At the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dave the astronaut kept seeing older versions of himself moments before becoming that person. He eventually saw himself on his deathbed and that’s the end of him. Well, not exactly. He then turned into a giant fetus in orbit in a finale that must be meaningful on an epic scale if you smoke enough weed.
Fortunately, most of don’t have to go through that. We are obsessed by youth and therefore prefer to look back to slimmer, trimmer versions of ourselves instead of forward to the wheezing decrepitude that awaits all of us lucky enough to not die at an early age. We all know we’re not getting any younger. We just don’t like being reminded of that fact.
So it should come as no surprise that I felt a little ill at ease this past Monday when my future sat down on the barstool next to me. He was about 80 and quite bald, which accentuated his Yoda ears. His odor was typical old-man funk with a hint of pant load.
I decided to ignore him as is the case with most unattractive people. I turned away and breathed through my mouth. Unfortunately, he wanted to talk to me.
He pointed at bourbon and soda and asked, “Do you think five dollars is a bit much for this?”
For some near-well swill like Jim Beam, the price seemed about right. San Francisco’s is not a cheap town. Even if it did sound like highway robbery, I wasn’t going to say so. To do that would be cast aspersions on the character of both my bartender and my local. Sorry Gramps, that’s not how I roll.
“Five bucks sounds reasonable,” I said.
He harrumphed and went on to tell me how he got thrown out of the 3300 Club. It was poetry night and from what I gathered, the old man was unconcerned for people’s feelings when he told them exactly what he thought of their verse. Whether this was done by giving a scathing critique at the end of a poem’s recital or cupping his hand on one side of his mouth and yelling “Horseshit!” in the middle of it, I cannot say.
There are reasons I steer clear of poetry gatherings. Most of them are filled with people who put ideology and ego above talent and craft. And to be honest, most poems don’t float my boat. Worst of all is that they mostly happen in coffee houses. That means no liquor license. That means you have do endure people’s drivel sober.
For the 3300 Club, this is not the case. It is a full-on bar so when you’re forced to listen to some pear-shaped slattern hold back tears and bear her soul while reciting her poem “The Molested Snowflake,” you can at least do so in the comfort of a boozy haze.
That sounds like a fair arrangement to most but evidently not for the old man sitting next to me. He probably figures that at his age, he is no longer obligated to put up with people’s shit.
And then it hit me. Go forward thirty some-odd years and if I’m not dead, I’m going to wind up just like him. I like to think I’ll turn into a quirky and amusing old geezer like George Burns but I’ll probably end up bitter alone, having either outlived or alienated anyone who ever cared about me.
The old man ordered a mint julep then complained that it should only cost three dollars during happy hour. The bartender listened politely but didn’t budge on price. I spotted a friend down at the end of the bar and moved down to talk to him. I didn’t want to look at the old man anymore and don’t have to, at least not until he’s staring back at me in the mirror.