“Hi!” the bouncy bartender said. “We're closing at midnight.” It was eleven. I could deal. She then informed me that it was happy hour “all night long,” which meant for the next hour, I surmised. Yes, folks, I was in the Rite Spot, metaphorically and physically.
The Rite Spot sits on the corner of Folsom and 17th, one of those areas of the city with ample parking, dark shadows, and the faint sound of Vietnamese domestic squabbles in the distance.
It was a Floyd night, which meant debate and strange stories would be afoot. Floyd's my buddy who works at Fat Wreck Chords. I needed Floyd that night to feel grounded. I have been full of anxiety because of Rainer Maria Rilke, the early-20th-century German poet. Basically, Rilke says if you think of your life as being like a room, then very few of us ever venture out of one corner. We stay put and don't try to get out of our comfort zones. Rilke wants us to mosey on over to the credenza now and again, or maybe go open up the Venetian blinds.
Well, if you looked at my life like a room these days, I would be doing Twister in the middle of that motherfucker. I'm taking big risks for myself, not the least of which involved approaching a person that I was interested in, instead of my usual goin' out with those who like me first. Floyd will give me good advice about this, I thought to myself. Floyd knows everything.
The Rite Spot reminds me of a place in France, one of those funky mère et père places with chalkboard menus, mason-glass candles, and carpet remnants. In short, I loved it. And hey, for all you moral relativists out there, it seems like a great place to meet the person you are having an affair with.
Before Floyd got there I sat alone at the opposite end of the bar from everyone else. They were having some discussion about acting or something; one rule of thumb that has always served me well in life is that if someone is discussing anything that can in any way be described as a “craft,” you should keep at least ten shoulder lengths away at all times.
Eventually Floyd ambled in. The bartender noted how smiley he was. He was very smiley. We each had a whiskey and commenced talking about the difference between men and women. He repeated all the stuff Dr. Phil had written about in his book, but we particularly focused on the communication skills of men, particularly in the realm of answering e-mails, text messages, or even voicemail. If a woman gets a message from a guy she likes, she will wait exactly 40 minutes (any less would appear too available) and then respond. Men, on the other hand, may never get around to it at all. One must not take this personally, Floyd said. For men, when women aren't around, they aren't around. For women, when men aren't around, we wonder where they are, what they are doing, why they aren't calling us back. It sucks.
The good news was, Floyd seemed to think that I was doing okay in my current situation, that all signs pointed toward not being horribly rejected, which is really my only fear in life. But really, I have been trying to take that risk anyway; to walk over and adjust the picture frame on the opposite wall.
The bartender came over and we somehow started chatting about pets. She had an ailing cat, and it became more apparent to me why she was closing early — she wanted to get home to care for it. We all commiserated about the death of animals and the “joys” of euthanasia and all that stuff, until it came time for Floyd to really shine. “You know,” he said, finger pointed up in the air, “my uncle once told me a story, and I figure that if you are going to lose a pet, this is the best way to do it.”
The bartender and I were both anticipating a nice heartwarming story about the stoic death of Ol' Shep as he lay next to a trickling stream, or perhaps locked in a passionate couplet with a Burmese mountain dog. I knew the story would be bittersweet, because what animal death isn't? But I also was looking forward to a satisfying tale that would more than make up for all the pet-death pain I myself have endured.
“He had one of those little yappy dogs with the long hair,” he continued.
“A Yorkie!” I interjected.
“Right!” he said. “A Yorkie. One of those yappers. Anyway, one day the dog was out in the backyard.”
The bartender and I were leaning in, trying to picture his uncle's backyard and the beautiful if not funereal scene it was about to host.
“All of a sudden my uncle hears this awful howling and yipping, a real commotion. He looks outside and a giant hawk has swooped down and grabbed the dog in its beak, then flown away over the houses with it. He never saw it again.”
Once Floyd was finished, the bartender and I sat there in gaped-mouth silence, not unlike at the end of a brilliant piece of chamber music. Then, in unison, we unloaded a barrage of shit on him.
“You call that a nice story?” the bartender said.
“That's the way you want a pet to go if they have to?” I said with a thwack of a cocktail napkin on his head. “That is horrifying!”
“How could you see your dog carried away like that in pain?” she pleaded.
“Hey!” Floyd protested. “Survival of the fittest! The dog was killed by another animal. That's the best way to go.”
I suppose one could say that the lil' Yorkie could've stayed “safe” in one room in that house, never venturing out into the yard. I guess we could say that life — real life — takes risks, and we are all only seconds from being swooped up by a giant bird and slowly eviscerated and fed to its young. I sort of got Floyd's point. The bartender, on the other hand, was just sort of bummed. I left her a nice tip.
“Ready to venture out?” I said to Floyd. Then we went to Thee Parkside and watched a godawful metal band. You know, really lived.