“Saturday night,” in nightlife speak, is often actually early Sunday morning, some time past midnight, 1 or 2 or 3 a.m. – that toxic, reversed, crazy cycle – and it all built from summer, from July 29, a kind of high point, ‘til it tipped me over the edge…you’d interviewed the previous Thursday, taking shots with him and after the shift wished him well in New York…and then you worked just one night…how your memory concentrated all of the hell in a two-week period toward the beginning of August when it was actually somewhat more spread out…and then when you called the owner or GM or manager or whoever he was and told him it wasn’t going to work out, he was fine with it, and you felt on top of the world…and so many Mondays after that one you’d go to deposit your cash at that Citibank on the corner – and if downtown LA was a place of summer and heat and “Bud” and screeching electronic dance music and inflatable cartoon characters as balloons and sweetness and top shelf liquor, West Hollywood was fall, cooling air, the heat breaking, seasons changing, a turning point, a new beginning, ever so slight as the contrast between summer and fall and winter and spring are in LA, but fall defined West Hollywood, Halloween, Pride a kind of slow burn and all of summer, cruising through it, losing track of time, Sundays, yoga, chia seed-acai-blueberry-banana smoothie, shower and drive to the bar, and on the way, toward escaping the night life, until you fell into the rhythm of a set schedule…flat, wheat fields, long yellow grass, water towers – and one of those tractors you’d see in LA, off the side of a smaller freeway or driving south on La Cienega Boulevard, near the Slauson Avenue exit, on your way to Culver City or to LAX – and I saw them again this summer – the ones that look like giant insects or aliens…I always had faith, never truly questioned whether it’d all work out but now I have serious doubts…and the missteps, slipping and cutting my shin or spraining my wrist, the slippery dirt path, the hole in the ground I didn’t see because it was dark, threaten, confirm and reinforce that…and, still, I don’t care – I do but I don’t because life as a club bartender is a constant limbo and so long as I’m speeding down this dark freeway I can lose myself in the chase, focus on the work, pouring drinks, and now, writing this story, I can focus on the obsession, and so distract myself, so long as I stay in the trance, all the while falling fast and I don’t care, delusional, but I know it’s all going to work out or it may not, but until I get there, I’ll grind, crank, until I go over the edge…and I was in love with the limbo, the chase, falling, having no cares and yet given I have weaknesses and ultimately wasn’t cut out for that I did care and I knew in the back of my mind, all the wreckage, collateral damage, the fast and loose trip, ruthless selling, and not just to my body and sanity and soul, and this could lead me to much worse…I knew how it would end and kept falling thinking I could win the bet with this dead-end ride, again, persisting, obstinately, in that delusional limbo ‘til I tore myself out of it.
…battle with a lifestyle and the thrill, power, respect, weight and money, the high of getting lost in the free-fall, in speed, and that sense of having no cares, but then, doubt creeps in, as sure and inevitable as dawn breaks night, and your knowing changes to praying…and you begin to question it, and it’s deeply troubling, and the more it haunts you, the more you need the trance, the chase, the work, to silence fear and doubt – and ultimately one must win out – break up or continue the perennial chase – and what you called “weakness” – not cut out for this work – thirst for something else – writing, school, a life outside the club walls – drives you out, to move, get away, and yet it still haunts you.
Something about working in this brutally clear morning light…and the following two weeks of exposed nerves and anxiety and grating, imagined sounds that came to life visually in that mural next to the IceLink store, but also, the sense that a huge, enormous, soul-crushing weight had been lifted, after the shock and adrenaline wore off – freeing, ablution [and beginning a course toward absolution and redemption], and a kind of euphoria, cleansing, catharsis, even, and I felt it again the last time I visited LA, that history, that chapter of my life, the dark passage, had been put to bed – but it hasn’t – and now I question how deeply I’ll have to go to purge this…and every time I read just a few lines from those documents…like I’m closing my eyes and seeing this dark paradise – it opens up the floodgates to memory and I drown in them, some thirst I had satiated, yet I always want more, can’t even get through what I wrote out by hand, can’t type but a few lines before I write another thousand…how the story has taken on a life of its own and continues to unfold now, today, how this cold, searing brutal fall light and cool air brings me back to those agonizing days, after summer 2012, and another would come and another will come…’til it’s hard to tell who you’re pouring the shots for – for yourself or customers? And it all starts to dissolve into a huge, dark mess swallowing me alive as I strove to swallow the bar: pour another shot, swipe another card, snatch another fistful of bills and stuff them into the tip bucket, ultimately just slaking a huge thirst, mine, theirs…when I counted bills at the end of the night I had to bring a filthy wedge of lime or lemon to the table to keep my finger pads moist, and I saw this as a sign I’d never triumph in this profession – my fingers were too dry…staring at the past, documents, memory, trying to make sense of it – but will I know when it’s time to go? I could leave or keep pouring, still thirsty.