The whole thing started during a bar shift about three weeks ago. It was a slow point in the evening and I was just standing behind the wet well, scanning the crowd, when this woman approached me.
“Are you Edwin Decker?” she asked.
These days, that's a loaded question. I mean, for whatever reason, there are people out there who hate what I do in this column. Some have gone so far, even, as to wish for my death-which is OK from the perspective of a disembodied byline hiding in the parentheses of the San Diego bar scene-but it's a whole different matter when someone finds out who I am and where I work and then walks up to me in the middle of my shift and says, “Are you Edwin Decker?”
“Um, yes,” I stammered, “Yes I am.”
“I sent you eight letters and you didn't respond to any of them,” she blurted.
“Letters?” I said, baffled. “Huh? I'm sorry, I don't understand?”
“I've been reading your column for a long time” she said, “I wrote eight letters and you never wrote back.”
“I respond to all my e-mail,” I said. “Maybe you had the wrong address?”
“Not e-mail!” she spat, as though the Internet were the Devil and the Devil had swallowed my soul. “I sent actual letters. You know, envelopes and stationery? I sent eight actual letters to your paper and you didn't answer any of them.”
Such was the manner in which I met “Anna,” my former fan.
Soon after that, Anna started showing up at my bar, bringing me small gifts and letters. She was, at times, sweet and nice and complimentary. Other times, she became angry and bitter, like, if I paid too much attention to other female customers. She made blatant, overt, sexual comments to me, the other staff and male customers. She purchased only one drink in the four nights that I saw her and spent most of her time asking strangers to buy her drinks or cigarettes or give her money for the jukebox. She was really just this harmless, kooky, fascinating nuisance-until I received two separate reports from male customers that she was touching them in inappropriate regions while soliciting cocktails. Hence the decision to 86.
Which bring us to the present: It's 3:40 a.m. and I'm sitting at my desk reading and rereading this kooky and fascinating letter. Here's an excerpt:
“Dear Mr. Decker... I love taking myself out of your game, even in an insulting force out! You, the author of one of the wittiest columns in the universe playing the role of a federale?-now that goes the biggest distance I can fathom. Oh well, all the boys love to think with their dicks.... It's nice to know we're not looking at the same moon.”
She signed it with a lipstick kissprint, a peace sign that said “Make Love Not War” and a diagram of a circle with the word “Fun” inside and a line going through it.
It was that diagram that hit me hardest. “No Fun?” Me? The guy who has been blathering on and on about the necessity and the art of pleasure for the last decade, is now regarded as the Fun Police? Oh Lordy! Could she be right? Was I wielding what little power I have for sport? Could I be thinking with my dick? It's an accusation that cuts me to the core, and to which I must respond, so that Anna-and everyone else who I have ever 86'd over the years can see how the world looks from under my moon.
Open Letter to a Former Fan
No, I did not enjoy 86ing you. I did not relish it, or brag about it. I didn't do the 86 dance after you left. Truth be known, I was disappointed with myself. I wondered if I had done you wrong; wondered if I was being thin-skinned and feeble-that I couldn't handle the monolith of you.
But in the end I knew, it wasn't about me. It's about my customers. They're the reason I had to 86 you. They're the ones who pay high dollars just to squeeze out a few short hours of “Happy” from their hard, long days. They who pay four-plus dollars for a lousy beer and still manage to find a buck or two for the tip jar so that I might keep the Happy Machine running smoothly and efficiently-and, Sweety, you were throwing a monkey wrench into the gears of that machine.
Which doesn't mean, Anna, that I'm blind to the poetry of you-I saw Harold and Maude. I know the importance of throwing monkey wrenches into machines. But that doesn't change my allegiance to my customers-who bought more drinks in one hour than you bought in four nights. And I will have their backs over yours and that's how the world looks from under my moon.
Surely, you can understand that.