who are thin-boned, slow-to-develop and endocrinologically imbalanced. Huxley cites Hitler as an example. Young Adolf’s desire to overcompensate for his weaknesses created a pathological need to dominate others and tendencies towards cruelty, narcissism and despotism.

          On the other hand, there are the renegade mesomorphs, Joseph Stalin falling into this category. Huxley believed that those of the muscular, large-boned stature had natural inclinations towards extroversion and leadership. If inadequately socialized, such a person could develop an insatiable appetite for power, an absence of conscience and unbridled ruthlessness.

          BTW: Huxley did a lot of acid.


Mussolini and Hitler: Huxley's mesomorphic and ectomorphic dictators

          During the Industrial Era, in a world filled with nationalistic fervor and vast socioeconomic disparity, a few such individuals attained absolute power and inflicted unspeakable atrocities upon mankind. Nowadays, under current conditions, these people typically end up in the food service industry.  

          Welcome to the 90’s! Big Hair and guitar virtuosity were being replaced by Grunge Rock, flannel shirts, combat boots and a more honest, earthy approach to music. The Internet was on the horizon and we had a Baby Boomer president in the White House. After spending the bulk of the 80’s below the poverty line, the new decade offered promise. I had put my aspirations toward superstardom on hold and went back to school.

           After having bombed out of college and his power lifting career halted by injury, Mac Jude returned home and began working in a five-star restaurant downtown. Eventually, he received bartender training, became rather good at it, and took his show on the road.

          Over the course of the next few years, Jude made his living as a carpetbagging barkeep in many of the nation’s hottest tourist spots, traveling to wherever the need arose. This took him from the Florida Keys, to the Gulf Coast, to a few lake resort towns of the Midwest as well as Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. It was only a matter of time before he made his way to Vegas.

          My brother thought he had found The Promised Land when he arrived in Sin City. Jude worked in a highly regimented, top-end, all-night dance club, entertaining the clientele with his acrobatic, glass-juggling, bottle-throwing antics all the while keeping up with the ever-demanding pace. His specialty: mixing a Long Island Tea in his pants. Yes, the tips were good. Life was good.

          And believe it or not, even bartenders have groupies!

          But it all suddenly came to a screeching halt. All I know is that my brother contacted my father one day begging for airfare and made an abrupt exit from the City of Light. Apparently, only my father knows the whole story about what happened out there (what happens in Vegas . . .), but from what I can piece together, it had something to do with drug dealers and money and cops and death threats.

          So Jude returned home tanned, emaciated and broke, there being less than ten pounds difference between us (which was unheard of to this point). Evidently, alcohol and groupies and god-knows-what don’t provide adequate nourishment.

          My parents did what they could to help Jude get back on his feet. My father lent him money for a car and my mother allowed him to stay with her. He secured a low-key management position in a restaurant and began working out again and putting on weight. We started working out and running together as well as hanging out a bit.

          One fateful evening, Jude and I were out late drinking together on a Sunday night, which usually isn’t a good start to a work week. On our way home, we got into an argument about an op-ed piece I had written in my community college student newspaper that was critical of the Pro-Life movement. Ugly turned uglier, and by the time I got to my mother’s house, he was taking off his rings (for the uninitiated, this meant he intended to beat the crap out of me without doing too much damage to my face). I was about to receive long-overdue payback for the years of torment I had inflicted on Jude as a child.

          So, I did what any self-respecting 160-lb. former glam boy would do: I threw a giant rock at him and ran!

          Jude caught the rock against his chest, staggered several steps backwards before being able to push the nearly 60-lb projectile away. I couldn’t outrun him either. He chased my down like a lion after prey and tackled me in a neighbor’s yard. It was horrorshow ugly!

          The next thing I know, I was in the ER with a broken face. There were concerns about damage to my left eye that would need to be addressed once the bloody, black ‘n’ blue appendage that was once my head returned to its normal size.

          Jude had fled when he heard the police coming. My mother, in addition to everything else, was upset that we were out drinking and acting so foolishly, told Jude to find other living arrangements. He eventually found a slum-like flat downtown in a soon-to-be blighted neighborhood. Once again, Jude was in exile.

           Several months later, I happened upon Jude in a neighborhood bar. He approached me and asked “How’s your eye?”

          “How’s life in Elba?” I replied. I wasn’t anywhere close to mending fences with Jude at that point. Truthfully, I wished he were dead.

          So contact from there on was generally brief and impersonal. News was conveyed via my parents, Celeste (remember my sister, Celeste?) or mutual friends. He had difficulty holding jobs, moved about frequently, and had entered into several brief, dysfunctional relationships. Like arsenic to Napoleon, alcohol reduced the former legend to a meager shell of a man.

          Then, during what began as an uneventful evening, Jude was out drinking alone when he encountered three men he had once terrorized as teens in high school. Word was that they mocked him severely, Jude being a fraction of the size he had once been, before taking turns knocking him around in the parking lot. Jude fell unconscious in the snow and lay bleeding several hours before being found the next morning, ironically, by a man on his way to work at Sears. Jude would later die in the hospital as the result of his injuries.

          Huxley wept.

          For months, we blamed ourselves – my family, his friends, the ex-girlfriends who were too codependent to ever completely sever ties – because there were so many things that could have been done differently. Scores of alternate scenarios with better endings played themselves out in our heads, followed by a hard hit of guilt. Then somebody would approach somebody else with pointed accusations filled with “should haves” and “ifs,” and an argument would ensue, only to be followed by tearful reconciliations. The reality of the situation was that Jude made it easy for people to write him off.

          So here I am, good people, after all these decades, brotherless – a giant piece me, my history, my entire frame of reference, gone. I miss him sorely.

          It is said that we choose our friends but not our families; often our families fall short of what we would otherwise wish them to be. A brother can take the shape of many things: a friend, a mentor, an adversary, the best man at your wedding, an acquaintance, an ally, an annoyance or just somebody who shows up when you offer free food. He may be all of these things or something altogether different.

          The important question is this: What kind of brother or sister am I? We can choose, in many instances, the kind of role we play in the lives of our siblings.

          Often our part in the equation is lost somewhere between the family drama and the grind of day-to-day life. In the big picture of things, it is the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make which can often alter our entire family history forever.


One Response to “Elba, Chapter Three: Of Bartenders and Mad Men”

  1. Wow. I’m speechless. Great story ~ beautifully written.

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