Thursday, October 26, 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bar Fly #1

Jerry Seinfeld is right. Again. On his most recent public appearance, Seinfeld surprised everybody (besides Jon Stewart) by showing up at "The Night of Too Many Stars," a benefit for autism education that aired on Comedy Central on October 15th. During his observations, he focused on the cell phone for a bit and related the confusion, anxiety, and depleted feeling we – as slaves to the RAZR – go through as our bars disappear. Seinfeld doesn't use the word, but I know that when my digital leash turns off, "fuck" becomes as key to my vocabulary as "the."

On my most recent visit to Rosemary's Greenpoint Tavern, my screen was black and my wrist was bare, so I asked the fellow seated next to me for the time. Thirty minutes later, Jeff Maze was relating to me the painter's plight in an increasingly gentrified New York. He used to live around the corner from Rosemary's, which is on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, but he couldn't afford the rent and he (and many of his artist friends) call Bushwick their new home. He was back that night to visit "the only original left in the whole neighborhood."

Jeff Maze is right. A walk through Rosemary's is like a ride in Doc Brown's DeLorean – hipsters, boutiques, and Smiths t-shirts turn into blue collars, Beer Nuts, and mustaches - serious mustaches. It's not exactly time travel, but it's traveling, alright. The proprietor, herself, hardly ever shows her face and I've never spoken with her, but she has a couple of replicas – older, diminutive Polish women with Jayne Mansfield locks – that enforce the rules (one being that no games can be played, including chess, because Rosemary says so) and pour the beer (into gigantic Styrofoam cups).

One can only assume that Rosemary's main duty is decorating. And, boy, does she ever. As the seasons change, so do the holidays, and so do the gaudy, overwrought, and downright kickass lights, plastic figures, and paper hangy thingies. It feels like your grandmother's attic exploded in this place…and there's beer, too!

And some of the people might as well be in your grandmother's bridge club.

The older gent at the corner of the bar who puts the coaster that reads "Out for a smoke" on his empty beer and steps outside. (The bartender always gives him a refill, sometimes takes a few bills from his standard pile, sometimes not.)

John, the troubled Vietnam Vet, who's losing his hair from stress and losing it for Kansas when they're on the jukebox. (In retrospect, it was a bad idea to wave my hands wildly in front of his face; he told me he wouldn't think twice about stabbing me. He did give his sunglasses to my pal, though.)

And, Jeff, who was back in the only place he felt comfortable with in Williamsburg. And why not? Like a drunken, dysfunctional family Christmas (or Halloween, Fourth of July, or St. Patrick's Day), this is a place that calls you back. The first time I went to Rosemary's, it wreaked of paint that had been recently applied to the pipes. The pipes heated up and my head was light before my first sip of Budweiser. I wonder if Rosemary asked Jeff to do it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sympathy for the Devil

Continental Airlines Arena – East Rutherford, New Jersey

Ron Ziegler: Hello and welcome to you all. I see some familiar faces and a few more gray hairs. Woodward. Bernstein. Anyhow, my boss has called you all here to respond to remarks made last week by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He has a few initial comments and will take your questions after he's finished.

The Devil: I know what you're all thinking: "Why would The Devil come up to Earth for the first time in almost 2,000 years?" Well, first of all, it hasn't been that long. I come up quite a bit in different forms inanimate and not: van Gogh's razor, Bill Buckner's glove, the producers of "America's Next Top Model." I pay close attention to what's going on up here, fight with the man way upstairs about potential prospects, and spend my summers in the Gaza Strip. So, the other day I'm swinging by Celine's show in Vegas and I get a message from Stalin on my Blackberry. It says, "Better to reign in Venezuela than serve in the United States." I know this is code for something, so I give him a call. The news freak that he is, he fills me in on this little speech Chavez gave at the U.N. comparing me to The President of the United States. And, I have to say that, personally, I was offended. I'll take your questions, now. Yeah, Helen.

Helen Thomas: I'm…I'm sorry. Did you say you were offended?

The Devil: Yes, of course I am. I mean we have some things in common. We were raised Christian, we both like to haze newcomers, we both live in the shadows of our predecessors, and, hell, I like war, too. But, if you're going to kill, at least do a good job. Milton wrote, "For what can war, but endless war, still breed?" I like to think he was talking about ineffective war.

Thomas: I don't know what to say. Did you just quote Milton?

The Devil: The best biographer you could ask for.

Thomas: And now you're anti-war?

The Devil: No, no, no. I'm still as evil as they come. And even though the wars that Doctor Doofus is waging are very evil – they were unfounded, preemptive, costly, and violent – I'm just not comfortable with our association anymore. Not to mention oil greed, taxation imbalances, homosexual condemnation, Gitmo, Katrina, wiretapping, Abramoff, Plamegate, immigration…the list goes on, as I'm sure you know. I can't figure him out; he does everything evil so half-heartedly. He has messed up everything he's gotten his hands on and now he's messed up evil, itself.

Robert Novak: Helen, I'll handle this. Mr. Satan…is that what you go by?

The Devil: Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Ice B.

Novak: Excuse me, did you say "Ice B?"

The Devil: Beelzebub. It was a rap stage. I thought the "Ice" part was ironic.

Novak: Whatever the case, your stance is preposterous. You cannot stand there and tell me you are ashamed of being compared to George W. Bush. Anyhow, Chavez' point was not that you are like George W. Bush; it's that President Bush is like you. You are inverting and perverting the point.

The Devil: If I'm not mistaken, a comparison works both ways. Sure – like I said earlier – I'm like him in some ways. But, I'm not comfortable with the comparison. It has tarnished my name. By the way, Bob, we've got a warm seat waiting for you, a real warm one.

Novak: What's that?

The Devil: Next question.

Katie Couric: I'm Katie Couric.

The Devil: I know. Congrats on your new gig.

Couric: I was wondering if you'd like to do a "freeSpeech" segment on my show? Maybe it could be about a larger issue like "why we're all here."

The Devil: Well I picked this arena because I knew I'd draw a large crowd, I love New Jersey, and, well, The Devils play here.

Couric: No, I meant why we exist, what it all means.

The Devil: That's not really my territory, but I can assure you it's not to be compared to you know who.

Couric: Are you refusing to utter President Bush's name?

The Devil: I don't want to be cursed.

Couric: Final Question: Any suggestions for my sign off?

The Devil: How about, "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to my conscience, above all liberties."

Couric: That's beautiful.

The Devil: Who's next?

David Gregory: Sir, David…

The Devil: David, huh? Want to take a census?

Gregory: Excuse me?

The Devil: Historical – or I guess you would say "Biblical" - joke.

Gregory: Oh. David Gregory, NBC. So how are you going to separate yourself from Bush?

The Devil: First of all, I want an apology from Chavez. He can't just drag my name through the mud like that. He knows he's wrong, using words like "hegemonistic" in his speech. He knows Mr. Muddle can't understand that – verbally, at least. I think he's figured it out conceptually. I have thousands of years of knowledge at my fingertips. I could probably even get into Harvard or Princeton without early admission. Alright, last question. Rather, is that you?

Dan Rather: It sure is. Calm down, Katie, I'm not trying to steal the spotlight, everybody's here. This place is more packed with journalists than Kobayashi's stomach on the Fourth of July! Mr. Lucifer, you can't seriously expect us to believe that President Bush is more evil than you, the root of all evil. I feel like a blind skier and my instructor just told me to speed up while I'm munchin' pine!

The Devil: Mr. Rather, I compare my situation to Republicans running in the upcoming elections. Yes, I could be said to be in the same club as Sir Smirks A Lot, but I'm certainly not going to say that I like him being in it. I am the administrator of my club and we've decided that we've had enough. We can't kick him out, but we sure as hell can make him dance around in his cheerleader outfit.

Rather: That's crazier picture than looking at a Robert Mapplethorpe upside down on acid!

The Devil: Well, I have to get going as I have to oversee the next translation of a Nicholas Sparks book into a film. Goodnight and I truly do apologize for the sulfur smell.