What are friends for? Writing about.

Monday, March 31, 2003
@ Ruta Maya | Between 8:55 and roughly 11:00 PM

It’s largely impossible to write when surrounded by friends. Tonight at Ruta Maya we have Brian, Carla, John (in town from New Orleans for a few days), Curt, and myself. Between John’s (“warranted, warranted”) criticism of my grammar, Carla’s additions to the entry when I’m away from the keyboard, Brian’s feeling-up of his soft scarf across the table and the environmental panel that’s speaking on the not-quite stage area of Ruta Maya, any serious (okay, not really) writing falls apart like the space shuttle Columbia over Texas. So, instead, I’ll transcribe various snippets of our conversation:

Brian holds up his middle finger and says to me, “Can you get this down? Can you?”
“He’s getting arthritis. It’s stuck that way,” John added

Carla: “I’ve been saying, ‘Why don’t I have more girl friends?’”
John: “I know, I’ve been saying the same thing, honey. And then I realized it’s the company I keep.”
Brian: “Come on, John, say it: ‘This sucks.’”
John: “I’m having fun now. You could do performance art, William. Just you typing.”

“The news said, ‘Coming up so-and-so reports there may be more than a hundred Osama bin Ladens,” Curt opened with.      “Oh, yeah, I saw a movie poster earlier today. It was Gulf War 2: Attack of the Clones. Brought to you by Dick Cheney,” Brian added in.

Curt: “My life is fucked-up.”
Me: “Oh, that’s going down.”
Curt: “I hope that’s the quote that sticks. You know that Einstein poster that says, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge?’ I hope that quote sticks for me: ‘My life is fucked-up.’ It’ll be in schools all over the nation.”

After they realize I’m actually typing down what they say, everyone falls quiet.
“Come on, motherfuckers, you can’t stop talking.”
“Okay, William is a fuck-head,” Brian starts.
“I second that. William is a fuck-head,” John repeats.

Brian says, “It’s all lies. It’s all lies.”
“You know the quality of your conversation is really going downhill,” John says to Brian.
Brian: “Yeah, well, you’ve been riveting all night, John.”

Curt, referring to an early draft of my “On Sex With Friends” essay he read earlier tonight (he read the final version a while back): “Did you get me down as saying that’s the closest I’ve been to having sex in a long time?”
Me: “No.”
Curt: “Good . . . You should portray me as a ladies’ man. As my publicist and all.”

Curt: “You ever seen the documentary about RFK [as opposed to JFK]?”
I shake my head no.
Curt: “It was good. A little more dramatic.”
Brian: “A made-for-TV movie.”
Me: “A 3-D movie?”
Brian: “No, a made-for-TV movie.”
Me: “A USA Movie or HBO or something.”

The table once again falls silent. Curt drums on the table with his fingers (“Free-form rudimentary tangents,” as he calls it. “It’s my most acute form of communication.” To which Brian replies, “There’s nothing cute about it.”), Brian plays with his scarf, Carla sits back in her chair as if distance from the computer and abject silence will save her (John: “Carla eyeing the door, counting the steps . . .”)

John to Brian: Have you shown her your “Abandon all hope . . .” tattoo?
The table erupts in laughter at the thought of said tattoo above Brian’s ass.
Brian, after reading the above two lines: I still don’t get it.
More laughter.
Half an hour later, Brian asks: “What was that reference to the tattoo?”

Discussion then turns to people who used to frequent Ruta Maya (in either of its incarnations).
“These people that come and go,” Brian explains to Carla. “They’re here for three months and then we don’t see them again.”
“Oh, it was more than three months,” Curt corrects.
“Not much.”

“You know the Emperor Hailie Selassie I [Curt’s spelling]? He was emperor of Ethiopa. He kept the peace for forty years,” Curt started.
“Forty years!?” I exclaimed, incredulously.
“For forty years among a hundred different tribes.”
“That is an accomplishment,” John interjected.
“Looks a lot like ‘Haile.’” I noticed.
“It does. That bastard couldn’t keep the peace for two seconds,” John said.
. . .
“You know,” John finally voiced, “if at any time one of those tribes decided to start fighting, there ain’t a damn thing that motherfucker could’ve done. Maybe they were just all tired.”

Brian: “What about Oscar? He just disappeared, didn’t he?”
Curt: “Oscar? Let me tell you about Oscar. He’s on what you call a sabbatical. He was in Chile at his family’s salmon farm for a month and then went to Brazil to house-sit this place with a huge sailboat. Meanwhile, his amazing paintings are selling in Austin. So he’s actually making money and all this is free.”

“Hey, Erin,” Brian faked a wave in the general direction of the bar. Erin was an old crush of John’s.
John made no movement.
“Made you twitch,” Brian said.
“Not from that, though. From your presence,” John countered.

“Okay, I’m leaving,” Carla said.
“That didn’t take two hours,” John said. “Nice to meet you, Carla. Have a nice life.”
“Good luck, John,” Carla replied icily.

Curt: “Are you gonna put, ‘And Brian checked out Carla’s ass as she walked away?’”

“You know what amazes me? Off the record . . . or, whatever,” Curt asks.
“Pretty much everything, Curt,” Brian says.
“No, you know what amazes me? I haven’t seen my ex-girlfriend in eight months in this small town. We haven’t run into each other at the store or anything. I saw a girl at SXSW that I met last year in the same context. She was with a band from the UK and this year we saw each other again. In all that chaos we were put in the same place.”

John bought Brian a pack of Marlboro Reds. Brian said, “I used to smoke these with my dead friend.”

Curt: “I am officially in heat.”

John, referring to some beautiful girls entering the Clear Channel Communications studios next door to Ruta Maya: “It’s something to behold. I wish I be holdin’ it.”

A dirty bum (and I mean that in the “unclean fella who most likely doesn’t have a house” sort of way, not as an indictment of an entire class) at the bar said, “I’ve been reading this book that’s mainly called The History of the Mongrels.” Too fitting.

Smiling Joe came up and said, “I really like David’s work,” referring to the paintings on the wall above our table.
“Oh, and you don’t like mine?” Brian asked. Brian’s work is hanging near the front entrance of Ruta Maya.
“Much better than that shit over there,” I said, gesturing toward Brian’s work.
“No. I like yours. You and David just have such different styles,” Smiling Joe said
“We’re very competitive,” Brian said.
“Why do you think he’s sitting down? David broke his kneecaps. I had to hang the show for him,” I added, joking.
“I like David’s work, too. Every time I look at it I find something new. Like that painting up there looks like Baghdad,” Brian said, pointing to a colorful scene populated by small white dogs and flying mermaids.
Then I lost track of the conversation.

Overheard at the bar: “She’s got an old soul with a young hole.”

It’s always such a pleasure to watch John listening to bad music. And it’s almost all bad in his estimation. “I remember why I drank when I lived in Austin,” he said.
After reading the above: “This is bad. It’s not all bad. This is bad. I hear more good music than bad music. Just not in Austin. This is bad music.”

Curt came back from the smokeshop and reported: “You want to know why all the hot girls are going to Clear Channel?”
Vigorous head-nodding from our table.
“Since tomorrow is April Fool’s Day, a DJ over there announced that Justin Timberlake would be in the studio tonight. So all those girls are fools.”
“Yeah, but they’re hot fools,” Brian added.
“Doesn’t mean we have any better chance with them,” I clarified.
“Need to wait until they’re standing outside waiting for the door to be opened and I’ll stick my head out and yell, ‘Hey, Justin, can I get you anything?’” Brian said.
The guy at Clear Channel charged with opening the door (apparently it’s always locked) for the girls as they arrive is wearing a shirt that reads, “Sex Sells.” Indeed.

John’s refrain for the evening: “Let’s go do something.”

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