Well, dear reader, have I got news for you! Here, have a seat and let me get you a cocktail. You’re a Dewar’s on the rocks, right? Huh? Oh, for crying out loud, of course! You’re a Maker’s Mark on the rocks, what was I thinking? Well I know what I was thinking, I was thinking about that thing I wanted to tell you about. Here ya’ go… Maker’s on the rocks. All set? Good! Now check this out.
Yesterday, I’m bouncin’ around the Internet when I get this big heads-up from one of my blog friends… this Brenda who has a site called “Brenda and the F word”. She tells me to go to a certain site and that good news awaits me. Well of course I take her advice but when I get there you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. That’s because, by the looks of what I was seeing (here), I’d apparently just been knighted by the great King James. Huh? Oh, I’m sorry, I’m talking about James Wolcott… wordsmith extraordinaire over at Vanity Fair. Yeah, that guy. Well it turns out, dear reader, that the man not only mentioned me on his Wednesday afternoon post, he goes and does a whole frigging thing on me. Not braggin’ but I’m talkin’ quotes, excerpts, “Go read this guy”, etc. just like he tapped the sword on each of my shoulders. Can you believe it? And people have been rushing to my site like I’m one of the big boys. Isn’t that the greatest? So listen, if I give you a sloppy pour today or you see me standing here staring off into space, snap me out of it, okay? Just roll up a goddam bev nap and aim for my nose.
What are you doing with that bev nap? Huh? I still gave you a Dewar’s? Aww, for Christ Almighty sakes, see what I mean? It’s been like this all day! Here, while I fix you another drink, and speaking of wordsmiths, let me tell you about a night I was anything but.
It was near closing time. I had one guy at the bar and the couple on Table Four was paying their tab. That’s it, no one else. So while my guy’s chewing on his unlit cigar and swirling the dregs of his Hennessey around in a snifter, I go over and put on my favorite Bar-land CD. It’s called “Let’s Get Lost”, by Chet Baker. That’s always my choice at closing time because his sweet, dulcet tones seem to bounce off the walls like invisible marshmallows. It’s a soothing sound that always mellows me out. And it also kinda tells the customers, “You get lost, too, the party’s over!” But not on this night, dammit, Hennessey calls me over and orders another.
“Yo, bartender, hit me one more time, okay? Then I gotta get home before the Big German kicks my ass.”
Hmmm, I thought, ain’t heard that one before. Does he live with fucking Rudolph Hess’s grandson or something? And as I pour him his final drink I say, “Do you live with fucking Rudolph Hess’s grandson or something? Who’s the Big German that’s gonna kick your ass?”
“Hah! Very funny, bartender, very funny. Nah, I got me a big German woman who kicks my ass into Tuesday whenever I’m late. That’s all.”
“That’s all? That’s a lot where I come from. Sounds to me like a dangerous situation.” And it did, dear reader. Hennessey was only about five-foot-four and one-thirty-five if you throw in the weight of the cigar. “Well she must be something special to put up with that!” I added.
“Are you kiddin’? She’s cream of the crop. This woman is aces. Always been there, hell or high water… even when I was away, if you know what I mean.”
Well, figuring “away” wasn’t a tour of West Point, then on to Niagara Falls for a getaway week-end, I tip-toed in. “When you say ‘away’, you mean away away? Like up the river?”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” he said, squinting while drawing an imaginary puff on his stogie. “Up the fuckin’ river, oars and all!”
“Can I ask what for?”
“You can ask but I won’t tell,” he said. Then he smiled because this phrase popped into his head. “Let’s just say I had two and a half years of free room and board on Uncle Sam’s dime. How’s that?”
“That’s fine. And you’re right, it’s none of my business. I never should’ve asked. I just figured since you threw it out that…”
“Hey, no sweat, pal,” he interrupted. “Don’t worry about it. Which brings me back to why I love the big German? This broad not only stuck with me the whole freakin’ time I’m away… she took care of my business too, big time!”
No, dear reader, I didn’t ask, “What Business?” I’m thick but not concrete in the cerebellum department. “Well, she sounds like a fine woman,” I said, ” and based on what you’ve told me I can surely see now why you choose to stick with her.” And I said it with an, “Okay, we’re done here,” inflection.
“Let’s get lost … da-da-da-da-da-da-dah…. Let’s get lost… da-da-da-da-da-da-dah!”
But he wasn’t done. “Shit, fine woman you say? Believe me, she’s a hell of a lot more than just fine, my friend. Just like my sainted mother, who treated me like the sun rose and set on me, I never been treated better by a woman in my life. And that’s sayin’ somethin’ when you think how terrific mother’s are!”
Enter “wordsmith” in all his linguistic glory. For trying to get the image out of my head of a six-foot-four Brunhilda with braids and a rolling pin, I decided to drop this pearl about sainted mothers. Check this out.
“Can I tell you something, my friend, about mothers?”
“Sure ya’ can,” he said.
“Here’s why mothers are great and nothing less. No matter what you do in life, no matter how many times you screw up in life a mother’s love is always and forever unrequited!”
Of course I meant “unconditional” but before I could correct the madness Hennessey jumped in. He took his cigar out of his mouth, got the beginnings of dew in his eye, slammed his palm on the bar and said, “Jesus Christ that’s beautiful, I couldn’t-a said it better myself!”
Well, to say I started to laugh is clearly inadequate. That’s because “high-pitched delirium” puts it better. For whether it was the time of night… that time when you’re tired and a laugh can literally own you… or the fact that I saw in my mind’s eye Leo fucking Gorcey and Huntz Hall here, I’m not sure; but what I can say for sure is I feared I’d be leaving Bar-land strapped to a gurney. That’s how bad I lost it. And I couldn’t go back and say, “I meant to say ‘unconditional’, too late for that. That would be saying he slammed his palm on the bar and agreed to nonsense. I was simply stuck with it. A mother’s unrequited love… a bartender’s fucking unconditional idiocy!
So as I continued choking on my laugh, he kind of chuckled as well… but with a wary eye as to what was really going on. So I tried to bail. “Sorry, friend, I don’t mean to laugh here but I just thought of something funny that happened earlier. It’s not us.” And thank God he didn’t ask ’cause I had no story.
“Hah, no sweat here” he said, “shit happens.” But then when he said, “Give me my check before the Big German kicks my ass,” it was hoots and Jello again but this time worse. Surreality cubed! I all but crawled to the register to tally his tab.
This is insanity, I thought, and also maybe dangerous if you ponder the circumstances. For even though Hennessey was only five-foot-four and one-thirty-three sans cigar which he left on the bar, it didn’t mean he was completely what you’d call harmless. I mean he did do a stretch in the joint, right? Which means he is capable of doing something illegal, right? Which means he might just be “connected” meaning he can get someone to do something illegal to me, right? Like break my cute dimpled knees some night when I leave. So when he looked back over his shoulder and gave me the oddest look when his hand went to push on the door… my laughter slid into the ethers along with this guy. “Good night,” I shouted cheerily. “Have a good one!” I added, hoping he bought it.
Let’s get lost… da-da-da-da-da-da-dah…
But isn’t that nuts, dear reader? I mean the whole damn thing. Here, let me get you another Dewar’s on the rocks. What? Oh shit, that’s right, you’re a freakin’ Maker’s Mark. God damn Wolcott!!!
PS: But seriously, Mr. W., let me say here publicly… if it’s not the word “King” then Prince does apply. Thank you, Sir.
Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next weekend!