I am deaf and broke and cool. Let me clarify that all three states are temporary. Sitting on a stool at a table in a corner of the Dead Rabbit in Manhattan with a DJ working his mysterious magic on a pair of turntables, the music is so loud the conversation at the table of four is limited to short bursts of yelling. Who has the energy for a debate? I am losing at least every fifth word to the noise, so I nod and grin with whatever has just been said rather than argue.
“The Nazi party was horribly misunderstood in pre-war Germany!” Nod and grin. “We should all eat nothing but meat, preferably freshly killed baby deer slaughtered with automatic assault rifles at ten paces!” Nod and grin. “It’s OK to worship Satan if you’re discreet about it!” Nod and grin. I have no clue what anyone was saying, and I hope I haven’t compromised my principles due to the fact that I went along with anything being said.
I am peering into my drink. It’s a heavy duty dark concoction whose name starts with Blackthorn. It’s sweet and strong with a bitter aftertaste. The bartender went through many complicated and fascinating gyrations to build it. I feel I am almost not worthy to drink it because I can’t possibly suss out all the different flavors happening at once. My palette is confused and overwhelmed. If I drank more, the whole thing would make much more sense to me and I could comment in some learned way about the excess of bitters or just the right amount of barley or something.
“Look, it’s hipsters,” my wife says, gesturing to the crowd. I suppose they must be. They are here in this impossibly cool place with great music and fantastically expensive drinks that are too complicated and rich to fully absorb. I’ve never really tried to be a hipster, and I’ve often made a game of trying to spot them in their natural habitat in Brooklyn with their purposeful rustic affectations and bushy facial hair. “We’re in the in-crowd,” Robyn says, laughing. Well, I think, we’re certainly deaf and drunk and broke. But we came to the right place to be cool. The bar is a celebrated hotspot. So maybe we are, by extension, cool for the moment.
A guy comes over to the table. He’s bald and tall and dressed in black like a stage extra who moves furniture between acts at Broadway shows. He starts talking with us. Introducing himself and telling us he studied to be a chef at the Culinary Institute of America. Great, I think. But then he became a sommelier. I am suddenly hoping he doesn’t want to talk about great wines because I know nothing about wine.
He has a girlfriend he took to Paris. He shared her with another man, and he was totally fine with that. His story is getting interesting and repellent all at once. Is he about to suggest a threesome or a fivesome? He is lingering at the table, and he has some kind of agenda that is impossible to figure out. “Look,” he says, “nearly everyone here is wearing plaid.” The couple Robyn and I came with are both wearing plaid, and I am wearing plaid. Robyn is not wearing plaid. Where is he going with this? Is it totally uncool to wear plaid? Is it absolutely mandatory that all stylish people must wear plaid? That seems somehow unlikely. His plaid comment goes nowhere, and like his previous comment about sharing his girlfriend it seems open to endless interpretations.
We leave. No one can quite figure out what our would-be friend’s agenda was. If we stayed there and drank long enough would we all pass out and wake up later in chains chugging away on a barge to be sold for sex slaves in a foreign country. I think maybe I will not be a hipster or in the in-crowd so much since the drinks run about $15 a pop, the music is deafening and weird people try to recruit you into human trafficking and make you feel weird about wearing plaid.