Wasting Away (Again)
Jimmy Buffet’s personal chef bought me shots last night.
“Pick the place,” I told Chris. “I’ll meet you in fifteen.”
“Bar 9,” he said haphazardly.
I stepped out the door just before nine o’clock.
“Be home in an hour,” I told Abbi.
Some 900 seconds later, I saddled up to the bar. The Yankees were on the big screen. An urban kickball team was celebrating its victory. A hand-scrawled sign just above the Triple Sec read, “WiFi Available.” I flagged down the barkeep (Thor Fields, a dead ringer, Chris later pointed out, for Center Square Bruce Vilanch, and lead guitarist, we would later learn, for the Zeppelin cover band Led Blimpie), and ordered a Bass Ale.
Moments later, Chris joined me. We toasted the imminent release of my 25-song rarities collection, “Besides Volumes I & II” (which I picked up from The Engine Room after work — more on that later), and settled into conversation about our declining rock ‘n roll careers (well, mine is, anyway) over the din of The Arcade Fire and gray t-shirted corporate types in cheap crepe paper leis knocking back tequila.
When it came time for the second round, I reached for my wallet, grabbed a wad of ones, and tossed ’em down on the counter.
“Dude,” a voice behind me said. “This isn’t a strip club.”
I turn around and spot a bald, bespectacled, mid-thirties lookin’ guy in a jean jacket.
“Though I gotta’ give you props for wearin’ your hat straight, unlike that hipster wanna’ be at the end of the bar.”
Now, I’m not the least gregarious person you know, but I don’t chat up strangers. I tend to keep to myself. But in one of those cheetah-like fight-or-flight instances, I sized him up, and decided he was ok. So the three of us started talkin’.
Ends up the guy — let’s call him Jeff, ‘cuz that’s his name — lives on 51st and Ninth, and works in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle where, we come to find out, he’s Jimmy Buffet’s personal chef. We don’t come into this information directly, but rather via a follow up question to his statement that he only lives in Hell’s Kitchen in the summer.
“Where are you in the winter?” I asked.
“West Palm Beach,” he says.
Truth is, Jeff’s a little bit of a toolbag. Just a little loud, declarative, kinda’ blustery. But he’s from Toledo, and keeps tellin’ me I’m allright because I’m from Chicago (that’s the beauty of living a bunch of places; you can be from anywhere).
And then he buys us shots of vodka. And one for his bartended buddy, Thor — the guy who sings in the band that makes a pun out of the similarity between a derigable and a sandwhich.
And the whole time I just wanna’ tell him to tell his boss that, just a few months ago, I spent six hours in the Tenth Circle of Hell at a ratty Margaretville (“Where the fun never ends!” Or, apparently, starts) in Montego Bay’s Sangster Airport and that he really ought to consider a paint job at the minimum.
But, being that I’m from the Midwest and all, I kept it to myself, and stumbled home.