Last week I stepped into a hole that a gopher or some such Northern California rodent had dug, and I went one way, and my foot went the other way, and -- ouch -- I twisted it something fierce. Later that day I had to call up my friend and say, "Hey, I can't make it, I twisted my ankle something fierce." So she brings my other friend to the wake and I am secretly glad that I didn't have to go to a funeral. But if I had gone to the funeral I wouldn't have been subjected to the ding-dong-ditchum festival the kids down the street had wrought on me that afternoon. It worked twice. I would hobble over to the door painfully, and no one would be there. Third time I figured it out, but that Northern California rodent was definitely rubbing his paws together with a nibbly smirk in his smirk.
So it is usually better to be the catalyst than to be the catalyzed. Or as a great T-shirt I saw once said, "Do unto others and then split."
There is one exception to this rule. If you decide to be a catalyst by, say, having a party, or, say, inviting your three duplexmates out for dinner, and people are bored or it doesn't go well, then it sucks being the catalyst, because you feel guilty. This is why I don't have parties. I'm too worried that everyone isn't having a good time. It's much easier to set something up and then go wait at the Shell station.
Nevertheless, last week I invited my three duplexmates out to Catalyst Cocktails off of Bryant. Here's the strange thing about my almost-roommates. There is a handsome boy named Tilden and his lovely girlfriend, Dina, and the two of them live with Tilden's beautiful ex-girlfriend Barrie. Strange setup, but it works. Tilden has built all of us gals a loverly garden spot in the back yard, complete with raised beds and a fence. He will soon build us a chicken coop. Dina has brought me oranges when I am sick. Barrie once moved hell and high water for me when I had to find a houndstooth cake-frosting pattern. In return, I always forget to turn off the hose and rarely put our recycling out the night before pickup. Needless to say, I wanted to show them a good time.
The Catalyst is tucked away amid all the bail-bond joints up and down Bryant, right around the corner from Annie's bar. It has a sort of contempo-deco thing going on, with soft lighting, hard corners, and stiff drinks. One of the things I like about it is that on its Web site in the requisite "bar scene" photos, real people are featured instead of shiny hipsters. Still, this place is trying to be hip, and for the most part it succeeds.
"Oooh," said Tilden, looking at the menu. "Baby-back ribs!" The Catalyst makes what it calls comfort food; the garlic mashed potatoes are killer. I ordered the house cocktail, a libation called, yup, the Catalyst and made with all sorts of berry liquors. My chums ordered vodkas and beers. I hoped they were having a good time, but it had only been five minutes so I needed to chill. I told them about my idea to put bamboo on the side of the house. We could plant the really tall stuff so that it would grow all the way up to their windows. I liked the idea of looking out and seeing a jungle, but I figured it could go one of two ways. It could thwart burglars, with the miscreants getting their black-and-white-striped shirts intertwined with the shoots, or it could help the burglars climb up into our windows to robble-robble us. Dina suggested getting a watchpanda. We all laughed. I think they were having a good time.
Our meals came and they were pretty good, but we decided that no one's going to go to the Catalyst for the food. Barrie said the waiter smoked a cigarette and then didn't wash his hands, something that didn't really bug the rest of us but is her pet peeve. I worried that she wasn't having a good time.
"Boy, this music sure sucks," I said, to which Tilden replied that it was the new Beck, to which I was sort of embarrassed because I didn't recognize it. I then concluded that Beck is the essence of postmodernity: He can make a shitty record, and people hear it with open minds and then laud it. Tilden likes Beck, so he was enjoying himself.
We skipped off to Annie's for a nightcap, then went home. I think they had an OK time, but I was still nervous about altering their history that night. I wrote this column, which you picked up somewhere, read, and your regular schedule is now five minutes off from what it would have been if you hadn't picked this up. Something will happen to you after this as a result, something different from what would have happened if you hadn't taken five minutes to read this. E-mail me and tell me what that something is. The most interesting story will somehow be the catalyst for my next column.