I went to DC for a conference last week. I hate DC. The whole town has a case of the Too Importants. Every single person that lives in DC thinks they’re a big somebody, but really it’s just a giant pile of nobodies in popped collars drinking thirty dollar martinis that taste like ashes.
The one night, I have 100 problems, so I decide I’ll head on down to the gin mill. I think that I’ve been to that bar before, years ago when I dated someone that lived in DC. But maybe not? It was sort of a Deja Vu thing. Anyway. I’m sitting there, and to my right there are these two barstool physicists. “But time doesn’t really exist, it’s just a construct, think about it, man,” one of them keeps saying in a thick Scottish accent. The other one seems bummed about something.
The Scot leaves, and I managed to carry my stony silence through two more pints of bass before Dr. Guzzler T. Drinkington decides to hit me up for conversation. I tell him that I’m from Bucks County, where the film Signs was filmed. The guy on my left starts to laugh hysterically, and it turns out he’s from Lancaster. He’s there with his wife, and the four of us get talking. Dr. Drinkington, who I now call Guzzler, we’re friendly, works for the Justice department “keeping track of the Amish.” It doesn’t occur to me until the next day that he might be making fun of my beard. The guy on the left was in the army “for a little while” and he’s going to go to Tajikistan to train their forces over the summer. It’s a shit position, but the pay is good, and he and the wife have a learning-disabled son. He really wants to be a professor – he’s an electrical engineer, and doesn’t wear a wedding ring, but does have a circular scar around his finger where some voltage jumped and burned him good.
At the conference, I can’t pay a single goddamn scientist to take my business card. At the bar, 20 minutes into the night, we’re singing and laughing and buying each other drinks. The soldier’s wife spends 30 minutes talking to some guy that buys her a drink, and I point it out to the soldier, and he says he knows he’s going nothing to worry about. Later, I return to the hostel and lock myself out while taking a pee. So I have to go to the front desk in nothing but my underpants to ask for a spare key. No shoes, no glasses, no nothing, and when a 230 pound wave of hair and beef comes spilling out of the elevator, the desk clerk doesn’t even flinch. Dude was unflappable.
Two nights later, I’m at a different bar. This time, I’ve got the Deja Vu mais je compris. I’d been in this bar before, the Capitol Grill, years ago when I was dating that individual. At the time I thought I was a big somebody; taking someone out to a fancy high class eatery. That memory is a Xerox of a counterfeit, because this time, I’m looking at the place with the jaundiced, bloodshot eyes of the weary business traveler. It’s a Fuddrucker’s for fuckers that wear sunglasses indoors and sport popped collars. It’s like I was looking at the past with fresh eyes – I thought I was a big deal taking a pretty girl out to a fancy bar, and years later, I realize the place is a I wasn’t a big deal she wasn’t that pretty and the bar wasn’t that fancy. Two man-children wander up to the bar next to me and order “Two shots of Jamie and two light beers” and the sudden urge to put my head down, swing my elbows, and clear a lane to the door boils up from deep inside.
The second day of the conference. I go to a local pub for lunch – it’s weird to sit alone in a restaurant, but not to sit alone at a bar. There’s a guy next to me and he doesn’t even pause to take a breath. The moment he arrives, he chatters non-stop until I leave. He was amped. The nametag said he was with MDOT, but his eyes said he was with NarcAnon.
We’re driving back from the conference, and we stop at a scenic overlook to switch drivers. The Hudson river is below, NYC is in the distance, and I spot a number of roses scattered in the weeds out near the cliff-edge. There’s graffiti on one of the big rocks, in Arabic. I have the Latvian grad student take a photo, since i don’t have a camera, and I ask a friend to translate. It says:
“My dearest Haala, With all my senses and emotions I say to you that your name, your beauty, your daintiness, your presence, your eyes, your laughter, and each and every thing about you is one of the delights of the world. I praise God who created you on this seventh day from this beautiful spot. I write your name on this rock, Halaa, and I called your name and it came back to me. I send you a heartfelt greeting with the strength of the rock.
My darling Halaa,
You are the light of the world.
I’m back in Worcester, and I go out for supper. There’s a Mexican place, and the food is so-so, but the owner is an obese man with a complete set of gold teeth, and he’s just so happy to see you that I keep going back. I eat several sope while watching giant Mexican breasts jiggle across the Sabado Gigante set. On the way home, I stop in a gas station. A middle aged woman, who looks like the years have been paying interest on her, tells me that she’s going to get a job as the person holding the sandwich board on the side of the main road for a tax agency. She has a huge open sore next to her mouth, a tongue ring, and a grandson who is fat and pink in the photo she shows me. The job is $10 an hour, under the table, and she’s super excited.
Anyway. I apparently live in a short story by Bukowski.
Allah y rham chouhadaa
Allah y rham li da7a
Allah y rham ay wa7ed