Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Brace yourself and brave it.

The winter music conference is lurking around the corner. 3 weeks away. Waiting. The thought of it: the hot moon and expensive drinks, staying up forever, never eating, drinking too much and all the pills. The pills. The pills and hotel rooms. Music and trying to impress people. Being charming. Confident. Deadened. Godless. Shaking everybody’s hand. Saying I’ll call them. Losing my cell phone in a cab and cursing. Smoking cigarettes and staring at pretty girls with big asses. Again and again and again. It turns my stomach, just the thought.

I have to go this year, more than any other year that I’ve gone. I've gone almost every year since 2001. They have all been a good time, except the one when we went to war. That one was gloomy, we stayed inside most of the time, watching the news and old movies. Last year is loosely documented on this blog. It was one of the better ones, if I recall correctly. But my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Miami isn’t like Hollywood. It isn’t like New York. It’s definitely not like San Francisco. It’s a city and it’s big and there are a lot of tall buildings and fast talking people, but everything feels stolen, it doesn’t feel like it belongs. Its too modern, but dated at the same time. The history there feels short. Like it’s just now forming its language. The only thing of it that interest me is its pornography, other than that it’s culturally confused. I guess that makes it pretty American when I put it that way. Oh well. It’s where the conference is held every year.

I remember the first year I went it seemed the whole city had its hand in my pocket. My friend who was starting a record label flew me down and paid for my hotel. He was still high on dot com money then, but those days are long gone. Anyway, he booked a hotel way up on 66th and Collins, thinking that anywhere on Collins was the heart of the city. He was wrong; we were miles away from the action. Since the public transportation system in Miami seemed like an ill advised adventure waiting to happen, we were taking cabs everywhere we went. And I swear, no cab ride was less than $30. By the time I reached $250 in taxi fares alone, I started to get suspicious. But what could I do, I was at the mercy of circumstance. Take me for a ride, I’ll pay for it. Hell, I’ll tip you too, what do I have to lose but time?

I was loaded down with drugs. Meth. Coke. Mushrooms. Ecstasy. I’d played the part of mule because I could. Airport laws where much more relaxed at the time. Everybody wanted to have a good time. It was the new millennium. We were still children. The well hadn’t run dry yet. You couldn’t even walk on the sidewalks it was so packed. My neck almost broke from all the ass I stretched to see. The women were beautiful. Their curves: explosive. Every sunrise seemed like he best there ever was. As if things could get no better. And I went at it as if I never would again. It was like that, like everything was at the very end. Like we were having a last hurrah.

Of course, we weren’t, because here we are.

Anyway, the parties that year were at inventive places. I went to a ghetto tech party at a strip club. That was fun. I threw down a few dollars and let a bored blond gyrate her hips in my face. No one really showed up, but I had a good time nonetheless. There was a party at a Denny’s diner that started at 4am. The lights were brutal, fluorescents on maximum. Yet they still had a full DJ set up and played deep Chicago House at a high, almost awkward volume. It was weird, a packed dance floor perforated with two top tables and people eating eggs. Oh yeah, we all got a free Grand Slam Breakfast, which was pretty bonus. And people were dancing hard. Like they partied at diners every weekend. Under those bright lights at that strange hour. It was crazy. It was too much. The whole thing seemed historic.

At some point I had been up for two days and it was the middle of the afternoon and I was bored as hell. My friend had retired to the hotel for some alone time. I was pretending I was busy but had finally run out of lies. So I'm at this park in the middle of everything but far from my anywhere to go. With nothing left to do, I figure I'm gonna get into some dirt, so start rifling through the local rags for whores in the area. I finally get the line of one that’s not to far from where I'm at, so I hop in a taxi and go to meet her. She lived pretty close to where I was, in a residential district on the edges of south beach. Of course the cab fare was still $35.

When she opened the door she had a robe on. She was sort of older, and wasn’t thin, with a look on her face that said,” get it over with.” I think she was Cuban but I don’t know because I didn’t ask. Her skin was brown, that’s all I could tell you. I gave her the money up front, plus tip. Her room was clean but smelled of cigarettes. The furniture was simple and strangly absent of design. I was wound up and ready but played it patient. In the end it was hardly worth it, over in 5 minutes and she didn’t even ask me my name. The money would have been better spent buying drinks for some girl at a bar. That old amphetamine pervert had cheated me again.

I wonder if this year will be similar. My palms are sweating just thinking about it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

a brief history

The party was in bushwick, which, as a neighborhood, is nothing but a large, lonely, pile of bricks hanging on the edges of Brooklyn’s heart. There is nothing there but huge empty warehouses and dusty bodegas and houses and apartments that no one ever seems to go into or come out of. My set was from 2-4am. I’d brought a deep crate of house, techno, and dirty electro to play. I was nervous and excited and slightly drunk when we got there. It was about 1am or so. This was on Saturday.

When I finally hit the decks the party was still filling up. Lots of people were just standing on the dance floor, swaying with the music but without committing to a full movement. The DJ before me was playing classic party jams that everyone remembered. 80s flavored disco and bootleg mashups. I told him to raise the pitch to about 120 and I pulled out a few records. My first tune featured a manic church organ over a stomping house beat. I wanted to establish that I was dropping the soul early on. I wanted to be sure we were clear on the matter. Make no bones about it, this was going to be a real hip shaking affair

I was playing for a crowd of hippies, freaks, art geeks and street preachers. Most of them had the burning man festival in common, where they had shared each others madness, bonded under the hot sun, lost their minds in the wavy heat, rising up from the desert sand. There were people spinning fire from long, dangerous chains. Cute girls twirled in glowing, neon hula-hoops. They were taking donations at the door. The proceeds went to saving some forest or endangered animal or some shit. There was a makeshift bar set up with vodka, whisky, rum, and beers. I got free drinks all night.

By the middle of my set the dance floor was filled. People were bending and twisting on rhythm. I upped the tempo and pushed into some banging Chicago joints. I clocked the faces and saw smiles on some, focused intensity in others, and a lost, blankness in a few. Someone came up and to me and told me to take a bite of what was in their hand so I did. It was a cookie. They smiled and patted me on the back and hissed the words ITS STRONG into my ear then walked away. I eased into some dirty electro and could feel the crowd about to go mental, so cued up a hot acid bootleg I scored online a few years ago. I knew it would slay them good. I was trying to draw blood. At one point there was a breakdown and every body raised their hands to the sky and smiled and a guy in an orange hat pointed at me and mouthed the words “you da man,” and I breathed heavily, sweating, and took a bite of a large chocolate that someone had left next to my drink. I ended it on a techno note and my last record was met with much applause and fanfare. I’d won ‘em over. As I packed up my records to head out from behind the booth the mushrooms from the chocolate started kicking in. It was fucking magnificent.

The next day, still sort of high from the night before, we went out to brunch. It was the first time in ages and it tasted like the last meal I would ever eat.

Last night I worked at the bar and talked to strangers about movies and literature. Towards the end of the night I started in on practicing a new shot. It took a few tries but by the forth one I got it right. It’s a sweet little vodka based number, I'm going to bust it out next time someone, likely a group of pretty girls, ask for a shot that’s “kind of sweet and fruity.” After we closed we did a few whiskey shots and smoked cigarettes at the bar in the near darkness. It was me and my homeboy who does the managing most nights. We shut the gate then went to his house for a few more beers and to talk philosophy, hip hop, and television shows. At about 5am I headed home. I’d left my phone at the bar.

I woke up at about 11 and crawled to my desk smelling of whiskey and sweat. I composed a few emails. Made up a couple marketing plans. Replied to a few people. Drank some orange juice. Sighed.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I just want to post. I want to post as if it will save my life. I want to post as if it will lift a curse. I want to post as if it will ensure my passage into heaven. I want to post as if there is nothing else in the world to do. So I will.

Tonight I worked the bar. It was slow for the first few hours. Barely anybody came in at all. One employee and a couple of his friends. They stopped by for a drink before heading to a comedy show in the lower east side of the city. It was cool because they were in good spirits, so they knocked a few back while we gabbed about horror movies then they left a good tip and bounced to the laugh shack. [Its not called the laugh shack, that’s not the name of the club. I forget what it’s called, so I decided to name it the laugh shack. I just made that shit up on the spot. I'm quick witted like that. I thought you already knew?]

Then an older gentleman came in and ordered a short pint and a Jack Daniels, neat. For some reason I gave him a full pint instead and poured a healthy amount of whisky. I don’t know why, I wasn’t feeling particularly generous. But he seemed like a good guy and he was the only patron I had so you know, I hooked him up. Just out of loves sake. He protested a bit, just for show. To make a gesture, and I found myself appreciating it. I thought it was cool and warmed to him a bit more.

My boss, who was working as my “bar manager.” (which is a very unique position that involves a circus of duties, ranging from security guard to bar back to dishwasher to actual manager shit like counting the drawer at night and delivering the money to the box), is a hot black chick that’s studying to be a science teacher. She’s been there since the place opened so knows intimately, every single regular. She started up a casual conversation with him.

I am still sort of nervous around the regulars, but I can read them now, so I know who they are even before I recognize them. Thing is, the regulars are the bar. They are the blood in the veins of the bar. They make the bar breathe. So I always feel that I should, if nothing less, always get along with the regulars. I don’t have to be best friends with them, but I just gotta know the score. I've got to be able to brace myself. Adjust my mode. I've got to find the regulars. I've got to see them. Aside from making drinks, it’s pretty much my whole job. So I clocked that this guy was a regular. Maybe he didn’t come in there all the time, but he was loyal to the place. This was his haunt. And I sat back and let him and her speak for a while, while I nervously polished glasses. I just listened. Trying to get the score.

He had a wife who was dying. She only had a few more days. It all had come as a shock to them. She lived a healthy life. She didn’t eat “weird foods,” and even exercised a lot. About ten years ago she got diagnosed with lymphoma. They had battled it, but they knew it was terminal. Recently she’d gotten a stem cell operation. I don’t know exactly what it was called, but doctors said it would give her a least a few more years of “good living.” But when they ran test afterwards they saw it didn’t take, and she only had a few days left, and that was it.

The elderly gentleman, I forget his name, let this all unfold in a very calm, natural, and even sort of spirited tone. Both me and the boss were concerned, but I stayed quiet, and she asked him how he was taking all of this. He said he was shocked, but beyond denial. He said he was involved with anger now, and he said it with a kind smile. It didn’t make me anxious, but sort of sad. He said he had come to the bar because there was nothing for him to do at home, he couldn’t visit her now. He could only wait. He didnt say it, but I could tell, the whole situation was going to leave him unhinged. They had been married over 25 years.

he only had those two drinks, then he said his good byes and i shook his hand and told it it had been nice meeting him, even if the circumstances were painted in gloom. later on a small crowd piled in. A recently split couple tried working out their problems over a glass of white wine and a pint of sam adams. a freind stopped in and we discussed theories about the show Lost. I never found the time to eat the food I ordered, so just put it in the fridge and ate it when i got home.

In other news:

  • I still haven’t seen Children of Men, but it’s on my list of things to do.
  • I'm so busy that I had to postpone Valentines Day. Its now going to fall on the 20th, that’s the earliest time I could pencil it in.
  • Working at a bar has injected a surge of creativity into my alcoholism.
  • I still enjoy Ol’ English 800 though. I admit it; I'm an 8 ball junky.
  • My house is built on a slant and my chairs always roll away from my desk when I'm typing. It’s totally annoying.
  • I don’t care about a bunch of stuff.
  • Christina Ricci is too skinny. I'd still bone her though.
  • War.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

the bar

Yesterday I worked at the bar. It was my second shift. I closed with the owner. He’s a Swedish guy that looks like he’s in his mid 30s but I think reach 40 a few years ago. He owns the bar with his wife, who’s a black chick from jersey. They are both down to earth and kind people. I like working there already.

The walls are brick and on them hang pictures that were taken by a friend of one of the owners. They are mostly well-crafted, artistic black and whites of famous musicians. I think the guy who took them is a big magazine photographer or something. Some of them I'm sure I’ve seen before. I don’t remember where though.

Its mostly just locals that come in, and a lot of them are regulars. So in the three or so nights that I’ve worked there I've gotten pretty good at recognizing them. They all know each other too, and share secrets and gossip and argue and make up. The bartenders, us, we don’t get too involved but we know. We know when they break up, we know when they hook up, we know when they are cheating and when they’re being cheated on, we know when they lost their job or had to fire someone, we know when they’ve come into money and how it came about, we know when they need a drink, we know when they need to be cut off. They mostly drink beer and wine.

Others come in too. Just to hang out a few hours in someplace cozy and quiet and not so well lit. At times they become regulars, but mostly they just come and go and every one ask who they were and what their deal was.

Its sort of like that TV show "Cheers", except its not only white people. We even have a “Norm” type character, his name is Jose and he’s Puerto Rican. The neighborhood itself is ok, but it’s not the best. Across the street is mostly just supply and demand, hoods on the block, but everyone respects the bar. As a matter of fact, they protect it, and if anything strange is going down, they make sure it stays down the block. Its very old school and loyal.

I’m not sure where this is all going; I’m still doing work for the company every day. I’m sure soon though, I'll have a lot of stories to write.
Creative Commons License
:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at downtownalleys.blogspot.com.