Last May, my wife, Christina, and I went to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I attended high school there and I wanted to show Christina my old stomping grounds and let her meet some of my friends from “back in the day.”
While in Eau Claire, we stayed at the Quality Inn, a very nice little hotel with an adjoining bar called O’Leary’s Pub.
One night Christina and I (along with a high school friend who shall remain nameless because I don’t have permission to use the name) entered O’Leary’s for a little entertainment before turning in for the evening. There was a live band in the place – not particularly great, mind you, but good enough for a small establishment like O’Leary’s.
At any rate, there was a very unique cast of characters in the place (not including us). However, one gentleman in particular stood out as the most peculiar of them all. He spent most of the evening on the dance floor, dancing mostly with the same woman for a good portion of the night.
In addition to being a horrible dancer, something else he kept doing made us shudder: He must have reached out and pulled this poor woman’s hair at least 50 times. No joke! And I’m not talking lightly, either. I mean he grabbed hold of her hair and pulled with force! Each time, the woman would deflect his hand away, give him a warning, and then would continue dancing with him. This happened again … and again … and again … and again. I first thought, “What is wrong with this woman that she’s letting him do this to her?” After about 10 or 12 times, it changed to, “I wish she’d smack him in the head as hard as she can.” Eventually, it turned into pity.
Tonight, I read the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram newspaper and noticed that a local gentleman by the name of Brian M. Mroch pleaded guilty on Monday to starting O’Leary’s Pub on fire, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to the bar and the Quality Inn itself.
Here’s what led up to the fire: Upon learning that Mroch couldn’t pay his tab when he decided to leave O’Leary’s last August 10, the bartender kept Mroch’s driver’s license and credit card.
When Mroch returned, he still wasn’t able to pay his entire tab, so the bartender (a female) told him to leave. Mroch became enraged because the bartender had thrown out his partial beer he hadn’t finished when he left the first time. (I want to stop here and note that Christina and I were amazed at how cheap the drinks were in Eau Claire compared to Florida, but I digress.)
When Mroch left this second time, the bartender was worried about the unusual way he was behaving, so she followed him out and saw him enter a small room near the hotel and remain there. She then went back into the bar. A mere few minutes later, a Quality Inn desk clerk came into O’Leary’s to announce that the facility was on fire. Investigators say the fire originated from the room the bartender saw Mroch run into – and that it wasn’t accidental. Mroch subsequently confessed that he dumped paint thinner on a tire in the room and set it on fire.
Mroch has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, thought disorders and substance abuse problems.
I’m not saying Mroch is the the guy that kept pulling the woman’s hair … not at all. I’m just saying that I am REALLY glad I was there in late May instead of mid-August of last year – and it’s a bit freaky that this happened at the same place we stayed in. The hair pulling thing is just a strange, memorable anecdote from the trip.
Truth be told, I’d go back and stay at the Quality Inn tomorrow if I could, and I’d probably even stop in for a visit at O’Leary’s.