Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Catalonian Cat

[editor’s note – Lucid Culture has joined forces with former New York mayor and Presidential candidate Rudy Mussolini to temporarily abdicate our role in the Gotham music scene while we root for the Boston Red Sox in this year’s baseball World Series. We’re hoping Sox in four]

I’m posting this dream, which I had just a few hours ago, to make good on a promise. In this dream, I was in an East Village of the mind, approximately Second Avenue and Second Street except that the streets were much more West Village, twisting and turning  into unexpected enclaves. I was with a former bandmate and an ex. The only reason I was with them is because the ex had offered to buy me a drink. If the hour is sufficiently late, I can be bought off cheaply and this person, of all people, should know that. So I acquiesced. We went east toward a bar that my ex-bandmate had recommended. “It’s near Java and Joe, you remember, we played there,” he explained.

Java and Joe? I’ve never played a coffeehouse in my life, nor do I plan to. But I didn’t argue with him. Stranger things have happened to me in Dreamland.

We arrived at the bar to find it a big, ramshackle, New England style woodframe house, circa 1830, with its semicircular driveway set back from the avenue (such a driveway could never actually exist in New York, with real estate prices being what they are, but that’s what dreams are for). The drive was filled up with cars, some straddling onto the patch of lawn that separated it from the bar. We walked in to find a ubiquitous webmaster and photographer friend of mine hanging out at the end of the bar, drinking his usual bottle of Chimay. I wanted to stop and say hi but my compatriots pulled me along. An old guy with glasses made some sardonic, pseudo-literary remarks in my direction, but I paid him no mind, thinking he was just a drunk. The place was pretty full. The duo I was with managed to squeeze through the crowd to find stools around the corner of the bar, leaving me by myself. I looked around: it was a spacious, dusty, high-ceilinged place which had obviously been here a long time, very Old New York. Yet I’d never been here before. How had it slipped under my radar for so long?

To my left, a couple of people at the bar made a comment about sneaking, and suddenly I could hear the crowd pick up on the comment and start to echo it. Suddenly the old guy with the glasses came up to me and in an accusatory tone, asked me, “Are you sneaking?”

“Sneaking? Search me,” I replied nonchalantly (when accused of anything, nonchalance goes a long way. But you really have to pull it off, you can’t just be fake-nonchalant. Trust me on this). What I meant was “Huh?!?”

The old guy then started to frisk me, with emphasis on my waist. But how could I have snuck a bottle in, when I wasn’t wearing a coat, and my pants and shirt fit pretty snugly? Disappointed, he mumbled something I couldn’t understand and shuffled back toward the door. At this point I realized that he must be the bar owner.

Then a waitress came up to me, holding a blue-and-white porcelain pitcher and a rack of matching porcelain cups. “Would you like a [unintelligible]?” she asked.

I looked at the pitcher skeptically. “Uh, what’s in it?” I asked.

“RUM!” she exclaimed. “Drink of the ancients. Good for what ails ya!”

“SURE!” I replied. I hadn’t had straight rum at a bar since a Gosling’s or two at Tonic (I miss that place).

She took one of the cups off the rack and poured it about half full. “That’ll be sixteen,” she said.

I looked at her dumbfounded. “Sixteen bucks?”

She nodded.

I paused a moment. “You’re just messing with me, right? There’s no way that’s sixteen bucks.” 

This time it was her turn to be nonchalant. “Yes, that’s sixteen dollars.”

I had no intention of buying it, especially since all I had on me was a sawbuck I’d discovered in my shirt pocket. “Look,” I said, “If I knew that was sixteen dollars, I never would have ordered it. Besides, you never told me how much it would be.”

At this point, the owner returned, and now he was being surly. He reminded me of the old guy who used to own the Charleston in Williamsburg, who would stand in the middle of the floor and walk straight up to anyone who entered, insisting in his gravelly voice, “You have to buy a drink!”

“That’s sixteen dollars,” he threatened me.

The fact that he’d decided to try to muscle me for the money pissed me off. “No way,” I replied. When I learned it was straight rum, and it was obviously a drink special, I’d guessed about eight dollars, maybe less. “First of all, that’s a total ripoff. Second, no disrespect to your waitress, but she just came up to me and offered it to me. She never told me how much it was. You keep it,” I told him dismissively. I started to walk away from him toward the people I’d come with.

He followed, threatening me. “This is total bullshit,” I told him, exasperated at this point. “You sell drink specials at sixteen bucks apiece and the only people you’ll have in this place will be a bunch of yuppie assholes.”

“Everyone else here is drinking them and they don’t have a problem with it,” he retorted. I looked around the crowded room. The crowd seemed pretty nondescript: nobody stood out as being ostentatiously dressed or wealthy. “People have five of these and everybody’s having a good time.”

“Five of those, that’s eighty bucks!” I exclaimed. Now it was his turn to look at me quizzically. “I can have a way better time for less than five bucks at home, and I can listen to my own music and my own tv and not have to hang out with these losers!”

That’s what got me thrown out of the bar. He didn’t physically toss me: there was a pull on my arm and a hostile look and I knew the deal. “You have to get out, now!” he growled.

It didn’t matter. I didn’t want to be here anyway. I looked back at him as I left. “I didn’t want to give your waitress a hard time, and I don’t care what you sell drinks for. But I am going to put this up on the internet,” I advised him. Walking out, I reached for my phone to let my compatriots know that I didn’t just abandon them.

From the sidewalk, I looked back toward the bar, trying to figure out what it was called. The building’s facade was a mishmash of old neon beer signs, many of which I didn’t recognize. I walked back into the driveway, squinting at the old, painted wooden letters at the top and managed to make out THE CATALAN CAT. I wondered what the provenance of the name was: there was absolutely nothing Catalonian, or even Spanish, about this place. So if you’re ever walking down Second Avenue in your dreams and come upon the Catalan Cat, you’d do well to keep walking. If you do choose to go inside, be aware that if the waitress approaches you with a pitcher, there’s rum in there. And it’s not cheap. By telling you this I am fulfilling my promise to the bar’s owner.

October 27, 2007 - Posted by | Rant

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