I don’t come here for the entertainment.
I come here to sit quietly, think and drink.
Sometimes the thinking comes first, but mostly the drinking is right out in front.
Wednesday night gets a bit raucous, but as long as you like dramatic South American dancing performed by dramatic South Americans, then you are in the right place.
It might sound like a contradiction to you but it is possible to be quiet in your mind in the midst of much confusion. This is the reason that I survive Wednesday nights.
The bar is quite spacious, but from the outside you would never know it.
You have to know where you are going; there isn’t any sign out front and as far as I know there never has been.
It’s a Melbourne thing; all sorts of bars and clubs situated down dark lane-ways, only this place predates the modern preoccupation with unnamed premises by about thirty years.
In the late 1970s there was an influx of South American refugees fleeing the results of American interference and some of them settled in Melbourne.
This city was built by people who came from somewhere else.
This war-torn world has given us our heart. For many years, this bar was where the lonely and the displaced came to hear a familiar tongue.
I write during the day, usually in my favourite cafe and I come here at night. They know me well.
There is a private room out the back where games of chance go on well into the small hours of the morning. Max Shams met his end there early on a Sunday morning. He’d been loosing steadily for weeks and the word had gotten out that there was a pigeon ripe for plucking.
Max eventually ran out of money and patience. He blamed the dealer and pulled a knife. A skinny little guy took it away from him, then gave it right back. The blade hit something vital and Max lay in a huge pool of his own blood.
Many people remarked that they did not realise there was that much blood inside a person.
I’ve thought that once or twice myself.
It turned out that Max had been lifting his gambling money from a variety of customer accounts. As it usually happens, the bank he worked for had no idea he was liberating the funds until he met his untimely demise.
His body was not found where it fell but a few streets away in a quiet patch of garden belonging to a widow who didn’t like cats.
The police made a nuisance of themselves for the required amount of time and the inquest returned a verdict of death by person or persons unknown.
The skinny guy left town and lived happily until he was knocked off his motorbike in Queensland. It was a warm night [that’s the only kind of night they have up there], and the skinny guy was struck by a late night seagull. The skinny guy might have survived except for his lack of helmet. He left the helmet at his girlfriend’s. She liked him to wear it during sex and it had gotten a bit sticky. He meant to collect it the next time he visited, but for him, there would not be a next time.
His girlfriend cried a lot and mumbled something about how good he was in bed and how he liked to bang his head on the wall just before he would come, so I guess the helmet had a practical application as well as a decorative one.
Apart from gamblers, of which there are a few regulars, there are also musicians and artists who frequent my favourite club.
Musicians are not like everyone else and some would say that they are not ‘all there’ which would explain why they turn up to this club to jam after having played all night somewhere else.
When I’m done writing, I’m done for the day. No, that’s not true either; I carry a notebook and I write in it when an idea comes to me, no matter where I am, so maybe I’m just as nuts as they are.
If nothing else, the jam sessions add a lot of colour, and you never know who will turn up.
If you are wondering why I spend so much time here, I’ll tell you. There is nothing for me at home; just four walls and a bunch of bills that come whether I’m there or not.
I’ve had women; I’ve even lived with a few but in the end they work out that I’m a pain in the arse and they leave. Some move in because I’m a pain in the arse and they believe they can reform me.
If I lined them all up, end to end, they would reach a consensus; this bloke is beyond redemption.
It’s true that I get lonely, who doesn’t, but I live my life my way and that’s the way I like it.
There was one woman; Margie, but I let her slip away.
She was ‘the one’, but my ego and ambition were so large in those days that it blocked out the sun. If I had my time over again I would fix that mistake, but no one is going to give me that chance, so I do the best with what I have.
Margie married a bloke who listened to her and gave her the life she wanted. He was, and is, as boring as fuck but he has one thing I don’t have; Margie.
These are the things I think about as I sit here drinking and thinking and listening to the music and watching the dancers.
It’s amazing how often Wednesday comes around, and there are those dancers again.
The decor here isn’t bad and the lighting is just right. The service could be a little better, but I do alright, they know me and they keep me sweet.
The bartender is a quiet bloke but no one messes with him.
I once saw him catch a table in mid-air.
Some bozo from Sydney had been flashing his money around and a slightly dodgy bloke from Frankston took offence. The ensuing tussle included the throwing of various objects.
I watched the bartender slowly emerge from behind the bar just in time to catch the table as it went sailing by.
I swear to God he caught it with one hand and just kept advancing.
Everyone stopped what they were doing, including the two combatants, and a deathly silence fell over the room. Even the musicians looked up.
The bartender stopped in front of the frozen miscreants and said something like, ‘I’m adding the costs to your bill and a healthy tip for myself in return for not beating the two of you to a pulp’.
He walked quietly back behind the bar after replacing the flying table back in its customary spot. Everything went back to normal and the two miscreants bought each other a drink.
Whatever they pay that bartender, it isn’t enough.
Painting by Fabian Perez.