It’s nights like this I’m going to miss
Friday 11/17/06. 6:25 AM:
It’s getting worse. Last night I did have dinner, but then I drank six pints of Guinness, four pints of water, three shots of Patron and five shots of Jameson’s. I got home at 3:15 AM and here I am in work less than three hours later. Once again, I feel totally well-rested and energized. If I’m an alcoholic, to hell with sobriety.
Liver of Steel
Dear Liver of Steel:
Sobriety is obviously your kryptonite.
Downstairs it’s Steve and Joey’s last Friday ever, which means it’s the last call for the old school Friday shift: Steve, Joey, Maddie, Glynnis, Martin and Aaron. Upstairs: JP, Eric, Jynah and Melissa. What makes this evening even more poignant is that tonight is bar talk night –- when every conversation is fascinating, everyone at the bar is interesting, and every word and every drink combine to form a sense of community that you can only feel in a neighborhood saloon.
I get in about 7:30, after finding two cool books at the Strand (an out of print Hannes Bok and the Dell Bran Mak Morn with the Frazetta cover). The first thing I do is drop off a bag of Dove milk chocolates for the downstairs crew. Maddie has baked a cake; she’s going to send a piece up later with Martin. When I get upstairs, John B and Kate are having a shift drink, and Kenny is sitting next to the only available stool, so I sidle in as he tells me he just came from a Matt Lambert filming where he’s playing a waiter (they never got to his scene, so he has to come back tomorrow). He mentions that he watched the Star Wars movies on Cinemax, and that’s all it takes for John B to rev the conversation into third gear. He and Kenny go through all six Star Wars movies like CSI workers go through a suspicious corpse, analyzing every version, every stupid addition to the first trilogy, every false step in the second trilogy, with special attention to Jar Jar Binks, the whiny actor playing the young Darth Vader, and the stupid blonde kid who built C3PO.
Meanwhile JP is playing hip hop from his IPod and there’s an office worker group in the corral who are definitely in the wrong venue, because when JP stops his IPod between songs, one of them lets out with a Giants-Stadium-worthy “Whoo hoo!”
KENNY: Did he just cheer because you stopped playing hip hop?
JP: (raising the volume) Fuck him, he’s wearing a pink shirt.
JP starts talking about the upcoming closing party. Evidently Richie has scheduled it to within an inch of its life, asking for volunteers to work behind the bar on hourly shifts and requesting that invitees be given Pine business cards with the name of an employee so they can get through the doorman.
JP: Richie will probably camp out up here Saturday night. He did that for Joe Vander’s wedding. Camped out in the Vandr back yard. He offered to do the same for my wedding but I told him no way and he almost fired me. True story.
JOHN B: Do you know that Richie offered to design Marita’s wedding dress for her?
JP: You’re kidding.
JOHN B: True story. And after she said no, well, it was a little chilly between the two of them. It’s gotten better.
JP: Did he give you the line?
JOHN B: What line?
JP: “Do you have any idea of the monetary value of what I’m offering you?”
JOHN B: God, no, I feel totally gypped.
When John B and Kenny leave, the conversation turns to music. JP is playing London Calling, “arguably the greatest album of all time,” and somebody at the other end of the bar reveals himself to be a tasteless cretin by announcing: “I hate the Clash.” Since even bad is a taste, I let that one slide and venture to ask, “Which raises the question, what is the greatest album of all time?” and we’re off and running for the rest of the night. We get nominations of Who’s Next, Led Zeppelin 4, Exiles on Main Street, Blood On The Tracks, Abbey Road, and (my nominee) any one of Elvis Costello’s first three albums, which were all released within a year and a half. Three instant classics in eighteen months. Can’t beat that with a Fender bass.
Martin brings up Maddie’s cake while Goat’s Head Soup is playing, and I go into a food swoon while singing along to the wonderfully profane chorus of “Star Star”. Martin is having a pre-party party on Sunday at his place. “And you are of course invited,” he says. And I am totally flattered to be invited, but even more flattered by that “of course”.
I’m just finishing the cake and (once again) ogling my Strand purchases when lo and behold, a Strand Books employee named Ted sits down next to me and joins in on the greatest album argument (he suggests Blonde on Blonde). JP and I introduce ourselves, and Ted proceeds to tell us about all the incredible treasures that are lying around in boxes on various store room floors of the Strand building (they own the whole building, which I did not know). Evidently there’s a room on the eleventh floor that has, among other things, a first edition Brave New World, a signed copy of Nine Stories by Salinger, a signed first edition of 1984, and other treasures just lying around in boxes. A bibliophile’s wet dream.
JP is promising that the next potential-greatest-of-all-time-album will be the Ramones, and Ted is saying “I like these guys!” when I smell something really foul coming from behind the bar, like burnt rubber mixed with chemicals. ‘What’s that smell?” I ask. “Does anybody smell something burning?” And I swear to God, it takes everyone a good three seconds to register what I’ve been aware of for like ten seconds now, which either means I have Daredevil’s heightened senses or everybody else is a lot drunker than I am. It turns out that JP’s IPod has burnt out the stereo, so he has to shut everything down. One more 86 on the long list of menu items which are no longer available.
Even without music, I stay upstairs till it closes at 1 AM, and then head downstairs to say good night to the crew, and check my schedule with Maddie, who is my shift manager.
MATTHEW: Great cake.
MADDIE: Thanks. So will you be here for your Tuesday night shift this week?
MATTHEW: No, I’m seeing a play. I’m on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday next week.
MADDIE: I’ll see you then.
Over my dead body
I join Randi and Sunday for a nightcap which turns into a night-haberdashery. They're sitting at Booth 115, which has six molded plaster pieces, done by Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven back in the 20's, on two shelves against the wall. They look like ugly candlesticks, but what they really are is penis molds which Loringhoven took of her artistic friends. The labels have long since disappeared (they were in her handwriting) but the word passed down from one generation of regulars to another is that the biggest one is Marcel Duchamp's.
Randi and Sunday are like non-blood sisters now, and all it took was dating the same asshole. I immediately pull out my notebook, and hold up a finger to Sunday as she says “Hi,” and write down an idea for a play where two women who are fighting each other—no, wait—two MEN who are fighting each other—in a corporation—are brought together and become friends because they get treated like crap by the same woman—who happens to be an agent of HR, which does this all the time to increase productivity between envious males. They send someone to play the femme fatale, sleep with them both, dump them both, and become the one thing they can agree on. Which leads to their eventual cooperation on a business front.(Cool; I've just plotted out my Neil LaBute play.)
“So who’s seen Dominic?” I ask, and Sunday says “Don’t ask me” just as Randi says. “He's cleaning himself out.” Ah, crap, I think. I ask whose couch he’s on. “Mine,” says Randi. “And just the couch. No other room of the apartment, except the bathroom.” Yeah; right. “So is he working?” I ask, and Randi tells me he’s at Patsy’s, and we all start doing riffs. “Patsy's. Because everybody has to start somewhere.” “Patsy's. Where laid-off waiters go to die.” “Patsy's. A leisure service of the AARP.”
Sunday isn't drinking. “I had a fight with my mother and I just stopped,” she says. “Must have been some fight,” I say, because there's never been a time when Sunday hasn't talked about going head to head with her mom. I wonder if my diary entries have anything to do with this, and I'm about to ask, when she volunteers the answer. “I showed her some of what you wrote about her back in the day,” she says, “and she asked me if it was any worse than what I'd been doing since I moved to New York.” Oh my. Randi and I trade a look. “And then when the Professor,” Sunday starts, and she leaves it hanging.
There's a silence. Then I raise my glass. “The Professor.” Randi raises her Jack and Coke, Sunday toasts with water. We talk about the memorial on Saturday. We share a couple of Professor stories. “When was the last time you saw him?” I ask. Sunday: “When he asked me to bring your drink to his table on Sunday night.” Randi: “When Sarah cut him off downstairs the night he died.” “When he fell down the stairs,” I say, and this is the first Sunday hears of it. “He did what?” “Didn't you know?” “No. People just said he got cut off and left the bar.” I turn to Randi. “You didn’t hear about the fall?” She shakes her head. “I heard about it.” “But you didn't tell anyone?” “I didn't see it,” she says, and I snap back, “Well, I didn't see the sunset tonight, but that's why it's dark outside right now. Jesus, Randi.” Because what I'm thinking now is, if the official cause of death has anything to do with, say, a blood clot or a hemorrhage in the brain? That fall the Professor took could have been the cause of it. Except that nobody knows about it.
Alcohol: Guinness (6) Jameson (4)
Copyright 2016 Matthew J Wells