This is a true story of an incident that occurred a few years ago, but was unforgettable. I used to be part owner of a bar in North Florida, I don’t want to use any names because the bar is still there but I am not, and I don’t want any phone calls from anyone involved. So… There was a patron of the bar by the name of Troll. No, that was not his real name but that was the name he went by and everyone in town new him as Troll. In fact I don’t think anyone in town would no him by his real name. Troll received this nick-name in Viet Nam when he became the shortest airborne ranger in U.S. history. You see Troll was only slightly over five feet tall. He went through Ranger training then was told he was too short to graduate. To solve this dilemma Troll threatened to bring legal action against the government so they graduated him and sent him to Viet Nam for his trouble. The C.O. in Nam took one look at Troll and made him a tunnel rat. His buddies in Nam gave him the nickname and it stuck.
For those of you who don’t know the country of Viet Nam had an extensive tunnel system built by the people of Viet Nam and used by the Viet Cong to store weapons and personnel and to move across country with out detection. Tunnel rats were U.S. solders that were sent into these tunnels armed with a 45 pistol and a flash-light. This is one of the most dangerous jobs in the war and very few of these brave men survived. Well, Troll was a survivor and probably suffered from P.T.S.D. and a definitely had an ongoing battle with malaria and alcoholism.
Troll being all of these things was also one of the smartest people I have ever known. He had more degrees than a thermometer and used to correct history books for publishing companies. Everyday like clockwork when I opened the bar Troll would be there looking a bit like Albert Einstein, long white,gray hair standing straight up in the air, big bushy white mustache resting on his lip like a dead Caterpillar, waiting to have his morning beer and read his news paper before the regulars started showing up.
It was a beautiful sunny day outside and the bar was quiet except for the news channel playing on one of the T.V.s Troll was reading his news paper and working through his second beer when in walks this Japanese couple, obviously lost, and looking for directions. The couple stood by the front door letting their eyes adjust to the inside light and said a few things in Japanese to each other when the wife stepped forward and bows. In broken English with a seriously cute accent quietly asks,”excuse prease, where is winery?” Before I could give her directions Troll says with out even looking up from his paper ” You found Pearl Harbor easy enough you think you could find the fucking winery”. With out even blinking the couple bowed and began backing towards the door. I ran around the corner of the bar walked the couple outside and pointed them in the right direction trying to explain that Troll was crazy and please don’t take it personally. I felt like I was in the middle of an international incident and tried to defuse the situation but the couple wouldn’t even look me in the eye having lost face in such an embarrassing way. I walked back into the bar shaking my head and there sits Troll still reading his paper with an empty beer mug on the bar waiting for a refill.
Now I should have been mad about what just happened, Hell I should have kicked Troll out, but I thought about it and I just started to laugh at this point Troll looks up at me with this “Cat that ate the Canary” look on his face and says “How about that beer maestro” that just made me laugh harder. Later as our friendship grew I found out that Troll had been married and had a Wife and son who were Vietnamese. He had converted to Buddhism but unfortunately lost family at the hands of the Viet Cong during the war. I realized then that there was never a reason for Troll to say what he did other than He thought it was funny. It was just his sense of humor, his sick, dark, twisted sense of humor. There was always such an amazing group of characters at the bar but Troll was by far one that will always stand out in my memory.