Thursday, May 03, 2007
So, A Guy Walks into a bar...........
BoyWonder received a new cd in the mail today and it brought me back twenty years.
I was twenty years of age and was to meet up with some friends at a local bar after my shift.The bar was connveniently located in the centre of the city , near the subway and streetcar lines, allowing for all to arrive with the least amount of effort. This bar was the type of place which hosted live entertainment. It was a run down joint which always smelled of stale beer and cigarettes. The live entertainment could be found not only on the stage but with the true objectional type of crowd the 'entertainment' could draw in. Part of the 'fun', could also be found in the notion of dodging the next thrown chair or missing the weave of a drunkard as he passes with a tray full of beers. But the majority of my pals wanted to meet there out of convenience, as it was indeed the devil we knew and if anything we would be 'entertained'.
Most patrons opt for the bench along the wall, as the seats left in the aisles are precarious at best. Sitting in the aisles, you face the possibility of ashes being dropped on your head, from people standing above you or just the inconvenience of being jostled by the crowds racing to the dance floor in case a particularly good song is being played by the band. And as the night wears, it becomes a case of Russian Roulette as someone in the aisle seat is bound to wear a tray of beer as copious amounts of beers are consumed with gusto as the music blares. For certainty you are not going to this bar to talk, you are there to listen to music or you are there to dance, or you are there to drink. In hindsight, I think the bar staff should have handed out rain ponchos for all the poor souls who found themselves on the aisle seats. Rain ponchos and combat helmets would probably be welcomed by first time aisle patrons.
I had arrived early to meet my friends, and the lights were on bright, showing all its warts and blemishes of the establishment. There were scuff marks on the walls, from fights, from hours, days or years past. The black stage was dimly lit, the wobbly tables,with match books underneath trying to set balance to tables which were long past their balancing prime. The tables with endless cigarette burns on the black veneer, along with carved initials, and various choice announcements enscribed with carving knives or cigarette butt burns from patrons past to present day patrons . All of the tables are caked in a film of beer and ash which can never be removed from a waitresses well-soiled rag. The floor was well worn industrial'grey' carpet covering, which ended abruptly at the front, as people preferred to dance on slippery, cracked, painted, marblesk floors.
The stage was raised from the 'dance floor'. It was carpeted as well. It was small and black with a black curtain. There were lights set up in front with various blue and red filters pointing towards the two mics which were set up. There were drums which were set back which were lit from the sides and dim light was coming from the drum itself. It was evident that a small band was playing tonight.
Upon sussing up the pit, and realizing that there would be no problem acquiring a bench seat, as there was a 'No Name' band coming in to play, I opted to sit at the bar and wait for my friends to join me. I found a 'stable' stool and lugged it to the corner of the bar.
The bartender, who was a friend of mine from school, was rushing around, trying to get everything prepped for the night. He called out my name as I sat down. He was harried, and let me know he was just off to change two kegs. He would be back 'in a flash'.
It was a Thursday night, as by most bar standards,the busiest night of the week and the bartender from the night before had left my friend out on the lurch by not completing the closing tasks from the previous night. I knew from the list of things to be completed, that I would not be entertained by my bartender friend.
Equipped with the knowledge of how long it takes to change a keg, from working in a bar myself, I pulled out my book from my knapsack. This was a book which held me so close for the past few days. A book which drew me into a whole new world of characters, I had felt become good friends with, or at least I had fallen in love with one of them. I was head over heels in love with an imaginary character in a book. What had my life become?
I was a bit sad, as I was just a few short chapters away from the end of my book. I was sad, as I would be leaving Larry Darrell.
As each page was read, each word dissolved into memory, and as I drew to the end of the book, it was also bringing me to the end of my voyage.
'Ahh, The Razor's Edge' came a voice.
I look up. "Yeah'
There at the other side of the bar was the lone patron. He had a mop of dark, brown hair, in a black button down shirt and was still wearing his jean jacket. He smiled.
'It's a good read.' he added.
And I nodded. And I told him that I was sad it was ending. My book that is...
Now, dear Blogger, do not get the wrong idea. This man was not trying to pick me up.I know the difference between 'bar talk' and 'let's get into your pants type of talk.' He was just shooting the breeze. And since I did not really want to end my 'relationship' with Larry just yet, and the fact that this person seemed to have read my coveted book, I decided to chat.
And this man was willing to listen, to a young woman go on, at nauseum, about her love of Larry. We talked and we even laughed. We philosophised about philosophy. And then he walked over and joined me.
The bartender, arrived back a minute later and took our drink order. We introduced ourselves to each other and just chatted. It was a fun spur of the moment, grasp a conversation from the air type of moment.
We just talked about what we both had read. And what we had planned to read. It was a fun conversation. We knew there would be an end, as the promise of our friends joining us, certainly would have the great divide of raucous activity between us.
My friends arrived first and scolded me for not grabbing a good seat. They came en mass and proceeded to scope out the best tables and draw them together for our large group. I shrugged my shoulders and said goodbye to Robert as his friends joined him soon after mine. And as bar life happens, groups arrive en mass and a once quiet atmosphere, that seemed so stagnant becomes littered with sound and bodies. The smoke fills a room and the lights are dimmed so that you can not truly see across the room gives a sense intimacy with a group of seventy people. And somehow, through the people, through the sound of clinking of glasses, and the conversation of friends, a building gives off a feeling of a soul and life.
And like what happens in movies, in corny B films, where you say aloud 'As, If! 'Robert took to the stage.
My friends turned to me and said 'Isn't that the guy you just were talking to?
Well, what's his band called?
Well, we didn't talk about that... I, I didn't know he was playing.
Robert started to sing. He started to look, very familiar. He started to sound very familiar. He did not look like the book nerd at the bar. He was so truly comfortable on the stage,filled with a smokey haze, in this wee room with a soul. And with each song it sent tingles down my spine. He was someone I have known forever and yet had not known him at the bar. He was a faceless voice behind a radio. I had not truly heard his voice until now. I heard it over the clinking of the glasses, I heard it over the sound of people ordering their drinks. And right there, is where he was at home. In this wreck of a bar, commanding all to listen, to listen to his ballads, to hear his message through the most commonest of voices.
I sat riveted in the darkened bar with the blue light on the No Name band.
And my heart truly skipped a beat, as how could it not?
How could my heart remain so calm? How could my heart remain calm, when Bob Dylan had just bought me a drink and helped me truly understand the enlightenment of Larry Darrell.