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Saturday June 02, 2001, 11:11

In order to understand exactly why it was that I went running out last night in the rain to go to a bar we will first have to examine the earlier part of this week.

I have been working this week. This, in itself, is not particularly interesting. However, I have been working in the theatre. For thirteen hour days. With a lot of people around.

That last bit would be the most important. For the past week, and even the days before it, when I returned to my alma mater for a large, campus-wide dance event held just before graduation, I have been surrounded by people. This, in stark contrast with my normal routine, which involves me, sitting in my apartment or an office, alone, with a computer, has reminded me just how much fun it can be to interact with people on a daily basis.

So that's been my life. Party party party, followed by work work work with a bit of sleep interspersed. So imagine my confusion last night when the show closed and it was raining and I had nothing to do. The cast had vanished, my coworkers had run off to do large amounts of drugs, and it was raining. Several phone calls led me with no options but to return home. Which I did.

And promptly sat down at my computer.

Old habits die hard, I suppose. I sat. And I typed. And I sat. And I typed. And I chatted with a friend. And I typed. And I realized that I was not going to have much fun, sitting alone in my apartment, while the rest of the world was outside getting wet. So I left.

I had a destination in mind, to be sure. There is a club in the Lower East Side where I have seen several bands play. It is a nice little space; it is a bar with a club attached and every night they have live music for a low, $5 cover price. And it was a destination.

The walk over was a more of a frenzied shuffle as I avoided (or sloshed right through) the lakes that had formed between the street and the sidewalk. The rain came down in sheets or in dribbles and would switch between the two from one moment to the next. I had an umbrella that kept my head and torso dry, and my boots were doing the same for my feet, but the same could not be said for the part of my body in between. Surprisingly enough, the rain was not quite cold enough, and my pants were just heavy enough, that the water merely sat heavy in the fabric, but did not cause an undue amount of discomfort. This would play a key role in my evening.

I arrived at the club, found out that there were two bands left in the evening, and walked in, clawed my way through the crowd at the door and made my way to the stage part of the venue. The show was, in fact, still five dollars, and I was forced to decided if I was going to part with my hard-earned (and quite scarce these days) money. I opted to go to the restroom instead.

When I returned I decided that it was, in fact, not in my best interest to see the show and would instead embark on an adventure of meeting people at a bar. I stood around awkwardly and more than once tried to make a break for the door. Realizing that I would just have to walk back home in the rain, having nothing to show for my evening other than a pair of soggy pants, I lingered by the bar, trying to get the bartenders attention. I finally ordered myself a glass of water, and stood in the center of the room, trying to find an open space in which to park myself. There was one, and it was right next to the door to where the bands were playing, against a wall.

For the next forty minutes or so I stood there, nursing my water, watching the crowd. There was an incredibly tall woman with a clipboard and sheets of paper that read "Mailing List." She, I thought to myself, must be with a band. It occurred to me, on occasion, to strike up some banter with her about this fact. But the opportunity never really presented itself. And besides, it would have been strange and awkward and I would have had no follow up. And she was two feet taller than I. And with friends.

I was not all together uncomfortable with myself there, both physically or mentally. My clothes were not wet, which meant that I could stand and not be forever thinking "man, my clothes are wet." And I was enjoying the experience of being surrounded by people without having to actually put forth any effort to have to meet them. This, I realize, does seem a bit on the anti-social side, but there are times when just the experience of being surrounded by life is enough to offer some amount of joy. Or contentment. Or something in between.

But it was wearing thin, and the band had just finished playing.

I peered around the corner, as I had been doing all evening, to see whether there were any people around the girl at the door, collecting the money. The plan, as it had played out in my head, was that I would engage her in conversation. I would ask her if there were any upcoming shows that she would recommend and then I would slip into the fact that I had no money (which I did not) and would see whether I could enter the venue.

This latter part of the plan would prove to be the easiest as it was the last band and she was not enforcing the entry fee as strictly as she could have. The former was a bit more difficult.

"I normally have a list of shows that I am planning on going to see, but right now I can't think of any."

A rejection! But I would not be put down so easily, and the conversation eventually wrapped around to talking about AOL. This, I felt, was a disaster, and would not be the fruits of my conversational labors. For the next hour and half we talked about concerts and theatre and chance encounters and how the universe often acts in strange and unusual ways.

Though probably ill-advised, I even offered to go away at one point, fearing that I was being too much of a bother and worrying that I was coming off as sleazy as opposed to sincerely bored. I really did not want to go in to see this band which sounded like bad Rage Against the Machine rip off. Or just bad. I really just wanted to have some sort of conversation with anyone, and the bar scene in the other room was quite unappealing.

I recommended shows that she should go see, she told me stories about when she lived in London and we exchanged remarks about the level of stupidity present in the room behind us. We talked about how the music was particularly horrid and had no redeeming value and how the people in the audience probably did not understand this fact. We talked of feelings of entitlement to attend performances for free - she in the music industry, me in the theater one.

We talked about nothing.

"You know, your job could pretty much replaced with a sign," I mentioned as another patron asked about the location of the bathrooms (down the stairs) and how to get into see the band (through the door labeled "enter here").

She stared at me. "I was just thinking the exact same thing."

She started packing up the money and tally for the evening's attendance and I thanked her for a lovely evening and enjoyable conversation.

"I'll be here again tomorrow night if you've got nothing better to do."

...

Before I left I did introduce myself. I was thinking about leaving having never made formal introductions, leading more to the random nature of the encounter, but realized that I did in fact want to make introductions, that I did want to leave knowing who she was, and vice versa (her name is Melissa).

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