There’s a Blondie record playing on the jukebox in the corner. It’s one you’ve heard many times before but it still pulls you in with its goodness. There’s optimism here, full-on powerpop positivity, to take hold of you in the moment as the night sky falls and you’re in your land of dreams once again.
Sitting in the corner with the others, listening to tales of wantonness and revelry, making plans for the next few hours because the hours after that don’t matter. They never have and they never will. Until you get there. But that’s another story.
Catch a glimpse of your reflection in the window. The mass of hair, the mop you’ve cultivated so it looks like you might be in the Bowery sometime around ’67 like a member of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable or something like that. The stripy top you picked up this afternoon from the local hipster store, the one with the Ray Bans and cigarette lighters and button badges that adorn the lapel of your oversized suit jacket you bought last summer from the charity shop on the high street. It makes you smile, all of it. Sit and sip your beer and take it in and think about where you’re going later, if you’re going anywhere.
Ethan’s talking, ten to the dozen, as he is apt to do, his sculpted blonde barnet trimmed today and sporting his shades like he normally does. He’s the only person I know who can carry off wearing shades inside and nobody batting an eyelid. That’s something we love about him and he knows it. He’s talking about this fanzine he picked up when he went on his travels to The Smoke the other day. He’s full of Carnaby Street and Portobello and hanging round Kensington Market and the rest. The fanzine’s telling him about what’s going down, all the hot new places and new bands and clubs and things you need to find out about and what to do. And he tells you about them and you listen and take it in and drink more of your beer and listen to Debbie Harry telling you all about her world and you want to know more. Then he gets up to go to the bar.
There’s the gang of girls at the end of the bar and they’re here every night and have been all summer. All layered hair and sharpened claws and gazes that penetrate. There’s a gang of boys as well, all sitting round a table in the other corner, and you knew some of them from school. You used to work with one of them at a dark satanic mill where you earned a few pounds a couple of summers ago. You say hello every so often. Not much more than that.
Then the door opens and there’s another member of your gang who comes and joins you and tells you his news. And you glance down the bar again at the girls and there’s one who takes your fancy and always has, ever since she came on the scene a few months back.
But you forget it for now. Life’s opportunities are going to come your way. Whatever they are and in whatever shape they come. The world’s your oyster, it’s not come along to eat you up yet, and, if you play your cards right, never will.
Gaze at your reflection again at the end of the bar and sip your beer and get up to get a refill and listen to them all making their plans. Ethan’s standing here and he’s holding court. I buy my beer and he’s talking to me ten to the dozen. He says they’re thinking of heading to Red Lion bar. There are some bands on or something. I tell him I’m up for it. A change is as good as a rest, after all. It’s that time on a Friday night when the weekend beckons and with it all the possibilities you’ve ever imagined in your life coming to you all at the same time.
I’ve got my newly-poured ice cold pint of lager in my hand and it’s going down perfectly. I have another long swig and feel it slip down my throat. I glance over at the gang of girls who are doing their thing at the end of the bar, dancing to the music that is coming from the jukebox. They make me smile. It’s their corner and everyone knows it. You don’t hang around there if you’ve got any sense. These girls have balls bigger than a rhino and you don’t mess with them if you know what’s good for you.
Jack’s doing all right for himself. He’s looking like he’s well in with the shapely brunette with the long shaggy hair. He’s giving it all he’s got and she’s lapping it up. He would, though, wouldn’t he, with his statuesque demeanour that always manages to pull them in, this one pretty well. Ethan knows her as well. He would. He knows all of them, some of them very well, by all accounts. He knows everyone though, round town. I suppose he’s our Ace Face, our leader. Unofficial of course. If anyone said that out loud, it would go to his head so he couldn’t get out of the door.
So what are the bands like tonight, I ask him, upstairs at The Red Lion. He says he doesn’t know. Just some bloke behind the bar was telling him about them. He wants to go down later, see what they’re like. I’m up for it. Why not? A little music would go down well. We’ve been to see lots of bands, all over, and it’s always a blast when it gets you going and the adrenalin rushing.
The golden age was when I was a college boy. Bands on every night in the union or in town. We used to go to them all. It’s not the same round here. You have to get used to it. It’s the same everywhere. In most of these towns, there’s not a lot of bands on. It’s always been the same. What do they say? Only a small part of the population experienced the sixties. That may be the case but nothing would stop me living for the moment if I had the chance. I’d be part of the population that loved it. Lived it full on.
Right now, we’re not in the sixties, unfortunately. We have to make do with what we’ve got. With that in mind, I ask Ethan when we’re off to see the bands. He laughs and talks loudly and says we’ve got to go. We stand and drink our beers and the room moves a little and the girls at the end of the bar are doing their thing and laughing and drinking.
Think about your plans. You haven’t got plans and you don’t need them. Who needs plans? Keep your mind open.
There’s a Blondie record playing on the jukebox in the corner.