I couldn't sleep last night, and when I can't sleep, I stay awake. It's a bad habit, I know, but I havenâ€™t figured out anything else to do when Iâ€™m not sleeping.
When I stay awake, I also have the tendency to think, which is also a bad habit, I know, because lifeâ€™s a lot happier and easier to cope with when you just put your brain on autopilot and not worry whether there are any storms brewing or mountains ahead or terrorists on board.
So there I was, awake and thinking about how weird it is that a coalition of Los Osos sewer supporters reprimanded the Saint Elizabeth Parish for preaching opposition to the sewer, when I realized that it was only about 11 at night, which is odd, because I usually donâ€™t go to bed until itâ€™s officially the next day. So I got dressed and walked outside and wandered down to McCarthyâ€™s, which is also odd because McCarthyâ€™s usually isnâ€™t walking distance from my place, so I started to think that I really might still be asleep and was only dreaming about being awake and thinking about sewers and churches.
As I got closer to the bar, I was sure I was dreaming, because it looked a lot like Nighthawks, that painting by that one guy with those people sitting in the windows. You know, the one that some other guy copied, except when he did it, he put in James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, and maybe John Wayne. Or Humphrey Bogart. Whichever was in â€œCasablanca.â€?
So McCarthyâ€™s looked like that painting, except that instead of a bunch of dead celebrities hanging out inside, it was full of people who apparently arenâ€™t satisfied with making me think during the day and so decided to make me think when Iâ€™m asleep, too.
The two people facing me, just like in the painting, were, of course, involved with the Los Osos sewer and the Saint Elizabeth Parish, respectively. One of them had a copy of the parishâ€™s condemnation of the sewage plant thatâ€™s scheduled to move in across the street from the church and would probably make it hard for parish members to inhale for a Hail Mary without gagging if the plant happens to be upwind at the time. Rather than investing in five times the amount of incense to cover the smell, the parish council decided to ask the parish members to ask the Los Osos Community Services District to perish the thought, or at least have everyone assess the situation and make a decision for the good of the community, i.e. keep the unholy water as far from the church as possible. Oh, and the whole thing costs too much.
The other dream-painting person had a copy of the sewer supportersâ€™ response, courtesy of a group called the Save the Dream Coalition. I dream about late-night cafÃ©s. They dream about where to put their wastewater. They also apparently dream about getting an apology from the parish, as well as a correction because, no, the sewer-treatment plant wonâ€™t cost as much as you said it would, you liars, and liars go to hell.
I dream about late-night cafÃ©s. They dream about where to put their wastewater.
I couldnâ€™t take their dream bickering any more, so I turned to the other man at the counter, whose back is to the window in the painting. From the front, he looked a lot like Jarek Molski, and since he was in a wheelchair and scowling, I figured he probably was. This part of the bar, in typical dream logic, now looked less like the Nighthawks painting and more like the actual McCarthyâ€™s, which recently installed a sort of mini-bar, which is like a regular bar only shorter, so people in wheelchairs can theoretically belly up without any help, and other drinkers can actually stumble into it with the help of a whiskey or two and that pesky thing called gravity.
â€œThey lowered the bar at Frog and Peach, too,â€? Jarek said, downing what looked like a Long Island Iced Tea in one gulp. â€œI lower the bar wherever I go.â€?
â€œArenâ€™t there perfectly accessible tables at Frog and Peach?â€? I asked him.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€? Jarek said. â€œAnd I donâ€™t really care, as long as I keep making money by suing the pants off of anyone who gets in my way. Pour me another drink.â€?
Suddenly, I was behind the bar, in my underwear, standing next to Puck, the large metal statue from downtown. He was smirking and picking up a rather large tip while he wiped down the bar.
â€œThat Mr. Molski,â€? he said. â€œHe always leaves me a lot of money because heâ€™s got so much disposable income. Mind you, Iâ€™m not complaining. I just add it to the fund.â€?
â€œI think he took my pants,â€? I said.
Puck went on to explain that heâ€™s been saving money ever since his creator, Elizabeth MacQueen, skipped town after selling him to the city for $85,000, even though he technically belonged to Elizabethâ€™s ex-husband, Donald Baxter, who demanded the money from the city, which turned around to demand the money back from Elizabeth only to see the door just swinging shut and hear tires squealing from the street outside.
â€œWord has it she took off to Central America,â€? Puck said. â€œThe cityâ€™s going to do what it can to get the money for Don, but it looks like she weaseled out of this one. If everything worked out, that would be nice, but mostly I just wish I could put my arm down. Just for a minute.â€?
As he made his last call, I noticed Puck wasnâ€™t wearing any pants either. But then, he never does.