the lost man chronicles
the daily chronicle

inside looking in

At 10:56 I had 34 minutes before the next bus was to exit the station. The grande mocha (latté) seemed to have suddenly opened the serotonin valves wide open, because I felt sleepier than ever, rather than more awake, as I was vying for. And now that I just drank a vat of coffee, if anything, I was bound to fall asleep on the bus, miss my stop and piss in my pants along the way.

Anyway, despite my wary and weary state, it had been an interesting evening.

Much of it was spent not-so-surreptitiously lurking behind a Chinese curtain listening to traditional Chinese music at a swanky French restaurant on the Upper East Side. The musicians had invited me to La Grenouille, where no one looked like they were worth any less than a million dollars.

They were performing for a small private black-tie soiree of fifty-or-so people. Most were in their 60s with arm-candy in their 30s. Atop the reception table there were several cases of medals, and so I gathered this was a ceremonial gathering of some secret society that ensured the rich get richer and the poor remain disenfranchised.

Before being snuck into this event, I ran into an old chap at the entrance who was so shit-faced that he had to put his arm around me to avoid falling as her stumbled out the door.

Although he was a complete stranger, he was beaming with joy and utterly drunk, so I decided to go with the moment and have some fun. I figured, if anything, I might get a good story out of him.

On the border of seventy, I took him for a moneyed alcoholic who lived a leisurely and somewhat wayward life, wandering from fête to feast, lost and resigned to being a bit lonely amongst the social elite.

Being that the maitre de was escorting him out as I arrived, I assumed him to be a trouble-maker as well, and thus, took an instant liking to him.

He leaned into me and heaved a breath of rye, imbibed whiskey always having a distinct odor when exhaled. I started the conversation by chiding him a little, “So, it looks like you’re having a good time, my friend…” stretching out my rhetorical pause with a lingering look into his eyes to solicit a response.

He answered with a slow blink and a “Well, hell yes. And what are you doing?” He added a burp and a shy smile, “Oh, excuse me.”

I absconded answering, lest I bore him with the mundane details and went on goading. “So, where are all your girlfriends?”

He smiled then muttered, “They’re waiting for me at home. They (women) always wait for me.” He then proceeded to slur on about what sounded like a “coat party” his friend John was having. He talked through his teeth a lot, which combined with his pompous accent and his obvious excitement, made it difficult to comprehend what he was saying. My puzzled look in turn prompted him to repeat “Coat” which I eventually understood to be “Coke” three or four times before I caught on.

“John said he’s having a coke! party. I like to do a little coke every once in a while, she’s a beautiful bitch though,” repeating “a beautiful bitch” a few times with special emphasis on the “tch,” as if it left a tasty tang in his mouth. The clenched teeth and pursed smile alluded to a love me-hate me affair, which he apparently was missing at the moment.

Clenching his teeth, he continued, “As long as you got her under control though. Because tonight if I let her take me, tomorrow morning she’s going to work me like a mule – and make me want to fuck like a madman. That’s all I’ll want to do is fuck, fuck, fuck.”

The riled old geezer then stepped up onto the two-foot planter at the edge of the sidewalk and grabbed onto the trunk of the tree for balance. He stuck his other hand out as if he were about to give a grand, life-affirming soliloquy, but proceeded to lament his situation instead, “Shit, Shit, shit! I left John’s number at my apartment. I’d have to go all the way home and call him and then come all the way back.” Both he and I knew he was in no state to do that at all. For unless he did a line before embarking on his mission, he was inclined to fall in submission to aging mortality, and wake up on the floor of his entranceway the next morning.

Even though the conversation was just getting interesting and it was teetering on the edge of some sordid revelation, I was still sober, and suddenly remembered why I was here in the first place. And since, I now knew this party wasn’t going any further, and that I was not bound to be treated to some rich man’s whimsical night-out, I bid my farewell, wising him good luck and lunged for the door to break away.

As I entered the restaurant, both the maitre de and the hostess greeted me with gritty French accents, obviously irked by someone who obviously did not belong, for my shirt collar was frayed and not worthy of their establishment. I tried not to be too self-conscious about the shot collar, which I had taken note of earlier that morning and had to pretend I was unconscious of while presenting at an executive meeting later in the afternoon. So, I figured I could survive the shame once again, especially if it riled a couple of haughty strangers.

Apparently, I flustered them even more when I declared that I was here to see the hired help perform. I was asked to wait to the bar, where I ordered a fifteen-dollar glass of Maker’s Mark— neat, with a glass of water.

Usually, you’ll get lucky if the bartender fills half a lowball—this guy filled a wine glass. It was no wonder that the guy outside was wasted. I hadn’t eaten since lunch, so I forewent decorum and helped myself to handfuls of the bar nuts as well—blanched, lightly-salted almonds and peanuts that were extraordinarily extra-crisp.

Eventually, I was escorted upstairs and asked to stand aside the performers. It felt quite awkward being an uninvited guest, and a not-so-subtle voyeur who stood out amongst the seated aging jet-set and well-to-do who were dressed to the nines and dining upon petit patties of blood-red filet mignon, adorned with a swath of rich-brown gravy and a single green sprig of parsley.

But as I stood there, taking coy sips of my smoky, amber ambrosia, I relaxed enough to observe that they were taking no notice of me whatsoever. Essentially, I was wallpaper, just like the exquisite music was little more than background muzac for them. For they were happily immersed in their fey conversations about high-brow whatever, which after a lifetime of pomp and privilege, had made them entirely indifferent to, if not wholly incognizant of, the riff-raff that serviced their needs and scurried frantically about to please them.

As I was nearing the bottom of the well, I laughed at how I could be so presumptuous of circumstance. For I was observing as a slightly intoxicated and totally ignorant outsider, and thus I knew my conclusions were skewed, if not totally erroneous.

If anything, being on the outside looking in, revealed more about how I rely on my imagination to discern and amuse me, more than anything I could have otherwise realistically gathered by merely looking in upon a gathering of strangers bestowing honors and celebrating some unknown accomplishment.

I swirled what I decided to be my last sip of bourbon about my gums and relished the tingle that accompanied the euphonic sway of the lithe pings of the hammered dulcimer and the rhythmic play upon little red drums.

At an interlude, I snuck in and sat next to my host, the percussionist. I professed my admiration and asked how I might relay this to the master yangquin player, Xiao (see-ow) Xiannian in Mandarin. I exclaimed “Hung-how!” several times and he placed his right fist in his left hand for a humble bow in return.

I smiled and quietly excused myself, parting with promises of hiring them for the upcoming Holiday Party I was planning.

Returning to the bar to leave my glass, my old pal the sloshed cokehead had apparently been let back in. He was telling the barkeep, who nodded reluctantly in reply, “Show, we’re all squared now are we?” The contrite lush then turned to me smiling wryly and embraced my shoulders with kneading caresses that were more salacious and solicitous than simply drunk and overly-amicable. His eyes narrowed as he plied, “Relax.”

Amused and well-knowing he wasn’t getting anything out of me, I let him have his thrill and replied, “Oh, I’m relaxed my friend, I’m relaxed,” patting the hand that was on my shoulder and then reaching out to grab some nuts.

This apparently encouraged him and so he retorted “Oh, really?,” as if I was inferring a sordid invitation of some sort.

“Yeah, really,” I answered smugly, as I grabbed another pocketful of peanuts and bid my final farewell.

I glided out the door, escaping the eager clutches of the old man who wanted me to be his whore for the evening, and I scurried across town to the Rendezvous Café. I was hankering for one of their falafels with a ladleful of their trademark garlic-rife baba ghanouj.

It was as delectable as I anticipated and thoroughly enjoyed, as I devoured it at a sidewalk table while listening to the raucously drunk twenty-somethings, a mix of B&Ts and tourists, who were loitering outside. An overflowing crowd that was not only growing louder by the minute, but all the more bolder with each libation served by Scruffy-Duffy’s, which was in full swing next door.

I was particularly amused by humpty-dumpty and the frumpy-dumpy tramp he was hovering over in a hapless attempt to thwart the certainty that he was not getting laid or otherwise lucky tonight.

Well-fed and now fully feeling the effects of intoxication, I knew I would not make it home if I did not take measures to stay awake. So I hurried across the street to Starbucks and indulged in a grande mocha (latté).

When I arrived at Port Authority, it was 10:56 and I had 34 minutes before the next bus was to part. The caffeine in two shots of espresso apparently could not loosen the grip that somnolence already had on me. I struggled painfully for the whole half-an-hour ride, pinching my cheek on occasion until I stumbled off the bus and dragged myself home. The clock struck midnight as I walked in, and by 12:15 I was snoring, naked in bed.

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