“What do you call this place anyway?” I asked over a pint of Harp at an attractive antique bar with no name in TriBeCa on West Broadway below Canal Street.
“We haven’t decided on a name yet.” The bartender, who resembled Tom Jones, was drying glasses. His name was “Seamus” (as in Seamus Heaney, translator into English of The Sagas). I always pronounced this first uncommon name “Seemus,” but supposedly, unless it was his Irish accent, it was pronounced “Shamus”—as in a gunslinger from the Wild Wild West. Business was slow. I got drunk, and my natural gregariousness began to emerge. I looked around for someone interesting to talk to.
I noticed a bearded gent with a real beard sitting at the bar, and I went over with my hand outstretched a mile. He didn’t seem to mind the probably manic gleam in my eye as I launched into a diatribe about travel abroad and how many languages there were.
With a look of extreme skepticism, he said, “Speak your own language: the English language.”
“Hey, there are many different languages besides English.” Whoah, wait a triple sec, this guy sort of resembled T. C. Boyle, perhaps one of the best short-story writers in America right now: I can’t say the same thing about any of his novels because I haven’t read any of them, not even The Road to Wellville.
Anyway, life is like a good short story to me.
Meanwhile an angry ember smoldered of a sudden in his eyes, as I realized something about talking to people when you are drunk. “What is it that you do then?” the bearded gent said.
“I’m a writer.”
“A writer?” Once again, he looked at best skeptical, even a little offended. Uh-oh, I thought, I think we have some sort of Shakespearean-trained actor here. A yelp (that is the correct word) emanated from his Stygian depths as he leaped off his barstool and said, “Go away, I don’t want to talk to you.”
Wow, I hoped this wasn’t a fight brewing. I realized I was being drunk and flippant, but I was unaware what lapsa lingua had set him off like that.
“That’s not talking, that’s not talking!” the Aragorn-like actor repeated with a friendly twinkle in his eyes resembling familial hatred.
“I’m a writer, I just like talking to people, that’s all?”
“How many things have you published then?”
Suddenly he seemed interested.
“I’ve published like, oh, twelve things. . . .”
“THIRTEEN!” he said with a wide smile remembering a piano keyboard surrounded by speakeasy film-noir smoke.
I realized we might be being filmed.
Anyway I began acting like I was getting a little agro myself, and Seamus began crooning with an astoundingly good voice.
“Now, that’s talking!!!” Aragorn said.
“No, that’s singing!!!” I countered slyly.
That’s it, Aragorn had absolutely no interest in sustaining the conversation after that misplaced comment.
“John, please don’t mess up my bar,” Seamus whispered to me, filling me a free one from the tap.
I realized that was the signal to leave. Madder than hell for no reason at all but secretly laughing inside, I stood dramatically at the doorway gripped by a spell cast from overseas somewhere between Glastonberry and Stone Henge, and elocuted, either as a veiled threat or an excuse for my behavior, “BLAME IT ON THE WELSH!”
I felt a whump in my soul as I had trouble opening the door.
Seamus laughed and said, “PUSH!”
Meanwhile Aragorn seemed to be just standing there studying me with more than great interest (nay: astonishment).
I crapped in my pants that night, but somehow didn’t have a hangover the next morning in my apartment in one of Manhattan’s tourism districts south of Houston street reknown for its cast-iron architecture. Yick, I thought, “laxative” or “mickey finn”?
Anyway, I made a point of striding purposely from time to time outside The Bar With No Name, pretending to be mad or something. I never really went back, except for once or twice for a beer with my friends. I noticed Aragorn one night smiling with real friendliness, loudly voicing an aside to a friend, “He is an actor!” I felt a little embarrassed then, when all the world is no longer a stage.
Unfortunately, The Bar With No Name is no longer there, long since replaced by a chic clothing store or something unnoticeable and discreet, who knows? Perhaps the bar was moved to another continent, luring new customers with literary ambitions on the very razor’s edge of eternity. . . .