It was a typical (early) dinner: Sitting at the bar instead of a table, reading a book. A burger was being prepared, and I was reading about about some guy named Sam Pulsifer. He was convicted of accidentally burning down Emily Dickinson’s home. The kicker: Two people were making love upstairs, and were killed in the process. Whoops. Pulsifer served 10 years for the crime, and now some are putting him on a pedestal as if he was a hero of sorts, coercing him to burn down other authors homes.
A guy comes into Prison City, sits two seats away from me and orders a Bud heavy (bottle) instead of a craft pint. He’s waiting: a) for his girlfriend, and b) to pick up a new soundboard. The attention is directed toward the bartender.
“Hey. Do you know these lyrics?” he asks. “‘Cum on feel the noise, girls rock your boys.”
Easy: Quiet Riot.
(Actually, the ’80s metal band’s version is a cover, for which accelerated their career, and the original being written by Slade in 1973.)
The server could have cared less. She ignored him while another guy in a newsboy cap answered with the first answer.
“That’s right!” the quizzer exclaimed. He swigged his Bud.
“I find it very important to pay attention to lyrics,” said the mouth beneath the cap. The utterance did not rise above monotone. “I’ve been doing that more lately.”
My eyes widened and sighed — Oh, boy.
“Hey.” He was talking to me. “It’s good to see you reading.”
My bubble was popped, and I gave into temptation, conversation. We talked about books, and how it feels good to actually hold and read an actual book. He gave examples of reading experiences, and one oddly-placed example of how he used to walk into his nephew’s bedroom and see him reading. It was really strange how this was stated, and flashbacks ran through my head — reasons why I try not to eat alone at the bar of a not-so-crowded restaurant.
My Empire experiences with the guy talking about his Lady of the Night with the not so attentive male counterpart, the woman who literally cried on my shoulder in regard to her kids and the guy interested in whether or not I had a nice backyard that we could hang out in, and, if not, we could hang out in his nice backyard in Liverpool.
It was interesting enough I was going to preview a play about duplicity, gender issues, rape, hearsay, egoism and blackmail. I just wanted to eat my burger and get out of there.
The guy, a DJ, told me his name; the same letter sat in front of his first and surname. I was wary of this, usually there is some quirk or distinction — in the literary world — with characters bearing alliteration, i.e. Benjamin Button.
“I won’t bug ya,” he said, saying he’d let me get back to my reading and eating. The burger, cooked perfectly, arrived. That statement is also common of those folk, who will immediately start talking to you again after a minute of silence.
“Have you heard of that song ‘Tele–‘, oh, ‘Hotline Bling’ by Drake?” he asked the audience around the bar. “‘You used to call me on my cell phone,” he said, teetering with the decision to sing or not. “Have you heard it?”
Yeah, I have, I said. It’s alright. I’m not much of a fan.
“He’s got talent!” Talking about Drake or Drake, himself, excited the guy. “I try to incorporate more of the modern stuff in to my sets.” It was made known that some of his friends didn’t approve of this, but he said that appealing to a variety of audiences is important.
It was hard to disagree. I also approved his opinion that many of the songs, any decade, have the ability to blend in and make a song list or mix pretty incredible. There is also too much music. There are so many bands out there; many play it cool or try to stay under the radar, and others are looking for their 15 minutes to propel them to long-lasting fame.
He went into his soundboard again. Seemed to be his pride and joy. Who doesn’t love a new toy?
Next thing you know, you’re having sex and someone burns down your house while your in it. Jeebus, I just want to know what happens next in this book.
“What are you listening to? What’s popular?”
For cryin’… I listen to a variety. Justin Timberlake is a talented guy. I respect —
“Is he good? I’ve never heard of him. What does he sing?”
What? He’s really talented: He can write, act, sing, dance. You name it. Insert a J.T. mini biography here.
“Wow. I’ll have to look him up, give him a listen and put him into my sets.”
Yes, you should.
“People have heard of him?”
I nodded my head. Actually, it was a blend of a shake and a nod — a swivel. My fingers peeled at the pages, flipping the corners.
“I’m sorry to bother ya.” Add in a quick rendition of “Hotline Bling.”
You’re not. It’s important to accept the superpower of empathy, and I relish in the fact that strangers love to talk to me for some reason and vomit intimate aspects of their history to me. (I didn’t put everything in here.)
Tbe book was ignored, and the burger was scarfed down. I told him I had to go, and went off on my way to check out “Oleanna” at Auburn Public Theater. It was good. The performance was thought provoking, but it wasn’t loved or hated.
With the combination of the play and the situation, the act of paying attention to one’s surroundings is pretty critical. Not only is it important for this day and age of unpredictable violence — know your surroundings — but for creative outlets, especially writing and acting.
It’s how inspiration is found. Zeroing in on a conversation people are having is a key to unlocking life. Squeezing what is taken from that conversation or interaction and infusing it into words is clutch. When defining a stock character in improv, some person’s quality could inspire the spontaneous persona on stage. No, when used properly, it is not to make fun of someone.
The more realistic art in its many forms examines what is real, the more it related to and feels real. But then there are different shades and interpretations of reality.
What’s real and what is fiction becomes a blur, and that smudge is beautiful.