I used to think the holy water decoration was outdated. Its simple interior is filled with religious imagery: images of the crucifixion and tacky casts and eerie portraits of the undead. But the last time I came to Kirtland, Bernal’s main drag, right next to Boccana, was pre-pandemic. That’s how it was then. In today’s turbulent world, the decoration of holy water seemed a little odd at the time – especially the creepy undead figures.
“Is that a zombie?” my friend “Tasha” asked over and over, staring at a picture of a shriveled bartender on the wall behind me. The painting was so far away and the light was so dim that it was hard to tell. Maybe it’s some kind of weird racist cartoon? The more we drink, the more she has to know.
I was supposed to meet Tasha here alone to talk about helping her create a personal artistic experience, but when she walked into the bar, she hugged me and smiled embarrassedly. “I ran into two friends,” she said. “They said they were going to the Royal Cuckoo, and I had to tell them: No, you’re not. It’s closed tonight.” She knew this because originally we were going to meet there. “So, since they have nowhere to go, I tell them they can go with me. Hope it’s alright?”
“Of course,” I said. Sometimes you just roll with these things.
But when her friends “John” and “Todd” came over, I found out that I already knew both of them: I knew Todd before the pandemic and attended some of his house parties. I met John at another new friend’s dinner a few weeks ago. It’s a strange moment: everyone gathered at this table at random already knows everyone else, but none of us know that any of us know anyone else.
In fact, John had just told Todd about my book that night, not realizing that we were acquaintances, let alone that we were about to meet.
Tasha put her hand on mine. “We’ll probably be stripping away for a while to get one-on-one time,” she told them.
“Oh,” John said, “we might just come here for a drink.” Neither statement is true. The future, even in small doses, is difficult to predict.
Holy Water prides itself on producing a drink with no more than four ingredients and is absolutely perfect. This is a boast they live up to. But my feeling is that those four-ingredient drinks have become less simple and more baroque since the end of the world. I could be wrong. It’s not something I can point to, just a feeling. But isn’t everything messier now?
Still, they didn’t disappoint. I started with Butter Bourbon Berry Bramble (butter bourbon, lemon, fresh homemade berry syrup) and while it was more tart than I expected, it was still a treat. Tasha took a sip and declared it her favorite drink of the night.
The situation in Ukraine cannot be avoided for a while. Todd believes it needs to have a government-in-exile at some point, and he wonders if new technology could make such an entity more effective. And John…John will move to Poland at the end of the month to help resettle Ukrainian refugees there.
Apparently there were many refugees in John’s family. His grandparents came here to escape the war. John is doing well during the pandemic – he’s safe and his tech work has brought him a good income, but in the process he’s lost his sense of community and purpose. He is looking for a new, rewarding, challenge and next adventure. When he realized he could go to Poland to help Ukraine, he was immediately forced. Now he’s going to the borders of the war zone, maybe even further. Everything is ready: buy a one-way ticket.
I was impressed by his sense of mission and competence. I can imagine having a clear enough sense of purpose to do something like this, but I can’t imagine “yes, if I go there, I can help”. But John has done rescue work before, and he personally sees an opportunity to make a difference. Something he’s been looking for for years.
Todd gets up to leave, which sparks one round of goodbyes and another round of drinks. Tasha went to the bar and came back with a buttery bourbon berry thorn, and the bartender knew well that the painting behind me was indeed a zombie. “Of course,” she said.
“I thought things were going the other way,” I said.
“Do you think no Zombies? ”
“No, I thought they wouldn’t know. Last time I absolutely had to know what a painting was doing in a bar – in this case, right above the men’s urinals – before I asked the bar staff Just stopped me. “We don’t know,” they said. “It was there when we first got here, it was there when the new owner took over, and it was kind of stuck to the wall, so we couldn’t take it off. , everyone wonders why it’s here, and we just don’t know. I guess that might be true here as well. “
“Well, this is The Walking Dead,” Tasha said. “It’s not complicated.”
Next I went to the bar. Despite being overcrowded, the bartender had everything under control, took my order and sent me back in time. I came back with a Zombie (a mix of rum, citrus and tropical flavors) and John was so impressed that he bought one too.
We talked about John’s loss of community during the pandemic and the ways we’ve tried to use art to build community – sometimes by going to mass events where crowds are all going through the same thing, which is John’s passion, sometimes by going from a Small groups of people create experiences, it’s mine.
Did it work? Well, we’re here right now – that’s how we know each other, the connections we make through creating and participating in art events in the Bay Area.
But for all of us, something is missing right now. It’s not the same thing – John needs purpose, the kind that takes you to the other side of the world. Tasha wants deep and deep intimacy that can tear your life apart if you’re not careful; I want…I want…I want to be better than I am.
Art has taken us so far and brought us together, but there is always more to do. There is still a lot to do. Sometimes, I think we drink to forget that.
Finally, Tasha said she was going home. I propose to take her down the mountain and back to church. When we set this up, she asked me if I would help her develop an art project to address the issues she’s struggling with in life, as I sometimes do with mine, but we’re very focused on Tod and John and The uncertain future of the world, we haven’t brought it up yet when she walks up the steps into her apartment. The whole point of our being together, forgotten.
It speaks to our wants and needs and we are easily distracted from them?
Then again, only the dead are consistent.