Tonight, I went to a bar that I call the Shepherd and the Knucklefucker. I think it's actually called the Shepherd and the Knucklehead, but I never remember that.
The place is smaller than your living room. When you see it from the outside, it looks like a place better fit for Greenwich Village then for Haledon; a brick building that somehow looks short and squat, with an overhang that you would barely notice (unless you're a smoker that has to stand outside when it rains).
Outside the bar there is a plaque that is bolted into the red bricks, and it has a picture of Jack Kerouac, along with some caption that says, "We think if he was alive, he would like to have drank here". Being as Kerouac was a drunk, I think he would have liked to have drank anywhere that there was liquor, but hey, that's not the point.
When you walk in, it smells how you'd think your grandparent's house smells; homey in a way, but a homey that was familiar to someone else. I mean, it might just be the influx of hippies that hang out there, but it certainly has a distinctive smell to it, especially for a bar. Now that smoking is banned, bars smell almost like other places- neutral (or "fresh" depending on your point of view). No, not this one. It smells like it looks: kind of rangy, dirty, crowded, and filled with people that won't ever go up to the rich kid bars like the Greenhouse or Casey's.
The first time I went in there, I was half drunk already, so I couldn't really figure out how cool this place was. The second time though, which was tonight, I was a little straighter, so I could see what was going on a little better. The last time I was there, I remember texting myself the word, "Words". But then, I was drinking...so I completely forgot what it meant or why I text messaged myself it. I knew that it was something important that I had wanted to remember, but that was it. I gave up, but kept it in the back of my head to look for the next time.
I knew, of course, that it had something to do with the bathroom. The bathroom at this place is covered in graffiti, so much so that if you wanted to write something you would really have to struggle to find a spot to carve. However, this is not some bullshit gangsta graffiti that says, "Reppin 201 Jersey", as you so often find in New jersey, nor is it some, "call 978-454-9696 for a great blowjob" graffiti. It is the kind of graffiti that souls who have read too much know, the kind where you pick that one quote from some book that you really dug and write it everywhere. Well, these walls promote that.
On these walls, there are all kinds of things. There are anti-Bush epithets right alongside quotes from Faulker and Wilde, there are quotes that guys made up, quotes from Hemingway, and there is, of course, once in while, talk about blowjobs (this is New Jersey, I mean. Apparently, we're all about "good head".) Either way, as soon as I walked into the bathroom, I knew that the "words" thing came from here. Being as I know myself pretty well, I knew I would find it quickly; I took out the camera phone while I was pissing, figured on trying to at least give an impression of this bathroom.
I figured it would be at eye level since I rarely look higher than my 5'6 stature when I'm drunk; sure enough, I found it there. The quote was as beautiful as it was the first time I saw it, and it meant as much the second time: "My words go beyond me". For those of you that aren't writers, you might not dig this as much. For those of us that are drunken bards, however, it means the world.
I have doubted the existence of God since I could think straight, and I have known that I am a cursed writer from the beginning, and so these words meant more to me than I could say. It was almost as if it was God himself calling out to me, saying that what I write now will live and breath far beyond my earthly body. If you study writers enough, you realize that most of us die penniless, and we are rarely appreciated until a couple centuries after we died in the slums. This one quote, however, gave me hope; no matter what I do, history will verify that what I say will live on through the ages, and that no matter when I die, my words will not only continue, but take on a world of their own, completely independent from their drunken author. It is, in some ways, a comfort; in another way, it proves, at least to me, that God exists.
When I came out of that bathroom, my camera phone was safely stowed away, so that no one can see that this drunk is taking pictures of the bathroom walls (unless they see that picture above, of course). As I walked out, some dude is walking in, and, being as there is no lock on the bathroom door, I'm glad that I averted an embarrassing situation by leaving when I did. With a nod of, "It's cool, man" I let the guy into the bathroom and take off.
The first thing I saw upon reaching the bar was two bearded guys wailing on the bar itself like it was a massive drum in the Congo. I wasn't in the bathroom for that long, of course, but in my absence these guys claimed the spot near the end, and one was playing harmonica while the other hammered on the dark wood. Both were shorter than me, and had that leanness that comes either from too many nights in the woods or too much coke and acid (or both). The guy with the smaller beard was playing the harmonica, and the other fella was hitting and smacking with some kind of rhythm that we've all long since forgotten; his hippie buddies were just sitting there, nodding their head and digging what is going on. I don't remember what song was on the jukebox, but when it ended, they just start nodding their heads and talking about some bass riff that I didn't even hear, saying how the other one was 'right on". When they finished, I heard a guy from the other end of the bar yell something about how they should take a shower. Obviously that guy's never been here before.
Sitting there, me and my buddy were talking about starting a magazine that will indulge in the greatest sin of America- sports gambling. He keeps talking about what's going on, and how much money he's got at stake, and I just thank fucking Christ that it's not me with $42,000 on the line, because I'd be in debt till I'm 40 if it failed. Being as it's his money, of course, I just kept saying that we shouldn't worry, because if we work hard enough, and are good enough, we'll make it just fine. It's a lot easier to say that when it's someone else's money. Hell, I should be writing for that magazine right now, but this is just coming easier at the moment.
As I looked up, behind me and to the left, I saw a picture of Hunter S. Thompson hanging crooked on the wall. Tacked on to the bottom of the frame is the obituary that came out of the Bergen Record after he committed suicide last year; somehow, I could tell that the picture was there first, and the obituary was put on after it happened. It was the same obituary that I have on my wall in my room. This man was my idol, one of my favorite writers, and he ended up dead at the age of 67 from a self inflicted gunshot wound.
"67. Seventeen years more than I need or wanted. This won't hurt at all". This is from his suicide note, the part that has somehow stuck with me, the part that I have unwittingly memorized. Someone behind me mentions that Thompson got his start doing freelance sportswriting, writing about teams and such; I wonder what people will think of me after I'm gone, and if in fifty years, my picture will be on the wall at some hippie bar in a shit town like his is. I wonder whether he would be impressed or disgusted.