“Hey, did you know this bar stool’s broken? Better not let anybody sit there!”
I’m having a deja vu moment at the bookstore/bar. I’ve been here so long I’ve seen it all before, at least twice. Who knew wooden stools were so…fragile? This crop is probably third generation since I started working at this place, was it seven years ago?
There was a period where I clocked coworkers, but as time moves on so do my fellow fellows behind the bar and the old team and the one after that and the next one starts to disappear into the mists of time like one of those scenes from an army movie where a photo fades out, fallen soldier by fallen soldier, til there’s just one bedraggled corporal standing, smiling hopefully like everybody is still there as they were back at the beginning.
Oh shit – that corporal is me.
“Are you the oldest one who works here?” Charles asked me last night. He didn’t mean any offense. He’s a customer who comes in to drink a soda and laugh at cartoons on his phone for a few hours. He knows more about television than any human I’ve ever met.
He’d started his evening across the bar with “Is Ethel still alive?”
From…I Love Lucy? I don’t think so…her real name was um…Vivian?
“Vance,” Charles didn’t even pause. “Was she the oldest of them, on the show? Or maybe Fred? He looked older, right. Is he still alive?”
He sat laughing at his phone and I served the customers and it was a nice night. I played this Marianne Faithfull album I love that will forever be the Spotty Dog to me. Is Marianne the oldest now I wondered? I know she has a new album out and it’s ballsy the way her cane is featured in the cover photo. Marianne makes canes cool but I don’t want one. God, not yet.
I’m kind of in a Charles mode myself lately. I can’t help it, I’m about to turn sixty. Sometimes I’m very much facing it head on, other times sneaking up to it sideways looking at other women my age or older to see what it’s like. So when Nicky came into the bar, I was all eyes and ears. She was dressed in a rust-colored suede sheepskin coat with a hood, fluffy fur mittens on her hands. Long blonde tresses, cheekbones like Joni Mitchell. She kind of looked like Joni Mitchell and I guessed was about the same age – mid-seventies.
When she spoke in a vaguely English accent, I had another deja vu moment: this other fabulous looking older woman some years back, blond hair, English accent, rich hippie clothes she wore so well you knew it was no affectation, she’d been to Morocco. Kind of posh and kind of mad in the English way ie crazy. Talked a girl she met at the bar into accompanying her to England to clear out a house and it all went so wrong I’ve been afraid of the day she walks back in. She was scary enough before.
Nicky talked some sense and some nonsense and asked for mayonaise for her empanada. She went outside to smoke a cigarette. These ladies all started to run together in my mind and somebody else mentioned broken bar stool and Marianne croaked “I found him by the stage last night, he was breathing his last breath…a bottle of wine and a cigarette was all that he had left” and I needed a flashlight to read the letters on a Caran d’Ache pencil to enter it into inventory. One of the beer taps splashed me in the face and I could see my eye makeup run in the bar mirror and for a second I felt very Sunset Boulevard.
“Do you have a pencil, love?” said Nicky.
When all the other customers were gone and I was sweeping the floor, Charles kept asking me about my age. “Are you older than…Amanda? Are you older than…Sara? The owners? Everybody?
Yes, yes, yes and yes.
“Are you older than…me?”
How old are you, Charles?
“Thirty-two. How old are you?”
I said it: sixty, in less than two weeks.
“Why are you still working?”
He got me at a moment with beer on my shirt, a dustpan in my hand, picking somebody’s soggy tissue up off the floor. I wasn’t sure so I spoke it first and then knew it to be true: “Because I love it.”
I’m playing The Spotty Dog Friday Feb 1, release date for The President Can’t Read single + Tuesday Feb 5 at Mercury Lounge NYC tickets