You know those big, imposing, tough-looking guys that stand by the door outside small concert venues, keeping the rabble out? You know the ones I mean. They look like they just tunneled under the wall of a maximum security prison and their first stop, after eluding the blazing searchlights and the tower guards' high-powered rifles, was checking IDs at a dive bar. Well, don't judge a book by its leathery, pierced, tattooed, muscular cover. They are people, too, my friend. People with feelings and interests and hopes and dreams. They celebrate birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas. They go to the supermarket and Pizza Hut and dentist appointments. The are people with families and children and pets. Oh, yes — they have pets.
I arrived early for a weeknight show at a small club on the edge of the Philadelphia neighborhood of Northern Liberties. I waited just outside the entrance and fiddled with my phone while I waited for my son and a friend to meet me. Just a few feet away, the bouncer, a beefy guy — dressed in a black T-shirt emblazoned with "STAFF" in big block letters, black cargo pants and a backwards ball cap perched on his full Afro — sat on the top step at the club's entry and fiddled with his cell phone as well. Soon, a guy with multiple facial piercings and earlobes stretched by half-dollar-sized metal disks came out of the club, tapping a cigarette on the back of his wrist. He plopped down next to the bouncer and rummaged through the many pockets of his dark camouflage pants for a lighter. He met with success on pocket number three and fired up the tobacco stick now extending just above the vertical labret in his lower lip. Between puffs, he offered conversation with the bouncer. It was like eavesdropping on the mundane verbal exchange from a rejected Quentin Tarantino script.
"Hey man," he began, "Where's Pete tonight?"
The bouncer pocketed his cellphone, giving his full attention to the conversation. "Pete doin' sound tonight. I doin' th' door."
"How's your dog?," the smoker asked, abruptly changing the subject.
The bouncer perked up, his voice taking on a cheerful quality. Now, here was a topic that was close and dear to his heart. "Great! Y'know my dog, with his bloodline, is worth about five grand. It's an Italian Great Dane."
Just then, a woman walks by with a majestic-looking canine at the end of a retractable leash. The bouncer smiled. As the woman and the dog strolled within a foot of the bouncer, he spoke up and said, "That's like my dog. That's an Italian Great Dane, right?"
The woman was startled, not realizing that she was being addressed. Then, she corrected him. "Greyhound. He's a greyhound, not a Great Dane."
"Yeah, but Italian, right? Italian?," the bouncer persisted.
The smoker laughed. "You jackass! It's not a Great Dane! A Great Dane is like fuckin' Scooby-Doo!"
"Yeah, whatever.," answered the bouncer, glossing over his error, "I could sell my dog for what a car costs. I got the paperwork an' all. People don't believe my paperwork. People be axing me if I stole the paperwork or if I'm lying. I say 'No!' That dog got UDAC, KC, AKC, UDKC, every-fuckin'-thing! I gave him a Dallas Cowboys crib blanket to sleep on. He so chill and he got personality, like an ex-girlfriend. I give him peanut butter balls an' he don't bark no more. It's peanut butter and oatmeal and oil and some other shit all mix together. You roll it into balls. It's like balls, y'know? Takes so long to chew them up that they jaws get tired."
He was through elaborating on the joys of dog ownership. He leaned over to see if I was still standing by the entrance.
"Yo' man," he said to me, "We open now. You can come on in."
I thanked him, saying that I was waiting for two people to join me. Secretly, I couldn't imagine leaving this spot and missing any of his stream-of-consciousness soliloquy. What concert could possibly be more entertaining than this?