nothing like them
karl liked to slum
with me at old man bars
on the south side of pittsburgh.
he would call me
and the two of us would head down
and maybe go to joe’s cafe
on east carson
and order a jim beam
and a tall draft
on the cheap.
most of the time i sat there
and chain smoked camel lights
while karl talked my ear off
about how bad his scene
full of musicians and artists was
and how glad he was to have a guy
like me around
who didn’t seem to have a scene
who didn’t seem to have friends
he said that i was nothing like them
and i had nothing to say to that
and then usually karl would stop
and want to bum a smoke.
then i’d give him one.
in the squirrel hills bars
it was a different story altogether.
karl would call me on import beer night
and he and i would sit in the hip bars
and he would sip at import beers
while i drank the usual sludge.
the two of us wouldn’t talk about anything
but just sit there
and watch all of the hip artists come in
and sit at hip tables
to have bad conversations about music and art
and a lot of other stuff none of them
had the first clue about.
it was boring but not terribly boring.
it only got bad if some of karl’s artist friends
sat down to join us.
then it became overwhelmingly boring
like listening to someone talk about house wares
their bank account
or the newest television show.
i never lasted long when those people
i usually finished my beer and left.
it was better alone in my one room
than sitting in a bar with all of them.
usually karl would stay.
he would call me the next day and tell me
everything about the rest of the night
how he got drunk
and made an ass of himself in front of all
of the other artists,
how he stole pitchers of beer
and packs of cigarettes off the table
he liked to say he embarrassed them
and then he’d want to know what i was
doing that night.
it was usually nothing.
karl would make plans for us to go back
to the old man bars on the south side
just the two us.
because i was nothing like them
and he always felt he could be himself
around a guy like me.