We had our fair share of tourists visit Jimmys. Mostly British and Irish. They seemed fascinated by this tiny American bar surrounded by giant skyscrapers. I’d take their picture at the bar and point to one of the stools.
“Joe Louis came in here every day. He used to sit right there!”
Another favourite of mine was to tell them that Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman used the bar all the time while they were filming Midnight Cowboy. All complete nonsense of course. I remember one English couple saying the bar was “quaint”. The bar’s been called many things over the years but quaint? No way. It always smelt damp and if the drains were blocked up it could smell a whole lot worse!
But back to Mike. He became a regular over the next year or so. Three days a week. Usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You could set your watch by Mike. At one minute to four he wasn’t there but sixty seconds later he was sitting at his usual stool sipping his first Jamesons of the day.
Yet, after all that time the only things I knew about him were his name and his profession. And, to be honest I kinda doubted both of them. I read a book once by a guy named Anthony Robbins. He was one of those self-help gurus who said you could do anything in life as long as you had the right attitude and motivation. I remembered one of the chapters was about “open” questions. These were questions that you asked people to gain information. Questions that couldn’t be answered by “yes” or “no”. I decided to try them out on Mike, but in a discreet way.
Mike was sitting at the bar one evening and in walks Billy Mac. He sits himself at the bar.
“Hiya Billy. Usual?”
I pour him his drink then try the technique.
“Where you going for your vacation this year Billy.”
“Maine. Two weeks in September. Gonna eat me some of those huge lobsters they got up there.”
I turn to Mike.
“You hear that Mike? Billy’s going up to Maine for his vacation. Where you going this year?”
“Ever been to Maine?”
And that was it. Even with the “open question” technique I got nothing from him. I never tried it again. Figured he just wanted to keep himself to himself.
I began to notice certain things about him. He always wore the same clothes. Black padded jacket over a blue check shirt. Denim jeans and work boots. He always had two day stubble on his chin and his hair never grew. He never used the rest room. NEVER. He’d sit on the same stool for twelve hours drinking Jamesons and never once got up to take a leak or have a dump. How weird is that?
But he kept coming out with his profound statements.
One night Irish Dan was complaining that he never seemed to get a break in life. Good things always seemed to happen to other people. Mike sat up straight in his stool, knocked back his Jamesons and took a deep breath. The bar fell silent. We knew we were in for some of Mikes words of wisdom.
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”
Everyone nodded. The guy was right.
Usually by midnight it was just me and Mike in the bar. I’d be doing all the talking and he’d be doing all the listening. I’d try to engage him in conversation but the man was as tight as a clam. I was bored and decided to flick through the TV channels. I stopped when I came across some obscure cable channel showing back to back repeats of “I Love Lucy.” It was one of my mom’s favourite shows. Mike looked up and smiled as if he was remembering something from way back. I seized the opportunity.
“You like this Mike. You remember this from back in the day?”
He shrugged his shoulders and looked at me with those big baby blues.
Here’s another strange thing about Mike. Everyone liked him. Now, no one knew him or anything about him. But everyone liked him. When the early evening crowd came in after work around five thirty the first person they said Hi to wasn’t me. It was Mike. You’d hear things like. “Hi Mike” or “Hi Mikey” or “Evening Buddy”. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE said hello to Mike. Mike never said Hi back. Just looked up and nodded. Guys would also buy him drinks. I’d serve them their beer and they’d say.
“Get one for Mike” or “Large Jamesons for my friend in the corner.”
Once again he’d just look up and nod his head.
Three nights a week he’d stay till four in the morning. Pay his bar tab, slip me twenty bucks, then leave. But where did he go? Where the fuck did this guy live? Did he go straight to work or have breakfast somewhere? Was he married? Did he have kids? I’d known the guy for well over a year, spent hour after hour with him, considered him a friend, and yet I knew absolutely nothing about him.
It would be another year before I knew any more about this Bar Stool Preacher!