SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
March 21, 2010

Clicking Back Into Rhythm

 

It’s been a long couple of months of bi-weekliness here. At least it felt long to me. Somehow it’s much more nerve-wracking, having to get something down every other week as opposed to every week. In an odd way, it’s like having fifteen cents in your pocket as opposed to five bucks—working with that fifteen cents is so much easier. (I’m not really sure how that analogy makes sense, but it does in my addled brain.) So beginning with this column, I will be happily returning to my regular old weekly schedule.

            Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of what happened over here. I had a book manuscript due in to my publisher last November. But last November, see, I was in the middle of teaching this hopeless Humanities course to art students. Putting a class together and then keeping that class going for a semester with the lectures, papers and what-all, effectively consumed all my time every day. As a result, there was no time left over to concentrate on writing this silly book I had in mind.

            Okay, I figured, the class ends in late December, so I’d be able to get down to writing around the first of the year. The book would be done boom-boom, and I’d be able to clean my apartment and get haircuts again. But of course that’s exactly when the complications started tapping me on the shoulder. Speaking of rhythms, I think this is something we’ve all experienced more than a few times—and undoubtedly will continue to experience until we die. The moment—the very second—you have something major to do, some big and complicated project that really really needs to get done, the crap starts piling up around your knees. Everything happens at once. In this particular case, two days after class ended Morgan and I found ourselves dealing with a sick cat. Unexpected visitors started, um, visiting. There were taxes to do, doctor appointments aplenty, and a suddenly imperative eye operation that couldn’t be put off any longer.

            Although I tried to work in the few rare free moments I was able to grab, I wasn’t able to grab that many. Things were moving forward very slowly, and that long-ago deadline was getting even further behind me. Then the eye surgery put the whammy on me for a few weeks. So not only was I finding it impossible to work on the book, writing the column was a tricky bit of business too.

            So I went bi-weekly for a couple of months, to let the eye recover and have a little extra time to work on that godforsaken manuscript.

            Well, now I’ve finally reached the point where I can almost breathe again. Almost, anyway. The visitors have gone away for a while. The stitches are out of my eyeball. Morgan’s cat had a miraculous reversal of fortune. And I dragged myself up to Joe’s Taxes, where they’re always very nice to me.

 I’m still spending an average of ten hours a day on this damn book, but at least I can pause now and again to look around and smoke. And I can go back to the bar. I hadn’t been back to my home bar since all this started, and I was beginning to feel withdrawal symptoms.

            But enough was enough. If I could get back to the weekly column, I could get back to the pub, right? So early on Saturday afternoon I tapped over there and found a seat at the corner of the bar. After being a regular for so long and then vanishing for two months, I wasn’t sure what to expect—a rousing cheer, perhaps. At least a few friendly slaps on the back.

            Well, neither of those things happened. The bartender seemed happy to see me, though.

Going to a bar alone these days feels strange, after being so accustomed to having Morgan there with me. This time, sitting there alone with my beer I had two choices. I could either occupy myself with my own ugly thoughts, or I could listen to the conversations of the people around me. I chose the latter, given that I’d spent the last two months with my own ugly thoughts.

            It’s funny—I generally want to annihilate the people I encounter on the sidewalk, but drop those same people in a bar, and I can almost tolerate them.

            There was a young couple to my right, I’m guessing in their mid-twenties. She was apparently under the impression that she was a singer with professional aspirations. And he had apparently convinced her that he was a big record producer with lots of connections. I’ve always gotten a chuckle out of seeing outlandish lies like that work.

            The two older Italian guys to my left couldn’t stop talking about food. A few other people passed by talking about this and that. And the bartender talked about whatever people wanted to talk about. By the fourth pint, it had all gelled into one confounding conversation.

            “Do you have a wine list?”

            “Yes—I can recite it to you. We have both red and white.”

            “She couldn’t understand my emotionality, because I was a man.”

            “We went to this German place—you know, the one over on Fifth Avenue? It’s s’poseda be great, right? I got the Wiener schnitzel, an’ it fell apart an was all stringy.”

            “Hey! You know who this is? Dada-da-da-da-daaaaahh . . . ”

            “I mean he can write both girl and boy songs. Like Neo. He’s multitalented. He can write songs for both males and girls, because they think the same. He wrote songs for Beyonce and Rhianna.”

            “There was this courtyard in front and I went zhwoomp! And lay there watching my drink roll away. But my sandwich was just fine.”

            “Can I have a gin Bloody Mary?”

            “A gin Bloody Mary.”

            “I was hoping we could still have a strong friendship after that, but she didn’t appreciate my manhood.”

            “Go Yankees!”

            “Listen to ‘em down there . . . Shut the fuck up! . . . I knew that son of a bitch would be here, C’mon let’s go see that bastard.”

            “And he asked him, did that guy really find this in the trash?”

            “So I told him, ya gotta break the spine, bend it back and put it in the pan. But what did he do? Didn’t break the spine. Didn’t bend it back. And put it on a cooking rack. But he’s Muslim. So I went down there an’ told him, all the fat’s gonna overflow, an’ we could have a fire down here.”

            “I told her it was frivolous. And she asked me how frivolous? And I told her I was going to a record fair. And she said yeah, that’s pretty frivolous.”

            “Work, bar. Bar, work. Work, bar.”

            “Da-dad-dada-daaaah-da . . . ”

            “I’m lookin’ forward to the family. I got a real Polish ham, with the fat and everything. A real ham. And you put it in the pan with the rye bread and the Swiss cheese . . . Cost me twenty dollars to make two sandwiches, but you know, I’ll have leftovers.”

            As I sat there listening, it occurred to me that these were all things I would normally never have heard, given that I was usually at the bar with Morgan and we were usually talking to each other.

            This also explains why I preferred going to the bar with Morgan. So I drained my pint, tapped home, and got back to work.

 

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