The chef comes up the stairs with a bum knee to tell me a change he has made to tonight's soft-shell crab special. He sits down at barstool one to see how, at 6 o'clock, the evening is starting up at the wine bar of The Dying Gaul. "You have the best job in the place," he tells me, in his Germanic accent, smiling as he looks over at me as I stand my station. "Yeah, it's cool. Dead end though," I kid back. "No, it's not," he says, and that is good to hear. We get to talking. I introduce him, showing him off to the early regulars. Bravo for the new review. "You can be the best chef in the world, but if you can't get your people trained and on board, it's not going to go anywhere." That too is good to hear. Every bit of information, yeah, you hang on to it and store it away, and things like that keep you engaged. An old liberal arts trick.
By midnight the savages had breached the walls. The bar had been battered all night and I had succeeded in getting them all drunk and even charging them for it in the usual give and take. Boss, wife, son, eat at mid bar, and between everyone's water glass and wine glass, it's hard to find space for the second round of small plates, but hey it all works. The boss's family had hung tight all night with the regular crew for a good four hours, and the regulars themselves were putting on an excellent performance. Before the kitchen closed those who'd not eaten ordered dinner and a few then paid their tabs.
It starts with 'hey, can I play one song,' the larger of the two retired colonels of the modern military, after riffing brilliantly all night--"I had a breakthrough in therapy today!:-- wanting to play a song the other had turned him on to, something about 'blanks are taking over the world,' a Leonard Cohen paced song I should never have allowed. But at that point it is hard to spot the one savage who's charge is fatal to the defenses. And then, it's over. They've taken over the sound system. Just a splash more... The charming regulars charming. The last of the usual suspects not giving up their seats. Yeah, I do it to myself, I say, having a nice conversation with a young lady who hangs out with this crowd. I've given out three copies of my novel to good friends. That ain't bad. There was obvious respect for it. People who've known me for years... Many fine moments as people make that August vacation for themselves here at home. The world is represented.
The music keeps on rolling. Things I haven't heard. Good dance moves to Milie Cyrus... Later, Elvis Costello...
It is here where the broken defenses yields a lesson of how deep hospitality goes. The more tried it is, the best comes out. The classic Christian jumping in the river to save the drowning...
The barman learns about music, as his sheltered life of long hours at his station sometimes does not allow.
By the time he gets home he might remember how the bar talk had mentioned the Alamo, thanks to the charming presence of a young Texas flower whose polite reserve lighted the evening. Yup, the Alamo, he thinks of, or is it a movie of the Brits in Africa, their brave fort overrun...
What does the barman find to entertain... He opens a bottle of wine. He shared his liver dinner with the last few people at the bar, and he's lifted a glass with them, but now he's on his own.
What will television yield. Why, yes, The Hank Williams Story, done brilliantly by George Hamilton. (Old movies like It's a Wonderful Life no one cared about during the political-cat-in-heats of the day, too true, too soulful, making folks uncomfortable so that they got abandoned, copyrights let go, to play late night while there are still things called TV sets...) Yes, that rings a bell. They don't get the spinal issue right, but, it's not bad, not at all, rather, pretty honest about drunkenness. Hank's last stop on the road, they goad him toward taking a drink with them, but he calms them by bringing out his guitar and playing "I'm so lonesome I could cry" for them. Bravo, George Hamilton, who is not lip synching (tho' faking it on guitar.)
Then, what was that song, Van Morrison, "In the Garden." Yes, get out the guitar. Soon it's light out.
This is how the savages are dealt with, when the man is finally home, happy with all the Christian hospitality he provides the world.
Up in the heavens there are meteor showers. Down here, man wants to make noise. That is summertime. Ain't no cure for it.