Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The March, Chapter 43: Early Morning Visitors Are Such a Buzzkill

Chapter 42

I want my two dollars!
-Better Off Dead

As Teddy wearily pondered his sad cigarette situation, Rosie walked into Tré’s place feeling pretty good.  She’d had another epic night, lighting up the clubs and feeling more and more like a rock star every day.  She was the resident Madonna; a skinny, white Queeen Latifah.  It was her scene for now.  Soon she’d be onto greener pastures.

She took a quick shower and then crawled naked into bed with Tré.  The pink dawn light streamed in through the windows; fresh from the shower she was as pink and healthy as the morning.  Tré opened his arms and she snuggled in.

“Did I wake you up, sweetie,” said Rosie, cozily nestling into his arms.

“I’m only half awake,” Tré said sleepily.

“You’re warm,” she said.

“You smell good,” he said.

Rosie lazily moved her hands up and down Tré’s body.  Tré’s fingers wandered across her back, her thighs, her belly, her breasts.  She kissed his neck.  He kissed her mouth.  They made sweet, sleepy love in the dawn light.  When they were done, they fell happily sleep for an hour or so.

A sharp knock at the door woke them up.

“Who’s that?” asked Rosie, unpleasantly startled out of a nice dream.  She looked at the clock.  “Jesus Christ, Tré, it’s 7:15.  Who knocks on a door at 7:15?”

Tré knew who it was.

“Just go back to sleep, baby,” he said, kissing her forehead.  “I’ll take care of it.”

But Rosie got up, put a tee-shirt on and stood in the doorway to the living room.  She watched a tense conversation between Tré and his landlord unfold.

When it was over, she walked over to Tré and wrapped her arms around him.

“Fuck him,” she said.  “Let’s just get out of here.  It’s cold and always winter and I’m sick of Chicago.  Let’s go to L.A. or New York and just start fresh.”

“Rosie,” said Tré, sitting heavily on the couch.  “If I can’t afford to pay my rent, how can I afford to trek off to L.A.?”

“I can get some money from my parents,” she said.  “They can stake us a few thousand dollars to get out there and get started.  I know us – it won’t take any time before we get good work.  I’m getting good at this DJ thing.  And they pay for that out there.  Come on, Tré.  Let’s just get out of Chicago.”

“I can make money here,” said Tré.  “I am making money.  I just got behind.  Once I finish this job for your father, I’ll be able to get more money and catch up.  I’ve worked too hard to just pull up stakes.  I’m keeping my head down, working hard and I’ll catch up soon.”

“I don’t want to keep my head down,” said Rosie.  “I don’t want that.  I want to go.  I’m ready now.”

“I’m not, Rosie,” said Tré. “I want to finish what I started.  Besides, it’ll be summer soon and you’ll love Chicago again.”

Rosie sighed. “I’m done with Chicago.”

“But I’m not.”

“Fine,” said Rosie. “But I can help you now.  I’ve got a couple of hundred dollars.  Just take it and give it to your landlord.  Maybe once you’re even with him, you’ll feel less stressed.  We can start going to the clubs again.  It doesn’t cost that much.”

“Well, maybe not for you,” said Tré, leaving unsaid that two hundred dollars wouldn’t resolve anything.  “But I don’t have people beating down the door to buy me drinks.  Besides, I don’t want to start that up again.  I want to succeed.”

“I miss you,” said Rosie.  “I all but live here and never see you.”

“Stay home with me some nights,” said Tré. “I would like to hang out with you again. Here, where it’s quiet.”

“So, what, Tré?” said Rosie.  “Your way or the highway, huh?  I want you to come out with me to Lobo and be on the scene with me, but no.  I want you to move to where it’s warm and where I can make a name for myself, but no. I feel like I’m doing all the wanting around here.”

“I want you, Rosie,” said Tré.  “I want you all the time. But I had plans before I met you, and I’m not ready to ditch them yet.  I’m going to be someone here.”

“You already are someone,” said Rosie.  “I want to be someone too.”

“Rosie, everyone knows who you are,” said Tré.  “You’re amazing.  And you’re important to me.  Can we please just make up and go back to bed.  I don’t have to be at work until 10:00 and I want to sleep some more.  I want to sleep with you and feel like everything is OK for a little while.”

Rosie nodded, but was unsatisfied with the conversation.  She didn’t understand why Tré was so inflexible about this stupid job and this stupid town. 

Rosie was dead set on getting out of Chicago.  She intended to be famous.  He aspirations for celebrity were concrete and viable.  She would, soon, walk down Rodeo Drive in some fabulous, barely there outfit.  She’d be waved in past the line at the Viper Room and hang out with River Phoenix and Johnny Depp.  It was all bound to happen.  But she didn’t know how to make it happen.  And if Tré would just come with her, he’d help her figure it out.

Tré was just as committed to staying in Chicago.  He intended to be successful.  His aspirations for man-about-town, corporate success were also concrete and viable.  He would, soon, be approached by venture capitalists seeking to put his brand on top of a hot new nightspot.  He would, soon, be the scene-maker in Chicago, the man who made it cooler than New York or L.A.  This was all bound to happen. But he had to succeed at this project first.

Tré knew that Rosie really wanted to leave Chicago.  But he didn’t know she was scared to strike out on her own.  He didn’t know how much she relied on him to maintain her façade of extreme confidence. 

Rosie knew how much Tré wanted to succeed.  But she didn’t know how scared he was of failure.  She didn’t know how much of himself was invested in succeeding at Lightweight.

Tré and Rosie were both incredibly good looking.  They both wore the right clothes and had the right attitude and always knew how and when to turn a smile on or off.  They were both smart and funny.  They were sublimely cool.  But they had built all that sublime cool on flimsy foundations.  Both of them were due for a collapse.  But, in the meantime, they could share a bed, wrap their arms around each other and stave off the crumbling for a little while longer.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The March, Chapter 42: It's a Sin To...

Chapter 41

So it’s sorta social.  Demented and sad, but social.  Right?
- The Breakfast Club

The following night was a quiet one at the clubs and taverns around Chicago.  Most of the drinking world was at home, nursing hangovers.  The only people sitting around the regular’s corner at The March were the few who’d avoided the amateur night annoyance of St. Patrick’s Day. Caleb leaned behind the bar, drinking coffee and chatting with the only three regulars who’d shown up that night: Wally Cadwallader, John Farebrother, and Mary.  Mary and Farebrother were playing Scrabble, their bonhomie mitigating somewhat their competitiveness.

“Honestly, you two,” said Wally, sipping his martini.  “You act as though the fate of the Americas was on the line over who wins that game.”

“You never know, Wally,” said Farebrother.  “The next geopolitical crisis could well be resolved by a world leader who understands that you should never create an opportunity for an opponent to land on a triple word score.”

“Fuck off, Farebrother,” said Mary.  “I don’t need a triple word score to beat you.  Check this out!”  
And then she laid an “s” at the start of Farebrother’s last played “quirt” and used it to kick off “sexy.” With the “x” on a triple letter score.  “How you like me now, motherfucker!”

“That was a pretty sexy move,” said Farebrother, grimacing.  “But I’ll come back.  I am bloodied, but unbowed.”

“Mary,” said Wally.  “I hate to harp on it, but you really need to start thinking about your skin care regimen.  All these years in a smoky bar will start showing up on your face soon.”

Although neither he nor the bar would make any money that night, Caleb enjoyed these quiet nights.  He enjoyed the vicious Scrabble matches, and Wally’s single-minded focus on his moonlighting career.  He liked passing the time with people whom he knew were rescued from lonely nights by the comfortable corner at The March.

He scarcely noticed the rat-faced little guy sitting alone at a table, making his way through a pitcher.
Brooke, who’d brought the pitcher to Rafferty, was standing by the door chatting with GIO.  They were discussing Celia’s upcoming graduation. Gio and Brooke had become pretty good friends of late and Gio was only a little embarrassed to recall that Brooke had initially been the preferred sister.  These days, as much as he liked Brooke, he found himself often irrationally indignant at how Celia seemed like the second Dotry sister to everyone.  There was something about Celia’s practicality and effortlessness in worldly matters that made her fade into obscurity behind Brooke’s intense passions and terrible romantic decisions.  But Gio also knew that Brooke loved Celia almost as much as he did.  Had he said this aloud, Brooke would probably have argued with that “almost as much” estimation, but the tenor of romantic love is so different than that of sibling love.  It’s not worth the bother of comparing. 

“Do you think your Dad will come for Celia’s graduation,” asked Gio.

“I’m sure he will,” said Brooke.  “And stay for the whole day.”

“What about a fancy party,” said Gio.  “Passed hors d’oeuvres and rented champagne glasses?”

“She’ll love that,” said Brooke.  “And we’ll get enough people there that Dad won’t feel all awkward during a one-one with us.”

“Jesus, that’s sad,” said Gio.  “Your family is such a downer I’m going to have to lighten up the mood for this party.  Maybe I’ll jump out of a cake and strip.”

“Ha!” said Brooke.  “We can get you a coconut bra.  You’ll look hot!”

They were laughing when Caleb called from the bar, “Go home, Brooke.  If they’re not here by now, they’re not coming.”

It was an early cut for Brooke.  Barely 11:00 pm.  She decided to walk.

“Brooke,” said Gio.  “It’s not safe for you to walk.  Let me call you a cab.”

“Oh, it’s barely three blocks,” said Brooke.  “I’ll be home faster walking than I would be in a cab.”

Brooke loved that walk home.  She loved the sound of her own footsteps, unobscured by city noise and idle conversation.  It was always the most peaceful that she felt.

As she walked, she noticed that it was so clear, she could pick out a star or two in the busy Chicago sky.  She felt awake and comfortable and in no particular hurry to get home.  So, she walked slowly, thinking of this and that; a story she’d read in the paper that morning, the craziness of last night, a particularly good tip she’d gotten.  She thought about what to get Celia for graduation.  She’d buy her a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, a book they both loved to distraction.  She’d inscribe it with something gushy and sweet.  That’d be good.  A hot shower would also be good.  And a grilled cheese.  When she got home, she’d take a hot shower and then make a grilled cheese sandwich and listen to the radio while she read a book.  She’d re-read To Kill A Mockingbird.  She was glad of her early cut and the quiet hours ahead of her.

She walked in the door and was about to head directly into the shower to wash the bar off when she noticed a light in the living room.

Teddy was sitting on the sofa, quiet, staring into the unlit fireplace.

“Teddy,” she said.  “Have you been home long?  For some reason I thought you’d be asleep even though it’s not even midnight.”

“I was asleep,” he said, wearily.  “But I woke up and now I’m cold.  I’m sick of winter and cold.”

“Yeah, it starts to get old, doesn’t it?” she said.  “But it’ll be warm soon enough.  Let me get you something hot to drink.”

She went into the kitchen and poured some milk into a pot for heating.  She mixed it with some cocoa and sugar and brought it into the living room.  She settled on the floor next to the sofa and rested her head on his knee.  “How are you feeling, Teddy,” she said.  “You looked so lonely sitting here in the dark.”

“I feel better now that you’re home,” he said.  “I feel more settled when you’re here.”

“I’m here, Teddy,” she said.  “But I need a shower.  And I was thinking about rereading To Kill a Mockingbird.

“I’ve never read it,” said Teddy.

“Really,” said Brooke.  “That’s terrible!  You should read it right now!”

“I never read fiction,” he said.  “And I never like the same things everyone likes.”

“You’ll like this,” said Brooke.  “It’s a perfect book.  Do you want to borrow my copy?”

“Read it to me,” said Teddy.  “Would you read it to me?”

Brooke was surprised, but she agreed.  She got the book, settled onto the sofa next to him, snuggled up under an afghan and began.

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow…

Brooke read aloud for something just short of an hour, until Teddy drifted off to sleep.  She adjusted the afghan around him, and then headed in to take her delayed shower, make her grilled cheese sandwich, and then sat on her bed and read until dawn.

Teddy woke up in the gray, dawn light with a crick in his neck from his uncomfortable place on the couch.  He headed back to his own room to get some good sleep.  On his way down the hall, he stopped by Brooke’s room and looked in.  She was asleep on the top of her covers.  She had on sweatpants and a tee shirt.  The book was open on the bed next to her.  Her long hair was loose.  She looked so lovely and young.

Teddy shit the door quietly and then went to his own. He sat heavily on the bed.  His neck hurt and he had heartburn. And he was out of cigarettes.

On First World Problems

One of the best pieces of marital advice I ever heard was in a recap of an episode of Friday Night Lights over at the late, lamented Television Without Pity.  The advice: in a marriage, it's OK to be a jerk to your spouse so long as you know you're being a jerk.  In other words, sometimes you're tired and you feel fat and you're worried about money and the sound of that televised football game is just cutting through you like a knife and so you say something shitty to your husband about the football game but you are aware that your husband should get to watch football without your shitty comments so you present said shitty comment in such a way as to let your husband know that you know you're being a jerk.  In that way, you're getting it out, and your husband feels free to let it go because he knows you know.

That's marriage.  All the old marrieds know just what I mean.

When the hashtag #firstworldproblems first came up, it served a similar purpose.  A person would make a FB status update or send a tweet complaining about something while making it clear that even as they were complaining, they were aware that they were enormously privileged to have this problem.  It's frustrating to get the wrong coffee after standing in a long line at Starbucks.  It's amazing to have the income and the access to $4 coffee.

But somewhere over the last few months #firstworldproblems has morphed from a way someone makes evident their own privilege to judgy invective hurled outward.

This, I think, makes the whole hashtag a lot less valuable.  The petty annoyances of modern first world life are petty.  But they are also annoying.  And a person can be annoyed without being an asshole; can be annoyed while being aware that their life is pretty good.

There are times when it's right to call someone out on for being an asshole.  Here's a good one:

But if you respond to someone bitching on Twitter that they spent 15 minutes in line and then the barista gave them a Macchiato when they'd ordered an Americano (those are things, right?  I think coffee tastes like butt so I don't suffer long lines at Starbucks) with "#firstworldproblems," it's not so much that you're being sympathetic to the plight of third worlders as you're just being morally superior. 

And that doesn't help anyone.

Let's take #firstworldproblems back as a knowingly self-deprecating hashtag. That was good.  And the next time you feel like calling some stranger out for being shallow, make sure your own house is clean first.  Did you get hella pissed the last time someone took 17 items through the 10 items or less? Did you lean hard on your horn when that woman cut you off?  We all do it.  And we should all have room to admit it.  Ourselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The March, Chapter 41: Amateur Night

Chapter 40

That was my skull!  I’m so wasted!
-Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Most humans come standard with impulse control.  Within our brains, as nasty impulses and terrible ideas pop up (as they are wont to do in all of us, everyone), impulse control kicks in and throws up one of those yellow sawhorses that city workers prop up in front of potholes and open sewer grates.  It warns us, “Look out!”  It stops us from saying this or doing that.

Its first purpose is, of course, self-preservation.  This caution response keeps us, for example, from testing whether a chandelier will support our weight by swinging from it, or complimenting a stranger on her excellent cleavage.  But there’s also an evolutionary social aspect to it.

Over the course of our shared existence on this planet, we have agreed, tacitly, to suppress our most honest impulses.  We think terrible things, have gross urges and want to have sex with so many people.  And no one wants to know about that.  So we lie to each other, either through omission or outright, all the time.  This is the price of living in a civilized society.  We keep our truest nature sequestered underneath a patina of civility in order to make our shared world a more agreeable place to live.  This is, I think, an incontrovertible good.  How awful would it be if everyone just said what they thought and followed through with every urge.  We’d be so groped and insulted.  It would make us brittle and unpleasant.

The protestation, therefore, “I’m just being honest” is qualitatively dishonest. It implies a moral superiority on the part of the “honest” person when he is, instead, cavalierly breaking our tacit social contract.  Trust me: statements that follow or precede “I’m just being honest” would almost invariably be better left unsaid.  In fact, the phrase “I’m just being honest” could quite easily be replaced with “I’m just being an asshole.”

Now, let’s examine this through the context of drunkenness.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, drunkenness does not cause terrible ideas. It releases them.  These terrible ideas were always with you.  You just left your impulse control at the bottom of a glass.  If you were to drunkenly pee on the sidewalk outside a bar, it’s not as though the idea of peeing on the sidewalk flew fresh into your virgin brain.  A sidewalk is certainly more convenient than a public toilet.  But a sober mind tempers this impulse by remembering that (a) no one wants to see you pee and (b) private genitals are always better than public genitals.  But when you drank that last shot of Jagermeister, your native aversion to public elimination was disabled, and you acted on an honest impulse to relieve yourself in the most convenient manner. 

Which is gross and offensive to the people with whom you share the sidewalk.

There are people out there with oceanic experience in drunkenness.  The bulk of The March corner regulars are among that group.  They have learned to mimic functioning impulse control.  Their thought process might be: I need to pee.  It would be nice to pee in the corner instead of walking all the way to the bathroom.  If I were sober, I wouldn’t do that, though.  So I’d better go see a man about a horse.
These people are the drunk exception to the drunk rule, which is: Drunk people act like assholes and are only easily tolerated by other drunk assholes.

This being the case, there are two days that every bar employee dreads: New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day.  On these days, people who live comfortably in civilized society give themselves permission to drink themselves silly and are unequipped to exercise mock impulse control. Neighborhood taverns like The March, which are typically filled with people who have trained themselves to behave moderately well at most levels of intoxication, teem with sloppy, drunken assholes, some good percentage of which will most likely pee in inappropriate places.

Bar staff refer to these two nights as “amateur night.”

On New Year’s Eve, a couple of months ago, Brooke had worked the floor as a cocktail waitress.  She’d navigated through a sea of disheveled party clothes, in a haze of cigarette smoke and sweaty bodies and spilled drinks.  In the middle of the thickest part of the evening, she’d had to find her way to the bar more by instinct than sight.  The tips were poor, the atmosphere was uncomfortable, and she’d been groped by drunken jackasses about a million times.  At 1:00 am, trying to move through the bar with three drinks in her left hand, she’d loudly said, “EXCUSE ME” to the man blocking her way.  He turned and said, ”What, did you fart?”  And then he and his friends guffawed.  This was Brooke’s seventh encounter with the “did you fart” joke that night.  At 2:00, she’d picked up what she thought was an empty pitcher to bring to the bar for washing only to find that someone had vomited in it.  At 3:00, a man had pulled his shirt off, grabbed her around the waist and said, “Your turn!”   As the bouncers dragged him to the door, she found herself close to Teddy-esque levels of misanthropy and disgust.

Pity the poor cocktail waitress on New Year’s Eve. But pity her more on St. Patrick’s Day.  On New Year’s Eve, the festivities began around 8:00 pm.  On St. Patrick’s Day, at least in the city of Chicago, the party gets started in the morning.

The bartender is in a much better position.  They might be undertipped and harassed, but they are separated from the crowd of drunken assholes by the bar itself, which is sacrosanct and inviolable.
And this St. Patrick’s Day, Brooke was behind the bar.

She had a 14 hour shift: 12:00 pm to 2:00 am and would be sharing bartending duties with Mary and Gio.  Mary, with the most experience, worked point, the busiest corner of the bar.  Brooke, since she was speedy, worked service.  Gio took the far end of the bar.  When Brooke got there at noon, the place was already half full.  But people weren’t fully soaked yet.  Yet.  Brooke hopped behind the bar and said hello to Mary, who was pouring a beer into a 16 oz plastic cup.

“These fucking guys,” said Mary, gesturing to the regulars.  “Every fucking time I hand one of them a beer, they complain about the goddamn plastic cup.”

The policy was, on busy days like this, that no glass was to go over the bar.  Instead, bartenders poured every beer, every cocktail, every shot into plastic cups.  It was an environmental nightmare that distressed Brooke in no small way.  She urged waitresses to gather up the cups and let her wash and reuse them.

By 4:00 pm that day, she’d grown too busy to recycle.

The March staff worked like a well-oiled machine.  Drinks went out promptly, kegs were changed apace, Caleb prowled the floor and made sure that as soon as behavior strayed to the far side of tolerable, the drunken idiots were escorted out.  Mary charmed the regulars with her affectionate abuse, making sure they made money despite the parsimonious nature of St. Paddy’s Day drinkers.  Brooke got the servers in and out quickly and when they told her stories about drunken assholes grabbing their butts or hollering “Erin Go Bra-less” at them, Brooke sneaked them shots.  Gio made sure that the rotating cast at the far end of the bar got the drinks they wanted and took in a fair amount of cash himself.

Before too long, Brooke found that she was kind of having fun.  The staff were like brothers-in-arm, forging the bond that comes from being the only sober people in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day.  At midnight, they raised shot glasses together, glass ones, deliberately antagonizing the corner regulars, letting them know who really ran the show.

At a table off from the bar, Karl Rafferty sat by himself, getting dunk on green beer, which he was content to drink from a plastic cup.  He was remembering St. Paddy’s Days gone by. He’d passed many at The March.  It was pleasingly familiar.  The more beer he drank, the dewier his remembrances became.  He thought more and more on what things would have been like if Bulstrode hadn’t sent him to shit.  If it weren’t for Bully, Raff could have been running a nice place like this. He should have a nice place like this.  Bulstrode owed him more than a grand here and there.  Bulstrode owed him a life. 

Bulstrode owed him The March.

What the Hell, It's Been A While - Let's Have Lunch

Today, I emerged from my office so I could consume food away from my computer and read my book.  During my walk over to Au Bon Pain* a young man approached me fundraising for The Human Rights Campaign.  I told him that ever since HRC threw their support behind Joe Lieberman, they'd lost me.  He said, "Who?"  I said, "Joe Lieberman... you know vice presidential candidate, democratic drum thumper for the Iraq War."  He said, "Uh, OK.  Have a good day."

I felt kind of bad.  Here's some kid doing his activist part and some middle-aged lady shits all over it because of ancient politics. And then I wondered if 2003 was really "ancient" and decided that to me it's not, but since he was probably 10 or so  when this whole damn goddamn Iraq debacle started it was to him.

It's all relative.

Still, fuck Joe Lieberman.

Then I got to the Au Bon Pain and had a half of a cheese sandwich and some salt and vinegar kettle chips (this, by the way, is the last meal I would have if I were going to be executed) and read my book where I encountered the word "jumpsuit."  Why is it called a jumpsuit?  Does anyone know?  I could google it, I suppose... but I'll send you a dollar** if you can tell me without googling.  Honor system here!

I did a quick Binny's run after that and while I was walking down Wells Street, I saw a pair of jeans in the gutter.  I think it's odd how often I see jeans in gutters.  Do you think I'm just running into a lot of sad but spirited break-ups?  Hooker/John encounters gone wrong?  Laundry malfunctions?  I mean, not a lot!  It's not like I see jeans in gutters every day or anything - but more than you would think. Is this just me?  Maybe someone is trying to send me a cryptic message.

At Binny's I bought two bottles of wine and a handle of Jim Beam and I was going to turn down the bag because I could put the wine in my giant purse and carry the bourbon by the handle.  I feel like if something has a handle, you should just carry it by the handle.  But then I wondered how people would react to seeing some lady walking down the street with a handle of bourbon in her hand. The cashier suggested that I'd make a lot of friends.  The guy behind me questioned the caliber of the friends I'd make.

It was a pleasant Binny's exchange.

I probably should have gone back around and offered a bourbon to the kid from the HRC.  I could have accompanied it with a history lesson because he should good and goddamn well know who Joe Fucking Lieberman is.

* I passed a bakery on Armitage last weekend called Le Pain Quotidien.  That's so pretentious it actively pissed me off.  It's weird, right, that Au Bon Pain does not piss me off.  I'm inconsistently irritated by pretentious French names on chain restaurants.
** I will probably not send you a dollar.  I've been telling Don for 15 years now that I'll give him  dollars for various favors.  I have yet to pay up and if I'm going to start making good on my dollar promises, I'll probably start with him since I live with him.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The March, Chapter 40: Tre's Humiliation Lifts a Spirit

Chapter 39

Yeah, I’m all right. Don’t worry.  I’m all right.  Fortunately, the ground broke my fall
-        Nightshift

Tré was in trouble.  The financial mess left in the wake of his wild clubbing days just would not be resolved.  He’d maxed out his credit card and failed to pay his rent for three months.  Since he stopped clubbing, he’d managed to pay his rent every month, but couldn’t catch up on the months he hadn’t.  If he paid extra to his landlord, he didn’t pay enough on his credit card.  Debt collectors were calling.  So he stopped paying his phone bill.  But even with that extra money and without those calls, he was still really stressed.  He was desperate to clamber out of his financial hole. 

Rosie still spent most of her nights at Tré’s apartment, but their relationship was slowly drifting into this weird amorphous thing where they passed each other and exchanged cordialities on their respective ways in and out.  Rosie got home from the clubs shortly before, and sometimes after, Tré was waking up for work.  When Tré got home, Rosie was barely awake, thinking about her look for the evening, just getting started.  Rosie spent a great deal of time honing the fine art of being Rosie. And she was getting really good at it.

She liked her weekend DJ shifts at The March.  She spun very cool records, bantered wittily with the crowd, looked fabulous, and was turning The March into the place to be for cool (but not as cool as Rosie) Chicago youth.  She was making a name for herself and turning The March into a very different bar than it had been.  At least on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Rosie had never really grokked Tré’s financial mess.  Such is the nature of a child of privilege.  There was always money to be had.  Tré couldn’t stand to talk to her about it anymore.  He just let it go.  On the days when Tré woke up to find Rosie asleep next to him, all he wanted to do was to lie there with her and soak up the comfort of her warm body in bed.  He wanted to wake her up, pleasantly, and think of other things than the money he owed, the mistakes he’d made.  Neither of them wanted to talk about money anymore.  And so they didn’t.

 But pressing debt will not be starved by silence.  And on one of those pleasant mornings, as Tré left his apartment with a little spring in his step, he was accosted by his landlord about the rent he was due.  The landlord harangued Tré in a thick Polish accent as other tenants hurried past, embarrassed or amused.

It was so humiliating.  Tré strode down the street on his way to work, fiercely thinking about a solution.  He had to do something to get this greedy, grappling landlord off his back.

It wasn’t a happy idea, but he did have one.  He could ask Bulstrode for a loan, an advance on his salary.  If Bulstrode could give him two months salary in advance, he could make things right with his landlord and could then pay Bulstrode back over the next couple of months.  He’d been doing right by Bulstrode.  Good, solid work. Bulstrode had to say “yes.”  Sure, Tré would have to suffer through some patriarchal advice, some benevolently disappointed headshakes.  Tré would have to call him “sir” and look grateful.  But Tré could play obsequious as well as the next guy.  And the idea of satisfying his greasy, rapacious landlord was tantalizing.  Tré was determined to make the request.

As Tré was walking to work and trying to figure out how best to phrase his request, Bulstrode was sequestered in his office with Rafferty, who was insisting on another thousand dollar payment.

“I can’t keep doing this, Karl,” said Bulstrode.  “You’re bleeding me dry.”

“I think you got a ways to go before dry,” said Raff.  “You’re a rich man.”

“When does it end, Raff?” 

“I got some ideas,” said Bulstrode.  “I got some ideas.  I’m just working them out.  Besides I like watching you squirm.  Makes me feel better about all them years I spent downstate.”

“You’re a twisted little fuck, Rafferty,” said Bulstrode. “One day…”

“Yeah, one day,” said Rafferty.  “Whatever.  I’ll see you around, Bully.”

When Rafferty left, Bulstrode pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his desk drawer and lit one.  Another bad habit, he thought. Something else that I thought I’d left in my past.

Tré knocked on Bulstrode’s door a bit later and was waved in.  Bulstrode was sitting behind his desk, scanning through management schedules, looking for salaried employees who were working less than 50 hours a week.  That was taking advantage, Bulstrode thought.  And Bulstrode did not like being taken advantage of.

Tré cleared his throat and began, “Mr. Bulstrode, this is embarrassing, but I have a favor to ask.”

“What is it,” said Bulstrode, without looking up.

“Well, I’ve run into some money troubles and I was wondering if you could see your way to a two month salary advance.  If you reduce my salary after that by a third, then I can be right with you by the end of the summer.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Bulstrode.  “Does everyone think I’m made of fucking money?”

Tré responded with a stunned silence.

Bulstrode reined himself in, took a deep breath and continued. “I apologize for the outburst, Tré.  You’re looking for two months salary in advance.”

“Yes sir,” said Tré.  “I made a couple of bad decisions and am having some difficulty getting clear of them.”

“You were not engaged in any criminal activity, I trust,” said Bulstrode.  “I won’t be involved with that.”

“No sir,” said Tré, feeling hopeful  “Nothing criminal.  I overspent on social events and got behind on a lot of bills.”

Bulstrode looked up at Tré’s young and hopeful face.  He knew how embarrassing this was for him.  
And he knew how much Tré must have needed the money to ask him like this.  So he made a decision.

“I don’t think I can help you,” he said, looking down at his papers. “You’ve gotten yourself into trouble and, like people your age do, you expect someone else to bail you out.  I’m afraid that won’t be me.  How can I even be sure you’ll be drawing a salary from me in six months time?”

“I thought you were happy with my work,” said Tré.

“I am now,” said Bulstrode.  “But there was a period there where you were less professional.  I have no way of knowing whether or not you’ll stay on the straight and narrow.  No, I think we’ll keep our arrangement as it stands. Now, do you have the schedule together for the bar closings throughout the rebrand initiatives?”

“Yes,” said Tré, seething.  “I put them in your box last night on my way out.”

“Thank you,” said Bulstrode.  “Hmmm, looks like Don over at FourSouth in the Loop is only putting in 45 hours a week.  He’s going to need to stop treating his employment like a country club.  He can be replaced.” 

Bulstrode didn’t look up, but heard Tré leave.  He found himself smiling.  It felt like the first time he’d smiled in a while.

Tré sat in his office, so angry he trembled. 

Bulstrode had plans to meet Susan for lunch that day in the Walnut Room at Marshall Fields.  When he got to the 7th floor of the department store, he paused as the host stand for a moment and took it all in.  His internal inventory: He was in good health.  He still had a lot of money. He’d be an elder in the church any day now.  By the end of the year, dozens of bars and restaurants across the city would bear his logo, authoritatively declaring him a major player on the Chicago scene.  He had a beautiful, sophisticated wife, whom he loved dearly.  And there she was, sitting at a table, sipping white wine and examining an Hermes scarf she’d purchased that day.

He was loved. He was rich. He would find some way out of this situation with Rafferty. He was bound to.

Bulstrode decided to have a steak for lunch and drank two glasses of good wine with Susan.  He slept well that night for the first time in months.

Tré began grinding his teeth in his sleep.  He woke up with a terrible headache.

Raff didn’t sleep at all that night.  He spent it blowing through the piles of cocaine he’d purchased with Bulstrode’s money.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lifespan of a Haircut - in Firefly Gifs

I associate with many women of many different ages and in many different places in life and almost all of them know how they want their hair to look and they pay someone to make it look that way.  I find this admirably exotic like how French women allegedly never get fat and or being able to hula without belly fat flopping all around.

I recently got about 8 inches of hair cut off.  I would like to take you through this journey with me and as a visual aid I'm going to use Firefly gifs because I recently finished a rewatch of the one season (ONE SEASON! WHY?!?) it got.  I haven't watched Serenity yet, though. I'm not emotionally stable enough since I got my hair cut for the thing that happens in that movie that is so sad.  Spoilers, or whatever.

Bloggity Proviso: for the purposes of this single blogpost we are going to pretend that Adam Baldwin descended from a mountain and starred in a couple of Joss Whedon series and then retired to a yurt (that's a thing, right? a yurt?) where he does meditation and builds those rock sculpture thingies that are only designed to last briefly and wears caftans and is very much at peace with the world.  But in real life fuck Adam Baldwin and all that #gamergate bullshit

It begins:

I have not cut my hair in 18 months. It's super long.  I feel trapped in a hairsuit.  I am unable to comprehend a time when I didn't cut my own bangs and feel kind of guilty about it.  I don't know what to do.

I'm very distressed about the way I look.  I'm feeling sort of sister-wife with this long hair.

I appeal to my beloved to reassurance.

Then I seize on a decision.  I decide to just go to the place down the street where Laney got her hair cut last and just fucking do it.  Hair grows!  I'm going to cut mine off.  I feel like this:

After the lady finishes cutting my hair, she styles it and blows it dry and it looks so good. I gaze at myself like this.

But you know, when you're looking in a salon mirror, you have to see yourself sitting in that damn chair and it's all full bodied and bright light and while I liked it, it wasn't until I got home and looked in a friendly house mirror that I really liked it and was all:

But then a day or two pass and I wash it and I can't make it look like the lady at the salon made it look and I find I'm all what is happening here?!:

And it gets worse.  It won't settle down!  I seek out terrible workarounds:

I knew this would happen.  This isn't my first damn haircut. I pour a drink.

I am SO frustrated!  Why did I cut my hair?  It used to look so cute in my standard ponytails and buns.  What did I do to myself?!?!?!

But a few weeks pass, and I start to get a little more used to it.  I tuck the front bit behind my ears and it's sort of better and I think:

One day, entirely by accident, I do something and it looks almost as good as it did when I left the salon:

Or am I just kidding myself?

And then comes the end of this journey.  While there will still be days when I catch myself in the mirror and am all:

That's pretty much same as it ever was.  This is the hair that is on my head.  It looks fine.  I am at peace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Step Back - A Rant's a-Comin

Instead of losing a push-up contest to Julie Bowen to see who gets to play Kevin James’s mean wife who he’s sick of having sex with, I’m going to skip ahead to being an amazing slut who wins Oscars

- Jenna Maroney

Today the Internet gathered together as one to clutch at their pearls and cluck their tongues because Renee Zellweger went and got herself a little plastic surgery. The concern trollers today have just done outdid themselves.

Here's something I've learned in my 45 years of walking around with a couple of x chromosomes: Men are allowed to age gracefully; women aren't.  And you can just spare me right now your #notallmen bullshit.  Your willingness to do Helen Mirren the profound favor of tapping her septuagenarian ass does not nullify a pop culture reality in which actresses go from fuckably nubile to second billing as someone's nagging wife or mother while their male counterparts end up cast opposite the next wave of fuckably nubile actresses.

Here's something else: men are allowed to be "interesting" looking; women are not.  For every Melissa McCarthy, there are a baker's dozen Steve Buscemi's or Kevin James or even Tom Fucking Hanks.  If you want to put your girl face up on a screen, no matter what else you’re bringing to the table you’d better make good and goddamn sure that the first thing you bring is your pretty face and your skinny toned ass which both better fit right into the narrowest definition of physical attractiveness.

Actresses will spend their whole career endlessly being told that their main value is to be objects of desire for straight white men because straight white men are still (dear sweet jesus for the love of all that's holy can we PLEASE get to a future where what I'm fixing to say stops being true) the normal thing to be.  Women (and gay men) are not the normal thing to be – so actors get to function beyond objects of desire.  They get to age (and be weird looking and lazy and fart) because that’s the normal thing for men to do.   Actresses, on the other hand, are endlessly compelled to first and foremost be something men want

And so an actress who has been mocked for her appearance literally her entire goddamn career gets plastic surgery to erase the source of the mocking and everyone is just so shocked SHOCKED that she did it

You don’t want actresses to hack up their faces in endless pursuit of the youth and the narrowest approximation of physical beauty?  Well, stop making fucking fun of them for not adhering to the system.  Stop talking about cougars and wondering if this one’s teeth are weird of if that one has cellulite.  Treat Renee Zellweger like we treat George Clooney. And then maybe actresses will stop shocking us by doing exactly what we’ve been telling them they should do their whole career.

And, Jesus Christ.  She looks fine. 


The March, Chapter 39: Teddy's Sanctuary is Breached; He Moves

Chapter 38

I’ll be back

Will’s relaxed presence at The March was pissing Teddy off.  He couldn’t bear walking past Will on his way to the bar, even though the two ignored each other entirely. And it galled him to see Will fitting in so well at The March.  No one seemed at all bothered by this interloper who had infiltrated his bar.  And it was his bar.  After all, he’d been sitting on his barstool longer than any other regular.  Hell, he’d been coming to The March longer than most of the staff had been alive.  But they just welcomed in his loathsome relative, who looked so at home leaning against the door or carrying cases of beer to the bar.  He bantered easily with guests, flirted with waitresses, followed orders from Caleb cordially.  It was intolerable.  Teddy was betrayed.

And so he decided to betray The March.  After 25 years of doing his post-research drinking at The March, Teddy decided to take his business elsewhere and began exercising his boozy post-mortems at Scottie’s, also an L.G.E. joint and conveniently located right around the corner from The March.  It wasn’t quite the same there.  Teddy didn’t like it as much.  There was no quiet dark spot at the far end of the bar.  Instead, Scottie’s had a large island bar right in the middle of the room, with two top tables around its perimeter.  No one had regular places to sit.  Instead, people just sat wherever there was room, no matter how many nights in a row they came in.  It was anarchistic. You never knew who you’d end up sitting next to.

Teddy hated that.

But he hated it less than walking past Will every night.  And eventually Teddy did manage to sort out reasonably unobjectionable seating:  a tiny table, situated between the basement and the cigarette machine where he could sit, spread out his papers and not risk distasteful barroom camaraderie from strangers.  It was unpleasant to sit there when intermittent smokers waged battle with the machine, an ancient thing known to reject any bill more than three turns outside the mint.  But it was better than sitting at the bar knowing that it would be only minutes before someone would attempt to strike up banal conversation about that ridiculous basketball team.  Before too long, Teddy became known to Scottie’s staff as “cigarette table guy.”  Also for being unpleasant, cheap and rude.  But, seated at his isolated table away from the horrifyingly intimate island bar, he wasn’t threatening enough to be sent away.

Will was overjoyed to have forced Teddy out of his comfort zone.  But more than that, Will was having fun.  He like school and he liked working at The March.  And he especially liked not having The Future looming in front of him.  It’s not that he’d abandoned the notion of a future in politics; rather, he’d put planning for his future on temporary hiatus and was looking only as far forward as midterms or his next shift at The March.  It was liberating and he’d have been entirely comfortable if only he could exorcise a fervent desire to find himself working one of those quiet weekday nights at The March with Brooke.  But, no matter how hard he worked to keep his focus off Brooke, images of her bright eyes and beautiful hair would spring unbidden into his mind.

Fortunately, Caleb was no dummy when it came to potential drama and Will’s crush was obvious to all save Brooke.  Caleb scheduled Will at the door on weekend nights when Brooke and Gio were at the bar. Brooke was first cut that night, and home long before the post-shift social that happened in the gray morning hours.  When Brooke was working her waitress shifts, and the quiet, close atmosphere was more amenable to cozy chats between wait and door staff, Caleb scheduled another doorman.

Brooke found that she enjoyed Teddy’s absence from The March.  He’d always been a bit of a drain, especially where Will was concerned.  It was nice to get to work and just be with March people; folks generally pretty easy to get along with.

She preferred her weekend nights behind the bar to her weekday shifts on the floor.  Bartending with Gio suited her.  He was garrulous and liked chatting up the clientele.  Brooke, on the other hand, was the lightning fast workhorse.  She did all the service bartending (mixing drinks for the waitstaff), washed all the dishes and stocked most of the beer.  Gio chatted with the regulars, flirted with the ladies, exchanged good-natured insults with the guys and made about 10 times the tips Brooke did, which were split evenly between them.  This worked to everyone’s satisfaction.

Sometimes, though, John Farebrother or one of the other regulars would ask Brooke about her recycling plan.  If that topic came up, Gio knew he’d be the one pouring pitchers for the waitresses and washing dishes.  Once she started talking about her recycling program, it was hard to shut Brooke up.  Her recycling program (and Brooke thought of it as hers) was going gangbusters. 

The March was one of the few bars around to sport both black and blue garbage bins.  The staff was accustomed now to emptying ashtrays and tossing used cocktail napkins into the black bin while throwing bottles and broken glassware into the blue one.  The March had adopted this easy environmentalism without complaint. 

It wasn’t much, Brooke knew.  She hadn’t spent all this time with Teddy and ended up a pie-eyed optimist.  But she didn’t embrace his fatalism.  It didn’t matter to her whether or not Teddy believed that his work could save the world.  It just mattered that he do it, finish the book and launch it into the world.  When it was out, Brooke was sure that people would embrace its message and begin treating their world right.  Or she was almost as sure as she had been, anyway.  At least, she was used to being sure.

In the meantime, she could relish the feeling of forward motion generated by the recycling program.
As an added benefit, those blue recycling bins represented a nascent, cool environmentalism. This, along with the very trendy, very hot weekend DJ-ing that Rosie was doing, meant that the hipness quotient at The March had increased manifold.  The March, at least on weekends, was becoming something of a destination spot for Chicago twenty-somethings.

This had not escaped Tré’s professional notice.  It was time to kick off the rebrand across the business and he approached Bulstrode about making The March the inaugural store.  In the plan he presented to Bulstrode, he explained that The March was enjoying a nice uptick in weekend business thanks to Rosie, but it still retained its hold on its large core of regulars.  If the rebrand went smoothly (and why wouldn’t it?), it wouldn’t alienate the regulars while increasing the attractiveness of the bar to new visitors.  This would increase buy-in at other bars.  Bulstrode agreed.

Once it was all decided, Tré came into The March to help Caleb plan for imminent construction.

“I don’t know,” said Caleb. “Why us? Our numbers are good, people like the place.  If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

“That’s not really how we see it,” said Tré.  “We’re just bringing all the stores in the company in line. The March will be the flagship.”

Mary snorted from behind the bar.  “Flagship my ass,” she said.  “More like some bullshit yuppie fern bar.”

“Come on, Mary,” said Tré.  “I’m not an idiot. And I like this place.  We’re not going to ditch the place.  We’re just going to change the sign, clean up the place, get some new uniforms, new barstools…”

“Uniforms!” said Mary.  “I’m not wearing a fucking uniform!”

“Cam down,” said Tré.  “It’s just a tee shirt.  A plain, simple black tee shirt that says L.G.E. over the right-breast pocket.  Wear it with jeans or shorts or whatever. We’re not trying to turn this place into a Friendly’s”

“Tré,” said Caleb, carefully. “Of course we’ll do what you tell us.  You don’t have to convince us, because we don’t actually have a choice.  This place belongs to Bulstrode.  But I just want to make sure you know that I’ve been running this place for 15 years now with limited interference from corporate and I’d prefer to return, post-rebrand, to that way of business.”

“The way I see it,” said Tré.  “Is that once we’re done with our limited remodeling and rebranding, we’ll be out of your hair and moved on to another joint.”

“Let’s hope so,” said Caleb, looking significantly at the door.  “But I’m not hopeful.”

Bulstrode was walking in, looking uptight and irritable.  He joined the three at the bar, demanded a diet coke from Mary and dove right in.

“You guys ready for this,” said Bulstrode.  “We’re kicking off soon.”

“Here we go,” thought Caleb, as he nodded grimly.

“Here we fucking go,” thought Mary, pouring the soda.

When Tré and Bulstrode walked out after the meeting, they were both anxious and overwhelmed.  Bulstrode was being blackmailed and Tré was mired in debt.  Both situations were bad – exhausting and nerve-wracking.  But Tré was 30 years younger than Bulstrode.  Despite it all, Tré had a little energy to spare.  He hadn’t run out of hope. 

Bulstrode couldn’t help but take notice.  He wondered if Tré might not come in handy at some point.

That little glimmer of hope was contagious, but corrupted as it was communicated.