My doubts turn me to the Tarot. I turn the first card over and it’s The Moon. Between two opposing towers, the unhappy moon frowns upon the foreboding anticipation of the wolf and the dog as a lobster rises from the abyss. It represents personal imagination out of balance with the self. It is enlightenment that cannot be revealed alone through our higher cognitive awareness or our animal instincts. Equilibrium is the resolution, but with one characteristic in control, harmony is not possible.
Genie’s untimely death at the hands of, of whatever Frankenstein that thing was. The cops the community, its leaders and followers blamed her. It doesn’t make sense. It tests my belief in everything about this city. I understand the expediency of politics, but Genie was truly a good person, a heart of gold, and a friend. I don’t like it. I can’t reconcile it. The truth is the truth; it’s not dependent on point of view or situation.
Lt. Inspector Cochran, an ex-lover, ex-friend or maybe, the lead in the case, twisted my arm to tow the line and hide the truth about Frank, the steam-golem. His/its disappearance at the county morgue was convenient timing for the official CYA. Accusing Genie as a co-conspirator to three murders, fuckers. I am not the must upstanding citizen in San Francisco, and Genie may have been a part-time working girl, but I know too well where and when to blow the fog away and when to let it float. We’re all just trying to get through our lives. I know what rules are important and what rules are convenient. I thrive in the grey of this city, but crucifying a close friend for the sake of expediency is not the way. I value loyalty above most human aberrations. If you are a criminal, a lawyer, philanderer, reprobate, or politician, loyalty is the ultimate guarantee, and until you prove otherwise, I will journey to the city of the dead without sharing your whispers, weaknesses, or frailties. I hope you know them yourself.
“What have you got there?” Jasmine says as she approaches from the end of the bar, Pompeii’s.
“I don’t know. Just thinking of absent friends.” I reply.
“Are you going to tell me my fortune?” She smiles.
“Uh.” I lay a card down on the bar. It is a 7 of Coins. “This one tells me you are going to buy me another whisky.”
She laughs and turns around to grab the Jameson off the 2nd tier shelf, fills my shot glass to the edge. “Wow, you can tell the future. This one’s on us.” She’s the owner.
I raise the jigger. My fingertips cool from evaporating alcohol, “thanks,” smile, toast the glass to her and shoot this one down all at once. I am usually a sipper.
Jasmine shakes her head and fills the shot glass again, “that ones on you.” She turns around and places the bottle back in its place.
“Thanks,” but I doubt that she hears me. She knows how I feel about Pompeii’s. I’ve been coming here close to 20 years and it’s changed little. They got rid of the jukebox (a good thing); the songs had not been updated in 5 years. The roots here are jazz, but the keepers are so fluent in the local music scene that the stale juke was a non-plus. The tenders usually bring their own handhelds and plug in whatever they want. Once I plugged in my iPod, a Paris in the 20’s simulation.
Pomp’s still lights a gas lamp above the bar and they’ve been running 20th century, Edwardian porn on a projector above the glass bottle shelves since the 50’s. They still use slides. I’ve tried to get an upgrade, RetroRaunch.com, pre-seventies smut still in the blue, but not as clinical as today or as noticeable after the “Summer of Love.”
I worked the door for a period some time ago when the economy slowed, but in a city like SF, urchins, opportunists, and crawlers are rarely flat. There’s always money on the street, and people who will pay to follow its consequence. Even more dynamic, complex to improbable and irrational, love never dulls its sharp point. I speak of it in the most general metaphors; love and hate are different states on the same chip. Rather the wattage is predictable or the effects of short circuits, it never cools.
I look up at the single television set at angle on the wall–it’s the only real change over the past 50 years, and the volume is never more than zero. It’s a commercial for a men’s hair club; not the one you are thinking of, but a local upstart herbal recipe for prolonging your love life and career. We are so damn shallow. I hang out here with a group of urban sport enthusiasts who would never worry about blinding a date at dinner from the 10k daylight CFL bouncing off a bald dome. They love woman, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever date any supermodels. Or, even consider it.
A European football match returns to the big one-way eye, but no one seems to be paying much attention. I wonder where my friendly burdens are? I finish the whisky and Jasmine appears again with the bottle.
I pick up my glass and tip if forward, handing it to her. She takes it, sits it on the bar. Over fills it again. “What’s up? You Ok Seven?”
“Just lost in thought, thinking about Genie.” I answer.
“I read what happened. I find it hard to believe?”
“Yeah, the only consistent truth these days is an empty jigger and that black cat with glowing red eyes over the bar.” I smile, frown, and sigh.
Julie smiles, “I know she was your friend, and I’m sorry she’s gone.” She grabs another jigger from behind the bar and sets it on the wood. Filling it, “let’s drink on together to her.” She holds the full glass above her shoulder and I pick mine up.
Clink, clink, “to Genie, a rose snipped too soon from the garden of the everyday.” I toast, and we throw back the whiskeys. I sit my jigger back on the bar and Jasmine fills it again. I look down and continue to stare at the tarot card, the Tower. My head swims in a more content buzz. I guess it is time to shred some filters.