Feb 5, 2008

A Campaign Path through Pittsburgh's Pub

It's a bar three blocks from the beach. Long reputation, low light, a holograph of Pittsburgh itself. I have some door knockers, I have one last sign. Obama isn't doing well with lunch pail men and riveters. They don't believe him, they don't think he has the muscle.

So then you better go in, I'm thinking. It's coming up to 11, evening has been downgraded to night, but perhaps I can leave something off. Up on the wall, Gonzaga leads St. Mary's by two, late. Around the horn: Someone at a pool table. Video game screens. A bartender from The Iceman Cometh. The master of bleary. In front of him, hunched over, man and woman together, and then another man at the far end of the bar, almost over the horizon: 50s, red hair, blue eyes, reminds me of Red Skelton, and sitting bolt upright, frozen, staring like a person in a casket whose eyes won't shut.

Woman sees me, the sign. "Yeah, Obama, I'm for Obama," she says, draws me over. She's curly, in a man's blue shirt, gold on her wrist, a pendant on tan skin. Pretty. Man next to her in an old Giants jacket, baseball cap, hunched over, smells smokey, never looks over his shoulder. "Oh don't mind him" she says and hits him over the head with the side of her hand. "He's my boyfriend but he's no damn good. Are you, dummy?"

"I'm from Chicago," she insists. "Three towns over from where Hillary grew up." Great, I say. "You know Oak Park right?" I shake my head. It's coming to me, but no names or dates. "Well you been to Chicago right?" Once, I say and I'm remembering the time my father took me to the Pump Room for dinner and then we went out in a limousine to a mobster's house. I don't remember the man. Danny Devito if I had to come up with a likeness. But I remember his house. Heavy dark wood, a view of the lake, I suppose. My father wanted to share his links to the underworld and it never occurred to me what that was about, what he was saying, what he wanted me to take from that.

And at some point on that trip, on the airplane going, my father, from 26 miles of unpaved streets, in upstate New York, having been a football star and fucked his French teacher, got down to NY to drive a cab and go to night school at Pratt Institute, and here he was in First Class showing me he could read Chateaubriand's Atala, in French.

"Well then you know Oak Park, right? Don't you?" She's saying. I know the name, but I'm not channeling anything else just now.

"Have you ever heard of anybody name Wright?" She says, rolling her eyes like a middle aged valley girl.

"Frank Lloyd."

"Where you been?" She says.

"I can't imagine".

"Well you better wake up there, boy.... Yea, Lake Park."

"He built some houses there," I say, "a few houses", remembering a PBS special about the first homes he built there. And I'm thinking that must be the money suburb on that side of the city. But is it West or East?

"A few houses? Are you fucking kidding me? He built hundreds of houses. Where you been?" She's bobbing and weaving. "You need to get up to speed there, mister."

Dummy cackles and she hits him again over the head.

Here eyes are watery but she's making a go of it, if only she could remember how all this came up.

"Oh yea, so Hillary lived three towns over from us. West side, right. Then the blacks started coming over from the south and the property went down and we had to get outta there. No, it was.... well we did, we moved outta there and got to... " then she lost track again. Nothing happend for a moment.

"No, but I'm for Obama," she said. "Let me have one of those posters." She took one. The bartender, the towel over his sholder, came over looked down on it, shook his head in disgust.

Time passed. She said something, I said something. Dummy cackled.

The bartender noticed I had a plastic cup I'd picked up down the street. "Can't drink that in here," he said. "It's just ice tea," I said. "Sorry, can't do it. Just what we sell."

I can't finish an ice tea?

"Get the fuck outta here," he said. I had that button to the floor. "Get the fuck outta here."

The woman looked at me frowning.

I didn't want to bend to this bartender. "Mystery to me," I said. "I'd think you'd want all the people you could get in here,"

He turned away and put the towel to another wet glass.

It's in the blood, I thought, I can't get rid of it. It's the nature of bars and organized alcohol, it's why birds can migrate, it's that the old gaelic bag of denial and woof-woof. It's what you get for running with Obama, I thought.


Anonymous said...

Hello. My husband is a pub owner and I don't care who you are supporting as your candidate if you walk in his bar with a drink, alcoholic or pure water from earth's finest sprigns, and a condescending attitude you will not be his friend, nice as he is.I doubt it was Obama that was your problem at the bar. In our community we are all for our man Obama but John wouldn't have liked the attitude I detected here.

Your post made me read other posts here and you're an excellent writer but with some anger issues that are unfortunate but maybe that can change. I like to read so if you will listen I have some ideas for you. I've seen many "budhists", as you claim to be, with anger and sadness and meanness and they deserve the quotes around the budhist label. It's an escape, a nice idea, but you don't portray budhist living unless your blog is pure fiction, which it may well be. Your writing is very intriguing but IMHO you need to stop being only the observer and have a lighter life. Don't be cruel and vindictive and judgmental like you are to the priest and your friends you betray in this blog. Get a dog. Dance with abandon. There's a lot of joy in life. It's hard often times but we all have struggles and some of the most down and out among us still have that kernel of joy that makes them shine deep within. Come down to earth from your observer post. Let your children explore the real world, go to school with children of all colors, including black like mine. Public schools are beautiful in so many ways even in big cities and your children would add to their beauty and help them later in life. Ours went through public schools in the not good neighborhood we lived in and are thriving in the world and we have not lost all that money on tuition except for college. Don't forget humor. It seems you have forgotten it at least in what you write here. I hope you don't take it wrong. You gave me entertainment I give you some ideas.

macnamband said...
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