Before they changed it. I’m not getting into the whole “it was so much better before” bullshit, because most folks who say that didn’t go in there back then. The old guy’s ashes were and still are above the bar, they still have the original sign. Even in 2012, 9th Avenue south of the Port Authority Bus terminal manages to remain scummy and sketchy. I do miss the old jukebox, though. That one had some great blues and a Dexter Gordon CD I used to play a lot. I’m sitting at the end of the bar one afternoon, writing away, with this slim, middle aged, silent black guy sitting next to me, saying nothing to no one. And on the other side, this short, scrappy white dude making a lot of meaningless noise with his vaguely hispanic woman, obviously a lot calmer than him, but probably sticking with him because she likes the attention. So they’re carrying on, the other guy is a statue, and I’m writing away when suddenly the scrappy guy slams this kind of handle with a huge curved blade on the bar in front of me and says to the black dude. “You’d gamble with your life to fuck another man’s wife.” Keeps staring him down, then says it again. Guess he caught him looking. The other guy kind of mumbles, couldn’t tell if he was frightened or ready to rip the guy’s head off. Meanwhile the chick is shaking her head in a “just ignore him” kind of fashion, and the old bartender is coming over saying “he’s not doing anything, why don’t you leave him alone?” More was said, but apparently it didn’t leave that big an impression. The guy and his girl were eventually hustled out, and I pondered he was probably full of shit. The man to really worry about is probably the one who doesn’t let you know he has that blade until he’s already using it. Then again, scrappy guy seemed at least a little crazy and very stupid. Dangerous combo, no matter where you’re perched. Whatever, it was a good day to write.
There is a marked similarity between the Central American immigrant kid wearing the wannabe gangster attire who sat next to me on the 7 train last night staring at an ad for tech gadgets for 20 minutes and the head of personal trainers for Equinox who led the corporate orientation and waxed misty-eyed about how the members drive “Mercedes, Lexus’, even a Ferarri.” They both seek material stuff and have the same look in their eyes: a coveting for wealth over substance that marks the first stages of serious addiction. These folks are progressive and conscious because it’s hip. Their prime motivation is social acceptance and public perception.
“May You Be In Heaven an Hour Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” – Irish toast
Christ, I walked into this place with a ten and a few singles. I had a bud & a shot of Jameson’s: she took the ones and left the ten. I had another Bud and the ten is still sitting there.
Sweet God, I needed this. Keep working, son. But remember how much you need this.
Anyone wants to try their hand @ hanging @ some of these joints with me, give me a holler. I’ll warn you, though, it can seem foreboding @ best. You’ll get the old movie greeting when you walk in, especially with a longhaired cat like me. But you see, I have this weird skill. As rednecky as they get, and many wouldn’t believe it, but a lot of these NE Queens bars get VERY rednecky, someone always buys me a drink. I remember sitting next to an ex-marine in Bayside, his huge brown arms tattooed with the 2nd amendment, explaining how all the illegal immigrants should be executed. Or the guy in Whitestone, ranting and hollering angrily about Obama, how he wasn’t born here (he was born in the same hospital, delivered by the same nurse, as I was). In both these cases, these guys were angry and either brooding or spouting when I walked in, but within 10 minutes of initiating conversation with them, they were buying me drinks. My views tend to be, shall we say, different from theirs. I thought it was something I said after I walked in. But then I walked into a joint on Francis Lewis, with a sticker that says something like “Go to work today. Some welfare recipient is counting on you.” Before I could say a fucking word, the loudmouth Italian guy insists on buying me rounds. I have long hair. I look like what many of them consider a hippie. I’ve tried to figure out why this keeps happening. My best answers are: 1) I’m drinking during the daytime. This is a lost art (one I don’t get to practice much lately) but a very spiritual one. The perspective you get from a day buzz is quite different from a night one, when EVERYONE is doing it. 2) I can drink. Any explanation here will sound like bragging for what is in reality pure alcoholism. Fuck it, I love the stuff. 3) I’m a great listener. It’s not, as they say, rocket science. Directions for achieving this state? A) Shut the Fuck Up! B) Don’t just look engaged, BE engaged. So maybe he/she is a psycho. You’ll have some great stories, right? 4) Be Comfortable. I think this is the one that really matters. I love dives, I love drinking in the daytime when I can physically, financially and spiritually afford it, and no matter who is in there I feel @ home with a beer/shot/cocktail/whatever in front of me. I think that’s the kicker. Isn’t that the science behind the handshake? Let the other person know you bear no weapons, i.e., you’re comfortable being around them? We have different ways of expressing our comfort these days, but the sentiment is the same. So on I go. Hey, I hear some crazy shit, but they make for great stories and they just keep buying me drinks!