Sunday, October 15, 2006

And Now We Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

The original title of this post, which I was tinkering with... well, really, trying to find the point of, when the power went out last night, was "Goodbye to All That", which is the title of an autobiography by Robert Graves, but also, appropriately for me, an essay by Joan Didion, about being being young in NYC. I like Joan Didion for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that she seems to always include a description of what she was wearing. I don't mean that in jest, since that seems to me a way for a writer to try (probably in a futile way) to describe her own skin, to try and ground you in the self she was at that moment. But back to the post...


Today's gratuitous ranch shot

You can see what kind of day we are having here from the photo above. It's the first day of hunting season, so the dogs are inside and the horses have been let into the front yard to graze around the house. It's also Gary's last day here, so I put So Far in the CD player in my car and made a trek in to town to give him a little time along here, and to get a few groceries and a latte.

I ended up sitting at the coffee shop with my latte and a magazine that featured a couple pieces about Gondry's new film - the Science of Sleep (which I was sorry I didn't get to see before I left
town). I was the only customer in the place, most of the time, and the two guys working there alternated between sitting down the bar from me and puttering around. Eventually a group of 3 girls, about 7 or 8 years old, came in and tramped upstairs and sat on stools overlooking the coffee shop, chattering away like little birds.

While I was there, they had a satellite radio station playing, and I heard an announcement that the station was going to broadcast the "historic final show at the legendary club CBGBs". Richard and the Dictators are playing, of course. I can't say that I'm going to miss CBs, since even if I lived in NY, I probably wouldn't spend a lot of time there. Still, when Kirstin and I first moved to NY, it was sort of this planet that our lives revolved around for a while. We rarely went in to the actual club. Instead we spent a lot of time at the CBs annex next door, playing pool on their crooked table and putting on whatever grungey stuff was in the jukebox back then. I was 20, and I bet there was some Alice In Chains in there somewhere.

The first bartender we made friends with was the guy who took us into Elizabeth NJ to get tattoos, but you'll hear about that later, no doubt.

The second and third bartenders we... I'm not going to say "made friends with" here, that would be an overstatement... instead I'll say, heckled regularly, turned out to be our first NY boyfriends.


Kent gets a mention here because he was also the person who inadvertently got me my bartending gig in New York. He made me a regular at a little bar around the corner from CBs, where he would sometimes go with the other CBs folks after their shifts ended.


Photo by Cat Sparks


For years I've struggled to write about this place. When I looked on the web for photos, I found descriptions like this: "If Satan were a whore of a bar, that bar would appear in the form of [this] bar." and "Go ahead, drink yourself to death! Everyone else here appears to be." The phrase "Daycare for Drunks" used to be painted underneath the name of the bar on the outside.

Still, we
had the best jukebox there. I would go in at the start of my shift and put on "Helplessly Hoping", Patti Smith - "Kimberly", Jimi Hendrix - "Three Little Bears", Rolling Stones - "You've Got the Silver" and the song that, in my mind, was the anthem of that bar, Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home".

It was a tiny place, only one bartender at the bar, with a bar back who sat and looked out the window and drank coffee, keeping an eye out in a way that only a regular would be aware of. My regulars were some of the most broken but also the sweetest people I have ever come across, which was good for a barely-21-year-old who thought she was messed up. It was impossible not to see how I looked to them - shiny and young and only passing through.

There was almost always someone who insisted on walking me home after my shift ended. The guys would take turns - when it was down to just a couple of them, they would check with each other to see who would stay until the end. We'd link arms and walk up the street together, but it was sometimes hard to tell who was walking who, given how challenging it is for someone who has spent the night parked in front of a tumbler of Jack Daniels to put one foot in front of another. Most of the drinks I poured were straight shots of Jack, in a quantity that any other bar would have called a triple. The second most common was vodka cranberry, but the cranberry was really just a splash. Most of the rest of the drinks were Budweisers, from the bottle, no tap.

I loved it there. When I left, everyone signed the little journal I used to write in when there wasn't a drink to pour. The regular I mentioned in a post back in August used to send me long rambling letters, unsigned, for years after I left. I still walk by when I'm in New York, just to see it, but that's definitely a time in my life that's gone, so I never go in.

The place has stuck with me though, and it's what I was thinking about today, when I thought about CBs closing, and things that are gone, and things that we turn into legends for ourselves. Mars is one of mine.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

I love that ranch fence. It is exactly the right fence, at least aesthetically, for the occasion. Not so good for cattle perhaps, but. I was trying, in my mind, to replace it with some other fence, just to prove my point, of how wrong any other fence would be, and I was right. Fences are one of those things people don't give a lot of thought too, but which make a big difference.
My dad did a road survey for the highway department once - of scenic highways, one in north dakota, one in oregon, of course, the old gorge highway, and one somewhere else I can't remember, but actually in those kinds of areas there is great debate about fences and walls and what is allowed. even what style of guard rail is used, how many posts, how far apart etc.
england, and europe I think does a better job of this than we do as a whole, because of individual liberty - and all. but sometimes we get it right.