Wednesday, 11/8/06. At work today, I print out the first four days of the closing diary, put them in a manila envelope, and then use my corporate mailroom access to have them sent first class to Allyson* in LA.
When I get to the Pine, Randi points the Finger Of Doom at me when I walk in and say hi to the downstairs crew. Randi yanks me back outside and around the corner. “Dominic is getting evicted,” she says, and the tells me he hasn’t paid his rent in the last three months because he’s blown it all on blow, but he’s got it under control, he just needs to clean himself out and he’ll be fine, he just needs a place to crash until he gets on his feet again. “Your place?” I ask, and Randi shakes her head. “Sunday’s place,” she says, and I think to myself, oh crap. And Randi drops the hammer. “How long have you known about him and Sunday?”
What follows is five of the longest seconds of my life as my unstoppable friendship with Randi has a head-on collision with the immovable wall of my discretion. Saying things like “Guess who I saw necking with Dominic the other night” is not me—that’s Jynah. But not telling a close friend that I saw her boyfriend groping someone she works with, someone with whom I am also friends, is very much me, because it’s the kind of situation in which someone who hears secrets from two sides of a married couple or three sides of a romantic triangle constantly finds himself. I like to say that all my close friends will breathe a sigh of relief when they see me buried and in my grave, because I will take all their secrets with me. What I don’t say, which is just as true, is that the loudest sigh of relief you’ll ever hear on that day of days will be coming from me.
Which doesn’t help me answer Randi’s question at all, so I resort to the only tactic that ever works in moments like this, and go full Bill Clinton. “I don’t ‘know’ anything,” I say, which is the literal if weaselly truth. Randi looks at me as if I have just said the words “I did not see Dominic having sex with that woman” in an Arkansas accent, and then she says, “And what if I told you that I know all about it?” and my immediate response is to reply “I would say, you know more than I do,” which is again the absolute disingenuous truth. There’s another five second pause, and then it’s like watching dawn break, because Randi is grinning at me. “I hope you keep my secrets this well,” she says, and kisses me on one cheek, slaps me lightly on the other, and shoos me back into the bar and into the upstairs stairwell.
Cat on a stained glass skylight
“What the mysterious fuck was that?” I say to myself as I figuratively float up the twenty-two steps (and one landing) to the upstairs Pine. And then I hear Dave yelling “NORM!” and I see Emily (as opposed to Emma Lee) and DJ and Trish and Kerry Anne and her boss Robert grinning at me. “CHEERS!” I yell back, because what else is there to say, and I sit next to DJ, who has saved me a stool. Kerry Anne and Robert are talking about KA’s upcoming trip to Niagara Falls. Robert is ticking off places in the area she should go. “Like The Anchor Pub in Buffalo.” “I’m not going to Buffalo!” Kerry Anne says. As I grab a stool, Richie appears and greets me with an official invitation to the closing party.
RICHIE: I’m planning a party on Sunday the 26th and you are of course invited.
ME: Thank you. Can I bring anything?
RICHIE: (beat) Wear a thong.
ME: Great—I just happen to have one of those Borat puke-green bathing suit numbers!
This leads into a discussion of the Borat movie with Dan (the waiter who looks like Christian Bale). He saw it over the weekend with his father “whose jaw kept hitting the floor as I had a conniption trying not to laugh too hard. It’s not the best film to see with your uptight Dad.”
Meanwhile a party of six from Bowl-Mor has come up into the corral, pulled out their cellphones, and told their twenty closest friends where they are. Within fifteen minutes, the entire upstairs has become their living room—they’re spilling over the lounge and the corral and into the center tables, where one forlorn guy is sitting with his vodka tonic in a bell glass. A friend of his comes up to the bar to buy him a round, and leans in close to Dave, because what he’s about to say is very very personal.
GUY: Vodka tonic. And can I have it in a manly glass?
DAVE: “A manly glass?”
GUY: Y’know, something solid, something that’s not, uh, girly. (Pointing to the guy at the table.) It’s for him.
DAVE: (I don’t believe I’m hearing this.) A manly glass.
GUY: Dude, I gotta hang out with him.
(Dave holds up a pint glass.)
DAVE: (“Get out of my bar.”) On the house.
Dave then proceeds to tell everyone within earshot how he went into PetCo in Union Square to buy a cat, and got totally typed out, as it were.
DAVE: I walked in, I said I’m looking to buy a cat, and I swear to God, the woman takes one look at me and she says, You should try the animal shelter on 110th Street. I said, Well what about that one over there? And she said, No, really, you should try the shelter. Finally I look at her and I say, Are you telling me you’re not going to sell me a cat? And she says, Look, pal, just go to the animal shelter, okay?
It’s only after he tells the story for the fifth time that he mentions the telling detail: he actually said “I have a mouse problem, so I’m looking to buy a cat.”
ME: You told them you only wanted to buy a cat to kill mice?
DAVE: Yeah . . .
THE ENTIRE BAR: Well no wonder!
Trish offers to give him her cat. She works at Goldman Sachs (like DJ), and her backstory definitely needs a touch-up rewrite because what we’ve all heard is that she was leaving New York to move to Denver with her fiancé, but here she is, drinking Stella in Manhattan, with a diamond on the second finger of her left hand, not the third (so maybe she’s engaged in Europe?), and a smile that she is aiming at Dave like a klieg light, in-between giving him shit for forgetting her name after she gave it to him when she was in here two weeks ago.
I stay for one drink, leave Dave a 20, do an Irish goodbye, and hop into a cab to meet Dolores. As to what transpired then, permit me to quote Dorothy L Sayers in Chapter VII of Murder Must Advertise:
He grinned with a wry mouth, and went out to keep his date with the one young woman who showed no signs of yielding to him, and what he said or did on that occasion is in no way related to this story.
*And as for Allyson in LA, the woman to whom I mailed those diary copies?
Allyson is NOT the one on the left.
Allyson is a talented actress who used to work at the Naughty Pine and then moved to Los Angeles. We bonded over theatre and Buffy The Vampire Slayer (mostly Buffy) when she was working the Thursday night shift upstairs and (coincidentally?) going out with whoever her shift partner was. (“If you want to date Ally, work a Thursday night shift with her,” as Jynah used to say.) Allyson is also responsible for the shortest and most brutal drinking game in New York bar history: “Do a shot of vodka whenever Ally fixes her hair.” Which averaged out to exactly four shots every two minutes, since Ally cannot let her hair go untouched for more than thirty seconds at a time. She’ll put it into a ponytail, then undo the ponytail and twirl it up into a bun, then undo the bun and let it hang down to her shoulders, and meanwhile Russian wrestlers with Olympic medals in drinking are dropping like fruit flies because they have just ingested a litre of Stolichnaya in the time it takes to recite the Gettysburg Address. The holder of the world record in the Ally drinking game? Dominic, with six minutes and forty-five seconds, but only because his last five shots were water.
Second-best Allyson story: the Chapel Perilous one. Remember Bill E from the Uno’s on 3rd Ave? He’s married to Noel, one of Ally’s distant cousins—their last name is one of those unique everyone-in-the-phone-book-with-this-is-related surnames—so one Thursday night, when Bill and Noel showed up at the Pine for DJ’s birthday party, I put the two of them together and then gave Ally my cell phone so she could call her mother on my dime and say “Hey—remember Cousin Whatsername? I’m talking to her daughter!”
But the all-time best Allyson story? Three years ago now (almost to the day), the Red Sox are playing the Yankees in the AL Championship Series. It’s a Thursday night. It’s the seventh game. It goes to 11 innings. By that time, Aaron and Ally have said fuck it to their tables and are crowding the bar along with everybody from downstairs who’s come up for a shift drink and almost all the table customers, who have been given free beers by Dave as long as they say they’re rooting for the Yankees. “Only Red Sox rooters pay!” he cries. It’s the closest the upstairs has ever come to being a sports bar, because everybody is rooting for the Yankees to win. Except me. I am the sole Red Sox fan at the bar. So you can imagine my feelings—actually? No you can’t—as Tim Wakefield serves up a fucking meatball to Aaron Fucking Boone and watches it sail into the stands. The cheering is deafening in the bar. “In your FACE!” yells someone to me who shall remain nameless, because I like to think we’re still friends. “Fuck the smoking ban!” Dave yells. “Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em!” And everybody lights up, and the last thing I hear before I toss a couple of 20’s on the bar and head downstairs to throw up in the street is Dave yelling “Shots on the house!” Fast forward to the next day at 6PM, when I come into the bar after work and Glynnis and Maddie say hi to me, and Allyson (who’s working downstairs tonight) comes up to me with this incredible look of sympathy and commiseration on her face, and she reaches out to me with her right hand to touch me on the heart, and she looks at me the way forgiving angels look at lost and errant mortals as she says, with the compassion of a saint:
ALLYSON: What happened to you last night? We weren’t done making fun of you yet.
Alcohol: Guinness (1)