Bouncer: Hearing the End of the World at O'Neill's Irish Pub

During a break from the gnarly weather last week, I decided to hang out near the ballpark before baseball season officially began and rendered the area completely uninhabitable. I enjoy standing next to the ballpark when it is empty, near the Willie Mays statue, just me and the pigeons. I like to feel dwarfed by the building AT&T built. All you see is one big wall that stretches down the block. From the King Street vantage point, you can't really tell that behind the brick there is a field of grass, 41,000 seats, and the potential for 10,000 tons of garlic fries. It reminds me of the Colosseum in Rome, only instead of the emperor giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to some poor slave, we have an American Idol runner-up throwing out the first pitch. Actually, everything these days is reminding me of ye olde Rome, because our civilization is in such rapid decline that I cannot help but make the comparison. The sky is falling.

My current state of cynicism goes back to Deepak Chopra, whom I had heretofore associated with PBS fund drives. I had an almost Pavlovian channel-change response whenever I saw him on TV. But lately, I have been thinking that some self-improvement was in order, and rather than actually take any steps to make that happen, I decided to Netflix up Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and all those other charismatic gurus who sell DVDs and books. I could watch instructions on how to self-improve, then give it all a lot of thought.

This is the point where I mention that I am in a bar, and that the bar is also reminding me of the decline of Rome. The bar this week is O'Neill's Irish Pub, on Third Street, right around the corner from the entrance to the park. It is a bar indeed in decline, which is a hell of a lot better than a bar catering to gamegoers that is crisp, new, and would please your parents after the game. I was surprised at just how funky the joint was, with beat-up seating, dark corners, and a smell that can only be described as irksome.

I bought a drink and sat at a banquette/booth contraption in the corner by a window. When I sat down, one end of it tipped up with a noticeable thwack, so I located my duff in the center of it, so as not to disturb the laws of physics. A Janis Joplin song was playing extremely loud, and a woman at the bar was adding to the noise by singing along very brashly. She had that sort of singing voice used in Pepsi commercials: emotively Debby Booneish, with raspy punctuations for emphasis. Almost immediately, I began to dread the “Kentucky coal mine” line that was coming up. Please, God, do not let me hear this woman sing that line. Please. Please.

“From a Kin-tucky co'mine, to the shores of San Antone … ” Oh Lordy, she did indeed lean into the “Kin” in Kentucky, just as I had feared. But I did give her props for substituting some pretty good lyrics for the words that she didn't know. Rarely have the beaches of San Antonio, Texas, been celebrated in song.

Imagine my delight when another Joplin song came on, the only other one that ever gets played: “Piece of My Heart.” “Didn't I make you feel … like youuuuuuuuuuuuuu were my only man ….” The singer in attendance pointed her finger in the air for this part, and continued with her best makeshift lyrics while nervous men around her wondered if she was going to pick them for a direct serenade.

Listen to me, getting caught up in what is actually happening in the bar, instead of going off on some philosophical tangent. We were talking about Chopra, and how he persuaded me that the world is ending. To clarify, he would say that the world will never end, it's just that our time here will come to an end. He made this statement after a woman in flowing cotton, sitting in the lotus position on the floor in the audience, asked him what we can do to ensure that our planet will be treated with the respect it deserves and won't be taken advantage of. Chopra said that total destruction of life on Earth would not be a good thing, but that it would be a blip on the screen of eternity, and we are arrogant to think that all existence depends on human beings. From there my mind drifted to those TV specials that outline what the Earth will look like once the humans have gone, with skeletal buildings and empires of insects. I pictured how AT&T Park could be reused by the new life-forms. An entire bug city could exist on each tier, with earthworm metropolises in the center. Vines and mosses would fill the walkways and hallways. Willie Mays would be covered in greenery, like a topiary.

But what Chopra was saying was scary, because you can get it into your head that none of this stuff matters, that nuclear accidents are no big deal, because eventually Mother Earth will correct everything. Global warming might kill us off as a species, but in about a million years there will be a whole new race of inhabitants. Earth could be swallowed up by a black hole, or hit with an asteroid, or the sun could explode and destroy our whole universe. So, in short, why don't I just spend my rent money on beer?

“You know you got it if it makes you feel good, oh yes it does!” the singer continued. Now here was one woman who gave not a thought to tomorrow. In fact, I daresay she would give all of her tomorrows for one single yesterday.

I wish I could say that on the way home my brain had erased that woman's phrasing of “Kin-tucky,” but, alas, it remained for most of the evening. And now, as I write this, it is in my head again, and probably will be all day. Even until the end of the Earth.

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