It is Wednesday Trivia Night at the Church Key tonight, and Phoebe calls Golden Boy to arrange for pizza-bite appetizers. The Key always provides free bar food to the first who arrive for any special occasion. The beer-only bar serves mostly North western microbrews, Stouts, Ales, Lagers, IPAs, but also a few international varietals, including saisons (a Belgian farmhouse beer.) It is a small place with a handful of tables, a tiny loft, and most seating is at the bar.
Phoebe Shackleton is a 33-year old art school drop out becoming a permanent student. She was shelving books at the U of C, Berkeley Library when she met Comma Nadu. He was temping with an IT company installing new terminals. She is his programming loop-escape buffer of lips, hips, and reason; keeping his OCD out of infinite spirals of Mandelbrot sets.
They have been dating/living together for 5 years. Comma has popped the question twice. He wants the whole human experience, two kids, 40-year mortgage, and tent camper in storage. Phoebe likes things the way they are with no shackles set in stone. “Shackles” is one of her pet names for Comma. She uses it mostly around her art school tribe.
Phoebe is 5′ 7′, 120 pounds with light brown hair that she colors. Currently, her hair is jet black with tips of carillon blue, and tonight, she braided it into pigtails. Her parent’s dominant lineage is English on her father’s side and Belgium on her mother’s. She has her father’s eyes and her mother’s nose. A typical American, she is a much larger mix of the two including Greek, Norse, and even a little African thrown in for good measure.
She has been in and out of school for the last 10 years, but can’t seem to commit to a specific field or career. She took her Dad’s advice and tried accounting, “learn a professional pragmatic skill first then a fun career.” When he retires, he plans to lead travel groups to Europe. She lasted half a year and couldn’t stay awake in class. She dated a classmate, but his infatuation with everything money didn’t feed her creative spirit. “No you can’t just write-off that trip to Paris, because you took a tour of artists’ grottos and saw their horrible book keeping.”
She studied psychology for two years, but got tired of the constant self-analysis and with it, growing self-doubt. She studied history and literature for a year, but career prospects are bleak. Even public school teachers are not sacrosanct when the economy turns to bear shit.
She is back in school, University of San Francisco, working on a Marketing curriculum. In her early undergraduate, she completed 90 hours in the Art Practice program at the University of California, Berkeley; but a disagreement with a tenured professor soured her ambitions to change the world through visual expression. Dr. “Rat turd,” Rastmussen is a graduate level art historian with the reputation, “Avoid or Fail.” He teaches 4th year Global Perspectives and administers senior projects. Phoebe came close to assault in class, when Rat Turd suggested that all art, all creative expression is dead. It’s all just echoes in a pond, and no one to case an original stone. He had the audacity to suggest to 4th year students that the only truly creative outlet for expression is criticism, the weirder, and the crueler the better. A debate escalated to a face to face screaming match, “toad-fucking, putrid old goat for the spit and young ignorant hack hipster bitch in heat,” and if not for one of her desk mates, she would have assaulted him. Her fist was in mid swing.
A Free Speech campus, Berkeley administration decides the two should agree to disagree should and never breath the same air in a classroom again. Dr. Rastmussen received an apology letter read in front of the class, and Ms. Shackleton, received pass/fail credit for the course. One course and a lab to go with the professor, the University said it would find a creditable work around. At the apology reading with the dean and his boss as witnesses, Phoebe thru up her fists and issued one last “fuck you,” before dropping out of the program.
Phoebe dresses in a retro-hipster-Goth, steam punk style. Her period clothes are more a modern combination of middle-class working hero of the 40’s and Madrian modern-vinyl of the 60’s with anti-Luddite sensibility. She wears flat-black, kitty-cat glasses similar to Batman’s Cat-woman, with no bling except, a black marcasite chain chases them around her neck. Neither mod nor rocker, early-80’s punk is the bases of her style. Even if it was a decade before her time, her father was an early punk, Iggy Pop to the Sex Pistols to the Ramones; but he de-gauged his piercings to become a successful accountant for the Fed. Add in Comma’s technology influence, and her style is more and more pure Steam Punk. Goth is too passive and monochromatic, and pure punk too raw and unfinished.
She wears a carillon blue, faux-ostrich (full quill) vinyl corset with large brass buttons in the back over a black cotton poet t-shirt. The corset lifts her 32 D’s and the red sequin eyes of a skull poke out from her cleavage. The corset drops down to the center of her stomach, covering a black wool mid-knee length skirt. She wears a pair of rough-rode brown riding boots, with a DIY carillon blue spat, spur combo. Phoebe wears a black cameo in a brass setting on a leather chocker around her neck, and the cameo is a resin skeleton after Comma’s facial bone structure. She wears two watches on her left wrist: one watch is a vintage men’s Swiss diver on a brown strap set to Atlantic Time, and the other is a woman’s pink plastic 70’s-digital set to Pacific. On her right wrist she wears a compass attached to a blue ribbon.
Comma doesn’t come into the city outside of work on Wednesday evenings. He gets together with his male friends at his live/work in Berkeley to play MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games) like Grid Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or Dragon Eternity as a team; or board games like Risk, Settlers of Catan, or City of Remnants against each other. Beer is the ubiquitous game piece, but Comma, an East Indian, is not a big fan of IPAs; “they’re too damn hoppy.” Phoebe and some of the other gamers’ girlfriends attempted a coed-game-night, but too much meanness between partners and pettiness between competitors soured the mash even more than an IPA.
Phoebe works for the Church Key three-nights a week, Monday, Wednesday, and on Saturday as 2nd-draft. She’s worked at the Key for three years. On Trivia Night, groups of patrons form teams with catchy names, like Pete’s RePetes, Sss Fss Know-its, Info-maniacs, Barbary Brawlers, or Dewy, Cheetum, and Howl. The host hands out a registration sheet and a blank sheet of color paper to each team. The teams must list their members, asses each member’s skill (beginner to advanced,) and choose a name for the team. Each team must make a flag using the blank sheet of color paper. During play, to answer a question each team must wave their flag and make as much noise as possible to get the proctor’s attention. The host uses a white board to tally the number of correct answers from each team. Each player pays $5 to the general pot, and each team pays $10 to cover overhead and prizes. The team with the most correct answers to trivia questions wins the pot, and special prizes are awarded during game to play for really hard questions or for anything at the host’s discretion. Special prizes can vary from simple noisemakers, to t-shirts, and even free beers.
The host–Proctor Magnificent Proctor, Steve, Steve the Keeper of Light, Oh Wise and Magnificent Oz, Oh Amy of Arrows Gone, Oh Amy, Amy the Cognizant, or whatever the host chooses as a title–asks a question to the teams. Each team waves their flag, whistles, howls, hoots in an attempt to get the hosts attention, and when called, answers the question using the host’s title. If the answer is correct, it is tallied. If it is incorrect or the title is dropped, the other teams have a chance to answer until no one can answer. It is up to the host to tell the answer of keep it available for later play. The host can offer special incentive prizes to the teams for hard questions, for the loudest, for the best flag, for, or even the most humble quiz-ant. The game starts promptly at 7 P.M., with not late arrivals and ends at 10 with the award of the pot to the team who got the most questions correct.
The questions can be any topic or subject, from popular culture to neighborhood politics, from geography to physics, from music to latest news. It behooves the hosts to keep the questions difficult and varied enough to excite the participants without shaming them or giving away the galaxy.
The trivia host setup up their game table in the front window, close to the entrance. They hand out registration and take money, before game play begins sharply at 7:30. Once Steve rings his one-foot diameter, black wood and brass gong, the game begins with no further entries. The hosts welcome the players and announce the teams over a small boom box PA. The teams stand, yell, whistle, hoop, holler, and wave their flag as he calls their name.
Steve strikes the gong as hard as he can and keeps it on the table. “Welcome, welcome competitors, intelligentsia, dunces, and hop heads. Welcome to the Grand Googly Gazoo’s games of antiquity and imagination. In association with Games Outloud, the wide rapacious delights of Golden Boy Pizza, and our host’s, the audacious, most excellent purveyors of beers, ales, lagers, stouts, etc in their finest form, The Church Key; welcome to Wednesday Trivia Night.” Steve bangs the gong again. “Amy our co-host will read the rules of the games within one breath, and if a volunteer from the audience could bring their full beer up to the stage, we will renew it a fresh, if you can beat Amy of Arrows Gone to the bottom of your glass.”
Alex, a member of the Sss Fss Know-its, steps forward with a can of Mother’s Little Yellow Pills and holds it above his head toward the audience.
“Ready?” Steve stands between Amy and Alex. “GO,” he squeaks a toy horn. Amy reads the rules into the microphone at machine gun’s rate, faster than an auctioneer’s call of a last keg of Guinness. Alex tips his head back and opens his mouth wide. He inverts the can and chugs it in great gulps. The crowd is on its feet, cheering it’s choice. Amy finishes first, and Alex finishes with a deep throat burp.
Steve bangs the gong, “Welcome, let the game begin. And, get that man a beer.”