Don't lose track of your wooden leg
Okay, some of you are going to call bullshit on this one. But I swear to God it's true.
Many moons ago when I lived in Hicktown, USA, we had to travel to nearby college towns if we wanted to go to any decent bars. Not that there weren't bars in my hometown--in fact, just the opposite. In small yeehaw towns, alcoholism is often the main industry. For instance:
--We had a liquor store with a drive-through window, for the alcoholic on the go.
--You could buy a fifth of of whiskey at the bar to take home with you, in case a trip to the liquor store was out of your way.
--At closing time at the bar, you could get a rum and coke in a big to-go cup...you know, for the drive home.
So certainly, we had bars--but these were the kind of bars where the patrons were in their 50s and up, with names like Bubba and Marvella, the kind of patrons who brought in their own koozie cups with them to house the cans of Milwaukee's Best and Pabst Blue Ribbon they were about to consume. For entertainment, you could choose from the catalogue of decade-old country music on the juke box.
But naturally, we were looking for bars with some live music, a younger crowd, and a little excitement. One bar we sometimes went to was The Paradise Club, an hour away in Warrensburg, MO. On this particular night, the drink specials were thus: 50 cent draws, $1 wells. My friend Travis was with us that night; he took $50 bucks into the bar with him, and spent it all before we left.
Travis had a wooden leg, although to look at him, you wouldn't know it. He had a good prosthetic, and only walked with a slight limp. The walking got harder as he got drunker, though, and he would fall down now and then. He also liked to dance, and if he was very drunk and you were dancing with him, you had to somehow incorporate repeatedly picking him up off the floor into your regular dance moves. He was incredibly good-natured about all this, and as long as you were too, you could dance all night. He was always quick with a wooden leg joke, and if he were wearing shorts, he'd stub out his cigarette on his ankle, amid the gasps of anyone who happened to notice it. He often wore a shoe only on his real foot, leaving the fake one bare; once, at a bonfire, he pretended to be drunker than he was, and kept "accidentally" stumbling into the fire, to see who would gasp in horror as they saw him standing there with his foot in the flames.
The Paradise Club is located up a steep flight of stairs, and some other crappy bar is below it. A group of us went to the Paradise and spent several hours there, during which Travis, as mentioned, emptied his pockets getting drunk. (Yeah, I know--he drank like he had a hollow leg. You've been dying to say it.) When it was time to leave, Travis led the way. He ambled over to the stairs...and then just kept walking, eyes front, taking no note of the sudden change in elevation that the first step presented. I remember the scene unfolding as if in slow-motion: He was looking dead ahead, not downward like a person about to negotiate stairs would. Clearly, he did not remember the stairs were there. He proceeded to tumble down them, loudly, as the crowd leapt out of his flight path. On his way down, you guessed it (or did you?)--he lost his wooden leg. He landed in a heap, right next to the bouncer. Meanwhile, he rest of us who were with Travis were still poised at the top of the stairs, surveying the carnage below. A cluster of shocked people stared at Travis and his now- empty pants leg--his wooden leg had skittered across the floor and come to rest a couple feet away. The onlookers stood frozen, silent. Remember, these people were likely already drunk--it's got to be unsettling to see a guy topple down a flight of steps, period, much less lose an appendage on the way. I've always wondered if some of them thought the fall had been so bad that it had ripped a perfectly healthy leg off this man's formerly intact body. From the horrified looks on their faces, this might well have been what was going through their minds. Travis, on the other hand, looked unphased. This was not the first time he had fallen down, nor the first time he'd had to take inventory of his legs before he could get back up. He immediately set about the task of pulling himself into a sitting position, leaning his back against the wall, and scanning the immediate area for the wayward leg. Spotting it, he asked the girl nearest it, in a tone of voice which suggested he thought this was a reasonable question, "Hey, can you hand me that leg?" The girl just stared at him, speechless. Travis looked around at the gawkers, and back at the girl, and asked, "What's the matter? Haven't you people seen a wooden leg before?" Finally someone recovered and passed him the leg, which he deftly snapped back on, and we were on our way out.
The lesson? When you're leaving the Paradise Club in Warrensburg, Missouri, hang on to your wooden leg.