Music: Cocteau Twins: Garlands
Tonight was a regular communication at the lodge, and after brief business, a Master Mason degree was conferred (ever heard the phrase “I gave so-and-so the third degree,” or “so-and-so gave me the third degree”). I enjoyed not being the candidate and getting to welcome another brother.
Curiosity and my own intellectual interest in the history of occultism caused me to pursue the Craft; now that I’ve had time to study and be a part of it, I can honestly say I appreciate the fraternity and what it offers its members. I enjoy the company of my older brethren, most of whom are in their 60s or 70s; they are kind, welcoming, never judgmental but open, never quick to advice but there to counsel. I’m reminded when I am there how much I have to learn about being a good person.
The meeting did go much longer than I had anticipated, however, and by the end, I was ready for bed. So, as I sauntered home I decided a nightcap was in order, of course.
Walking downtown to the regular haunt I started thinking about moving this summer, and how much I will miss downtown Baton Rouge at night. Downtown at night is desolate and bright, cold structually but oddly warm with the smell of petrol refining and possibility. The buildings are a hodgepodge of ugly 70s structures and older art deco, the latter usually lit with strategically placed spotlights (especially the phallic “New” capital buidling). The town at night creates a pressing feeling of solitude–like being at home in the winter, by yourself, with some comforting quilt your Great Granny Freeman made (it’s fallen to pieces now, but I loved that quilt). , And then, when you happen upon a bar door and open it, it’s full of people smoking, drinking, and talking (more the first than the second, and the second, the third). This sense of solitude, then suddently, PEOPLE, reminded me of Minneapolis in the winter, when everyone is indoors.
I walked into the Red Star hoping to see a neighborhood face (everyone does like to be in a place where at least someone knows your name). No one was there but for a cadre of young mods (it’s all about the hair, as Mirko says) waiting around to see the Death Ray Davies. I wedged into the bar and ordered a Manhattan (an old favorite that I’ve just started ordering again after a many year binge on bourbon on the rocks) and found a chair in the middle of the bar an plopped, as there was no room at the bar-bar. No cranny to hide in to people watch, no place to go but, well, the spotlight. Me and my Manhattan and the best jukebox in town . . . but sitting in the middle of the people-watching-X without a friendly face to say hello to.
I’ve been coming to this bar semi-regularly since I’ve moved here. The bar staff revolves constantly; the only stand-by who has been there long enough looks like one of the kids in The Killers (yes, it is all about the hair) but is a horrid bartender with an attitude that does not befit Baton Rouge. I don’t understand the new NYC/Miami attitude that has started to infect some of the bartending staff downtown, but that’s another post for another day.
So I am sitting and drinking my Manhattan and trying to people watch. To my left, in the periphery, a beautiful woman, 23 perhaps, with long dark hair. She is with a very scruffy older man, say 27, who is on the other side of a beam supporting the roof (so I cannot see him, only her, again, in the fuzzy right of sight). She’s staring at first, then gawking, then talking to the boy-behind-the-beam.
I realized I was wearing a very conservative blue blazer, with a red polka-dot tie, conservative shoes and khakis. I looked like a Republican with long hair (a bow tie would have sealed the deal). It occurred to me that she was trying to figure me out: who is this old thirty-something guy, what’s his story? Why is he here . . . .
I let myself think for a moment that I knew her, had her pretty much figured out as this was my scene then, although I admit it was much larger in DC. I knew her dreams and desires and what she was all about; I knew the lay of hip-star and why she held her cigarette the way that she did.
But it was just a moment, because I remembered the meeting I came from and how non-judgmental my elders were there. I was angry about feeling 27 but having to admit I’m almost 32.
I have no idea what this young woman’s life is like, what her dreams are, or why she holds the cigarette the way she does. I’m open to being surprised.
I finished my drink quickly and walked home leisurely.