Echo Park, LA
I was off work last Thursday before a three-day weekend. So what did I do? Go out and drink! I’m still fairly new to this part of LA so I decided to stay local and hit Sharlene’s as one of my stops. I walked in at nine. The layout was interesting. Lots of blue, yellow and wood. A pool table in the back. Contrary to what the name might suggest, it wasn’t a kitschy, laid back place. It was an upscale-ish bar aimed at newcomers to the area, namely yipsters and Sunset Junction types. Bicoastal babes. Buddhists on the bounce. The menu was eccentric and small. Like Bjork. And like her music I found my limited range of options comforting. (I hate it when I’m drowning in possibilities! I’d sooner find bones in the back of my mind.) Aside from oysters, there was everything from a muffaletta sandwich to homemade beer cheese (good thinking!) and crackers for $6. I don’t know about you, but I cannot be accountable for what happens to fine cheese when left unsupervised. I can’t tell if this is a vice. Would you leave your pee-break Apple laptop on the table at a bustling Starbucks?! I THINK NOT.
My first cocktail had some funky name that ended in a plural. It had at least ten ingredients and tasted like the sun coming out of the clouds when you’re hiking on a mountain. Gin and cucumbers! Fresh mint everywhere! Mating cardinals singing across trees: “I am ready! Put some eggs in my body!” My philosophy, given that life itself is a fairly short menu: if you’re going to have one you might as well make it a double. So I ordered another cocktail, within minutes, with whiskey and a bitters. The name escapes me but it tasted like I had a phantom in my mouth. Not as good. But I was ready for anything. (Except the hangover I got for mixing liquors. Yeesh. Talk about ramen pronto.)
The drinks were sneaky strong so I felt like talking. I leaned into a charming looking man to the left of me who was wearing an actual top hat. He had a white handlebar mustache, too. A red bow tie. He even had a cane! “Mr. Monopoly,” I said (pretty proud of myself, I must admit), “Honestly, should wealthy people be allowed to listen to Bob Seger?” For a minute all the guy did was organize a pile of singles by pulling them all out one-by-one and shaping them with his spit-licked fingers. Then he started fanning himself with his green stack of cash. It was unusually humid so his effort seemed warranted. My jorts were sticking. His suspenders looked oppressive, framing his paunch like a Bob Ross mountain. (Happy trees! Happy trees!) One word was all he said, “cállate.” Or was it “caliente?” “I took French!” was all I could say, enunciating the word “French” extra loud for some reason, as if volume would act as translator. But before I could excuse-moi, a Spanish blonde with tattooed anchors on her calves wedged herself between us smelling like a freshly smoked cigarette. Her crinoline underskirt made crinkling sounds against my stool. “Hey daddy issues, “ she said, “my machete pussy will cut you.”
I know for a fact that was supposed to intimidate me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say she reminded me of my old cell mate (and bi-curious first love) Kathy who served 6-8 for a 7-11 incident involving a boa constrictor and a fake grenade. Kathy and her crude, patient hands.
Knowing I was probably dealing with a temperamental soul (by which I mean this lady would cut me with an actual switchblade versus a makeshift jabber made of petrified hand soap) I averted my eyes and apologized quietly. I could feel myself getting emotional. Usually when I have feelings, which is rare, I just want to go and whisper them into a black hole. Not this night, no sir. “It’s not like I’m trying to change your species,” I thought. (Of course I-didn’t-actually-say-that.) “I mean it’s not like my curiosity is a ray gun that turns people into cats.” Which would be incredible actually. Did I mention how strong the drinks were? A phantom dangled from my uvula.
The sky was pissing rain when I left the bar. I couldn’t see a thing! Then I realized I was driving with my lights off. When I walked into my apartment, I promptly gave my license to my cat. I’m convinced that my cat and I have developed a mind connection. We talked about the international space station into the night. Then I fell asleep. The kind of sleep that’s more drooling than dreaming. I dreamt I was the boot on a Monopoly board once. Kicking hotels like Godzilla. Traveling the planet on the B&O Railroad. I would have much rather been the man on horseback, but this is probably common.
Sabra Embury is a book critic for Brooklyn's L Magazine. Her confabulations and fantastications can be found in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Rumpus, Tottenville Review, NANO Fiction and other places. Follow her antics on Twitter @yrubmEarbaS.