Part II of Radio Bar

When last we spoke, I had posited the question as to whether or not a perfect evening out had to meet the same criteria as a good work of fiction. Using the Seven(Six) Basic Plots as a guide ("overcoming the monster," "rags to riches," "voyage and return," "comedy," "tragedy," and "rebirth"), I set out on my adventure. I wanted to discover whether a guy like Huckleberry Finn would have a good time at a place like Radio Bar in Oakland, his raft having left the bosom of the river and instead finding purchase in a strange, PBR-infested land.

I had a quest of my own, in that I was to meet a fella who had asked me to join him for drinks to discuss the forthcoming release of his album. Said gentleman was both handsome and eager to see me. My brain began to calculate the risk/reward ratio of allowing myself the pleasure of his company. Was it a date? Was he trying to get me to write about his band for free publicity? Was he a wealthy cuckold bent on disguising himself as a virtuous vicar, thereby stealing my birthright and resigning me to a life of serfitude? My mind boggled.

I was sitting at the end of the bar, on a stool near the door. The bartender, who had yelled at me for not programming the jukebox fast enough, seemed to soften a bit after I called him on it. With a sheepish smile he refilled my glass.

My jean jacket was buttoned up tight, my Delia's catalog was open to page 14, and my posture was bad. I was wearing lipstick. I was just about to regret that I was missing Entertainment Tonight when he walked in. He was tall, over 6 feet, with dark hair. He was wearing Levi's and a dark-blue T-shirt. He had great arms. I jumped up and hugged him, glad to see him again. He was sort of shy and smiley. He ordered a Guinness and we began to talk.

Immediately we hit it off. We both liked Springsteen and hated people who dissed that fact. We both didn't believe in God and thought that romantic love was a chemical reaction. However, never let it be said that we didn't like chemical reactions (another beer, please). We are both from the Midwest, raised by liberals in a sea of right-wingers. We both thought that the Clash was the coolest-looking band in the history of rock. We both love and appreciate retarded people. We laughed, we cried. This was turning out to be the best date I'd ever had, bar none.

At this point, gentle reader, I would like to introduce a literary device. So far we have a tale that hints at a romantic quest, hopefully leading to a rebirth of spirit. Everything is lined up perfectly. Now, when you have a situation like this but the author wants to suddenly go off in another direction — or perhaps has written herself into a corner — it is helpful to pull out what is called the deus ex machina. Literally translated, this means "Ta da! Monster! No, really! Look over here!" In the film Magnolia, the deus ex machina would be the raining frogs. In Chinatown, it would be when Faye Dunaway says to Jack Nicholson, "She's my sister andmy daughter!" Basically, it's a seemingly far-fetched way to neatly sew up a plot.

Picture, if you will, me sitting at the bar, jean jacket removed to reveal tight, white T-shirt, lipstick a bit muted from so many visits to the rim of a pint glass, and posture somewhat improved. The fella and I have just finished laughing about the Looking Glass song "Brandy" (he likes lite rock classics just as much as I do!), when a flash of light hits my eye. I blink a few times, momentarily blinded. Once the spots disappear, I refocus on the deus ex machina before me: On his left hand, on the second finger in from the left, sits a wedding ring.

"Oh," I say nonchalantly, swallowing my PBR. "Did you get married?"

"Yeah," he says, not sure what to add to that. I definitely stop sitting up straight.

The bar starts playing unusual '80s videos. I am strangely filled with relief. Now it's like hanging out with a gay guy. I can sit closer to him and really be myself. It doesn't matter if our feet accidentally touch under the bar when I cross my legs. Do you know what happened after I realized this? I had the best date-that-wasn't-a-date that I'd ever had. We played the song-story game, where you tell a story that is based on the lyrics of a song and the person has to guess what the song is. (For example, "OK, there's this guy, and he meets this great girl at a club, and he takes her back to his place and he realizes the 'she' is a 'he.' Answer: 'Lola' by the Kinks.") We talked about how albums should be produced. Then, when the noise of Radio Bar got to be too much, we walked down the street to Van Kleef's and heard a great jazz combo. I hate jazz, but sitting there sipping whiskey, listening to an ornate instrumental, well, the night was perfect.

Soon it was time to go, since BART was going to be shutting down. He said we should do it again sometime, but I knew we wouldn't. He called me when I got home to see if I was OK, and he e-mailed me after that to say what a great time he had.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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