By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Hey, kid," says manager and bartender Bill Roller, pulling her a draft beer.
An artist and singer for the punk band Tongue, Liz lives around the corner in the Canadian, a building of lofts inhabited mostly by artists. She drinks here most of the time.
"It's the cleanest bar downtown," she says. "You can't walk into some places without someone trying to stick a needle in your arm."
A shabby black guy comes through the door, approaching Liz with a request that doesn't get past his lips before Bill tells him to "Keep walking, keep walking." The guy leaves.
"That guy, he's always trying to get you to buy him a beer," says Liz. "So we buy him a beer one night. Then he asks for money for the jukebox, so we give that to him, and he goes over and plays what he thinks is 'white music,' then he comes back and wants a tip for playing this white music."
Liz's friend Dez, a guitarist and singer for an early version of Black Flag, arrives. Yes, King Eddy's is their favorite bar, but it's also close, and since neither has a car (Dez has never driven a day in his life), accessible.
"And it opens at 6 in the morning," says Dez, who lives within walking distance.
A few of their pals arrive. They take one of the countertop tables against the far wall.
"First round's taken care of, kids," says Bill, handing over a pitcher. They haven't been in the bar three minutes. Who paid?
"I seen you in here earlier, and you didn't let me buy you those beers," says an old-time cowboy, the kind with no ass to hold up his Wranglers, a permanent cigarette in his mouth and a face as cracked as parched earth.
"How about you let us buy you a drink?" says Liz.
"Young lady, you kids will not ever have the kind of money I have," Cowboy says, and pays for the next round, too, before going back to his buddies, all the while keeping an eye out so not one drop gets drunk that he hasn't paid for.
It's a busy night at King Eddy's. The V.A. checks have come in the day before, so the veterans, who make up a sizable portion of the clientele, are feeling flush. The mood is festive, there's noise and movement from all sides of the room; red, green and yellow party lights give color to the old cheeks.
Cowboy sidles up to Liz and a friend. "You girls want to make $150, $200 an hour?"
"Uh . . . sure," says Liz, smiling, walking the next round of drinks back to the table.
Seeing the menfolk there, Cowboy pulls up a little short. "How's about all you guys want to work this weekend?"
"What do we have to do?" asks Dez.
"What we're gonna do is, I'll fly you all out to Vegas tomorrow, and you'll work all weekend," says Cowboy. It's not possible to tell whether he's serious or making this up on the spot. "All you have to do is walk up and down the street, just back and forth, and I'll give you $250 each for the day."
Like extra work?
"Yeah, that's what it is. I make movies, videos. We're about to do another one, in Africa," says Cowboy, pulling out a business card. "I'm staying out here in my motor home tonight, but I'm leaving tomorrow. Here, take down these numbers," he says, rattling off the numbers to his cell, his pager, his office, his mobile. He makes Liz write them on a napkin, then read them back to him. "That's it. You want to do it, you have to call me by 8 a.m."
A few minutes later the napkin falls on the floor, where it's run over by a battery-operated scooter. The woman with the blond bob, who lives in a hotel room across the street, is in high spirits, looking sharp in a black motorcycle jacket and revving her new toy across the floor. When it crashes into Liz's foot for the fifth time, Blondie comes in close and peers into Liz's face.
"She's about 12!" Blondie shouts.
"It's her 29th birthday," Dez says.
Blondie arches her eyebrows as high as they'll go and puts her hands on her hips. "I don't think so," she scolds, walking to the pay phone on the wall, pretending to alert the authorities to the fact that there are minors drinking at King Eddy's.
"And him," she squeals, pointing at Liz's friend Din. "He's about 19, and oh my god," she says, making hubba-hubba eyes, "look how handsome." She begins to moon extravagantly over Din, telling him she's going to take him away from his girlfriend; his girlfriend tells her to give it her best shot, and by the way, what's her name?
"I'll only tell him," she says, cupping her hand over Din's ear and leaning into him for a solid minute. Blondie stays around for a drink, then takes her scooter for a spin on the other side of the bar.
"What was her name, anyway?" Liz asks.