There was a bar in downtown Monterey called Bosso’s, underneath the Dream Theater. It had a ginger-haired bartender named Patrick and skirted under the new smoking law by being (mostly) owner-operated. When you walked in you saw a long, sleek bar to your left with leather padding around the edges, worn and soft from years of arms resting between dice and drinks and cigarettes. The carpet was original maroon and gold swank from a much grander era. A few steps in and to the right was the Lounging Room, with dark red lighting and expansive black leather couches that one could sink into for a little innocent groping or relaxing, shoes off, with friends. At the far end of the bar facing the Dutch door entrance was an old jukebox that played a strange mix of top 40 pop and old greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Prima; and to the right of that, the Pool Room. The pool room was large, well-lit but still trying for mystery. It held 5 pool tables in the center of the room, with small round cafe tables lining the walls.
I spent most of my bar time at Bosso’s. Patrick knew my name and I was comfortable there. Some of my co-workers would pop in occasionally, though many of them preferred the club down the hill nearer the aquarium, where they had one-dollar drinks every Wednesday night. I loved Bosso’s because there was always someone to talk to or play dice with at the bar, and there was a back spiral staircase leading to the theater above, where I could buy their buttery popcorn and then bring it back down to the bar with me.
One night I was working the Pool Room. I happened to know several people there – I worked in the service industry and we were an incestuous group of hotel, restaurant, catering and bar workers. I flitted around, drunk, saying hello and giving hugs to those I recognized; introducing myself and telling jokes to those I didn’t. Everyone got to see the tattoo on my belly. Sometimes I like to work a room. If it feels too separated I enjoy meshing people together.
Earlier while talking animatedly to a local concierge with a shy but wicked sense of humor, I’d noticed a small group coming in, obviously military. They sat off to the side drinking bottled beer and watching the pool tables. One of them, blonde with smirky eyes, caught my eye more than once. I had a thing against military men, in a military town, but something about him got my attention. He looked like someone who always had a great punchline.
We exchanged glances throughout the evening, but I wasn’t looking for anyone at the moment and so got bored and went back into the bar to sit and talk and play dice with whoever was there. After thirty minutes or so of me singing along to the music and chatting up a graying career waiter I knew, the military group walked by. As my blonde smirker passed, he nodded to me but kept walking toward the door. I’d been expecting him to approach me, but he hadn’t. I wasn’t used to that.
The rejection made me feel pursuant in response, so after 4 seconds I went to the door to see where they were going. Before Patrick called to me to get my drink back inside, I saw that they’d gone across the street to the old-man dive bar, Segovia’s. I finished my vodka & tonic, paid, and hustled over, trying to breathe calmly and act very casual. When I walked in I headed straight to the back. In doing so I passed the military group – my blonde looked up, saw me and said “hey!” pointing toward Bosso’s as I walked past. I called over my shoulder “the bathroom over there has a line!”
After standing in the ladies’ room for two minutes not looking in the mirror, I came back out, feigned leaving the bar, knowing the boys would protest and ask me to stay, which they did. I sat with them, talked with them all, humoring their buzz cuts and asking what rank they were in, not caring about their answers. My blonde told me that his name was Dennis, and that he was in the Air Force, at which I simply rolled my eyes and smiled. He eventually won me over with talk of the various types of breads and cheeses. After a drink we loosened up, got a bit deeper, and when he asked what I did I said, “I’m a writer.”
He leaned way back and said “I knew it.” We shared a smile that promised something. Then we looked away from each other and remembered the rest of the bar.
As I started to say something funny to the group, the bartender stood up high on a stool and shouted “Ladies and Gentlemen! Francis Albert Sinatra has gone to heaven! May he rest in peace!”
I looked at Dennis and raised my eyebrows, widened my eyes, and said “whoa.”
I was not unlike almost anyone else in that I subconsciously collected the memories made upon first hearing of certain people’s passing. Princess Diana – I was at Club Soda in Kalamazoo Michigan, talking to Chris Bryers, when a wiry punk broke into our little huddle and told us the news. Kurt Cobain – I was just leaving a rest stop somewhere between Ohio and Michigan, having visited my grandpa outside of Cleveland. My best friend Jessica was with me and she was angry at Kurt for committing suicide. “So many people look up to him, and now what?! What a selfish fuck!” she shouted, pounding on my dashboard. She wasn’t even a Nirvana fan.
And on the warm spring night Frank Sinatra died, I was in an old-man dive bar called Segovia’s in a seaside tourist town. And I had just met Dennis.