The reason the ping-pong table is outside is because of the fire. The fire? The fire was caused by an electrical fire set off by the mystic who works next door. When she was around we could hear her tuning her crystals to specific frequencies through the walls, and it was very annoying. A lot of “sciency” [sic] stuff was lost in that fire, including a machine that produces static electricity, and a marshmallow gun. — from an essay one of my students wrote about our school. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Someday I will write a novel about all of it, I promise.
When the Japanese magnolias are blooming in New Orleans, the whole city becomes a valentine. It’s my favorite time of year.
There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands… No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. -Bob Dylan
There’s this place, it’s over a famous bridge in some famous woods. It is the only outpost of any kind for miles around. Let’s just say it’s an ancient-looking bar/inn, and local legend has it that it was shipped over in pieces from Britain centuries ago. Who knows if this is true. It’s besides the point.
This place has darts, a wall-to-wall fireplace, beef stew. It is usually smothered in fog. Melancholy strains of Will Oldham drift through the speakers. It is basically a bar that was built exclusively for me. It also has this lone bartender, this fellow I have had a smoldering crush on for…a long time. Long enough that it has ebbed and flowed due to prohibitive fluctuations in gas prices and bridge tolls.
But I have this rule (as a former bartender) that I don’t hit on bartenders. So what this amounts to is that I sporadically find a reason to drag my friends there and then we sit in the corner and whisper about him. My boss has offered me a raise if only I would ask him out. It’s become that obnoxious.
I mean, we have had encounters. Once I was doing some boring Tuesday night grocery shopping at my grocery store and lo, behind me, in line, there he was. On my side of the bridge! In my grocery store! On a Tuesday! Unacceptable. I had always assumed he never left the forest boundaries, doomed to ceaselessly haunt the moors when not tending bar. Upon spotting him, naturally, I pulled my hair over my face like a deranged Cousin It and turned back around (I was having a bad Everything day). Another time (clearly my grocery disguise had fooled him) he let me watch part of a 49ers game in the bar’s tiny kitchen with him. He tried to out-football-lingo me and I got haughty (haughtiness is my next alluring quality after hair-in-face disguises) and was like, “Son, please. I teach a class on sports literature, I will run circles around you on this.” He gave me a maybe-approving eyebrow raise.
Anyways, we have picked up bits and pieces about him over the years. Usually because I make my friend Ian chat him up (Ian is a chatter), but Ian is not a reliable narrator. For instance, even though this guy is clearly like, an Irish Riverdance cast-off (complete with vague lilting accent), Ian insists he told him he was raised in Singapore, and was picked on horribly as a child. “I think he’s pretty lonely,” Ian unconvincingly tried to convince me. Also, he supposedly lives on a boat and makes his own whiskey (which: swoon). So, lonely, whiskey-distilling sailor Singapore Jim has become a long-running inside joke, a mythic chimera of a man.
Then, sometime this evening between the minutes of 11:52pm-11:59pm, I googled the name of the bar/inn under the auspices of seeing if it was open for the holidays. His name popped up. His full name! Precious, google-able information. It was at this point I learned something that threw me more than Singapore, more than the boat distillery.
His middle name is Björk.
The plot thickens.
by Cassie J. Sneider