In the Absence of Love
Money can't buy love, but I was commenting to someone this week that it certainly gives one more options. His retort, "Or is it the illusion that you have options?" Either way, my point was that I'd rather live on love or the absence of love than be driven by the search for the almighty dollar.
Ironically, I found myself in the Federal Reserve Piano Lounge Saturday night not so much searching for love or loose change but to check out the latest nightspot. The setting is actually the original Federal Reserve bank building on the corner of Fourth and Race Streets just a couple of doors down from Jean-Robert at Pigall's.
My date and I stopped for a drink at Pigall's first as it was only about 9 o'clock, which seemed too early for Jazz. There wasn't room at the bar, but a tall table along the wall was perfect for his Manhattan and my vodka martini. The olives hit the spot and so did the sleek décor. This isn't the style of your parents' favorite five-star establishment, but a refreshing Euro design that's cool and refined. I might suggest a slightly softer lighting to make the dining room and the bar seem more intimate, but maybe that's just because I like my date tonight.
Seizing the opportunity to slip upstairs to the ladies room, I wanted to sneak a peak at the private dining room for 12 I reserved over the phone for a December luncheon. It will be attended by a group of girl pals who I annually round up to tip a glass of bubbly and exchange holiday cheer. Why include the significant others when half of them aren't fond of the other half? Besides, the girls just want to have fun at Jean-Robert's place for lunch. We'll be home in time for carpool anyway.
After a satisfying look around upstairs, I returned to find my date ready to roll to the Federal Reserve. The singer's voice carried us off the street to the right door. Inside, the crowd swirled to the tune being played on the piano center stage. Our eyes were immediately torn between the magnificent ceiling overhead and the sequined babe upfront. It makes for an interesting room, to say the least.
We managed to find a spot to sip our cocktails and take in the scenery. The architectural details of the place remind one of the Omni Netherland or the Cincinnati Museum Center in the sense that there's history in these places. The marble floors, the murals and the wood have stories to tell, and I was entranced imagining wearing a corset under a long dress perhaps flirting with a banker in his front office.
The reality is ladies wearing everything from eveningwear to casual wear and men in suits to jeans surrounded me. The drinks were flowing, and the music played on. We had a bird's-eye view of the attractive blonde's cleavage standing next to my date, and neither one of us complained. It was entertaining watching the guys check her out. We were also getting a kick out of everyone checking out the amazing 30-foot ceiling as they entered the lounge.
Glass went smashing to the marble floor right next to me, and I barely winced as the gentleman to my left assured me that the place was now christened. It turns out it was just an ashtray, but it did bring up the idea of christening. I could think of a better way to make use of the vault, which now houses the vast selection of wine, but this crowd isn't ready for that, I'm afraid.
Still, maybe the woman in the black beaded shirt with side vents in her black pants knows things I don't. In fact, she seems to be having so much fun that I want what she's drinking.
-- Wendy Robinson
Feeling a Little Behind
It's been a while since my boyfriend and I have been out on the town together. The last time a mutual acquaintance of ours took a liking to his tush, placing an unwarranted hand there. It took me two days to stop talking about it. That wasn't the reason for us becoming hermits, but I didn't necessarily want to see Miss Grabass any time soon.
Earlier in the day, my boyfriend and I went to the Esquire Theatre to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has become a big, fat success. I figured that by now the audiences would have trickled off. We took a seat near the back of the well-filled audience, after tripping over some aisle-enders who refused to scoot down. The movie was particularly funny, especially the scene at the travel agency. The aisle-enders, who've obviously not been to a movie in a while, decided to take it out on the rest of us, over-shadowing the humorousness of the movie itself.
After losing a bet to my boyfriend that Joey Fatone was not one of the actors, I accidentally left my sweater behind in the theater. I made him retrieve it, hoping some of his gloating would die down and he'd forget the $30 I owed him. When he came out, we called off the bet and headed for Thai Express on McMillan to get him some dinner.
While we waited for his food to be ready, we stopped in at Spunk to check out the gear. He introduced me to the store's owner, Chip, whom I've probably met three times. I love Spunk. Strippers, club-goers and freaks alike can get a rubber dress or pair of leather pants without the cooler-than-thou attitude of the people at Scentiments. I tried on a pair of plaid pants that couldn't make the journey over my hips, while my boyfriend bought me a lunch box for work -- one that no one will mistake for theirs in the communal fridge.
"Our thong bikinis are on sale, in case you were wondering," Chip said.
I'm slow on the draw, so my boyfriend responded for me. "She was," he said.
We went to pick up his Thai and headed off to Rally's for my meal. It's pretty good for fast food, and, well, being an American means you gotta eat crap once in a while.
My boyfriend left for work and I sat around trying to decide whether to break my sit-in marathon. I called Joe of the late-night Wal-Mart excursions. He was the only person, besides my girlfriend -- who's in England at the moment visiting her almost-husband -- who wouldn't give me grief for not keeping in touch. He wasn't home, but I left a message anyway that I'd probably be at The Comet later. Joe's been on-and-off with the same girl for over a year now, so I figured he was probably taken for the night.
At midnight, I decided to crawl out of my hole and venture up to my version of Cheers. When I walked in, I ordered a Rolling Rock and promptly saw J., Heather, my girlfriend's ex-boyfriend and Miss Grabass at the front table.
Sometimes you do want to go where everybody knows your name. I sat with the motley group and inquired as to who was playing the lovely music in the next room. Heather told me, but I immediately forgot. I glanced into the next room and saw Joe, dressed all in white and seated at a table alone.
I uprooted myself for the next room. Joe and I raved about the music, the best he's heard at The Comet. He told me about his girlfriend and asked how domestic life was going. I filled him in and even told him about Miss Grabass, who happened to walk by at that moment. We agreed on the importance of a small amount of jealousy in relationships, when I remembered my boyfriend was supposed to stop up after work for a drink.
I saw him through a window in the wall and tried to get his attention. I discovered later that he was simultaneously remarking to his friends "I guess my wife (as he calls me) went to sleep early." Then he saw me in the window and waved. He came over to say "Hello" and tell me the band Pearline was playing at Northside Tavern. After our beers, we decided we'd head down there. He went back to his friends and left me to talk to Joe.
Eventually, I said good-bye and went to get my boyfriend. We were finishing our beers by the door when Bones, the scrawny and very hetero Comet cook, came over and was hiding mischievously behind my boyfriend's massive frame. I caught him grabbing my boyfriend's butt but couldn't be mad.
"Why does everyone want to grab my boyfriend's ass?" I asked benignly.
"He's got a nice one," was the reply.
We left for the Tavern and, as soon as we walked in, my boyfriend was manhandled again. This is becoming epidemic! It was too crowded to find the culprit, with the band playing by the door and the crowd.
I saw a few old friends, including Brian, over by the jukebox and noticed a pair of fake rubber hands sticking out underneath it -- a leftover from Halloween.
"That's kinda freaky," I said to Brian, who then screamed, nearly giving me a heart attack.
Soon Heather, J. and Miss Grabass appeared. I waited for the cheeky girl to leave so I could talk to Heather, but she reappeared just as quickly. My boyfriend was soon by my side, rescuing me from my misery.
After splitting just one beer, we headed out. J., who had been rumored to have a crush on my man, gave him a goodbye hug. I thought I saw his mitts reaching for my boyfriend's butt. So when it came my turn to hug J., I gave his butt a firm handshake. He protested, making me rethink whether he was guilty or I was just paranoid.
While walking to the car, I had to clear my conscience. My boyfriend wasn't sure but said, "For some reason, when I go out alone, no one pays much attention to me. The only times I've had my butt grabbed, I've been with you." I wondered if there's some kind of psychology going on here. Do people become more attractive when they're with another person?
Of course, I decided. The ass, like the grass, is always greener on the other side.
-- Ilsa Venturini
One thing that I've learned about myself over the years is that I look like an easy mark to people trying to con money off of me. Whenever I walk through downtown, especially around the Main Street area, I always seem to have a homeless man walk up to me and ask me for money. Whenever I have to go through the airport in Los Angeles or walk through the Mall in Washington D.C., it's just about guaranteed a Hari Krishna will come up to me and try to get me to join their gang.
Recently I was sitting at the far end of the bar at The Comet, next to my pal Shannon while she was doing homework, reading the current issue of CityBeat when two young looking girls literally ran in to the bar. It seems they were lost in Northside. The more attractive of the two went up to just about every guy in the bar asking for directions to I-74 so they could get back to Indiana. The girl who was short and a little overweight was going from guy to guy bumming cigarettes. I watched them for a while for entertainment, and then I returned to reading CityBeat.
After a couple of minutes, the girl walking around bumming cigarettes was tapping me on the shoulder. I turned around but before she could even say anything I noticed that she was so drunk she was weaving from side to side. As if that wasn't bad enough, she had that glitter stuff on her face that I've seen high school girls wearing lately.
As she put her hand on my shoulder, she told me, "You're pretty cute. Can I bum a cigarette?"
I said, "Sure. Go ahead. Take two while you're at it. I don't need to be smoking anyway."
She took two, said "Thanks" and started to walk away. Then she stopped and turned, and I saw the "I've got an easy one here" look on her face.
She walked back up to me, putting her hand on my thigh, and told me, "Today is my 21st birthday and me and my friend have been drinking it up!"
I knew this was the first part of her game of having me buy her a drink, and I was having no part of it. I just smiled and said, "Congratulations." Since I didn't bite on her first try, she then asked me, "Hey, why don't you buy me drink?"
"It looks like you've already had enough to drink tonight," I said.
She then started moving her hand up my thigh and asked me again. This time I just said "No" and tried to spin my chair around. She moved her hand right between my legs, squeezed and said, "I'm feeling really depressed. Please buy me a drink."
Even though it was against my better judgment to play along with her, I was curious to find out why she was "depressed," so I asked her to tell me what was wrong.
"I was recently raped and I had a miscarriage," she said.
I knew she was lying, but I was afraid to call her out on it. I just desperately wanted to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. I looked around the bar hoping to make eye contact with someone to help bail me out. Every single person, including the bartender, had his or her heads down just laughing at the mess I'd gotten myself into.
I decided to go with a little misdirection to get her away from me. I told her, "I tell you what. I'll buy you a drink, but you have to go up to the bartender and order it yourself."
She said, "Won't you please buy it for me?"
That's when I knew she wasn't 21. I told her again that the only way I'd buy a drink for her was if she ordered it herself. Since that was her only way out, she walked to the other side of the bar and tried to order a drink.
As soon as she left, I asked Shannon, "Why the hell didn't you help me out?"
She just laughed at me and said, "You dug your own grave, and I wanted to see how you were going to get out of it."
The bartender carded her, of course, and she had to leave. It was then I wished I remembered my mother's words or wisdom about "crazy" people. Never look them in the eye, and if they start a conversation with you, run.
-- R.L. Newman