Thursday, September 2, 2010

Observation and Interaction: Attending A Film Screening Vs. Hanging Out With A Crackhead

Last night some friends and I attended a screening of short films featuring themes of reconstruction. Don't worry this post is not about those films- primarily anyway. Most of those films were tedious.  In fact, all but two seemed long- bad news for short films.  The two standouts were "Glenn Beck Beats" (crazy statements set to music) and "Great Man and Cinema" (a compilation of Kim Jung Il II propaganda videos).  At some point I must dedicate a post to analyzing Kim Jung Il II- what a cult of personality! I can't believe he's kept it going so long! Another day . . .

At the conclusion of the screening, one of my comrades (Austin) and I decided to grab a beer at our favorite neighborhood bar.  I need to explain a couple of things  about this establishment.  First of all, when entering you feel as if you're in a bar that would be in a Quentin Tarantino movie- maybe even specifically Inglorious Bastards. It is extremely dark and there are usually about 10 people inside but no one is talking and no music is playing.  Basically, it feels like someone is about to die.  Second, the place is owned by a Russian immigrant who tends bar.  Have you ever talked to a Russian immigrant? They're no-nonsense. Example (based on an actual conversation with said Russian immigrant):

Me:  "Tell me what it was like living in Russia."

The Russian:  "What is there to tell? I work. I drink. I come home. Same thing as here."  

(This exchange was followed by him yelling shocking profanities at someone for dropping a glass.)

The Russian's energy really sets the tone for the place: subdued but volatile- and that's what I like about it.  It's quiet, but anything can and does happen when you least expect it.

So Austin and I are casually sipping our beers when we are approached by a man in his mid 40s with peroxide blond spiked hair wearing a white sleeveless undershirt, wind-shorts, and flip-flops.  He also had some fairly suspect tattoos that were poorly done and well, just pretty unoriginal.  And when I say that he approached us I really mean that he walked by and yelled something about Austin's beard.  Of course Austin yelled something back and before we knew it this man had pulled up a chair and was gabbing with us like we were grammar school chums.  This antagonism was his way of making friends- friends that would buy him drinks.  Because he had no money.  

I'm not exactly sure why I bought him a beer when he asked me to (within two minutes of introducing himself) except that I knew right away that he was a character- and characters can be fun!  Luckily (and sometimes unluckily) Austin shares my vision concerning interacting with total strangers who are slightly left of center. I could tell he was looking forward to the potential entertainment that our guest star could provide.  

And provide he did . . . 

After thanking me profusely for his newly acquired Miller Lite, Miguel quickly launched into a rant about how illegal drugs were destroying our country.  "Violence", "the children", "the taxpayer's money"- all of these things were discussed. In fact, he talked with such fervor that I began to suspect that he was presently under the influence of some sort of stimulant.  

I was correct.  As sweat began to drip from his temple to his neck Miguel informed us that he did smoke crack.  Regularly.  In fact, he had smoked crack earlier in the evening.  

I know this is only my second post so let me clarify something for you, gentle reader: I am not comfortable with crack. Just felt I had to let you know.  

So here's a question for Emily Post: in what direction do you steer the conversation when a fellow bar patron reveals they are on crack?  Emily wasn't around which forced me to go with my gut.  Naturally, I asked Miguel what sort of television he was watching these days. And naturally, Miguel did not disappoint.  

Without hesitation he replied, "Dog the Bounty Hunter."  Miguel then passionately explained why he loved watching Dog apprehend criminals.  "You see- he doesn't judge them, because he's been there.  He wants them to get their life back on the tracks."  

I took this opportunity to ask him, "If Dog the Bounty Hunter chased you down, handcuffed you, and then had a heart-to-heart with you encouraging you to stop smoking crack- would you stop?" 

"F--- no!" exclaimed Miguel. "I mean, unless he offered me a spot on his team."  

The three of us shared a hearty laugh. I was genuinely enjoying our conversation.  And then Miguel said, "Hey . . . you guys wanna get high?"  

At that point Austin and I decided that our time with Miguel should come to a close.  We finished our beer, closed out, and began the walk home.  We decided that though he has his issues, Miguel was far more interesting than a stuffy film screening.  Like his favorite television star, Miguel is real, he is open, and he is honest. Well, except when he's committing Class-C felonies. 

While I'm no Dog the Bounty Hunter, I too believe that all you can offer is non-judgmental encouragement. And maybe a beer.