Wednesday, July 15, 2015


So we really did this, this really happened just like I wrote it.  O stands for Otto Markkanen.  We used to go drink at the bars after karate, back when I was an alcoholic.

Just Another Day in Paradise

BY Chris Farrell

We finish with karate, an easy class, thoroughly enjoying the warm spring weather and the green grass in the park outside the gym. It was not a very difficult class, full of much talking, but worth the effort. We line up to close, bow, and I notice D is talking to R, caught up in some earnest discussion. I go over there to listen and he says, ?Oh, I split up with D. I am living at home.? So they are breaking up. I look over toward the parking lot and O is standing there.

?Fancy seeing you here.?

?I wonder how you would be for coming over for a drink."

"Well, I have no money, but probably can do it."

I go into the dressing room, and J is there, a brown belt who moved to Salem. "D is looking pretty good."

"Pound for pound, one of the strongest."

We go outside and D is standing with J and K.

"I tan easily, in fact, have to tan because of a skin condition I have. Tanning helps it go away."

"I have only burned a couple of times," J says.

K is talking about her first year of school, how she is getting average grades..

D works nights laying tile, so after some discussion, he takes off, and O and I make our way across the grass to where he lives, a cool apartment full of mementos of his woodworking prowess. We cross the railroad tracks, and I think of Thoreau's verse:" What is a railroad to me/but a place to set the blackberries growing." Surely a verse in favor of taking one's own path. We watch the end of a movie, listen to his parrot talk, and venture out to rent another movie. On the way back, pausing for a cigarette, O notices, that J and K are still in the parking lot talking, nearly an hour later.

"There must be something going on here," says O, which reminds me of that Dylan phrase: "There is something going on here, and you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones."

"This is how it starts, long conversations"

So we walk over there, drinks in hang. J is talking about how they were painting his last name under the "stop" in stop signs. I say this is probably because he is the jock/intellectual seventeen-year-old genius karate maniac that he is, and he seems to agree. We all wonder how he is going to be as he heads off to college.

O gives a longwinded (in his typical manner) speech to J about how he may never know when he may crack. This seems to be a way of putting across the dangers of drugs without being too obvious.

We stroll back across the lawn and after pausing for another rum-and-coke, decide to head on down to the bars to see what is happening. Luckily O lives only blocks from downtown. We stroll down the sidewalks enjoying the new green and warm weather and small breezes of late spring.

Down at the Peacock there are four cop cars, lights flashing, and a few young guys getting handcuffed. O sits down next to one car, lighting and cigarette, and does nothing.

"We might get cited for loitering," I say. having been hassled many times by the cops.

"I don't think so."

We stroll over to the bar window. The band is playing Hendrix and sounds pretty good, the guitarist a grizzled guy who can hit all the right notes with his long and finely defined arm.

There is a girl standing by the window that O seems to know.

"So there was a fight here? What started it?"

"A girl punched some girl about some boyfriend thing, some jealousy thing, and then the guys started in...about one hour ago."

She had large eyes and was quite petite.

"So you may go to Singapore?" says O.

"Yeah, I'm thinking about it."

"Why would you go there?"
"I work for a sanitation company, and we would be setting up a plant."
"That sounds like a good opportunity. Do go and then I'll have something to congratulate you on when you get back," says O, "and if you don't go, you may look back on it as a missed opportunity."
"I heard you can't chew gum in Singapore."
"It's illegal."
"Well, good luck." says O and we walk off, a few blocks to Tommy's, a cool little cozy lounge. There is an older guy with a huge black beard, tough looking, with tattoos, that O says hi to. He was a bouncer for years at another bar, and looks the part.
We sit down, sipping on separators.
Heartbreak hotel comes on.
"Nothing like Elvis. The father of rock and roll."
"He was groundbreaking."
Another song comes on.
"This was written by Lennon and McCartney for another band, under pseudonyms, but it still went to number one. That says something. They did that with fourteen or so of their songs."
"Yes, indeed."
We leave and head down to China D, the bar open latest. When the Peacock closes, all the intoxicated and otherwise bizarre people stroll in here for a last drink. Gary is on duty, twitchy and unpredictable as usual, high on cocaine.
We go outside for a smoke.
"Do you know the Spinney family?" a pudgy woman asked O.
"Can't say that I do.
She dismisses him with a look and goes inside.
The crowd is thinning out, the bar is closing, and we are talking to two women who are leaning on what appears to be their VW bus. On girl has a dachshund, and puts him inside, safe and sound.
"They get angry at us, for not defining ourselves, gay or bi, but we prefer not to, just leave it undefined." says one girl who has tight braids and a cap.
"I see you work at S, and Great Plant before that" I say to the other. She has that sleepy look; perhaps it is only her eyes that make her appear extremely stoned. She always wears clothes with many patches and holes.
"That's right, the first job I got before moving here from Connecticut."
The girl with tight braids keeps talking. "We have a responsibility to summarize the meaning of our generation for future generations."
That sounds like an idea.
Suddenly she reaches out and gives me a kiss and a hug. (Not on the lip, but still...) I am thoroughly surprised and wonder about the meaning of this.
We walk back to O's and watch a bit of Dylan singing "Forever Young" before calling it a night.