Friday, May 26, 2023

Speak Easy

I met some of the kids up at Factory City yesterday for drinks.  As always, as the time approached, I didn't really want to go.  I thought about "calling in."  But I rarely go anywhere anymore, and so I put on a shirt and shorts and flops and headed out.  

And, per usual, I went to the wrong place.  It used to be the right place, but it was closed.  Shut down.  Abandoned.  No more Twisted Kilt.  WTF?  I called my friend who didn't answer.  

"O.K. I'm standing outside the Tattered Kilt, and of course, I'm in the wrong place.  Where the hell. . . ."

In a bit she called back.  The restaurant/bar had moved across the street.  When I pulled up, the crew was laughing.  My fuck ups are predictable.  It was a small group this time, just four plus a husband who came late and stayed for just a bit before he left me "with the girls."  

"Better for me this way," I said.  

I ordered a Black and Tan and floated along with the conversation.  It was "witchy."  My bruja friend is getting a new certification as an herbalist.  

"I cannot call myself an herbalist, though," she said.  "It is illegal in this state."  

A lot of the things she is "certified" in are illegal in the state.  

"I'm not allowed to treat anyone," she said.  

"Basically, you are like a Wicken, right?"

"No.  Yes."  

It doesn't matter to me, but the rest of the esteemed group were ready for tips.  I find it strange that people with grad degrees go in for this sort of thing, but they do.  

"I went to an acupuncturist in Grit City once," one of them said.  "To relieve stress, you know.  I thought, heck, I'll try it.  I'll give it a shot.  So I went in and he put needles around my face, but you know, there are meridians and he put them right down my leg."

"Oh, yes," the table nodded in agreement. Meridians.  

"When the session was done, I thought I felt marginally better, you know, from here," she held her hand up, "to here."  Her had dropped a few centimeters.  "And I thought, o.k., but when I was driving home, all of the sudden it just hit me.  I felt like I had taken a drug."

The table responded eagerly, heads nodding energetically in approbation. This is a group who were early into "mindfulness."  I'm an old hippie, so one would think I would be in support of that, but I am something else, too, and I made soft fun of the whole enterprise.  In sessions at the factory, they would teach people how to be mindful by sitting quietly in their chairs for one minute.  There under the fluorescent lights in industrial folding chairs, the room grew preternaturally quiet.  

My cell phone rang.  Unbelievable.  Nobody EVER calls my phone.  I struggled to get it out of the front jeans pocket and mute it.  

"Of course," they all said afterwards.  

"Studies show that students who mindfully meditate before taking a test do better."

"So do kids who masturbate," I said.  "It's true.  They get the same sort of focus and stress relief. . . ."

I didn't have any studies to back my claim up, of course, but I was certain it was true.  

Still, they let me come to their events.  But I'm not really in the "inner circle."  That is for the like-minded.  

At five, we were to move from the outside porch into the brand new speak easy.  They were excited.  

"What makes it a "speak easy," I asked.  

"You enter through a phone booth."

"I mean, do you need to know the password?"

Blank stares.  


None of them knew the Marx Brothers bit.  I pulled it up on my phone (link), but nobody watched it.  It was too long for them.  

When we got to the phone booth, it was closed.  There was a sign that said to use the side door.  

"It's a trick," I said.  

Everyone piled into the booth.  One of them picked up the phone.  

"Hey. . . there's a message.  A speak easy message."  The girls all huddled around the receiver.  Then a big fellow came up and the girls jumped.  

I looked at him for a second, then I yelled "Swordfish!"  He laughed immediately.  

"See--he watched the whole clip," I said.  

The big fellow led us to the side door.  Then he looked at me and said, "You can't come in with open toed shoes.  Do you have any others in the car?"

I shook my head in the negative.  One of the girls, however, had on open toed shoes, too, so she said, "Am I allowed in."

"Yes, the rule is only for guys."

Now I wondered what my ideological friends were going to do.  They take a hard stand on such things. . . usually.  But the big guy kind of stuttered, "Let me go in and talk to my manager.  I'm just doing my job. . . ."

"Is Tom inside?" one of the girls asked.  


"Let me in to talk to him," she said.  

I didn't care one way or the other.  "I've been kicked out of better joints than this one," I told the girls.  In a few seconds, though, all was well and we were let into the plush, darkened interior.  The manager came over with apologies.  

"He'll wear shoes next time," my friend said.  So much for ideology.  

We sat at a table in the small room near the bar. The bar was a nice one, and there were two rooms for larger parties, on for seven and one for eleven.  There were giant red velvet curtains you could draw if you wanted privacy.  

"Those are the Trump rooms," I said.  One of the girls spat, "Don't start with the Trump shit."  I had made her cry once, long ago, in 2016, at an oyster bar when I tried to say something about Trump that they didn't like.  

"Oh, sure. . . NOW you're going to get all ideological again."  Then quickly, to defuse what might be a bad situation, "I have those curtains in my t.v. room.  This place looks a lot like my house.  

They began planning a party here for a small group.  Who?  They began naming names and counting on their fingers.  

"Just the 'inner circle,'" I said.  

"And you."  

"Sure.  If I remember to wear shoes." 

And it was quickly set, the dates, the people, and phones came out.  It was planned.  

I hadn't eaten, and now after the Black and Tan on the porch, I had an Old Fashioned in front of me.  I looked at the food menu.  It was skinny and everything was expensive.  That, I guessed, was how you knew it was a speak easy.  I ordered the ceviche.  

It certainly wasn't a meal, but it would have to suffice.  The others had eaten before I showed up but one of the girls got an order of Carpaccio.  

"Damn, this is a lazy place," I said.  

They all looked at me quizzically.  

"They don't cook anything."

The conversation went back to witchy things.  Two of the women at the table had decided to become Death Doulas!  They were the opposite of Birth Doulas that see you into the world.  Nope.  They were going to help people out of it.  

"There are a lot of Boomers who don't have any end of life support," one of them said.  They all looked at me.  


"Don't worry," she said.  "I'll help you out."

Well, there was that, then.  I would have someone to see me to "the other side."  This was desultory talk, I thought, but they were energized.  

After the second Old Fashioned, I was hungry and ready to go.  Everyone called for their checks.  The manager came over one more time and asked if everything was good.  The group chimed in together that we would be back soon for a party.  Then we were on the street, hugs and kisses.  

I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and bought something I could microwave.  Just something small.  It was getting late.  

I shoved the chicken things into the microwave.  I hit the button.  Nothing.  ????  I did it again.  The internal light came on, but the turntable didn't turn, the microwave sound didn't come on.  I climbed up on the cabinet, reached in behind the cupboard, pulled the plug and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  

Fuck.  Why?  What had happened?

I went into the bathroom and flipped the switch.  I heard a banshees cry.  It scared the hell out of me.  Involuntarily, I flinched and ducked.  It was the exhaust fan.  Something was wrong.  Shit.  What was going on?  

I went around the house checking things.  Maybe there was a lightning strike.  But none of the clocks had gone off.  The t.v. was fine.  It was just the microwave and the exhaust fan.  Weird.  Just weird.  

I threw the frozen chicken bits into a frying pan.  This is what I had wanted to avoid.  Another scotch, chicken bits, a little YouTube, and I woke up on the couch.  

Nothing has healed itself this morning.  The fan still screeches, the microwave still sits silent.  I worry about replacing them.  The microwave is custom built in over the stove.  The fan is probably from the '50s.  I'm sure the size will not be standard.  It might require a big time renovation to replace it.  I am bummed.  Nothing lasts, of course.  My car engine had a hiccup going to Factory City, too.  I can feel my bank account shrinking.  

All I have to cheer me up is that I now have a soon-to-be Death Doula on my side.  

The day is cloudy.  It is Friday.  It doesn't feel like a Friday.  It feels like a Wednesday.  I have a happy hour date with some of the gymroids.  I may "call in."  Who knows.  Maybe I'll feel better by then.  

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