There was a story told in the Happy Landings Pub just off Coleman and Front every night. Cast and crew switched up now and then, but the soundtrack--- poor-quality Bon Jovi tracks off the jukebox--- was always the same. Zack Cantor had a daily, non-stop express route from work to Happy Landings worked out since he first found the place nine years ago. Rodney, his best buddy and regular co-narrator, often joked he'd bought enough shots through the years to buy the place three times over.
"Get off it, knucklehead. You draw lines on the pavement!" one of the regulars would shout, at which point Cantor would sink into his stool, down the rest of his beer, and rise with new vigor to plead his case.
The typical pavement stratum for a heavily traveled road was not unlike the kitschy mosaics one might find at the nearest 'modern art' museum, he explained--- rubble and subsoil mingled and merged to form shapes and shades rivaling the work of any two-bit avant-garde hack selling a glued-together bric-a-brac collage resembling Lincoln or Jesus or his mother. One artist wore Italian suits coupled with 80s new wave band shirts worn ironically to build both his mystique and credibility, while the other wore a hard hat and goggles to keep small pebbles from ricocheting into his corneas.
The aesthetic values assigned to either's work can change lives: "that looks good" can mean a ten thousand dollar grant to one, or a cracked service lane two years down the line for the other. "That looks good" isn't enough for either to exist comfortably; it must be good--- that is, objectively well-constructed and conforming perfectly to a defined set of traits--- or else there is no victory, no permanent resolution. For the ironic, silver-spoon 'starving' artist, there is no such definition, and thus, no resolution. For the hard hat-wearing, sunburnt middle-aged man building roads out of dirt and asphalt, there is an absolute certainty in his work: do it right, no one dies.
"Swear to God, Larry, it's the only difference." Rodney swore to the bartender, his mocking tone detected all-too-quickly by Cantor's keen ears. It didn't matter how many shots he had in him--- he knew when he was being made fun of, especially when it came to little Rodney Riggle.
"Ha-ha. Ya traitorous little prick. See how funny ya think it is when ya slip up some day and we gotta dig baby bones out of the ruins of your mistake."
"Jee-zus, buddy. I was only kidding. No need to get...y'know, prophetic on me."
"What, he's predicting the future now?" belched Gerald from the back wall. "Think it's last call time, Larry!"
Everybody laughed. They muttered slurred curses to each other under whiskey-tinged breaths, hugged, and laughed about it, ordering another couple rounds. Bon Jovi died out, replaced by some kind of synthesized drumbeat like helicopter blades slapping a snare drum. Larry bought the jukebox out of nostalgia, snagging it from some trendy cokehead bar uptown at a police auction. (It was probably called Nostalgia, looking back.) He never bothered to figure out how to switch the records. No one complained, lost in the magic of stale hops and foggy, uncleaned glass. No one heard the end of the world until it came banging through the doorway, sweeping away the stench of old drunks with the smell of sulfur and ozone.
Created: Feb 18, 2010Document Media