Friday, September 16, 2016

Death & Taxes & Bars

It's a funny thing that we're not supposed to talk much about death in this society about ours. Better to fear death, I suppose, and make much about avoiding it. Thus, when I stumbled upon a bar here in downtown Spokane, I found myself in something akin to another world. It was down an alley that smelled like dogs and bubblegum, with a cat perched on a window sill beneath a "Nona" sign. The logo under the Nona text, a Sumerian coin, intrigued me enough to open the door under the gaze of the suspicious cat. 

When I walked in I almost stumbled into a statue of a young human-like creature offering a drink. I say creature because its ears were slightly too big and sentences I couldn't make out were etched into its scalp, while its eyes glowed red.

This was all matched with its twisted torso and knees winded together and evoked in me a dissonance so strong that it put me on alert—even if the beer and oak aroma of the bar was familiar enough. 

The rest of the bar was dimly lit via LED ropes fired out from the mouth of another statue; this one a dragon tied to the ceiling and that twitched and breathed as if real. The tables too were fascinating. On each were frozen game—chess, go and scrabble—that, upon closer inspection, were near their end states. I was absorbing this decor, amazed, really, when someone asked me what I wanted.

I jumped back, but soon realized that all five people in the bar were staring at me. I ordered a dictator's mule with extra vodka. Soon, I was talking with the regulars. They were discussing death and what it was. 

An old man with an internet of wrinkles and a smile that seemed less cynical than I'd ever seen volunteered his view: death was something that grew inside everyone, until it became so big that it attracted bad luck, or something like cancer. The bartender clucked in disagreement: death was obviously a counterfeit bill, you tried to be smart and avoid it, but sooner or laters it got you.

This brought up a murmur of disapproval. No no no, said a young woman with ears that were eerily like the statue's. Death was the ocean, and each of us in a boat, sometimes a big wave hit the boats sometimes the boats got a hole and sunk. She seemed smart so I asked what the boats represented.

Silence crashed through so fast, I could hear my heart beating past my ears. Everyone looked at me funny. Another woman shook her head at me and said that death was actually life, but a sweeter and more conniving lover. Everyone drank to this—me included, even though I didn't understand what she was saying.

A few rounds later, and I was really enjoying the bar. They asked me what death was. I said it was the end of life, what else? Silence. Fed with the good gut-burning vodka, I went on: it was a randomized destroyer of lives, what else would it be? The silence was again deafening and I think even the statues were glaring at me. I was kicked out and had my name placed on a shit list. That's a shame, because it was a great bar. Too bad I didn't answer the question right, then. 

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