Friday, January 7, 2011

About the Velvet Hammer

I drank at the Velvet Hammer a couple of times with my buddy William in the days of lesser light. The last time I drank there was some time in 1984 when I was sitting next to some old drunk hippie who started a conversation with what he thought of the Ku Klux Klan and what he'd like to do to each of them.

He informed me, in a language not this delicate, that he'd like to severe the genitalia of these KKKers and shove in the mouths of their mothers. I was intent on finishing my drink and let him prate with his alcoholic bile--it had the memorized rhythm of a nursed resentment that could be rattled off, word for word, at split-second provocation--until the barmaid emerged from the back room and said "Okay, Bobby, just leave the man alone and let him enjoy his drink." Bobby, who'd maintained a slurring, snarling Gordian knot of a grimace, a result, no doubt, of too many years of blown opportunities and short term day jobs and shorter-term love affairs, suddenly let his face go slack, all those tight coils of resentment giving to the gravity of his situation.

He stared into his drink while the barmaid wiped the counter and emptied a bucket of ice into the bar well. It was a cozy little nest of diluted dreams defied the SoCal sunshine during its years on La Jolla Blvd., Bird Rock's ground zero for bad juju. The Velvet Hammer was, by the time I rolled in for drinks years after whatever conviviality it contained had lapsed and sputtered, was an enclosed argument with the sunny side of things.The last thing I recall while sitting there in this dark lounge, was when I noticed that the only source of illumination seemed to be the stray beams of sunshine that came through the cracks of the bar's entrance.  It seemed no one ever walked out that door, nor walked out, seeming that way until someone opened the door from the street, a thirsty man gritty under a work soaked collar. The sunlight flooded the bar for a moment and the three of us stared into the glare, each of us hoping in a variety of ways that this was the moment when things either got better or stopped altogether. Either way would be an improvement than the moment we were in,  which was timeless and fatal.

1 comment:

  1. These sort of testimonies need to be put down. Here’s another – I was in a bar in Bell, California around 1988 or so, where my friends Ryan and Bill were playing in a low-rent country & western band. Between sets, Ryan was approached by a scroungy-looking rounder who introduced himself as Richard. This gentleman had the lean, hunted look of a Confederate deserter. Immediately we all noticed his vest, which had two squirrel pelts sewn on them. He laughed about the animals skins and said, “Everything I touch I kill!” He went on to say that he had known Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper before they were killed in that plane crash. The drift in his conversation was starting to make us all nervous. Then Richard – in a moment of terrifying clarity – looked Ryan directly in the eye and said, “As you are I was – as I am, you shall be!” Ryan shrank back, trying to conceal the look of horror on his face. I thought I had walked into a scene from Faust…


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