Find no purpose here!—unless purpose can be distilled from the peculiarities of the sights and sounds of one man’s collection of lines taken down while pretending to send text messages during a summer evening out in an eclectic Philadelphia neighborhood.
Beer garden. Biergarten? I’ll settle on the former. This is a haven for all the millennials who deliberately ditched their families and suddenly got homesick for a family reunion. Friendsgiving in July, even if it’s mid-August. Communally cliquey.
After spotting recently-vacated spot—save for a mug with a half-inch of beer that escaped the gullet of a bearded man-boy and a paper cup with the swampy remnants of soft serve and a Roy G. Biv spiral of once-sprinkles pushed aside—we sit.
An Asian family of three just took a selfie together. I cannot deny that this is the most touching scene of humanity I have witnessed in months. I imagine the youngest of the trio is hosting her parents in the city for the weekend. I imagine she is a college student and the older two never were. Pride, I needn’t imagine, is what I see among the wrinkled smiles stretching to each line on their faces. How wonderfully out of place are these three, here amid the din. Highlight of the evening.
Boys faking it as men under their polo shirts, out of the air conditioning for the first time all work week, drip sips of craft beer pretension through pores into Philadelphia’s evening ether.
I have to pee, which is unsurprising. I spend most of my days having to. I am thrown off by the novel sociological experiment of the restroom. You have no choice but to walk into not two, but one door. The antechamber presents two doors—one to a women’s toilet, the other to a men’s, where the deed is done. Relieve yourself and then exit back into that first room, where a trough-like hand-washing station that forces you to lather up and rinse off with members of the same and of the opposite sex. I say not a word to the girl washing her hands beside me. I neatly ball up my paper towel, temporarily breaking my norm and using only one (to appear to her greener than I really am) and toss it in the waste. I’ve never washed my hands with such acute self-awareness. She waits by the ladies toilet door for a friend as I make an awkward exit.
There is a DJ spinning records with some kind of jungle-influence bass line and a distorted vocal track that sounds akin to animated chipmunks. Two girls dance in the darkened corner.
Among other words on the crackled plaster of the lavatory ceiling, some inker spelled out S—E—G–A . The euphoria from nature’s call mingles with nostalgia for a ring-hungry blue blur on the square screen of that my first portable vice. The first thing I ever saved my money up to buy was a Sega Game Gear. My waning stream pulls my attention back to my aim at the urinal. I used to come up with snippets of poetic genius as I emptied my bladder. I never wrote them down, so you must take me on the merit of my word. From unzip to zip up, the wit would hit with the force of a tsunami. Now I cannot stand to pee without staring at the screen forever tethered to my body.
Sweating. A great deal. 12:24am and still in Fishtown. Overhearing people tell stories about fornicating. They hope more stories of that genre shall tonight be writ. Looking to blame sweaty sheets on something more than this heatwave and busted a/c. I, pretending I never lived that life and pretending I don’t miss it, merely listen and look on.
A homeless man naps in a doorway.
Last call bar.
Task one was finding the ATM. Someone moved that sonuvabitch since the last time we were here and last time we checked you still had to pay for beer at this place.
Who’s got this round? Not me. I to go sit underneath the fan.
A girl wearing glasses and a tee shirt with Vikings and other iconic hipster logos (i.e. triceratops, typewriters, phonograph horns) screen-printed in new and interesting places that no one in the mainstream fashion industry ever thought to put them sits waiting for the guy she’s there with to come back with her can of PBR. She catches me looking at them and rolls her eyes. This puts me into a mild laughing fit.
A girl with a sports bra tank top combo walks in all sweaty and messy and judgmental. She knows her shit stinks and thinks everyone should have to take a sniff. In about 20 minutes she’ll try to leave with a half-empty beer can like she’s walking out to her own front porch. When the bouncer grunts she’ll look at the can and, smirking, ask “how’d that get there?” Then she’ll pour it down her hatch and drop it like she’s Ke$ha and the can’s a mic.
Under the spell of the purgatorial hours before two o’clock, those of us remaining in the public house let the mechanical wind from the upper corner of the room cool the sweat on our scalps. The Olympics are on the television. We watch because they make us feel like citizens of the world and no one can not watch a television if it is on.
We sip straight from our last-round cans in the still-free America of August 2016.