Pride Month — Stand by your …

In the early 1970s, I worked as a bartender at the Antique Bizarre in Davis, a funky little beer bar and restaurant downstairs beneath the Hotel Aggie at the corner of Second and G streets owned by the late Milt Eberle, a retired Air Force brigadier general who served in both Korea and Vietnam.

Milt Eberle, a retired Air Force brigadier general.

I stopped by Davis 40 some odd years later to revisit some old haunts only to discover my Bizarre was gone. An upscale Mexican restaurant had taken its place — nothing like the place I remembered with creaky, old wooden picnic tables and benches, farm equipment and God only knows what awful stuff hanging from the walls and ceiling, the dining room lit by candles stuffed into empty wine bottles that resembled angry volcanoes covered in dripping flows of multicolored lava wax and a dinky, lopsided pool table in a little alcove with a door that led to the basement.

The Bizarre was one of three bars at that intersection, and customers would freely flow from one to the other. Our biggest problem was keeping the underage students and the bozos with fake IDs from getting served. The police, on foot patrol downtown, would frequently walk through the bars to keep us all honest by imposing the fear of incarceration.

The entrance to the Antique Bizarre in Davis.

Jeremy, one of the semi-regulars, was a slight gay man with an Illya Kuryakin haircut. One afternoon he told me he was heartbroken because he and his boyfriend had split up. He said he still believed in their love, and he was going to remain eternally faithful – even though his boyfriend had already taken up with another man. He didn’t care how long he had to wait for his partner to come to his senses. He was going to stick it out until they found a happy ending together, even if that took forever.

I love him, he confessed mournfully. What else can I do?

The Bizarre had an ancient jukebox that still had old Sun singles by Elvis. On demand, a black and silver mechanical arm would pick a 45 out of the storage rack, spin it around to your selection and drop it on the turntable. Back in those days it cost a dime to play a record.

Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” was one of the selections, and Jeremy punched it up, swaying gently during the verses in the space between the dining room and the bar. Ah, but when that big stand-by-your-man chorus hit, he wrapped his arms around an imaginary partner and danced in a ghostly embrace, thrusting his hips back and forth as hard as he could, tossing his head back, belting out that stand by your man chorus as loudly as he could.

He did it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Honestly, I don’t know how many times he played that song back-to-back, but it seemed like the song played over and over for an eternity.

Then, right at the beginning of the first chorus, someone bumped the jukebox and the needle skipped off the record.

Undeterred, Jeremy poked another dime in the jukebox, but now that first big chorus went, “Stand by your … scratch … silence.”

Jeremy let out one of the most heartbreaking and forlorn wails I’ve ever heard. I imagine it sounded something like the wounded cry of sea captain as his ship plows under the waves for the last time, and then he ran out the door.

Looking back at it now, I recognize Jeremy’s denial. (I have a psychologist friend who always says denial just means you’re the last one to know.) I also now realize in some way that song served as a sort of therapy for him, his attempt to cope with one of the most painful and wicked hardballs life can hurl at any of us, sabotaged by a damaged record.

If you’ve ever been left for another, you know exactly what he was going through.

Jeremy, I remember your pain. Wherever you are today, I hope you finally found the love of your life,.