Friday, 14 July 2017

NYFC Stories (2)

We wake up hanging, again.

It is waaaaaaay hot outside – and in.  Which doesn’t do the hangover any good at all.  Hard to sleep, apart from everything else.
It’s painfully hot out.  We spend the day eating, and trying to recover, and then retreat into a bar, mostly for the AC.  “My baawwss waaawnts to turn aawwf the AC an leave the fuckin windows open!” says the bar manager, incredulously.  We’re glad that hasn’t happened.  The outside world, with all its heat and smog and noise, is shut out and we are soon chilled like a couple of glass bottles in a fridge. 
The bar manager is interviewing for new staff and there’s a few tourists in.  It’s also Happy Hour, so we get a couple of cheap beers and some fries and get our hairy dog on. 
Dai, being more local than us, takes us out after he finally turns up.  We go to what he calls a “Country [& Western] bar”.  It’s a proper dive bar, not like them Hipster Dive Bars where it’s like a theme pub.  No, this place is real; it’s American, not really like New York at all, more of a Southern place.  But then what do I know, I’m not from round yer, am I?  Maybe it’s a theme pub after all, Country & Western/Southern-themed.  But it’s definitely not hipster.  They don’t do tabs (sensible, in a place like this), and it’s cheap (perfect).  There are bras hanging all over the place, for some reason. 
We’ve been here a while, and we’re thinking of moving – after the inevitable “one more”, of course – and then a fella at the bar starts talking to AK, heaving heard her accent.  He is a former London resident, and a big football fan.  His name is Seamus, he’s Irish(-American), of course, like 60% of America and 80% of New York.  He knows (exactly) where he is from, of course (“Counny Cworrk”).  He’s a very nice fella, and we’re all having a nice, relaxed time.
Seamus is some sort of banking consultant and has good sense/classic white guilt enough to be embarrassed about it.  “Bet you don’t get many banking consultants in yer”, I venture.  He agrees, with a shrug.
“If you’re embarrassed about it, why do you do it?”  Asks, AK, pointedly, living up to her name (it’s really just her initials.  Yeh.  I’m great fun, I am.  Love to tell a story.)
“Well, I guess…”  Seamus fumbles awkwardly. 
“Never mind dissembling awkwardly, mate, we’re the bloody Brits, alright.”  I tell him,
“You just do what you got to do, feed your family, same as everyone else does, and forget about it innit.”
“Yeah, I guess”, he smiles.
“And get your hand in your fuckin pocket, it’s your round, ya dodgy-banking bastard!”  AK roars, much to Seamus’ delight.
We’re havin a right good laugh here, it’s turnin into a good night.
AK also meets a composer who is very interested in Finland – Sibelius is his favourite composer, and he has some connections in the region – especially Estonia.  He tells us that Estonia and Finland are the only two countries in the world with the same tune for their national anthems (different words, of course).  I tell him I’m not sure about that, then we briefly discuss Northern Ireland politics, for some reason.  I will admit that things are starting to get slightly hazy, at this point.
AK and I have a little dance, at Dai’s insistence, twisting and jiving round the wooden floor, kicking up sawdust.  Well, it’s his dollar in the jukebox, fair play, I reckon.
I leave the table for a minute, and when I come back, my seat is taken.  There’s a new guy, and the first thing I hear him say is “Shots?!”
But that’s not the first thing I notice about him.  No, the first thing I notice about him is that he’s built like a shit brickhouse.  He’s very nearly square in the chest, roughly as wide as he is tall.  He’s got a big round Ross Kemp bald head and he’s looking a bit glassy-eyed, a bit glazed, if you know what I mean.  Takes one to know one. 
Over the next hour or so, this man will drag us along on his journey of emotional pain.
His name is Joe, he’s also Irish, of course (he also knows where from, of course, but I forget as soon as he tells me), and he is from New Jersey.
This is the extent of the personal information I will glean from our time together.
After Joe realises he is in my seat, and that AK is not up for a shot (if you’ll excuse the pun!), and that she is with me, he jumps up out of the seat and apologises to me.  Then he (physically – yes, literally, yes, literally, physically) drags me to the bar and gets the barmaid to line up shots. 
Looks like I’m doing shots, then.
Joe tries to get others involved.  In the end, Dai comes over and has a shot.  Then Joe starts talking about more shots and we say no.  Then he looks at me and asks if he is a bad guy, if he’s being an arsehole, or something.  I can’t remember the exact words he uses, but I remember his pleading, his plaintive expression.  He looks like a child who has been told he is not getting any presents this Christmas.
He honestly looks like he might cry, or prang out and hit someone hard enough that they won’t get up.
I tell him he’s not a bad guy and maybe should just calm down a bit, take it easy. 
So, the night has taken on a slightly worrying edge.  Darkness is seeping in, under the door, touching everything.  I ruminate on all this to Dai. 
“Christ, mate, who are you, Dylan Thomas?  Lay off the whisky, will you?”
Joe snaps out of his melancholy long enough to grab me and mutter something about the bouncer, something that makes me think he is suggesting that he and I could go and beat up the bouncer.
Obviously, I tell him as politely/firmly as possible that I want no part of that – after which he puts his arm around me and starts to pull me toward the corner of the room, where the toilet is.  His biceps are the size of my thighs.
Being as he is a bit aggressive (in a possibly, hopefully friendly sort of way), and I’m really not sure what it is he is trying to do or get me to do, I resist.  When Dai looks over, frowning, and says “Alright mate?  Should I get the bouncer, or something…?” (Apparently, I will learn later, in the expectation that he is probably over-reacting and that I will wave his concerns away), I say “Yes mate, that would be lovely!” very quickly.
The darkness in Joe’s mind is trying to infect us all.  Whatever put him in this mood, he is in no position to tell us about it, and we’re in no mood to find out. 
Dai gets the bouncer, who ambles over with the languid gait of the career doorman who has seen it all and is content to see how things play out before intervening.  The hands-off approach of the world-weary.  I understand it, but I’m struggling to stay upright with this huge bloke hanging on my shoulder, quite literally trying to drag me down with him.  I’ve met some hard nuts in my time, but back home, I usually know where I am with them – and how to easily get away…
But we’re visitors yer, I don’t know the place – and the last thing Dai needs is any trouble. 
The bouncer has a word, taking Joe away from us.  I relax a bit, and am ready to head back to our table to resume our drinks and our conversation with the other locals, but Joe emerges again. 
The bouncer is elsewhere, and Joe is all about shots and advances on AK and apologies for it (always to me, never her) and aggression and asking if he is being awful and looking plaintive and Bambi-eyed, and then we look at the situation and say “let’s just leave”.
We go outside, after pointing out to the bouncer (who is now on the door) that Joe is aggressive/a powder keg with a lit fuse/a total liability to all of us, himself and the bouncer included.  The Bouncer nods, and talks to us while wait outside for a taxi.
About this time, (a couple of minutes after we’ve left), Joe bolts out of the bar and charges down the road at a fast pace, apparently without having seen us.
The bouncer tells us that Joe has been here before, comes in every couple of weeks and is in this state half the time, or more.  (Apart from anything else, this goes some way to explaining the bouncer’s previously relaxed attitude.)
 “Well”, says Dai, “if I had to guess, I’d say that fella is a former US marine with PTSD.  Met a few in my time, yer, always in bars like that.”
“Sounds about right.  It’s like fuckin Watership Down one second, and Black Hawk Down the next.”
Watership Black Hawk Down!”
It’s not funny, mind, is it? 
“How is it like Watership Down?”  Asks AK.  I try to explain, but me and Dai get bogged down in a lot of reminiscence, and the point gets lost.
The bloke was clearly very intimidating, riled and upset, and we have no idea why.  Until you ‘ve walked a mile in another man’s moccasins….
But I genuinely believe he meant us no harm at all, for whatever that might be worth. 
Probably nothing. 
A few days after this encounter, I will see a report about Mosul, and I will think of Joe.
But as I say, I’m a visitor yer, and I’m tryin to be nice.  After all, all the bloke’s really done is buy us some drinks and try to be friendly, in his own sort of style….
Nice to be nice, innit.

No comments:

Post a Comment