Freaking Out Squares

Monday, August 28, 2006

Are You A Hermit, By Any Chance?

Why, yes, I certainly am! And so I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to crawl out of my lair and spend a lovely evening quaffing Pilsners with my friend Claudia at the Bohemian Beer Garden in the heart of beautiful Astoria, Queens. The Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden (Bohemian as in the Czech region, not bohemian as they claim to be in Rent) is NYC’s only remaining outdoor beer garden, and it’s about what you’d expect—a big concrete yard with picnic tables and a rickety little stage where local rock, polka, and oompah bands can strut their stuff. As much as I swear up and down that I’m going to move to Brooklyn as soon as I get a little money, I like that my neighborhood is home to such an unpretentious watering hole where upper- and lower-case bohemians, hipsters, and even “reg’lar folk” can hang out and get soused without making a huge dent in their wallets. (Astoria is also home to one of the best Czech restaurants in the five boroughs,Zlata Praha, which translates to “Golden Prague.” It’s a similarly unpretentious place, right under the N train, heavy on the beer and starch. If you like German food, you’ll probably like Czech food, too—lots of meat and bread, but spicier than its neighbor to the west. Wonder if I should have my birthday party there? Anyone have any other suggestions? Anyone really hate Czech food?)

Even though it was raining off and on Friday night, that didn’t stop Claudia and me from making good on our long-delayed plan to grace this legendary institution (we were supposed to go last summer, but I was in the middle of an epic emotional breakdown and, surprise, didn’t want to leave the house), and it certainly didn’t stop a whole bunch of other people, including this one dude who made a point of doing pushups drunk. It probably won’t surprise you to know that I prefer cool, rainy evenings to warm, sunny ones. The New York in my mind is always rain-swept and candy-colored, like a Woody Allen film, and there’s also something about a rainy Friday night in late summer that invokes in me a nostalgia for an adolescence I didn’t have, slipping out to drink skunk water with a bunch of goofy, sweet headbangers and maybe having sex in the back of a ’77 Plymouth. (Why is it parents get so up in arms about their kids hanging out with the so-called “wrong crowd” –i.e. headbangers, Goths, et. al.—? It’s not like every one of these kids is Dylan Klebold, and it doesn’t mean that your own kid is necessarily going to pick up such habits as glue-sniffing and fucking bareback. And what is the big deal about teenagers having sex, anyway? I mean, I didn’t, but that’s just because no one asked me.)

The only drawback to my new favorite hangout is the seats. Four hours on a picnic bench…oh, the PAIN, the unmitigated agony! Literally a pain in the ass, and on the back. In fact, about halfway through the evening, I seriously considered asking Claudia if we could cut it short, because I felt like I’d put in six hours at the gym, done Vinyasa yoga, and been slammed against a speeding semi. (I’ve been in a lot of pain lately, and I’m not entirely sure why. Sarito told me today about some holistic pain pill she heard about on “60 Minutes” that’s supposed to start working in about a month and after that, cures your arthritic ills. I hope she’s right, because if I’m going to spend my Friday nights polluting my body on a metal bench, I’m going to need reinforcements. Not to mention that I can BARELY MOVE half the damn time. Ugh, I can just imagine taking my complaints to a doctor and having him say something helpful like, “You’re not even thirty! How can you be in so much pain? You need to lose weight.” Yeah, Doc, fuck you in advance.) Thank god I hung on, and not just because the lovely Brits at the table next to us gave us an almost-full pitcher of Pilsner when they decided to take their leave, but because in the midst of regaling me with stories about her year in Moscow, pagan rituals, and the SCANDALOUS, uh, proclivities of distant acquaintances (most of whom I’ve actually never met), Claudia proffered the following tale along the lines of MarkRickSteve’s account of the boutique saleslady:

“A friend of mine used to work as a travel agent, and one day she got this call from a woman who desperately needed to book a flight for her boss. ‘My boss is going to Portland, and she insists on no stopovers. Okay? No stopovers. So she wants to fly business class, and she wants blah, and bloh, and blee, and no stopovers. Absolutely no stopovers. And she’s flying to Portland. Oh, yes, and she’ll require X and Y and Z, and this and that and the other thing. No stopovers, flying to Portland. And she must have a hooker and a tankful of bourbon [I’m paraphrasing here] and no stopovers, in business class, flying to Portland. Is this all clear?’ My friend’s only response was, ‘Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine?’ There’s a long pause and the woman says, ‘Uh…does it matter?’ Yes, it gets worse. It turned out, because this was right before Thanksgiving, on the only flight this woman can take to Portland, Oregon, business class is sold out, so she’ll have to fly first class or coach. The woman says, ‘Oh…well, does first class fly to Portland, Oregon?’ And my friend just said, ‘Ma’am, have you ever flown before?’”

High fructose corn syrup, I’m telling you. Just so you know, airplanes do not, as Claudia pointed out, “split in half like the starship Enterprise.” Nor do you, as I pointed out, have to be in the first five cars like you’re taking the 1 & 9 to South Ferry. Actually, they stopped running the 9 after 9/11, but old habits die hard.

For our next outing, Claudia and I are planning to plunk me in line for tickets to Mother Courage starring Meryl Streep and, in a small part, my boyfriend Kevin Kline. C’s and my friend in the Bronx saw it with another friend of ours, and he was quite laudatory of Meryl Streep, although he said that Kevin Kline, while good, wasn’t as good as you’d expect him to be. That’s mildly sucky, but the odds of my actually snagging us tickets to this thing are pretty low, and Kevin Kline at his worst is still a million times better than most of today’s entertainers at their best. Wish us luck.

I actually had the opportunity to go out two nights in a row—another friend of mine was hosting a benefit for the Agora dance troupe at the McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, but I was too stiff and spent to take advantage of the chance to be a geek amongst hipsters on Saturday night. Oh, well, next time.


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