South City Cool

February 25, 2013 at 2:10 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Living in St. Louis is said to be like living in the biggest small town you’ve ever seen. To outsiders, this city is no more than a pit stop; no one’s idea of a destination.  Sometimes, I think about how i’m going to leave this cespool and start my real life in the big city. I’ll occasionally daydream about the claustrophobic feeling that only CTA can give and wonder when my big escape will be. I think, will the change make such a marked difference? Will I leave these familiar streets and find something so remarkable, it makes the whole journey worth it?

There’s a weird stalemate between having unabashed pride in our little backwater town and absolute disgust. No one group is more guilty of this than musicians here. The general attitude vacillates between thinking our scene has some of the most dynamic and talented artists in the world, to believing there is nothing worthwhile happening on any given day. I joke about how being a starving artist in LA means that you are doing just that. In St. Louis, it just means you’re homeless.

I get bored living here. I am told this is a normal thing and that it happens regardless of where you choose to live out your miserable existence. From time to time though, this city can still reaffirm how great life can be. Last night was one of those times.

Saturdays are my typical days off from the shameful grind that comes with being something called a barista. I like to classify myself as a glorified dishwasher but with less self worth. The plan for the day: record shopping, comic books, beers. Only one of these things managed to happen as I spent most of the day waiting on my car to be released from the auto-shop. I emerge from the suburbs at around five, ready for a night of general mischief.

I stop at a local restaurant and meet my friend Kevin for dinner. We sit ass to elbow amidst the Saturday night crowd. I forget that normal people live on the weekends. I’m used to seeing the streets and bars empty; this noise and energy makes me uncomfortable. Kevin tentatively makes small talk with me, worrying about what the cougars eating next to us might over hear. He tells me some sort of road stories while wildly gesturing to fill in the details. This is the part of my story where I eat too many lentils which I will later regret. I tell him how I want to get my conceal and carry permit, he flashes me some handle tucked into his jeans. He pays for dinner, we make some vague plans and go our separate ways.

The next stop I make is to what a friend of mine calls, the winchester. It’s the Cheers of South City. It’s open mic night and I happen to get there before anyone else. The bar is quiet. No one is there save for me, the owner, and my partner in crime; Zeei. We have a drink and talk about my latest dating disaster. No one can figure out where I meet some of the crazy assholes that try so desperately to woo me. I try to blame it on my animal magnetism and large chest. This seems to make the most sense.

A few people wander into the bar. At first glance, the host of the open mic is the only person I recognize. The other two folks sit at the far end of the bar. A few minutes pass and I realize that I had in fact met these people before. We chit chat for a second about our outing together on some mystical party bus adventure the month before. There is no way that you can walk in anywhere in this city and not know a single person there. This must be that small town charm that people keep insisting we have. Zeei and I finish our drinks and head out to FUBAR, a music venue down the street.

Tonight, there are two shows scheduled we learn a we walk into the bar. I was there for my friend’s record release on the bar side while on the venue side high schoolers did their best Zach de la Rocha impersonations. Two rednecks kept muttering about teenage slits while I stood outside smoking a cigarette. I toss my butt and yell loudly, “slits and clits, AMIRIGHT?”. I walk back into the bar while laughing to myself and shaking my head.

Several bands play their own versions of Promise Ring covers for the next few hours while I get progressively drunker with Zeei. Our mutual friend Stephanie is working on the venue side so we walk over and visit. She tells us about car problems, I chat to her about setting up a proper DJ gig, Zeei drinks another beer. We get bored sitting by the parents of the band on stage and decide to open up the pit. Awkward arm flailing ensued. Butthurt glares were being exchanged all around. Me and Zeei decide it’s not our scene and return to the proper side of the bar.

Finally, the band I came to see started playing at around midnight. They do a great job channeling all of my inner punk child’s chi. I bounce around the pit for a while until I realize my ears haven’t stopped ringing in two hours and I am now suffering a sudden and severe headache. I leave midway through the set and return to my car.

Zeei decides to take Stephanie home. We make more vague plans for later.  We go our separate ways.

It’s a little past midnight and I dive over to the other side of Grand Blvd to another local bar called Mangia. My friend Sean is working the door. I shuffle in and say hi. He’s drinking black coffee and looking aloof as always. He offers me a sip and I burn the shit out of my tongue. I insist that it’s some black magic that he wields to drink such a beverage. We chitchat. He buys me a beer. We continue to send each other texts for the remainder of the night judging everyone else at the bar. We joke about the over weight ginger preacher man doing his best Danzig voice while slurping his whiskey loudly over the PA.

Mangia is the place where all of South City congregates when it’s closing time everywhere else. Being one of the only 3 am bars on the street tends to have this effect. My friend Shanna and her boyfriend show up eventually fresh out of The Book of Mormon. We kibitz about how jealous I am and how great the show was. We proceed to drink more beers and take drunken instagram photos. I’m ok with this because she reminds me of some sort of fuzzy kitten that I would in all likelihood smother to death with my affections.  She is adorable and I want to take her home with me.

The band continues on shouting about dildos and drunks. I feel like i’m the only one in the bar listening. I hoot and holler from the back, it’s not often that I get to be drunk in public with no responsibilities. It’s at this point where I decide that me and this band are kindred spirits. Shanna and I slam our hands in time to the music on the table. People behind us pop rogue balloons from an earlier event. It startles me every time.

My phone is dying as I check the time. It’s almost 2 AM now. A parade of strangers starts to filter through the bar. Upon closer inspection I realize that I know evey person in this densely packed space. There’s the cute brothers from Tennessee, the random girl from my DJ gig last week, the headcase that no one wanted to be around. These are my people. The late night drunken street people. The crowd mills around me, everyone has to make the rounds and say hi. I sit and watch the interactions going on. It reminds me of synapses firing. I think to myself how the room is electric. I can’t quit thinking in tangents. I want to ramble on about it to someone but I figured no one wants to listen to my mutterings.

My friend Kaj shows up. He hands me another beer, entranced by the bar band. As he sips his cheap swill, he thanks me for telling him to come and saving him from a long night at the lesbian bar two blocks over. I tell him he’s welcome.

The crowd continues to swirl about. There is a dim hum that fills the gaps between each patron. I’m starting to lose myself. Sean is trying to convince me to go to some keg party down the street. I think about going. The guy makes a solid argument. My phone is dead. I am alone here.

I tell Sean that I need to charge my phone and then I’ll make a decision. This starts the process of me leaving the bar. I spend the next thirty minutes saying my goodbyes and being sucked back into frivolous drunk talks about nothing. Another man professes his love for me. I sigh and try to dodge another person at the other end of the room. I walk outside, people are huddled together smoking and carrying on. Another round of hello’s and goodbye’s follows. I often skip this part of the night and just duck out. No one remembers this part usually any way. It’s some weird bar formality that I feel pressured to preform. I don’t usually have the energy for this.

I walk down the street to another friends house. I go inside and charge my phone. We talk about life and whatever. I doze off.

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