Monday, April 11, 2011

When We Were Young

A typical night at the packed Gypsy in Northwest Portland leaves both Chuck and Harrison standing amid the smoke, chatter and fellow patrons searching for a place to stake their claim. They are positioned in the main thoroughfare between two booths with drinks in hand, yet having no adequate place to set them down. Chuck is a Whiskey Sour man, whereas Harrison prefers the more classic Bloody Mary. Patrons pass in front of the two as their dialogue begins.

“This is…big,” Harrison says with hesitation in an effort to create drama.

“Not really,” Chuck flatly responds.


Chuck shifts his cold drink to and fro trying to find a place to set it down. “Mardi Gras? Yeah. St. Patty’s Day? You’ve got my vote. Valentine’s Day with Tracy Lords’ classic cinema? That was big.” He gives up his efforts.

“Not the gathering. Besides, the date with the Lord wasn’t big; it was expansive – bordering colossal,” Harrison tries to clarify.

“Don’t forget illegal. Those performances were during her carded at an R age.”

Harrison’s brow furrows in confusion, “Well, I’m sure everyone else was 21. Or, at least 18.”

“Besides, it’s Lords. Plural not singular,” Chuck asserts, contentedly takes a sip from his drink, and then continues. “There is only one Lord, you heathen pedophile! Jack Lord!”

“Are you going to try and duck destiny all night?” Harrison shouts with his arms upraised with frustration.

“Duck destiny?”

Harrison places his hands out in front of him as if directing traffic to make his point. “Yeah. Duck. Destiny.”

“I have no idea what you’re alluding to. At first I thought you were talking about the crowd, so I was stating that it really isn’t that big compared to other nights. But, in reality, you were clearly setting this whole conversation up to spiral off into some strange tangent.”

“We need a table. That way you are sitting down,” Harrison responds as he waves down Linda, a waitress common to the pair.

“Why are you pregnant?” asks Chuck as Linda approaches with a look of worry on her face.

“I’m getting killed here Banister! What is it?” an exasperated Linda asks.

“He’s pregnant.”

“No, I am not! He’s dodging inevitability.”

"I thought I was ducking destiny.”

“I don’t have time – “ Linda begins with mounting irritation.

“We really need a table,” interrupts Harrison. “Something huge has come to pass.”

“If you two summoned me over here because you are starting another religion, I swear to God I am going to scream rape.”

Chuck looks worried, “Please don’t swear.”

“What?!” Harrison exclaims trying to regain Linda’s attention. “No, that’s not it at all.” He takes a sip from his drink and gets a stick of celery stuck on the rim of one of his nostrils. “But since you mentioned it, why didn’t you ever convert?”

Linda turns away from the two boys and inhales to scream. Harrison extends his hand to try and gag her, but stops when his drink begins to spill. “No! No no no no no! Please, I’m going to write a little something on a piece of paper here that says ‘25%’ gratuity.”

Linda looks at Harrison closely. “25%? I thought that was our standard. It sure is when Sara is around. Where is Sara, anyway?”

“She formally declined to join us,” Chuck interjects.

“Linda?” the bartender shouts to her with his hands aloft from behind the wait station jammed full of drinks.

“What if I scribbled out that silly number and wrote in a big 3-0?”

“Where is Sara, Harrison?”

“She formally declined – “ Chuck begins again.

“I heard you the first time Chuck!” Linda interrupts. “I was asking Harrison.”

“Um, she has come to the conclusion that it is best that we pursue our endeavors and dreams without her company,” Harrison responds to his drink as if in reverence to someone departed.

“And, in her conclusion, lots of adjectives were used, such as, insane, juvenile, and absurd. I think I may have even heard a retarded cast into the mix at one point,” Chuck affirms as he looks over his shoulder at the angry bartender calling for Linda.

“Two words: Three and zero,” Harrison waves the imaginary piece of paper around like a bad salesman.

“Alright, I swear…” Linda says as she beelines to a table, followed slowly by the boys, where a couple is discussing their day in the close quarters of a booth. In front of them on the table is a plate of appetizers and a fruity fishbowl drink. Unfortunately, there is enough room at the table for four people. Six, if you squeeze.

Linda addresses the couple reluctantly. “I’m sorry, I’m going to ask that they join you for a moment. We are getting their table ready right now.” The couple looks rightfully confused as Harrison and Chuck approach without so much as a sign of recognition of their presence. The bartender continues his calls for Linda. She adds a disclaimer while staring at the boys: “This will only be a minute and you won’t even notice that they’re here.” Linda makes a three and a zero with her hands toward Harrison as she rockets towards the bar.

The table rattles as the two settle in. The giant drink between the couple capsizes spilling along the boyfriend’s hands and shirt. Linda, like Lot, does not look back.

“Shit!” exclaims the boyfriend.

“This is much better,” Chuck exhales – oblivious to the carnage a few inches away from him.

“Oh yeah,” Harrison agrees, as they both set their drinks carefully down onto the wobbling table. They are ready to engage in conversation.

“Here honey,” the girlfriend swipes at her boyfriend’s wet shirt with a napkin.

“Okay, I’m sitting,” Chuck licks his finger and extends it upward to check the wind before continuing, “The world is still spinning. So what’s so big?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” Harrison grins. “We are film aficionados right? From the whatever’s till now, it doesn’t matter; those scribed lives fill voids in our existences.”

“There are many voids. Oh so many voids,” Chuck glances over at the boyfriend when he hears him groan.

The boyfriend takes the napkin from the gal and carefully jabs at his shirt, “Christ! It’s all over!”

“Then let’s fill those voids and while we’re at it – I don’t know – maybe our wallets!”

“Looks like Tide country,” the girlfriend uncomfortably laughs.

“So, what? Become actors?” Chuck asks with mild annoyance at the notion.

“It looks like I’ve been shot!” the boyfriend shouts at the entire room.

“Are you insane?” Harrison asks incredulously, “I can’t act.”

“Oh no, that’s not the silk daddy is it?” the girlfriend responds to her boyfriend’s clear dismay.

“You would be a terrible actor wouldn’t you?”

“This is the silk daddy!” sobs the boyfriend as he shrinks his shoulders.

“You’re ducking again,” asserts Harrison distractedly. He turns his attention toward the bar and spots Sean and Dorian.

“The Daddy is ruined!”

Sean and Dorian, precariously carrying pints of neon yellow liquid, approach the table expectantly. “Sup?” Dorian asks.

“Sup, dudes? Slide home,” Chuck and Harrison respond in unison as the each scoot closer to the couple on each side, so Dorian and Sean can slide into each space at the outside end of the booth.

“The intricate and expensive fibers of the Daddy will never survive this!” the boyfriend continues to sob.

“What the hell?” the girlfriend mumbles and crosses her arms.

“What are you freaks up to?” Sean asks as he twirls his drink between his thumb and forefinger just above the table.

“But this is the Daddy!” the boyfriend pleads for understanding.

“Welcome to the future,” Harrison dramatically pronounces to his cohorts and anyone who may be within earshot.

“What is this?” asks Dorian as he drains his pint. “All I got from the email was: ‘Meet at Gyps. Stop. You’ll be there anyway. Stop. Probably drunk. Stop. This is big. End transmission.” So, hit us with the line.”

“We are the writers,” Harrison begins moving his hands around in a Vogue motif, “and as you slept, dreaming of Molly Ringwald – "

“No,” Sean urgently interrupts, “I never dreamt of her.”

“Ally Sheedy?” Harrison asks Sean still miming in sheer stupid vanity.

“Naw, never into brunettes.”

“She was tight until that dandruff thing,” adds Dorian.

“Freeze frame. Flakes are el natural. Otherwise, she would be a Disney chick,” Harrison continues the tangent and his gestures.

“What?!” Dorian shouts confused.

“Oh, you know damn well, Scully. Those Disney chicks aren’t real.” Harrison retorts amazed, while finally giving up his flailing arms and hands. “They’re bought, built, all on a program – "

“CGI can only go so far Mulder,” D argues.

“Tell me, have you ever touched one of them? No?” Harrison turns to the others for help. “I didn’t think as much.” Sean and Chuck shake their heads in agreement, or simple indifference.

“Come on Daddy!” the boyfriend shouts as he shakes his shirt in an effort to revive the original color and dry it out as quickly as possible. “We need to get to the drycleaners stat!”

“You lived in L.A. for 14 years,” Dorian addresses Harrison, “and you’re telling me you never saw one of them in person?”

“Pasadena. And, never once.”

“Oh, that’ll help,” the girlfriend sarcastically groans before sucking on the one remaining straw sticking out of the nearly empty fishbowl.

“Once, when I was young, I saw Dorothy Hamill skating,” Sean adds. “Wasn’t she hot once in the 70s?”

“Like, hot always,” affirms Chuck to the palm of the hand his face is leaning on. “Mary Lou was the bomb back in ’84! I swear most of America wasn’t sure whether to eat out of, frame, or hump the box of Wheaties she was on.”

“Daddy? Daddy?” the boyfriend cries out to his failing shirt.

“Listen. We’re doing the screenplay. And I mean THE screenplay,” Harrison returns to topic.

“Screenplay?” the gang responds in unison.

“There you go. Stretch it a little more. That way, maybe everyone will pay more attention to the wrinkles than the stains,” the girlfriend tells her boyfriend.

“That’s it boys! This eagle has finally stopped doing whatever the fuck he was up to prior and landed.”

“I get it. One small step for you and one gigantic step for our kind. Kudos,” adds Sean.

“What’s up with the attitude?” the boyfriend finally responds to his neglected date.

“C’mon dude! What the fuck are you talking about?! That’s ridic!” Chuck pounds the table.

“No, the eagle is right! Think out of the box. Multimedia, mass exposure, internet, action figures. The soundtrack will debut at #1 with a bullet. MTV will be touring our cribs….” Dorian continues to list addressing no one in particular, “my spa will be filled with Cristal…how can I afford such luxury?”

“I know we can do this.”

“Seems like you care more about that stupid shirt than me,” the girlfriend states, as she’s now shifted most of her attention to the boys.

"D’s right about the box,” Sean adds, “hey, they said we couldn’t fly, and I’m certain some people plummeted to their deaths, but those silly Wright Brothers did it. 'Cuz you gotta have faith.”

“10 car garage, a private plane…well, I guess that ends our tour…” Dorian stammers, as he returns to the conversation.

“That’s what I like to hear. I am sick and tired of this can’t do shit. How could Brian Bosworth star in an action movie and get away with it? And worse, we all sat around watching that crap shouting ‘Boz! Boz! Boz!’ What’s stopping us?” Harrison shouts before taking a deep breath.

“But this isn’t a shirt. This is the Daddy?!” the boyfriend whines as his defense.

“Whatever bros,” states Chuck, clearly not convinced.

Dorian looks at his empty glass and then at the bar, “This place is past tense. Let’s motor. Besides, the Oak is about the start.”

“What’s happened to this place?” Sean agrees.

“The Oak is what’s happened to this place? Everything was cool until they added the oak.”

“Look! Here comes Helloween!” Chuck points to a male in his late 30s or early 40s crossing through the bar towards the other section where an announcer is beckoning all to partake in karaoke 80s night. This guy is hardcore hair-metal enthusiast. He proudly sports a cut off baseball T-shirt from Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood tour, ripped jeans, big big hair and the same kick ass attitude he had back in ’82. If only the body had remained as fresh as his love for the genre of metal. Patrons watch and also point, while some of the younger ladies in attendance wave to him for some God forsaken reason. He is so damn uncool. They are clearly too young to understand how uncool he is. So much so, that he has become cool.

“What’s wrong with all of you?” Harrison jumps back on point. “We’re talking about THE screenplay. This could be the Ben Hur of the new millennium and all you’re worried about is the Oak!”

“I know Kevin Smith. Maybe he could offer –" the girlfriend begins to the boys.

“I need to get drunk,” Chucks cuts her off.

“Let’s hit the ‘Balt,” suggests D.

“Who the hell is Kevin Smith?” the boyfriend’s voice cracks.

“We need to stay and hash this out,” demands Harrison, sensing he’s lost his audience, as Helloween has begun to wail the opening scream in “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n Roses.

Everyone else nods in silent agreement.

“Fine, but you guys are picking this one up,” he commands as he waves down the scrambling Linda.

“D’s all over this action,” Sean offers, “he’s got a Jacuzzi boiling over with Cristal.”

“Did you screw him?” the boyfriend jealously continues.

“Someone is going to pay for this and somehow I have a feeling it’s going to be me,” Chuck worries aloud.

“I got it C-Note,” D offers.

“I’m not talking about the bill.”

Linda approaches cautiously. She addresses the couple who are no longer facing each other: “Well, I have some good news for you two. Your guests’ table is finally ready.”

“Cancel it. Just tab me and these three,” Dorian gestures to Sean, Harrison and Chuck. “We’re out.”

The boys all stand and stretch nonchalant aside the booth, while the girl slaps her now ex-boyfriend. “Go to hell!”

“Oh dear,” Linda worries to herself as Helloween continues to shred his voice to the siren screams of Axel Rose and the girl runs towards the exit after the departing boys.

(written with Jeff Piering)