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Tuesday, 02 September
Love Is A Doing Word

The wife and I celebrated Labor Day, of course, by forcing labor upon our friendly neighborhood bartender at the Bar That Shall Not Be Named.

"Kevin," we said--see how bold I've become! Names and everything!--"Kevin, labor for us. Make us Lillet cocktails. Bring us warm nuts. Then do some jumping jacks. You will begin after our timed handclaps. Begin!" *clap clap clap*

We got everything but the jumping jacks. Washington State has some slack-ass bartenders, if you ask me.

As we sat there, nursing our first drinks, two lovely ladies entered. I would estimate their collective age to be nine hundred years. "Hello, ladies," said Kevin.

"WHAT?" The first lady bellowed. Here is where I began to love them. They sat down two stools away from us, gingerly climbing up on the things with spiderlike care and precision.

Kevin calmly put down a couple of drink menus in front of them; they picked them up and peered owlishly at them for a moment. The second woman slapped it down on the bar after the most cursory of glances. "I can't read this damn thing."

"It's dark in here!" cried the first. She craned her neck at the ceiling, as if searching for a lost sun. (It is a dark bar.) Presently, Kevin returned.

"Do you ladies know what you'd like?"

"WHAT?"

Kevin is a wonderful bartender. "DID YOU FIND ANYTHING YOU LIKE?" he patiently howled into their faces.

"What's your house vodka?" asked lady #1.

"Our well vodka is McCormick's," replied Kevin, making sure to put a little stink on "McCormick's," since, you know, it's disgusting. "But we also have--"

"I don't give a damn. That's fine."

Kevin couldn't quite let it go. "Did you want a garnish with that or anything? A twist, or a slice of lime . . . ?"

"You could put an olive in it and I'll pretend it's a martini if you want."

Here the second lady piped up. "I'll have a whiskey rocks. You don't have to tell me what it is. I don't want to know."

Kevin slumped and poured their drinks; I sat silently on my stool and tried to hold myself together. I loved these women.

After a little while, I decided I needed a smoke, and lady #1 happened to follow me out for the same. There is a cordoned-off patio outside the bar, and I usually go outside of it so as not to blow smoke at people who might not appreciate it; she joined me, clutching her miserable, terrible vodka rocks.

"You can drink out here, outside?" she asked, dipping her head to indicate the cordoned patio area.

"Well . . . you're actually not supposed to take your drink outside the patio area," I said in a friendly voice. "You could get in trouble if Kevin sees you."

"Trouble," she said acidly. "You tell Kevin good luck with trouble." She smoked hungrily--is there any other kind of smoking?--and shook her glass at nobody in particular. "This is a nice place," she pronounced. "I like it. There won't be any trouble. I'm a little old lady." I had nothing to rebut this particular argument, so I clinked her glass and said, "Indeed."

"You're a nice little fellow," she said. I stood a full eighteen inches above her, but yeah, I'm no giant. "Well, we try to be nice here," I replied.

"You do!" she agreed. We went back inside. Her companion was staring deep into the depths of her whiskey, apparently trying to discern some molecular activity with her incredible, goggle-like glasses; her eyes, when she looked at you, looked like emu eggs.

"Welcome back!" she cried. She seemed genuinely delighted to see us return, as if we'd survived some alarming safari adventure rather than just wandering outside to lean up against the newspaper machines and share a smoke. She had that great old querulous old-lady mouth thing going on where at any moment she could possibly either burst into tears or gales of laughter.

Eventually, they finished their terrible drinks. Settling up was next.

"I've got it!" cried the first lady. The second lady gave no appearance of hearing this, and casually pulled out a ten (their bill: six dollars).

"No, I've got this one," she said over the protests of lady #1, who had only a twenty.

She leaned over to me. "She lives next to me. She has two cats. If she doesn't get me back, I'll kill them." And she smiled.

"What did you say? You said something about my cats!" wailed the first lady.

You hang around the right places, and all of a sudden you're in a Roald Dahl story.

"What did you say about my cats?"

I hope they live forever.


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Comments


There was a tobacco shop near our house in Dublin called Smyth’s whose patron took pleasure in being particularly obnoxious to anyone who came in looking to stock up on cancer sticks. My friend once witnessed a half-blind old lady dodder in and myopically scan the shelves. ‘Would you be Mr. Smith then?’ she said to the owner. ‘That’s ‘Smyth’ actually’ he answered icily. ‘Ah Smith, Smyth, shit, shite – do you have any Sweet Afton over there?’

Any of us lucky enough to make it into our dotage should really make use of the few benefits that it brings.

Comment number: 017541   Posted by: Lung the Younger on September 3, 2008 08:27 AM from IP: 213.97.42.225

Overheard long long ago in a place far far away: an older couple, one said to the other "I hope my teeth don't fall out." Used and abused by friends and family many times since, with adaptation: e.g. "I hope my feet don't fall off", "I hope my head doesn't fall off" etc. I love those old people, looking forward to becoming one myself soon.

Comment number: 017542   Posted by: Lola on September 3, 2008 08:51 AM from IP: 172.24.51.165

They remind me of my great-grandmother. My father called her one of the meanest women to ever live. After my great-grandfather died, she realized she had lost her favorite person to torture. So she killed herself. By eating a box of saltwater taffy. She was diabetic.

You can't make that shit up.

Comment number: 017544   Posted by: myra on September 5, 2008 05:22 AM from IP: 66.245.101.243

My grandmother lived with her sister in their golden years. When I was a kid, the two of them would come over for dinner regularly, and I would sit absolutely absorbed by every word they said. I vividly recall the time they told my mother, who tried gently to edit one of their conversations at Thanksgiving, that they were old enough to say whatever they damn well pleased, whenever the hell they wanted. Then they would continue on with some story about their latest trip to the grocery store. (I bet that cashier still has nightmares about the two of them.)

But I miss both of them terribly.

Comment number: 017550   Posted by: Jennie on September 8, 2008 01:25 PM from IP: 68.19.247.208

These are NOT the golden years. These are the rusty iron years. They are enough to make you drink well liquor neat. I know this because I am older than God's great-granduncle. The only thing left to hope for is that someone will laugh at me in a bar, and later someone will miss me.

Comment number: 017551   Posted by: debbie on September 8, 2008 05:56 PM from IP: 75.16.48.71

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