Monday, May 23, 2005

Snakebitten: Mason Jars on Melrose

...I went down into Hollywood proper to spend a couple of days with a homie and be closer to this film shite I had to get done in the interim but as it turned out, one of his boyfriends was in town and so I was on my own...I'm beginning to find that the more I chronicle, the more I start to take note of the coolness taking place all around me (which justifies the message in the blog description) what's written below is not at all embellished...many of the paths you take in life must be traversed on the solo tip; I think that's what Robert Frost was alluding to in the Road Not Taken....

When I pulled up to my home-biscuit's door after checking out a screener over at Mann's Chinese, he was already walking out. After he appraised me of what was going on with him, he reached for a cup on a table beside his front door and handed me his spare keys, dropped them into my hand and rolled out into the Hollywood night. I walked inside and made a beeline towards his "bar" and poured myself a drink while I pondered what to do. The Frolic Room was out of the question but after downing a couple of "homemade cocktail grenades," I decided to shoot on up the road to a spot called "Daddy's" which is near the Vine/ Hollywood intersection. I got there around 1:30 AM, my logic being at least I could squeeze in a "6-minute Ab"- solut and a pint but I never got the chance, the gin jockeys were ignoring all the new punters lined up at the bar so I parted the velvet curtains at the front door, strolled it down Selma and shot up the alleys that lead to "The Room" a joint tucked back behind Cahuenga. It used to be an underground hang out (well at least by Hollywood standards) when I got in from NYC a few years back but has since gone the way of the MJQ in Atlanta (see George Lives) -- the ease with which the guy at the door granted entry should've told me that the jig was up but I'm the stubborn sort, once I set my mind to something (and you know this, yo)...

I waded through the throng of thugs, thespians and thrill seekers but immediately felt the urge to divest myself from the sea of sweaty bodies, bald heads and bleached teeth, so I kept on going, past the bar, past the DJ and towards the back entrance (which really should be the front, as it opens out onto Cahuenga). It was 1:55, so I hailed a cab instantly (since the bars close at 2, I beat the bum's rush for taxi service by a couple minutes) - I retreated to base camp as I had a press junket to cover at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in about 7 hours and sitting through one of those while nursing a hangover is a special kind of pergatory...

As mentioned in earlier entries, I'd been back in the South East for the last week and change and although I got proper service at 98% of the places I'd been to -- I do recall a couple of instances where I got "the business" (which is what Eddie Haskell called it when he was fuckin' with the Beav). I remembered in vivid detail; much starker relief than most of the other stuff -- I guess that's human nature. But like Chuck and Flava Flav once sang: "some think I'm negative but they're not positive; check what I got to give...yo Chuck, are we that type?...Don't believe the hype." Now here's...what I want y'all... to do...for me... (click on the header to see my native state's official song to really catch my drift about being given the biz...that's right, check your watch, this is the 21st century).

On Saturday afternoon, following the roundtables and 1:1 interviews at the Regent, I pulled away from Rodeo, turned left off of Wilshire, hooked a right off of Fairfax and stopped at a joint over on Melrose -- a dive-ish type affair called The Snake Pit -- I'd been there before with a homepiece prone to calling me part-way through a bender. It's perched right on the corner of Sierra Bonita, I've seen long lines of Harleys stacked like dominoes outside its orange doorway in the past but not at the moment, so it wasn't crowded yet. I walked through the screen door and let my eyes adjust (it's a trifle dark inside when you come in off the street), grabbed an L.A. Weekly, bellied up, ordered a Heffe with a side car of cold water and started reading -- the bartender served me a frosty mug of suds and an ice cold Mason jar of water. When I looked up a that jar of water, the obsequiousness of that "terrible 2%" from back East came rushing back which made me get salty... I'm serious, this was the exact same Mason brand jar that my granny would used to preserve blackberry jam or string beans in -- she'd pop you in the head but good if she caught you drinking out of one of those things and that's word, son. "Only drunks and derelicts drink out of jars and you're neither," she'd admonish adding insult to injury. "What's this?" I asked the lanky bartender sniffily while pointing an acusing finger in the jar's direction. "It's a glass of water," she said nonchalantly. "A glass? -- that's a jar, yo," I replied petulantly. "Those are our water glasses," she shot back while throwing daggers with her eyeballs. "That's nice, " I replied dryly, "I'd like my water in a proper glass, please," (making finger quotes in the air).

At the last, the 'tender slammed down an "according to Hoyle" drinking glass on top of an empty coaster beside my beer and splashily refilled it with the contents of the jar which she then placed in a sink beneath the bar -- while staring me down as if I had hooks for hands. I returned to this article in the Newsroom section covering Antonio Villaraigosa's mayoral victory over Jim Hahn -- he's the first Latino/ Mexican mayor in town in last 130 years-- historic,yo...a little while laters, these two tanned Julies rolled in off of Melrose and pulled up beside me at the "trough" at about the time I got to this piece on how Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein influenced 16th century and modern scientific principles, respectively -- tie-ins for two separate exhibitionsbeing held but good reading nonetheless ...I looked up while taking a belt of Heffewiessen and glanced over at the two birds sipping on straws dipped in Mason jars of water and got the zap on my dome... KA-BOOM!

See, I'd internalized how those ass-clowns back in the deep South were trying to make me feel on a sub-conscious level and didn't even realize it at the time, maybe thinking: "who cares? I'm only visiting this piece, kid." I guess you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the whatever...I'd been in the South long enough to know that though years had passed, I still hated it out there. At one point in Richmond, VA, I shuddered as the recollection of why I left town for university at 17 years of age and never looked back consumed me while I waited for an inordinate stretch of tick-tocks to place my order at some new boîte in an "upscale" part of town. A similar sensation washed over me while I sat at the bar on Melrose Ave....I had to address this cock-up STAT...

After calling her over, I asked the bartender what's her name and what region of these great united states she hailed from. She told me her name and that she was Canadian, actually. I introduced myself, where I was from and explained that serving a guy water in a jar was considered a passive-agressive social slight in some places. You might say "mountain out of a molehill, kid...move along" But that's a part of my point...the mere fact that when one of those trailer-bound simpletons back East would try that shite, there was that implication. If you let it slide and didn't sort them out, well, they won...when you're wrapped in brown, you can spend a lot of time going "I shoulda/ coulda/ woulda said/ done this" when it's long after the fact but since I reached the age of reason, I've vowed not to do so...I continued, explaining to her how fucked up some people still are in some parts of the country (no matter how long they've been around people of color and vice versa) and that I'd assumed she was giving me "fever" based on this -- it hadn't dawned on me during my jag of indignant self-righteousness, that if she were doing all of that "separate water fountain/Governor Orval Faubus shite then my beer would've been in a Mason jar as well...a friend of mine once said, "I cannot change the world, I can only change the world in me." (I think he cribbed that from John Lennon, who pinched it from somebody else but whatever). I apologized for making an ass out of "her and me" as I unloaded some of what I'd been through back "in the Land of Cotton" and then closed by telling her I felt about "this big" for getting all Randall-fuggin'-Robinson-Stokely Carmichael-Luther-friggin'-King" on her. I'll pay my tab and slink on out the door, never to return to the scene of my crime," I said with contrition while rising to my feet, "I'm gonna jet..."

As I turned to step out onto Melrose Avenue the barkeep called me over and cupped my hand in hers. "I get the same thing when I go home too -- not all Canucks are cuddly," she confessed. "Everytime I get back to Los Angeles it takes me a couple of days to re-adjust to the culture lag. You'll get over it soon enough," she continued and squeezed my hand in hers for emphasis. "Welcome back, sweetie. Welcome home." Cool chick, yo...I'm definitely going back there...Oh yeah, I'll post that R. Frost joint below for you (exclamations mine)...just in case you weren't paying attention that day in English class (wink/nudge)...Laters....

The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. (!!!)
*Robert Frost (1874–1963)

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Blogger mj said...

i had wanted to comment on this piece the day i read it, which was prolly a week ago but alas, i've been super-busy. even last night as i briefly commented on the sidharttha post, i wanted to do this but i had my own post to put up, which is oddly related to this one of yours right here.
mason jars. i had no idea about these things. so interesting. anyway, i thought it was just that; interesting, that you had this reaction. we all carry a certain amount of baggage and it speaks highly of you, (and even suggests what is so evident here: you are a writer,) that you were able to recognize your own reaction for what it was. it reminds me of the post i just put up on my own blog which was prompted by my being a bit foul tempered with a friend. alas, we are human and to be human, is to err. to recognize our own errors, to repent from these errors or seek forgiveness or try to right htem, that is just divine. i liked very much that you said what you said to yon bartender.

11:10 AM, June 03, 2005  

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