My Berkeley Mai Tai
The menu didnít show the tropics
nor did it mention that the drink would be served
in a goldfish bowl, so I ordered one because
I was alone and
on one of my evenings in California.
But a strange mood overtakes a bar when a single man,
wearing a wrinkled blue dress shirt orders a drink
that comes with three yellow umbrellas,
a thick wedge of fresh pineapple,
and a grudging song that the
waitress has to sing to the embarrassment of them both.
"Thanks," I said to her when she was finished with the song,
which had a sad,
lopsided, Kon-Tiki melody,
like a Martin Denny record
left too close to the heater.
Another patron gave a few half-hearted claps.
"Yeah, well, enjoy your drink."
A Pitcher Hitting A Bird With A Baseball
I saw the clip, a random piece of footage,
a few hours after my Mai Tai
in a loud sports bar in Berkeley.
There was no sound
coming from the TV, so
when the pitcherís incoming fastball connected, the bird
just exploded in silence,
leaving a few feathers adrift before the ump called time.
"Whatíve you been up to?" the woman behind the bar
asked the guy next to me.
Awful and truly American guitar music was coming
from the speakers. No one else
had witnessed the death.
"Nothing," he said.
"Are you happy?"
"Iím really happy."
Which seemed to be, in my drunk
and self-righteous state,
the epitome of Californian speech, the best
this place could offer in the dashing cut-and-thrust
of conversation. But I was already spending my evening high above
on a level of fragrant sophistication,
having just bought a copy of Walt Whitmanís Leaves of Grass
for 50 cents from a bookstore on Telegraph.
I still havenít actually read it.
I may never read it.
But in Berkeley, on that night, Leaves of Grass
was in a brown bag at my feet,
like a hidden intellectual purpose.
Suddenly they were playing the clip again, but
crosscutting it with shots
of the sports showís host, a man who glistened on camera.
They slowed the footage down. And there,
coming out of the pitcherís hand,
was the fastball. And there, in the corner, was the
bird, both parties hesitating
in the jitter and jump of the playback
until one moved forward
and the other moved forward. In that way they crept
towards each other. And
in that birds are certain and tossed baseballs are certain
and sports shows are true,
both of them died again for a second silent time
in that Berkeley sports bar
and stayed that way,
still in the frame of the television set,
until the camera finally cut to golf.
Being Drunk On The Coney Island Beach, But Still Drinking A Corona
Which Was Hidden In My Sock
There it was and had to be, all spread out
on the Coney Island boardwalk: the dancing contest,
the fetid hot dog stands, the toilets
emblazoned with a maple leaf insignia,
(which for a moment I guessed
was the New York symbol for shit.)
The white people,
the spanish men in nut-hugger shorts, pale asians,
to the crowd. It streamed by:
the black girls held in by their knitted bikinis,
Chinese tattoos wrapped around their biceps,
pushing a couple baby carriages effortlessly, as if they were pushing
nothing heavier than the dayís warm air.
Then the kids from Kids, the kids from New Jersey (with last seasonís
girlfriends), the kids from Ohio,
as wide-eyed as me, with their Catholic school pullovers
tied around their waists.
There were three of us and we went to the beach.
I held off the urge to take off my shoes
for as long as I possibly could.
The beach looked fine; for as many needles,
condoms, and Tootsie Roll wrappers
that lay buried in the strata of Coney,
the sand that sits on top is shiny,
a giant, beautiful piece of lycra covering the
horrible reality of the ass that must lie beneath.
Only overflowing trash cans spoil it,
each one an oil well on an Alaskan reserve,
spouting up long-buried Slurpee containers
and half-chewed strands of red licorice.
The Atlantic was choppy but agreeable.
We passed a body builder
with skin like undercooked bacon, who was holding
a small polaroid photo of himself
in a classic Charles Atlas pose,
just holding the picture,
staring it down.
There were mothers breastfeeding, kids molding sandcastles,
wiping their hands in wet lines along the sand.
We finally sat
and watched a Spanish woman tack her way across the beach,
holding a red and white cooler that kept banging against her leg.
"Corona," she said to us
in that small, haphazard way.
My friend Kim looked over at me. I was already
pulling folded one dollar bills
from my back pocket.
"But isnít it illegal to drink on the beach?"
I asked when the transaction was done and the woman
was winding her way back to the boardwalk.
"I think thereís some sort of brown bag rule
where you have to cover it up."
It was then I finally took off my shoes and both of my thin,
gray, womanly ankle socks.
I held one out to Kim.
"Put it in this."
Our options were few, so she did,
pushing the beer into my
sock until only the neck was visible. Dark gray
patches, wet and spreading
formed on the side.
We sat on the sand and passed the bottle.
There were lines of kids
crouched in the shallow water in front of us,
asses in the air, waiting for the next wave.
When it finally curled,
they plunged forward,
faces into foam,
then lifted their faces and opened their eyes
and just the fact that the beach was still there delighted them.
It felt like the last great place
in the New York summer. Kim passed me the beer
in the sock and I tilted it to my mouth
expecting to smell my own feet
but getting nothing
but the tang of beer and ocean air.