Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 17

  Editor’s Note: We’re still in that sports bar on a Sunday afternoon in Philly. The bartender has attempted to make a vodka gimlet, something that no one in this city has ever heard of or seen. I am now sampling his creation…

  And it tastes like total crap. Oh well, he tried.

  I smile grimacingly at Belinda the server. “That’ll work.” She beams and scampers back to report the false positive news to Scotch and his battered book of bartender secrets. They seem awfully giddy and happy with themselves, so I slightly regret giving them the encouragement to think they can actually do something important with their lives.

  Bubbles looks at me. “He didn’t do it right, did he?”

  “Nope.” I brace myself for another sip of the foul brew, continuing my pointless charade. I’m continually lying to people just so they don’t feel bad. To this day, certain co-workers and family members think that I actually like them when I really don‘t. Perhaps some day I’ll snap and tell the truth to everybody around me, but at this moment in my life I haven’t taken enough prescription drugs to adequately prepare me for such an event.

  Luckily, despite what else the bartender has thrown into his mix of deception and desperation, he’s followed the age-old ploy of bartenders tasked with making a drink that is unfamiliar and possibly not even real: just throw in enough alcohol that the patron won’t care after a few swallows, because their tongue will have gone numb. Halfway through the drink, I once again loved everybody in the world. I even managed to pay minimal attention to the football games on the TV’s, because people were yelling a lot and that seemed like fun.

  So our little gang proceeded to spend a pleasant hour or two in a bar that we would probably never see again. This is the beauty of vacation drinking. You can basically do whatever you want, since most likely you will not make a return visit to the scene of your crimes and get to see the notice posted on the front door that you are no longer welcome, accompanied by a picture of you doing the lambada (“the forbidden dance!“) whilst waving a half-eaten burrito and drooling on yourself.

  The only incident of note during this otherwise carefree afternoon took place when I slipped outside to have a smoke. (This seemed to be a recurring theme during our visit to Philly. I slip outside to satisfy an addiction, and wackiness ensues.) This bar had a long, narrow patio area in front, facing the street, with the umbrella-sporting tables currently empty because of the crappy weather and the slight chill in the air. I politely marched to the far end of the patio, away from the entrance, because I really do try to be considerate when billowing clouds of carcinogens.

  Things went rather swimmingly for the first few minutes, as I relaxed and perused the passers-by on the sidewalk, again marveling at how fashion seemed to be completely irrelevant in this city. I also studied the immense older building across the street, covered in ornate detail, and speaking of a different time when grand buildings were the rule and not the exception.

  Then the family arrived.

  A younger couple, man and woman, with layered, slightly-bohemian clothing to ward off the nip in the air, pushing a baby stroller wherein was plunked a small child most likely of the male gender. The little tyke was also layered, although mostly with colorful blankets and toys that had been ignored since the day the boy was introduced to this means of transportation wherein he was basically bound and could not move.

  The couple came to a halt directly in front of me as I stood on the bar patio, close enough that I could have reached out and tapped my ashes into the beehive hairdo that the woman had found necessary to create for her familial outing. Then they just stood there, young Mortimer or whatever softly cooing in his cushy prison and gently flailing one arm about, a gesture that could mean simple contentment or was a directive to sell Verizon stock when it hit 35 bucks.

  This was mystifying. Why stop here, right in front of a man who is clearly smoking, when there were acres of unoccupied concrete in all directions? They weren’t reviewing the lovely example of architecture across the street, they couldn’t possibly be perusing the restaurant menu tacked to the front door because it was way over there, and I didn’t see any demarcations that this particular spot was designated as a waiting area for some type of public transportation.

  They just stood there, not saying a word. (Well, little Morty had a lot to say, but he was speaking in a language that I hadn’t used in quite some time. Besides, the tender urchin didn’t appear to require any responses to his babbling, secure in his conviction that all of his edicts would be immediately carried out by the giant people who served him, even if they didn’t know the correct way to drape a scarf on one’s shoulders.)

  Well, I felt a little awkward. After all, I was smoking, still had plenty of length left to my chemically-drenched tobacco stick, and therefore would be expelling more noxious vapors for the next several minutes. It didn’t seem right that I should be doing this near non-smoking people, especially when one of the trio had little control over his physical positioning in life, strapped in a carriage where Mommy insisted on hanging stupid animals that affected his peripheral vision and smelled like old formula.

  I quietly pretended to see something of interest in the distance, stepping off the patio and moving a good fifteen feet down the street, taking up a new stance near a currently closed shop that proffered artwork for sale “by appointment only” (translation: you can’t afford anything in here so just keep walking”). I continued my pretense by gawking at ugly, horrid oil paintings depicting flowers and inbred royalty sitting about in gold-leafed chambers, waiting for servants to lift the soup spoons to their mouths and then tilt their heads back so they could swallow.

  Amazingly, the couple released the parking brake on the baby carriage, and began to move in my direction. They stopped directly in front of me, once again, and just stood there, once again, not looking at me, but close enough that I could see a birthmark, shaped eerily similar to Australia, on the man’s neck. They continued to not speak.

  What was going on?

  Did they want to ask a question, but were simply too shy to utter the words? Were they interested in a three-way sexual tryst of some kind? (They obviously were familiar with the mechanics of exuberant slap-and-tickle, as evidenced by Exhibit A in the stroller, currently batting at one of the hated hanging animals and making hissing noises.) Did they perhaps want to adopt me, havin learned that little Exhibit had proven far too intrusive in their social agenda, and they were hoping to exchange for an older model that could be left to his own devices should someone call with exciting news of a wine-tasting weekend in Sonoma?

  I moved back to my original location on the patio.

  They followed, still with the not saying anything.

  I stabbed out my cigarette in a nearby soggy ashtray, blew my final gust of smoke directly up into the sky instead of downward into the lower altitudes where little Mortimer lived with his hated fringe of animals in nooses, faced the man, and cleared my throat. “Can I help you… with something?”

  He and the woman both looked at me quizzically, as if totally stunned that anyone was standing near them. (You’re kidding me, right?) The man studied my face, his own visage a complete blank. “No,” he muttered, and then both of them turned back around to resume staring at nothing.

  I sighed, marched back into the bar, and walked up to Bubbles at our table. “I just don‘t understand these Philly people.”

  Bubbles waved her hand in a dismissive manner. Been there, learned that. Then she continued telling Terry about the 1984 Prince concert that had changed her life in an interesting and miraculous way.

  Eventually we grew a little restive, packing up our things and heading back to Bubbles’ hacienda. (Along the way, we stopped at Target, and I have this to share about the chain of retail stores: A Target is a Target is a Target. It doesn’t matter where you go in the country, the same things are happening. Unsupervised children running and screaming like they have a bad case of worms, shifty people openly shop-lifting and glaring at you if you glare at them, and check-out lines where you should not be surprised if you find a used diaper shoved into the candy display.)

  Once at Bubble’s Love Shack, as were going about getting settled in for the evening, I was startled to hear Bubbles hollering for me to come upstairs to help her with something. Slightly concerned, because you never know with Bubbles, I headed up the creaky, time-worn wooden stairs to see what her issue might be.

  She was standing in her bedroom, next to a large, odd-looking contraption that was actually taller than her own body. She smiled brightly. “I’m going to show you how I invert myself, and then we can do you!”

  What in gay hell?

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Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

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