The neighbors had a baby.
Babies make awful noises most of the time. I can hear these awful noises through my walls. The other day I was taking a nap and the baby managed to infiltrate my dreams. It screamed and shrieked and wailed so loudly that it woke me up. I paced around my room and tried to drown it out with music, but I could still hear the damn thing crying. I put on my jacket and left the house.
I walked for miles and eventually ended up at a grocery store. I grabbed a bottle of cheap wine off the shelf. A few of the employees waved and said, “Heeeyyy! Donut guy!” (I bring them donuts once a week.) The guy at the register asked me if I wanted a “sleeve” and I said, “Yeah, give me one of those bum bags, won’t you?”
Outside I slipped the bag on the bottle and twisted off the cap. When drinking a whole bottle of wine in public it is important to get the twist-off variety. That way you when the cops come sniffing around, you can cap it quickly. “I was just on my way home! I bought this bottle of wine, you see. . . .”
I ended up on 40th Street and took it east all the way to 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. There was some sort of show going on inside. I stood outside with everyone else who didn’t want to be inside for one reason or another. I was sipping my wine and capping it again. I struck up a conversation with a guy near a row of bicycles. He said he’d come from North Bay to see his friends but didn’t feel like paying the cover. He asked me if I lived in Oakland and I told him I did. “What brings you here?” he said.
“A god damn baby, that’s what.” I didn’t elaborate. I offered him a sip of my wine but he politely declined.
Some guy in box-framed glasses and a bad haircut came up to me and told me I had to beat it if I was going to stand there with wine. “That—” he said, pointing to my wine, “is going to put an end to the kind of stuff we’re trying to do tonight.” I assumed he worked there or something, but maybe he was just some jerk.
“Ah man, really? I’ve gotta go? It’s capped.”
“Doesn’t matter. You have to leave.”
“Fine. I’ll scram then. What the hell else is new?”
I said good-bye to my new friend and walked around the side of the building. I found a small vacant parking lot behind the record store. I sat down on a concrete slab and finished off the rest of the bottle. I made a few phone calls. No one picked up. Feeling useless, I headed north toward Berkeley.
My friend Megan Beard called me from New Orleans as I neared the Berkeley line. She said she was out drinking with my friend Leila. I talked to both of them while dodging traffic and hopping over medians and laughing like hell.
I had reached the 50s and decided to go home when my friend Lael called. He said he was at our friend Mitch’s house. Mitch’s girlfriend, a different Leyla, was turning twenty-three years old. I told them I’d stop by. It was a quick hike from 50th Street to 56th Street.
At Mitch’s house I sat on his bedroom floor and talked about nothing. Everyone commented that with my pale skin and blue lips and teeth (wine!), I looked like a corpse. It went on like this for an hour or so. Lael and I left together around midnight.
On San Pablo Avenue we would have turned right to go home, but we noticed a new bar had opened about fifty feet away from us. There are almost no bars in our neighborhood—the only one that is worth a damn is a fifteen-minute walk, and the closest one always has a god damn Porsche parked outside and is filled with the biggest jerks in the universe. I’m talking guys with little ponytails.
So this new bar was intriguing! We walked over and introduced ourselves to the doorman, who was very friendly. He said it was the bar’s opening night. I looked up and read the sign, which was lined with glittering old-timey lights. It said “WOLF HOUND”.
Inside it looked like the sort of place Edgar Allan Poe would die. I met the owner and asked him if he was hiring. He told me to come back the following week. He shook my hand.
Lael and I sat the bar and got a couple of beers. The bartender was pretty. She introduced herself to me, and for some reason kept touching my arm. I told her I lived and worked a few blocks away and would come in frequently, saying I didn’t feel stressed out at all inside that room. She said, “You should!”
At last call we got up and left. Lael turned east and I went a few blocks north. At home the sounds of the baby had died down. I ate a few melatonin pills and put on a sleep mask and went the hell to sleep.