{ People Who Go to Bars at Night Like to Have a Good Time. People Who Go to Bars During the Day Like to Gossip about the People Who Go at Night. }
Margaret Emery
illustration by Jen Lawton

drink early, drink oftenBootleggers, 2:50 p.m., South Oakland
Bootleggers has a square island bar set up in the middle of the room. Since people can sit on all four sides, it's easier to yell across the bar and interrupt someone else's conversation. Fahrenheit 451 is on TV on AMC. There are seven middle-aged people in the bar, but only four of them talk: the bartender, a mailman, a man in a Steelers sweatshirt, and, occasionally, a man in a golfer caddie's hat with an eastern European accent speaks. He stands out among the patrons because he looks about seventy-five.
   It's quiet for a couple of minutes after I walk in and then a conversation starts.
   "How in the hell could he be walking around North Side at ten at night?" Steelers sweatshirt says.
   "They were drinking at nine in the morning when we picked them up," the mailman says.
   The mailman continues with another conversation about an engagement party his son had for his friends' son at Del's. His friends' son didn't show up because he was at the Steelers game, and Steelers were down 34 to 17.
   There are Yuengling- and Coors-Light-triangle-shaped flag decorations hanging from the walls. Two more mailmen come in. One has a beard. The post office in South Oakland is about three blocks away from Bootleggers.
   The bartender talks to the foreign guy, "You better take care of your son. Go down to check on him."
   The foreign guy mumbles something. "He already spent it?" the bartender says, "He'll make you get drunk."
   Then the foreign guys starts waving his hands. "Well, you'll get a bunch of interest on it," the bartender says.
   There's a Miller Light football schedule on the far wall by the video games. The bartender turns to another guy sitting by the TV. "You better talk care of your sons...no shit...you better take care of them."
   Then they start talking about gardening.
   "You got to take them out, split them, put them in the cellar and then just put them back in the ground again anyway," the bartender says. By now, the bartender has the full attention of most of the bar. The ones who were sitting near the TV move toward the tap to be closer to him.
   "When they start turning brown in the spring, just cut them off ant the bottom and let them go. Then, well, I say just put peat moss over them."
   "What can I do to get rid of the crab grass?" Steelers sweatshirt asks.
   Bartender looks at him, but then makes eye contact at everyone around the bar.
   "Get Erase. That's what it's called. Erase. That kills everything. Or put plastic down on it, and then put bricks down on the sides to keep it down. That will kill it too. It can't be too thin though, make it thick."
   Another guy says, "This year I seen so many stupid looking weeds with the tomato plants, I couldn't believe. Some of them are taller than the tomato plants."

Red and Irene's, 3:30 p.m., Southside
There's one bartender, a girl with long brown hair. She has a red puffy jacket on that's a little too big. It's warm inside, but she's sitting on a bench by the cooler. She might be in high school because she talks about how nervous she is about her driving test. There are two customers: a guy with a beard and salt-and-pepper hair sticking out from a black baseball hat, and another guy with a leather jacket that has lapels on the shoulders, his hair is slicked back. Both patrons are related to the bartender. The man with the jacket tells her that if she fails her driving test her father will cut her hair. The man with the hat tells her not to listen to her uncle.
   The drafts aren't working at Red and Irene's, but all the lights are. Purple flashing icicle lights and pink cord lights surrounding the bar. There are two lava lamps on either side of the cash register. One has Spiderman posed diagonally on the side of a building; the other has colors that change behind lettering that reads "the bar is now open." There's a ceramic carousel with pastel colored horses sitting on a shelf above the fryer. There are three tables and about a dozen plastic green lawn chairs.
   "Days of Our Lives" is on television. On "Days", Marlena finds a secret passageway in a fireplace by staring at a painting of the ocean. Bo is in jail and he tells his older son to be a father and a brother to his younger son. Sam is in love with someone who has the body of a male stripper. He bought her a silver bracelet that has both of their initials on the inside.
   As Sam and her stripper make out under dusty peach satin sheets, the bartender says, "I don't need to see them swapping spit. He was with her sister, that's how much he cares about her. I don't know why she's all over him now."
   Baseball hat guy says, "Oh wait two years, all you'll want to do is swap spit with someone."
   No hat nudges him and says, "You'd let someone swap spit with her?"
   They talk about swapping spit for a good ten minutes more, but then the conversation moves to Bo and his impending jail sentence. I can't catch why he's in jail, but according to hat guy it was to protect his children.
   "That's the end of Bo and Hope," hat guy says, "Hope's gone and Bo's in jail."
   The bartender talks about her driving test again as she fiddles with the sleeves on her jacket.

Pollock's, 3:30 p.m., Bloomfield
Pollock's is packed for twenty minutes with a little less than two-dozen people—maybe because it's Friday, or maybe most of the people in the group work together. It's not because of food; Pollock's doesn't serve food during the day. The USA afternoon movie called The Jackal is on television and the Rolling Stones are on jukebox. Men at this bar say "excuse me" and "Miss" as I walk past, and one woman asks permission before she sits down beside me. The bartender has a blond mullette, blue eyeliner, and ears that are pierced all the way up her ear. She is also careful to say please and thank you.
   The people beside me start talking about getting old.
   A man with white hair starts, "Pushing daisies. My aunt, 1892."
   "I'm getting there too. I got arthritis and pulled my back out," a blue-eyed man says, "I got to stand against the wall to straighten it out."
   "How old is your daughter now ?"
   Blue eyes says, "Sixteen. She's as tall as me now. Son's cocky now." His hair is the same shade of gray as his flannel work shirt and his skin is dark red. He works outside.
   The white-haired guy shakes his head. The hair doesn't move. It might not be real. They talk about the humane society's killing-animals policy for a few minutes. Someone they knew got stuck with a bad dog and they weren't sure what to do about it. Then the white-haired guy brings the conversation back to blue eye's son.
   "That's something else. You and your son used to be so tight."
   "It doesn't bother me none. He'll meet other kids at school and find out what their dads do for a living. He'll find out it's nothing special, he'll learnŠit doesn't bother me."
   "It's still a shame. How's your sister?"
   "She isn't married to that jerk anymore. I don't associate with my family anymore," Blue eyes says. He's staring straight at the television.

Modern Cafe, 3 p.m., North Side
There are two or three other bars on Western Avenue, but they aren't open yet. It's busy enough. There are four guys in the back playing pool, and two guys up front drinking I.C. Light. The bartenders are changing shifts. A blonde middle-aged woman who has her shirt tucked in and her hair in an upsweep is checking the cash register. A brunette with short hair has her coat on. They talk for a couple of minutes at the register before she leaves. The blonde talks to two guys in the corner after the brunette leaves, "You missed the festivities last night," she says.
   The festivities were this: a short guy came into the bar. He pointed at a group of people. He said something like, "Fuck you, fuck you too, and fuck your mother," to the people. The mother comment was accidentally directed at a large man. The large man grabbed the short man's neck and said, "What did you say about my mother?" The short man took back the mother comment, but before leaving the bar said that he did not like the large man and he never wanted to speak to him again. The bartender told this story more than once.
   She says, "It's like if you tell him this is red, he'll say, no it's green. He's crazy like that. He's little. He runs his mouth and he doesn't have anything to back it up with."
   Kenny G. is playing. Modern Cafe has flyers for Friday and Saturday night karaoke taped on both of the outside doors.
   Either more men come to this bar than women, or the women who work and drink here don't use the bathroom. There's a rack of pool cues obstructing the entrance to the women's restroom, and inside the bathroom there's a hole in one of the walls and two empty, dusty garbage cans. The whole room seems like it's there just for show.
   Someone switches the television from the Sci-Fi network to "Jerry Springer". A girl on "Springer" starts cursing and taking off her clothes. She starts grinding with audience members; parts of her body are blurred out.
   The bartender says, "For some reason, that doesn't turn me on."
   A guy beside her responds, "She could be hauling a beer gut for all we know. They don't show nothing."

Duke's, 3:30 p.m., North Oakland
Duke's got its name from silver-screen legend John Wayne and related memorabilia is spread out around the bar. The most noticeable collectable at Duke's is a life-size cardboard cutout of Wayne from his role in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. It's right by the jukebox, kind of leaning on it. In the right light it looks like a real person. It's a small bar, and it feels crowded even though there are only three people and a two-dimensional Duke present.
   Larry is talking to the bartender about his social skills. Larry has a blue jacket, Bill-Gates/eighties glasses and a combover. The bartender has a baseball hat with some kind of shipping company logo on it and a leather bomber jacket.
   Larry says, "You better watch yourself. Those three guys last night, they were pissed. You have to watch yourself around people, or you'll get fucked."
   The bartender says, "Those three guys stole all my balls last night. I saw them do it."
   "Oh, you saw them do it. You were up here, and they were down there in the back," Larry says pointing to the pool table behind the bar. "You don't know what's going on right in front of you, let alone what's going on back there."
   "It was only the three of them back there. When I went back there, all my balls were gone."
   "All of them were gone?"
   "All of them were gone," the bartender says.
   "You have to be careful with them. You don't know it was them. You don't know what they do back there."
   The bartender points to the ceiling. "I know what goes on up there. Been painting that for three months. [This place] ought to be a fucking castle by now."

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