Monday, November 2, 2009
I'm currently in Albuquerque, waiting for my thoughts to gel before distilling the week's events into a proper post. In the interim, I thought I'd share a few of my Las Vegas exploits. For those of you who don't know Jen G. and I are currently doing a spoken word tour under the handle, "The Pincushion Orchestra." Our kick off happened, appropriately enough, in San Jose, at the Kalied Gallery. Vegas, alas, held no performance opportunities for us. The excursion was purely and simply, for shits and giggles.
Here's what I posted on the way there:
The evening finds us haggard after much logistical tedium. Alas, the car is prowling south on 101, filled to the gills with enough food to last the next two months. Beside us, a tanker truck filled with coffee-- as are the guts between my ears. Tonight we ride to Vegas. By Friday, Albuquerque. AD/DC "Hell's Bells" erupts from the iPod. Gotta roll.
While in Vegas Jen and I tried very hard to maintain our reputation as bottomless whiskey wells. Unhappily, our powers have waned.
On the bright side I purchased an Aston Martin while I was in town (photo above)
see more photos here.
The highlight was, by far, the Erotic Heritage Museum... 2,000 square feet of pornographic memorabilia. Emblazoned on the wall, the sexual rights of all human beings. To paraphrase, my personal favorite: the right of all to sexual expression regardless of age, gender, social awkwardness or perceived lack of physical attractiveness.
And now a poem about a ghost...
THE CURSE OF THE DRINKING CLASSES
To the ghost that haunts my favorite bar, I can see why you want to spend the afterlife here. The place isn't one of those cookie-cutter Irish pubs with cardboard cutout leprechauns dancing at the flanks of a wide-screen plasma TV compliments of the Bud-Ice St. Patty's Day ad campaign. Here, you know the owner's Irish when you walk in to a portrait of the Queen of England, caught on camera picking her nose in the middle of a Remembrance Day parade.
Catching people off guard is of course your specialty.
I can understand the occasional spinning coaster, or the nickels and dimes sliding across the bar. But when you threw that pint glass at Jody, it stopped being funny. That's when I started getting free drinks in exchange for staying late so that whoever had to close didn't have to do it alone.
When it was time for the famous last words, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” I got to keep drinking. Emboldened with my fluid courage I got the jobs no one wanted. Bathroom duty. Just before close I saw a couple walk out of it gazing at each other through bourbon-laced smiles. Now, the whole place smells like vaginal secretion and bad cologne.
Drunk as shit, scrubbing the porcelain, I know the owner's a poet because there's an Oscar Wilde quote above the stall. "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." A hundred years ago this bar would have been filled with coal miners and it would have been owned by the same corporation that sent them to choke in the shafts, taxing their taught shoulders by day and by night, their love of the glass. And I wonder if you, the specter that dwells here, had been a guy like that.
But later, wiping down the bar I think of the regulars, the old cats who spend so much of their twilight slumped in one place that through the rag I can feel their elbow-shaped divots in the counter.
And I knew, you weren't one of them. You had to be a bartender. You made your living standing eight inches away from their faces, close enough to feel the warmth of their breath as the whiskey fumes rose out of them. That's why some drinks are called spirits. They float around in places where souls are not at rest.
The one thing you have in common with people forced to work beyond their limits is that you don’t realize, you're already dead. You become part of the place you put your back into, like two trees twisting into one tangled mess as they grow into each other. And when I saw Shaun's face white and pasty as a pool of frozen bird shit while he explained that something tried to choke him in the walk in refrigerator, I knew you had some unfinished business.
In Mexico, La Llorona drifts over riverbanks crying for her murdered children. On Pamlico Bay, some say they see Blackbeard the pirate combing the shore for his severed head. They will never find what they're looking for.
And neither will you.
The kegs will empty. The glasses will chip. The jukebox will get hooked up to the internet allowing dudes from Soho to play Nickelback till their hearts content. But as long as working people come in for a pint and a place to rest there will be a thirst it's not your job to quench.
You know the owner's a socialist because he has a picture of Marx above the bar; a man famous not just for his resemblance to Santa Claus but for being so misunderstood when he said, "Once you set foot in the workplace, your labor and the body that makes it are owned by your employer." Now that you are free, your soul your only possession. Don't let him own that too. You don’t have to go to heaven or hell, but you can’t stay here.