Following is a bit of weirdness that will maybe make some sense to the chosen kin that I was among back in the '70s and thereon. Yeah, it might make a bit of sense to whack-jobs like those that thought Ginsberg and Burroughs could write (I am happy to be among such). Whatever. A guy with a goatee plucking a standup bass and some girl in a fuzzy black sweater on bongos would not hurt the presentation, but the setting and theme are timeless. I trust that the men pictured below would have known just what to do with me if I had long ago wandered into their establishment.
Now, some of you all might remember spending a good while long ago in the little city of Northampton, Massachusetts. You might recall a joint up the street and down on the corner from the funky tomb the original incarnation of the notorious Hooligan Band called office and studio space. That palace of regret, grandiose thinking, and forgetting would be the Del Ray Tavern.
Look up “dive” in a big old dictionary; dive as in a saloon. Next to a serviceable definition you will find the accompanying illustration; an interior picture of the Del Ray at any time ‘tween 10AM and 1AM. Not much to see; so dark, cruddy, smoky and dank that the you might as well be looking up the nostrils of a vampire bat snortin’ dry snot and shruggin’ off last winter’s hibernation in the shattered rafters of an old tobacco barn burned up and pretty well fallen down fifty years before your ass arrived into this strange world.
The photo is, however, apt; dark, cruddy, smoky and dank also well describes the interior state of the patrons of this gloom benighted habitude.
Take a gander and have a seat at the right end of our happy vomitorium. Two seats to your left is old Dick Noble, last of the first American fly-boys of World War One. In June-something of 1981, he celebrated his 81st birthday.
The celebration began with a good old fashioned Bloody Mary. Anybody remember those gut-searing concoctions first blended in Saratoga, New York?
Hmmmm… you start with a beer mug, soapy and warm, fresh from the crusty old sink, nicely sanitized with a stinky bar rag.
Fill half full with lousy, watery beer of the finest American vintage.
Add one uncooked egg and much salt, a good tumble of pepper, Tabasco if handy but not required. More black pepper works fine.
Fill the mug further, two-thirds full, with condensed tomato soup (then thirty-three cents a can).
Top off with as much cheap, bad vodka as the mug will hold.
This last step is crucial. Without the alimentary analgesic resting buoyantly on the top of this delightful beverage, the patron will throw up before gulping the entire mess down his ulcerous gullet.
Well, Noble did reliably regurgitate his little eye-opener, careful to do so upon his own lap, but not on the bar where the tear-bender, Eddy, had already provided him with a complimentary double shot of grain alcohol distilled from the finest weedy grass or decaying leaves or dead crow feathers or road kill, all skillfully blended with muddy water from down at the creek, purified in straining the gunk out through somebody’s underpants by trained booze artisans of the Alabama persuasion.
No offense to my friends from Muscle Shoals. You all make fine music.
Anyhow, old Airman Nobel throws up again, this time scoring a memorable hit on the old lady three stools to my left. She doesn’t make much notice, except to turn her fogged gaze upon mine own. She starts babbling about her kid or her long ago boyfriend or something.
Noble lurches out of the bar. Brunch awaits him. Maybe, just maybe, like on any other day, some chump will toss some change in his cup. Maybe ol’ Andy will make a run to the liquor store for him. Nobel ain’t allowed around there anymore. Andy is a saint of the streets.
Whatever. I reckon that the future will be what it will be. But, I was impressed by Nobel’s demonstration of breakfast as performance art. I was thus so moved to compose a little ditty. Here is a poem.
Down at the Del Ray © Solomon 1981?
Down the Del Ray
where most folks like me is ugly n’ crazy
got rips ‘tween our ribs
what’s aircraft linen wore out where the wind blows through
Crazy men scratchin’ on bar rags
quotin’ expressions from a cracked old bag seein’ in me her youngest son
now dead to the last best war
and three empty bottles since noon
In the imagined dawn of such precious moments as these
that dead person n’ me often meet at the bar
and we play crazy eights for each other
we toast to our shared apparition!
Hic Finis Est
Hic Finis Est