Well, today started off great. Slept late after a wonderful evening out with Sally, singing some karaoke at Dixie Tavern here in Tulsa.
We went to have brunch and visit our good friend Lisa Harwood at IHOP. Before we ordered, I got a call from Gary Jonas in Denver. He had been looking at the Facebook feed and he discovered that our mutual friend Jeff Allen had passed away without warning last night.
Jeff and I were a motley pair back in the day. We met in 1983 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma where we were both attending college at Northeastern State University. We had the same last name and from the first day we met we acted like brothers. We didn’t have a pot to piss in but we both shared a common bond of loss. We had both lost our mother’s to untimely, traumatic deaths. His died in a senseless car wreck, mine to a murderous shotgun blast. We were both lost, but we shared a bond of honor and a drive to succeed in spite of the odds.
We were comrades in arms. Working as bouncers in the local college bars. Jeff was not a tall man. He was a wirey, witty jokester with a wicked tough streak if you tried to bully him. I remember once at Granny’s Attic, Jeff was working the door and security and I was playing backup for free pitchers of beer. Jeff was “officially” on the clock so limited his drinking to small glass bottles of old time Coca Cola. There was a large group of frat boy football types raising hell and boozing up on gallons of beer in one corner. This was in the days before liquor by the drink. 3.2 beer was all that was to be had in Oklahoma. But they were making up for it in quantity for the lack of quality.
Basically, they were a drunken herd of pigs. All fine, until they started tearing things up. The leader kept lifting up and dropping the foosball table whenever he would lose a point to his opponent. Jeff let it go once, but when it happened again. He walked over, gave the brute the stink eye and pointed at him with his lit cigarette in his right hand. “You either stop that, or you are going be out of here. You can have all the fun you want, but don’t break stuff. You got me?”
The dude was stunned. Jeff maybe came up to his collar bone. The frat boys friends laughed. Jeff didn’t, he kept staring until the guy blinked and shrugged then went back to playing.
Jeff walked slowly back to the work the door which I had been keeping one eye on while I had the other eye on Jeff’s back. The frat boy had about six friends and from experience I knew that nothing was off limits in a bar fight. More than once I had been blindsided. I wanted to make sure I could intercept if I saw any problems.
When Jeff returned, we didn’t need to say a word. I moved my pitcher of beer to a side table and cleaned away the empties. We rearranged our table and chairs to provide room for what was going to happen. I sat back down with my hands in my lap and Jeff sat calmly drinking his Coke and smoking his cigarette, checking ID’s and taking the cover charge.
The peace lasted about ten minutes. Then the drunken frat boy tossed over a chair and almost broke the leg off the foosball table by lifting it up and slamming it down on the floor again. Show time.
Jeff walked slowly forward as he had before. This time I left the door and followed about three feet behind him and to his left. As soon as he had risen from the chair and turned town the group the drunken frat boys started laughing and pointing. Again, Jeff wasn’t smiling.
“I told you to stop. Now you have to leave,” he said. This time he had his cigarette in his left hand.
“What the fuck are you gonna do? Make me you little shithead!” With that the frat boy reached forward and shoved Jeff in chest with both hands. This motion exposed his head as both hands were occupied.
As Jeff flew back, he struck the frat boy in the temple with the glass coke bottle which he had in his right hand. Jeff wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. He didn’t care that the guy had seventy five pounds and a good six inches on him. He was there to do a job and he wasn’t going to let anyone bully him.
Unfortunately, due to his backward motion it was only a glancing blow. Jeff was on his back and the frat boy was moving forward to tackle him.
But, I was there to intercept. I hooked one arm then slipped behind him and grabbed the other, pinning the asshole in a full nelson. I lifted him up off the ground with a combination of adrenaline and with his assistance since I was cranking his arms so badly he immediately jumped to his tippy-toes to comply.
I shuffled him toward the door. The crowd parted like the Red Sea, they didn’t want any part of it.
“I am gonna fucking kill you, son-of-a-bitch!” he screamed.
“I don’t think so,” I whispered in his ear. And took that moment to ram his face into the door frame on the right, then the door frame on the left, then I smashed his face against the double doors to open them. Then I smashed his face on the second set of door.
“Mother fucker!” he screamed. “We are gonna take you out and kick you asses! You can’t hide from us, we are gonna get both of you! I am the president of the fraternity!”
“Really? Good to meet you,” I said. Then I proceeded to pop his skull against the telephone pole on the sidewalk outside as he continued to threaten and struggle. “All…you…need…to…do…is…settle…down…and…go…home…and…sober…up!” Each word was punctuated with a smack against the pole.
Understand, this wasn’t a WWF match. I was judicious and under control. I wasn’t trying to make his brains come out through his ears. I was hitting just hard enough to make it hurt.
At the end of that well punctuated sentence he stopped struggling. “Okay, okay. I’ll go. Just stop.”
I let him drop to the ground and I backed up ready just in case he was going to get tricky. About that time Jeff burst out of the doors like a damned honey badger.
The frat boy was looking at me with his hands up. “I got no problem with you,” he told me, then pointed at Jeff. “But I’m gonna kill that little fucker.”
Jeff finally smiled.
They left without incident other than a few dark comments and muted threats. None of them quite had the balls to openly challenge either of us.
We went back inside and had a drink. The bar was smooth and fun for everyone after that. And all of them knew that you didn’t mess with either of us.
It was a good night.
The next time we saw the frat president was at another bar called Anchor Inn, just outside of town. We had been hearing rumors that there was this group looking for payback. We thought we might have some trouble, but as soon as he saw us he turned white and bought us a round. It’s all well and good to talk shit to your pampered rich friends and it is another thing to actually tangle with a couple of kids who know what it was to have a street fight and just didn’t really give a shit about your pompous macho threats.
Jeff and I laughed about that event for years afterwards.
When we moved to Tulsa, Jeff and were so broke that at one point I actually had a bedroom made from Gary Jonas’s walk in closet at London Square Apartments. We roamed around doing odd jobs here and there, even doing some bounty hunting. It was a crazy time. The joy about those days were that we were also staggering distance from Joey’s Bar. In the late eighties this was THE bar for the blues scene in Tulsa. That’s something else we shared, a love of great blues. We were also failed musicians. Jeff got much further on the guitar than I ever did, and at one point I believe he was in a band. That was long after he moved away.
The one thing that Jeff always desperately wanted was to find the love of his life and raise a ton of kids.
He succeeded. The love of his life was Katherine, and they raised a houseful of children. He was a great father and a great husband. They lived together in a paradise in California. This was his greatest achievement.
From his humble beginnings Jeff was a resounding success in all aspects of life. He joined the Navy and was a nuclear tech on a sub. He continued his education and became a profession of nuclear physics, and just recently he went back to school and passed the bar exam. Jeff Allen was a brilliant man.
He was also a kind man. He even donated a kidney to a friend. How in the hell do you top that in charity? He was a wonder.
Recently, Jeff shared the first chapter of what was to have been a auto-biography. It was the story of the day when he was taken from his classroom at school and informed that his mother had died. It was excellent. I wanted to read more. I wanted to read those chapters both before and after I had known him. I wanted to know what had happened in his life in those years when he was away. I feel such a sense of loss that I didn’t know my brother as well as I could have or should have.
But I knew his heart. And all those that knew him saw that kind heart. There is a song called “Big Love”…Jeff had big love. Love as big as the ocean. Love that could not be crossed. Love in perpetual motion. Love that never got lost.
Goodbye brother. I love you.