This Bird Has Flown
October hasn't been the kindest month, so far.
Our close family friend, Alice, passed away last Thursday morning. While we knew she was quite ill, no one was prepared for the speed of her demise. Within 24 hours we were all numb and grieving, standing in a field in some Long Island town that seemed entirely composed of cemeteries, saying a few kind words and shoveling dirt on the plain pine box she asked to be buried in. I think she would have been mightily amused by the half dozen blue jays that came swooping down on that gray morning, making a huge racket and careening madly from tree to tree above us. Alice was always one to fly in the face of social conventions.
She had no children of her own, and frankly, I don't think she cared much for them. She was the least maternal person I knew as a child, and always treated me as a small, backward, somewhat addled adult. We cultivated a relationship many years later. But she truly was a cross between the Pied Piper and Mame Dennis to my Mom. She liberated her from her staid, religious family background, and showed her an extremely different way of living. They were inseparable for over 40 years.
On her last day, the nurse asked Alice if there was anything she wanted, to which Alice whispered out of the corner of her mouth:
"Yeah, I want to go dancing."
That night Tim and I drank several cocktails in her honor and listened to Peggy Lee, who Alice resembled a bit at times.
The weekend seemed pretty much a blur. I can't really remember many details from Saturday. It was just nice to be quiet with Tim.
Sunday, the weather cooled. You could definitely sense the changing of the season. I had a change in Sunday plans, as well.
Yup, I went to the Eagle.
Of course, I went way too early.
I drank a lot of beer in a very short time.
It did not calm my nervous demeanor.
I had that new-kid-in-town feeling, but not in a good, fresh meat sort of way.
I got to watch a group of guys play pool.
I listened to some old classics I haven't heard since we danced at 12West in 1979. (For you disco aficionados, the highlight was "Hold Your Horses" by First Choice and I just checked the LP for the date, Joe.)
I talked to the bartenders briefly, and even got a buy-back.
I watched a previous year's Mr. Eagle remove his framed picture from a display over the pool table, exchange the current 8 x 10 glossy photograph for one featuring a different pose, and re-hang it.
I ran into a couple of people I knew who promptly asked me if Tim and I had split up. When I told them we hadn't they moved on.
I took a leak twice and each time had to chase off the same ancient piss troll.
I removed some awful little queen's hand from my chest, after he'd grabbed me 3 or 4 times. I didn't feel the need to explain that you generally have to buy me a beer, or a least exchange a word or two with me before I'll allow that liberty.
I drank more beer.
I hopped in a taxi just as the place was filling up and heading downtown to pick Tim up after his bar shift.
Did I have fun? Hmmm. Hard to say.
Would I do it again?
Finally, Saturday's my birthday. I've never been big on large birthday celebrations. Tim and M. are taking me to Keen's Chop House (yes, I know they changed it to Steak House a few years ago, but I'm not ready to adjust quite yet) for some serious drinks and a serious slab of meat. If you know me at all, you already know what I'm ordering. And if you see me out afterwards, I'll be accepting sloppy birthday kisses all night and what the hell, all the way through Sunday evening.
I mean, after all, how often does a fella turn 51?