I've seen a lot of movies lately. One of the things that has gone on in each one of these movies is the scene where the guy is down and out, sitting at the bar, looking down at a highball glass with just the remnants of some dangerous colored liquor in it. The inference is that he has been there for quite some time ruminating in his problem and finding solutions in the quiet isolation of the dive bar. In a couple of these movies the bartender has turned out to be a worldly sage, filled with wisdom dispensed at just the right moment. The main character has an "a-ha" revelation thanks to the bartender, and whirls out of the bar after downing the last of his cheap scotch. Problem solved. This runs counter to my experience. In my experience most bartenders in this scenario are dangerous losers that are like drowning swimmers, eager to drag you down to the bottom of the cruel sea. If they were so smart, why would they be working somewhere earning $37 a shift?
There is something very romantic about the self destructive bender as portrayed in American cinema. In the event the woman that is your true love crushes you in some manner, the key is to get very intoxicated at the sleaziest bar in the general area. If Hollywood is correct, what will happen is that she will either come to fetch you professing her love or come tend to you in your home when you arrive there shattered at the end of the bender. This is, of course, patently untrue. I had a friend that used to firmly embrace this tactic, but in my memory the only thing that happened was that he got home really late and ordered pizzas. Well, one time he went over to a woman named Rotten Rita's apartment and ejaculated inside of her and hoped she didn't get pregnant when her period was late that month. Neither of those, especially the "Rotten Rita" scenario, are exactly what were promised by Hollywood. He really should have known better. Going over to "Rotten Rita's" can never end well.
I tried it one time. My girlfriend at that time appeared to be 100% focused on playing with my emotions and seeing if she could crush my soul. It was one of those situations where I would see her in the morning and it would be laughs and smiles. At the end of the day despite no interaction in the previous eight hours, I would go to her apartment and find her crying in the dark saying things like "Why do you think I'm so sad? Is it our relationship?". At the time I took it personally, as I was fairly certain that I had somehow failed as a man. Men like to fix things. This was unfixable. I now realize that she had some rather hefty mental health issues. I just had drawn the short straw on the role of "male lead that meets tragic end" in the film she was producing.
Towards the bitter end of our time together I went to pick her up as we had agreed earlier that day. She wasn't home. I waited a reasonable amount of time. As this was before everyone had Gordon Gekko cell phones, I called into her home answering machine to let her know I was pissed off about being blown off (and honestly really hurt and embarrassed). I don't know what the hell happened but I must have hit my phone keypad somehow to trigger her machine to send the received messages out to me as if I had called in for them. It was then I learned a guy named "Phil" had let her know he was running five minutes late but he would arrive well in time to whisk her out before my arrival. Ha! What a lark! I loved how he laughed about it on the message.
I was quite out of sorts. I did recall with vivid clarity that Page One of the Young Man's Playbook dictated that I needed to tie one on at the shittiest bar possible and sort some things out. I did just that. I sat on a ripped red fake leather stool at a horrible Lakewood bar called Sullivan's or Clancy's or something like that. I had never been there before and never returned. The only thing I remember with clarity is the men's room urinals stunk like decades of piss despite a heroic cracked urinal cake that offered a detergent smell over the top of the stench. The bar had one of those peanut machines with a heat lamp on the lid for the 50 cent serving of nuts in a paper cup. There was also a big jar of eggs floating in a sickly purple fluid. I didn't order one, nor did any of the other three patrons. I drank cheap draft beers and whiskey shots. Old Crow as I recall. I normally drank neither.
The plan went south fairly quickly. The whiskey helped my emotions go from "self pity" to "indignant anger" in short order. By around midnight I lurched to the payphone and left a horrible message on her machine. It was really bad. After sitting down and having another round, I hit the booth again and left another much worse message although I secretly hoped she was home, would pick up and the whole thing was some sort of mistake. I was a complete mess by this point. The bartender offered no sage advice. He pretty much ignored me and spent most of his energy absentmindedly picking at a medium sized growth on his neck that was probably cancerous.
By this time I was feeling vindictive, and headed over to my version of Rotten Rita. Honestly, she was a really nice girl that had unfortunately taken a shine to me in a very unfortunate time period for me. Wrong place, wrong time. The last thing she needed was a little visit from some guy that thought he was a lead in a B-movie at one in the morning. I think my plan was that I would show up over there and present myself as some sort of victim. She would immediately identify me as someone that had been wronged, and offer me comfort in her cozy apartment. I was doing her a favor by dropping by unannounced at 1:00 am. I would probably have acrobatic passionate love with her, evening the score with my girlfriend as well as providing earthly delights to this enamored young woman. What a swell plan!
What actually happened was that I was greeted at the door like I had just emerged from a roadside disaster. I believe her words to me after she had rubbed the sleep from her eyes were "Oh my God? What's wrong with you? Did you get in an accident?". I babbled what I thought was some witty banter that resulted in her looking at me with a combination of pity and horror. Very quickly she put me on her couch with a quilt and hoped I passed out, which I did in approximately 17 seconds. I woke up the next day and slunk out of the apartment with a terrible hangover that could be described as crippling, but not before her friend arrived at the house to stare at me on the couch and hiss to my hostess "What is that loser doing here?" as they retreated to the bedroom.
It was not my proudest moment.
My experience with the "Finding Solace At The Shitty Bar" can't be that singular. I can't ever recall anyone that I know personally that has said, "Yeah, I was really having some issues with Sheila, but then I really tied one on down at The Brass Rail. Next thing you know, we just worked it all out. It was good to really knock back all that whiskey before really digging into those problems." It's not that I don't believe in movies. They have taught me that teenagers having sex anywhere will be killed by axe murderers. If an unattractive girl takes off her glasses, she will become the prettiest girl in the room. Her hair will also fall down and be revealed to by a shimmering mane. That's tied into the glasses somehow I guess. In war, any company of soldiers will have a country boy that is God Fearing yet a crack shot/killing machine. There will also be an older Sargent that won't even notice exploding bombs and gunfire all around him as if he wore Teflon, yet he will be killed at the very end of any key battle. Any old man that appears crotchety actually possesses a heart of gold that is usually revealed only to children or crying young women. These are universal truths I can believe. These are all facts. It's the productive bender I fear may be fiction. It's hard to know what to believe anymore.