October 2014, as the LA air started to cool and something had just ended…coming to the closing notes, or at least drafting the postscript…I flip through my notepad of to-do items, old dates…here begins a new chapter, dread from starting fresh…work on the street, neon yellow vests, hard hats, a worker kicks gravel, another waves an orange flag, steam rises, machinery groans, but now it’s much cooler than when I could close the window and crank up the AC and fantasize about the cold beer the workers would drink in a dark, cool bar at the end of the day…As though we seek to revisit some grim fairytale we return to scenes of metaphorical or actual carnage, staring it in the face, treading on history or circling back to the scene of the crime, “belly of the beast,” looking for an ever-elusive Act III, and under those palm trees at dusk, reflections, long, empty streets, walking west, darkness falling…Sunday, July 22, 2012, sold $7,100 – “almost your busiest night ever”…I wore a wrist brace for a minor injury from breaking a fall while hiking, slipped on the way down…customers hollered at me, “Scott! Scott!” I glanced at them, then swung around, realized they were yelling at me, said, “What’d you call me? My name’s Zak.” And they said, “Same difference…You’re lucky we didn’t call you ‘Bud.’” I laughed. “Call me Bud. That’ll be between you and me.” Seemed fitting…I look back over these notes, those days leading up to July 29 and see the spiral, images, sounds, colors and light, speeding up to culminate in a crash, careen off that metaphorical road I envisioned from the East Coast, or a series of crashes, and, falling off this machine to get back on, like a cartoon character, wearing an inflatable donut for a neck brace, a deranged, cranky, 27-year-old called “Bud” who steals kisses off pierced lips that reek of cigarettes and coconut-flavored vodka, a guy who bumps fists with fellow bartenders and chases praise from high-rolling regulars who wear expensive sunglasses and tip heavy and buy rounds for the many women they round up while waiting for security to unhook for them the velvet rope…all possibility of real knowing or meaning eclipsed, obliterated by the imperative to sell, no time to question, just a drive to push the product, get money, fast, simple communication, sustained by speed and adrenaline and driven by the praise and admiring, anonymous eyes and false promises, yet ultimately just contributing to the noise, debauchery, reaping the reward and losing all ability to distinguish between the absurdity of this world and what’s normal, or at least, and at best, deeply lost, because the longer I stayed in it, the more it consumed me, infected me with the need to quench their thirst and mine.
…and those plants, thirsty themselves, sustained me, and I talk of darkness and of light, literal and metaphorical and it could be because I’m hopelessly high on a form of stupid pills and don’t trust my own ability to explain what I saw or what I learned, and it could be that I’m obsessive, it could be all of this, but it also speaks, I think, to the nature of thirst itself, which I keep trying to elucidate, that is, that it keeps coming back and never goes away, slake it once and it returns, detox in the daytime with yoga and stretching and sun, and coconut water, to re-intoxicate myself at night with whiskey I crave the moment I step behind the bar, and the next day I’d do it again, so the process itself, the rhythm that is the backdrop for all of this, the landscape and ethos, the spirit and supply-and-demand framework in which this story unfolds, all of it imitates the repetitive, empty-and-fill, drain-and-replenish nature of thirst itself, that is, ultimately, impossible to quench.
…and I keep coming back to these moments not for the sake of being repetitive or to enrage or bore my editors to death but because for me all of the soul-depleting agony of those years – particularly 2012, the period I’ve chosen to focus on in these memos, the months leading up to and following July 29 – all of that crystallizes into these images that burned themselves into my memory and that I think say more than words I might write about what I felt or what I learned – which I know I must, eventually – but the image and episode itself, I think, speak louder – and I’ve written numerous times that in many cases I remembered not faces but orders, drinks, accessories, tattoos, jewelry…repetitive nature of a thirst that is impossible to quench…Get me out of here…and it could be stubbornness or my proclivity to grind, and schism, too, is at the center of this story of light and dark, dualities, opposites, fighting, push and pull, ebb and flow, whiskey and bartending and yoga and avocados…And I’d rather keep pouring than pause and ask myself, What are you doing? Why are you doing this?