When you stop going to a place it ceases to exist in a way. Or, rather, it’s frozen on whatever state it was in when you were last a regular. It’s a childish idea not unlike thinking that your teachers live at school or that the world goes to sleep when you close your eyes. Also, probably unavoidable. Can you imagine continuing to think of all the places you no longer go as dynamic evolving environments? I get sleepy just thinking that one thought.
Feed is the restaurant Donna opened after leaving Bite. I’d worked at Bite in 2000 so this was at least a couple years after that. We were much better as friends than as boss and worker. I liked visiting her at her new place without the hazard of getting on her wrong side. I became a regular.
She’d posed for a portrait a few years before and let me put up art at Bite often so it was no great leap when she asked for a painting of her new place. I went in several afternoons in a row and sat at an oilcloth-covered table in the corner and knocked it out. Wound up making friends with the cook because of those afternoons but we lost touch long ago. Haven’t heard from Donna in years either. I wonder whether she still has the painting.
She and Liz sold the place to one of the cooks years ago when they left town. First for Albuquerque, now, who knows where? As I said, we’re no longer in touch.
A friend is playing a show at the Bottle and I need a place to eat beforehand so I go to Feed. It looks mostly the same. The menu boards are as they’ve always been. The photos of show chickens still cover most of the walls. But there are a lot less tchotchkes strewn about. The bathroom walls are no longer covered in snapshots of smiling customers. The place feels slightly diminished, not unlike how your elementary school will appear to’ve shrunk in your years away. The burger’s still good though.
The Empty Bottle is a richer repository of memories. Less stilled in amber than Feed because I still go there semi-regularly. But the only employees I know there are the very few from the olden days and the odd one like Matty who’s from music-land.
Tonight, for the first time in at least a decade, the bartender at the Bottle starts a conversation with me. She’s new. Only been there since April. I ask how long the bathrooms have been unisex but to her they’ve always been that way. I tell her my one well-worn anecdote about walking out on the White Stripes here while I worked at Bite. She keeps asking things and so do I.
I see Jim hauling in gear and boxes of merch and say hello. The room slowly fills. The bartender gets busy. I hang around a little bit longer then bike home.
—I was interviewed in the Pocket Guide to Hell. Then read a few pages from Italo Svevo’s A Very Old Man into a microphone.