Five O’Clock Shadow

I rubbed my chin as if to massage intelligent speech, as if to muster some semblance of control.
I felt stubble.
Damn.
My co-lead twirled on the stage
Turned her swan’s neck
and flipped her wings skyward
and I heard groans from the row behind.
The scene was done
But a faint whiff of something
Remained on set
A scent whose sensual finger beckoned.

I’ve seen men stand and excuse themselves
After she performs.
I’ve received the backhanded comments of the choreographer
Like a splash of coke on the face.
I rubbed my chin to clean up the corn syrup goop and
I felt stubble.
Damn.

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Entr’acte

Late nights at the arts center, hugging the geometric curves of sleek cinder block corridors of its bowels, have kept me from prowling the streets and my memories in search of the next rocks pour. So I carry the next shot in my purse, a leather flask tippled in parking garages. Soon, I will slouch back to Merry Ann’s or go visit my old friend the Pittsfield, perhaps?

the Edgewater Archives: A Portrait of Jeff

Summer, 2009.

Formally met Jeff on the elevator. He’s the resident Saxman. Goes out and plays under the Granville El platform many nights of the week and lets it rip, standards, new stuff; always the same smooth tone and impressive athleticism a chocolately-bottom-trawling growl and a smooth ascent to the top and the wind-in-the-treessigh, Ahhh in the trees wanting to say, yeah man. I’m constantly amazed at the musical quality that abounds in this city, from the most glamorous stages to the seediest underpasses. I can hear him from my open window and I like to hum along when he belts out “I Loves You Porgy.” He lives on my floor, and I’ve have a few polite chats with him before, and actually asked him about the Jazz Festival a few nights ago. Had a quick little conversation about Muhal Richard Abrams and his crazy modern sounds, and how we couldn’t really dig Madeleine Peyroux. It took a crowd of Chicagoans to make me realize my folly in labeling her a “jazz” musician. What was she doing up there? I was so confused. I had to leave that night. What was this stuff? The middle-aged suburbanites around me nodded their heads along with the tame beat and square guitar and realized I suffered from a bout of craziness.

Jeff’s lived in this building for ten years. A large older fellow with a penchant for flowery Hawaiian shirts in various shades of steel gray, blue, and green. The kind of guy you’d see wearing socks and Birkenstocks together.

this side of the train tracks

Where I live the blocks are mixed; past a stop sign a road is flanked with the large-wrap-around-porch-rehabs with perfect landscaping owned by upper-middle-class townies and tenured professors and but a few jaunts east there will be the drab sagging collection of apartments, sublets, and duplexes inhabited by those blighted by Central Illinois’ financial woes and students who are too poor or too bored or too wrapped up in the collegiate experience to care. A gray day makes the vinyl siding look even more stained and moldy. Passing one intersection I happen to glance at a hand-written sign outside a mud-toned house with dead lawn and cracked cement porch, enscribed in a black pen so light it’s barely legible. The sign read:

AREN’T YOU GLAD

IT’S ALL OVER?

A few blocks down, a yard bears a stenciled sign reading: “Study Your Bible.”

Cavanaugh’s

I’ve enjoyed a whiskey in so many places– I can usually map an area by the whiskeys I’ve consumed and whether or not a rocks pour counted extra. There are few times in life when a neat pour is acceptable.

Cavanaughs

Cavanaugh’s existed nestled in an alley and in the basement of the historic Monadnock Building, about two blocks from my old job. I preferred Elephant and Castle for lunch breaks, to down a couple and eat greasy fried pretzels before trudging in the snow back to my prison. But Monadnock was reserved for after 5, for days when I had twenty minutes to burn and no martinis to look forward to. A place wherein it is only acceptable to enter in a trench coat and rub one’s five o’clock shadow with chagrin before sipping. That warm wood bar so welcoming, that basement vibe so cozy. Too bad it was ruined by grating modern music and bar mistresses lacking the requisite cynicism.

There’s a sadness in those bare ice cubes, how out of place they are without the whiskey, how out of place I was sitting there. Yet I am comfortable alone at a bar. It is the most comfortable, to be quite honest. I had a slow burn romance with the wooden bar, with a place for my elbows and place for my whiskey to reside without shame, between cupped hands.

I pretend I’m an editor or a publisher on Printer’s Row, circa 1935.