It’s been a frustrating week on the poker tables. I have been haemorrhaging cash on all sides and finding it difficult to keep any sort of traction and momentum going. I’ve just finished playing for nearly six hours and have been dunked out of two massive tourneys online with nothing to show for it but a whole load of expletives. It has been a case of one or two bad decisions, mixed with a horrendous run of bad luck. It’s a tough game and it’s made all the tougher when luck goes against you. Poker is a big release for me and when it goes wrong I find myself shrinking into a deep, dark spot. There is no alcohol to drag me out of this, so it means I have been facing myself every day with nothing to cover the wrinkly down turned lines on my face. I see myself for the bushy haired, balding, softly sagging man that I am. Gambling is emotional and losing opens sore pores. I’m not a happy camper.
I have though, started a new job in Bondi, running a very busy Irish bar. It’s a place laden with wild young Paddy’s yippin’ and hooin’ all days of the week. Sobriety is a joke to the people who frequent my new establishment – a sick joke. These are the young Irish who are fleeing the mother country looking for something new, then falling straight into something so familiar it could make you vomit spuds and cabbage. We sell Irish rahoolery to poor sots who are homesick beyond belief. I’ve seen more GAA jerseys in the last two weeks than I have in the previous few years near Croke Park on All Ireland final day. We are creatures of wanton habit, us Irish for sure.
While I was serving behind the bar the other day I got to talking to a few lads who were having an afternoon drinking. We were yapping about football and the like when one of the guys started asking about trade and pub stuff. We got chatting about Australian pubs, the effects pokies have on business and the like. It turned out he was a publican himself back in the mother country, just over for a month long holiday. He was lamenting the halcyon days of yore in the Emerald Isle when people skulled six pints of Guinness before nipping home in the car for dinner, after which, they’d return in the car to have a few “proper” drinks. So we chatted and as I served him his next schooner of Tooheys, he stopped and caught me with a long hard stare. I looked back at him. He was in his late thirties, thinning ginger hair, gaunt face with big thick boggle glasses – certainly no homosexual.
He began to nod his head slowly and thoughtfully. He picked up a little speed as the cogs inside were obviously whirring and twigging. He started rubbing his chin and after a little while longer he started grunting and eventually his eyes kind of popped a little and his mouth flew open.
“It’s you!”, he exclaimed
I looked back at him, as did all the lads and the bar girl who was working beside me.
“It is me!” I dryly replied, “It has been me for some time”
Everyone had a good little giggle as he struggled to get the words out.
“No no, it’s you isn’t it….didn’t you used to have dyed blond hair?”
“Eh yeah, I did.” I was curious now. I spent many years with a guzzle of peroxide in my barnet , acting the proverbial around the globe..
“Ha it is you so…Be Jesus was it you that was with us when we were on that holiday in Austria? The one we won through Red Bull.”
And it all came flashing back. We had won a holiday through Red Bull, all expenses paid for a week’s snowboarding in St. Johan in Austria back in 2003. It was a week of wild drinking with my old buddy Pat Dowling and some new friends we picked up along the way. It was our time. JA JA JA, saor gut. This man sitting at the bar had been with us too, having won the Connaught section of the competition.
“Jesus lads, the last time I saw this fellah”, he announced to everyone, “was when he was up on stage doing karaoke at a bar in Austria….sure himself and his buddy were singing a song…the bar was packed, maybe two hundred people or so, and sure doesn’t he start stripping in the middle, taking off his shirt and throwing it into the crowd…then he goes to drop his trousers, sure everyone was going bananas, but when he dropped them, hadn’t he pulled his nuts and mickey back between his legs and closed his thighs together, so it looked like he had a pussy! Well holy fuck it was one of the fucking funniest things I ever saw…”
The lads had a good laugh but the bargirl I was working with had moved away, looking over with a sheepish smile. I sort of smiled over to her, thinking in my head that she must have some question marks over the new manager in town. Her head was probably populated with strange thoughts about the perverted lunatic she was now expected to take orders from. I thought not too much about this, but marvelled at this memory which had been brought back to me so many years later. I was a mad little bollix, no doubt about it. The fuel though, was booze.
And now this engine is booze free. How boring.
I’m off for some drunken karaoke.