Monday, February 07, 2005
Memories of Claude's Bar, Santa Fe...1970
NOB HILL--This man eating a chocolate eclaire almost as big as his head is David Briggs. David and I have known each other since I first came to New Mexico back in 1970. This was up in Santa Fe. I was a bouncer in Claude's Bar on Canyon Road and David was one of our best customers. David Briggs, by the way, is an outstanding flamenco guitarist.
Back in 1970, Claude's Bar was probably the wildest place in the state of New Mexico. Not that there weren't other wild-ass places like Okie's and The Senate, but Claude's attracted such a mix of cowboys, Indians, Chicanos, artists and writers, freaks, politicians, and full-time road warriors that every night was a total eruption of fists. Every night. And as a bouncer I could depend on practically no one to help me out. Certainly not the police: Canyon Rd. at that time was 2-way and the police took half an hour to respond to fight calls. The main attraction of the job for me was that I could reach over the bar and pour myself a tall one whenever I got thirsty. I was up in double digits before the night got too old.
This fit in nicely with my theory on how to survive as an underweight bouncer in such a hostile place: drink as much as the customers. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but no sober person could even stand to be in the place as the evening wore on, much less talk to anybody.
My other rule of thumb was to never stand between two guys who were about to take a swing at one another. No...I would let 'em swing. In most bar fights one swing is all you get. Then the two fighters grab on to each other. And that is when I stepped in and grabbed them both and we all sank to the floor with me being careful to land on top of both of them. As we lay there in the pools of stale beer and cigarette ash, I would whisper to them something like this, "Now don't we look like the dumbest three a--holes on the face of the earth. I bet half the place is laughing at us." That, usually, was the end of the fight.
And David Briggs, was he ever fighting? No. He was drinking...and laughing. It is something of a miracle that we both survived those days. I worked at that job on weekends for about a year. Then I fell in love with the woman I eventually married. We went out to dinner one night at El Farol and I knew right then that I had to quit. And I did that very evening.
Three weeks later, the guy who took my place was stabbed in the stomach while breaking up a fistfight. The person who stabbed him wasn't even in the fight. He did recover.