Monday, February 04, 2008

Johnny Yen and Viktor Zeitgeist At The Ruby Room

Today, I had had Little Steven's Underground Garage on in the car on the way to school and heard a song by the a group called the "Foxboro Hot Tubs" called "Ruby Room." I was curious; the Ruby Room happens to be the name of one of my favorite taverns in Oakland. I used to go there a lot when my good friend Viktor Zeitgeist lived in Oakland.

I came home and ran a search and sure enough, the song is about that Ruby Room. The Foxboro Hot Tubs are a side project for members of Green Day, who hail from Berkeley, right nest door to Oakland. It made me think of good times in the Ruby Room, the night Viktor Zeitgeist and I almost got thrown out of the Ruby Room.

In May of 2002, he, his then-girlfriend (now wife) and I went to Shanghai, China. It was a welcome trip. Cynthia and I had separated a couple months earlier and I was frustrated looking for a teaching job after working as a sub for a year and a half in a good suburban school district (In August, I got a job as a sixth grade teacher in Cicero).

We had a great time in China. The picture on me and the fiberglass Ronald McDonald at the top of this blog was taken on that trip. We spent seven days there and then I stayed one night in Oakland, and flew home to Chicago. We decided to go out to the Ruby Room.

The Ruby Room is a great establishment, full of punk rockers, bikers and other assorted riff-raff-- our kind of people. We were hanging out with two Eritrean cabdrivers, having a great conversation, when a bartender offered watermelon shots for a buck. Viktor said "If you make it Jim Beam* shots, I'm in." I thought that was pretty easy to understand-- if she was offering Jim Beam shots for the same price, he'd take it.

Twenty some minutes later, out of the blue, she came by with four Jim Beam shots. Viktor pulled some money out to pay and the lady said "That'll be eighteen dollars." Viktor looked a little confused, but handed her a twenty. She brought the two dollars in change back and he handed it back to her.

She started yelling at him about the tip. Finally, he'd had enough. First, he told her, tips are generally for prompt service. Twenty plus minutes to get four shots is hardly prompt service, but he was tipping her anyway. Secondly, he'd made it clear that he only wanted the shots if he could get it at the same price. And thirdly, she was being, well, kind of a bitch about it.

She yelled "You are OUT OF HERE! You are CUT OFF!" She stomped off to get the bouncer.

Now, Lulu has pointed out that I apparently know everybody in the universe. Not quite-- but the ones I don't know, Viktor does. The bartender dragged the bouncer over to throw us out and when he saw Viktor, he stopped and asked her why she wanted to throw him out.

It turned out that this guy was a member of the East Bay Rats, a "motorcycle club" in Oakland. And it turned out that Viktor, an attorney, had helped this guy and a couple of other members of the Rats with some free legal advice. The bartender, seeing that she wasn't going to get her way, told the bouncer that he could "f*cking serve them yourself"

Several other Rats came over, asked what happened and the bouncer told them her version of what happened and walked away. Viktor told them what really happened. It turned out that nearly everybody had had a bad experience with this bartender, who was very self-centered. The bouncer not only served us the rest of the night, but refused to let us pay for our drinks.

As we left later, we reflected on the trip, and about people. We shook our heads, laughing at this woman, who thought she was some kind of bartending superstar. Her vision and her universe, it turns out, were tiny. Within a couple of months, she was no longer employed there.

Here's a Youtube clip of the Foxboro Hot Tubs' "Ruby Room."

Ruby Room

Fourteenth street, booze and swallow
I'm gonna drown my sorrow.
Dirty floors and sticky tables.
For the willing and the able.

All the zombies on a hot Friday night.
Going down to the Ruby Room.
I'm gonna meet my doom.
By the name of Rosie May.
She's the night pick of the day, yeah.

Lucky Strike and I will travel.
As a Pabst Blue Ribbon unravels.
Gonna drink my hard earned pay.
'Cause it doesn't matter anyway, yeah.
Seeing double on a one last one night stand.

Goin' down to the Ruby Room.
I'm gonna meet my doom.
By the name of Rosie May.
She's the midnight pick of the day, yeah!

Going down to the Ruby Room.

Going down to the Ruby Room.
I'm gonna meet my doom.
By the name of Rosie May.
She's the midnight pick of the day, yeah, yeah!

Going down to the Ruby Room.
Going down to the Ruby Room.

*We have a tradition of drinking Jim Beam. It's gotten us into trouble on occasion. Grist for a future post.


Tenacious S said...

I have a special place in my heart for bars that kind of smell bad and have sticky tables. They feel like home.

Foofa said...

I would have given her $8 for the drinks and tip and if she complained...well I would have downed the shot already so oh well.