Archive: December 2003

(11 entries)

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Je ne m'appelais Jacky jamais

Decrepitude and a general European affectation are the prime constituents of a trendy bar, so my prediction for next season’s hot spot is — wait for it — “Pissoir.”

In the meantime, I remain a devotée of my local community cesspool (in French, piscine de ces). What turns a common or garden drunk into that loyal specialist, the “regular”?

Of course, of course, a need to “belong,” to “rather be with you people than the finest people in the world.” But what makes one choose a particular spot? Does it matter in any way, or is it just that nobody knows this is somewhere? Is it based on the low, low prices? Is it based on friendly faces behind the bar? Nice asses in the booths? Surely, all this and more, and more.

But it’s that little extra — what those same French call the “I don’t know what” — that is so hard to pin down, yet holds all the difference between Wal-Mart and Pastis. Here’s where I could go after one of my trademark-pending socioscientific bar surveys, but I’m weary. I will merely make an unverified assertion, but on it I stake my reputation: people just want to be loved, and failing that, they want another drink. The bar gives an opportunity for the former, and guarantees the latter. There is no opportunity for critical failure as long as you don’t start hitting anybody. You are working with a net.

Of course, of course, we all want to return to the good old days, especially those of us who never had any. We want to remember when we were cute but an idiot anyhow, and it was not held against us. Of course, it will all be held against us on Friday at 11pm, but you might do better Wednesday at 3am. As a wise man used to say to me given half an opportunity, when you reduce your expectations to zero, you sometimes get what you want.

But why any particular bar? I think it’s just a process of elimination, as well as basic thermodynamics. It’s the same as with people on an individual level: most of them don’t like you, but keep trying. Also, if you sit in someone’s bedroom long enough, they’ll let you call them sweetheart. “I cannot imagine anyone else sitting on that stool, Jack, and if someone once did, he was merely marking time until you came along. Surely, this is the best of all possible bars.” My friends, people are inherently unimaginative. All they want is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. All they want is a warm place to wrap into a fetal position and weep. All they want is a way out that isn’t too way out. All they want is a jug of wine, a book of verses, and me.

Congratulate me on this, my fiftieth entry in the “blog.” I am truly a cultural force. I outlasted Neal Pollack and didn’t even have to write a novel. Gawker, watch your back.

by Jack, 10:28 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from Drinking

Friday, December 5, 2003

These Explosions

                      V.O. In a world of lies, one man knows the truth. And he has forty-eight hours to save the only woman which he’ll ever love. Before…the Explosions.

Nicolas Cage running out of a burning inferno which is exploding.

                      V.O. Several Explosions.

Samuel L. Jackson jumping from the roof of a building which then explodes.

Sean Connery running into a building, then back out. The building explodes.

                      V.O. Can they be stopped…these Explosions?

A motorboat crashes onto a dock and heads right for an oil truck. At the last moment, its driver, Sandra Bullock, jumps clear. The motorboat impacts the truck, and both explode.

                      V.O. Safe…for now…from…some Explosions….

A speeding sportscar narrowly misses a brick wall and screeches to a halt. Nicole Kidman climbs out of it, and runs, breathlessly, out of the frame. After a thoughtful pause, the car explodes. Clint Eastwood runs by, narrowly missing Dan Akroyd.

                      V.O. A world of one man, exploding…forty the truth hours eight…explosions…exploding! The woman!

Keanu Reeves leaps from the top of the Eiffel Tower into the awaiting arms of Jennifer Lopez. She puts him down, looks in horror at her blouse, then rips it off and throws it into the air. The blouse and the air explode.

Also some explosions.

A hand flips a switch. The hand is revealed to belong to Olympia Dukakis. She swivels around in her chair to look out upon the grounds, along which runs Harrison Ford, narrowly avoiding a full range of kinds of exploding things.

                      V.O. Could one man maybe stop…These Explosions? This summer? Everywhere?

by Jack, 6:14 AM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Damned Human Race

Saturday, December 6, 2003

I have Larry King's shit down

But you don’t come here for regurgitated platitudes like “Larry King is an idiot.” To the contrary, if you look up Trouble Sells in the dictionary, you see a picture of iconoclasm. If we’ve got one thing, it’s class, class, class, and style.

I’m a little concerned that no one is trying to figure out who I am really, if anyone, so I’m just going to give up. I’m really Joe Klein, just like last time. Mickey Martinez of Costa Mesa, you win the office pool. Everybody else, I fooled you again!

Since the only (note to posterity: this was before my meteoric rise to the top of the charts, or in fact before the charts for this type of thing had been developed) link to my page has been based on my better-late-than-never analysis of the election of 1992, I’d like to return to the sphere of what John Kenneth Galbraith referred to as “choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” Since that’s my crossroads just about every night at closing time, I know the truth of what he says.

Everyone and his grandmother wants to chime in on the 2004 contest, even though the variety of opinions means most of them have to be wrong. It goes against my nature to lower myself to the Larry King level of “current events,” which I leave to those who lack a sense of the grand sweep of the ages. However, I have discovered a few sniping comments I can make on these events and personalities which are not in danger of being repeated in the mainstream, at least not by anyone other than the people I ripped them off from. I am going to phrase them as short, incisive, semi-coherent Larry King-like aphorisms.

John Kerry. Not only will he not win the presidency, with Al Sharpton in the race he doesn’t even get Best Hair.

Joe Lieberman. He will never be president, but he will knock them dead as Willy Loman on Broadway.

Dick Gephardt. They say those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it, but when it’s your own abysmal previous presidential run you forgot about, you’re in trouble.

(Note from the more nuanced, non-Larry King part of my mind: Gep won three state primaries when he was young(ish) and dynamic(ish). Three, folks. Further note: there are fifty states.)

That’s the horserace as I see it. The winner will be one of those other people. Probably whoever gets the most money and delegates and votes. Next issue.

by Jack, 11:10 AM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Election 2004 | More from The Damned Human Race

Monday, December 8, 2003

The task, heroic; the hero, me

So I go to a party some white girl is throwing for herself. Looking around at the celebrants, I think Leonard Jeffries cannot be all wrong. She asks me, “Have you met anyone interesting?” I say, “You mean ever? I know you don’t mean tonight.”

But because the proper study of mankind is heartless bitches, I wade into this Whitey Biennial in search of god, love, and guns, just like my blogless gonzo forebears.

The party has as its setting a bar other than the one I am used to, and I feel out of sorts. Why should I be wasting time in this bar when I could be happily at home, wasting time in my bar? But although the situation is alien, the results can be the same: drunkenness in public. I order some drinks, talk to some fellow inmates.

Resting from the battleground, I talk a bit to my friend Oliver, the world’s most sensitive straight man. He tells me about a job that’s just come into his PR company, to develop a program for a non-profit branch of the U.S. Army, in which 1% of all proceeds will be donated to peace.

Next thing I know, I lock eyes with Kerry across a crowded musical number. She rushes over to me as if she wants to talk to me ever. She has chubbed out a little for the winter, and it works; those tits would be so nice to come home to, by the fire. It turns out she’s there at a different party being held in the same bar. How’s that for an embarrassing scheduling conflict? Kerry and I weren’t due to run into each other again until 2005 at the earliest. So as Oliver wanders off to turn unsuspecting women into warm puddles of adoration, Kerry and I “catch up” on the very meager, stringy, and unnourishing pieces of news since September.

But what she most wants to do is whine, and your chronicler lets her. She’s whining about her roommate, a woman I had not met or previously heard of. She’s sick of her roommate, whose crime seems to be that she is inferior to Kerry, not only in Kerry’s estimation but that of all of Kerry’s friends.

“She’s such a social liability,” Kerry growls. “She’s shy. No one likes her at all, but I always have to take her to these parties because of course she knows I’m going. But no one wants to talk to her. She just stands around.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” I say.

“But the worst part is — she gets so much out of it! I mean, she gets more out of these parties than she contributes!”

Say what? Now she’s lost me. What the heck kind of vindictiveness is that? I mean, okay, the lady is boring, but now you’re upset that she’s boring and not miserable?

While I’m trying to figure out a reply for this, one of Kerry’s friends joins us, a woman I have never met. Kerry introduces her to me as Erica, the very roommate! And then, of course, escapes.

So I chat with the hated roommate. Here is what I discover, not necessarily in order: she is tall, charming, bright, sincere, blonde, athletic, well-traveled, and has a big rack. Normally at least some of those things would be enough to make her popular. But it really seems true that no one likes her, and, based on her sad sack aura, she knows it. She even launches into this subject, telling me that she is not “memorable,” and is always being introduced to people who talked to her before and don’t know it. As I went around with her at the party, this was borne out.

It was becoming a very disturbing mystery. How had Kerry and the forces of evil convinced an entire planet that this very acceptable girl was worthless? Including the girl herself? Okay, so she’s a little dorky, but that just keeps her human. I remember something like this in William Goldman’s first novel, where there was a girl with big tits who had no friends. I think I’m here on Earth to make sure that never happens again.

Erica, you will be rescued. Just hold on a little longer.

by Jack, 2:43 AM | Link | Comments (4) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Erica | More from Kerry

Friday, December 12, 2003

I'm a sentimentalist

I’m a sentimentalist and there’s nothing sadder than a drunk girl with an empty glass. Especially around the holidays. I ran into Our Friend Jane recently, who wasted no time in asking me to buy her a drink — a gift, in the spirit of the season — to replace all those she’d made disappear. I gestured appropriately to the barman and seated myself next to dreamy Janey, wondering what she wanted to get off her chest this time, and if it’d be dirty.

I looked around our little slice of heaven, the local bar. I nodded to my compatriots. It attracts a crowd — if a handful of deadbeats can be called a crowd — with not much in common except loneliness and drunkenness, the holiest of human attributes. Unlike most New York bars, there is a wide ethnic range. It’s sort of like the U.N., but without all the diplomacy. It is a Bar That Looks Like America, especially because it’s going to shit.

“Love,” Jane whispered into the ether.

All right. “I seem to recall the name,” I said.

“Love,” she repeated. “Why can’t I be in love? I was in love with this boy, but something happened. Something happened then. I need to be in love now. I should be in love. Someone like me? Someone giving like me? Should be in love.”

“Well….” I offered.

“And this boy, this boy, he was so sweet. He was beautiful, so smart — and kind.”

“Well, what’d you do to the poor sap?”

“He was so good-looking.”

“Yeah, all right,” I said, knowing my role as straight man. “How good-looking was he?”

“Well, he was very good-looking. You know how good-looking you are? Imagine forty, fifty times better than that.”

I whistled appreciatively. “Sounds nice.”

Jane smiled at me sadly. I looked into the dimming depths of her eyes. She may or may not have a beautiful face, but everything still shows on it, and that counts for something. “I’m sorry you’re sad, Janey,” I said, and raised my glass. “Here’s to new love in the new year.”

We toasted gravely and I slid her a dollar to put into the jukebox. She skittered over in the stillness and plugged away at the dusty old fairgrounds. She’s the kind of woman who plays songs on the jukebox like she’s discovering something. As speakers blared out “wild horses, how come you taste so good?” she picked her way back to the high stool and stared, sighing, at the worn wood surface we slouched on.

But she was already a dozen drinks ahead of me, lost.

by Jack, 12:24 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Jane

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A map of how she talked

I attended a reception at Lincoln Center for the Jeff Bridges photography show. Oliver was there, as he is with most notable cultural events we can get into for free, and he had indulgingly brought a date. I went alone because women are heartless bitches, etc. We all camped out near the hors d’oeuvres, drinking the vino gratis with sour faces.

As you may know, I am a photographer. When I want to make a picture of something, either I do it outdoors, in a studio, or on location. In the cases of the studio or location, I set up the lights, with the help of my assistant. Lighting is the hard part of photography. It is the lighting that creates the spaces and the mood and the image itself. What type of equipment you use, and its positioning, is the whole ballgame. Of course, if you’re shooting outdoors, god already made those decisions for you. That’s why god is a great photographer.

Jeff Bridges, on the other hand, takes photos only on sets where he is an actor. On these sets, entire teams of professionals, not under his direction, have put up lighting for the purposes of the film. Even if he stands somewhere with his camera other than where the film director’s camera is, he’s using the lighting they designed. It’s pretty easy to get nice shots when you’re using someone else’s professional lighting. All that’s left for Jeff is framing, a fool’s paradise.

So we stood around, protecting the hors d’oeuvres from intruders, drinking the wine that was provided for that purpose, and staring glumly at each other. Or, rather, Oliver and I did. His date, a slip of a girl named Melissa who was probably on temporary leave from the orphanage, had a Cinemascope smile. It was obviously her first Bad Celeb Art outing.

Melissa floated off to rub elbows, but Oliver and I glumly stayed the course.

“How’d you meet her?” I asked.

“She’s friends with a coworker.”

“Who, someone I know?”

“Yeah, Teri Calahan.”

“Teri Calahan? Say, this girl looks sort of like — “

Oliver winced. “Yeah, it’s her daughter.”

I rooted around in the Swedish meatballs for a minute. “No shit?”

Oliver whimpered, “I shouldn’t be here. This is a disaster. She heard about the event, she wanted to come. I thought, okay, it’ll be nice for her. Then I realize she’s jailbait in a sleeveless dress. I mean she’s 20, everything is legal. Except the drinking. But I just feel weird about the whole thing.”

“All right, don’t worry. If the cops bust in, I’ll shout ‘They went that way’ while you go out some other way.”

Melissa floated back over to us, overdressed and finding a new world to conquer. She glided right up to me, putting her arm around my waist as she handed her empty winestem to Oliver. His eyebrows shot up and he retreated into the wine-queue crowd.

“Hello, Young Melissa,” I said.

“This is very, very exciting,” she replied.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it; would you like a cucumber sandwich?”

“It’s been such a boring week, and here I am meeting all these people. I just loooove Oliver, and —”

“Well, we all love him. To know him, in fact —”

The hors d’oeuvre throng bore down on us, and Melissa moved to my other side, her fingers trailing off my back. She grabbed my free hand tightly.

“Thanks for being here with us,” she grinned at me.

“All right,” I said amiably. She stroked my hand as she looked around and finally ate a cucumber sandwich. The crowd hustled tighter in on us. Our defenses had broken down. We were no longer lords of the food table. Melissa was jostled, or self-jostled, and several times compressed her chest against mine. “Oliver was bringing me a drink,” she said, “but he hasn’t yet returned.” Then she plucked my wine glass from my fingers and it became her wine glass.

As I stood there scratching my head, Melissa stood there scratching other parts of me. She was a friendly girl. Perhaps you won’t believe me, but I didn’t appreciate it, because I didn’t understand or trust it. Meanwhile, her fingers grazed my crotch. This was getting ridiculous.

Oliver returned with six or seven wine glasses in his embrace. He distributed them among us. “Oliver, can I talk to you for a second?” I tugged on his arm and started out toward the masses.

“What about our great spot?” he asked, aghast.

“Melissa will be in charge,” I said, and she grinned.

I took Oliver to a far corner. “She’s a very friendly girl,” is how I put it.

“Yeah, she seems a nice sort —”

“I mean she’s up in my grill. You know me and personal space — if I can see you, you’re too close. She’s a toucher.”

“Well, some people are just tou —”

“Look, Oliver, she’s way too friendly for friendly. I don’t trust her intentions. It’s like she’s playing checkers on me.” I ran my fingers acrobatically across Oliver’s chest and back to try to explain to him, topologically, her method of conversation. Then I leaned in to his ear and whispered, “She also touched me where I can’t touch you.”

I drew back and watched his face sag. “What the hell is Teri teaching her?”

“I don’t know, pal, but you’d better be careful. She’s On the Loose.”

Oliver swallowed hard. “I’d better talk to her. I don’t mean, talk to her about this, you know, just, uh, she needs to be distracted.”

“She’s pretty distracted. Calm her down. She obviously doesn’t get out much.”

“Yeah.” He started back to her.

“Say, uh, Oliver?”


“You — you aren’t trying to sleep with her, are you?”

“Of course not,” he muttered, and hurried over.

Now I knew we were all doomed. I wandered out into the street and the subway. One of the biggest problems with Lincoln Center is it’s all that way uptown but not quite near enough to Gray’s Papaya. One of the biggest problems with me is I’m just another sex-obsessed prude. I gathered no moss all the way back to the bar, for one last solitary drink, in some insufficient lighting.

by Jack, 9:07 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Women

Sunday, December 21, 2003

An angel descends, or, at least, stoops

The problem with me is that I am a man, rather than a man and a woman somehow separated by divine forces, ever eager to rejoin and form one perfect being. That’s what everybody else at the bar is doing. But when the jock-half of humanity remerges with the cheerleader-half, or the he-dorks find the she-dorks, everything makes sense. But where the heck is Ms. Asshole?

We may not know the answer to that question, but I did meet a woman at the bar the other night who was such a jerk to everyone that she took the heat off me for once. That was very nice.

I was sitting there talking to some stranger, a rather pseudo-ingenuous young chap with a rumpled velvet blazer with — wait for it — Rilke sticking out of the pocket. I expected that “Letters to a Young Poet” would not be in bound form, but rather addressed to him with postmarks and everything. In other words, kind of a pompous ass; but in his defense, he really was that way, and not simply posing.

He was complaining to me about his girlfriend, who left him a year ago, or whatever, and I was drinking. In came the perpetually unattainable Jillian, followed by a mousy friend. Of course, it turns out that my initial impression would need to be revised very shortly, for she was neither mousy nor could be truly said to be anyone’s friend.

Jillian kissed me on the cheek and introduced me to this woman, named Kim. They rushed off to the bathroom. As you know, ladies always go in a group to the bathroom. Men just wrote this off as a quirk of female socialization, until recently we discovered it is because they are all doing lines all the time.

I took this as an opportunity to ignore the sad poet and join my Moroccan buddies. We discussed how badly Moustapha’s pool game was going against an unknown collegiate interloper. Yusef explained that this was because Moustapha sucks. In other words, bonding, bonding, bonding.

Mere moments later, Jillian rushed up to me. “Please help me,” she said, “Kim is talking to that poet guy.”

“Is he bothering her?”

“No — I think she’s making him depressed. Intercede, before she breaks him.”

Apparently I am now Officer Friendly. Solving other people’s bar-oriented problems is not really my style, but I went over and eavesdropped on them a bit. They were talking about music, and about how he’s a musician. Isn’t that what guys who say they are musicians want women in bars to talk about? I reported this back to Jillian. “I think it’s safe,” I told her. “They are ‘flirting.’”

Moments later, she rushed up to me again. “You had better do something.” I looked over and saw Kim wildly gesticulating as the poet rushed out the front door. She’s yelling, “Who cares about your music if you never record anything anyway?” I sat down in the booth, next to her.

“What’s the topic of conversation here?” I asked. “Is it music, or abuse?”

She established that it kept changing, and that she was open to suggestions. She was talking extremely fast and kept knocking into me. It was that wonderful late-night coked-out drunk girl, an angel of this and every season. We began to talk about her career as a grantwriter — “Whoring yourself so other people can get the money” was her label — when the sad poet plopped down across from us.

“Look,” he said to her, “I don’t think you quite understood why you ought to sleep with me. Let me try to explain it again.”

She shrieked at him, “Why should I sleep with you? You’re pathetic! You’re nowhere! You’re so stuck in your adolescent limbo you can’t even button your shirt properly! If you were as smart as you say you are you’d already have left!”

“All right,” he said, with steely determination, “I don’t have to take this from you.” And he’s gone.

I watched her with admiration. “What are you drinking?” I asked, and, upon knowing, rose to get more of it.

When my transaction was complete, she was down at the other end of the bar, with Moustapha and Yusef. Yusef was crying, “I don’t want any trouble!” in an endless refrain of self-preservation. I held her drink in the air and called for her to come away and claim it. She was starting riots everywhere she went. Not passively, not as a woman men wanted to talk to, but actively, as a woman who wanted to hurt everybody. She was very drunk, very aggressive, very self-satisfied, and very relentless in puncturing the self-satisfaction of others, but nonetheless oddly charming — in short, much like me on a bad night.

We sat down together and resumed our conversation — or rather, I resumed listening to her and silently admiring her egotism. Every so often, the sad poet would return, attempt to make his case again, get shot down in new and exciting ways, and leave with great “closing lines,” only to come back and do it again a few minutes later. Plus ten for persistence, plus twenty for style, minus a million for not having a clue. Also, it seemed she liked me better.

Towards the end, things got pretty ugly. Kim shortly told him, “You’re going to be wanking over me for the next ten years.” The bar, at least in my imagination, was hushed. It was like the grand championship dozens competition on an alternate Arsenio Hall Show. Except only one side sent a contestant.

The poet finally threw in the towel, saying to me — to me, not her — that he was not ashamed of what he had done, that he was proud of himself, that he knew he had been witty and charming, and that he knew she liked him. He went home, or at least left, and Kim and I made out for a while, and as dawn rose she went off to her boyfriend. We need more law and order in the bar.

by Jack, 7:42 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Drinking & Women

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

It is time for a second-generation blog

I guess I liked irony better before people worried if they were post-ironic or post-post-ironic. I guess I liked comedy better when it was based on what you thought of, rather than making fun of what other people thought of. Before blogs, there was Mystery Science Theater, which wasn’t funny, and before that was What’s Up, Tiger Lily? which had maybe one or two funny parts. Shooting fish in barrels designed for their shooting is not clever. It is, however, highly accessible, because anyone can do it.

Since it’s now a medical fact that I’m funnier than Woody Allen, it’s not much of a stretch to say I’m funnier than, say, blog artisans who perform the diaristic equivalent of adding “in bed” to the end of fortune cookie fortunes.

If I were Joe Blogger, I’d glance at The New York Times, or more likely the Post. I’d find a headline, ignore the article, dash off something such as “More Teenagers Say No to Sex with Me,” and call it a day. This is the routine of the cultural elite: mocking a society by being even less interesting than it.

In other words, if Tina Brown = x, making fun of Tina Brown = 0.00001x. This means you, Ms. Spiers.

“But your blog,” you ask, “What makes you so damn superior, and gives me such a headache?” It is different because I write about what happens to me. Not about what I think a funny name for a Telemundo sitcom would be. Whether or not you actually like this is up to you, but let me know how often Henry James talked about shoe fashions. I’m trying for something other than just Page Six for the Simpsons generation.

Now that all persons under 35 have a blog, just as all American women over 50 make hand-crafted jewelry, the blog alone does not designate you as a member of the cognoscenti. It may even do the opposite. My hope is that, now that the technology of the blog has been well-established, the content can expand from Gen X navel-gazing-via-televised-navels-of-celebrities. In our post-interesting culture, the mocked and the mocker are fighting over crumbs. Pathetic. Iconoclastic by nature, I am willing to be the pioneer into a new blog era, with its roots firmly planted in the pre-blog era. Also, you suck.

Have a happy holiday season.

by Jack, 1:57 PM | Link | Comments (3) | More from Foundational Issues

More of an outlaw than you ever were

Well, I got myself worked up in that last post. Maybe I was wrong about those guys. Let’s play Gawker here for a minute. George Pataki, governor of New York, former mayor of Peekskill, and a terrible person, has pardoned Lenny Bruce for his obscenity convictions. (Mr. Bruce’s other problem, that he is dead, remains unresolved.)

Talk about a day late and a dollar short. I guess this beats dealing with the problems of today, which involve living people, and have not been already analyzed by history. Those problems might get messy.

Pardoning people for erroneous past crimes, especially dead people, is not exactly equivalent to legislation aimed to prevent erroneous convictions in the future. I guess Pataki isn’t worried about this since he will always be the governor. Of course, the real goal is to use this bit of sop, which helps no one, to obscure Pataki’s actual disregard of civil liberties as necessary policy.

I hate everybody. Happy holidays.

by Jack, 4:16 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Damned Human Race

Friday, December 26, 2003

The lives they led

As one or two of you are probably aware, my archrival The New York Times puts together a whole magazine of unremarkable microessays on selected people who have had the luck to die in the past year. In keeping with my recent entries that mention newspapers and media quite too much, I thought I’d do a bit of my own “tallying up” for 2003, in terms of bar patrons who are no longer with us due to their deaths.

My chosen bar has been rather popular among celebrities (my fellow celebrities, I mean), although it does appear to bring a certain curse. In 2003, we lost more than the usual number of regulars, and while the bar is popular among men in their eighties, few of these victims could be said to have reached a ripe old age. A moment of silence, then, for:

Elliott Smith — came in quite a lot when he lived in town; totally unrelated to his depression, I am almost sure — Jameson’s on the rocks

Warren Zevon — he didn’t come to the bar, but his girlfriend did, since she was sleeping with some guys who hung out there — N/A

Edward Said — only one verifiable visit to the bar, but a great thinker nonetheless; his trip was part of a bender that began at the West End after someone’s dissertation defense — Sapphire and tonic

Johnny Cash — no visits to the bar, but in the air every night — N/A

Paul Zindel — quiet, kept to himself mostly, except to regularly complain there was no Sondheim on the jukebox — always four Bud Lites with Coca-Cola backs

Denis Thatcher — would stop by for a pint on state visits during the ’80s, once with fellow 2003 cadaver Donald Regan — Thatcher’s pint was of gin, Regan would have a couple sidecars

Uday Hussein — big tipper, very competitive at the pool table — usually Cosmos

Chevy Chase — not actually dead, but asked not to come back — Jäger shots

No doubt I am forgetting a few. There may be others that I did not meet. Surely they all led lives, of that we can be sure. Bob Hope was never allowed in.

Also, for those of you who remember the Times’ inscrutable advertising from last year, I’ve come up with an adaptation I feel is much more appropriate to the paper-consumed lives that we overinformed, slovenly intellectuals lead:

“I found The New York Times in my house.” “I found The New York Times in my car.”

by Jack, 5:31 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Drinking

Saturday, December 27, 2003

A very Troubled Christmas

I wanted to unveil a special holiday episode of Trouble Sells, in the proud tradition of Charlie Brown. But the truth is, I mostly hid out this year. I’ve gotten to the age where I can recluse myself from family gatherings without fear — not because I am an adult who can make his own decisions, but because after all these years they’re sick of me too. But I have not yet gotten to the age where you spend the holidays with your fiancée, and at this rate I never will. So I was free.

I checked in with the folks — yes, I have parents, just like Republicans — and considered my duties finished. My mother, of course, was not so lucky, as she had gone back to Racine to see her sisters. My dad was to have dinner with a few clients, he reported — he is an agent in Los Angeles — and I imagine it was somewhat like in Broadway Danny Rose.

Yes, I have revealed a bit more about myself, in this season of giving. Mother, retired executive; father, music agent; hometown, Racine, as in Wisconsin, with the other white people. Both sides of the family are entirely resident in Wisconsin except my parents and me. Mother, Santa Fe; father, Glendale; me, Gomorrah. We’re like missionaries, but for what?

Snarky aside: the Racine Journal Times’ web site lists a few wire stories about the natural disaster tragedies in Iran and California, as well as the latest mad cow laxity — but the local reporters and columnists have this to say on December 26, 2003:

No holiday hangover for a lot of shoppers There are reasons you shouldn’t pay for sex Mike Moore: Why don’t you like us? Debatable: Does changing a Web page change history?

Now newspapers sound as flippantly clueless as blogs! Obviously, I left too soon. And in terms of that last question: absolutely yes, as I do it all the time. End of snarky aside. P.S. How do you do fact-filled sidebars in Movable Type?

Anyway, I left Racine for Pinter, Shepard, and Blessing. In a perfect world, all great dramatists would have crappy Midwestern towns named after them. The capital of this Dramatic Confederation of the Lakes and Plains, I guess, would be in Thornton Wilder. But here in New York, which was not named after a playwright but continues to name them, I studied my options for Christmas:

  1. Travel across a country I love to be with the ones I love. No way. Mom had eliminated herself from consideration by visiting her family, and dad said he’s “over Christmas.”
  2. Pester friends to include me in their plans. Goes against my aloof manner. Plus, I’d end up doing some version of #1 with other people’s people.
  3. Eat out at a Chinese place and see a movie, in the traditional manner of that other element of our population. Who’s going to believe it from me, though?
  4. Go to the bar. You may not suspect this, but while #4 is no doubt a popular choice of many a man without qualities, it chills me to the very bone.
  5. Other.

You got it, I picked Other. One nice thing about Christmas in New York is that it’s one of the few times that places actually are closed. Probably the only time. We have much more commercial activity during blackouts and terrorist destructions of the city’s tallest buildings than we do during Christmas Day. I walked around in the few moments of snow, admiring the sudden cold, and stopped into my trusty diner. (Yes, I have a regular diner as well as a bar. Man cannot live by whiskey alone — although you’d never know it from the crowd there — you’ve also got to have turkey dinners for $10.)

And then…on Christmas…I came back home! I listened to records, read books, watched a film on video. Probably one of the best Christmases ever. I opted out, hurt no one, and had a pleasant day. It reminds me of the best birthday I’ve ever spent in New York, a few years ago when I had just moved back to town. I didn’t know anyone — or no one I wanted to — and I went out for a falafel at Habib’s Place on Ninth Street. Habib and I talked about Louis Armstrong, and Louis Armstrong, and maybe a little Phil Schaap, and I went home smiling. Habib’s fervent love of Louis Armstrong can trump any self-pity a man may feel. Plus, it always feels better when people are nice to you on your birthday without knowing.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Trouble Sells. It was naturally a very Troubled Christmas, yet not a troubled one at all.

by Jack, 2:58 AM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Foundational Issues

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