Okay, I have made it. I am finally here. It is time. Time for a pair of whiskeys and some real social gathering.
My favorite bar for whiskey is shuttered, of course. I could order the ingredients for my Improved Whisky Cocktail, and make myself one here at home. (I have tended bar.) But that is not it. That is not what I need right now. See, here is what I usually do. Being a man who actually remembers the 60’s, it is difficult for me to strike up an earnest conversation at the bar just by showing up and sitting down. I am sure that it is the wrinkles and the gray that gives the false impression. So in order to strike up a conversation, I employ a method that I learned in the movies. Perhaps some of you remember The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas. It this version of the Beowulf tale, Antonio’s character is the poet in the court, of the Emir in Arabia. He is in love with the Emir’s wife and the Emir finds out. Instead of being killed he is sent north as the Emir’s ambassador to the Vikings. Upon finding the Vikings there ensues a feast where all the Vikings get drunk and pass out. He does not. Then in the morning, when he is the first to wake, something small but significant happens. Upon exiting the tent, Antonio’s character notices, through the mist, a young Viking boy standing at the prow of a docked long-boat. The long-boat had arrived sometime during the night yet the boy chose not to disembark. Instead he stood perfectly still for hours. When asked why he was just standing there, the boy responded, “I want to make sure they know that I am not a demon.”
So now to make sure that everyone in the bars knows that I am not a demon, I take a book, sit by the fire, order a whiskey and read for a bit. It is obvious that people notice that I am reading and they politely leave me alone. Sometime after I order my second whiskey I will fold up my book and find an open seat at the bar. The bartenders know me so we often share a brief and pleasant exchange. Occasionally I will get asked about my book. Mostly I will start a chat off with an, Hello. Having sat quietly in the bar for the length of a cocktail, not bothering anyone and ‘appearing’ interesting, I have found that it is quite easy to strike up a conversation. Sometimes it will cover the topic of whiskey, although seldom does that topic venture to its logical middle and end, women then horses. No, the topic of whiskey is enough. Other times it will be about the restaurant, and how this couple just found it for the first time and are spending their anniversary there. They will tell me about their dinner or I will talk about my favorites on the menu. On that rare occasion I find a kindred mind, the one asks way too many questions and like me, seeks to find answers 2 miles ahead of the curve, I settle in for the evening.
It is in those few instances that I will enjoy a third whiskey, with a water back. I will drink the water and sip the whiskey while listening to my newfound companion share their impressions of the human condition. I find in these conversations the same interest that I find a finely prepared meal. Having such a long career in the food industry, I have developed a very bad habit of rushing through my meals. I must intentionally slow myself down whenever I dine with friends. Even then I am always the first to finish. You can blame it on the fact that I like to eat my hot food hot and my cold food cold, I suppose. Mostly it is because I got so used to having only a few minutes to eat, wash my hands and get back to work. This is generally the case unless, it is a finely cooked meal. When the food has been exquisitely prepared I slow way down. Friends who know me will ask if something is wrong. Nope, I am just really enjoying it. The same thing happens when I find a conversation that I truly enjoy. I slow way down. I listen to every word spoken and attempt to be extra thoughtful with my responses. I learn from these and am thrilled when I can share an original thought with a curious companion.
My mind is seldom quiet. I watch mind numbing TV for just that reason: to numb my mind. I am really enjoying my job at the Parks Department but like everyone, I need to turn that switch off for a while each day as well. Nothing for nothing, I am really missing reading my book at the bar. As I sit there soaking in the author’s mind I positively bristle with the anticipation of that next amazing conversation.
I am sorry that I missed writing to you yesterday. My edges are becoming just a touch more shopworn and I needed a day to just ‘not’. I hope that you understand.
Until tomorrow, or our next whiskey,