A Different Planet for Bartenders
Maybe I shouldn't have answered, what must have felt like an innocent question to my fellow passenger on the bus.
It was really none of her business anyway what I was listening to in the first place.
That's why you bring headphones, a walkman and your cassettes in the first place: so you zone out inside your own particular space and let the human condition do its worst all around you on its own.
But there was something in the dull glint in her eye, something between grinning idiot and world class bore that made me do it.
Besides it was almost time to flip over the tape anyway and the answer was sure to get a reaction
"The recorded poems of Sylvia Plath. There's something in how her inflection changes from preppie prima donna on the verge of a great academic career that no one else will ever touch, to tormented soul, lost in a wilderness of bad dreams, that speaks to me where I live. The closer she gets to sticking her head in the oven, while her husband, the laureate Ted, is away, screwing some other neurotic co-ed, who would do the same oven thing to him years later, only this time with her unborn child inside, instead of them sleeping in the next room while mommy sucked on the gas."
It wasn't exactly the kind of response she had in mind.
Too bad, while she was changing seats she missed all the fun going on outside.
I must have been spending too much time standing on line in supermarkets reading the headlines of certain tabloids. When
I saw them abusing second hand clothes and used furniture I recognized
them immediately as an extended family of UFO babies. I fervently hoped the younger generation would prevail;
it would be worth paying
to watch them try to stuff
a sofa the size of The Colossus of Rhodes into a taxi.
Outside, we see them waiting for a bus that no one actually sees come. I said, "They've been beamed back up to their space ship. It's too bad they couldn't stay longer. At least, they're happy now, back with Elvis on the UFO. We should be able to read about them
in just a few weeks. They were the stuff legends are made of and headlines in The World Weekly News."
I know bartenders aren't supposed to be educated. They're supposed to know everything but not to be educated, it's one of those essential contradictions you get used to after awhile.
Sometimes you can even have fun with it but usually in subtle ways not many other people appreciate.
Not that it really matters. Still, sometimes you have to involve other people in the game of life you are playing with a stacked deck.
Like the subtle joy of a thing well done only you can appreciate, there are refinements in this life, some involving an even more subtle form of cheating, that can be rewarding in ways it is almost impossible to explain.
It helps if you are in charge of the Rules and The Game.
Betting on Existential Dread I have money on this guy not making
it into the bar.
Betting is something
I resist but this is
a special occasion.
We could see him wandering around
a Western Avenue
in his mind trying
to figure out the problem of how to press the
latch of our door down and actually open
the door. That's when
the wallets come out
and the odds get set:
if he figures out
the door, the odds are 10-1 he can't understand . the concept of pull when he gets
to the inner door. Some heavy money
lay on the bar once
he gets inside the corridor and starts pushing on the pull
sign for all he is
worth. It gets to be
an existential dread bet and we double it
once he gives up pushing and turns to grapple with the latch handle
to go outside again.
We watch him struggling to figure
out the riddle of two incomprehensible locked passageways in his mind. I hope he isn't claustrophobic, it is
a small corridor and
the clearly printed signs of how to get in and out obviously offer no clues. It is probably cruel watching this mortal struggle and not intervening but I am winning a pile
of money letting it go on. Actually, it happens all the time.
The Open Door Policy
Of course, if you leave the door propped open, as you should do summer evenings to let out the carcinogenic clouds of cigarette smoke the prehistoric smoke eaters do nothing to dispel. The whole idea of an open door policy is to do business with as large a general clientele as possible.
That's what it's all about.
but some people's idea of doing business varies greatly from other people's.
And some of the people that pass for clientele can only be described as what the dogs of
hell dragged in on their way home to the banks of the River Styx
She came in
& wanted me
to call 911- something about her roommate spitting up blood around the corner at 187 Quail kitty corner from the block God forgot. That house has been haunted for twenty years, at least,
I sd., can't call anyway, phone in use, which was
true but I could have done something about it.
She had no teeth,
I sd., afterwards,
I don't trust people with no teeth especially from
JD told me later there were squad cars galore there
& enough emergency vehicles to start
& finish a war. What they wheeled out was probably dead & she would claim, it was all
I have them the same as other people do, except mine have been altered a bit by perceptions.
And a lifelong habit of observing the divina comedia from a specialized vantage point.
Have come to see the whole dim process of human interaction as a kind of living movie you have to alter the dialogue and shift scenes of in your mind as the situation develop.
Sometimes this produced a particular kind of psycho drama. But it sure does liven things up when you are on the verge of a complete kind of stark raving mad state of boredom or your sensibilities have becomes so jaded and over-sensitized that just about any weird thrill outside of the ordinary days and nights of random weirdness can provide, and you'll do anything to press the magic buttons to make it happen.
A Double Vodka Martian I'd seen her around quite
a bit before. She was
a washed out mouse colored blonde you might see in a peep show on 42nd St. strung out on drugs getting a piece of whatever the winos and the perverts stuck in the pay for view slot outside her booth. She came up
to me and gave this look which was supposed to be suggestive and sd.
"I've had my eye on you
for awhile, I'll give you
a blow job in exchange
for a double Vodka Martini." "I'd rather give you the
five bucks and have you go somewhere else."
"Are you serious?"
"Would I lie to you?" "You're the first bartender I know, who's ever turned me down."
"It may come as a surprise to you but all bartenders aren't total crap heads." "Not the ones I've met." I was amazed, watching her chug the double Martian, I'd never seen anyone do that before and live. "Thanks, sweetie." She said, "I'll see you around." I hope that didn't mean
I was going to have to identify the body.
After awhile, you feel as if you can write a whole series of in-depth monologues of the lost souls of the human condition acting their outpatient roles in the largest spontaneous school of drama yet.
That all the soliloquies you've heard and make up on the spot, are just something buried in Ophelia's waterlogged brain dead and buried as last week's heliotrope bouquet: Rue is for the heart
White roses are for the beloved
Nettles are for the skin or third base if you were a Yankee fan in the late 70's and early 80's.
That was the kind of observation that made you the kind of evil presence people made the sign of the cross behind your back as if they thought you couldn't see them doing it in the strategically placed backbar mirrors and weren't altering the chemistry of the alcohol they were about to drink in ways that would be less than pleasant.
Never piss off someone who is going to make something you are about to put inside your body is about the only rule to live by I would call absolute.
Guns and Roses
She sd. "This dude,
he was like crazy, all he did the whole time I knew him was smoke weed, drink
Jack right out of the bottle and break things. And like maybe if I was nice to him he'd maybe lay off breaking things and not punch my face but forget it if the
baby would commence to crying, all hell would break loose. Talk about crazy. He couldn't handle noise unless it had something to do with Guns and Roses. He had one tattooed
on his chest right
above his heart, you know the logo of the band. The only reason we're not together now is he's doing time for murder."
Usually, I don't bother to dispel the notion that bartenders all live up to the standard deviations people expect of them:
that we are all lying, cheating, thieving, carnal animals, who live only to get drunk, play cards, bet the horses and get laid with anything female old enough to grant permission.
In fact, cultivating that image has many advantages that can be used to your advantage when all the normal rules of communication and interaction break down.
It is the breaking of the mold that makes all the days and months and years perceived as being a human scumbag with the rote intelligence of a bag of warm manure, worthwhile
A Different Planet for Bartenders
I guess it was assumed I was supposed to be an inexhaustible source of useless information. A noise finished on the infernal machine and he asked me: "What was that, how many minutes is it& who was the artist?" "First of all, "I sd.
"If you were referring to the noise, I have a blocking mechanism that blots that out. Secondly, I like
Mozart and that wasn't
by him. Lastly,
if we're going to do trivia, let's do
something interesting like how many symphonies did Haydn write?
or what do the initials
of famous writer's
stand for? I'll go
first Thomas Sterns is
the T.S. in Eliot, though some modern readers and critics may disagree but that won't change his given name." The look
he gave me suggested
I wasn't the type of bartender he was used to. He might even think
I was that legendary bartender he'd heard about, the bartender from
Alan Catlin has been publishing since the '70s. His many books include the recently released American Odyssey from Future Cycle Press. He worked in the service industry, at his unchosen profession, for thirty four years. He could have been an English teacher but a normal person would have done that. He is from Planet Earth.