Not one for confessional writing (at least not since that psychology researcher claimed to be using my work to recalibrate their “diagnostic model”), permit me instead to attempt a new genre: the alibi.
This much I remember: we had an impromptu Press Club meeting at Meritage – the cast included Diva Donna, Spitzy and the Dame, J.M. Berry, our ace shooter Flash, your humble narrator and enough vodka and vermouth to earn our table the nickname Martini de Sade. Dinner at the fig followed, then Steiner’s, by which point our group had pared down to the Contessa and Diva Donna, but we acquired Cavemen front man David Hinkley on the way out as he helped me dodge the usual sidewalk scrapes erupting around us. We proceeded to cavort in the Plaza like teenagers.
This is where the film school jump cut occurs: the next thing I know I’m playing cards with two dudes in a van. A brief conversation still echoed in my ears regarding my attempted scaling of a chain link fence, which was discouraged by the taller of the van dudes (Brett from my regular café, I later realized). I remember explaining that it was a shortcut (to where, I have no idea) but he pointed out that it would likely be a shortcut to the emergency room. Or at least the tailor. He then invited me to play a card game with him and his crony, who offered me a can of warm beer.
The name of the game, its objective and my subsequent losing streak are beyond the scope of what remains of the night’s memory. Suffice it to say, it was only by sheer chance (or a perverse turn in destiny) that the last hand I was dealt resulted in my winning the better two thirds of a torn $10 bill and a ticket to a show at the Cork Theater. As I collected my winnings, it was pointed out to me that the ticket was only good for another 15 minutes.
The Cork Theater, by all accounts, doesn’t exist except when it does. That’s how it was explained to me, and when I asked Brett to clarify without all the Zen, he merely smiled and said that he’d take me there. If I weren’t face down grappling to keep my guts from coming up and ruining the van’s sheepskin seat covers, I might be able to recount which of his swerving turns went where and hazard an approximate street address, but for now “side of the road” will have to suffice.
The theater itself is an unassuming building. It lacked a marquee or even a meager sandwich board. It seemed all but desolate – one of any number of vacant buildings that dot the valley. A sinking feeling began to grow in my belly, which alas wasn’t a martini attempting to repeat itself.
Printed on the ticket beneath “The Cork Theater” was what I presumed was the show’s title: “Rapture in Suede.” I protested to the thug manning the theater’s door that I was not a fan of suede and asked if I may return the ticket for cab fare back to reality. He shook his head, then spat inches from my shoes. I considered scalping the ticket, but there was no one there but the doorman and I. And he didn’t want it. Trust me, I tried. A sudden chill rose in the air and with nowhere else to go, I stoked up my courage to face the suede.
Inside, the Cork was much more posh than I had expected, especially given the building’s exterior which recalled an auto garage but without the charm. An usher donned in a brimless cap and epaulettes took me by the arm and pressed me into a velveteen seat – the only one left in the house. I found myself asking the usher “Who are all these people?” only to be shushed by the program he shoved in my face. I unfolded it to read: “Rapture in Suede – starring Daedalus Howell.”
To be continued…