Posts Tagged ‘johnny’s’
a friend of mine, i didn’t know him then but i do now, was downtown on 9/11. his name is matthew paul olmos and the following is what happened to him in the 48 hours after the planes hit. it is what happened but not what it is about. i asked him what it all meant to him, finally, after 10 years. we were sitting at our favorite bar and the moment seemed right to make a pronouncement, a lesson, a summary. he took a sip of his stoli raz and looked at me and said: i have no idea. i too have no idea. i do know, though, that his is one memory of millions. it is part of the collective. and we are all connected.
My bed was situated such that my feet faced the window, which outlooked, from three floors up, Maiden Lane, in the Financial District of New York City. There under the window was another bed, slept my roommate of approximately nine days, Onegin; he was Korean. I remember having trouble sleeping, as there was lots of commotion sounding in from outside, while there is always noise considering our location, this was especially loud and I would toss and turnover again, trying to sleep, as I didn’t have to be up for the second day of graduate school for another hour or so. At one point I heard a very large banging sound, I remember thinking it sounded as if a subway train had lost its brakes and collided into a station. I was still naïve enough in this new city to think that maybe sometimes happened.
Finally, as sounds of sirens and honking had become ridiculous, I sat up in bed and found looked to Onegin, who was also sitting up now, both of us smiling at the absurd amount of noise. He looked out the window, not seeing anything especially noteworthy. At this moment, one of our suitemates, Mattius, from Brasil, came into our bedroom and said that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. The immediate image that came into my imagination was that of a small, two-person plane accidentally sputtering into the side of one of the vast towers.
I immediately got my sandals on and dressed in a t-shirt and sweatpants, went downstairs to the building lobby, where our security guy was holding all students inside the lobby, from the glass doors of the lobby, I could see the top of one of the towers on fire. We all sat staring, and upon closer examination we could make out objects falling from the windows of the towers, Mattius finally uttered what I hadn’t even considered, “People are jumping.” They were very tiny, but you could see the darkened outlines of people leaping from the windows into the air, as though somebody would catch them. Somebody else tried to claim that it was not people, I guess all of us didn’t want to believe things were so serious. Not yet anyways. I ran back upstairs to tell my roommates. Onegin was up already and was gathering his expensive camera and had begun to get his shoes on. I did likewise, grabbing a disposable Kodak. We all went downstairs to the lobby, and without listening to the doorman, Onegin went outside and I followed.
The corner of William Street and Maiden Lane was full of people in business suits standing, looking up at the burning tower. I looked up and snapped a picture. My only one left in the camera. There was a murmur of talk amongst people, but you could tell that nobody really knew what was going on. I remember hearing some guy tell a lady that there was a bomb at the pentagon. And clearly, I remember thinking “we are under attack”.
Onegin was eager to move closer, as was I. So we walked up William Street, making a left on John Street. At the time, I am still thinking a small plane had landed itself into one of the towers, we had not been told anything different. On John Street, there was an equal amount of people standing in the street; it looked unique to me because there were no cars in the street, only people. We walked a couple blocks towards World Trade Center, side by side, with Onegin getting his camera ready.However, therein began an enormous, thundering rumble, which I can only say reminded me of an earthquake. My immediate thought was that the tip of the burning Trade Tower (at this point I have no idea both are hit) was toppling over, that large chunks of debris would fall onto the courtyard that surrounded the towers. However, as I was thinking this, people in the street began to scream and run back, away from the Trade Center. It was right out of a disaster or science fiction movie, where hordes of people are running terrified in the streets away from some large impending creature. My immediate reaction was “oh please, relax people, we’re blocks away, the debris isn’t going to fall this far…”. And I am thinking this while I look at all these people running in the street towards me, however I stop all thinking when I glance up, above the people and am horrified to see a gigantic, tidal wave of brown smoke barreling down John Street, as high as the buildings are. It is coming fast and without thinking, I turn and begin running as close to full speed as I can manage in sandals. I am very aware that I am holding in my hand my camera. My heartbeat is quickening and my insides begin to panic, I remember thinking “you idiot!”, on how stupid I’ve been to try to get closer. It reminds me of growing up and getting into trouble that was somehow bigger than you. Like doing damage to the car, or breaking something of real value; knowing you have gone too far and consequences are suddenly weighted.As I make my way around the corner of John Street, back onto William Street, I glance to my left and am again horrified to see that another tidal wave of smoke is coming down Maiden Lane. I guess my instinctual thought had stupidly been that there was only one tidal wave on John Street, hardly using the logic that there were tidal waves of smoke barreling down every street in the downtown area. However, these are all thoughts I formed later, when reliving the experience, at the time, my mind was only on running. Period.A couple seconds later I slammed face first into a business man in a blue suit. He was with brown hair, probably mid-forties, and apparently had been running from the Maiden Lane wave of smoke, thus our paths crossing. It seems I wasn’t the only one stupidly imagining that the street they were on was the only one being engulfed. After slamming into each other, we both fell backwards, completely on our backs like a turtle you’ve turned over. I felt slow getting myself up again, and we exchanged a strange, silent look between each other. I felt as if we were both agreeing to just move on. And so we both got back up and continued to sprint in opposite directions.
I could see my building up ahead. However, heading straight towards it was that wave of smoke which had been racing down Maiden Lane. My mind began to calculate if I could make it to the lobby before it swallowed my building. My honest calculation told me that I couldn’t. So I began to look at the few buildings before mine, thinking to myself that maybe I could just go into one of them. However, as my mind raced, I thought how they were business buildings and I couldn’t be positive if their doors would even be open, I somehow remembered them being mostly service entrances. And so as these millisecond thoughts ran through me, I charged on towards 84 William Street.
I got to the glass doors of my lobby just as the air began to fill with a cloudy, brown dust. It smelled like a construction site and I remember tasting it on my tongue, dry and dirtlike, as I made my way inside. The lobby was now vacant of any people, even the security guard’s station was empty. Without even considering use of the elevator, I ran to the rear of the lobby where there was a door leading to the stairwell. Without looking back at the smoke which was now encasing the building, I opened the stairwell door and was frantic to find that the stairs were absolutely crammed with people trying to get up it. I remember seeing green and purple pastel colored clothing. And there were layers of students, meaning people were crawling on top of each other, like insects, as they made their way up. I don’t know if seeing this affected my actions, but I did just the same, and as I grabbed hold of the hand rail, I placed my left foot on top of somebody’s shoulder and continued to crawl on top of people, working my way up, as though I were hiking and using large rocks to make my way.
The mass of people from the stairwell were being emptied on the second floor, as school officials were ushering us towards a common room. I walked, as they instructed, into the large, dorm-style, living room, where people were gathered all staring at the television. Nobody spoke. People were crying. I looked at the television and finally began to piece together what was happening.
On the screen was a live image of Lower Manhattan being drowned in a thick smoke. In the center of the room was a skylight, people looked up and began to cry a bit more as we saw the daylight go to darkness. As I watched the smoke spread on the T.V., alls I could think was that we were in that. In the center of it, we were sitting right in the middle of this atrocity that was unfolding on the television. I remember thinking seemingly banal thoughts like “This is not good” and “We shouldn’t be here”. I wondered how long the smoke would last, and if it would begin to seep inside the building.
Soon the news station played the tape of a large airplane crashing into the World Trade Center. Ironically this was news to me, to most of us. Here we sat, our building right there on the screen and we had no idea what had been the cause all this. And when I saw (learned) that a second plane had hit the other tower, my only reaction was to sit and stare at the news footage in disbelief. And when the second tower began to crumble, and more smoke began to rush through downtown, people finally began to talk. Things about how we need to get out of here, how this isn’t safe. A school official said aloud that nobody can leave the building at this time.
So we sat in this room for a little while longer, watching the reports, finding out about the other planes, the Pentagon. However, while all of this nothing short of jarring; my thoughts really begin to think about how I have nowhere to go. If and when they do allow us to leave the building, I haven’t any sort of destination. I’ve only been in New York for a little over a week, I don’t really know a single person. I begin to get scared and think how I would love to head to JFK and get a flight back to California or a train. I don’t care about the cost, I am just too frightened to face all this.
Just as people are beginning to talk and move their attentions away from the T.V., the power in the building goes out. Girls begin to scream and cry, meanwhile school officials tell us to remain calm. We begin exiting the room. I use my cell phone to make my way back towards the stairwell. I pass a classmate, David Salsa, in the hall. He is the talkative, always joking sort. Charismatic. And though I’ve only met him once or twice, I notice that the humor is gone from his face, he asks if I am okay and pats my shoulder as I make my way to the stairs. I find my way back up to my third floor room and am strangely surprised that it is not dark in there.
There is slight dust in the living room/kitchen, but upon entering my bedroom, there is a thin layer of dust on everything. I quickly dust off my laptop and begin to clean up a bit. I look at the window and there are several people with makeshift masks over their mouths, walking up William Street towards uptown. Meanwhile my roommates are there, cleaning their own areas and my third suitemate, Yohei, from Japan, asks if we are going to leave or stay. I can only imagine their own fear, new not only to this city, but country too. Still, Yohei’s question scares me, as I have no idea.
Perhaps oddly, but I have nothing to do. So I look at my cell phone, seeing that there is no service, I pick up my landline and a small beep, tells me that I have new voicemail. I dial my code and listen.
There is an very worried message from my auntie Maggie’s boyfriend, Efren. Though I cannot recall the verbatim of his message, he said basically the following; “Hey Matthew, this is Efren, your mother couldn’t get through to you, so she asked that I call and see if you are alright. You gotta give us a call back here, everyone here is REAL worried about you.” He then gave me instructions on how to call his work number. Apparently, as he works in the messenger service, he had some special landline that had better coverage than regular land lines. I don’t know. So I followed the instructions and dialed though. He answered and asked if I was okay. He then patched me through to my mom, and listened while I told her a brief account of what happened, where I am, what I thought was going to happen. Efren stayed on the line and after we were done, he told me to call with any updates.
Now knowing that most phone service was unavailable, I opened my laptop and sent a message to my entire address book, just saying that I am okay. A little while later, Mattius came in and announced that he was leaving. Heading up to his sister’s who lived close to the Empire State Building. This scared me. Yohei reminded him that we were told not to leave the building. He said that he didn’t care, that he didn’t feel it was safe to be down here, but he urged that if any of us needed, we could come to his sister’s house as well (Ahh, relief, finally an option). He wrote the address, and left both his cell number, and his sister’s apartment number. He then wrapped a sweatshirt around his head, covering his mouth and exited with a backpack of belongings. We looked out the window and could see more people making their way north.
Then maybe a half our later, Onegin announced that he would be leaving too. I cannot remember where he said he was going, but he too wrapped his head/mouth and went on his way.
Myself and Yohei agreed to stay. And we spent, if I can remember correctly, at least an hour, maybe two in our downtown apartment. I remember that the cell phone lines had cleared up because I got a call from an ex-girlfriend, who was upstate attending Cornell University, her name is Cherie.
She had actually met me the week prior at JFK, when I arrived. We had spent the first night in a hostel-style room in midtown, on 44th Street, called the Aladdin, which later became a place for homeless people, and now doesn’t exist anymore. She was the only person I knew upon arriving in New York state. But she had been there when I moved into the William Street housing, and actually stayed the first couple nights. We had actually gone to World Trade a few days earlier and taken a picture with the vertical of the tower in the background of our faces. She was calling me because she knew how close I lived to them; worried that they like…fell over, and if they had, I lived close enough for them to fall onto my building. I appreciated her call.
Later there was a knock at the door, somebody announcing that we were being evacuated, to get enough belongings for a few days and to head downstairs. I remember being somewhat relieved, the idea of evacuation made me imagine a bus waiting downstairs, taking all of us someplace, together. Dropping us all off; together.
So I packed a bag with clothes for a couple days, I wrapped my laptop in clothes and packed it in a drawer so it wouldn’t get dust. I did my best to set up the room such that dust would not get into any valuables. And myself and Yohei took ourselves and bags back into the darkened hallways of our university apartment.
We filed down the stairwell, which is now nicely emptied and nobody seems to care that not long ago it resembled the lawlessness of “Lord of the Flies.” The main lobby is powdered over with dust, but we hardly have time to consider this as we exit the glass doors and are standing on another planet.
The ground is soft like I am standing on some sort of gentle dirt. Not as coarse or comforting as a beach and when I look down to see the several inch layers of powder, I get chills. I look up and down William Street, then down Maiden Lane. It is all gray, as though a postcard. However it is not beautiful. At all. Rather it is eerie and reminds me of a movie I used to watch as a kid, Night of the Comet. The streets of New York looked just as they did in that movie, empty and scary. The fallen dust which covered everything made it look like the moon. Or some other abandoned planet where life had ceased to exist.
We began to walk north on William Street, school officials are telling us to walk fast and to cover our mouths. There is a decent wind and most of downtown seems to have already vacated, as there are only a few scattered individuals walking besides students from my building. My eyes continue on my ghostlike surroundings and I find my eyes unmovable on each street we pass. Yohei takes several pictures which he would later accidentally erase.
After several minutes, we were walking past the NYU Downtown Hospital. There are several women in white doctors’ coats handing out white hospital masks. They speak quickly, as though they are eager to head back inside or have patients waiting. We all take and put over our mouths, removing the article of clothing we had been using. I begin to lose track of where we are, as I don’t know the area; at all really.
And soon after we are upcoming on the Brooklyn Bridge. And from down below, I can see the bridge is crammed with people walking. All of them one-way, back to Brooklyn. I think enviously of how they all have homes and people worriedly waiting for their return. And me, I am simply following along this crowd from my building, I have no idea what awaits.
As we are passed the bridge, I can begin to see the beginnings of Chinatown. And as I look around, I see that the group of people from the University housing has all-the-while been dispersing, everyone heading their separate ways. And soon Yohei tells me that he will be heading to a friend’s. I worry. But that first he has to use the restroom.
So we walk into a laundry mat, where a Chinese man looks at us upon entering. It seemed to me the sort of business that would not take kindly to non-customers using the restroom, but he is very humanely tells Yohei, “Yes, of course.” Everyone is friendly right now, all of us on the same team is how it feels.
I wait outside, and begin to think of my course of action. I call to take up Mattius’ offer of his sister’s apartment close to the Empire State. And when Yohei returns, we take our separate ways. He goes east towards his friend and I keep my way north, hoping to find a subway station that is functioning. My figuring that the further away from downtown, the more normal things will be.
And sure enough, a few blocks further north, life seems to be almost operating. So I head down into a subway station and decide to take any train that goes north.
I find my way to the apartment, and like as though the changing scenes in a movie, before I know it, I am sitting with three strangers watching T.V. Watching the repeated clips of the towers being hit, and then falling. We are amazed at all the angles, and the information is still sinking in. However what strikes me most is how everybody in the apartment seem untouched. Their house is in the utmost order, and they do mundane tasks while I sit there. Talking about small things like nextweeks’ plans, like gossip. And though there was a slight scare on the news bout the Empire State Building being evacuated as a possible next target, I find that Mattius is soon putting on a movie. It hardly seems like the same morning from which I awoke, just several hours earlier. And I fall to sleep on a stranger’s couch unsure what awaits.
In the morning, everyone gets ready for their day, as though we are roommates and nothing has happened. Not wanting to intrude, I get ready as though I have someplace to go. And before I know it, I am in the Village, wandering the streets, imagining what people must be thinking. But it is a nice day, café’s are filled, bars are too. I see a famous rock musician, Billy Corgan, walking with a floppy had, and I wonder if he’s unable to leave due to the airlines not-running.
I walk down Sixth Avenue, close to Houston, which is the furthest south people are allowed to walk, where a military barricade has been set up. I am nervous and watchful, as is everybody else, when we hear a plane go by overhead. I walk to the West Side Highway and stand amongst the crowds, as truck after truck hauls wreckage from the Trade Center. And whenever a Fire Engine goes by, people cheer. Me, I am just glad to see that there are others who know this is not a normal day.
As the day moves on, I call Mattius to see when people will be back at the apartment. He tells me to meet them in Central Park. And as the day winds down, I enter Sheep’s Meadow to find that he, his sister and some friends are sitting causally in the park, as though it was no more than a lazy Saturday. And when I greet them, they are talking about the tennis they played that day, or the restaurant they ate in. I am confused.
That night goes very similar to the night prior. And however welcoming they have been, I begin to feel that I should find some other place of residence. So the following morning I make a call to Cherie, upstate in Cornell. And I ask if I can come stay for a few days. She readily agrees.
I am walking towards Times Square, on September 13th, towards the Port Authority Bus Terminal, when the scares begin to happen. First on Eighth Avenue, as I am passing a building, people begin to run out from the main door, and I hear from several mouths something about a bomb threat. I walk faster. Several minutes later, I am walking past a hotel, just as it is being similarly evacuated. I begin to jog a bit.
I feel a stretch of relief as I enter the Port Authority bus station and make my way into the Peter Pan Bus line. There is a bus going to Ithaca in less than an hour. However, just as I am about thirty people back in line, some commotion begins behind me. People in the busy of the terminal begin to run and scream. And before long, again from several mouths, the words “bomb!” are heard. The line I am in disperses and I find myself experiencing deja-vu. People are racing up the escalators towards the street-level, and much like the stairwell at 84 Williams Street, I find myself aggressively climbing past people. Everyone runs at a mad pace out the exit doors, and several police and firemen herd us across the street, where we sit and watch. Waiting for an explosion to come.
And as I stand there, amongst even more strangers, I can only think of the bus that I am going to miss and how long it will be for the next one. My stomach begins to tremble with my downright hunger to leave this city.
An hour goes by, and the police begin allowing people back into the building. I walk rather fast towards the ticket office, hoping to be in front of the line and get my ticket. This works, and I am soon standing about ten people back in line. Eagerly waiting to pass over my money in exchange for an extreme change of scenery. Soon I am about five people from the front. I find myself almost dancing in my feet, like those excited moments in a concert when the lights finally dim and the main act is about to begin. So I am in fact more angry than scared, when again a collection of commotion begins behind me. Again. Screaming and running. Like clockwork, the words “BOMB!” are heard and there I am running with everyone else. Fiercely up the escalator and then standing again on Eighth Avenue waiting again for an explosion.
It’s interesting to me, that no matter the situation, it takes only time to make it seem banal. Though I am standing in the center of New York, being held back by police officers from a potential bomb, two days after the worst attack this country has ever seen…I find myself unpatiently waiting. Like a kid in the backseat while on a road trip with his family. Looking at the people around me. Annoyed that I cannot do what I want to do. And then just like that, the police officers open the street back up to us.
I run to the ticket window. Only three people beat me there. When it is my turn, I buy a one-way ticket upstate. She tells me the gate and I go with determination. At the gate, people are not really talking. And streaming through all of us is complete fanatical need for nothing else to occur which would keep us from our upcoming departure. Every time I hear a voice raised in the background, I cringe, fearing another evacuation. Every minute that passes, I find myself itching for another one to pass. And finally, they begin to board and I work my way up to the front of the line, eager to be on the bus, eager to pass over my luggage, eager to be to a point where it would make more sense to drive the bus out of the building rather than to evacuate a third time. And my throat and nerves keep at this agonizing anxiety all while the bus is moving slowly out of the parking structure, through midtown towards the Lincoln Tunnel. And my nervousness finally draws to a close as the bus leaves the island that is Manhattan.
And like as though I had taken some pill for relaxation, I look out the window, at New Jersey, a part of the country I have never seen. My body reacting as though I am headed on some holiday. All thoughts of the events from the last 48 hours quickly beginning to empty from my body like fuel being released from a circling plane. I take a deep breath and sit back in my chair, calculating how long it will be till we hit Ithaca. And I wonder how long I’ll be gone for. Neither thought lasting very long. Mostly I just sit. Tired of thinking. Tired of waiting. Tired of not knowing what would happen next. I wonder what everyone else on the bus is thinking. What they are tired of. And what their stories from the last 48 hours are like. I’m sure they all have one.
johnny’s, tonight with cinnamon toast crunch shots and prairie fires and white russians and a man screaming while justin beiber played, and the same man, who an hour later couldn’t stand to walk home; pizza deliveries and girls with scars on their necks that told the future and girls with tattoos on their shoulders where there shouldn’t've been and christmas lights blinking in august and the counting crows singing about a long december and the strokes and johnny cash and marvin gaye and two men riding the same bike the wrong way down greenwich and the street and the summer and a tuesday and the city…
everyone is exhausted but trying to make it through, august weighing heavily and not even half way done. the music was twisted and all over, even though the heat, which isn’t even that bad, it’s been almost like september, is almost gone. the bartender, she’s always been good to us, but tonight she poured drinks diligently. once we caught her smile as her shirt fell off her right shoulder, but it was all tired and we all needed a break, i think. we all needed… i don’t know but something, though, so i paid my tab which was more than i thought, deservedly so, and caught a cab downtown with my friend, and the cabbie joked at us and we joked about ground zero and how ten years is actually a long time and it was hard even to remember back then.
and so then we got there, to a whole other place, a shitty bar where we’re supposed to play pool but where the a/c is broken and it feels like the heat from a few weeks ago, but this time indoors, and there’s just as little chance of it getting better as there was in july. the bartender is wearing a bra and a pair of panties and torn stockings, her unvoluptious curves confused with rolls of fat running down her sides, she was ugly in the face, and maybe looked like she was fifteen and a little retarded, there was thick red lipstick smeared along the approximation of her lips and she seemed like she didn’t know where she was or at least’d never been there before. maybe it was the powder she was doing in the bathroom with the guy with tattoos from staten island who’d left his wife that morning, crashed his truck on the other side of the verrazano and took the ferry in. he offered us some advice about the consumption of alcohol and to buy us drinks but got distracted by the black lace of those sweat stained and ridiculous lingerie. those two were going to fuck, that was clear, probably on the pool table, and the drunk wasted drugged out retarded fifteen year old bartender with weird lipstick seemed to regard that as a distinctly positive outcome to the evening, at least based on how she climbed over the bar to lick her man’s face while we all tried not to look and waited instead for our drinks.
and there was another girl there too who told some strangers she was an actress but was open to doing photo shoots, “photo shoots of any kind, just as long as i have a chance to rest inbetween”, she said, and they smiled and drank their Heinekens and put Motorhead on the juke box and my friend drank his pineapple and vodka and i shuffled my feet and looked at the time and the girl who was probably a freshman in college or something like that laughed and raised her hands, thrashing to the dissonance of the sound system that was too loud for the small room.
and then of course lastly, the club. some cuban girl who used to clean houses told me this was the best gig she’d had since she’d taken the boat and all i could think of was how sad castro would be and some big black man in a nice suit and fancy spats lost control and grabbed things he shouldn’t've and puked on the way out, next to the glass stage and some mexican guy who has to clean everything up is asking some anorexic russian girl to step aside and ke$sha vibrates in waves in the pool of vomit and upstairs some fuck in a pink shirt and penny loafers started yelling at the bathroom attendant about how he shouldn’t have to wash his hands at all and next time he’s just gonna wear diapers…
it was late and i was tired and the cab seemed to float over the bridge on the way home. tonight it’s all been too much and it makes me sad. about us. you and me and our friends, our citizens and kids and families and daughters and economies and tonight i know that i have been surrounded at every moment by a sadness, a kind of optimism of the soul infused with desperation, delirious delusions, at every moment, unrelenting and concentrated, a confusion that is the specificity of august in new york and a people in decline.
i think i should call my doctor and for the first time in almost a year, i actually miss vermont.
and the city? man. do i even need to tell you? it’s dripping in money, beauty, opportunity, everywhere. no wonder people get addicted to it. it feels like people are making deals on street corners and absolutely everything just might be possible. and i’m jumping cabs, midtown to the east village, dinner on 26th, some bar on 44th and 9th with my playwright friend, his cast drinking martini’s and eating hot dogs, jersey girls about to start dancing on the bar. we wind up at johnny’s at midnight and when i walked in, vonya smiled and leaned across the bar and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and, i swear to god, i hear this other woman at the bar say to her boyfriend, “do you know who that is?” and then someone bought the bar pinkberry shots and a cheer goes out and someone else put counting crows on the juke box and all of a sudden, it’s 3am. i get home, 24 hours awake, and pass out only to wake up the next day at 7 and beat it out the door. 60th and madison, the 20th floor and some private equity conference room, frosted glass and the secretary brings us coffee and bottled water’s already on the table. a handshake and back downtown, lunch, contracts signed; edits initialed. in the corner, a bunch of new media guys drinking ice tea and talking about the ipad and this guy in a checkered shirt’s talking about iranian payment proxy systems and the bartender is making bloody marry’s and some chick in a short skirt is trying to look at the contract sliding down the bar and i’m like: yes. yes, this is, actually, fucking awesome thank you very much. and then i jumped a cab to penn station and then the acela southward with six heineken’s, a little jay z and of course some avril, lawyers and briefcases, a hundred eighty miles an hour and outside the window, wilmington’s rushing by. and in my head? the million dollar possibility and why not? why not.
I don’t know what to say about Johnny’s. I don’t know how many hours I have spent there. How many dollars drunk and how many songs played on the juke box. Christmas Day one year, right before I got married, right after i got married, to celebrate my grad school graduation, to celerate the birth of my daughter, the arrival of a friend and her departure a few months later. To celebrate that it was Tuesday, to console a friend, to mend a heart, to drink because it was quittin time or because it was noon. And every single time, every single time for the last 10 years that I’ve been in there, I’ve played at least one song. And it never gets old.
[wpaudio url="http://theaboutness.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/A-Long-December.mp3" text="A Long December - Counting Crows" dl="0"]
Once, some guy tried to sell me a green laser from the eye ward at St. Vincents, it could burn a hole in a garbage bag or paint a plane 15000 feet in the air. The next night, someone else tried to sell me a watch that was full of lighter fluid and when you started the stop watch a little flame came out of the other side. I helped someone write a pretzle cookbook. Two strangers helped pick out baby names for my first kid. A co-worker barfs tequilla shots. Some girl gets naked in a window across the street. You walk in and your brother’s sitting at the bar, or your best friend, or a total stranger that is just as happy to see you as anyone else is ever going to be.
I was born in NY. And I love it. But I also know enough to know, it’s a fucking horrible city, drowning in a pestulance of unsustainable capitalist angst. Velvet ropes holding back the 20 year old sluts in short dresses trying to fuck the next partner at Goldman, meatheads and uberhipsters chasing a pair of legs or a purer line of powder in the bathroom. The streets are crowded by ceaseless illusions. Strippers on stages. Relentless competition. A neverending stream of unforgivable trespasses. Infinite objectification, specialization, untraceable trends; it is a city designed to destroy love and make simplicity complicated and everything commercial.
Johnny’s is the only place I’ve ever found that wasn’t that. The only place that was safe, or mostly so, from the insanity of the city outside. Yeah, sure, occasionally a bartender flashes her tits when things get late at night, or someone gets a little finger business at the other end of the bar, but for the most part, Johnny’s is where true denziens of the city find a place that is loud enough and not too quiet, to drink and share. To be themselves, to relax, to be whole at the bottom of a bottle.
I don’t know what it is that make’s Johnny’s what it is. Maybe it’s the bartenders. They’re phenominal. Vonya, Zach. Christie! Maybe its the simplicity of the place. The open window on the street and a summer breeze blowing in. Hudling together outside for a smoke at 2 in the December morning. Maybe it’s because it’s cheap. Maybe it’s because there’s a drawing of a robot on the wall of the bathroom. Or maybe it’s the regulars who drink there. A playwright working a script in the corner, a mechanic talking about overhead cam’s and gear ratios. A comedian and a day trader. Some punk rock guy doing shots. A nurse. A delivery guy, taking a break between rounds. I don’t know. And the best part is, if you wanna be a regular, all you gotta do is walk in and drink what you want. And if you get hungry? Order delivery. Sit at the bar, play a song, buy a round, whatever. And then do it again the next day; that’s all it takes.
Who know’s what it is, where that magic comes from. I don’t know. And i don’t even spend that much time in there. All I know is that Johnny Cash is on the juke box and so is Avril Lavigne, they make me rum punches or bloody mary’s when I ask for ‘em, they keep a tally on the board for people who buy me a drink, and I can sit in the window as long as I like with as many of my friends as I can fit inside.