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  • Cafes (aka coffee shops) are great places to meet people that you can really grow to despise and wish various painful deaths upon for many years to come. It doesn’t seem the same with bars, but then again, everybody’s drunk at a bar, and that has a way of easing those annoying eccentricities to a low a hum instead of a shrill continuous whine of nails against a chalkboard that caffeinated sobriety can amplify. At most coffee shops, you’ll meet a writer or twelve. Don’t worry about figuring out who they are. Just like vegans, crossfit trainers and recent ex-druggie born-again Christians, they’ll let you know ASAP. I know this as a fact because I am one of those nauseating, deluded, self-absorbed, stunted and regressed emotional cripples with a pen in his hand and was strangely proud of that fact when I was younger, not so much anymore. Today, I look at my “gift” as more of a condition, like eczema. The person this rant is about never learned that lesson, and was probably about my age now when the following story took place twenty-five years ago. I bring to you a story about a man I call Mr. Punch-Face.

    Mr. Punch-Face was a heavy set, middle aged writer of Sci-Fi and Horror who hung around a coffee shop in the Canyon Crest area of Rivercide, when that coffee shop was the only game in town. This was long before the days of the Starbucks takeover of America. Mr. Punch-Face had a “true artist’s soul,” and we knew that because he would actually say that at least once or twice a day in some conversation. Because he was a regular and over twenty years older than most of the kids working there, he somehow conned his way to the owner into a management position in the coffee shop. He had never worked a day in that business, and suddenly he was running the joint. Up until his sudden ascension to manager, he was just another bloviated, rambler sitting with the rest of the jobless scribes, art scribblers and guitar noodlers wiling away complete days getting jacked up on cheap refills and talking about all of the projects he was working on but never seemed to actually be working on. Once he took over control of the daily operation of the business from the mostly delinquent owner, he became a petty tyrant of the worse type. The same free spirited freeloader with a “true artist’s soul” was suddenly dropping the hammer on "loitering" and forcing his business dictates of people only being allowed one refill, even though that had never been the rule before. It surly cleared the place out of day business and made it look derelict for a bit.

    Thankfully, his tenure didn’t last long. Part of his duties as manager was making the daily night drop of the cash proceeds at the bank, which was about 100 feet from the coffee shop. This was a coffee shop that turned over several thousand dollars on a weekday and about 10 Gs plus on a Friday and Saturday. And, somehow, on one of those Friday nights, he was strong armed robbed in the 100 foot walk from the café to the bank. This is something that never happened to the attractive, little waifs the owner had as managers previously, and a rather large and bearded man got robbed and big shiner to prove it. The police were contacted, the report made and he kept his job for just as long as it took the detectives to view the bank's CCTV footage of him actually punching himself in the face in a dark corner of the drive-thru teller where he didn’t realize there was a camera watching him. He probably kept his job for two days longer than he should have because the detectives were getting a kick showing everybody at the precinct the video of this sanctimonious nimrod face pounding himself. What I wouldn’t give to see that footage.

    The owner was a good sport. She told the face pounder with the true artist's soul to merely give her the cash and scurry away with no charges, and he did just that, less the four hundred he lost playing bingo at the Indian casino. He got on his moped (yes, I said moped), put on his imitation Peter Fonda American flag helmet, and drove away from that café and seemingly every other place in town for I never ran into him again anywhere in Rivercide. He did make the local paper several years later. He actually had one of his dreams come true and was part of a writing team of three people that penned a script for an episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation; although, I get the feeling he talked his way into that one, and the other two did most of the writing. I remember seeing him in the paper while setting at Back to the Grind and said, “Hey, Mr. Punch-Face finally hit the big time.”
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