Published today on Life in 10 Minutes, my ten…here. Please enjoy and happy festivities and warm Winter Solstice.
Naked fries with Sriracha ketchup, where have you been all my life?
I’m not one to sit down to a plate of fries, unless of course, they’re those thin-strip bistro fries, crisp and deep golden. Limp fries never tempt me. I can do without the whole deep-fried potato thing altogether, but when the week has been exceptionally long…Fries and Sriracha. Yes.
Why do crowded happy hour bars feature at least one loud cackler and one deep-throated shouter? Modulate your voice, please. I used to request my children do that. Indoor voice. What hilarity drives that savage slicing squawking? I guess I’m more the philosophical buzz type. And so.
A big grinning bearded fellow with a bandito hat and a zip-up black windbreaker high fives the bartender and my happy hour is complete. Suddenly, venturing out of the cave with trepidation (No, not peopling!) seems worth it. The bartender shakes not stirs in icy loud agreement.
As the beer and wine flow, the last fry dipped, and a dribble of Stone left in the glass, it may be time to open up some bar space for those making a night of this cacophony and rum. Especially since I can’t take my eyes off the red-plaid sports jacket complemented by the solid red tie across the bar. Shouldn’t there be a warning sign attached to him? Don’t stare into the red. It’ll change your DNA irreparably. Too late for me.
And I make the Nike air check sign to the bartender.
Hear the roar of intelligible volume.
Music bass beats disrupting cardiac rhyme.
Shouts, whispers and laugher, all a boom.
Fist bumps and swaying good cheer.
Love and loneliness conflate, swill in beer glass
Bottoms, oh where can I feel this good again?
And why the price to pay bankrupts me.
Write in a thumping pub.
Stool side bar lined drinkers and snackers,
I buzz along the page, noting the din,
An elf pit padding by, no a child.
Bar strip invisible barriers to the dining room,
No walls, balloons, kids and family, clinking wine
Glasses and frosted mugs, steins, clicks, smiles, shouts
Above the music, lyrics swallowed in the mêlée of
Motion and shoveled appetizers and gin, hospitality
And bused trays of bitten bits, refuse, waste, prolifligate
Posterity to posh sea and salt surroundings, spirits and
Song and gathering grand mirrored cheer, happiness
In a thin stemmed crystal–and you, out there somewhere
Celebrating your birth, the wonder of survival,
without me, alone with all of your friends
And family, a beer or so inside your belly, thinking of us,
Being with them, and both alone in our own movies.
And so it is, writing in a bar.
Biting at words.
Sculpin IPA on tap.
Payday a week away.
Summer squash in fall, I had to.
No more, no reason.
Ready to say,
“I’ve been out this Friday night.”
Every day’s sameness.
Writing at my desk,
The confines of my chested blues.
Like a cliché gone staler.
But after just one. More.
Perfect. I’ll do my ten-minute write here, a place I haven’t visited in a while. The last time I imbibed here–my usual IPA per the bartender’s suggestion–I wrote a piece that my editor thought worthy of publishing. Perhaps inspiration will visit again.
Swallowing quickly the two offered shot glass sampler selections, surprisingly I choose the Pale Ale. It’s smooth and hoppy, more like an IPA than the IPA the bartender had me try.
I have not been here–a place exactly five minutes walking distance from my house–because I drink beer here, always drink a happy hour beer here, and I have not wanted to anesthetize in beer-land for a couple months or so. But today feels like the day. There is nothing to hide from, just the spirit of the day I nod to in being here.
Tomorrow I will embark on a road trip up to the far up north, another soccer tournament. With three soccer 17-year olds and a commiserating partner in tow, I will head for Davis and watch the road blur by as I gaze out the window and ponder the big and small questions: What did Jack Kerouac do on the road when he wasn’t taking notes for his novel? How many almond trees are actually out there in endless rows? Will I have time to yoga? Will she play well? How did pioneers foot and horse all of this, leagues and leagues of open vistas, dirt, dust and brush?
My eyes welcome open spaces, too often closed in confined spaces of the classroom, bedroom, kitchen, grocery store and local restaurants for a bite. Change of scenery flips the creative thought channels. Floating. Not like a pc drags me through the cyber-sphere.
The ten minute timer went off, but so did my notification buzz for a text message. She got a haircut and lost ten pounds. She looks the same–memory mine.
Seated at the after thought extension of the bar, maybe the disabled low table, the woman next to me, leaving half her appetizer over, declares to the server, “Close out.” I ignored her while I wrote this but meant to pay her a few words of invitation to conversate. Too late, as ever. But I’m sure her life bends back way past this moment and my feeble speculations about her momentary needs, wants and reasons to be at this bar. Now I’ll just have to create her story without her.
She sits down next to me when there are so many other stools to occupy.
All dolled up, clearly she is waiting for someone special to occupy the stool to her right.
I am to her left.
Happy hour, bruschetta is half off as are select beers.
Of course, my selection costs its usual six and change. No discounts for the IPA’s–ever.
Some have accused me of having gout deluxe, but I say, “nah.” Simple woman.
My tastes range from pleb to elitist. Depends on the thing, the subject.
Food, wine and beer, yes, I enjoy top of the line. Clothes, functional.
Not a shopper, no interest. That’s why the guys say, “You’re like a guy.”
Other reasons, I prefer conversation about what matters: the world, the local and
all in between. My interests range the span of my experience, read, written and lived,
relationships only one among many. Frankly, I don’t care much for confession.
Keep the distance, please. Tell me about what matters to you as a member of the world.
Two beauties sitting on top of each other taking selfies. In another bar, that might be suspect.
But this is not that kind of bar. Affluent, beach, blonds.
And the texts on my phone: bad news about the revenge of cancer, someone out there, on my mind.
And the stranger narcissist filling my inbox with doings, wishes, manifestations.
“I can’t go out with someone I am not attracted to says the made up late fifty something with the silver shiny horizontal studded stripes in her blinged out black warm up jacket.
Ping…the cancer returned after five years. I thought I was done.
Ping…I love the way she feels…
Ping…but I am afraid to go through it, the chemicals, the time off…
Ping…Egyptian, her parents moved from Cairo…
“Everything doing okay here?” The bartender wants to know. “Yes.”
Happy hour at its edges now settles into its middle.
“The grass is always greener on the other side….she’s got to pay her dues,” says bling jacket. The babe next to me moves kitty corner with her guests, two other women fresh from work, twenty somethings, nearing thirty somethings. One curly blond, and two brunette: the Asian with the “whatever” bun and the white girl with the straight slung hair parted down the middle.
The time difference lets me off the hook. “Good night, sleep well. Dream healing dreams,” I genuinely wish and type.
There is a four year old behind the bar, and I watch her skim her hand over every glass and bottle she passes down the row on her way out of the bar well.
The device speaks: ring. “Yes, I am at a bar. Come meet me. We’ll eat. Want me to read you the menu? Braised beef ribs…bleu cheese sliders with Angus beef, poached halibut…okay, see you soon. Yes, chill a pinot or merlot, something interchangeable…feeling marinara or fish. Bye.”
Boys at the end of the bar closest to the television pin their eyes to football and the commercials that go with, men with pizza slices and desire written all over their orgasmic posed faces, Mercedes mini van advertised as affordability (right) and something computer and football combined, guys at desks and a football player fish out of water, Ameritrade. And then the Cardinals line up at the 40 yard line.
Honey, you don’t look as if you can handle the double IPA. Stick to your happy hour house wine. She just moved in and made it clear to the bartender that she was ordering for her boyfriend who was on his way. She is two barstools away: young, neat, attractive, twenties, trying to keep herself entertained, phone, looking around, the silk scarf around her neck shifting with each turn of her head from the wine cabinet to my left and the incoming guests. We are at the entrance. And he arrives. This is a new boyfriend. I can tell by the kiss they greet each other with–something between a peck and I-recognize-the-sink-into-the- thick-of-your-lips. They are still something stand-offishly, sweetly polite. He is soft and quiet, appetizers smartly waiting for him by her selection. He digs in with gusto, eats obediently, appreciatively, while she authoritatively introduces her informed choices. She will make a fine mistress of the house.
Isn’t this great?
“Who is training her? Their job is to come in, check in, go down the hall, check the laundry…” bling says to her patient hearer, the one who asked the bartender to turn down the lights, which bother her eyes. Bling speaks for the crowd to hear. “I’m not bashing her. I haven’t said nothing about her for weeks…”
The girl friend returns from the water closet with her hair bunned up. Why? What’s the projected look trying to achieve? I’ve never been good at style and signals. I do New York bag and that is the extent of my “style.” And that was a long time ago. Now I just dress whatever-is-clean-and-top-of-the-pile. It used to be important to dress with purpose. I am nearing golden, no need.
The symmetry of a wine cellar on display soothes, the circular slotted holders sprouting capped spouts or the buddy bottles snug lined up along a leisurely reclined shelf to feature chillin’ wine bottles, casual, seductive. I hope the temperature behind that glass is 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Nothing worse than room temperature wine, the myth of the uninitiated–says a pretender.
The beer has done its work. It only takes one, especially after a sleepless night of sacrifice: term papers and morning frolics in missed motel beds. The buzz combines exhaustion with hops, and I am content. School’s out. Time to eat: transition from bar denizen to restaurant patron.
Wait, the four year old swiper’s parent just came on shift. Maybe just a few more minutes….