Copyright © 2004-2005 Timothy Horrigan
After the gig, Aaron Elvis Schwartz, Persefone Sgambati, Athena Dilfer, Jules Wagner, John "the Squirrel" Bedford and I retreated across Broadway to the world-famous West End Bar. The West End is world-famous because it remained much the same since the days when Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr hung out there, although there was nothing much special about it aside from its historical value. Basically, it was just another campus-area bar-and-grill, no better or worse than what you might find in any other college community.
We stood around the Multi-Ball Firepower pinball game, drinking "33" beer because that was the brand Martin Sheen drank in Apocalypse Now. The Squirrel was conga-drumming on the glass top of the jukebox, which was blasting out the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach."
Tammi Honig walked in, with Kylie Tomczak on one arm and Chad Koenig on the other. Persefone backed up two steps and started staring her most baleful Persefone Sgambati Double Whammy Stare at Tammi. Tammi responded with a sweet smile. She said nothing.
"We really liked your show. You guys really got into the music, especially that boy over there who's conga-drumming on the jukebox," Kylie enthused.
"You mean Johnny 'the Squirrel' Bedford, ma'am?" Aaron drawled in his best smarmy Tennessee/Mississippi drawl.
"He doesn't look all that squirrelly to me," Kylie rejoined.
"We mean no offense to the Squirrel, ma'am. We like squirrels, ma'am," Aaron drawled in an even smarmier drawl.
"Tastes just like chicken, I bet," Chad said, and we all guffawed, even John.
John replied, "If anyone tastes like chicken around here, it's probably you." Then we all laughed some more.
Tammi and Chad and Kylie went off to a table in the back room and ate about six bowls of free popcorn. I thought Tammi looked intriguing, but my attention was diverted by Persefone. She engaged me in a long argument about third-world economics. We had both taken a class the previous spring with Jagdish Bhagwati, the famous supply-sider and inventor of the Bhagwati Theorem.
Persefone said that we couldn't rely solely on incentives for capitalist development to work for developing nations' best interests, and that in any case capitalism was doomed to collapse from its own internal contradictions. I contended that nothing but capitalist incentives could possibly work. The Squirrel sat down with us and drummed along with the rhythm of our argument on the tabletop. Suddenly he stopped drumming and promptly demolished both our arguments with his amazingly cogent synthesis of the best elements of the capitalist and Marxist analyses.
Meanwhile, Tammi laughed and ate popcorn.
Conrad Belt walked up to our table. He was carrying a guitar case with a Grateful Dead skull-and-thunderbolt sticker on it. "Great gig, guys, a red-letter day in Morningside Heights music-making, man, big celebration at my house for the Noodles, won't be a party without the Elvis Clones, come along, what'd'ye say?"
That was how Conrad talked when he was really flying high no complete sentences. We followed him excitedly to his house, which was an apartment on the top floor of a decrepit but comfortable New Law tenement on West 109th Street.
Tammi stayed behind at the West End Bar, continuing to laugh and eat popcorn with Chad and Kylie.
In spite of all the coke we snorted back at the Butler Library bindery, Conrad still had a vast supply left. We all snorted at least four lines each even Persefone might have snorted one or two.
The party got pretty wild. Ernest Cienfuegos brought some wild pre-Castro Cuban salsa records and John Bedford got about a dozen people to drum along with the music on empty Rolling Rock bottles. (For some reason, Conrad had about 100 pairs of drumsticks laying around his apartment even though there were no drums.)
I retreated onto Conrad's fire-escape and looked at the moon.
My mind was going about 120 mph. Persefone came out and stood beside me on the fire escape. I started jabbering discordantly about the Bhagwati Theorem. My ravings sounded like Lucky's monologue in "Waiting for Godot." Persefone said, "I don't want to talk about the Bhagwati Theorem."
I tried to kiss her. She said, "Please, don't touch me."
"Oh come on," I replied.
She struck me on the chest and I tumbled down the fire-escape stairs. I hit my head on something, and for a second I thought I had fallen all the way to the sidewalk, five stories below. "Oh God, I hope I'm not dead," I groaned.
I opened my eyes and saw Benjie Weinberg standing with Persefone on Conrad's fire-escape platform. "Don't worry, you're not dead," Benjie said.
"Tell Billy you're sorry you pushed him down the steps, Persefone," Benjie W continued.
"I'm sorry, Billy," Persefone said reluctantly. She turned to Benjie and muttered, "Tell Billy to apologize to me."
"Apologize to Persefone," Benjie said.
"I'm sorry, Persefone," I said. Persefone extended her hand to me and pulled me back up the stairs. Benjie W hugged me. I found my saxophone case, took another beer from Conrad's fridge (my 8th beer of the night) and went downstairs onto the street. Chad Koenig and Gavin O'Herlihy were waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. I was glad to see them, because the block was scary, and they were very imposing. Chad (who was a star tailback on the Columbia Lions football team) was fairly short, but he was very strong. Gavin (who was a center-forward, though not a star center-forward, for the Columbia Lions basketball team) was skinny, but he was extremely tall, and he looked rather insane, particularly tonight when he was wearing his Roy Orbison glasses.
"Dude," Chad exclaimed as we began lurching drunkenly down West 108th Street. "Some chick pushed you down the steps."
"That wasn't just some chick," Gavin told him. "That was Persefone."
"Oh, that explains it," Chad said quietly.
"Who were those two women you were with earlier, Chad?" I said.
"Oh just a couple of freshman chicks named Tammi and Kylie I met this summer in Paris," Chad told me. (Chad, Tammi, and Kylie spent the summer studying at Columbia's outpost in Paris) "I was pretty heavily involved with one of them this summer, but I don't know what's going to happen this fall."
"Well, they were quite exceptionally gorgeous," I told him, "especially the one who didn't say anything. There's something very special about her."
"Oh, so, you like her, Bill? She didn't say anything tonight, but usually I can't shut her up," Chad said. "The most special thing about her is her special ability to be a pain in the ass, a top pain in the ass."
"Oh, I know who you mean!" Gavin exclaimed. "That's the woman who Persefone keeps complaining about."
"Persefone doesn't like Tammi?" Chad said.
"What d'you mean?" Gavin replied. "Does the Ayatollah Khomeini dislike Jimmy Carter?"
"I dislike Jimmy Carter," Chad remarked, rather irrelevantly, "but I kind of like that Tammi Honig."
"The ayatollah is kind of cool, too," I added irrelevantly.
By now, we had reached our destination, which was La Ronda, a friendly neighborhood strip joint with a homey atmosphere and homely strippers. I wanted to find out more about this Tammi Honig character, but first Gavin spent about an hour telling Chad about our misadventures with the Holy Vacuum Gallery, and then Benjie Weinberg and Persefone Sgambati showed up and sat down with us.
I asked Persefone, "Persefone, do you know a girl named Tammi Honig?"
And Persefone replied, "Yes I do. Now shut up and ogle that naked woman, okay, Billy? Okay? Thanks!"
The Forgotten Liars