After being greeted by the one and only Sinclair Sexsmith and finally getting to meet the oh so lovely Kristen late Thursday night, I woke up Friday morning in Brooklyn.
Kristen started our morning off with cinnamon roll biscuits from scratch (which were, without flinching in any spec of a doubt, the most delicious thing that either a biscuit or cinnamon had ever done.) After breakfast we all spent the afternoon hanging out together and being fairly restful, as we predicted correctly, this would be our last resting opportunity for several days.
That evening I had dinner plans with one of my favorite friends, Mikey, who recently moved to New York, and then we were off to meet a lovely crowd of folks at a local dyke bar in Park Slope.
Once at the bar and full knowing that we were all asking for nothing less than a wee bit of trouble, right off the bat the whole lot of us counted to three and drank our *car bombs down and gone (*a half pint of Guinness with a shot of whiskey and Irish cream.)
An hour or so later Mikey and I decide we wanted to play a game of pool. There is a back room to this bar where the pool table lives and Sinclair warned me, more than once, that she has never felt very comfortable back there. “Phshaw to that,” I thought. “It’s just pool. It is our national lesbian sport (besides camping and rugby). It is our birthright!”
Mikey and I wrote our names down on the list and waited. An hour or so later a large woman with a very serious demeanor found us up front and declared rather than asked us, “You are Mikey and jesse. You’re up against Suz and me”
We went back and the game began. It was awkwardly quiet. Both Mikey and I felt the chill right away and tried to talk to and befriend Barb a bit with absolutely no success. I mean, her disdain was so blatant and only became increasingly painful as the game continued. One of us would say something to her or ask her a question and receive absolutely nothing in return. Not a look, not a glance, gesture, scoff, not a nothing. It was really uncomfortable, to say the very, very least and it made for a long game. I whispered to Mikey, “How can she already hate us? We just got here.”
Mikey told me not to worry, that we just needed to get into the game and that things would lighten up. We both tried to keep things light. Oh how we tried.
At several different points in the game Barb switched out her personal pool stick for a different one. Switched out her very own personal pool sticks, as in plural, more than one, you ask? Yes. She was not only totally scary and wearing a black, three fingered pool glove and had made it very clear, without needing to formalize the sentiment, that we were not invited to her birthday party, she also had several pool sticks of her own.
I bit my tongue three different times but finally I decided I had a really great one liner. It was sure to crack a smile. The fourth time Barb traded out pool sticks I said, “Hey! This isn’t golf!” – aaand cue solo awkward laugh with cricket sounds in the background. She didn’t even look at me.
Mikey also tried to lighten things up with her own technique that I like to call: irresistible southern charm. She walked right up to Barb, stood beside her and postured herself exactly the same way Barb was standing: arms crossed, pool stick in the nook of her right elbow, slouched posture with a bent right knee.
Mikey (please keep in mind the butter-like Tennessee accent): Hey Barb. (NO response.) I heard y’all had a little pool club goin’ here, huh?
Mikey: Well, see, I just moved here. I’m really not great at pool but it is fun. And if y’all play here all the time. I mean, I’m pretty busy and don’t live very close by but I would like to meet people and, well, maybe I could join y’alls little pool club?
Barb: League. (long pause, zero eye contact) No.
Poor Mikey. She walked back over looking quite defeated and said, “Well, that Barb has really hurt my feelings.”
I told her it wasn’t us. Barb was made of ice and stone. We were fine and kind of suck at the game but we were having a good time, or trying to anyway. Mikey nodded.
The game continued as Mikey and I did our best to amuse each other and have a good time.
Now we were 5 to 2 (and to clarify per Violet’s request, that means we still had 5 balls on the table that we needed to get in while they only had 2.) Barb’s pool partner, Suz, was up. I loved Suz. She was short and drunk with hat-head-hair to her shoulders and a big baggy red flannel shirt that fell over her baggy jeans. All she did was giggle and snort at anything anyone said or didn’t say.
At one point she walked by me and I whispered, “I love you Suz. I don’t know what I would do without you.” She snorted and giggled as she slapped me on the back before aiming up her next shot.
Suz was a good shot, but she was also a bit drunk and not on her game.
Eventually they got to the 8 ball while we still had 3 on the table (again, to clarify, this means they were on the final ball and we were really losing.) It was Suz’s turn. Barb still looked like someone had just spit on her shoes but at this point I had decided that was just her resting face.
Suz aimed. Suz shot. Aaaaand Suz scratched…. on the 8 ball, which means they LOSE and although we didn’t really WIN, by default we WON! (And the crowd in my head went wild while keeping an eye on the nearest exit should Barb lose her cool.)
So, now we were without grumpy, scary, angry Barb which allowed our breathing to return to normal. As the winners (by default), Mikey and I played another game with a decent guy with a green goatee and his friend. We lost the game quickly and painlessly to both of our relief. We had had enough of this hard core pool nonsense.
And just like someone had cued in the final credits to our pool adventure, finally my jukebox music came on and the bar was blasting “If I could Turn Back Time” (if you are at all surprised by this there is no hope for you.) And all of a sudden, my main man Sinclair Sexsmith showed up in the forbidden back room and proceeded to dance dance dance. I grabbed a pool stick-microphone and began singing along at the top of my lungs. Yes, my throat was very sore for the rest of the night and into the next day and yes we were totally fabulous.
But mid-song, out of the corner of my eye, there she was. Barb was back. “I’d take back all the words that hurt you and you’d stay…” I don’t know much about Barb, as she was a tough egg to crack, but I do know two things for sure: She hated me and she hated me singing Cher tunes in her pool room. The only time all night that we made any eye contact was while I was singing. “If I could reach the stars…” She caught my glance and beat me up with the look she shot. But I was singing Cher, I just didn’t have room to care.
After the song was over Mikey and I lingered in the back room a bit, chatting with the few other folks that didn’t hate us and who had personalities. And then, all of a sudden I hear, “Move” and feel a pretty blunt shove to my back that jolted me forward. Barb pushed me. Pretty hard really and I knew exactly what this was. This was the white shark bump-and-bite technique: First, the shark bumps you really hard with its nose to disorient you and as a test. After that, if you see the shark again it’s because she is going to eat you.
My brain, now on a few pints of beer, thought, “What the hell?!” My mouth, also talking through a few pints said, “Listen dude, I may look butch or whatever, but I am actually more fragile and sensitive than anything. ‘Can you get out of my way’ would have worked just fine.”
I am not a fighter. I do have a mouth on me but I do not throw or get in the way of punches. Ever. (Except for that one time in the 6th grade when I beat up Jake Nepp for picking on my little brother.) Mostly, my skills are in my swift ability to talk a little shit and run like all hell. (Fight and flight, remember?)
So, I made this comment to Barb with car-bomb-confidence but as it was all falling out of my mouth I had this alternate vision of seeing the shark come back and me flying by the crowd of folks in the front room yelling, “Nice to meet you all! Gotta go now! I’ll text you when it’s safe to stop running, Sin!” Fortunately, the pool shark wasn’t hungry for an innocent-little-fag-fish right then and there was no need to flee. Barb was all bump and no bite.
At this point I was a bit jostled and a little pissed off, as any innocent out of town fish who was just trying to chill with the pool school would be. So, instead of letting my mouth get me into any real trouble I went back up front, told Sin she was right about the pool room and carried on with the night and with a wonderful group of pleasant, non-angry, interesting and fun folks.
As we were leaving the bar that night I turned back and put several more Cher songs on the jukebox, just for Barb.
The last song, of course, was Just Like Jesse James.