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Bar Life, Salt Lake City, Utah

Notes From The Pie Hole

What’s the best way to celebrate a tough night at work? How about a couple of slices of pizza from The Pie Hole?

After pouring drinks for a bunch of gorillas and wannabe flappers, I needed sanctuary after my evening. I was spent. The mental toughness to stare down knuckle-draggers and prostitutes in the making takes its toll on a man and I am not strong anymore. My mental and physical fortitude is fading and I needed nourishment and strong drink after dealing with people more akin to pigs ruckusing in the mud than enjoying a dueling piano show.

I was low. I was sad. I needed to self-medicate and nothing satisfies like greasy pizza served off thin paper plates at the height of the evening. Frankly, I was spent and I didn’t want to cook at home. Simply put, I would break training and indulge in the great fiendish meal of a late Salt Lake City night.

I had a decent evening. The show was lacking but that weight can be placed on technical difficulties. The club installed a new mixing board and it hadn’t been calibrated for the bar yet. The musicians worked through the problems and delivered the best they could but in the end, the guests came for liquid strength and companionship. I could provide the former but who could really give the latter?

My guests were a mixed bag of social deviants, sexual misanthropists, doubters, perverts, blasphemers, chuckle bunnies, tax cheats, bigots and whores. The best of the worst and they all found their way to my club. Most men would shrink in their presence but I came alive. I treated them like the beasts they were and kicked them into submission. Lion tamers rely on pistols and whips. I trusted my instincts and fear of humanity.

Only God could judge me for my behavior but thankfully, He was nowhere to be found on this frigid night.

They were derelict souls cast into the wild with no hope of recovery. At best, they would find the warmth of another body between dirtied and foreign sheets. At worst, a glimpse of the abyss that awaits them when all of the chips have been collected. No matter what, there could only be one winner and I would be a top that podium sneering greedily at their malice and stupidity. Nobody beats the house in cards and I held every deck. The game was rigged in my favor and even the most developed flimflam man would fall to the wayside. I wasn’t proud of the mess I created—I merely relished in the vastness of destruction that had occurred.

Life has moments of goodness. Tonight, there were none. Mudville grimaced and tremored in weakness while I beat fools and imbeciles into submission. It wasn’t my job at this point—it was my pleasure. Watching Neanderthals thump into bloody messes of piss and regret became the sound of victory and disbelief that society was saved. Nothing was pure at the end of the night except the brisk air outside of the club and my desire to go home.

I was heading back to the Sugarhood when my truck miraculously turned on State Street to the Pie Hole. I had no intention of pumping poison through my body moments before I went to bed but the Siren’s call of overcooked and under-priced pizza beckoned me. I wanted to fill my body with something that resembled a chance of salvation. Instead, I was left with the Pie Hole.

I parked in front and stepped over the remnants of humanity making my way into the restaurant. The doors were blocked with criminals and drug dealers and the worst parts of the Bible smoking cheap, loud cigarettes. Their dead eyes absorb any light from the glowing neon in front of the pizza parlor. In said situations, you push forward. They feast on fear and wouldn’t hesitate to slash my throat for my worn shoes or a chance to cut out my teeth for the fillings. Growing up in Vegas, you notice these things and know when to push through.

I pushed through.

I queued behind the sad lot. They looked like refuges trying to escape a war-torn nation under the cover of darkness. They lined up waiting to be served from the platters of food in second-hand clothes and over-styled hair. Priorities were shot at 2am and there was no escaping the madness the evening was trying to slather on us. I posted up looking over the choices and waited. Pizza was ordered, thrown into the large oven and paid for. I waited patiently as to not draw attention to myself but they knew I didn’t belong. I represented order, structure and a glimpse of a future. They existed between the cracks of daddy’s pocketbook and their next score.

Clearly, they are not my people. They belong to a tribe of miscreants that live between the pages of societal class. That dark under world where irony is valued more than gold and their choice of drug is self-satisfaction. But we were all here waiting for our food and waited is what we did. I didn’t dare check my phone for fear of losing concentration and being overtook by the hordes but something caught my eye.

Rather, it caught my ear.

In the back of the restaurant, the beginnings of fisticuffs were rearing their ugly head. A familiar face threatened to all but specifically to one person to remove his hands from him. It was over-played melodrama of a slight infraction demanding submission on the perceived offending party. Voices raged over the loud, pumped-in music that unless somebody ran from the restaurant violence would ensue. The warnings were profanity ridden and the electricity of a vicious physical confrontation was eminent.

I stood guarded.

The antagonist was somebody I recognized. I had poured cold, cheap yellow beer down his neck earlier in the evening and like a negligent owner of a ravenous dog, let him loose onto the city. I’ve never cared for this animal. He treats my club like his personal salon and rewards me for my service with unwarranted familiarity and little money. He is the kind of punk that thinks the world owes him more than he’s contributed and would fight to prove the point. Napoleonic to the tenth degree and aged enough to have scars to prove he deserves more, I bite my tongue as he repeatedly threaten people in the back.

I wanted to jump into the fray and dispense a type of final justice resulting in hematomas, lacerations and injury upon this pathetic, crippled thug but this wasn’t my house. I was a visitor and the master of the property didn’t seek my assistance. When I saw tempers reach critical mass, I realized I could not stand idly by and warned the boy behind the counter.

“That’s sound pretty serious back there, bub,” I said while motioning to the back.

The boy latharegically looks up and nodded. He wanted none of this. He mans the midnight shift for access to drugs and women and a chance to feel superior to the drunken masses. The $8 an hour doesn’t include medical and he isn’t married to this position. The loud foreplay towards a fight were seconds away when I gave a second warning.

“I’d get back there.”

He begrudgingly dropped his spatula and made his way to the back. From my vantage point at the front of the line, I saw the boy yell for everyone to take it outside. He quickly scampered back behind the counter while the fight defused momentarily. As I pointed to the three slices I wanted, the exodus of fiends filtered out with the antagonist remaining in the back wrestling drunkenly with his jacket. As I paid for my pizza and waited for it to heat, the Rex Follis made his way towards me. I locked eyes with him, readied my hands and nodded.

“Benny,” he said walking past me.

“J.R.,” I acknowledge knowing that whatever happens next will occur outside of the building.

I looked at the boy behind the counter and told him that I might owe him an apology. He gives me a bigger than usual questioning glance as I explain that I was the one that got him drunk that evening. He shakes his head disappointedly as he hands me my slices.

“Where were you two drinking at?” he asked with the first taste of innocence I felt all night.

“I was his bartender,” I laughed quietly. “I wouldn’t drink with that.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t either,” he responded.

I didn’t believe him but I departed. I fought through the army of undead outside of the pizza parlor and jumped into my truck, locking the doors. I made a deliberate drive towards home, into the safety of Sugarhouse and outside of the madness.

The date was the 21st of December 2012 in the year of our Lord. Mayan’s predicted the end of the world and most assume it comes with fire and brimstone with oceans overtaking the shores of the Earth and people falling into a millennium of darkness. I fear the Mayans might be wrong about the date but predicted this future that I flashed through. The fleeting fight of humanity crumbles in front of my eyes but as all children of Las Vegas know, you push through it.

And if I may, I don’t know why I criticize Pie Hole. Their pizza is really good. Not trying would be a real Mayan Calendar apocalypse.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast? We don’t need no stinkin’ podcast. Even though he took liberties describing last night, most of it was true. Especially how good the pizza was.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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