By Zachary Lipez
I don’t want to talk about bars, the people who go to bars the endless interesting events that don’t occur in bars when you’re actually in the bar but, rather, happen after you leave or years before you arrived. It’s a tired and trite subject, and I very much want you to like me. It’s a new country with new teeth, and I want that new teeth reflection on me before my amazing looks disappear, leaving me tear stained, and dimly poisoned, merely good looking. I want us to get along. Like coal miners in depleted air.
But you asked me about Thanksgiving. And one can’t talk about Thanksgiving without talking about bars. Unless one talks about family and, according to recent memoir, family is a bad, bad place. I’ll spare you a discussion on a circle of suckers debating their favorite Beatle, making everyone regret sex, and just stick to the bar talk. It’ll be, if not actually entertaining, better.
I worked at Mars Bar on 2nd Avenue and 1st Street. The block is beautiful now, like god’s idea of heaven-visible from space I’m told, go check it out, but, at the time, it was a boot with spit and a liquor license nailed to the wall with a dare. And I was there every Thanksgiving.
I did it by choice, begging off any and all social obligations. I dislike long tables and everything that goes with them.
The bar would be dead till about 11, and then Squatters from Avenue C would show up and bring me creamed things and stay until close. Aging skateboarders, solid B minus characters with Kid Frost tattoos and JFA t-shirts would drop by too, having forgotten to go home. A long time ago.
Tradition would mandate that we would talk about the Pilgrims. The mythical Pilgrims. A small myth, but the larger myths have always scared the hell out of me. We’d talk about the Pilgrim mandibles, and their love of the Kraken, and their fear of commitment.
We’d talk about the Pilgrims, and how they set love’s standard, and how, when they reached the new continent, they asserted themselves like science and ate the first thing they saw.
We’d, of course, do the whole Pilgrim vs. Pirate argument. This being before “pilgrim” became such an ugly slur, before pirate imagery was co-opted by the vegan food delivery bike punk movement…Pilgrim vs. Puritan…Pilgrim vs. Atlantean…and we’d do drugs, as we were young and not afraid of death from the usual place.
Because we were in a bar, and observing a holiday of Massachusetts origin, we had to, like it or not, talk about the Kennedys. So let us be clear-The Pilgrims Did Not Kill the Kennedys. No one did. They’re fine. They won’t shut up. Every time a pretty boy, in a Defend Brooklyn hoodie, talks about his best-friend-who-happens-to-be-black, a bell rings, and Joe Kennedy gets a brand new shiny nickel.
Invariably, well past two, some wide eyed squatter, not a day over, say, 27, would ask- “Zack? Do you think the Pilgrims will ever come back?”
And I would say – “If you were single and less high, I would take out of here. I would.”
Listen, I know I was trying to say something here. Something about the nature of bar talk or the drunken inefficacy of being a Hitchens Democrat, or imperialism, probably imperialism, but all I really know is that I’m as weak as the day I was born, and not from any specific affliction.
And you know what? I do hope the Pilgrims come back. I do. Even if Fleet Week doesn’t always work out, I love the sea, and everything that comes out of it. And I love Thanksgiving and I love my mother. She’s stuck by me regardless.
And when the Pilgrims return, by their failed ship, Speedwell, I’ll embrace them, and we’ll all go down together in a good god’s rising and turbulent affection.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zachary Lipez has published two books of poetry/photography with Stacy Wakefield and Nick Zinner – No Seats On The Party Car and Slept In Beds. He is currently working on a third. He sings for a band called Freshkills.