The Lion, the fruit, and wizzbangs

The Lion Pub

I'm on a "Mongo" (from Blazing Saddles) kick. Whenever I enjoy something, like a delectable cookie or perhaps a slice of chipped beef, I say, "Mongo like!" The same goes if there is a good show on TV, or if there's a nice sale on hair products at Supercuts, or if I reach a particularly itchy spot on my back. It's gotten so I don't even know I am doing it, which means, of course, that I have passed this trait along to my developmentally disabled clients at my job. "Mongo like!" has become our new catchphrase when we go out to lunch, or are walking out of a good movie, or try a new Jamba Juice concoction. It wasn't until like the 30th time that I realized that "Mongo like!" coming from someone with Down's Syndrome might not be too PC.

I put Betsy, one of my clients with Down's, in a gorilla costume for Halloween. The head of the costume left an opening and she wore a hat-thing that looked like a gorilla's face, as if she was coming out of its mouth. She loved it and pounded her chest like King Kong. She can't really talk, so having her say "Mongo like!" in the suit wasn't an issue. The real issue, as usual, was me, because now I refer to her as "Monkey," which she loves. "C'mere, monkey!" "Hurry up, monkey!" — all of which send her into peels of laughter. But it probably ain't so funny to onlookers. (Like I give a shit.)

Here is my philosophy on retarded people: do whatever it takes to make them have full, happy lives. There are some theories out there that say never give them toys to play with, since they are technically adults and should be treated as such, or that they shouldn't go out dressed like a Mouseketeer (OK, I agree with that last one). But for so many people with disabilities, life is hard. If Betsy cracks up when I call her monkey, or Lisa feels more like everyone else when she joins in and uses a non-PC catchphrase, then have at it.

The real question, then, is why I don't treat myself more retarded, meaning, allowing myself to step outside of the norms and really live, dammit. Mongo need adventure. Mongo need safari. Mongo need the Lion Pub on Divisadero.

This is a place that is hard to find, as it is a low-slung, camouflage-green house-looking joint hiding in plain sight on a corner in Pacific Heights. It's not until you see the ornate lions' heads in the masonry that you realize that you have arrived. Once inside, what can you do but gasp. This place is incredibly awesome in a cornball-classy kind of way, with dim lighting, rattan chairs hugging little round tables, a roaring fire, and twinkly orange faerie lights speckled about. It's not overly leonine, either, with only a few stone heads on the walls and two gigantic stone lions "prowling" along one side. Mongo like.

I only had 10 bucks to my name, so I ordered a $4.50 Hefeweizen and waited for the free cheese that I had heard they pull out at happy hour. When you are broke and hungry, free cheese is like finding a shiny sovereign in the gutter. "When's happy hour?" I asked, wondering how long I would have to nurse my beer. "We don't have a happy hour," replied the bartender. I felt like Pee Wee Herman when he found out that there was no basement at the Alamo. "So when does the cheese come out?" I asked nervously. She replied at like 10 or so, that there was no set time. It was 6 p.m. I had four bucks. No matter how slow I went, I couldn't drink my beer over four hours. Drat. It was time to get retarded in here. What would Mongo do? I was hungry and broke.

First, I scanned the place for a single man over 50 who might want to buy me a drink, since those are usually the types who deign to talk to me when I am out. Nope, just a couple at one end of the bar and a college kid flirting with the bartender at the other end. I sat right in the middle and realized that they were playing Arrested Development, the "conscious" hip-hop band that ruined the genre forever, IMHO. As I sighed and rested my chin in my hand, my eyes focused on two big goblets of fresh fruit to my right. The Lion Pub is famous for its fruits, having been a gay bar for many years, but also for its strawberry-mango mojitos and watermelon wizzbangs. Mongo stared at the fruit. Mongo had an idea. The bartender went into the backroom and Mongo grabbed a big wad of strawberries. Mongo pressed them into her craw. Yummy! No one seemed to notice. Then I went for the watermelon. Ah, so refreshing!

"How is everything?" the bartender asked.

"Oh, wonderful," I replied, wiping my chin. "Just great." Then she turned her back on me, the fool, and I grabbed more fruit. By this point the glasses were visibly less full. I felt the same rush that a shoplifter gets, or a car thief. Deny me cheese, will you! Mwhahahahaa. I was acting incredibly retarded and it felt great.

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