(or, Ordering at Skylark)
“Of course. Yeah, yeah. Sorry, I know you’re busy. Yeah, I’m ready to order, Bob; yeah I am. I will have a vodka martini. [Bob immediately spins away to go make the thing.] I would like my martini as if it were overturned by our government in a fit of book-banning rage. That’s to say, show absolute callousness: Shake it till you bruise it. Batter it. Make a goddamn victim of it, Bob. Make it dirty. Filthy. I want it nearly firm, to the point so you can’t see through the thing’s indignation. … Indignation for what? Indignation, Bob—indignation for its imminent role within my condition inside your establishment here where I’ve seen my common manners fail with poignant regularity. … Not even while squinting your eyes do I want to see through the goddamn thing. Make it impassable to the fucking eye. But no Vermouth, nooo sir, Boborino, I shall not take a fucking drop of that – my taste is too coy-sided to be infused by an opening up of anything. [Bob is interrupted in his making of the drink by another customer ordering a beer.] … However, I will ask this: I will ask that you take the Vermouth’s cap off and simply wave it thricely over the drink once it has been poured and calmed – I feel this pomposity legitimates the sneery constitution I will soon be gaining while empleasuring myself with those gulpy sips I will soon be pulling from that triangular glass you’re cubing right there in plain sight of this whole scene’s eyes. [Bob is back at his making of the martini. At the same time, he is describing to the other customer the after taste of the beer he just poured him.] And as for olives: indeed. I will need one. One olive, and one only, Bob. And don’t you dare pierce that salty oval. No, no, no. Spare it, sir; apply no wound. Whip the little devil into the cocktail with such vengefulness that it does not produce so much as a ripple, but does on the other hand produce a sound that resounds as the detonation that commences an Olympic 50 yard dash. … If you shall perfect this concoction for me on this day, Roberto, you will find that my cheap ass will not tip under-accordingly, but rather nearly decently.”
Chalice, dude, take it easy there cowboy. What the hell, man? You don’t drink martinis. Out to get blotto this evening? It’s Tuesday. It’s 5:35. The wife is on her way. … What, out to become the Muppet who ate Manhattan tonight?
“Fuck you, Hoz. Ate Manhattan? Didn’t you just hear me order a Martini? Ate Manhattan? [I know what he just ordered. I was simply using an expression. You know, I meant the island. He’s being an idiot.] … You have no idea where I’m coming from, Hoz. I had a horrific day. Horrific. … I began a poem. … Ugh! … I was knee deep in the fucking shit, sinking like a lead zeppelin into the thick of Mosul inside that cubicle today. Like fucking ‘Nam in that cube. And all those freaks asking me questions and putting things in front of me to work on or file away. Fuck that!”
Um, those freaks are our coworkers; those things are our job. Maybe you should try actually doing our job someday. … Oh, but I get it, Chalice, I get it. Poor, poor, pitiful old tortured soul you. … Oh, by the way, what would you know about serving our country?
“Tortured? Damn straight. That’s what it’s about. I’m not afraid to say it. That’s what it’s always been about: torture. … You got ol’ prized Collins reading at some botanical garden with some mick poet; you got all those ones smiling away on some website for some forthcoming Brooklyn workshop. Poetry’s just so tweet-tweet sweet little birdies in trees, ain’t it? All these poetry readings and poetry slams and little non-profit prizes goo goo gaa gaaing on and on with all their life affirming bull—”
That’s the spirit. That’s how you win hearts – an audience. Get in with the ‘in’ crowd. That’s it. Great American there, Chalice.
“Fuck you, Hoz. I serve my country. I serve my country by not being a school boy. That’s how I serve, and I’ve been serving for decades, dickhead. You can go straight to hell. … What, you think poetry is about touching hearts? … A calling? … Ah-ha! You sort of do, don’t you, douchebag? Thinkin’ poetry’s just so empowering – Poetry! Poetry! Swish-boom-bah! … [Bob puts the drink before Chalice. The drink is as clear as Chicago tap water; inside the glass are three olives squeezed together on a pick.] Like the Good Doctor’s take on eating acid, that’s what poetry is—[Chalice takes a gulp of his drink.] Goddamn perfect, Bob! Perfect!—just like the Good Doctor’s take on eating acid: ‘Jesus, man! You don’t look for acid! Acid finds you when it thinks you’re ready.’”
[I do a heavy sigh, thinking, It’s sis-boom-bah, idiot.]
Whatever, dude. You drain me. It’d be nice to be liked, appreciated, read. It’d be nice to bring the voice up out of the basement or outside of the cubicle every now and again. That’s all I think.
“Ha! Still petrified of the ol’ ‘cid, I see. … What was it? 1989? Edie Brickell & New Bohemians?”
You shut up now.
[Chalice slugs the martini, and Bob walks by and scoops up his empty glass.]
“HAHAHAHA. I guarantee, Hoz, you are the one person on this whole flat and minefielded planet who can say he was busted for being up in a tree while fried on acid at an Edie Brickell & New Bohemians show. HAHAHAHA—”
Shove it, Chalice.
[Fuck, it’s true. I ate some when Edie Brickell & New Bohemians came to play at our college. I had always been very skeptical of LSD because I had witnessed friends and acquaintances trip out on the shit. Acid always seemed to hunker down and be in there for too long of a time. Whether you wanted to keep on trucking or not, acid seemed to keep on zooming and zooming, rolling on and on for hours and hours. I had long found a sound friend in mushrooms: ‘shrooms could be controlled, manipulated on my end, I could maintain a rather speculative decorum on ‘shrooms, flirt with the gals like a Turtlenecked, Courvoisier sipping scholar, carry on a dialogue with the Reverend Any Major Dude, or at very least be cognitive enough to listen and learn from him about my inherent duality. I’ve always been able to come down from ‘shrooms whenever I’ve wanted to. But for whatever reason, on that particular day I decided to give acid a go, and with a double dose at that. During the concert I was standing next to a tree. When I looked up into the tree it became immediately apparent to me that I should be up there in it. I’d be able to see the band over the something like 200 students who were in attendance out of the private school’s student body of just over a thousand. Once up in there I began to hear loud barking. I looked down and there were two campus police officers standing down there yelling up at me. Their teeth were all I made out: like dogs’ teeth when dogs are growl-snapping at you. I climbed down and the cops chastised me. They walked away, got a few yards away from me, and without any thought I climbed right back up into the tree. Again, barking; again, teeth. But this time when I climbed down I was cuffed, and put in a cell. (I would figure it out about a decade later: it was a liability thing I was violating.) In a jail cell for hours while on acid at the age of 19, 20 – I tell you what folks, that scene got implanted and has me getting flashbacks till this very day—friends, acid does go zooming on forever. A bit of my character crumbled into 20th Century pre-Gizmobation-splintered selfies in that Five Colleges of Ohio town’s jail cell. I lost my shit. I heard them discuss at one point about getting me to the hospital. I sharted. I don’t have the constitution for that type of deep tissue mind-massage. I’m a wimp. And since the moment of my release from that cell back in ‘88, ‘89 – whenever – I have speculated, and I believe rightly so, that one more hit of acid would make me go all Oar-like on this world. So, that was it for me and lysergic acid diethylamide. One and fucking done.]
Jesus. You’re so tiring, Chalice. Just drop it, please. I’m spent; didn’t get shit done at work today with that fucking shit shooting through the brain all day. We’re going to be in for a shit storm tomorrow. And I don’t need any of your shit here. Not now. I just want a little peace; I need a drink. Fuck poetry; fuck you. I just want a cocktail.
[We fall silent. I catch Sinclearly’s eyes in the back bar’s mirror, and he holds my stare. His stare is condemning, challenging, but I don’t withdraw. I take up the challenge, in fact, and stare right back into his eyes, refusing to be the first to blink. … After a spell, the wife arrives and grabs the stool next to mine, kisses me on the cheek, calls me “My little drunk dialer,” then says, “Hi there, Bob. Wine, please. The pinot.” And I blink.]
… Yeah, Bob. Sorry, man. Just spacing out here. … Anyways, my bank’s arrived. So, hmm? Yeah, I’ll start me out with a Martini, please.
“Uh-oh, the Muppet who ate Manhattan,” Bob says with a wink before turning away from the two of us.