Hipster Bars, Jollibee, and Casablanca.

See, just two days ago, on the flight home, we were discussing Ray.

We don’t see Ray enough.

Because he calls three minutes before he’s going somewhere to invite us to come with him. “Um… I’m going to this bar, on Santa Monica? There’s going to be a gospel band–”

“– and a chicken who plays checkers?”

“And there’s free drinks for fifteen minutes, so y’all should come.”

“I’ll put you on the door.”

And you’re like, “Ray. I’m at my wedding.”


I know. Still.

So when Ray called tonight to say he was out the door to a bar relatively in our neighborhood while I was making dinner, I reminded myself that we really missed Ray, and he was close enough that we could go and it wouldn’t be a big deal to just go have one drink.

I knew the bar. Stee had shown me the matchbook while we were in Berkeley. “Remember that gay bar across from the Red Lion? It’s now this pirate bar. We should check it out. But when I was there, it was totally empty. Next to the wine shop.” It was one block from where my car broke down last month. I knew it well. And what would a pirate bar look like, exactly?

We show up and meet Ray and Jeff. Jeff looks at me with that look when someone’s racking his brain to figure out why I look familiar.

“We haven’t seen each other in about five years,” I tell him.

“Was it in Texas?”

“Yes, that’s where we met. But the last time I saw you was when I lived with Ray.

“Oh, at the West Hollywood apartment.”

“Yeah. I’m Pam.”

“Wow. Yeah. Wow. Yes. I did forget your name. But now I remember. Yes. Wow. Yeah. Five years.”

The place is packed. “I was here two weeks ago and it was empty,” Jeff says. “And now it’s a scene. In six months it’ll be a place you like coming to, but this is the last time for a while.”

Everybody looks like a member of the Strokes. The other half look like Asian Strokes cover bands.

Ray, Jeff and I talk about Neil Diamond and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. It is the best thing Jeff’s ever had in his mouth, and he loves Ray for knowing Tito personally.

Within minutes I’m suddenly having another conversation about Jollibee. I don’t know how, but this is the third conversation today where I’m chatting about Jollibee.

Let me tell you about Jollibee.

I’m tempted to send you to the website first, but I’m actually going to do it last. You need to know:

A) There’s a Jollibee inside the fake mall in my neighborhood. The mall is just stores latching onto the big Target. They include a Vans, three videogame stores, a tiny arcade, a recent Chuck E Cheese, and the Jollibee. No, I don’t understand it. No, it’s not really a mall. Yes, the Target is awesome.

B) I live in a mostly Filipino neighborhood. This is how I learned to understand the one rule about our fake mall: Filipinos Love Jollibee.

C) The line to Jollibee will sometimes stretch all the way down the mall, out to the door. The first time I saw this I wandered to the front of the fast food restaurant to see what the big deal was. Fried chicken, cheeseburgers, shakes. Hmm. How good could this food actually be?

D) Okay, go now. But come back, if you can.

Dude. Right? I know. Right? Yumburgers. And Joy Chicken. And the bee! I love that bee. The Jolly Shake description? “Refreshingly icy cold flavored shake with smooth, small bits of ice.” Don’t miss this page, so you can see the meat pie picture.

Ken and I have been talking about waltzing into Jollibee, but we’ve decided we need a day when we can wait in a very long line to eat food that just might send our stomachs into shock. But it’s worth it to try some smooth, small bits of ice. And a Yumburger.

Ray and I catch up on six months worth of gossip. Stee arrives, as does India, who’s always so pretty and smells good. We spend half an hour trying to order more drinks as the place is packed and dark and red. We start to relish the fact that we scored seats at the bar.

Then some asshole couple pushes me, spilling some kind of mixed drink down my back. Awesome.

Ray’s off somewhere, and stee and India are in a conversation about restaurants on Hillhurst, so Jeff and I begin talking about old movies. Specifically Casablanca, which he brings up after we hear the theme music from A Fistful of Dollars, when he talks about Danger: Diabolikand Intermezzo. I watch him as he passionately goes from one movie to the next, telling me film after film I need to rent immediately, going back to Casablanca as the perfect film. “It is devastating. It is painful. It’s a bummer of a movie, but you can’t stop watching it, no matter what time it’s on, no matter where you are. And the older you get, the more it hurts to watch.”

We talk about how the Hot Properties set (He knew which one it was) was the Casablanca set, and I tell him how the chairs on the set’s balcony were from the film. He knew the scene. He knew the chairs. The more he talks, the more he reminds me of film-lover friends of mine who get into the tiniest moments of their favorites, who touch my hand and say, “You have to see this one. Please. I hate when people tell me I have to see this or read this, but do yourself a favor and seeDeath in Venice. Will you do that?”

The fire marshal arrives, and it is determined that there are way too many people in the bar. Ray explains why we should leave, because he wants to go to this bar again. Jeff and Ray swap stories of getting kicked out of bars and restaurants, of overturning tables, shattering glasses on the floor. I know I’ll never be the kind of woman who tells those stories, but I love hearing about them. I don’t want to be there when they happen, but I do enjoy watching a man recall times when he couldn’t believe his own actions, when he’s surprised himself with the way he behaves when he thinks he’s been wronged. It’s the same kind of man who tells me that Danger: Diabolik is at its most romantic when the main character steals “all the money in Europe” for “the woman he loves” so that they can make love on top of millions of dollars.

It’s been a couple of hours when Jeff pays for the drinks and leaves. We realize we should go too, so that others can enter the bar. It’s much later than the one drink we initially said we were going to have. That’s okay; we’re having more fun than we could have predicted.

Outside, Ray tells us about his new favorite hobby: making up recipes for Hipsters. You point to a stranger on the street and say: “Okay, that guy is two quarter cups Kid Rock, with a cup of Gary Oldman at room temperature. Mix in half a cup of the Brokeback Mountain trailer (julienned, if you have the tools). Then dance in a circle, reciting a Shel Silverstein poem, while sprinkling patchouli. Serve lukewarm in a hollowed-out Hackeysack.”

I tell Ray all about stee’s Monroe experience, and Ray’s charmed to hear that AB and Vince are from there. “I wouldn’t have thought that, but it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.” stee says again, “I wish they lived here.” [sidenote: now that AB has taught stee about Flickr, between the two of them I don’t have to say a thing about Monroe. It’s all in pictures, here and here.]

After a few more stories that begin, “So Ray fell down some stairs at this bar…”, it’s time for all of us to head home. We hug and hope to see each other again soon, as it’s always too many months in between the times we get to see each other.

We didn’t see any pirates, but I do enjoy a night out with talkative, funny friends who make it so you don’t notice you just waited fifty minutes to get your second drink. And I just added six movies to my Netflix queue.

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