“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Encyclopedia of the second hand: Bar

     There is a bar somewhere.  You are sitting in it. You are at the bar proper, the counter which runs two thirds of the length of the front room.  In the back room there are two pool tables and two pinball machines.  Boys with baseball caps on and most of them with the bills backwards  hang around there, either actually shooting pool or the bulk of them waiting themselves to play and in the meantime talking among themselves and not really attending to the science going on on the tables, knowing that nobody there tonight has anything to teach them, all of them mediocre bar players, making their shots regularly and flubbing up easily and generally not taking the whole thing too seriously.  The bar is about three, three and a half feet high, high enough that you, sitting on a stool in front of it,  can rest your shoes on the rail that runs along the bottom of it, and continue to remain a natural interval away from the drink before you. The natural interval is not precisely quantifiable, but it is more a matter of  golden mean, the instinctive proportioning of the body you find in Greek sculpture. Discus throwers, god of thieves, limbs carried just a certain measure away from the matter of the body. When you used to go out with Jan to the bar you worked at, one time you worked in that dangerous environment, drug of your predilection all around you, Jackie’s in New Orleans, she used to sit uncomfortably close to her glass of beer, or whatever she was drinking.  Jan is the shortest lover you ever had, she must have been five three. You are six foot one, and you consider that bars were made for a person of about your height.  She’d wear short skirts and she’d perch on the stool awkwardly, her pale legs separate, swinging in slightly, knocking knees, swinging out, her heels planted on one of the stool’s rungs.  You'd drink with Jan mostly at booths, tables, you'd both like sitting in the shadow of each other's intimacy, which comes out to between one and two feet, depending on whether you all were alone, whether you were leaning towards her, one foot, half a foot, three inches, your arms on the table, her arms on the table. If the table was wide enough it was awkward to lean across and graze on her lips, you’d have to raise yourself slightly in your chair. She’d talk, letting fall from her lips words that were as sweet as golden plums, and you’d try to catch them, not only the words but the very notes and stops of breathing, the intonations, as if broken down by your effort into the elements of pulse you would be able to hear the very origin of speech, here, the forming, material moment of the body’s utterance, Jan in the dawning moment, genesis of Jan - later of course you play back certain scenes, love’s product, the info received and given, all that talk, and having distance on it and with distance an under the surface disgust for the words and the energy and the youth and the nearness, you edit to keep from confronting what you know you actually did get, or what you wanted, the person who would want that, but here in this bar you have to admit, that is how you were, that hungry. So. But all of this was sometimes difficult if a jukebox were playing loudly  or the bar was noisy. Jackie’s was fine, at least on weekdays or nights, because you both were pretty sure nobody Bob knew was going to darken the door. However, risk was definitely a part of this relationship. Risk, which is why you also remember hotel bars with Jan, quiet dark spots. The Windsor, the La Rouchfoucauld.  Where Bob’s parents could have come upon you. You’d listen, watching her ripe lips, trying to catch what she’d look like in twenty years.  Fixating on the way her mouth would pull on her small, stubborn chin.  The chin bobs up and down.  Catching a fleeting vision of her mother’s face when she frowns, pulling her lower jaw in. Jan s frown is absolute  rejection, and you at the time kept mistaking the absolute for her with your absolute, which was consistent and stubborn while hers was ephemeral, what counted for her was format. That every rejection be absolute, every preference be passionate, that was Jan’s consistency. You were always adopting her passions as your own, and she was always forgetting them, you saying but you said last time and Jan going I don’t care what I said last time.  So you listen, you look. It was sometimes a rather terrible vision for you, as if her mother had been, magically, oracularly, projected in front of you, the way her face would suddenly reflect another face, an adult face older than her face.  You were twenty‑five. You couldn’t  imagine age, sexually speaking,  except in terms of panic. Jan was four years older than you, of course Julia also being three years older than you made you think a thing was going on here. Sitting across from each other if you were sitting with nobody else, with another person there usually sitting besides her.  With somebody else you were not lovers, although sometimes you would lean your leg against her leg, let that illicit warmth be there. Jan, after all, is Robert’s wife.  You’d been to their wedding.  You like drinking and thinking about past lovers. Not that you want to do anything foolish, like go out and call them up.  Oh, sometimes you get a little happy with quarters in a phone booth in a bar.  You might call up Julia, why not call up Julia? No, you sit down again, you’ ll wait. Maybe call up your assistant, Mary Rose, she’s in Albuquerque today, right?  You have her number in your wallet. But no, not Jan, Jan doesn't want to hear from you.  Sometimes Jan drank dumb things, like daiquiris. What the hell, you'd even, at first, in the throes of love, take a sip her drink, although there was the immediate recoil, your mouth curling, you can take the latent sweetness of scotch and soda but not the jammy, adolescent sweetness of daiquiris or the gooey disguises of vodka in some lactescent, chocolaty thing only Jan would think it was a good thing to order, usually it was the name, something clever, it struck you as a sort of regression, why drink like that, but then Jan's habits of ingesting whatever were always under the sign of infancy and its various melodramas, take her anorexia or whatever it was, at twenty‑nine perhaps it is a whole new illness, watching her take a jar of mayonnaise out of the refrigerator and polish it off, spooning it down, you had to turn your head. You begin getting nostalgic for past lovers, and then you remember why they are definitely not here with you today, good thing, you hunch a little over your drink, you hunch a little inwardly over this thought, although on the other hand what you did to Jan, you have to admit, you were as Jan said a fink, the word trembling up as if it were the worst word in her arsenal, lips pursed as if one of the golden plums she so habitually let fall from her lips were thrust back by your hand a little roughly into her mouth, and it was sour, what frightened dignity, come on Jan, you’d even said, bastard, son of a bitch, not fink, grow up, I can t stand changing your diapers. You were drunk ‑ or were you drunk?  What was Jan expecting, you were going to say divorce Bob, no way, you weren't going to marry her yourself, there might even be a law against it, cousins getting married, although that isn’t ...  The counter is of some dark wood, or at least it is stained so that it looks dark. It looks mahogany, it has that Edwardian, purplish tone, it resonates, faintly, a mustachioed association with the good old days, barber shop quartets of high imperialism, the genteel aspirations of the regnum middle class. Now of course there are bars that are constructed out of lighter woods, or even of cane.  There are bars you’ve been in in Texas and New Mexico where the bar consists of  sheets of unvarnished plywood tacked together to skirt around a wobbly rectangular frame.  There are bars to which the owners have tacked sheets of copper, or silverish material, or leather. There are bars painted bright, gay colors. But your mind’s eye dwells on mahogany, when you enter a lounge in which is interred  a dark heavy mahogany counter like an enormous stye in the eye of sobriety,  your whole body relaxes.  Especially around the back of your neck, your shoulders, it is as if a heavy burden slipped from you, some papoose of serious purposes. You are home. Home free. The top of the counter must have a certain sheen and smoothness, although sometimes it is a good sign that it is spotted with the impress of innumerable mugs of beer, the crawl of some alcoholic ringworm, because there is a myth about bars, which is that ideally the bartender can draw a mug of beer, sit it there, and slide it down to whoever wants it.  You’ ve never really seen this outside of advertisements and movies and the once when at Jackie’s’s  when one of the waiters, Dirk or something, bet  you you couldn’t and  Rory, the kitchen manager, after the bar closed, tried to do it, with much hilarity, smashing of glass, and  suds. New Orleans times are on your mind tonight, which moves from Jan to Rory.  That isn’t  why you had that fight, you are focusing now, it was because of Bella, always Bella.  You are sitting on your watchtower, your eyrie, your lighthouse purchase, your peak, your Andean solitude, top of the world ‑ your stool, in short. Now of course bars come equipped with all manner of furniture: leather sofas and loveseats, overstuffed padded cane backed chairs, heavy fake oak chairs enfolding you in a funny  Daddy's embrace of arms and splats, but you prefer stools, the ideal thing to sit on while poisoning the beast at your heels, this body. You drink, and slowly you can feel that part of yourself which is pure dog poisoned, oh so slowly, come here pooch and down the throat you pour your pale yellow liquid. You like the bogus stoicism of being so uncompromisingly individuated, the barstools lined up in a saccadic movement one two three around the bar, the being thrust back upon the rugged discipline of the spine, balanced, as if upon a bike, as if sitting at a bar were some kind of talent, with that same air of balance, that play with balance, a phenomenology of drinking as a play with dizziness, with orientation, with being the upright quadruped, who invented that you'd like to know, fire was secondary damage, Adam on all fours, ah, that was paradise, maybe that is obscurely symboled in the upright snake, but we are a long way from Eden here as you can tell by the occasional guy who slips off his stool, drunk, you've seen this, you've done this, even, although not often, you have to defend yourself, you seem to have seen this or done this in this very bar, if only you knew...  You lean forward, you cradle your beer, or your scotch, or whatever. When you worked at Jackie’s, it was like you were suddenly in the mirror, looking out instead of in, you scurried along the catwalk pouring drinks, adding ice, mixing, stirring, adding a cherry here, whipped cream there That would be on Fridays, madness night, only time the yuppies would usually venture out this far on Plum Street. Normally you had cops, regulars, some blue collar types, the artsy. There was enough alcohol within reach to poison a considerable number, but you were not so into thinking about these issues.  Rory and you would break and smoke a joint in the parking lot, and you would return to your duties with renewed distance, distance is the very infrastructure of balance, write that down, you have a pen in your pocket, you grab a napkin, and though you ended every night pretty intoxicated, you got there accidentally, mostly, as if you'd been lead by friends of brief acquaintance from party to party until, ultimately, you found yourself at some orgy of strange faces. A girl would stand you a drink, you’d pour yourself a beer after a rush, or during one, people would say hey, pour yourself a beer, on me, you'd do the same, people come in of whom you know just that they come in and you are giving out beers.  And so by little intervals you would get a little addled, nothing that the bike ride  home wouldn’t cure.  What was it, three nights a week? Summer, New Orleans, the heavy heat of the swamp, why the piddling scion of French aristocracy decided to settle a marsh is anybody's guess, LaSalle had to be the craziest motherfucker of them all, good thing they murdered him. God, you were young.  Intensely working, even with Bella wrapping her vulva around your neck, to quote a line. There was a yeasty smell behind the bar.  The floor, there,  was overlaid with a lattice of small, closely spaced wooden rungs interconnected by two small cords which ran through holes drilled at either extremity of the rung. Under that, a rubber mat. When you closed the place, you would take up the wooden thing, folding it like a rope ladder and then you d take up the rubber mat, and you'd go out to the back parking lot and shake them out and spread them and take up a hose and wash them down.  Hot summer nights. Sometimes you’d see rats out by the dumpster back there. Disgusting work. You lean over the bar a little and you look at the floor of the catwalk of this bar and there is just the rubber mat, no wooden thing here. If only you knew where you were.  The bartender sees you, comes over, want another drink, and you are I used to tend bar in New Orleans, like you are some old pro, you are tempted at this point to disclaim, but your tone has already been set, the exact shade of the bullshit you are going to be doling out, and this guy, wearing a striped shirt, the uniform shirt from some team he plays on, is I been to New Orleans, great fucking town. You look past him, yeah, you see yourself in the mirror, yeah, when did you go, always there is a mirror, and always that curious way they put shelves in front of it, so the mirror has to look at you around things, as if you and the mirror are playing some childish game.  The mirror winks, planning to go down there and really do Mardi Gras, like live it, it is always in midwink, as if all the mirrors in all the bars have something of confidential import to whisper to you, some in joke, something about you, as if you were well known beyond the tain, one Mardi Gras I was there, I got so fucking soused, your eyes shift from that bland face idling above you, a pony tail of brown silky hair, an ear ring, his looks disconcertingly resembling a star in a porno flick you recently rented, same greedy hooked face, hey can I have a beer down here, to the row of bottles, check you later, you have a brief image of the young lady he was slamming into, fuck me in the ass, her mouth in greedy, meaty, nasty twist, looking back,  ah the bottles, all those colors, ambers, greens, whites, deft cool shapes, silver bottles, the clear ones with the rather exotic liquids, bottles from foreign companies with exotic names, squat bottles, bottles with netting over them, bottles with elaborate seals you have to break to uncap them, no other bottles are so interesting, so much like glowing little worlds, or actually no, more like satellites, one thinks of the moons of the planets, or asteroids, when you were a kid you loved that there were asteroids, these islands just floating around which nobody made a big deal of, exotic.  The bottles, you wonder does anybody order for instance that silver one? In this bar beer is obviously the mother planet, whereas that cognac on the shelf that the bartender would have to reach for with his arm all the way out, that is the asteroid. Maybe you will get it, what is it, probably it is that twenty dollar a glass shit but who cares, tonight you are celebrating something. No, what is there to celebrate?  You can't exactly remember.  You came in here to celebrate something cynically, something you saw in the paper, oh, that story about the man who lost his bank a billion dollars, that was it, you were all wound up by that story, a man at an outpost bank, some branch in Asia everybody'd forgotten, hell, a Conradian figure, some Lord Jim of the Islands except now the islands have teletypes, are plugged into computer systems, still you like to think he was out there on his first assignment, and he bets the bank on movements in the Tokyo exchange, nobody notices, just blips, yes, each blip worth a million, a hundred million dollars, who is going to do the radar on that back in the home country, boy is there to make like fucking loans to the Negros to get like fucking oxen and here he is instead just using the bank like it was a car he could go joyriding around in yes, here is to the fall of capitalism,  you liked the erosion you sensed in that small but telling overthrow of fortunes, a glimpse of the Lucretian universe with its own version of freedom and fall, the inexplicable swerve of the atom, rumors in the machine, ineradicable delinquency, seeing the story in the paper you once again touched the event, your own name for that privy maim of what just misses, that wound in the world’s body, illuminated you came in here to celebrate anarchy, soon you are telling the guy next to you all about it, did you see that in the paper, buying him a beer, turns out he’s from Michigan, great, you are talking to him and aware, vaguely, that you have a small problem, a little blackout problem.  Where are you exactly, well you can ease into that with him, no, you are saying, that is where you are wrong, my friend, communism is about the opposite of anarchy, your hand on his wrist,  it is more like another story, although Lenin had some good ideas in the beginning, he is sure, comrade, what about your fucking Soviet Union, that went down with a crash,  you are the state was supposed to wither away, Lenin had some good ideas at the beginning my friend, your hand back to your glass, swirling the liquid there, thing about Lenin is he was really in two revolutions, one was in this dream state in his head, some advanced capitalist society, and the other was the feudal Russia he was stuck with, like a thin man dreaming in a fat man's body, and the disastrous result of putting a dream in power is that it becomes a nightmare. Take Trotsky, you are about to say, but you take a drink instead, as the guy is if they gave everybody the same amount of things, the next day somebody would have more and somebody would have less. Where am I, that would be the startling thing to just pop in. Olive skin.  Pouchy, with a tie, white shirt, his coat unbuttoned.  Ink black, thick beard.  You are trying to focus on where that argument with Jan took place, it seems like it was at a bar, too. Was it even... You scoot your stool out with a sudden thrust of your back and butt, both  hands on the edge of the bar, the four legs scraping on the tile floor, you hop down, sorry, you interrupt him, I've got to make a call, and now you are down at the jukebox, leaning over it, surveying all the little labels under the curve of the glass, the neon light shining up into your face, a chalky white light that emphasizes the dark of the nostrils, the shadowy fringe of eyelash, the songs are mostly country and western and you select an old tune, Ghost riders in the Sky, leaning there you have a moment of looking at yourself and choreographing yourself, your posture, the light, the pleated, tan khakis you are wearing, your awareness of a single woman, blond, in the booth near you, smoking a cigarette. You come into a bar, you push open the heavy wooden door with the sign just inside saying no one under eighteen admitted or the glass door tinted a dark murky blue or green or - if it is a glass door to a  tittie bar - with the paper silhouette of a well endowed woman, the va-va-va-voom curves,  taped to the inside of  the door - and you have a moment in which you attract the loose attention of the boozers at the bar. It is an almost spatial element,  unbound, labile, and spastic, they turn and their eyes, in one measuring stare, are on you. You come into a bar and you immediately are analyzed into your elements of hat, hair length ( and whether it is on your face), sex, and movement, and you are either approved for the place you have entered or you are made to feel that you are out of your frame of reference.  Supposedly sharks are so attuned to the water they swim in that the merest disturbance in the current of it, a wounded flurry in it, an awkwardness scanned from off the displacement of water usual to the healthy stroke,  determines them on direction and speed and desirability of attack. Sometimes this is the case in bars, regulars and drunks having that blurred sense of territory.  There is attention there waiting to lock onto an object, whether that obsession come out as amour fou or visceral, sudden hatred. Alcohol, of course, is the spirit that mediates here between perception and object - which leads to compositions of forces that sobriety would never imagine.  To you, this is one of the great attractions of bars - bars are theater, and entering a new bar is like going through a screen test. You can star for a night in a bar. You can bomb.  The Ghost Riders song makes it click in your head and suddenly you know the name of the bar.  You walk past the booth with the woman and you glance at her and she glances at you. Smile.  You go down the aisle between the booths and the tables.  Johnny O’s. Now you stand at the phone, between Damas to your right and Caballeros to the left, and you fumble in your wallet, looking through the bills in the bill section, three twenties, good, and you spread out bits of paper on the metal shelf beneath the phone, receipts from ATM machines, grocery and liquor stores, bits of unaccountable paper, a napkin with dis. infra. scribbled on it, what the hell, you wad it up and throw it on the floor. On the back of one of the receipts you find the number and you drop the quarter in the phone, dial, and at the other end there is an answer, a female voice, her.  Bright little, tight little Mary Rose.  You dance a step.  Bright little, tight little Rose Marie.  She asks you, after a while, if you’ve been drinking, and you say what do you think and why don’t you meet me.  After a while she says yes, and then you try to explain where Johnny O’s is, and you do a superb job for a man who five minutes ago didn’t know if he were in Santa Fe or New York City. You go on for a bit about the guy who lost his company a billion dollars, you exaggerate.  You claim that he was a high school drop out, you claim that it was a summer job, part time, you laugh, you are I’m not making this up, let’s celebrate, for God’s sake finally something to celebrate. She hangs up.  You hang up, you are laughing, happy, suddenly it seems like a clever idea to celebrate this moment of anarchy, Mary Rose is joining you and she’s a sweet child, sweet nymph, you picked her out when you gave your talk at the university down here, somehow you counted as a New Mexico artist although you yourself point out there should be a residency requirement on that, you’ve only been a summer New Mexican, okay, actually Willet had gotten you that gig, who was teaching photography down there, married and living in that house, his wife a little uneasy around you, Willet must have told her stories about the Austin days, expecting you to pull out your pecker any minute and pee in the fireplace like some Jackson Pollack figure reanimated and let loose in the landscape, but seriously you went on you have been influenced, shaken, really, by the geography blah blah blah, and afterwards, just as you hoped, she came up to talk to you about the summer position you had mentioned. You hang up, but meaning to simply put the receiver on the hook you somehow instead hit yourself with it.  Smart on the nose, bang.  You must have been about to slam the receiver down, too, you were excited, you were overexcited, you get like this, you’ve been doing a lot of astonishingly clumsy things lately, tripping over uneven places in sidewalks, spilling things, spitting when you talk, forgetting to zip your fly, you think maybe you have a brain tumor, something, maybe you’ve always been this clumsy and you just never noticed it before.  No, you’ve always considered yourself a graceful person, leaning on the glass of the juke box just a moment ago you distinctly caught yourself in a moment of pure aura, the blond woman saw it too. Age, sure you are aging, what are you ten years older than Mary Rose, probably, but what with fluoride in the water,  vitamins every day like a religion, the gym, weeks sometimes where your drinking slows down to a thin trickle, thirty three isn’t that bad, it isn’t like fifty three, how old was Dad when he died? Although  in his case, since he himself foreshortened his lifespan... Lately you’ve been feeling like hell, but that is because you are on an absurd schedule, you never seem to get to bed until two and automatically you wake up in a sweat at six. At six o’clock it is all over for you, you feel the burden of being the upside down man, you have been through the mirror and come back to the terror of this unconsciously inversed world, you are a sick man, you are a spiteful man, ridden by ghosts and a ghost yourself indeed, a spiritual cobweb,  lacking  that fundamental grain of reality, if you are in your house in Glorieta in particular,  if Julia isn’t there.  You did slug yourself incredibly hard, though. You hit yourself so hard that you are in through the Caballeros door before you can think, you are bent over, pain, a lot of pain here, your hand cupped over your nose.  You remove your hand and look at it, my God, it is blood.  Your are bleeding, a nosebleed, you are dripping blood on your shirt, your pants, shit, it is a deluge, coming out of your nose, you wince, you couldn’t have broken your nose.  In the mirror you are a mess, you lean over the sink, clogged with a brown towel slimy and slick with the water that saturates it  over the drain cover in the bottom there, you touch it and it is cold, and you try one faucet and then the other, and the other works, good.  Water, you splash water on your face, you straighten up, you lean back, your nose still stings but it isn’t, you are sure, broken.  At this point you start laughing, great, what if the damn thing was, you’d tell her Jule, I did try to stop drinking so much I beat myself up in a bar one night.  You take a towel from the roller, you press the rough texture of it against your nostrils, tamping them, you straighten up and take a good survey of yourself in the bathroom mirror.  You could splash water all over your shirt, or maybe go out and ask the bartender for salt, salt gets out stains. It was in Houston that you had that fight with Jan, it was at your friend Willet’s opening, you’d gotten the invite and you persuaded Jan to come with you since Robert was going to spend the weekend in some hospital in New Iberia. He made a thousand dollars a day, he said, just being on call there, he’d stay in a hotel and smoke reefer and swim in the pool - the only requirement was that he be near a phone.  Like all of Robert’s deals, it sounded fishy, he said he never got a call, or hardly ever.  Some Louisiana or Federal regulation requiring a certain number of  physicians to be on call, he was filling up the quota. So you got Jan to tell Robert she was going shopping in Houston, stay in a hotel, go to some nice stores, go to the opera, and you were hitching with her because of this opening.  Robert would look at you and you would look away, you wondered what the hell he suspected, you assumed that he had to suspect, Jan getting home deep into three a.m., you’d let her go at your door, a kiss, you’d watch her going down the outside stairs, her worried glance back to you  at the turning, then disappearing, the click of her heels on the metal stairs down, you'd wait until the sound suddenly fell dead as she stepped off onto the banquette, she looked to you as you released her like a woman who had just been fucked, she must have smelled of you, you like to think that you have a claiming odor, that no woman can lie under you and not be enveloped in the territory of your scent. You concentrate on getting the bloody traces off your face and drying yourself. Once, in a bar on Maple Street, you got into a fight.  Once, in a bar in Monterry  Mexico, you watched a sweaty, fat woman in a crowded dance hall break a beer bottle and go after a guy with the jagged neck.  You were with a friend, you were leaning on the bar, you'd said you'd wanted to see some whorehouses and so your friend obliged, and this cavernous venue was the last stop of the night. Your friend said it was a real people's place and your friend was that kind of leftist, of which there are touchingly few left, who said people as if he were talking about God's standard of justice embodied on earth - but your friend's parents income kept him at a comfortable distance from authenticity, as you were unkind enough to notice, and this distance came out in his sexual preference, which was for blondes.  So you'd been to whorehouses where the model of beauty was definitely not La Passionara, it was more like Madonna, you'd come into this place and you were frankly in a funk. The standards in this place, as far as you could tell, were all do it yourself. And then this woman, wearing very little, and that at almost the uttermost point of restraint, as if her immense and monumental blubber were about to cast aside the vestments of discredited modesty, in this case a little skirt with a flower print and something that looked like a vinyl vest, pitched with fierce rotundity and a mean and, to your untrained eye, rather skillful thrusting motion of broken glass, into her dancing partner, who jumped away from her and fell over a chair and lay in a heap, like a discombobulated scarecrow.  In that bar on Plum Street you'd been with who? Taking a final glance in the mirror, you had to admit that it looked like you'd been brawling. You'd explain it all to Mary Rose, maybe she would find it funny, you'd explain it all so it sounded funny. As long as it didn't sound drunk. You weren't drunk, though.  It was brain cancer, it must be, so you walk out of the bathroom and make your way back to your stool the same way you came.  You pass by the blond.  Smile. She pretends not to notice. Maybe she can’t see who it is, because the hour has come for dimming the lights.  At least this makes it less noticeable that you are bloody. You get back to your place at the bar. Your friend is gone, and the bartender, looking your way, frowns.  There is another man back there with him, a tall bearded fat man, and your pony tailed friend, looking rather epicene compared to this guy, says something to him.  The bar is getting crowded.  That Maple Street bar was a favorite of Tulane frat boys, and you had been there with Bragg, who was playing up his gay side. He was dancing with you, nothing that intimate, there really wasn’t any place to dance, he’d simply dropped a few quarters in the juke box and in the little bit of space before it he was swaying. You were vaguely swaying, it wasn’t full court dancing, you weren’t really paying attention to the patterns of his movement and following them or making variations upon them,  you all could easily have gone down to the Quarter and danced in any number of gay bars, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. There were bars in the Quarter where it wasn’t a big deal to suck off your partner on the dance floor. But for reasons you cannot now reconstruct you ended up in hostile territory committing just the kind of ambiguous act that would infuriate half the crowd at that bar, which is of course why Bragg was doing it.  The burly, tall bartender comes down and stands in front of you.  That is about all for you, he goes, I think you better go home now.  You look at him dumbly, what, you are I’m not drunk, I’m waiting for somebody.  The man has practiced the inexorable tone, he is sorry, we need you to pay up, what did you do to your shirt, you are nothing, an accident, I’m sick, I have brain cancer.  The man doesn’t think you are funny, something is wrong with your delivery, and then you get stuck on demanding another drink, you keep asking for it, he is I don’t want to come around the bar but I am going to.  In the noise of the bar there is a pocket of silence around you two. People are looking. We don’t want you coming back to this bar. You slam your glass down on the bar and the man has your wrist in his grip, like in a second,  he lifts your arm and slams it down on the bar, you are first of all paying for your fucking drinks and if you made a mess somewhere, I am personally going to mop up your shit with your face, you understand? I was giving you a chance, you wrench your arm free, I am paying, you say, I don’t want any trouble, you are trembling, where is your wallet? You are usually I’m funnier than this, the burly bartender is looking at this couple who are seated a few stools from you, what is it some cordon sanitaire around the poor drunk? You are I’m an artist, you have turned to the couple, an audience, you heard this guy threaten me, I’m going to call my lawyer, I know people in this town, I’m not going to be treated like dog shit, you throw down a twenty, I want change.  The burly guy is you owe ten more, man.  The other twenty.  That time with Jan, you were with a bunch of people, old friends from Austin, from the art school, it was a reunion.  Jan didn’t know most of them, Bragg, Mark, but the main thing bugging her was that Julia came.  It was that night, first time in a year you’d seen Julia.  First extended separation from her since you were seventeen, and you and she were all over each other in a corner.  Jan got tearful and ridiculous, and you got embarrassed for her.  If you only had the balls like that fat woman in Monterrey.  Take your glass, smash it against the edge of the bar.  You’d be at a disadvantage, the burly guy has a large reach and you’d have to make your move across the bar, off balance, your body in a movement that would naturally carry it out of its center of gravity.  The move would only work if it had a lot of force in it. The guy steps back, he’s out of your range, and then he goes for the baseball bat. You aren’t going to get your head split open for nothing. You make your way out of the bar, pushing back against the crowd of people that are suddenly in the bar, between you and the doorway, out the window you can see that aching lingering evening light, it is going to be a long summer evening,  and these people make way before you, you feel yourself collecting looks as you pass, any minute somebody is going to snicker, laugh in your face. Around the bar you can imagine the wisecracks, the quips, the ritual of servility, the customers that saw it trying to get the bartender’s comments, the laugh at your expense, you hate them all briefly not even because in this case it is you who are the victim but because these are the bystanders de toujours, the people who lived outside of concentration camps for five years and then claimed that they had no idea, well isn’t your expulsion from this bar a symptom of fascism, yes, on the micro level, you look at all these greedy, pretty, plump faces, the panicked narcissism that has emptied out every eye tonight and you know in your gut that they will automatically, predictably take the side of power whenever it is a question of a crisis, they just will. Not one of them has the balls to get kicked out of a bar,  you have  worked up your head of steam at last, you are standing in the doorway of this place. One thing you can say for yourself, at least you don’t have that complex, you’ve never had it, you don’t find the stupid application of mechanical force erotic, but those cretins do, they all bare their little bottoms when the man tells them to, oh, it is disgusting, especially for an upside down man.  No one ever sympathizes with the guy who is kicked out of a bar. You pace up and down, trying to think about what to do.  You now have that humiliation in you like a sharp object and you have to either let it go, the Buddhist thing to do, or you have to get revenge. If you let this go, you let everything go: Julia, Dad’s death, your choked art like all of Rousseau’s abandoned babies, politics, memory, your debts, old hatreds, worse old loves, pity, humanity, the lineaments of your common movements and the body of your desires, lines of fate in your hand and elsewhere, the one ball that sags more than the other, birds, the trip to Mexico, hope, your Jeep, the marvel of driving drunk late at night under the inverted cup of the night sky, what’s going to happen with Julia, what’s going to happen, how you are going to get home tonight, Ruth Parquin, credit cards, resistance, rock n roll, every book in your head, every scrap in your studio, parties, anything you have to do or any person you have to meet tomorrow, Mom’s present craziness, Dita and Brian’s money problems, Jan’s hard middle age, the grip of cold selfishness on your heart like someone’s soft white hand squeezing an exhausted tube, Dad’s death, death death... You start hopping up and down, a big red rose of anger is blooming inside you, fantastic, you feel its huge, thick petals stirring, swelling, a vegetable splendor in your chest, maybe it is a heart attack. Mary Rose.  She is supposed to meet you, you have to stay around here.  You are hopping up and down on the sidewalk and a couple tries to get by you and enter the bar, so you stand in front of the guy, you are you all don’t want to go into this bar, this bar... discriminates! A man and a woman. The woman giggles, the man (in bermuda shorts and baseball cap) says get out of the way, man. The SS of bermuda shorts and baseball caps. You move, for some reason you say I’m a black man. Now you have it.  You start hopping up and down, marching in front of the window, the door, you are at the top of your voice Two Four Six Eight, Johnny O’s discriminates.  A little demonstration, you notice people looking out the window at you. You look down at yourself, you do look a sight.  Your shirt is spotted with blood, there are red spots on your pants, Christ, you should have asked the bartender for salt before you left, the least you can do is give me some salt.  You laugh, one two three four, what is it we’re fighting for? You scare a few people away, at least they looked like they were heading toward the place until they saw you like Tom o’ Bedlam hopping around, chanting.  Two people enter despite your pleas. You actually kneel on the sidewalk, please, massa, please don’t enter that place of shame, that abattoir, that drinking parlor where dey puts de strychnine in de beer! You are starting to feel better, next person who comes in or out you will kneel at their feet, this is your best revenge idea ever.  Except killing that bartender. No, you have decided the buddhist line is correct, and you hope at the end of this demonstration you will feel able to let go. Then you will bless the place.  Mary Rose. Mary Rose is coming, and you will have to explain to her. Tom o’ Bedlam is good, in a way all the fools in all the King Lears have been turned out in our streets nowadays, although there is a slight income differential between you and any one of that crew of jesters.  You will explain so much.  Someone to explain so much to. The first thing you have to point out is your evident sobriety, my God. The next person asks what Johnny O’s did.  You are this bar discriminates against drunks. Then the burly man appears, he comes out of the door, what the fuck do you think you are doing? You are I am demonstrating. Look, he says, if you don’t stop this I am getting the cops. Get the cops, man. You are down on your knees, don’t go into this house of misrule! Two girls.  One of them laughs, which is a good sign, the burly man has moved out on the sidewalk, you are still down on your knees.  The thing is to go limp, please don’t hurt me, please, you scream. The girls have gone on down the sidewalk and they have stopped at a certain distance to watch this.  The man is trying to pick you up, which is a mistake on his part because you are limp, so he looks like an utter fool, he can’t catch hold of you, he pounds you once on the back. Dangerous warmth above you, you can feel inside him the restraints breaking down, locks giving way.  Stop it, you scream, stop, alright, man. You feel you and he are poised, here, for something bright, brief and fierce.  You could go further, oh just a little bit further, a needle’s span further, and something would happen. A flaw in the civil order, a man beating another man in an access of that hysterical passion that must be put down, what need for these sweaty brawls? Reptile versus reptile. Creepy twins of disorder, two heavy breathing old farts. Your hand has got caught under your knee and is being scraped on the concrete of the sidewalk. A car has stopped by the curb, you are thinking about rolling a bit both to dislodge your hand and so that you can end up at the feet of this person as though you were some wildcat temperance preacher, on fire with the unpronounceable word of God a permanent drunk on your tongue, clothed for a sign in bloody khakis and a ruined oxford shirt,  you look up, and getting out of the car - oh fire, fire, fire! - dressed in a white miniskirt with white go go boots and a white halter, an expression of indignation distorting the clear, tan skin of her beautifully high cheeked  face (directed, as you can immediately see, at your persecutor and not at you) and thus endearing herself to you forever,  is Mary Rose.

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