Monday, March 21, 2005

Dancing with Darwin

Or, St. Patrick's Day in Boston

Saint Patrick's Day, in the words of Kerri (pronounced "curry") is amateur night at the bars. The neophyte Guinness swillers put on their precariously tall shoes, black pants and green beads to saunter around the city of Boston, pay exorbitant cover charges for the privilege of drinking, don't handle their alcohol well, then puke all over the cold sidewalks. The steam from the warm puke on the cold stone wafts up like an extinguished candle while us seasoned drinkers (read: functioning alcoholics) step over their lifeless bodies, tisk-tisking.
Kerri had the good sense to stay in, but I would not be daunted by the newbies. I put on my green cardigan (I have a lot of kelly green, since it goes well with red hair) a skirt and my low black heels (I figured if the night went well and I drank until I fell off my shoes it would be best not to have far to tumble) and met Alicia and Missy at channel 7 for our evening of mildly drunken debauchery.
We'd originally thought we could get a decent meal at the Harp, but there was a $10 cover charge.
"I'm not paying $10 to eat dinner," Alicia said as we left the line at the Harp and stood on the corner debating our next stop.
We ended up at Boston Beer Works. It was busy, unlike the last couple of times I've been in there, but I still didn't have the good fortune to be sat in the waiter of my dreams' section.
"You can still talk to him," Missy said. "Talk to him!"
"He's not even my waiter. What am I going to say? 'Remember how you flirted with me on Valentine's Day?'"
"It doesn't matter," Missy said, glancing down as my handsome waiter sauntered by, completely overlooking our table. "Just say something."
Needless to say, I didn't say anything. We ate our dinner, I had a black and tan, Missy and I complained about the utter line of bullshit that is "let's just be friends" (her latest guy dropped that bomb earlier in the week) and Alicia patiently listened to us rant as she dreamed of her latest guy who, so far, has showed no signs of douchiness. People wore green around us. Some brave souls drank green beer. We left Beer Works to head out on the town.
We decided to try Fanueil Hall first. It's the go-to spot in Boston on St. Patrick's Day (or any day, if you're a tourist) but we figured it was early enough (8pm) to avoid long lines or a cover charge. As we approached the Bell in Hand, we noticed we were wrong. The line to get in stretched the along the face of two other bars, and we didn't even ask about the cover.
"Let's try Paddy O's," Alicia suggested. We'd gone there a few weeks before and it was deserted since it's relatively new. St. Pat's brought in the crowd, and when we showed our IDs the bouncer announced a $20 cover charge.
"Oh hell no," we hollered, stepping out of line and collecting our IDs. I'd noticed that Hurricane O'Reilly's had a $5 cover when we left dinner, so we decided to go back to North Station and settle there. After we walked back over, we got in line and noticed that the cover had doubled in the half-hour we were away.
I let out a yawp of frustration. "The cover was five bucks half an hour ago," I complained within earshot of the bouncer. He laughed as he checked my ID and took the twenty I handed him to pay the cover. He handed me three fives as change.
"Thanks," I said, trying to be inconspicuous.
"Count your change," he mumbled to me.
"Thanks!" I said with more enthusiasm. He was good enough to give the cheaper cover to Alicia and Missy too.
Since there's been no hockey, the bars by North Station have suffered greatly this year. Basketball only brings in so many people, and apparently the majority of the crowd in Fanuiel Hall hadn't given Canal Street much thought either. Hurricane O'Reilly's was fairly quiet. There was a number of people in the bar, and it was probably busier than any Thursday they've had in a while, but the crowds at the Bell in Hand made this bar look like a party in someone's living room.
A rock-a-billy band made attempts at playing Irish songs as Alicia, Missy and I surveyed the scene. There were a lot of couples dancing, and a lot of older people who stopped by after work, but not the bar full o' hotties that Missy and I had hoped for. We stood by the bar, just getting a feel for the scene.
About ten minutes after we arrived, a guy approached us. He was cute-- he had sandy blonde hair and brown eyes, was wearing a green Ascote t-shirt, flat-front khakis and appeared to be about my age. Not bad, I thought.
"You look like an elementary school teacher," the guy yelled over the sound of a rock-a-billy version of "Blister in the Sun."
"What?" I said. Either the guy had a fetish for elementary school teachers or I was looking dowdy.
"Your glasses," he said. He slurred his words slightly, but I couldn't tell if he was drunk or just had that recent-college-graduate-stoner-slur voice like my old roommate Kevin got after a couple of beers. "They make you look like a teacher. It's kind of..."
I still couldn't figure out what the hell he was talking about. I wasn't sure if I was being insulted or praised.
"Don't get me wrong," he continued, his breath against my neck since he had to yell to be heard above the music, "it's not a bad thing. I really admired my elementary school teachers. You just look like you teach young people."
I looked at him blankly. I couldn't tell if he was extremely drunk (he wasn't stumbling or having difficulty keeping his eyes open) or simply extremely bad at talking to women. I did the math in my head, and he easily could have been drinking for nearly four hours at this point.
"This is the worst conversation ever," he said. "I am such an idiot."
Since I've definitely said the wrong thing before with guys, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I held out my hand. "Let's try again, then. My name is Amy."
"I'm Matt," he said, smiling and shaking my hand. A small guy came up next to him, and he introduced me. Matt turned away to talk to his friend, and Missy, Alicia and I went to the bar to order some drinks. Missy immediately made friends with the bartender, who ducked under the space in the bar we were standing near and started flirting with her. One of the other bartenders got our drinks. We turned around and Matt was still lingering behind us, and his friend had put his coat on.
"So, what are you ladies doing tonight?" Matt asked.
I scanned the bar, and saw guys who looked like much better prospects than my new friend Matt. Guys in button-down shirts and khaki pants, older guys, guys who watched the dance floor but looked afraid to approach a girl to dance. I started to feel the stifling feeling of not wanting to continue a conversation with someone I just met but not wanting to explicitly say that. I just wanted to turn around and gossip about the bartender that was winking at Missy as he got drinks for his customers with Alicia, not talk to awkward/drunk Matt.
"I think we're here for the duration," I said. "The cover is too expensive everywhere else."
"Do you mind if I hang around? I just moved here not that long ago and it is so hard to make friends."
"Um," I murmured, taking a gulp of my beer, trying to think of a way out.
"Unless you guys have some girls night or something," Matt said in a way that made it sound like I'd kicked him in the balls and wounded him deeply by coming out with my friends.
"Well, kind of, but if you're staying, we'll be here," I said, immediately regretting saying anything.
"What do you do?" Matt asked me as the band starting packing up and the DJ played "Baby Got Back."
"I work in college textbook publishing." Only one step up from elementary school teacher in the echelon of dorky professions. There is no cache or allure in textbook publishing for guys. I don't work in television like Alicia does, and I think most guys equate jobs in non-Conde Nast publishing with dwarfish, pale creatures who hiss at the sun and don't know who Ashlee Simpson is.
"Humanities only," I clarified.
"So business books? Math?"
"Oh hell no," I laughed. "Composition books, history books, literary anthologies."
Matt tilted his head back, and brought it close to me again like he'd stopped abruptly in a car. "So what's you favorite literary movement?"
I furrowed my brow and frowned. The speakers were blaring "Pour Some Sugar on Me," people had to scream to be heard over the noise, the room was dark and I'd turned my brain off at Beer Works. I wasn't drunk, but I couldn't for the life of me think of a specific literary movement. Which is pretty humiliating since I majored in English/Literature and consider myself a bibliophile.
"I think the advent of the short story was the most important thing--"
"No," Matt said, a tad frustrated and condescending, "a movement."
I eventually came up with transcendentalism, since Sharon had called me a modern-day transcendentalist in eleventh grade. "I'm quite a tree-hugging hippy, and I like the 'back to nature' and independent spirit..."
Matt cut me off mid-explanation. "Life is all about survival."
I blinked, and sipped my beer. I shot Missy and Alicia a look. I sensed that my patience with Matt was about to run out.
"Dreams, you know, aren't really anything," Matt continued. "Life is about getting by, not about dreams."
"What do you do?" I said with an edge to my voice.
"I'm an accountant," he replied.
"Ah-ha," I replied. Something about guys who study business drives me insane. When I dated a guy a couple of years ago his literal mind nearly drove me to insanity.
"Right now I'm at an entry level, making sure that people's investments go where my boss says. But some day I want to make the decisions myself, and I'll be making a ton of money."
What the fuck is wrong with him? I thought to myself. I just told him that I work at a textbook publishing house, in humanities, so one would think that money isn't the most important thing to me. I need more of it, and I joke about wanting a sugar daddy to help me out, but I'd only accept a sugar daddy with a soul, and I definitely don't enjoy guys who sell themselves like an investment-- if I get in on the ground floor, I'll be lucky to be with him when he's loaded.
"Dreams," Matt continued, despite the fact my arms were crossed around my chest and I was looking anywhere but at him, "are bullshit, really. My sister wants to study sociology, and I want better for her. I mean, she's the most beautiful person I know, she could totally be a model, but I'd never let her--" oh awesome, he's possessive and soulless, I thought, "--but she can do so much better. Life isn't about goals and dreams, it's about survival."
"Uh-huh," I said. Matt looked down, and realized he was out of beer.
"Do you want anything to drink?"
"No, thanks," I replied quickly.
"Okay. It's totally my goal tonight to get smashed."
Matt went to get a drink, and I turned back to Missy and Alicia. Missy raised her eyebrow to ask if I was doing well with him and I shook my head vigorously.
"I need to make him leave me alone. How do I make him leave me alone?" I asked her and Alicia, desperate to make a break. I didn't want to go home since it was only 9:30, but the idea of dancing with Darwin or continuing to feign any interest in him made me feel exhausted.
Missy and Alicia shrugged. I decided to go to the bathroom and hide out for a few minutes and hope he thought I left.
I stood in the cold bathroom, watching the girls in black pants and green plastic beads going in and out of the bathroom stalls like bees in a hive and thought about how much I hate dating. I hate meeting people, I hate having to be witty and fun on command, I hate trying to scream over some late-'90s dance song, I hate telling people I have no interest in them, I hate hearing people have no interest in me. I looked at myself in the mirror, my hair slightly disheveled, my cardigan making me look a little like a librarian or teacher, not the smoldering sex-bomb look the girls moving around me had with their green eyeshadow and beaming smiles.
I left the bathroom after a few minutes went by, and was relieved to see that Matt wasn't lingering around Missy and Alicia anymore. Since Matt had left, I felt comfortable enough to start dancing so Missy and I started to dance, with her bartender stealing glances of her as he helped customers on that side of the bar. As much as I hate dating, I like dancing at bars. I enjoy listening to loud music, dancing, getting some attention and generally just having fun. I don't enjoy dancing to techno, but put on J.Lo or Britney, and I am dancing the night away.
Alicia sat down at the table near us since she wasn't feeling well. Shortly after she sat, a guy came up to ask her to dance. He was wearing a white terry track suit with a white wifebeater underneath. He was tan in the color of a white guy who fakes-and-bakes too much and wore a diamond stud in his ear. He would be handsome if he didn't try so hard.
"Hey, would you like to dance with me," he said, holding his hand out to help Alicia out of her chair.
She smiled at him, and shook her head. "No, thanks," she replied.
He tossed his head back with a grin. "Come on," he chided, "just one dance?"
"No, thanks," she said again, still smiling, "I'm not feeling well."
"Oh, all right," he said, returning his head to its upright position and swaggered away.
I laughed and leaned down to talk to Alicia. "How is it that we get hit on by the skeeziest guys in the bars, but Missy shows up and get the attention of the one sober guy in the place? What the hell is going on in this world? I look like a teacher and you get hit on by Mr. Fake'n'Bake."
Alicia laughed and yelled, "I don't know!"
Just then, the man of my dreams walked into the bar. He was about 5'10 with the short on the sides, slightly longish on the top haircut that I like on guys. He moved confidently in the way that guys in their thirties move, like they know their way in the world and don't hesitate to get what they want. He had brown eyes and a nice smile, his hands were stuffed in the pockets of his black leather jacket. I felt my eyes widen as he met my gaze and I smiled. I looked down at Alicia, who had noticed him walk in too. She wiggled her eyebrows at me.
Hot Man set his jacket down on a chair at the opposite end of the table from Alicia, and as he pulled his hands from his pockets I noticed he had a ring on. I somehow always manage to pick the guys who are married out of a crowd. Hot Man walked onto the dance floor, still moving confidently, and wasn't a bad dancer for an older white dude. He didn't dance with anyone and didn't look interested in dancing with anyone, he just moved around the dance floor, singing along with the songs.
Hot Man had come in with his friend, Skeezy Pimp Guy. The SPG was short and muscular with the face of an old bulldog. He watched Hot Man dancing, but didn't move a muscle along with the music. He was smiling and looked happy to be there, but the dynamic of the pair was odd, like SPG was the Hot Man's gay lover and got off on watching him dance. I didn't think Hot Man was gay-- no self-respecting homosexual would be seen in navy khakis with pleats the size of fissures in the earth's crust. I wanted to ask him why he was out, if the SPG was his husband or his lover, to tell him he was handsome and confident and he'd reassured me that such people still exist after my encounter with soulless Matt, but I was afraid he and the SPG were out to pick up young college girls to be prostitutes.
The rest of the evening passed without incident. Missy got the number of her bartender, he got hers and called five minutes after we left the bar. Alicia didn't feel well and was quiet on the way home. I theorized about the relationship between Skeezy Pimp Guy and Hot Man, and my new caveat in the wish for a sugar daddy (he must also have a soul as well as oodles of money). It was indeed amateur night as we drove through Kenmore Square, BU students walking slowly like zombies, unsure of the ground beneath their feet. Until next year, newbies. For now, the Irish bars of Boston are once again for the unhip book publishers of the world.

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