Friday, June 04, 2004

From Bohemia to Beauty to Bulgaria and Back Again:

I'm at a birthday party at the Bohemian beer hall in Astoria. I'm talking about fighting with a French lawyer. I like talking about fighting because I used to get into a lot of fights, and now they make good stories. People are always skeptical about my street fighting tales because I don’t seem the type.

“You don’t seem the type,” French Lawyer says. I want to show him that he doesn’t know anything about “the type” but I like French Lawyer. I’m planning on being friends with French Lawyer. Anyway, I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Much.

My glass goes away, and comes back full of more beer. There are a baker’s dozen of us sitting around a long wooden table in the beer hall’s garden. It’s almost raining, and for a few minutes it is raining, and then it slips away to almost again.

Someone is always getting up to get another pitcher from inside. The garden is enormous and almost empty. There's no one else here other than a family sitting at the far end of the garden, and a cook grilling kielbasa.

I don’t even notice when the Brooklyn girls arrive. I’m not supposed to like the Brooklyn girls, not after the Phone Incident. But now we’re talking and one of them is telling me her father who was shot by the Japanese in the Pacific, irradiated by the Americans in the Southwest, and shot again by the Mexicans in Texas. I’m trying to do the math, to figure out how old her father must be. I can’t manage it.

We’re starting to get somewhere with this drinking. The girls get rowdy. Two blonde sisters are now talking about fighting with French Lawyer. The girl with the father who survives everything tells a story about getting hit in the face with a tennis racket. Mugs are full, and then empty and then full. The rain is falling very slowly. I’m looking at French Lawyer thinking he doesn’t look the type.

Sully is on the phone. He thinks we need a name. When we were kids we had a couple of names. None of them really stuck. I urged everyone to adopt “Improbable Mulit-Ethnic Gang” but that didn’t sound enough like “We’re going to kick you ass.”

“We’re going to be at Beauty Bar. Right now. What the fuck are you doing in Queens? You never go to Queens.”

He’s right. I never go to Queens. We are going to be at the Beauty Bar. I call the numbers. A car arrives, and then I’m on 14th street walking through the crowd of smokers outside this place that was once a beauty salon and now is bar.

Sully is talking to a beautiful Icelandic girl who won’t say what she’s called. She keeps insisting her name is whatever she happens to be drinking, and she keeps changing what she is drinking. Now she’s Margarita. Now she’s Manhattan. Now she’s Vodkatonic.

When a girl tries to be mysterious she usually ends up dull. The Icelander looks offended so I must have said this to her.

“Have you read the Sagas?” I ask her. She pushes her white hair back from in front of her face. Whatever I’m telling her about the Icelandic Sagas—something about the settlers of Iceland being proto-anarchists--is either confusing her or enraging her.

“Jesus, Mick. How long have you been drinking?” Sully says.

“The whole time,” I say. I turn up my glass and whiskey-infused ice hits my teeth. The whiskey-free glass slides across the bar. I should tell the bartender what to do with the ice, but I want to see if he knows.

Here’s what you do with whiskey on the rocks. When you pour another glass, you keep the rocks that are there, only adding new ice. The old ice has the memory of the whiskey, it knows the glass and the drink and your mouth. It introduces the new ice. You don’t dump the old ice.

My bartender doesn’t know this. I try to teach him over the next glass of whiskey but he won't learn so I try to teach him with the next glass. And then I just let him alone on the next glass because I don't tolerate slow learners.

Out. Out. Shiny wet street. Yellow. Dark. Folding money unfolded. Upstairs. Upstairs. The crowd, dancing, music. The bar. Big green bottle of beer. Alex. Another bottle. Smoking. Bottles. Talking now, talking to the girl. Curls. Blond. Bright eyes. Chapped nostrils. Downstairs. Shiny street. Arm outstretched. Yellow. Dark.