Mission Bar, as the name implies, is a bar on Mission Street. It is near the corner of 23rd Street and about a five-minute walk from my house. Lately, I have been walking there quite often.
This is not to say I drink a lot when I get there. It has been my experience that if I have to work the next day, one or two drinks is fine. Three is iffy. Four or more is unwise. I have been unwise enough in my life to speak on this topic with authority.
Even if my alarm didn’t go off at 5:45, I would still rein in my drinking. My purpose is not to spend the evening in an alcoholic fog, maybe a few scattered clouds, but not a full-on fog bank. I have thinking to do.
Mission Bar has become the preferred spot for my midweek drink-n-think. Doc’s Clock, about three blocks away, has cheaper drinks during happy hour and more quirky charm. However, I don’t always want quirky charm, especially when done so intentionally. Mission Bar comes off as far less self-aware. The whorehouse-red lighting is understated as are the sporadically placed velvet paintings. Only the Halloween decorations, plastic skeltons that make the bar look like the Pirates of the Caribbean, are overbearing and they seem to be an honest mistake.
None of the bartenders there know my name and I’m OK with that. This allows me to focus on what’s going on between my ears. There is also a mirror behind the bar where I have a clear view of myself. I don’t need it for vanity. I just need to make sure my monster is kept on the inside.
That’s harder to do at longtime local, Iron & Gold. I’ve spent many evenings there and even more when it was the Argus Lounge. Over the years, I’ve tipped my hand too often to fool much of anybody. It’s the only bar I’ve been asked to leave except for that one time at another bar where I got ejected as part of a package deal when a drinking buddy set fire to the curtains.
The time I got booted for my own actions was 10 years ago during the Argus era. My infraction was less severe than arson and so the banishment was only for one night.
That night, the bartender had refused to serve me because I was a gibbering mess with lips shiny from spittle, eyes like runny eggs, and both nostrils caked with an illicit white residue. I must have been in pretty bad shape because when I got confronted by the owner earlier that year with my lips blue from doing nitrous hits in the back room, I merely got a talking to. The Argus Lounge would cut you a lot of slack. Anyway, I did not think being cut off was fair so I got a friend to order my next drink for me. That’s what got me booted. Looking back, raising my glass at the bartender in defiance was probably not a good idea.
I dialed it down after that and have been at least tolerated ever since. Neither the staff nor the owners from 10 years ago are there now, but there is enough overlap in the turnover to keep me from ever starting with a clean slate. I have no desire to sully my reputation further, even when the transgression likely exists nowhere but in my own head.
There was one of those instances that happened a couple of weeks back. Rebecca was down in LA to see Interpol and I was drinking at I&G, enjoying the healthy pours afforded a regular. The movie Grizzly was showing on the big flat screen above the bar. My tongue was loosened by well scotch so I told the bartender how I stowed away in a friend’s Mercury Cougar to see it at a local drive-in when I was in high school. This amused her so I went on to tell her how the film’s director, William Girdling, was decapitated by a helicopter he was about to board when one side of its landing gear collapsed. She seemed less amused by this than the stowaway story. When it comes to real-life deaths by helicopter in the motion-picture industry, most people are hip to Vic Morrow but it takes a real film buff to want to know about more of them.
I now regret telling her, mostly because I was factually in error. While Girdling did die in a helicopter accident, the collapsing landing-gear beheading actually killed Michael Findlay, director of Shriek of the Mutilated. I’ve never seen this film. It’s supposed to be about a Bigfoot-like creature in upstate New York, but so what. It’s the title that really stands out and the film itself was probably just tacked on as an afterthought.
Since the title still packs a wallop after all these years, I have decided to borrow it for this blog entry. The title I was going to use (“Rules of the Game”) is simultaneously pompous and anemic by comparison. This one is direct. It has zazz.
So when I set off for Mission Bar, I did so with the understanding that the bartender would have zero interest in anything I had to say. This allows me to turn my focus inward where it belongs. There is also peace of mind knowing that keeping my mouth shut will prevent me from spouting a load of crap and being regarded as a blight on the premises. I may not like to drink akone, but I do like to do it with near invisibility.
I arrive a little after eight. Sportsball is on the two TVs, but no one is yelling at the screen. The people watching show only mild interest. It gives the eyes something to do while alcohol passes the lips.
I’ve seen the bartender before. She has bangs and tats and is wearing a black t-shirt. It’s a comforting look. It assures me that I’m in a neighborhood dive with a reasonable set of rules. She won’t act like I’m trash for ordering a well drink and I won’t say anything creepy or try to order a mojito.
My usual these days is a scotch and soda. The bartender may not remember this night after night, but she does drink after drink. That’s good enough. I don’t want to be that memorable. If asked, “He’s OK, ” said with a shrug is perfect. Let that be my epitaph.
Sitting at the bar with a drink in my hand, I can send my thoughts down a rabbit hole of my choosing. It is important to choose wisely. Rabbit holes are fine, but the abyss of existence is to be avoided. This is doubly true when alcohol is involved. The suggested two-drink limit goes right out the window as one’s mood goes into freefall. The best to hope for then is to pass out before doing something more regrettable than drinking too much.
I can usually avoid this by thinking about people in far worse shape than myself. The mass shooting in Las Vegas provided that in spades. First there were at least 50 confirmed dead. That number has since climbed to 58. I doubt it will increase, but one can never be sure. It took over 30 years and the death of Jim Brady to elevate John Hinckley from attempted murderer (and Jodie Foster’s number-one fan) to a bona fide killer.
As I’ve said on many occasions, empathy isn’t my strong suit. Here though, I don’t think it should be expected considering I have no idea what it’s like to either shoot somebody or get shot. People on the internet, however, seem to have all the answers.
It helps to have an axe to grind. Otherwise, you have no real urge to shout “Aha!” When a senseless tragedy occurs.
ISIS was first on the bandwagon and claimed Stephen Paddock as one of their own because of course they did. Far less odious, but still biased, people followed suit.
One sentiment that many of my friends subscribe to is the insistence that Paddock be called a terrorist. Their reasoning is that if he were darker skinned and/or Muslim, he’d be assigned that label in a heartbeat. On that point, I cannot argue and he may actually be a terrorist. Definition of the word can vary from person to person, but motive remains the deciding factor rather than how despicable the crime was. This is why I think Dylann Roof is a terrorist and Adam Lanza was not despite his higher body count. So far, Paddock’s motive is anybody’s guess.
Gun-control advocates chimed in and even though I doubt America will ever rid itself of guns, I do see their point. I don’t know how many people Paddock would gave killed if he were blasting away with a hunting rifle, but I’m guessing a lot fewer than 58.
Then there were those pushing the idea that the shooter was some crazed libtard who hated Trump and freedom in equal measure. Such people both amuse and frighten me.
The last of the axe grinders I’ll mention are those who point an accusing finger at toxic masculinity because it is toxic, pervasive, and drives people to kill. It is toxic, I’ll grant them that. My own masculinity is pretty meager, but what I do have is toxic all get out. I’ll also concede pervasive as I’m just one in a multitude of spiteful, entitled pricks in the world. You would think that with all these raging assholes running loose, the carnage would be far worse than it is. Yet, most of us are not homicidal. The unsavory parts of my character may not stay my hand, but they don’t force it either.
You need that extra something to commit mass murder. Stephen Paddock had it. I don’t think I do. There’s only one person I ever think about killing and that’s the ugly fucker in the mirror on the other side of the bar.
And there’s the abyss I was talking about. I need to back away and shift my focus to those I hate even worse. There was the CBS attorney who said the victims deserved what they got because they were country-music fans and therefore likely Republicans. Then there was the owner of a vegan food truck in Pennsylvania who cheered for the animal lives saved by the death of all these meat eaters.
These are not the people I hate. Sure they’re assholes, but they are up front about it. No, the ones I truly despise are the ones who chant their “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences” mantra and set out to get those who offended them publicly shamed then deprived of their livelihoods. You are not doing me any favors. I like it when people say offensive things. I enjoy the freedom to say “What an asshole” when the situation merits it. You rob me of that freedom with your need to enforce civility through any cowardly means available.
I’m not against your right to criticize. Criticize away. Denounce. Wave your arms and pitch a hissy. Just don’t stifle people and then pat yourself on the back for being such a wonderful person. People on both the left and the right do this and I gave nothing but contempt for the lot of you.
And yes, I like to be offensive as well. It’s how I process human tragedy. It’s also a lot of fun. People are caricatures to me.
Sitting at the bar, I have nary a twinge of guilt as I muse about that procrastinating murder victim James Brady and his devoted wife Sarah, who took care of him for all those years. She had to get sick of his shit once in a while.
Picture if you will, James Brady sitting on the floor in his diaper eating tapioca pudding with a plastic spoon. To minimize the mess on his shirt, he is wearing a bib with “BRADY BILL” emblazoned above a picture of his face with a duck bill. Enter wifey Sarah with a strap on and she mounts his forehead and starts fucking his Hinckley hole for all its worth, Old Puddinhead wet burping his meal rhythmically with the thrusting.
The bartender sees my head tilt slightly and a smile spread slowly across my lips. She asks me if I need another drink. I tell her I’m good and gather my stuff to leave. I don’t share my anecdote. I doubt she’d appreciate it and it’s her bar, in reality if not by ownership. She needs to come here to earn a living.
You, on the other hand, get on the interwebs in large part for the same reason I go a bar, to amuse yourselves. Do keep that in mind when you have the urge to turn into a self-righteous piece of shit.