Friday, February 24, 2006

Cuz it's You and Me and the Drunk-Scamming-for-People-to-Buy-Him-Beer Makes Three Tonight.

I fear that the cruel pincers of the Angry Lobster of Adulthood (TM) have squeezed the youth out of me. After a night of not-drinking and listening to live music, and getting a whole six hours of sleep, I'm still wrecked. Gone are the days when I could stay up until four and five and be mostly awake for my 8:00 American Lit class. Gone, going, gone.

I am a grown-up. I am a grown-up. I am the Walrus, koo koo katchoo.

[Needless to say, I did not play X-Men. I missed them, but I muddled through somehow.]

So, my impressions of the night, in wholly unwarrented point-by-point fashion:

--After dinner, I did a little laundry as I was killing time. The group were meeting at 9:30 or so. At first I thought, "maybe I should go a little early, and hear the Beatles cover band some, before the next band gets up at ten." Then I thought, "No, going places early is for SUCKAS." Then I thought, "Oooh, figure skating is on." Wait, did I say figure-skating? I meant, MONSTER TRUCK RALLY. Yeah, that's it. I watched the very manly coverage of truck...long program. Man, that...driver from Turkey was a really inspiring story--how her parents scrimped and saved and gave up a comfortable life in their home country, so that she could move to Canada and learn how

Okay, FINE, I watched the figure-skating. You know what else? I enjoyed it. So stick that in your myopic little gender-biased pipe and SMOKE it.

--Getting ready for the evening took on more importance for me than i thought it would. I even shaved, and ran a comb through my hair and everything. As I was getting ready, I had the soundtrack from "Swingers" playing in my head. As I left the apartment, I actually said under my breath, "This place is dead, anyway." Because I'm a big dumb dork with no social life.

--Rode the train. A woman got on at the first stop, but there were no seats available. I tried to be chivalrous, so I stood and asked her to take mine. She refused and thanked me, but for some reason, I couldn't sit down. I insisted, trying to turn on the "charm," such as it is. She refused again, so I smiled and said something like, "Well, then I guess we'll both be stubborn." I stood there, hanging onto the handrail as the train swooped through the late evening, and thought, "Wow, Dave, that was the lamest line ever. Now she thinks you're a jerk." Well, at least I'm a chivalrous jerk. Finally, someone else got off, she got a seat across from me, and I got to sit down.

--Arrived at the club. It's just as you would expect for being a pseudo-retro quasi-dive. The old-school flickering neon sign. Music so loud you can hear it half a block away. I walk inside and find that it's darker inside than it is outside with the streetlights. There's neon on the ceiling and signs on the walls. There are hundreds of framed pictures on the wall behind the bar. Tables and chairs. Old theater seats lining the walls. Smoke. Laughter. Lots of people talking. The place is pretty full. I scout for the people I'm meeting and don't see them, so I find a piece of wall by the door and hang back like the natural born wallflower that I am.

I think to myself, "I need to be proactive. Stop hanging back. Be "Swingers Dave." I contemplate mingling amongst the crowd to look for my group. I reconsider. I hesitate. I hang back. Finally, I take a step forward. Go Dave! I stop. I stand there like an idiot. Then I feel someone tapping my arm. It's Coworker! And friend! Coworker gives me a quick side-hug (unexpected...but not unwelcome), and introduces me to Friend #1. Friend #1 is cool. She has glasses like me. That's evidence of coolness. She's like a fun, sidekick best friend of the main girl type.

--We steal a table. It was unintentional. But the mopey, long-haired trio previously occupying the table (the types who would complain about "how, like, vapid and empty society is and how people are, like, sheep, and stuff" if you gave them the chance--so, basically, Smiths fans) walked outside to smoke or something, and hey, what can you do. Deal.

--I'm looking around the club, checking out the decor and the patrons. I see a guy at the bar, who turns and looks at me looking at him. I look away. A few minutes later, I look again, and see him looking. I wonder if he thinks i'm trying to check him out. I make sure not to look back at the bar for the rest of the night.

--More of Coworker's friends show up. This includes Friend #2, who reminds me of a girl from college whose name I can't place. Her third friend is a guy who is about half-drunk and very sociable. I shake his hand. "Hi, I'm Dave." "Hi, Dave, I'm Batman." I learn later that this is apparently his schtick. He goes by Batman, or sometimes, Bruce Wayne. He has Batman as his background on his cell phone. He has the Batman theme as his ringtone. He's Batman. He doesn't look like Batman, mind you. He looks like Al Denson (the guy in the greenish shirt), before his accident. But he's Batman. And tipsy. And likes to dance the white man dance. Which involves lots of goofy hip shaking. At one point, i suggested he jump up on the bench and do his white man dance. He complied. Drunk people are sometimes fun.

Batman is very talkative. Uses lots of hand gestures, which always invade your personal space, like he's trying and failing to poke you in the chest or something. He talks about how another of the group (whom we will creatively name Vet) just got back from Iraq, and was supposed to meet them there that night. How, before Vet shipped out, Batman had given Vet a compass that he had gotten from a Yugoslavian when he himself was stationed in Afghanistan. ("But that's a long story.") And when Batman gave Vet the compass, he bought him a shot of tequila and gave him a Very Important Piece of Advice. Batman wanted to share this Very Important Piece of Advice with us, because it was so Very Important. "Are you ready? Here it is....." We wait with bated breath. He pulls himself together and says, "Keep your head down, and watch your six." He then explains to us civilians that "six" means back. Thank you, Batman.

When Vet and a few other of Coworker's friends finally arrive, Batman buys Vet a shot of tequila, and tells the same story to the group, including the Very Important Piece of Cliche. We all listen attentively.

--I find when you try to engage an outgoing drunk person in conversation, especially when they're telling you a story and you interrupt them, that it confuses them. They get that look, like a dog who just got whapped on the nose and is trying to assess what just happened. Then they continue like they didn't even hear you. This is something I realized, while talking to Batman.

--There was a guy there in a white sweatsuit. Looked to be in his late forties. Sitting near us. At one point in the evening, he steps away from the women he was talking to, and says, "Hey man, the bartender cut off my credit card, can you buy me a beer?" And without thinking, I said, "Sure, what kind?" He wanted a Bud, so I made my way over. Halfway to the bar, it immediately strikes me--wait a minute, what am I doing?!? I stand near the bar, freaking out. I agreed to buy a drink for a stranger? Well, I can't back out now--he could cause a scene. He could get pissed and ruin the evening for everyone else. What on earth possessed me to think 'sure, why not' when some random middle-aged guy in a friggin SWEATSUIT asks me for a beer. I went ahead and bought it, grabbed myself another Diet Coke, and made my way back. He's very grateful, and asks me what he owes me. I told him not to worry about it. He says, "I got some weed, if you want some." No, really, Drunk Guy, that's okay. "No, man, it's cool, I got a whole lot of weed." I say, really, no thanks, and he's taken aback. Through the rest of the night, every time he passes by, he shakes my hand.

Turns out he's basically a bum. He begs drinks off of several people in the bar, who, like myself, didn't realize he was a bum. He gets progressively drunk. He tells various stories about himself, most of which are clearly bull. He's an Italian from New York, new to the city. He's a police officer. He's looking for someone. He's undercover. I wonder about him, wonder if he's going to end up doing anyone harm. He chats up the two women (one was the apotheosis of "barfly," while the other looked like her roommate) nearby, and as the evening progresses, he invades more and more personal space. As he meanders away, I check with the women to make sure he's not becoming a nuisance. It was hard to tell--one minute they looked annoyed, and the next they looked amused. They said they didn't know him but they haven't told him to [eff] off yet. So I let them know I was nearby, if needed.

For the rest of the night, I tried to keep tabs on "my drunk." Somehow, by contributing to his drunkenness, I felt I had bought a share of responsibility into his conduct. I hated that feeling. It almost took away from my enjoyment of the bands. Finally, he disappeared enough for me to enjoy the rest of the show, as well as I could.

--The bands. First, the Beatles cover band (conveniently enough, called "Beetle"). They were actually pretty good. All wearing the suits and skinny ties. The lead singer was in his mid-twenties, with a mop of hair. The rest of the band were all older, with shortcropped 'do's and hairlines of varying recession. At one point, the lead singer ("Paul")** said, "We've got two more songs for you, and then there's two more bands up tonight...which makes four. Tonight's music is being brought to you by the number 4." To which fellow vocalist ("John")*** said, "I've only drunk three beers, though. Does that mean I need one more?" Paul nods. John shrugs and laughs. At the end of the set, they did the final bow in unison, then unplugged and ran off the stage. Good times.

[**Nickname given arbitrarily. He wasn't going for the 'persona' or anything. But he was in the middle of the stage and sang lead. So there you go. ***Ditto, ibid, and likewise.]

Then came The Aqua Velva, "Houston's newest B-52's cover band." They apparently have a MySpace page, though my work comp here has blocked MySpace, so I haven't seen it. They were the real deal. Guys in yacht captain uniforms, the two female vocalists in little black dresses and beehive hairdo's. They were really good. They were in character. Rock on. I never was a huge fan of the B-52's, but I enjoyed their set quite a bit. And I developed a bit of a crush on the blonde vocalist, but that's beside the point. (Here's the blog of one of the guitarists. I know you're dying for more info.)

Next up on the bill was the Duran Duran cover band "Reflexx," but I have a standing objection to any band with more than one "x" in the name. Plus it was midnight and I was tired. Because I'm old now. Anyway, I figured the only Duran Duran song I really wanted to hear ("Hungry Like The Wolf") wouldn't be played until late in the set. (Turns out it was the third song. Jerks.) So I made my way home.

--Waiting for the train, I see the bar-guy walking down the side walk with his friend. I look away again.

--Still waiting for the train. Who should come ambling up the platform but Track Suit Drunk Guy. He walks along, a brown-bag-wrapped "forty" in hand, and he's talking excitedly to a companion, who looks equally derelict (but not Derelicte, mind you--we weren't in River Oaks). As they pass, he stops and says, leaning toward me, "Hey, bub, you got a cigarette?" I say, no, sorry. He shrugs, waves his hand dismissively, and walks past, still talking to his friend.

How do you like that? You buy a drunk a drink, and he doesn't even remember you twenty minutes later.

He got about fifty yards away, and then yells something about "you g--d--- pumpkin man, can't even give a guy a g--d--- cigarette!" I wonder if he's somehow referring to me. This makes me laugh to myself.

--Train ride home. A Hispanic gentleman with armloads of bags stands up to get off at one of the stops, turns to me, and says without smiling, "God bless you, sir!" very earnestly and intently. I'm a bit puzzled. "Thank you. Have a good night," I reply. He nods with grim-faced affirmation, and walks off the train. I look down and see that my cross necklace is visible. I guess that's why. But it still strikes me as odd, and yet, affirming.

--Bone tired and sore-necked, I arrive home. And proceed to do dishes, because the sink is full-to-overflowing. Such is the rock-star-life I lead.

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