Mooney – You Annoy Us When You’re Here, But We Miss You When You’re Not
My husband has always told me that there is a very fine line between good people and bad people, and I’m adding to that; there is also a fine line between sanity and lunacy. We’ve met thousands of people at Three Birds Tavern, but our regular customers are obviously the ones we come to know the most about, besides staff. We appreciate our regulars, and all that they bring to the day-to-day business of our little tavern, which really ends up to be character more than anything else. If you asked me to tell you a story about each of them, there’s one in particular that comes to mind first: Mooney.
The specifics of who Mooney is are uncertain, but I will try to paint a picture for you. My guess is that he is in his fifties, about 5’9” tall, 130 pounds, long salt and pepper thinning hair, often pulled back in to a low pony tail. He usually wears a dirty hat, well-worn, over-sized jeans, and a t-shirt covered by a button up shirt with two or three buttons buttoned, not matched to the corresponding buttonhole. Mooney has not made friends with a dentist in quite some time, and his wild eyes roam, darting from people to the television, to staring off into space as he talks to . . . I’m not sure who he’s talking to. He likes music, will ask for the volume to be turned up, and he plays the juke box, selecting a wide range of music, but most often making inappropriate choices, I assume for the shock value; nothing like “Real N*gga Roll Call” Friday at 8:00 pm as 200 guests enjoy their dinner. (Note: Filters on the jukebox are at an all time high, thanks to Mooney.) Mooney pays with cash, so no credit card, and is obviously over 21, so has not been carded, therefore, we don’t even know his full name. Fun fact for St. Pete taxi customers – Mooney is a taxi driver by day. Beware!
Why is he called Mooney? Well, according to him, he was a Rocket Scientist for NASA for years, a graduate of Georgia Tech. After nearly 20 years of loyal service, concentrated work on returning to the moon because “that’s where the secrets are kept”, he was brought to DC to work on a high tech spying project, where the US was using satellites to spy on communist manufacturing projects. He didn’t like the work, and didn’t like the people he was working for, “Clinton was too busy looking for skirt and Gore on convincing us that the world was melting – dumb f*cks.” So he asked for reassignment, and that was it, before he knew it, he was in a hospital in Jacksonville and they were erasing his memories, giving him electrical shock treatments, putting chips in his neck, and told his sister he was crazy.
Mooney is harmless, for the most part, but he can get loud, and he sometimes likes to touch people. This can become a problem. It’s as if he sees things on people, and will start picking at them, removing lint, or lingering dog hairs. Usually there’s nothing there to pick, but once he’s focused in on someone, he’s insistent upon picking him or her clean. This isn’t an unusual thing for our regulars, and they’re pretty good at managing him themselves; “Mooney, you got it all,” or “Mooney, why don’t you go play some more music.” But imagine sitting at our bar for the first time and the man I describe above sits beside you and starts picking at the non-existing lint all over your black shirt, while listening to “Real N*gga Roll Call”, with intermittent, toothless outbursts of laughter or nonsensical stories of the CIA, or Sicilian mafia. A scenario our socially in-tune bartenders work to avoid.
Oh yes, stories of the “CIA, or mafia, or DEA, the f’ing communists and President Obama”. Once one learns to understand Mooney, a talent only few master, you’re privy to wild stories from his day behind the wheel of a Pinellas County taxi. One late afternoon I sat down at the inside bar to talk with staff and Mooney was sitting at the outside bar and we quickly made eye contact. He came inside, hoping for a free beer, and as a token of his appreciation for the free drink, he usually sits beside me and repays me with a story from his day. I take the bait and ask, “So how was your day, Mooney?” And the story begins . . . “the f’ing communists stopped me on the Howard Frankland today, pulled me over, called in the DEA, and they searched my car. Obama was on the radio telling them to look under the floorboard – that son of a bitch knew where it was. He’s been watching me for months. Spying on me. I’ve had it with this bullshit. But ha-ha – what do you know. I moved it. It wasn’t in the floorboard. I got him. That will teach him, and the f’ing communists to mess with me. It’s all off the earth already. Every piece of it.” Okay. I’m glad you had a nice day, Mooney, and enjoy your beer.
We see Mooney several days a week, but about two years ago he stopped coming in. It took us all a few weeks to realize no one had seen him for a while, with everyone working different shifts. No one knew anything more, besides he hadn’t been in for weeks. One of our regulars even called the taxi companies looking for information, but we didn’t have his full name, and none of the companies seemed to recognize a description similar to mine above, or at least wouldn’t admit to it. We all presumed he had been committed, was in jail, in a hospital, or worse, perhaps dead. It was kind of sad, actually, and you could hear people telling “Mooney stories” regularly. After a few months, everyone had moved on, and other stories were being told. One week day afternoon, out of the blue, nearly a year later, I came downstairs after working in my office upstairs for hours, and the bartender shouted, “Mooney is here!” She went outside to tell him I was inside and he quickly came in, looking for his free beer. I gave him a hug and asked, “Mooney, where have you been? We’ve been so worried about you!” He smiled his toothless smile, and I noticed he was tan, a little heavier, and had shorts on, with a Jimmy Buffet style button up shirt and clean white sneakers. A new story quickly began . . . “I’ve been at the beach. With three women. Three very young women. They almost killed me. We’ve been partying for a year. The CIA found me on Gulf Boulevard last year, and after they found it all, I agreed to stay low and help them. So they put us up at the beach. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. As much as we wanted, every day, all day, and they paid. I got a tan – look! And after talking to Obama a few times, and having a few beers with him, he drinks Guinness you know; anyway, I decided he isn’t a communist. It’s all a marketing ploy, I’ll tell you. Tell everyone it isn’t true. But it’s over now. The girls went home. I had to let them live their own life. It was only fair. So I’m back.” And that was that. He was back, and that was about a little over a year ago. The next time you climb into the back seat of a St. Pete taxi, you may want to ask, “Do they call you Mooney?”
Update – Article written April of 2014. Once again, we haven’t seen Mooney in months and hope he’s on the beach somewhere, with a friend, or two.
The interesting people we’ve come to know . . . thanks for reading.