So, there’s another contributor to the Curator with whom I share my city of residence. After discovering his views on our fair city (which align with mine down to the last ‘y’ in Jersey City) I knew that either we would be fast friends should we ever meet, or I have a split personality and am now submitting articles to this magazine under two identities (which, it seems, would be really bizarre as far as split personality vocational choices go). Or, perhaps we were twin brothers separated at birth, an option I ruled out quickly after we met face-to-face, or should I say, face to sternum. Hi-yo!! (Ugh. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I feel dirty.) Height difference aside, we did become fast friends. And, I was glad to learn that as far as I am aware, I have only one personality.
Besides the city we love, many other cultural artifacts could have brought us even closer together: songs, movies, politics, shoes, sports and, most obviously, numismatics are chief among them. But, it was that most manly of canapés that took our budding buddyship to the next level: hot wings and beer.
Now, imagine for one second the dangerous and seemingly impossible discovery that we could consume both our beloved hot wings and beer in our beloved city in one solitary establishment. (And for $.25/wing and $2/draft at that.) Needless to write (but will anyway since verbosity won’t keep you out of heaven… I certainly hope), we were more than skeptical about the quality of the items on which we were about to spend our moderately-difficultly-earned money.
We came. We saw. We paid with change we scraped up from various junk drawers. The wings were edible; the beer was wet; but, the experience we had, words cannot describe. So I won’t try.
That’s it. The article is over. (Wait, I’m sorry boss, what’s that? I’m way under the word minimum? The preceding drivel is not an article?)
Well, a truly gifted scribe, says Flannery O’Connor or Michael Crichton, would at this point put their artistic foot down and refuse to compromise themselves. Well, maybe not Mr. Crichton. But Flannery – I always wondered if her nickname was Flan. And if it was, did she go by Flan on trips to Spanish-speaking nations? A simple phrase like “quiero flan por favor” could have resulted in much awkwardness and perhaps an accidentally- arranged marriage. It is at this point that I believe I have disqualified myself from ever being allowed to attend a Glen Workshop. Such is the extent of my commitment to my art.
I’ve lost my train of thought (and probably 2/3 of my readers).
Straight to the main point then.
What is post-modernism? Isn’t that the question people ask when they are trying to seem erudite and educated? Asking in a way that presumes they know the answer, when they actually have no clue what it means and couldn’t recognize it if it was a pile of manure stuck to their shoe, so it gets mistaken for mud and wiped off by hand before remembering the dream job interview starting in ten minutes and realizing there is nowhere to expunge the excrement before handshakes and hellos.
For the longest time I thought I had a grasp on this slippery eel; I thought there was only mud on my shoe. I’d throw around words like subjectivisticism, multiculturalityness and openmindednessicity in conversation. But it wasn’t until the night Fitz and I entered a corner beer and hot-wingery that I truly appreciated the 7-layer salad that is post-modernism.
The establishment presents itself like a typical, local-divey-psuedo-Irish pub, hookah bar, and grill. Gaudy four leaf clover signs advertising Budweiser’s newest beerish-but-not-much-more-than-sparkling-yellow-water beverage are lazily draped above the makeshift outdoor seating area furnished by plastic chairs and wobbly tables covered by partially torn umbrellas. No sooner than one finishes stereotyping this haunt from its exterior, does one enter it to find an unimaginably tangled web of discontinuity.
The window decor is Hindi-ish. The wall-hangings mirrored and/or neon. The music pounding is classic rock. The TVs blaze soccer & football. The parishioners palate burgers and burnt tobacco. The bar is dirty. The bartender is Puerto Rican*. The clientele is Russian, Pakistani, and Jerseyian. And there’s Fitz and me, talking theology, eating wings, and fitting right in. Because, in that place, a profalactic-peddling, ex-circus performer wouldn’t have stood out.
*Due to her fortissimo speaking volume, we did spend several minutes imbibing in silence as she regaled the Russians and another server with the story of missing work due to her mom being found dead on a boat docked in Costa Rica not shortly after having had an, apparently, life-fulfilling breast augmentation.
Our conversation that evening kept rolling back to how difficult it would be for Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann to sit at that bar for even 5 minutes. We just couldn’t imagine the high-modernist mind being able to make any sense of such a disjointed amalgamation. But that night we walked right up the embodiment of every rationalist’s fears, shook its hand, bought a beer from it, and said, “hello, post-modernism. Pleased to meet you. Cheers.”
Doubtless a place like this is not far from you, a place where you could get away and take a break from your worries; a place where nobody knows your name, and where they’re barely aware you came. Yet a place where people know that people are all the same.
We can find moments like this one where nothing seems to make sense or belong together if we are willing to suppress the need for sense and enjoy sensing the surrounding strangeness. In the senselessness of these situations, there can be some semblance of sanity, if we are only willing to shake hands with a new friend.