Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 3

  Editor’s Note: Our life with  Bubbles continues. We have just breached the interior of “Standard Tap”, a fine local establishment where Bubbles promises that the drinks are decent and the food is fab. We must trust her judgment, because we have no idea where we are and therefore are dependent on her remaining alive so that we can return to the life that we know at some point. And here we go.

  Preliminary observation: These people around here must really love Bruce Springsteen. Not necessarily his music, but his look. Because any of the first 23 people I encounter in Standard Tap could pass for him on a late Friday night. I am now in the land of people who inspire his songwriting, which is actually kind of interesting. Yes, he’s from New Jersey, but that’s just down the road, basically. This should be fun. We can learn things about why Bruce is the way he is.

  First off, the music is really loud. This explains why Bruce has spent a lot of his life screaming his songs, thereby resulting in his distinctive rasp. He has to yell to be heard above crowds of people who can’t carry on a conversation in a subtle tone. These people holler and will cut you if you have a problem with that.

  Luckily, Bubbles leads shell-shocked Terry and I out of the main room of the bar, and back to an area with a few booths and, thankfully, at least partial walls to buffer the roar of humanity in the other room. We select a booth and settle into some nicely-worn benches. The table DOES seem excessively large, so I briefly glance at Bubbles, wondering if, once she has imbibed a few drinks, she might use this expansive space to perform one of her shocking performance art pieces. I’ve seen her do this a few times, and have heard outrageous tales from back in the day.

  She looks at me innocently. “Is this okay?”

  I nod. Sure. This should be fine. Unless you’re going to take your clothes off and reenact the Battle of Gettysburg using your breasts. Because I know that you can.

  Our little server immediately rushes up, so this is a good sign. Lethargic staff response does not make me happy. But our hostess, and I’ll call her Gertrude only because I don’t recall what she might have said when she introduced herself,  quickly proves her efficiency by taking our beverage orders without a pad (always impressive), pointing out the chalkboard over our heads that lists the menu, explaining that she only lives to ensure that we remain satisfied, and then changes someone’s flat tire without missing a beat. I instantly love her.

  We do have a little bit of an issue with the chalkboard menu. I’m the only one who can actually see all of the selections, perched as I am in the apparent exact spot where some chalkboard artist must have been seated when s/he constructed the menu. Bubbles and Terry would like me to offer a full analysis. I don’t find their request to be valuable or worthy at all, having already decided what I want. So I pretend that I can’t see everything as well, which is a total lie, but I don’t care.

  Luckily, Bubbles has been here before, on some sordid first-date that wasn’t entirely satisfactory, but at least she got fed, and that’s always a good thing. She especially recommends the burgers, because she artfully used one to shove bits of such in her mouth when her date proved less than pleasingly conversational, and thus had plenty of time to savor the taste while avoiding giving a response to something insipid her date uttered. Bubbles and Terry order variations of this burger.

  I order fried clams, mainly because I want them, but also because Bubbles has got me thinking about utilizing food as a means to avoid conversational participation. Not that Bubbles and Terry won’t thrill me with enticing bon mots, but you should always have a backup plan if things venture into a territory of pointlessness. If push comes to shove, part of that shoving can include bits of clam in my mouth that I can chew on for hours until they forget they were expecting a response from me. Safety first.

  We get our first round of drinks, and they are strong enough that the overwhelming music and noise from the main room becomes less intrusive. (Alcohol is such a fine equalizer. I strongly suggest usage of such in any potentially compromised situation. Sure, it can lead to the failure of body organs, but really, what doesn’t these days?)

  Now properly lubricated, Bubbles shares her latest love adventures. There was the guy who brought her here, but that didn’t really go anywhere. Something about initial promises not carrying through to completion. There was some stalking on the part of other guys, but nothing proved worthy enough to overcome the basic creepiness factor of people who, you know, choose to pursue you without your consent or encouragement.
Oh, and some mess about an unfortunate experience with bad kissing and rabid mosquitoes.

  Needless to say, I ate my entire platter of fried clams during these revelations.

  Gertrude arrives with our second round of drinks, and we thank her profusely, because really, people bearing this type of gift should always be worshipped. Mid-drink (I don’t waste any time) the nicotine urge hits me, and I must step outside to do this.

  So I do. This bar is located right on a corner, so I’m at an intersection of sorts. It’s a little busy, with people dashing to and fro, trying to look cool as well as find their next destination. It’s not really considerate of me to stand right there and blow smoke about, so I head a short way down one of the streets. This resulted in the exact type of conversation that I always try to avoid, and thus regret ensued.

  There was a man leaning against the wall, eating a sandwich. Which is fine and all, people get hungry, right? And sometimes you have to eat right where you’re at. I take a few steps past him and light up.

  Sandwich Man considers this the official start of discourse. “Good sandwich,” he says.

  “Cool, man,” I respond, weakly attempting to be street. I then pretend to be fascinated with the front window of a closed antique store, because that’s a really butch thing to do.

  “REALLY good sandwich,” he now proffers, as my first reaction was not satisfactory. “I like the juice.”

  The juice? How would I know about the juice? Is he coming on to me in some way? And how does one respond to such? I smile and nod my head, because nothing remotely functional comes to mind.

  “It’s a GOOD sandwich,” he repeats, lips smacking. He takes another bite, and I notice that his teeth are massively large.

  I start to get the first queasy impression that my life might be in danger in some way. Am I about to be stabbed because I don’t know the response protocol when one speaks of sandwich juice? But screw it, I’ve got a strong drink and a half under my belt, and there are witnesses all around. Okay, inebriated witnesses, but still. Time to go on the offensive. “Can I have a bite?”

  A look of fear crosses his face and he clutches the remains of his sandwich to his chest. “It’s mine!” (Then stop talking about it and just eat it.) He glances in both directions, as if suddenly realizing that hordes of people might want his meat. It’s like a scene from “The Fugitive”, only deli-style. He suddenly darts into the night.

  Done. I stab out my cigarette, toss the butt into a trashcan, and march inside the bar and back to our table. “I hate smoking outside.”

  They don’t care. I’m not even sure that Bubbles and Terry hear me. They are reliving younger days before people got jobs or pregnant. I down the remainder of my drink and signal for Gertrude to keep ‘em coming.

  Eventually, we wind up our experience at Standard Tap, reward Gertrude handsomely for her proficient meeting of our needs, and embark on the journey home. We pile in the Bubbles Mobile and creative driving commences once again as we head to Bubbles’ homestead. We haven’t been there yet, so Terry and I are quivering with excitement to see our friend’s dwelling. What’s it like, we ask, eyes aglow with anticipation.

  Bubbles gets a bit quiet. “Well…”

  Terry: “Something wrong?”

  Bubbles: “Well…”

  Terry: “Bad neighborhood?”

  Bubbles: “Well…”

  Oh God.

  Bubbles: “The realtor told me it was in the Fishtown area, which is cool and funky. But it’s not really in Fishtown.”

  Terry: “Okay. Fishtown-adjacent?”

  Bubbles: “Well…”

  Where the hell is she taking us? Is my insurance up to date?

  A reflective silence settles over the car as we speed along. Apparently, potential housing shame does not dull Bubbles’ need to dominate the roadways by sheer force of will. Our journey has a constant soundtrack composed mainly of the screaming of terrified citizens as they leap out of the way at the last second. We’re just a blur of speed and horror in the night.

  Eventually, there’s a change in the local flavor. The surroundings go from quaint, rustic and charming to abandonment, graffiti and wanton use of concealed weaponry. At any second I expect the Sharks and the Jets to show up from “West Side Story”, but instead of a choreographed rumble of dance, there’s going to be death, dismemberment and violation of personal space.

  Then we come up to a decaying bridge that crosses, I don’t know, the Gulch of Hell, and Bubbles pauses the car. She looks at both of us solemnly. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Then she turns her eyes back to the road and inches the car forward.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

1 comment:

  1. "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way,
    From your first cigarette....To your last dying day"