Blackhumouristpress's Blog

November 12, 2011

The Beat Your Ass Cafe

 

Patrice Fort was born and raised in a really small town that most people never heard of in Alberta.  For those of you in the states, Alberta is a province, which is sort of like a state except that it is not a state.  The Fort family slowly moved from the Plaines of Abraham near Quebec City and over the years kept moving west like the Mormons in search of a new town called Springfield.  The Forts wound up in no place Alberta.

Fort, if you know the French language, means strong and Patrice was the epitome of a Cro-Magnon man of the modern age.  Patrice was a hair over six feet tall and weighed 250 lbs.  Patrice was a solid mass of muscle like a human pit-bull.  At a young age, Patrice learned that his ice hockey skills were mediocre at best.  Patrice was not fast and did not make the best decisions on the ice nor did he have the best shot.  Patrice was able to fight and from the age of thirteen, Patrice never lost a fight.

The thing that scared people most about Patrice when they were faced with fighting him was that there was no anger or malice.  It was just something he was born and bred to do and so he would pummel opponents who messed with the premier players on whatever team he happened to be playing on.  It was during juniors that life suddenly changed for Patrice.

Patrice’s Quebec junior team had gone south to New York City to play in a tournament sponsored by some bank that no longer exists in the states.  Patrice had never been to a city as large as New York and had never imagined so much humanity crammed into such a small space in a place like Manhattan.  Patrice went into a Starbucks and ordered a tall hot chocolate and watched the unique people that walked down the sidewalk near Times Square.   From the Starbucks window, for Patrice it was like watching a freak show at the circus. There were so many different types of people, in varying sizes and shapes. An older woman of about sixty years of age came up and spoke to Patrice in a way he had never heard before.  Even though the woman was older, she was shapely and confident.

“Many years have come and gone man and you’re one of the last relics of the Neanderthal period, man.  All swelled up with muscles and I suppose you never took one supplement… Man, dig that crazy tune.”

Herbie Hancock was playing Cantaloupe Island over the speakers in the Starbucks.  The woman put her hand on Patrice’s large forearm and closed her eyes as the song played.  Patrice looked at the strange woman and sort of dug the tune that softly played.

“People are always saying that this or that is the shit.  I’m here to tell you that this is the true shit, man.  You weren’t around when this shit was devised.  People were swinging to Benny Goodman and then cats like Herbie came round and opened people’s eyes to music that could speak without words.  1964, we all thought the world would end, man.  Kennedy killed and a cowboy with his hands on the nuclear button, man.  Beatles came and what did they say?  They said too much but listen to this here, man.  I know you can feel it, cave man,  baby…  I bet you’re hung like a horse.”

It was the first time that Patrice had ever had sex with a woman and the woman was older than his own mother and twice as shapely.  There were very few sags and lumps on the old Beatnik woman. They made love, if you want to call it that, several time over the course of an afternoon while listening to cool Jazz and hearing the woman read Beat Poetry by Ginsberg and Kerouac.  Patrice left the small basement apartment in Manhattan and was never the same.

As the years went on, teammates came to understand that Patrice was a bit out there but they respected the difference.  And wouldn’t respect a man who could kill them with his bare hands.  On planes and trains, Patrice listened to Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk through earphones and wrote poetry.

What colour is blue when the sky is gray.  Walk down the streets of Detroit like I came from Mars, come to visit bars full of coulorful coloured folk and they think they know me because the press wants to own me, ride me, pride me like a pony and it’s phony.  Won’t eat gluten. I’m free like Putin who wants to keep Russia from anarchy after the fall of The Wall and Soviet dynamo.  The Red Army Team came to town when I was young.  Ate biscuits and drank coffee in a vast land.  I followed the road from Alberta to everywhere, man.  Everywhere is nowhere and yet I’m somewhere between where I should be and where I am.  Sit in the shade  sipping wine no words to this Monk tune that rolls through my mind.  If the colour blue is true, I hold out hope for me and you…  Coltrane, last train try in vain…  Gonna sit outside in Portugal or Spain and write a few words on the balcony in the rain…  Rinse and repeat that, Cat.

 

Now to you and I, words strung together such as this meant little or nothing.  A long stream of unconsciousness.  Patrice was traded from Phoenix, to San Jose to Boston and then went to Nashville and landed in Detroit at minimum wage for the NHL.  The Detroit Red Wings were a finesse team that really did not need a lug or a goon to go out and fight to protect the true hockey players of the team.  The fighters were an outdated necessity from days gone by of clutch and grab hockey a la Philadelphia in the 1970’s.  Detroit grabbed Patrice and never really played him until one day against Chicago, a heated rival who happened to be winning the game and taunted the Detroit team.  The Detroit coach, Mike Babcock, nodded to Patrice, who on his first shift, beat up two Chicago players and mistakenly punched a referee.  From that point on, Patrice had a home in the hearts of Detroit Red Wing fans.

Most people don’t know the story behind the finger snapping when Patrice takes the ice.  To those from out of town or watching on Versus, it may sound like the theme from the Adams Family is being played.  Before long, large groups of Beatnik poetry types who frequented Patrice’s café in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, began going to Detroit Red Wing games, wearing jerseys that had the name FORT on the back.  Scruffy faced young men who appeared to be anti-sports, showed up wearing Red Wing jerseys, snapping their fingers violently whenever Patrice got on the ice or fought.  Before long, everyone got in on the act.  It was like throwing octopus on the ice.

After home games in Hamtramck on Jos Campau there is a Beatnik café where people drink and read poetry to Jazz.  It is called, Beat Your Ass Café.  It is nothing more than an old Polish watering hole that Patrice bought to host poetry readings and feature live Jazz.  On the walls are pictures of some of Patrice’s best fights with the dates and names of opponents. Patrice usually appears after games and reads his latest poetry while young Jazz musicians play behind him and others.  It is standing room only after Red Wing games.  Dig that.

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