Luigi O’Reilly in Hipster Hell

Woody Caribou, the famous French philosopher once said: “No sir. I ain’t paying ten bucks for a Tartiflette that I happen to know for sure is just a bunch of french fries that you and your hipster buddies have smeared philadelphia cheese over with your sweaty hands. Give me some onion soup.”

I’m walking along a crowded boulevard. It’s daytime. The light is piercing, seering through to the back of my skull. I put on my hat and shades and try to convince myself it’s night. There’s a coffee shop just up ahead. I duck inside.

“Give me a cappucino, make it strong”
“Do you want chocolate on that?”
“Sure.”
“What kind of chocolate?”
“Surprise me.”
“We got 40 types.”
“Well that really is a surprise. Here’s an idea: Why don’t you pick one, sprinkle it on the coffee, take my money, smile, but not too much, then hand me the coffee and let me drink it.”

The guy introduces himself as Zack. He’s talking in a phony 1930’s style New York accent. Sounds ridiculous. He’s wearing a beard that even Amish folk would find a little passé. What a joker.
I finish my coffee and step back out into the agony of day. How do people live like this?
I walk maybe a hundred yards when I see an electronic cigarette store. This should be pretty straightforward.
“Yeah I want a bottle of e-liquid, blueberry flavor.”
“Do you want blueberry surprise, blueberry kiss, blueberry hill……………….”
The guy’s wearing the same beard as the guy at the coffee shop, except …. this one’s ginger.
“Just plain blueberry. Say, are there any barber shops in this town?”

Next thing I’m in some kinda cafe. The guy behind the counter is wearing a red checked shirt, tight jeans. His beard is twirled at the ends with pink striped ribbons holding it all together.
“Is this the lumber store?”
“This is a cafe. I find your attitude extremely aggressive and hurtful.”
“Yeah I need some nails and a couple pieces of wood, about six feet long. Oh and give me some onion soup. Make that French.”

A Very Fine Garment Indeed – or – Thrift Store Theodore

Imagine a street with nothing but thrift stores. One right after the other, as far as the eye can see. I turn down a blind alley and a familiar smell hits me. A hand that seems to be my hand is pushing at the door to what I’m guessing is some kinda speakeasy. I breathe in the fumes as the door creaks open in front of me.

“Say, what’s the deal with all the thrift stores ‘round here” I ask the bartender.

Some guy who’s name I don’t know or even care to know answers the question for her.

“Always check where the garment came from” he says.

“That’s not what I asked buddy and besides, the question that I asked was not addressed to you. Maybe I’m just making small talk with tootsie here”.

I turn back to the bartender but she’s already walking away, off to the other end of the bar to pour another drink and break another heart.

“You know what I do?” the guy who’s name I don’t care to know says.

“When I see an article of clothing that piques my interest I first check the label, make sure it’s the right size. Then I take it on up to the counter. I hold the, let’s say shirt, in one hand and a dollar bill in the other, and ask, ‘ma’am, could you tell me the history of this here shirt’. They usually stall a little and require further prodding. ‘What I’m trying to ascertain here is did this shirt belong to a guy who was living at the time that he last wore this shirt but is now sadly dead?’ At this point they’ll try to give you some baloney about not knowing the full history of the garment. This is where you pull out another dollar bill. ‘Thing is’, you say, ‘I’m looking at this here shirt and I’m seeing a fine garment, a very fine garment indeed. No pinhole burns, no buttons missing, everything looks just dandy. And yet you’re selling it for a buck’. She’ll take the shirt off you, have a good look at it, end up agreeing with you, take your two dollars and delicately fold the shirt in a bag.”

“You don’t say” I mutter.

“Another thing you gotta watch out for is the smell. And you can never get that smell out. I tried everything. Cheap liquor, vinegar, cat litter…..no dice. Now, when you buy any kind of drapery at a thrift store you can’t tell how bad it smells ‘cause the whole place stinks. You need to take that sucker outside and give it a good long sniff. The golden rule is; The badder the smell, the longer the dude’s been dead.”

I look over at Tootsie at the other end of the bar. She’s talking out of the side of her mouth to some guy covered in tattoos across the counter and every now and then glancing over in my direction. I can’t hear what she’s saying but I know she’s saying something by the movement of her chest.

“I got a jacket once in a thrift store. Perfect piece of cloth. Looked new. Fit like a glove. Only when I wear it for the first time do I notice that it has a mysterious quality about it. I’m stepping out the door, I light a cigarette, I take a drag. Nothing unusual so far. Then I go to put the cigarette box and matches into my pocket and…………….No Pocket! I look down, there’s a pocket flap there but no pocket. I try the other side, same deal. Now I’m getting a little testy. I check the breast pocket, nothing there neither. Now why would somebody design a jacket like that?” he asks me.

“It’s a crazy world that makes no sense and there’s no point in trying to make any sense out of it unless you’re fixing on winding up crazy too. Jackets with no pockets, bars with no beer, dames with no name, I’ve seen it all buddy. There is not a thing you can tell me that will come as too much of a surprise” I tell him.

The guy who was talking to the barmaid stands up and starts walking over. Must be seven foot high. His frame blocks out the small amount of light that seeps through the tobacco and beer patterned curtains. As he gets closer I can see that the tattoos that cover his face and arms are not delivering messages of hope or words of encouragement. There is not a single term of endearment in any of it’s images or couplets, not a single one.

He walks right up to the guy who I don’t care to know the name of, lets call him Thrift Store Theodore. He grabs hold of him by the waist, lifts him up till they’re eyeball to eyeball and holds him there. He begins to speak.

“The dame behind the bar tells me you’re a little careless with the bar tab. As in you don’t pay. She tells me you owe her fifty eight bucks. And now you’re gonna have to pay me a hundred bucks on top of that as a service charge.”

“I Haven’t Got Any Pockets. I got nowhere to keep dough” I hear Theodore whimper behind me as a hand that is certainly my hand turns the handle of what I now know for sure is the door of some kinda speakeasy. I breathe in the fumes as the door creaks shut behind me.

Luigi Buys Some Shoes

Ok. So picture this. I’m walking ’round downtown looking to buy me some kind of footwear. There’s a shoe shop at 3 o’clock with a coffee vendor outside. “Black, no sugar. Say, you got any bourbon under the counter?” She don’t bite.

I keep walking down the street, in my old shoes. The reason I’m looking for shoes is there’s a surprising smell in my apartment. First I figure it’s the previous tenants discarded nachos, or maybe just a dead body. Then I realize the smell hangs around every place that I hang around. Wait, I know that smell. Mildew. Musk. Yeah, I had this once before. I carefully remove my left shoe and take a look under the hood. My sole’s got a hole in it. All the rain and dirt got trapped inside and now it’s emanating toxic gasses into my new apartment. I need new shoes.

Now, the last time I bought me some footwear I had to buy the box. I take the shoes up to the counter, broad tells me I gotta bring the box up to the counter too.
“I don’t wanna buy the box, I got plenty of boxes lady, I just need shoes.”
“Well, you need to take the box otherwise we can’t sell you the shoes”.
That was California.
This is England.
Not New England.
England, England.
They don’t put shoes in boxes, they ask you if you want a bag.
“No, I want a box. They’re shoes, put them in a goddamn shoe box.”

The Spectre Of Stoneythorpe

“I see you there with your banjos. Plucking away. Playing your sea shanties.”
It’s said that Slack Eyed Willie could see the past. Now, a lot of folk might say that when it comes to the paranormal this is the bottom of the barrel. But not Relentless Ritchie.
“What do you see Willie, what do you see?”
Ritchie was a history bore, liked to poke around old buildings. Talked to drunk guys in bars about a certain brick on a certain building on some street downtown. Most of them would say “yeah I know the brick you’re talking about” thinking this would bring an end to the matter, but it only made matters worse. Some folk even went so far as to quit the bottle just to get away from him.
“I see them there with their trumpets. Blowing away. Playing their marching songs. No, it’s not a trumpet. It’s a rifle. Somebody’s getting blown away.”
“Didn’t somebody get murdered in here once Luigi?” asks Ritchie.
I order another bourbon even though I’m still drinking the first. Next thing this joker is gonna say the place is haunted.
“I see him there, falling to the ground screaming ‘I’ll be back for you Smokey Joe!’”
“The Spectre Of Stoneythorpe!” says Ritchie. I knock back my first bourbon and start laying into the second.
“Back in 1788, long before it became a bar, this joint was owned by a certain diplomat, used to throw parties for visiting dignitaries and this and that. It’s said that at one of these parties a man was shot dead over some broad and that his ghost haunts these corridors to this very day. The bartender himself will tell you he’s heard doors slamming and deathly moans coming from the rooms upstairs.”
I’m about to put on my hat and leave when Slack Eyed Willie raises a finger and somehow stops Relentless Ritchie mid drone.
“What is it Willie. Do you see anything else?” he asks.
Slack eyed Willie takes a deep breath, stares into the distance and says:
“No. It IS a trumpet.”

Dame With No Name

I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around to find that the hand belongs to Harry Hearsay.
“Next time you creep up on me like that you’ll get a sock on the jaw, hand knitted” I tell him.
“Didn’t mean to startle you. I got some news”.
He sits down next to me. We’re in a bar. Can’t say which one. Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet about certain things.
He orders a drink. That much I can reveal.
It’s a bottle of blue moon.
Maybe I’ve said too much.
“You remember that dame from Lucky’s Casino you were making inquiries about?” He says.
“I just asked if you knew her name, that’s all. I’m not looking to marry her.”
“Well I’m talking to the guy who runs the casino. I casually mention the dame in question. I say to him ‘you know the red-haired broad who works the bar, I forget her name’ I click my fingers a few times to make it look like I’m trying to jog my memory. ‘Oh yeah’, he says. So I’m thinking he’s about to tell me her handle when he says, ‘yeah the red-haired broad that works the bar. What about her?’ I have to think quick. I tell him she sure knows how to mix a drink and mix it good, then I pick up my hat and leave the joint quick so I don’t arouse suspicion.”

“That’s pretty smart. Good job.” I tell him, but he keeps on talking.
“I decide to go back in there the following night. Maybe one of the regulars knows her. I get talking to a few of them, make like I’m interested in their gambling tales and country music. After a couple beers I mention the red-haired broad, just slip her into the conversation like it’s no big deal……..”

I stop listening to him at this point. I get distracted by a guy who walks into the bar wearing a beard. The only guys who wear beards are sailors and drunks. And this guy is no sailor. He staggers up to the counter, right next to me, signals to the bartender and takes off his hat.
“Pardon me ma’am, could you tell me if I’ve been in this joint before?”
The bartender takes a good look at him and says:
“Ain’t never seen you before.”
“Give me a double scotch” he says, and sits down next to me.
Looks like the poor sucker is banned from so many bars he’s lost track.
I avoid making eye contact with him and turn my head back around to give my full attention to Harry Hearsay.
“Don’t you think that’s kinda screwy?” he says.
“Screwy, kooky, maybe. Or maybe the dame has no name.”
He lays his beer down on the counter, it lands with a thud.

“That’s exactly what I’m thinking” he says. “It’s the only thing that makes any kinda sense. Somebody at Lucky’s Casino would have to know her name. How many barkeeps have red hair?”
“Was she working there the night you went in?” I ask.
“Yeah. And nobody used her name. They just said ‘bartender’ or whistled”.
“So why didn’t you just go up and ask her for her name?”
The look on Harry Hearsay’s face tells me this is something that hasn’t occurred to him. There’s a pause in the conversation, just enough time for the guy with the beard to chime in.
“I know the dame’s name. She kicked me outa the joint one time just for being a little tipsy at the craps table. Strong as a horse. Picked me up and threw me out the door like a dude. I’m Billy The Bard, by the way” he says as he reaches out his arm to shake hands.
I notice the owner of the bar coming out from the back room. He seems kinda agitated about something.
“And what’s the name of the dame in question?” Harry Hearsay asks.
“The name of the dame in question is……..”
“Billy The Bard!” yells the proprietor as he leaps out from behind the bar. Glasses and bottles fly off the counter. I’m already holding my bourbon tight just in case of this very circumstance, or something similar.
“Didn’t I tell you to never come in here again? You’re Barred Billy!”
He grabs him by the lapels and lifts him, with the bar stool still attached to his rear end, dragging both him and the stool across the wooden floor toward the exit. The bar stool is professionally removed from all parts of Billy The Bard. A door swings open, then slams shut. A light city breeze sweeps thru the saloon for a brief moment. Then stops.

A Dame In The City

There’s nothing like a dame for making a guy wind up in the kind of place nobody needs to wind up in. Her name was Ella. She said she hated it. Yeah, she even hated her own name.
She’d left stuff lying around in every corner of my brain, like torn and tangled clothes strewn across the floor of some seedy motel room. How did it ever come to this?
The thought of her wasting away with some useless punk that she fools herself is all she deserves in her life is just about too much to take. I set about fixing to forget her. Delete a memory here, blur a fantasy there. I’d tried to help her through a rough time, that’s all. But I guess some things can’t be fixed. Sometimes you only end up breaking yourself trying.

And that’s how I found myself on a deserted highway, driving ’round and ’round in some kind of circular meaninglessness. An endless string of roundabouts. One following the other, stuck together for no good reason. The waking dream of some deranged clown with too much time on his hands. It got so I couldn’t even be sure that I hadn’t just been circling the same roundabout the whole time. Maybe I’d always been here. I decided to do something unexpected. I took a left turn down a street that looked like it went nowhere. Maybe nowhere was where I wanted to be. A sign said: Welcome to the City of Daventry – Don’t Stay Too Long.

I park my Buick outside a bar that looks like a church and walk on in. The dame behind the bar is maybe 22, a little plump in a welcoming kind of way. I sit at the bar with an old friend, Jim Beam, trying to re-decorate my mind. I get to the part where I’m thinking about how nobody talks to anybody anymore when I notice the dame at the other end of the bar is looking at me and kind of smiling. Jet black hair, pretty, also a little plump but in a comforting kind of way. Like one of those soft pillows that remember who you are. She’s telling her boyfriend that I look familiar as she points a knowing finger and looks my way. I check behind me, nobody there. Not this time. She walks over and introduces herself, says her names Dolly. I’m about to tell her mine when she saves me the trouble and says “Luigi…” Then she pauses, narrows her eyes, and, keeping them fixed on me, drags a finger across her lip before pointing it vaguely at me, her eyes opening wide, and she says out loud like she’s pulling the name out of a hat – “O’REILLY!”
Turns out she thinks she used to know me back when we were both at school. I tell her I don’t remember going to school. She asks me why I’m talking weird. I tell her I think it’s weird that somebody’s talking to me. She says yeah, people don’t talk anymore. I tell her the world’s full of people who can’t talk and wish they could. She tells me her boyfriend is always telling her to stop talking. I think about telling her to tell her boyfriend to get a cat, but take a slug of bourbon instead.
She says she’s got a tattoo of Woody Allen on her foot. I ask if I can see it. She takes off a shoe and shows it to me. Her boyfriend walks over and tells her she’s drunk and talking too much. She tells him, in a soft voice, to go screw himself. He thinks for a moment, walks away, clenches a fist and grinds some teeth.
I ask Dolly if she has tattoos of any other comedy heroes anyplace else , or is that a private matter if you what I mean. She leans in, smiling, and starts to whisper that she’s got Buster Keaton on her…….
Her boyfriend walks back in, gets up close and tells her to go screw herself too. He says it louder than her, so I guess he wins. He walks away again, this time with the air of a man who knows the taste of victory.
I slip silently back into my thoughts and spend maybe ten minutes moving things around in there when Dolly starts telling me she’s ugly. Fat, dumb and ugly. Ugly, dumb and fat. (She tries to say fumbgly but the liquor’s beginning to take a toll so she quits after fumbbbb) I tell her she’s crazy to think like that. What is it with pretty dames thinking they’re worthless and winding up with guys that treat them like dirt, making them feel……
She isn’t listening. She’s looking at the door. Some schmuck with a torn plastic bag full of fish hooks and chicken bones has walked into the barroom and I guess Dolly has taken a shine to him. He yells at the plump and welcoming dame behind the bar to give him a drink. He doesn’t say please and he doesn’t wear a hat.