Normandy Inn, Cleveland,
There are ten cans of Busch spread around the bar and nothing else. Three of them rest in front of a guy whose name is not Charlie.
The brick building sits on the corner of Bunts and Lorain, a busy intersection funneling residents toward I-90. Inside, the vibe is relaxing — liberating even. Day drinking is the alcohol-tinged cousin of night swimming, and it feels empowering to waste a morning this way.
And Charlie is wasting it like a champ. He's wearing a snug T-shirt that struggles to cover his belly, and he doesn't stop talking loud and fast over the Channel 5 newscast.
"You can put lines in front of me now and I won't even be tempted," he says. "There was a time where I wouldn't pass up coke, but now I would. I used to love it, though. I did.
"Yeah, I've been away for three years," he continues, talking about his recent stint in jail, before segueing seamlessly. "Well, I used to play guitar, but then I smashed the fingers on my right hand and now they don't work no more.
"You still got those chicken wings? I love those chicken wings. I used to eat those all the time before I went away."
"You know, I'll catch the next bus. It's six minutes late," he says, pacing back and forth between the door and his stool, which is still protected by a small army of Busch cans.
It's hard to focus, even with what looks like a delicious bargain breakfast on the menu. Paula the bartender, with her long blond curls cascading over a black Harley shirt, courteously listens to Charlie, asking questions here and there to be polite. But it's all too much at this hour. Stream-of-consciousness rants are barely tolerable while you're drunk, and much less so when you're not.
"You know, I cooked my money once. Yeah, I had a thousand dollars, I kept it in the stove. Then I turned on the stove one day, and holy shit, I cooked my money. Burned it to a crisp. I'll never put money in the oven no more."
The lesson: That Guy is out in the morning too. Beware. And don't be him.