Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Where the Seats Have No Name"

Ancient Gaelic on the walls and perfume in the ladies’ room
Dark wood tables, each brought over

Piece by piece from Boru’s tomb
Bridgid brings a round of Smithwick’s plus a Power’s on the rocks
Raven tresses though her sister sports the wild fiery locks

Pints in glasses, raise a din
They never shoulda let us in
We’re all wicked liquored up at the upscale downtown Irish pub

Shortly after New Year’s Eve, I was walking around O’Farrell and Cyril Magnin and happened to notice that Johnny Foley’s was closed for seismic retro-fitting. A quick count of weeks to mid-March told me this would either be [a] the fastest seismic retrofitting in town which means someone had an inside track with the Building Permit Department – not a far stretch, really - and dust would fly or [b] Johnny Foley’s was perhaps not to return.

But Johnny Foley’s returned to great fanfare in the California Irish Herald and the local grapevine. And in time for the big day.

A week or so after the last green plastic cup was carted off to the local landfill, I stopped by to say 'hello' to the good folks I used to see on a regular basis until the hamburgers jumped to $9.95 and they started charging extra for the bleu cheese.

Marie met me at the door and showed off the remodel with proprietorial pride. She made me list all the improvements I could see, without telling me first.

Me: New wallpaper, I see that right off, and it’s beautiful. I love that color. New art nouveau sconces, nice! And new taps…that’s a lot of brass there! Okay, what else? Those stairs to the cellar, that’s a whole partition now. And the bookcase over there, well that’s gone. And – hey! -- the ‘Hippies Use the Side Door’ sign, that’s gone too!
Marie: And so’s the side door.
Me: I can see that! But I liked that sign!
Marie: It’s over here, by the bathrooms. And we’ve got new pictures up by there too.
Me: Fidel Castro with a bottle of Powers. Cool.
Marie: What else do you see?
Me: The whole bathroom layout is different, obviously, no more payphones here and the coat rack is gone. And…oh my god!
Marie: What?
Me: That’s a stunning portrait of Bono you got there!

One week later, I had Mssrs Pachinko & Hoover down to see this. Their reaction was near to mine. We hadn’t planned on staying for a meal, but the new waitress mistook our interest and seated us right at this most august of tables.

(Joe Pachinko, San Francisco poet. Photographer: Miss Templeton)

I tried to convince my friends of the significance of this addition to the time-honored, tradition bound iconography of the joints I had known most of my life. "Look," I said. "This puts the man in a whole new realm. This is beyond lunch with the President of the United States or meeting the Pope or being in a video with Sting. Love him or don’t, we now have to give Bono the respect of someone who is Up on the Wall of a Pub."

Although my lunch mates were dubious, I warmed to the theme. "First of all, almost everyone else in a gilded frame in this room is dead. And not of old age either. And with Bono, we are clearly beyond the categories of politics, literature, and sport."

"Maybe he fits under 'literature' as a writer. A songwriter." Hoover offered.

We gave that some thought as we ordered another round.

"Perhaps," I said. "But it is still new ground. Songwriting as poetry? It’s a pretty bold step forward! Why, next there will be women on the wall!"

My companions hugged their glasses close and inched away, cringing against the lightening sure to strike me at this blasphemy.* But the moment of danger passed.

"No," I said. "This is historic. This is the dawn of a new era in pub décor."

It’s a new phenomenon, one for a new millennium
Sippin’ in a classy joint and not a dive just like some bum
This is grand, we’re well-behaved with voices at a decent pitch
Mind your language and the doorman, he’s a big son of a bitch!

Pints in glasses, raise a din
They never shoulda let us in
We’re all wicked liquored up at the upscale downtown Irish pub

*EXTRACT from DO THE RIGHT FECKIN’ THING, Draft of Spike Lee’s 1989 film with Jennifer Connolly as Buggin’ Out, Aidan Quinn as Brian, and Martin Sheen as Mike. Script was subsequently re-written for a different cast.

________________________________BUGGIN' OUT
-------------------------Mike, how come you ain't got no
-------------------------sisters up on the wall here?

_________________________ ______MIKE
-------------------------You want sisters up on the Wall
-------------------------of Fame, you open up your own
-------------------------business, then you can do what you wanna
-------------------------do. My Irish bar, men up on the wall.

-------------------------Take it easy, Mike.

-------------------------Don't start on me today.

_______________________________BUGGIN' OUT
-------------------------Mike, that might be fine, you own
-------------------------this, but not only do I see men

-------------------------eating in here, I see women.
-------------------------So since we spend much money, we do have some say.

-------------------- You a troublemaker?

Brian walks over to Buggin' Out.

--------------------You making trouble.

_______________________________BUGGIN' OUT
--------------------Put some sisters up on this Wall
------------------______-of Fame. We want Mother Jones,
-----------------_____---Maureen O’Sullivan, Rosie O’Donnell

1 comment:

Fionnchú said...

Bono should be on velvet with one of those brass clip-on frame lights on top beaming down God's grace on our evangelical prophet.
You may never read this, Lee or Bono, but in the disturbingly erudite review written by waspish John Simon on the Spike Lee Joint that brought our director-actor-promoter-publicist-producer-but dad does the music since he's a real musician and I guess bankrolled my NYU film school daze, Simon says that Do The Right Thing is incorrectly punctuated. You do not capitalize the definite article.