The Good Bar


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Saturday night, me and the girl, walking around, looking for kicks. We stopped into Red & Black on N. 5th in, yes, Williamsburg, which, yes, is my new neighborhood. Almost in spite of myself, I moved into the belly of the beast, into a room in a friend’s space on N. 3rd. I’ve known Woody since 1990 or so, when I was an undergrad at Rutgers and he was in Nudeswirl, one of the best of the local bands.


Most of the bands I knew have been pressed into memory under the heel of day jobs and the gravity of thirtysomething pragmatism. Some, though, managed to poke their beaks through the eggshell of New Brunswick, NJ. The Bouncing Souls and Shades Apart, Monster Magnet and even Nudeswirl–all were friends or friends of friends who saw varying degrees of accomplishment. Even young Ted What’shisname, the pretty-boy charmer who slept with two different women I wanted (but took seconds after me on at least one other)–he turned up as a back-up player in the Hedwig and the Angry Inch film. I was pleased to see success come his way, but will hesitate to leave him alone with my girlfriend should we ever show up at the same bar.


So. Into Red & Black, looking for a spot to sit for a few drinks, a chill place where we could continue the dinner conversation. There were two empty seats at opposite ends of the bar. Innocently enough, I made to move one nearer to the other. You know, so my date and I could actually be next to each other while we drank whatever overpriced bottles of beer were on offer.


The bartender freaked as soon as I lifted the stool off the ground. She screeched as if her nervous system’s alarm had been tripped by an unseen switch attached to the foot of the stool. I stood still, confused, and quickly gathered that she was afraid I intended to intrude upon the five-foot stretch of no-man’s land where the wait staff fetches their drinks.


"No, no," I said, "I’d like to bring this seat down to that seat, at that end, so we can sit together."


Exhibiting what I can only describe as panic, she refused to let the one stool creep closer to the other stool. This, despite the near-empty bar and two accommodating patrons who’d just moved their jackets for us. I don’t know if she was cranky because she couldn’t smoke or because the place was slow on a Saturday night, but I’m just about the most polite person in the world, and I don’t deserve to be treated like the help by some dissatisfied cunt bartender.


Around the corner and down the block we went, to the ever dependable Sweet Water Tavern, which is more our style anyway. We took our pints to the back and played the best bar videogame in the world: Big Buck Hunter II. Keep your sit-down Ms. Pac Man, keep your bowling, keep your golfing. Give me a heavy, plastic shotgun and the chance to kill 18 glorious, graceful bucks per one dollar.


By our third hunting trip–and fifth pint–we were dropping eight-pointers with aplomb and screaming at the screen when a doe got in the way. After six dollars, we had an admirable number of bucks to our credit and it was time to go home.


Back to watch the American remake of The Ring, a movie surprisingly sufficient for the occasional creepy moment. It was a better movie when Japanese people were running around investigating a cursed videotape, but for those of us with a high tolerance for shitty horror films, the concept of discriminating taste doesn’t exist. Especially when a little drunk.


It was a good weekend for movies. On Saturday, we also watched Resident Evil, and then on Sunday afternoon I saw The Good Thief, Neil Jordan’s expat-thief movie set in Paris and starring Nick Nolte. I stepped out of the theater wistful for travel. It made me miss that feeling of landing in a new city where you don’t speak the language, that indescribable sense of being an outsider in a world that couldn’t give a shit about you, but only for the right reasons.


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