Ask Terence Fishman to name an offensive or defensive lineman and he’d pound the rail, shake his head, and call out to the bartender – “whisky shots!” He knew a few linebackers, a couple of safeties, plenty of quarterbacks, punters, field goal kickers, running backs, and receivers, but no linemen, not a one.
The bartender related to that feeling of not knowing. There was a time he had no idea what a Harvey Wallbanger was. He poured us three nice glasses, “on the house.” We clinked and drank.
“You know any middle relievers?” I asked.
Timmy pounded the rail again and his not knowing aroused the bartender’s sympathy a second time. We were rewarded with another round of whiskies.
“It’s nonsense like that,” mumbled Terence.
“Like what?” I asked
“That gets us into a nighttime of drinking.”
The third member of our trio slipped off off his bar stool and danced in place.
“Just pass me the pitcher please,” sang Frank, “and then another.”
We were in for a good night or we wouldn’t know the difference in a few drinks. But a few things were certain. There’d be nine ball played in the corner, beside the jukebox, and someone would inevitably play Ramon Ayala and that old dancing polka couple would arrive. It was after all, Saturday night. They hadn’t missed one in months and god could they dance. Musta been in their 70’s. We never asked. They never told. They came to dance. And there would probably be some spontaneous young lovers getting into each other’s pants and there would be us, sharing wretch at the rail, discussing the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and then like a million other nights, the lights would go on and we’d shuffle and sway back to Terence’s apartment complex, on the second floor, in the back, overlooking the alley, sipping cheap champagne and we’d feel the breeze for a change. Bars did that to us. Some strange collective madness calmed our minds. Took us out of ourselves.
Terence would get out his fishing pole and we’d attach a Miller beer to the line and dangle it down to the street and sometimes a “spurler” as Terence called them, someone from a rival bar, would stumble by and be in for a surprise or so they thought, a free beer, but Terence would wait for them to reach for the can and then he’d lift up the line, out of their reach and then he’d drop it again and back and forth and up and down, torture, but he eventually let them have the beer, on some nights anyway.
We’d talk about the instruments colonizers smuggled into new countries and how maybe that’s how the accordion thrives in Mexican Polka music. Frank would sing in Spanish, something about how time takes away your physical beauty; better to look for love. We’d go back inside and dance around and then sit down. Another bottle would be opened. Once again we’d discuss the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and we’d all wish we could beam up a stadium organ player during an imaginary rain delay. We’d dance some more. The downstairs neighbor would pound his ceiling which would be our floor. We’d quiet down, pass out at different times, me on the couch, Terence on the floor, and Frank on a chair. We’d awake to the sound of Terence reciting all the Indian princesses that had loved him over the years, their names and the tribes they came from.
“Kateri Tekakwitha!” he’d yell. “The Algonquin-Mohawk. I helped her get sainted!”
I guess he was still pissed about not knowing any linemen or middle relievers.