Jack constantly spoke in non sequiturs. At first I thought that he was simply hard of hearing, but I began to realize there was a thread of continuity in the things he was saying. His conversations would go off in seemingly weird and irrelevant tangents, but they generally seemed to make it back to their original points.
I’ve often wished that I had written some of them down. Here are some of my favorites that I can remember:
Jack: I remember when I paid only ten dollars a week for rent.
Other patron: We don’t live in the fifties anymore Jack.
Jack: What! (slamming his fist against the bar in indignation) I haven’t ridden a bicycle in years.
Other patron: What does riding a bicycle have to do with rent?
Jack: I’d rather pay for my truck insurance than ride a bicycle.
Other patron: Okay?
Jack: I can barely afford to pay my rent and my truck insurance.
Or this one:
Me: Do you want another beer Jack?
Jack (giving me a dismissive wave): I don’t know anyone named Dan.
Me: Firstly, I asked you if wanted another beer. Secondly, what about Dan sitting there right next to you?
Jack: His last name isn’t White.
Me: I didn’t say it was.
Jack: Then why would someone named Dan White, want to buy me a beer?
Me: Obviously he wouldn’t, I don’t what I was thinking.
But this was my favorite:
Me: How are you doing today Jack?
Jack: You’re nuts.
Me: I hesitate to ask, but why do say that, Jack?
Jack: My wife was never an Eskimo.
I’ve never tried to figure it out.
But Of all the interesting people I met, John was the most interesting.
John had a lot of stories to tell and a keen willingness to tell them, under one condition: you had to keep a cold rum and coke in front of him. He needed the proper “lubrication” to keep the vocal chords going.
John was man in his late eighties but still very spry. He had a weird sense of humor, which was probably a good thing because his wife seemed to have none at all. She was a surly woman who I never saw smile; John was never without one.
John was a rifle bearer for the Honor Guard. One day after performing their duties, the members of the Honor Guard were returning to the post to have a few drinks together, as was their custom.
John walked calmly up to bar in full dress uniform, carrying his rifle, and wearing his eye-patch (John had to occasionally wear an eye-patch because of condition he had. He claimed he wore so he didn’t see double after he’s had a few too many) and stood there with a slight impish grin on his face.
He looked like pirate.
He then quickly pulled the rifle to his shoulder and discharged it toward the back of the bar.
The crack of the rifle echoed through the hall. If you’ve never heard a rifle discharged in a building, it’s loud. Beer flew into air, drinks were spilled, people scattered, some hit the floor. Even though I knew it was only a blank, it was still jarring to have a weapon discharged in your general direction.
A cloud of smoke hung in air the along with the pungent smell of spent gun powder. For a moment after the echo of the rifle had disappeared there was total silence. Then there chaos. Some people were laughing; some people were not. Some people were cursing, especially John’s wife, who unleashed a stream of foul language that to this day, I am certain has never been matched. Once I made sure that I hadn’t soiled myself, I laughed, maybe as hard as I ever had in my life.
John was reprimanded by the post, but that didn’t bother him. In fact, I’m not sure I ever saw anything bother him.
John was there that day on June 6th 1944. It’s estimated that 2,500 allied soldiers lost their lives on D-Day… but John didn’t. He had to hang around long enough to nearly scare me to death.
So heading into this Memorial Day weekend, I’m dedicating this blog post to Jack, John and every other veteran who is no longer with us.