tweedle-dee, tweedle-douche

It has been a long day. I need a little sit-down where everybody knows your name. Funny enough, I know none of the names of the half-dozen or so fellas scattered around the bar, and I suspect none of them knows mine. So I figure I’ll make it a quick one and head home.

I’m sitting there with a lager, and a guy down the bar gets into an impassioned discussion with his companion about ’90s music. It’s ’90s music, I think. Why bother?

His friend pushes out from the bar to throw some money in the jukebox.

He calls out to the bartender to get his attention. “Hey, Vince. I have two problems,” he says, loud enough for everyone to hear. “We need a couple more drinks. And … all I have are large bills.”

He ceremoniously hands over a 50, slowly. I can see Grant’s stern, almost reproachful, gaze from six seats away. I think he must want me to see it.

Oh, Jesus, I think. What a problem. Oh, you poor thing and your burdensome cash flow. Please, honey. A 50 is not so huge.

They’ve been there a while, the two of them, I can tell. I’m only arriving at the tail end of happy hour, but they’ve been around for—what? at least three, maybe four by now. This guy is talking big. Acting big. He points his finger when he talks and raises his voice when his friend tries to get a word in. Trying to impress his companion? Us? I can’t tell.

Who carries 50s?

The bartender shows no signs of being impressed or annoyed. It’s just money. He goes to fetch the drinks, brings them back, takes the bill, returns the change. Routine.

Meanwhile, the man’s friend comes back, and the room is overtaken by the loud, distorted staccato of electric guitars, a wash of angry drums, and a mournful, affected overmasculine wail.

The two guys start talking again. Arguing? Then agreeing? About the song. I don’t remember the substance, but I remember the tone. We can all be experts in five pints or less, and they are talking loudly—about tone and cultural relevance and art.

Why? No one is listening to you, I think. Then I stop myself. Yes. You are.

They come to an impasse and close their eyes and listen together. Nodding slowly. Meaningfully. Importantly.

What is this song, anyway? I seem to remember it from high school. Is it cool now because we can look back on it? Or is it just an ironic appreciation? There is a certain nostalgia, I suppose, though this music is caught up in a sort of teenage angst I never quite gathered up the urge to claim 20 years ago. My vanilla childhood was unpunctuated by those jagged edges. Angst, for me, came later.

Jesus. 20 years. Is this the test of time for the Grunge Era?

I lose interest and start to play a game on my phone. The next time I look up, the two men are gone.

The bartender goes over to where they were sitting to clear their empties and collect his tip. He finds 50 cents.


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the untallied hours

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