Saturday, October 21

wherein i attend an academic conference

So I'm standing in the worst bar on O Street (recent ex-Lincolnites get two guesses, and the first one doesn't count), and this bouncer taps me on the shoulder, says hey man, you can't wear the stocking cap inside. I stare for a while, and he must assume that I am drunk rather than slowly deciding whether I care enough to get thrown out of the joint, because he only repeats himself, apologetically. Eventually I take off the stocking cap. I will spend the rest of the weekend daydreaming about a brick through the front door.

A concerted effort is underway to further Pasteurize downtown. The theater building that used to house Kens for Pens is a gaping, jumbled hole. They're building a coffeeshop in the Amigos parking lot. Meanwhile the bum count at the corner of 14th & P has quadrupled.

Later: I'm standing in John Hibbing's house, lecturing James Fowler on what Linux distribution he should use. Eventually, we're in the Starlite, drinking ginger beer and vodka out of copper cups. I have heartburn from the drinks, and I am talking about Nebraska football, and I completely do not give a shit about Nebraska football. I want a cigarette, and no one is going to offer me one, because smoking is now an affair to be conducted in private, standing in the cold just outside the bar.

Later: We're in the Czech Capital of the U.S.A. to catch Shawn's gig and for Levi to show off his most recent mandolin. The smoking is still legal here, but CarolAnn is unquietly dying of asthma across the table. Guilt wrestles with my self-destructive impulses and wins, though not decisively enough to prevent the (draft) Busch Lite. I try to explain to John that his research design is like an inverted Turing test, about which I am wrong. Shawn plays a song about Winfield titled eight hours of whiskey and a shot of sleep. It is great.

Flashback to September: Stone sober and depressed as hell after at least eight hours of drinking, I sit in the booth at the downtown Winfield donut franchise while David, deranged by too much guitar and half a bottle of Jameson, punches me repeatedly in the arm. John stares morosely into his coffee.