Monday, January 22, 2007

I had a pretty awesome Saturday. 15 people showed up for my yoga class. Then, I came home and took a nap, which was lovely. Then, one of our servers called to see if I wanted to switch shifts. He was scheduled to work a catering event that was referred to company-wide as "the Chappelle party", in light of the fact that it was a fundraiser for a school, culminating in a concert by Dave Chappelle. His good friend, and Dallas-native, Erykah Badu had arranged all this, I guess. I said I would switch, because it's easy money, and a short shift on catering.

I get to the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. It's a cool building. I got to be liaison between our group, and the people putting on the event. We were held up, because there was a wedding reception being held simultaneously, across the hall. So, finally, 30 minutes late, and things are hopping. We are waiting to clear dinner plates, because the kids are about to perform. They are lined up on the stairs. The air was thick with recital jitters. Then, she came to the top of the stairs. Miss Erykah Badu. To say that she is gorgeous does not do her justice. She could not have been five feet tall. But she has the most beautiful eyes, and utterly flawless skin. After the children performed one song, she came in and sang another song with them. I kept peeking my head in from the back of the room. Her voice gave me chills. She was up there singing, live, with these kids, who had probably been rehearsing for six weeks, and this tiny little woman was belting 'em out! One song, and then she went back downstairs. We finished the event, and were in the room cleaning up. Suddenly, the woman in charge comes in the room. She wasn't unpleasant, but she also was not extremely patient with anyone. She asked T.J., who works at the Plano branch of my wine bar, if he would be interested in staying and bar tending for the Academy during the concert. He declines, as he rode down with someone else. I only hear the tail-end of the conversation. I ask "what's up?", and Miss Gwendolyn lays it out for me. Two hours. $75. Selling drinks at intermission. I have nothing else to do, and could use this money, so I immediately agree. We begin setting things up. As we're next to the kitchen (and nowhere near the lobby, where I will eventually be posted), people keep trying to order things. Both Miss Gwendolyn and I continue to explain that drinks will be sold at intermission. Finally, we get downstairs, and we start setting up. Before we get anything iced down, people are already lining up. At first, it's just me. As the line begins to wrap around the lobby a second time, one of the docents comes over. She says "You keep pouring, I will make change." Keep in mind that this is a rolling bar cart, with limited space. It was slightly tiny. Beers are $2.50. Mixed drinks are $4.50. I sold well over $1000 worth of drinks, in about 40 minutes. It was nutso, and also a lot of fun.

So, you'd think this is where this story ends, but no. After the lobby empties, and I can hear the distinct tone of Dave Chappelle's voice coming once again from the auditorium, we begin cleaning up and closing down. Across the lobby, suddenly I can hear an intoxicated man, arguing loudly. He is insisting that Dave Chappelle is mean and that he's the victim here and that he just wants to be left alone. I try not to pay attention. I do a great job of ignoring this, when he begins to scream. "You choked me! You choked me! You're abusing my civil rights! I love all people and you choked me!" Now, remember that I can hear Chappelle onstage in the auditorium. I am certain that the entire auditorium can hear this dude. He is still screaming, as he's being walked across the lobby, and presumably, escorted from the premises. Apparently, he'd come into the 2nd act late, and either Dave made a comment about it, or the audience was pointing or something like that. I do not know. I just know that as the walked over to where I was, their voices were still raised, but all the Academy guards, and all the people around him were still imploring him to just go. He spots me, the only other white person around, and starts to scream again "Did you see that? They're oppressing me! I'm like Rosa Parks! ROSA PARKS! THAT LADY TRIED TO CHOKE ME!" I can stand it no longer, and snip "I'm about to choke you if you don't shut up!" He leaves the side exit. His girlfriend follows. The director of the Academy begins to proclaim "Seventeen years...in seventeen years we've been here, we've never had a problem like this." I say "You cannot erase 17 years in one night, with one drunken idiot." And then, as if to prove me wrong, guess who walks back in? The drunken buffoon had walked around the building, and re-entered. Security goes to take him down. He runs. He is making fun of their slowness, yelling "Y'all can't do nothing! What? WHAT?" The police are called. He's still running and screaming. They're cornering him. Right next to where I happen to be. I see his girlfriend. I call her over to me. Four security people tackle the drunken buffoon, and take him down. They also take down his britches. He has a tattoo on his ass. I look away. The girlfriend is right in front of my bar, and is in anguish. I ask what her name is. She tells me it's Melissa. I ask what his name is. She says it's Ty. I say "Melissa, is there anything you can say that will calm him down? You know him. Can you calm him down at all?" She says that there's too many people on him, and she can't do anything. I know that the police are on their way. The one police officer that had been stationed in the auditorium has now come out, and is on her radio. Over the incredible commotion, I say, "Melissa, look at me, don't look at them." I ask if she drove or if Ty did. She says he did. I tell her that she needs to stay calm and that she needs to pick up his wallet, which has fallen out of his pants, and she needs to ask security if she can have the car keys. As she struggles to get this question out, Dallas' finest begin to stream into the lobby. First one. Then two more, behind him. Then, the SWAT guys in vests and jackboots. We grab my cash and move across the lobby. We move into an office, and count down the money. I have no idea what transpired in the seven minutes I was not in the lobby, but when I came back out, there were still several cops, Miss Gwendolyn, and the president of the Academy standing around talking. I go over to the rolling bar, where they're putting away the small amounts of alcohol that remain. I thank everyone for their time, and for an interesting evening. They ask if I would be interested in bartending again. I say, "of course", and leave them my yoga card, with my cell number. Then, I walk out onto Canton Street. There's a weird purpley glow, from all the cop cars lined up. And then, I hear him. The drunken buffoon is STILL screaming, "ROSA PARKS! ROSA PARKS!" I get into my car, and shake my head.

Of all the places, in all of the city of Dallas, why on earth would you ever sit inside the Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and proclaim yourself to be a civil rights pioneer?