Wednesday, March 28, 2007

loose tobacco

It took a few days to submerge into Brooklyn, after getting back from Miami and the madness that leaves behind. The whole event can be so overwhelming, when its over I just want to hide and lick my wounds. I took a night to decompress. I smoked weed and watched tv. I ordered a burger and ate it lying on my back. I feel asleep on the couch with my girlfriend.

The next day I worked at the bar. I didn’t drink much, just had a few cocktails. I've tried to start a movie night, and every Monday we play a different movie. Its always slow that day, so I figured what the fuck, lets try something we haven’t. Thus, a few weeks ago Movie Monday was born. This weeks movie was Fargo. The inaugural presentation was of Do the Right Thing. In between then I was buying martinis at a beach bar for $23 dollars a pop, so don’t know what the flick was.

It was especially slow that night. Dead beyond belief. Barely anyone even thought of approaching the bar until 9.30 or so. It was me and the owner closing, and we conceded defeat early on. The movie got postponed and we discussed film instead. just me and him and a room filled with booze. He’s a director of photography that works usually on documentaries. He’s Swiss and knows 6 languages. He is an avid fan of jazz and Russian literature. We dug into each others brains with fury.

The night grew old and bruised and we shared cigarette breaks and stories. A few regulars came in, one at a time, and sat and had a beer and then left politely. At one time the bar had a weak, sympathetic rush, but they all left within a few minutes of each other and we were empty again. He told me gossip about Hollywood legends and I divulged secrets of the record industry. We played games of friendly debate: what modern film director has the most original vision? Is the age of full length albums really over? name ten 20th century American authors better than Jack Kerouac. It was an evening of wealth. We hardly noticed it was time to close, we were so hopped up on dialog when it happened.

When the gate was finally pulled down we had one more cigarette to take the burn off our one more shot just a moment before. We talked still, and without any hush to our voices. Then a neighborhood cat rolled up and joined in the conversation. He was tall and thin and black and british. He seemed a bit excited, and was more interested in hearing his own voice then actually being involved with what we were saying. He would ask a question and then tell the answer. Then he would ask if you knew of something that you most likely didn’t, then tell you about it in a great, loud detail. After a while the owner and me just stared at each other, then at the sky, then at him, while he prattled on about whatever he saw fit to say. Eventually I just slowly began to walk away. I want to say the guy was high on something, but it doesn’t really matter either way, it signaled the end of the evening, and we bid one another adieu.

Anyway. Spring is upon us. The flowers are beginning to unearth themselves. Shoulders have been bared. The sun is finally emerging above Brooklyn. People are wearing t-shirts and riding their bikes. Sunglasses have been unsheathed from cluttered drawers and crowded closets. A pleasant stroll is no longer out of the question. Lying in the park is now an invitation…

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Day Off

Today is my day off, even though I’m still working. The window is open in my office and outside the sky is still light. Its not entirely warm outside, but its pleasant enough so that I'm thinking I might join a friend for a Frisbee session before it gets too dark. Last summer I was in the park everyday, tossing around a disk, circling the edges on my bike, frolicking in the grass, laying in the sun. thinking back now it seems like such a fun and innocent age, but it was only 8 months ago, I bet I still have some tshirts with stains from then.

Weather [whether?] or not I do hit the park, it’s my day off and my shoulders are looser and my attitude is more at ease. I could sit on the couch and read a book and not feel as If I were missing anything. I could watch television, a repeat even, and yawn during the commercials and daydream during the show and not have a care in the world. The day belongs to me, I can do with it what I will.
My last day off me and the lady went to a movie. We had a few to choose from, because its been an entire season since we have gone to the movies, and settled on Zodiac, a new flick from David Fincher [of Se7ev and Fight Club fame] about the infamous Zodiac Killer that terrorized the bay area in the late 60s and early 70s. I vaguely remember my mother saying something about him when I was still a toddler. Not to me, but to a friend, over a cigarette and a coffee, at our apartment in San Francisco. She didn’t seemed frightened though, and because if that, I never grew concerned of him. Just another nutcase on the loose. The city is full of them.

The movie itself isn’t a cat and mouse chase. It is suspenseful, yes, but it isn’t fast paced. Its slow and deliberate, building on the excruciating tediousness of police work in the age before email and fax machines, cell phones and the internet. The waiting by the phone for someone to call. The waiting by the mailbox for some documents sent 2 days earlier. The busy signals. The human error. Its about these men. Obsessed with a serial killer that taunts them with letters to the newspaper, daring to be caught. A serial killer that takes credit for murders he didn’t commit. A serial killer that is too elusive for evidence, especially when that evidence has to pass through so many different hands, going from department to department, being copied and scratched on, soiled by so many hands. Its about these men, a cop, a newspaper cartoonist, and a journalist, unraveling through all of it. It’s a very good movie. I would see it if I were you. But you can wait until its on dvd.

One of the options we didn’t go for was the movie 300. It looks ok, like a ten dollar spectacle for sure, but I couldn’t bear the testosterone of it all. Too many men fighting. Too many chiseled pecs. Too much yelling. Too much revenge. I will see it eventually, and quite possibly in a theater, but the world wont end if I don’t.

Childeren of Men was a close second choice, were Zodiac to be out of our way or sold out, because its be on my must-see list for such a long time. I have a thing for movies set in a bleak future grounded in modern, plausible worlds. But that itself fell into the “inconvenient” category, so was bumped down on the list to “maybe another day” realms. Third choice was Pans Labyrinth, but for some reason, maybe because it was third on the list, it never got any serious consideration.

But anyway. Now I'm listening to house music. I'm mentally preparing for Miami. I just downloaded [legally!] a bunch of singles and I'm finding a groove. A deep, tribal, west coast groove. I download music to spin now. My main soldier bought Serato for me on a long term loan. Now I have an entire mp3 collection with me when I play. It was very generous of him. I figure now there is going to be a sack of balls in my mouth in the near future. Cest la vie. Cest la vie.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

street slang

I don’t get angry that often. Its very rare when I do. I get annoyed easily and frustrated at times, but angry is something I shy away from. I don’t feel comfortable in the emotion. It sickens me a bit. I'm actually pretty soft when I think about it. Not in a terribly feminine way, but in a large and gentle fashion. I'm a man that likes to hug as much as handshake. I like the tenderness of interaction. Sure, there is violence in me. I am human. I live and breathe. But its been retarded by humiliation, by weakness and exhaustion. And when it emerges, it is unwelcome.

The other night we had a guy come into the bar that caused a situation. By the time he left and we closed, I was sunken into a fury. An ancient side of me, young and poor and in the streets, rose up from a place I’d almost forgotten. I was back in the ghetto, running the gutters, stupid, aimless, dizzy with hatred. The only way I can break it down is how it is and was then.

This cat rolls up in the bar at about 12:30. Its Monday, so we close up at 1. I'm chopping it up with this shorty that had came in a couple hours earlier, and he sits a few seats down from her, at the end of the bar. I recognize him but don’t say anything. Dude doesn’t tip so he don’t get any love. How you gonna come up in a bar and not tip, yet spend $40-50 each time you sit down? that’s just out of order. He needs to check his etiquette.

Anyway, so kid just bust up into our conversation, talking some nonsense about what he supposedly knows about life and what not. I hang back to let them talk. I mean, we were in the middle of a conversation and all but at the end of the day I'm just a bartender with a girlfriend, I think shes cute and do my flirting, but it aint gonna get much further than that. I gotta maintain my professionalism at some point. So I go about my business and let them get to whatever theyre gonna get to.

Remember, I was talking to her first, so she keeps on trying to include me in the conversation. I'm not realy biting though, because I could tell dude had one thing on his mind and I wasn’t gonna be an obstacle. I done been there before, feel me? I know the score, so I was keeping space between us. But at one point she lays down a tip and duke starts telling her to take it off the table, that “he will take care of it.” see, now hes in MY pocket. he don’t tip, whats he gonna take care of? So I just ignore him and grab the loot, but it got to me a little, and I start keeping my eye on him.

Now dude was drunk when he got to the bar, and the first thing he ordered was a triple shot of rum, so by the middle of the conversation he was halfway down the glass and slurring and leaning like a man that needs way more than just a drink. the girl was holding conversation with him, but he wasn’t getting any rhythm. She was sort of closing him off. Not all the way, mind you, she was dangling some kind of carrot, because not once did she tell him to back off, but she wasn’t giving him all the play. she was making him work for it.

So he starts getting closer to her. Easing stool to stool in obvious, clumsy maneuvers. Then he’s real close. Up on her. Arms stretching and groping. Mad grimy. She’s standing up, not letting him get too high above her, but still, annoyingly enough, not pushing him away. I attempt to give her some outs, but she doesn’t take them. I don’t know if she didn’t catch on, or if she was baiting me to make more aggressive moves to get him off of her, but she would stop me if I came at them with any heat in my voice. Maybe it was some game she was playing, to feel wanted or protected or whatever, but she wouldn’t tell this guy to leave her alone, and she wouldn’t let me tell him myself.

So we close the bar and I tell them they have to go. I make an excuse for her to stay, saying I have a book for her that if she wants to wait, I’ll run upstairs to grab, and she says shes down, seeing that this is my final exit ramp. Then I tell duke he has to go. there are a few other people in the bar but they are considered “family,” he isn’t one of them. So even though its sort of awkward, I'm only telling him to bounce. Either way I'm not to concerned about it. he has to go. bottom line. But when I tell them whats up he just nods his head and dismisses it. Like he isn’t too worried about what I have to say at all.

At this point, I'm already heated because of the way he is grabbing all over this girl. On some serious date rape shit, some control and power shit. I just see it as foul behavior. I don’t see any place for it. And the fact that he doesn’t tip, well duke is already off my Christmas list from the get go. so I tell him again, that we are closed and he has to go, and again he ignores me. his eyes deadlocked on the girl. His hands: all over the place. My man Gavin is managing that night and he sees whats going on too, then he gets all tight, which ads even more tension to the place.

I tell him once more, this time burning my sights into him and putting an edge of force and finality to my voice. Gavin comes over and repeats it three more times. We’re closed we’re closed we’re closed. Slicing his throat with his hand, as if killing off the rest of the night. I call the girl a car, dumping the plan to have her stay after he left. Gavin beamed into him tightly, ready to pounce. I stood in front of him, impatient and waiting. Eager to react. Then the car came and she grabbed her things. he followed her out the door and we followed them out with our eyes. He knocked on the car window as she drove off, in a last act of desperation and defeat, and then limped across to the street to his studio apartment.

That night we closed up late, way late. Then we got some drinks and went back to Gavin’s place. We drank wine and beer and took large swigs of tequila; decompressing and sharing crime stories from our boyhood. Our adrenaline was coursing, all hopped up on violence. There was anger in all the streets, lurking in the corners. Anger in the bar and in our bedrooms. Anger in our lives, in our past and our future. A natural anger, filled with shame and failure. An anger born of grief. An anger in all of us that will never go away. The sun was way high in the sky by the time I got home. She had already gotten up for work. She was gone already, that’s how late it was.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

hanging around

I was going to write about how cruel things were with me. How I have a girlfriend who I never have sex with. How I own a company that doesn’t make any money. How I throw parties that no one ever goes to. But as I was walking home I felt the warm night peel things away and then the idea became a vague memory. So now I'm stuck importing Radiohead cd’s into my itunes and wondering which word will come next.

I just went through a marathon of shifts at the bar. It got painful. Not that the job itself is hard, though sometimes I clash with customers. Its not an open or obvious conflict, I contain myself ok, but some people are just unadjusted. It’s just the routine of it. The late nights. The shots. The hurt when waking up. Over and over. It gets tiring. But I appreciate what it is. I like the people I work with, the regulars. The people who are truly involved in the operation. And I like the fact that I have this other home. This bar. Away from all the rest of me.

Oh snap. I have to bounce. Its 2am. Dinnertime.
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:gray matters: by jkg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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