Sunday, November 20, 2016

Wild Night This Morning: The Last Days of The Naughty Pine - 24


          The Last Monday: 11/20/06.

When I hit the bar at 6:15, Glynnis is downstairs. “I’ll be getting misty all night, Matt,” she says, with a one-step-from-tears look on her face. I give her a hug. It is the first of many that I will give tonight, because—for whatever reason—this particular evening is the one in which it hits home. There won’t be another Monday night at this bar. There won’t be another Monday night with these people. There won’t be another Monday night like this in our lives. The rest of the week will be poignant; the rest of the week will hurt. But tonight is the night that draws blood.

When I go upstairs, Marita and her friend Sam are sitting at the west corner and Amanda is on a stool dead center, waiting for a couple of friends of hers to show up so they can all go see another friend in a show at Manhattan Theatre Source. She’s eyeing a couple of guys in the lounge. “Those guys are cute. Should I go up and say hello?” Kenny and I both jump all over her like she’s the halfback and we’re the free safeties.

KENNY: Whoa no.
ME: You can’t do that.
KENNY: They will totally get the wrong idea.
ME: They’ll think you’re making a pass at one of them.
AMANDA: But I’m just saying hello.
KENNY: They won’t see it like that. When they see a woman coming up to them and saying hello, it only means one thing.
AMANDA: Huh—you wish.
ME: Exactly.
AMANDA: But then how am I supposed to get guys to notice me?
KENNY: Oh, if they have eyes? They’ll notice you.

Becca, the first of Amanda’s friends, comes in around 6:30. “We did musical theatre together,” she says. I ask her what her last name is and she says “Singer.” “Oh that’s. Metaphorical,” I reply. Amanda explains that I’m a playwright, and I tell her about my fifteen minutes of fame (Schrödinger’s Girlfriend, Magic Theatre) and why I don’t have an agent any more (“This is a great play about 9/11. But it needs to be more like Arthur Miller. Good luck with it.”). Unlike most people when I talk theatre, Amanda and Becca do not get all glaze-eyed and start talking about what happened to them in the gym last night. But they don’t talk theatre either. Because they’re still 23 (something you tend to forget around Amanda), they talk about boys. Topics range from how boys kiss (Becca: “He was not a good kisser. He had a tongue like a little mouse. Which is at least better than a guy who thinks his tongue is a python and tries to lick your lungs with it.”) to how cute boys can be approached (Amanda: “Oooo—the boys in the lounge just moved to table 201. Do you think they saw us as we walked by?”) to this classic exchange about a mutual friend:

BECCA: I forget. Who sang that song?
BECCA: Oh yeah. Have you talked to her lately? I didn’t know she was still a virgin.
KENNY: (I DIDN’T just hear that) Oh. No.
ME: (You so totally just heard that) Oh. Yes.

When another friend of theirs comes up, a brunette named Krissy, they order appetizers because, in Becca’s words, “I’m trying to stretch my stomach out for Thanksgiving.” They end up scarfing down a plate of mozzarella sticks before leaving at 8:05 for an 8:00 curtain on MacDougal Street, which they can only make if they have a souped-up Delorean driven by Christopher Lloyd waiting outside. They’re not out the door ten seconds when Marita’s friend Sam leans over and taps my shoulder.

SAM: (leaning forward) What do you know about her?
ME: Amanda?
SAM: Her really cute friend.
ME: Becca?
SAM: Yeah, what do you know about her?
ME: She’s an actress.
SAM: (leaning back six inches) Forget it.
ME: A musical theatre actress.
SAM: (leaning back into the next zip code) Fuckin’ forget it.

Marita fills Sam in on Amanda and her new boyfriend, and when Trish comes in she reveals that Amanda gave her the whole story with footnotes, diagrams, and bibliography on Saturday night. Proving there is a God, Ketel Mike walks in at 8:08, totally missing Amanda and her friends, any one of whom could have served as a surface for the barnacle of his attentions. Since Trish is the only single woman at the bar, Ketel Mike leans over my back and sidles his way between her and me. This is intensely annoying, and (unusual for me) I reflect on the source of this annoyance. Since I rarely think well of myself in a social context, I decide that my prime beef with Ketel Mike is that he is doing what I secretly want to do: blithely trying to hit on women who are too young, too pretty, or too classy to give me a second look. Doesn’t stop Mike, though. He’s the guy I don’t want to be, and it’s killing me that I’m not him. I remind myself that it’s not like he’s getting anything, and that (when I was young and knighthood was in flower) I had more than my share of twenty-something action. It’s just that, if I set my sights on women who are closer to my own age, any kind of forty- or fifty-something action usually involves adultery and a baby sitter.

KETEL MIKE: Where are you spending Thanksgiving?
ME: (No way in hell I’m telling you where I’m going) A friend’s. You?
KETEL MIKE: My mother’s.
ME: (Serves you right) That’s too bad.

At exactly 8:13 PM, Kenny pours the first of the last Monday night shots for himself, me and Eric. Probably not such a wise move in retrospect, because the place is incredibly packed tonight. Whether it’s due to the summer-like temperatures or the upcoming closing, there isn’t an empty table in the place, and even with the door closed people are coming upstairs with drinks in hand to find a place to sit down, so I’m assuming the downstairs is even more crowded. What makes the evening hell for Kenny is that (a) he’s seating people and taking orders because the place is hopping like a jackrabbit on speed, which means the bar is empty for (b) Eric to pour himself a bell of Stella or a baby shot of Powers whenever he fills a drink order. “My man!” he says, toasting me; and meanwhile, people from tables Eric hasn’t even noticed yet are coming up to Kenny with their food orders written on notebook paper because they haven’t seen a waiter in an hour.

It slows down, eventually, but before it does my friend Bill shows up and we share a few pints as we talk movies and theatre and Stephen King. Bill’s wife Patricia really liked Coast of Utopia (I still think it’s all samovar and no tea) and they recently saw the revival of Company.

The high point of the night for me comes when Kenny is downstairs, having a cigarette. There is no one behind the bar. Bill is just finishing his first pint of Bass.

ME: You want another one?
BILL: I could do with another one.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I take Bill’s pint, put it under the Bass spigot, and start the pour from our side of the bar. Eric sees me, grins, and toasts me with a Jamey shot. “My MAN!” Bill gives me a look that I will never forget, a look that says “They let you DO that?”

BILL: Whoa.
ME: Yeah. I will never. Ever. Be able to do this at another bar.

When Bill leaves, Trisha sidles over and tells me she has a friend who’s one of the stage managers “for this play called Coast of Utopia, maybe you’ve heard of it?” I admit that I have, and wonder if there is ever going to be a time when I do not hear of it.

TRISH: She’s looking for a nice guy.
ME: That’s what they all say.
TRISH: She’s 50 and doesn’t look it.
ME: (False Modesty is my God) Ah, something else we have in common.
TRISH: I told her about you, and she asked me if you’d ever been married. I said no, and she said, forget it then. If he’s 50 and he hasn’t been married, then obviously he has intimacy issues.
ME: Oh.
TRISH: And I asked all the women in the cast, and they disagreed. They said you had to be married by 35 or 40.
ME: Oh. So this stage manager, was she ever married?
TRISH: Yes. She’s widowed.
ME: Widowed? Forget it then. If your husband died on you before you turned 50, then obviously you have mortality issues.

I spend a good hour writing until my alcohol intake makes me start thinking about calling people I shouldn’t call to ask them for things they can’t give me, and as usual, I bless the fact that I have no online access, because this is when I would take that urge and point it at Amazon and buy six books I don’t really need. I’m writing that down when Randi comes up from downstairs, sits next to me, and says “Give me a hug.” “That I can do,” I say, and we hug, me sitting on my stool, her standing beside me and leaning into me. I wait till I feel her pull away before I release her. “How is it downstairs?” “Hard,” she says, “how is it up here?” “Irish wake,” I say, “all we’re missing is Finnegan’s body.” “Finnegan is a downstairs regular,” Randi says solemnly. Then she looks at me. And looks at me. And looks at me. And finally says: “What are you doing tomorrow night?” “Seeing Vertical Hour." What about after? Coming here?” I venture. “Good,” she says, “we’re thinking of doing a séance in the Keg Switch. Want to join us?” “Hell yes,” I say. “Want me to bring my Tarot deck?” “You have a Tarot deck?” “I have three,” I say, but I know which one I’ll bring—the Vertigo deck designed by Dave McKean. “Eleven o’clock,” Randi says. “And eat something before. We’ll be killing the bottle of Johnny Blue.” “The open one or the spare one.” “The spare one disappeared three days ago,” says Randi innocently, “didn’t you hear?” Then she gives me another look, and a peck on the cheek, and she’s gone.

            I lie when I drink 
           (and I drink a lot)

At about 12:30, Amanda and Becca’s friend Krissy comes back in and sits down next to me. “Do I know you?” she asks, and I almost say “Well yeah, we met three hours ago,” but the Guinness Demon in me is behind the wheel right now, and I just let him drive. “No,” I say. I hold out my hand. “John Steed.” “Krissy McLean,” she says, taking my hand and shaking it. “So what do you do?” I almost tell her I thwart threats to the Empire with the assistance of a cat-suited partner, when she rephrases the question. “Let me put that another way,” she says. 

KRISSY: What do you want to do with your life?
ME: I was thinking of wasting it on wine, women and song.
KRISSY: You sing?
ME: I have a four-octave range.
KRISSY: Why aren’t you on Broadway?
ME: Because I have a four-octave range. What do you want to do with your life?
KRISSY: I want to have it mean something.
ME: Mean something meaning . . .
KRISSY: Something important. I don’t want it to be wasted.
ME: You means like on wine, women and song.
KRISSY: I mean like on something meaningless.
ME: Like wine women and song.
KRISSY: What’s your Indian name, “One Skin Too Few?”
ME: So you want your life to be meaningful—meaningful how? Meaningful now or meaningful historically?
KRISSY: There’s a difference?
ME: Meaningful now is current events. It’s like a best-seller list; it’s all about what’s selling now, not what they’ll be reading in a hundred years. And that’s what meaningful historically is.
KRISSY: So how can I do something meaningful historically?
ME: By standing up for something for which history will prove you right. Something morally correct that current events is ignoring.
KRISSY: Like what?
ME: Hey, I’m into wine women and song, how would I know what current events is ignoring? I’m either drunk or in love or singing along to the Kinks.
KRISSY: The who?
ME: Them too. So you have to ask yourself, what’s morally correct now that current events is ignoring? Something along the lines of standing up for anti-slavery in 1830. Or women’s rights in 1830. What are the eternal truths? Love. Fairness. Honesty. Equality. Pick one of those.
KRISSY: You think there’s only four eternal truths?
ME: There’s only a certain number of eternal truths.
KRISSY: What about feed the hungry? Save the children? Help the poor?
ME: Well, in the words of Jesus, “Unlike me, the poor are going to be around for a long fucking time.”
KRISSY: That’s not from the Bible.
ME: Matthew, 26:11. Call it a modern translation.
KRISSY: Wait. Didn’t we meet three hours ago?

I take that opportunity to head to the Men’s Room, and by the time I get back, Krissy is gone.  Ten minutes later, after I’ve transcribed most of our conversation, I try to remember what she looks like, and can’t even picture her. I am gone, I think to myself, I am gone from this planet. (I write that down, and can barely read my handwriting.)

At 1AM, Kenny pours us a final shot, and raises his glass. “Thank you all for coming here, this is the last Monday night of the Naughty Pine!”

And downstairs we all go. Except me. I keep moving and don’t stop till I’m out the front door and three blocks away, thinking about the bar closing and hearing a line from Schrödinger’s Girlfriend echoing in my head, the one that I always say when someone asks me “So what’s the most favorite line you’ve ever written?”

It's this one: “It’s already happened; we just haven’t caught up with it yet.”

Alcohol: Guinness (8) Jameson (6)

Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells

Day 25

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