Friday, March 29, 2024

A Man Walks into a Bar

I didn't have the day I predicted.  I didn't have a very good day at all.  But some days are like that.  You can't predict.  So. . . after visiting my mother, I decided I would go out for dinner rather than cook.  I felt fat and awful, but I think I overcook at home, and though it is healthy stuff, I eat too much.  That is the only explanation I can come up with.  I decided I would go to my favorite Italian restaurant up the street.  I would sit at the bar, order some food, and watch the crowd.  The bartender I like was working with the same girl that was there when I went with Tennessee.  When she saw me sit down, she smiled and gave me a high five.  Nice.  But I am a shy wreck of a man.  Always have been.  And I have NO GAME.  When I was young and prettier, it was cute.  Now. . . not so much, I think.  Still, I don't like to bother people.  At least not until I get to know them.   I ordered a Chianti Classico and she handed me a menu.  I said, "I know what I want.  It's the sautéed shrimp and scallop thing in a white wine sauce over pasta."

She named what she thought it was.  

"Isn't that in a red sauce?"

She thought a minute.  "Well. . . kind of. . . . "

Neither of us could see the menu without glasses, so I told her to pour the wine and I'd turn on the light from my phone like all old men do.  

Gamberoni E Capesante Fra Diavolo.  She was right.  It was with a plum tomato sauce.  


I sat with my wine and waited.  The bar was full.  When I sat down, the man next to me said hello.  Pleasant fellow.  He had a bottle of wine in front of him that had a label shaped like the one on a bottle of Cristal champagne, but it was a red wine.  He was alone but had ordered a bottle.  I wondered at that.  Would he drink the entire bottle or was money simply not an issue?  Just then, the other bartender brought him a plate with two meatballs.  They looked good, but I remember my mother telling me once after I got sick on meatballs I was silly to have order that.  

"You don't know what is in them," she said.  I haven't ordered meatballs since.  

I looked around.  The outside tables were filling up.  It had been a drizzly, overcast day, but just an hour before, the skies had cleared and the temperature and humidity turned lovely.  It was a Thursday night, the new Friday.  

The crowd was older.  I looked from where I sat to the outside bar.  An older, very distinguished couple sat across from me on the street side.  He was my age, fleshy but well dressed.  She had platinum hair that was from the pages of Italian Vogue and a perfectly sculptured face with magnificent skin.  One couldn't help but notice her.  She wore a pair of big sunglasses that complimented her hair.  The couple was in deep conversation, she doing most of the talking, he doing most of the listening.  She had a lot to say.  

Next to me was a woman in an Angora sweater and designer jeans.  She sat with her back to me facing a man of obvious money--a pinpoint Egyptian cotton Oxford and a racing style sports jacket and five hundred dollar tortoise shell eyeglass frames.  Her sweater was cut low, and I could see the flawless olive skin of her upper back complimented by a tiny gold necklace.  She had a big diamond on her finger.  He wore a black onyx ring.  

The bartender brought me slices of bread and olive oil with balsamic vinegar.  This was a treat from her.  They never do that here.  She smiled and I smiled and said thank you.  

"You're a moron," I thought to myself.  "That's it?  Thanks?"

Like I say. . . I have no game.  

Outside, the woman with the platinum hair removed her sunglasses and her looks completely changed.  Her eyes had been lifted so much, she looked a bit alien.  They were pinched up and angled a little oddly.  She looked like many of the matrons in Palm Beach I have there.  Yea., I thought . . I'll let Tennessee get his eyes done first.  

The two bartenders were huddled together talking in hushed tones.  I could see the "other one" say, "Yea, he's nice looking, but. . . ." and I couldn't see her lips after that.  I hoped they were talking about me, but I knew that wasn't so.  I looked around the bar.  Who?

The fellow with the meatballs asked for his check.  

"I need to get back to the office," he said.

The "other" barmaid asked him if he wanted a bag for his wine.  He did, but she was to take a glass first.  

"Oh, yea," she smiled.  She got a glass and began to pour a little copa, but he insisted she take more.  

She brought a plastic go bag over.  

"Is this alright, or would you rather have a brown paper bag?"

I almost said, "Sure. . . nobody suspects a brown paper bag," but I was wise enough to keep that to myself.  

"Somebody brought their stuff in a grocery bag, but I can take it out."

"Yes, that would be better," he said.  

She came back and corked he bottle and put it in the grocery sack.  They exchanged warm pleasantries and smiled.  As he walked out, I said to her, "You didn't tell him that it was gym clothes you took out, did you?"

She laughed.  It was the first time I'd seen her truly smile.  I should have asked her about the wine.  

The bartender brought my dinner.  Oh, yes. . . sautéed shrimp and scallops over big pasta ribbons.  The woman with the Angora sweater turned to look.  I couldn't tell her age.  Her skin was tight and very shiny, her eyes deep set beneath a prominent brow and cheekbones that I questioned were real.  She smiled into my eyes but didn't speak, and in a minute she turned back to her fellow.  

The meal was perfect.  It was just what I wanted.  For most of my life, I wouldn't eat this way.  Meat, fish, poultry, and lots of it.  This is what I had been missing out on.  

A fellow in a Hawaiian shirt and a deep tan walked in and sat where the fellow with the wine and meatballs had been.  He was loud and apparently thought he was friends with the barmaids.  A "regular" I would guess.  

"What can I get for you?" asked "my" bartender.  

"Grey Goose," he said as if she should know.  

'I know what that is," he said to me looking at my dinner.  "That's something something fria something!  That's my favorite dish here!"

"Yessir," I said.  "It's really good."

I watched the bartender shake up the grey goose with ice and pour it into a glass.  Three olives.  

The fellow took a sip and sighed.  He sat back and looked around.  I could see him looking at me out of the corner of my eye.  Then in a loud voice meant for the room he said to the bartender, "You two look like sisters!"

In a flat voice without looking, "Yea. . . you said that last time." 

They do, perhaps, both dark haired northeastern Italians, though they couldn't be more different in countenance and demeanor, one with a perpetual smile, the other with a long-standing scowl. 

The man with the tortoise shell glasses called the bartender over.  The woman in the Angora sweater said she wanted a dirty martini.

"How dirty?"

She thought a minute.  "Medium dirty," she said.  The man said something I couldn't hear and they both laughed.  She turned and looked at me.  "Some people give up chocolates.  I gave up dirty martinis."

"Yes," I said, "but not tonight."

"No," she said into my eyes, "not tonight."  

Pinpoint Egyptian cotton is going to have a time tonight, I thought.  I tried to guess what he drove that night.  

The light and the air were soft.  The couple outside called for their check.  They, too, were known by the bartender.  It was, it seemed, a "regular" crowd.  I liked them fine.  

"You got more tan than the last time I saw you," the bartender said to the man with the Hawaiian shirt.  I looked at his obviously dyed "Just for Men" hair.  

"I went sky diving," he said.  


"Yes.  I'm a sky diver."

"My old college roommate got into that."


"I don't know.  We kind of lost touch."

"If she's from around here, she probably knows me," he said.  

"You don't get tanned from skydiving," I thought.  He obviously went to a tanning bed.  

When the bartender walked away, he put a napkin over his glass and put his olives on top, got up, and went away.  Maybe he went to the restroom, but I thought he was off to do a bump.  When he came back, his leg was bouncing.  Then his food arrived.  Unbelievable.  Two meat balls.  WTF?

Dinner finished, I pushed the plate away.  The bartender came over.  

"Do you want anything else?"

"Do you have any coffee beans?"

She smiled.  "Do you want a Sambuca?"

"That would be fine," I said.  Last time I was there, neither of us could recall the name of the drink with the coffee beans.  

"Is that a Sambuca?" the man with the meatballs asked.  

"Yes.  I like to have one after an Italian dish."

"Of course you do," he said emphatically.  I wasn't sure how he meant that.  

When my bartender had a minute, I motioned her over and leaned close, my hand shielding my mouth from the lady next to me.  The bartender leaned in.  

"Is that an Angora sweater?" I asked.  

"I don't know what that is," she said.  "I'll look it up."  She turned to get her phone.

"No, no. . . don't bother with that."  

She leaned in closer, squinted her eyes disapprovingly, frowned, and said in a low, conspiratorial voice, "I'm not a fan."

It was still daylight when I finished my drink. I wanted to linger, but I didn't want to order another, didn't want to sit on the stool like another lonely "regular."   When the "other" bartender asked if I wanted anything else, I shook my head and handed her my credit card.  It is a red one, a not very subtle bank card.  Those won't get you many dates in this town, but it went well with my black t-shirt and cheap Chinese "linen" shorts.  

Getting up to leave, I stood up slowly.  My knee was stiff, of course.  I loathed walking away with a limp and stood for a minute so that I wouldn't wince at the pain.  Whatever.  Jaws clenched, I limped slowly toward the door without looking back.  I wasn't one of those guys.  

There was still half an hour of daylight when I got home.  I didn't want a whiskey.  Whiskey is not something you drink in daylight.  I decided to go with what the overly tanned fellow had.  I put ice in the shaker and poured in the vodka.  Three olives.  

No cat.  She had not come for breakfast, either.  Just then, I saw some strange paws walk behind my car.  I waited.  Holy shit. . . when it stepped out, it was a huge raccoon.  Big, walking in that hunched back way that they have, but maybe a little different.  You're not supposed to see raccoons in daylight.  Only rabid ones walk around in the daylight.  I got a chill up my spine.  Just then a second, even larger raccoon came walking down the street.  Frightened but curious, I got up to see where they were going.  "This is stupid," I thought.  "You can't even run."  Still, I followed from a distance.  The second one stopped and turned to face me.  I stopped to, then I spoke.  

"What the fuck are you doing?"

It wasn't so much what I said as the tone.  Authoritative.  Commanding.  Bold.  I took another step forward.  He stared.  

"Hey," I said, and took another step.  Why?  I don't know.  It made no sense, really.  But I wanted to see where they were going.  With my second step, the raccoon turned and went behind my across the street neighbor's house.  I thought about going up to his door to tell him, then thought that was pretty stupid.  

"Hey, Ebb. . . uh. . . I just saw two raccoons walk behind your house!"

I came back to the porch, picked up my drink, and went inside.  I didn't want to wait and see the rest of the raccoon clan.  

"Maybe that's why the cat hasn't been around," I thought.  Maybe the 'coons had been looking around her food bowl at night.  I should probably take them inside after she finishes eating.

With the setting of the sun, I turned on the television.  I dialed up one of the March Madness games, but I tired of that very quickly.  I switched over to YouTube for another lecture on postmodern fiction, this time from a prof from Yale.  I'd watched her before.  I critique her deliveries and her assumptions.  She surely has published some really good criticism, but her classroom delivery needed work, I thought.  But she is a bit of what the boys used to call "a looker."  

Judith Butler, the eminent feminist theorist, has just come out with a new book that is making waves.  Her thesis is that biological gender is a social construct.  This should help fuel the Trump campaign.  

But that is for another time.  I need to get out more.  Telling you about the world "out there" is a good antidote to the miserable interior dialogue I have been reporting lately.  And you know. . . a story might break out.  I mean, you never know. . . something might actually happen.  

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