Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Porky's Dive

A small, grimy, dimly lit room containing a pool table, a juke box, an ATM, a small, staggering throng of men, Janx and I. With the addition of a few beer taps and a wall's worth of bottom shelf liquor, I guess you could call it a bar.

Janx is knee deep in it, hustling free drinks from a mid-life crisis situation. She's making all his dreams come true by listening to his smartphone app ideas. She's running circles around him, but he's too fucked up and stunned by her youth and attention to care.

While I'm genuinely impressed at her ability to talk to anyone, hustle, and have a good time, I don't have the patience for it tonight. I'm getting on a plane tomorrow morning for Switzerland and need to get most of my packing done. I'm going through the list in my head when I'm interrupted.
"You like beef jerky?"
A skinny man with close cropped hair and thick rimmed glasses throws the inquiry my way. I might have thought it had been tossed with the kind of detached casualness of two flies passing time at the same corpse except, despite what his unlikely svelte appearance might suggest, he's got the intensity of a butcher. Sweat glistens on his brow.
"Sure do."
I take a piece from his boney fingers and set my molars to work until savory juice trickles onto my tongue. Tastes like beef and bourbon.
"Mmm. 'S good."
He hands me another dark scrap, with pepper this time. A chewing moment of silence is paid in the destruction of the magnificent and delectable beast with four stomachs.
"You wanna go out back and make out?"
Still chewing, I look the guy over. This time tomorrow I'll be with Fangs, last thing I need is bar fly all over me.
"Thanks. No."
His face twitches in swift, mighty disappointment and he beelines for the door. I wonder how often the very direct approach works for him. I don't feel bad. Between the jerky and his game, I'm sure he does alright.

The leather upholstered stool is empty only for a moment before he is replaced like a shark's tooth. A bigger, younger man wearing a trucker hat approaches. He's less sure of himself than the last gentleman, but he's motivated by his friends over by the pool table and plenty of liquid courage.
"So you're going to Switzerland, huh? Wanna drink or a shot er somethin to celebrate?"
I really shouldn't.
"I'll take a Jameson and a Guinness; Here's hoping I make it to Ireland." 
His childlike grin that follows my toast betrays the fact that he did not think I would accept his offer -- he gives the bar an energetic pound with of the fist to show his rejuvenation.
"One of each, eh? Alrighty, 'tender, put 'em up!" 
Janx leans over, all smile and charm.
 "That's real nice of you, but this lady's gotta get home -- she's still gotta pack."
Bless 'er, she's trying to save me from myself. I divert my focus from the shark's teeth to listen in on her conversation. She's still hustling the drunk. It's a little hard to watch her shoot fish in a barrel. She does it with a shotgun. But believe me when I say she's not trying.
"I'll give you five dollars if you can guess what instrument I play."
The fading baby-boomer staggers back and forth. The task of guessing anything is too great. He just wants her to keep talking.
"I'll give you five dollars to tell me."
He hands her five sweaty, splayed out ones.
She looks at them, looks at him, looks at me, and looks at him again with a grin before putting the money in her pocket.
"I'm keeping this five dollars."
"I want you to."
"But you still have to guess."
His moan sounds like a slow bleed from the side, like a deer having been hit by a car. He can only come up with cello and mandolin as instrument guesses before he gets bored and starts nervously talking about himself, claiming to have played with the Grateful Dead before and whatnot. He keeps snorting and sniffling, and the way he's talking, I think he's on drugs. Then he looks at me straight in the face and says:
"You are so beautiful. Were you beautiful as a child?"

I put in my notice at the bar. When I get back from Switzerland I'm going to try to find a real job, ideally one that calls upon my intellect, my degree, my talents other than my taste buds, looks, and social graces. I don't want to wake up realizing that I squandered my youth swatting at flies. It's not exactly an honest living, taking their money, playing Rumpelstiltskin, nor is it a service. Either way, I'd rather be in a shit hole like Porky's Dive by hilariously misguided choice on occasion than have the name of it's ilk on the top of my checks.

Janx doesn't know which way is up either. Perhaps that's why we are such good company for one another. We were sitting outside the bar, smoking cigarettes, and discussing our lives' paths when she said:
"I dunno. I've been trying to read the stars... but they're in fucking Spanish, man."
Just then, we were approached by a stranger, who asked Janx for a cigarette.
"Not so fast. This cigarette wasn't cheap. You can't get something for nothin' these days."
"What, you want a quarter?"
"I want something better than a quarter. I want a joke. You tell me a joke, you get a cigarette. Easy peezy."
"Ahhh... ok. [pause] Christ. Uhm... I... I don't know any jokes." 
"Everyone knows at least one joke." 
"I can't think of one."
"Not even a knock-knock joke?"
Poor guy was suffering.
"No. Can I please just have a cigarette?"
Janx is not one to bend in her stipulations.
"Gotta play by the rules, man."
"I just came from my grandma's house..." 
"What, G-ma doesn't tell jokes? Come on man, you've got to give me something to work with here. Help me help you."
"She's very sick. And Russian."
"So say something in Russian, then laugh, and I'll pretend it's a joke." 
"I think she's dying. I don't feel like laughing."  
"Well, if you feel like a cigarette, then..."
He looked at her, and she looked back at him. I saw in her eye a glint that makes me wonder if she is a psychological and sexual sadist. He sighed, and started his soliloquy, in Russian. After a while he stopped, but no, he could not laugh. Janx did her best overdrawn fake belly laugh, just to make the situation as uncomfortable as possible.

This is the point at which I stepped in.
"I have a joke for you: Why did the chicken cross the road?" 
Janx's eyes lit up, wide with anticipation: yes -- a player of the game!
"Because it wanted a fucking cigarette."
She took out her bright yellow pack and handed me a cigarette as she stared with dominance and demonstration into the eyes of the stranger. She over-annunciated:
"Hilarious. Now you get a cigarette."  
The guy looked like he was going to cry. I threw the cigarette at him.
"Get outta here." 
He quickly slunk away into the parking lot and became nothing more than a tiny puff cloud of smoke rising from between parked cars.
"Some people man, they got no sense of humor."
"Can't take a fucking joke." 
Bad apples hang out at bars. We're a couple of them.

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