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!
We drink. We live. We fear the end, lamenting the quickness of the passage of time, yet bitch about every petty moment as it goes by. We came from a place very far from here, a corner of the US many don’t realize is actually part of it, and now dwell in corner of it’s largest city, where “daily grind” is a gross understatement. These folks live to grind, and know precious little else. The fluids help. They give us a momentary respite from our most grievous sin of taking ourselves seriously. They help us to just take it all in, and smile and nod.
Almost 80 years after Volstead’s repeal, we’ve made a few baby steps back and forth. Our relationship with ourselves is as tenuous and ever. And as much as we love the effect of “taking the edge off” and “letting our hair down”, the personal face time can be heavy for us.
But we keep walking, breathing, drinking, hanging. And the stories of life unfold. Great stories.