Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Sausage Party

Happy hour was extended well into the night this last Friday. By the time we stumbled home the drummer for Rush had been compared to Denzel Washington, Stonehenge narrowly avoided being crushed by a dwarf, and our ears rang from the voice of a man who has no inner monologue. There are worse ways to start your weekend.

It was happy hour at Molly Maguire's when I pulled up at the corner table and worked awhile proofreading edits to my manuscript. All the regulars were either already there or offering an accented sally at the bartender as they came in the door. When an old-timer drifted over the threshold and squinted at me it was apparent I had stolen his seat, but he was content to sit the next one over and nurse a Jameson while one by one men of all stripes, years, and temperament paid their respects.

The plan for the evening was to gather at a friend's and watch the new Rush documentary. Nothing draws a testosterone cloud like Rush. When the sole female arrived, the ratio was to her liking.

"Oh look," she said logically, "it's a sausage party."

The documentary was watched but don't get the impression we were listening. Conversation was free and loud, particularly when orchestrated by He-Who-Must-Be-Heard. This gent, gregarious to a fault, was in regular competition to have the last word on every topic. I recall that the only time he was silenced was when remarks were directed at the screen regarding the Rush drummer wearing Denzel Washington's hat and goatee. He had nothing to add, but the tube might otherwise have been muted for all we could hear.

This is Spinal Tap was suggested as a follow-up, but the gent was appalled and even as the movie began raided the shelf for alternatives. "Who wants to watch this?" he whined at the screen. When it became clear that he was in the minority, he proceeded to bark "Wasp!" at regular intervals, referring I think to the band of the same name.

He was anxious that we watch something about The Who -evidently bands starting with the letter "W" are his favorites. He shouted "Quadrophenia!" and "Tommy!" and each time thrust his fist toward the ceiling. Our host, with infinite sagacity, responded that he never had been a fan and it would be difficult to find any of The Who's movies in his dvd collection. This antagonised the gent, again waving his fist in the air as he loudly speculated about Pete Townsend's sexual preferences.

It was like partying with Chris Farley. When we finally exited, you could have laid me in a van down by the river and I would have been happy, if only it meant not having to hear the gent rant further. For all I know, when I got up too early the next morning he was still carrying on about "fisting Pete!"

Getting up three hours after hitting the pillow is ill-advised for any occasion. I couldn't help myself. The day ahead would be busy and an early start was required. So I dragged my feet down to Cafe Allegro in the University District and juiced up on espresso. Good thing I did. As it happened, it was the last day to see my friend Nathaniel working.

Cafe Allegro is a venerable Seattle institution that retains an atmosphere of sixties counterculture. Though it didn't open until 1975, the bohemian flavor is right out of Greenwich Village when Dylan was making his bones. The University of Washington across the street supplies the tables with poets and free-thinking academics, painters, performance artists and political masterminds. I lived up the alley right out of college and would sit there afternoons soaking up the rhetoric and feel myself get smarter by osmosis. Nathaniel was behind the counter and then as now would hear my order as though I were babbling complete nonsense. No lover of small talk, he would nevertheless open right up chuckling a moment later when something of substance was offered by way of conversation. His scowl invited substance and vanished immediately upon conclusion of the necessary exchange of commerce. It's been something I've looked forward to over the last couple years, when I've made it my Saturday morning routine to see him.

A fine fellow. Once we spent an afternoon talking at a nearby pub and Nathaniel bestowed upon me a copy of his favorite poem, something he had toiled over that represents his outlook on life and love, a touching expression to share those things that even in the best of conversations rarely get discussed. I'll miss knowing where to find him, scowl and all, behind the counter of one of this city's last, best coffeehouses.

No comments: