The Global Barfly’s Companion #15: Half-Step

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The Global Barfly’s Companion #15 by Scott Gilman

Bar: Half-Step

Location: 75 1/2 Rainey St Austin, TX 78701

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What to make of Rainey Street, just barely north of the river and walking steps west of I-35, tucked away in its own corner in downtown Austin? The transformation of a sleepy block with small, wooden, occasionally dilapidated houses into a nightlife destination point continues.

Initially a counter to the craziness, mayhem, and sleaze of Dirty Sixth, filled with prowling undergraduates, the bars of Rainey Street offer a mellower, more tranquil environment, in either cute houses or expansive patios, to actually interact with friends while having choice cocktails or quality beer. At least it used to. Now two large condominium buildings shadow the south end of Rainey Street, and the foot traffic makes it almost impossible to drive along Rainey Street itself. One of the first times I went there, a few years ago, I paid $5 to park in someone’s back yard. That house is now a bar, and the spot two blocks away I found to park for free is now metered. Rainey Street has fully morphed into a cool, new option into its own scene.

To each their own, of course, but that scene has kept me away from Rainey Street on weekend nights, though it’s noticeably less crowded during summer (when the city gets a reprieve from all those undergraduates). Most of the bars now are carbon copies of each other, save the interior design oddity of Container Bar. Banger’s offers a solid beer selection along with the best sausages in town, Craft Pride, at the end of Rainey, serves nothing but Texas beer and also is known for its incredible selection. But for cocktails the gem of the street is Half-Step, which rates as one of the finest cocktail bars in Austin.

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Its reputation is well-earned. The design inside is intimate and charming, though I was struck at the lack of seats at the bar itself; just a few small stools across from the bar make up the only seating options where the bar is.

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There are two other rooms: one with dark wooden tables and chairs, and a few booths, both for larger groups and parties of two.

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There is another room in the back with no seating. Outside are areas to sit both on the patio and at ground level, along the side of the building (where this is also a ping-pong table) and facing Rainey. There is a second bar outside, one with a different cocktail menu than the one inside where I was getting my drinks. I’ll have to go back and try some of those; the cocktails are so good you want to try them all. I started with a Gentleman’s Buck, with bourbon, OJ, lemon juice and a few other ingredients.

All cocktails are $11, except for the Bartender’s Choice (which I’ll get to) for $12. It’s served in a Tom Collins glass with a rectangular bar of ice. Custom-shaped ice is one of the hallmarks of the place, and I admit to perceiving it as a gimmick until I saw how perfectly my bar of ice cooled and lasted throughout my entire drink. I saw the making of a mint julep (which I personally drink only one day a year, the first Saturday in May) which had perfectly sized crushed ice, packed in and overflowing a silver julep mug. The sprig of mint and powdered sugar on top tempted me, but that’s too much liquid candy if you ask me. I decided for my next round to have a Bartender’s Choice, where you just tell the bartender the spirit of your choice and any other likes or dislikes, and off he goes.

I wound up with a drink called The Last Word, which my bartender, who moved to Austin three years ago from Seattle, tells me is now the most popular cocktail in the world. It’s made with gin, Chartreuse, I think perhaps something lemony and has a dark cherry in the bottom of the glass. It was a lime-ish shade of green and was amazing. I moved around a bit, sitting both inside and out, and listened to the excellent music: several songs by the band Antibalas, an afro-beat band out of Brooklyn, a reggae sounding version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and The Meters’ “Cissy Strut.”

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My reigning champ for cocktails in Austin has been Drink.Well up in the North Loop, and I still think with their food service, smaller space, seats at the bar (important if you’re out solo) and location away from Rainey Street it deserves top billing. But the drinks are just as good if not better at Half-Step; the attention, detail and care given to each cocktail (from the ice to the glass to the mixtures) are top-notch. There is an elegance and professionalism to the drinks at Half-Step that may stretch beyond the tastes of the masses in the neighborhood, but that doesn’t take away from what is an excellent spot for fine mixology in a homey and warm environment. Just prepare to return to a culture shock once you walk out the door.

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Scott Gilman

Scott Gilman lives in Austin, Texas and enjoys exercise, reading, writing, eating and drinking. He is working on his first novel and a short story and essay collection. More of his writing can be found here.

Episode 160: Ciara Shuttleworth!

Episode 160 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to the poet Ciara Shuttleworth,

Photo by Drew Perlmutter.

Photo by Drew Perlmutter.

plus Don Royster writes about how Isaac Asimov helped him to appreciate Shakespeare.

Don Royster

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Camus NotebooksThe Great Shark HuntAsimovs Guide to ShakespeareNOTES

To read about Ciara’s post-residency road-tripping with Flat Jack, here is part 1 and part 2.

To read Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of The Declaration of Independence, go here.

 

 

The Curator of Schlock #95: American Ninja 2

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The Curator of Schlock #95 by Jeff Shuster

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

I take it the first American Ninja movie didn’t have a confrontation. 

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Happy 4th of July to my legion of readers! We here at The Museum of Schlock love the red, white, and blue as much as Paul Kersey’s Wildey Magnum so we’re whipping up something special for this Independence Day: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation! Yeah! Why am I starting with American 2: The Confrontation instead of American Ninja 1? Because it’s the only one that’s on Netflix. American Ninja was available in a DVD three pack that included Revenge of the Ninja, but I’ve already committed to getting Revenge of the Ninja on Blu-Ray, so I had to skip the three pack. These are the hard decisions your Curator of Schlock has to make.

Anyway, why should it matter if I start American Ninja 2: The Confrontation? After all, this looks like something akin to a James Bond movie if James Bond was an American Ninja. American Ninja 2: The Confrontation starts out with a bunch U.S. Marines stationed in the Caribbean being beaten up by some Kiwis before being kidnapped by ninjas.

Now being a child of the 80s, I already know that these ninjas are bad news. It wasn’t just the commies, the drug lords, and the punk gangs that we had to worry about back then, it was also nefarious ninja clans. Unlike the other groups, though, it’s worth noting that not all ninjas are bad guys. Which is good because it takes a ninja to stop a ninja. I’m sorry, but not even Paul Kersey’s Wildey Magnum could take out these guys!

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Enter Army Rangers, Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James). Now in addition to being an Army Ranger, Joe Armstrong is also a full-fledged ninja. Curtis Jackson isn’t a ninja, but he’s pretty cut and sports a decent mustache while laying the smackdown on the Kiwi population that resides in the Caribbean that are allied with an evil ninja clan. The local Marines keep making fun of Armstrong and Jackson, calling them bums and what not. Oh, and these Marines dress in board shorts and rash guards in order to better blend in with the local population. 

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Armstrong and Jackson get into a dust up with some ninjas on a local island, snapping limbs, but ultimately having to run away because they’re just too many of them. Plus, these ninjas have ninja nets and ninjato swords and throwing stars! I remember those throwing stars from elementary school. Venders weren’t allowed to sell them to kids, but there were always a couple of boys in class who managed to get their hands on one. They always made holes in the pockets their jeans. I think one kid sliced up his thigh, but it was all in good fun.

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Anyway, a sergeant chews out Armstrong and Jackson when they get back declaring, “Ninjas, my ass!” Are ninjas working with Kiwis on a Caribbean island, kidnapping US Marines so hard to swallow? What about an international drug lord who kidnapped a professor in order to create an army of super ninjas from Marine DNA just so he can better smuggle heroin into the United States? I’m not joking. That’s the villain’s master plan!

 

Five Things I Don’t Understand About American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

  1.  If only a ninja can stop a ninja, why can Curtis Jackson crack ninja skull like walnuts?
  2. If ninjas are so formidable, why does one need super ninjas?
  3. Why have your super ninja kill your regular ninjas? That can’t be good for morale. 
  4. Why use an army of super ninjas just to smuggle heroin? Why not kidnap the President instead? That’s what a real super villain would do. 
  5. Shouldn’t an American ninja be decked out in red, white, and blue?

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Jeffrey Shuster 3

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #100: Adequacy is Okay

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Heroes Never Rust #100 by Sean Ironman

1985: Adequacy is Okay

At the end of issue one of Marvel’s 1985, Toby, the protagonist, runs into the Hulk one night in the woods. The second issue picks up from that point, with the Hulk asking Toby if he’s seen the Juggernaut, who is apparently causing trouble. To many people, the Hulk is thought to be the mindless alter ego of Bruce Banner, who is the intelligent scientist. While that is true in the comics, for the most part, there have been times where Banner has been able to control the Hulk and speak normally. The mid-eighties was one of these times. But, because many readers may be put off by a Hulk that speaks intelligently, the Hulk tells Toby, “Please, there’s no need to be afraid. My monstrous id has been completely suppressed by my academic super-ego.” The line has no bearing on the story. It furthers no plot, and it doesn’t even further that scene. It’s only role is as exposition, so the reader is not confused by the Hulk acting differently than the reader may expect. The line is not interesting, but it is inoffensive. The line is  adequate, in that it does what it must, and then the story moves on.

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The dialogue reminded me of a moment last week at the New Harmony Writers Workshop in New Harmony, Indiana. My workshop instructor was Stuart Dybek. During a discussion on one writer’s short story, Dybek told an anecdote (he seems to love anecdotes) of his son’s first novel. He recalled one section of prose and said that the section was not good but it got the job done. It was adequate, Dybek said. But, sometimes, adequate is the best we can do.

In university courses, I was taught each word must be perfect, must be chosen carefully. With my own creative writing, I pour over it dozens of times working out not only the characters and scenes, but every description, every line of dialogue, everything. I believe a writer must write good sentences, I do. And I also believe some writers spend too long concentrating on sentences and the story escapes them (one of the reasons I believe literary fiction is not very popular these days). Sometimes, though, I believe, as Dybek said, the best we can do is adequate. How many novels have at least one mistake in them? Or if you don’t want to call it a mistake, one thing that could be better? How many memoirs? Poems? Films? Comics? I’m not speaking about bad sentences, unclear constructions, or the reliance on clichés. I’m merely talking about the descriptions or dialogue or any other sentence that will not go down in history as interesting. These adequate sections do their job and are not so terrible to distract readers. I feel that I should avoid suggesting a writer should strive toward adequacy because I know that if every sentence is merely adequate, the story will suffer. But, perhaps writers should be happy with a story as long as it hits the emotional beats the writer set out for, even if a sentence or two will never be described as great.

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Many years ago, I wrote mainly screenplays. I wanted to work in comics and in film. One lesson I was taught about screenwriting was that a good screenplay needed just three excellent scenes. If it had three excellent scenes, the audience would enjoy the movie. The other scenes couldn’t be bad, but they didn’t have to be great. At the time, I found it offensive, like the instructor was trying to say we couldn’t write a film filled with great scenes so to aim lower. But, I am starting to see the truth in that argument. When I think of a great film like Goodfellas, I don’t think of every scene, of every moment. I think of the long shot of Ray Liotta taking Lorraine Bracco through the club. I think of the montage set to “Layla.” I think of individual moments and lines of dialogue. That goes with any film, any novel, any memoir. Moments stick out to me but not the whole narrative.

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Adequacy in small areas of a story should not be looked down on. Writer Mark Millar needed to tell the reader that the Hulk can talk, to not be confused. Perhaps he could have thought long and hard and come up with something amazing, but perhaps not. Not all parts to a car are beautiful. Not all parts to a house. There should be amazing moments in a story, as well as wonderful lines of dialogue and interesting descriptions, but don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to do. If the point gets across to the reader for something that doesn’t need a lot of attention, adequacy will do just fine.

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Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

The Global Barfly’s Companion #14: Independent Bar

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The Global Barfly’s Companion #14 by Brett Pribble

Bar: Independent Bar

Location:  70 N Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

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The Independent Bar, more commonly know as I-Bar, is one of the few remaining old school watering holes of downtown culture. Most venues that the less-mainstream-minded locals frequented closed over a decade ago: Kit Kat Club, The Go Lounge, Knock Knock Bar, Harold and Maude’s. The once popular Matador has now reopened in the Mills 50 area, a part of Orlando many longtime bar hoppers have since jilted DT for. When BBQ bar closed last year (rumored to be reopening on Mills as well), some natives saw it as the last straw; nevertheless, The Independent Bar is still running strong after opening in the epicenter of downtown over thirty years ago.

The first time I visited Ibar it was called Barbarella (The owner recently opened a second club in Austin with the same moniker). While the club has undergone several name and design changes over the years, the spirit remains the same. Unlike most bars, there isn’t a “type” of person you can expect to meet there. Dudes dressed as pirates dance right next to frat boys. Ladies in tiaras celebrate their birthdays across from goth girls covered in tattoos. There is no proper dress code. Want to wear a three-piece suit? Have at it. Feel like just tossing on jean shorts and a tank top? Go right ahead.

Front Bar.

Front Bar.

In the front bar, modern chandeliers hang overhead and copper shoes decorate the back walls. Last Friday, a very amicable bartender named Tia made me a mixed drink, which is pretty cheap if you don’t mind well liquor ($4.50 on most nights).

Tia Serving Up Some Vodka.

Tia Serving Up Some Vodka.

From there I entered a long hallway with couches to my right and a dance floor to my left. This is the main room and one of the only places you can dance downtown without having to worry about someone rubbing their crotch on you.

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The dance floor is lit up by rotating laser lights and giant flat screen TVs that play the music videos of the songs you’re dancing to (Usually. Sometimes it might be just some random ‘80s science fiction flick or a bunch of spinning rectangles).

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Preston was holding down the bar in the dance room. He’s been working at bars downtown for a long time, and he swapped employers and came here after a once novel establishment was bought and turned into commercial garbage. Being served by Preston (and other the congenial staff) is part of what makes Ibar feel genuine. This is where people who actually live in Orlando have gone to party for decades. It’s not some shitty tourist trap in Downtown Disney or Universal CityWalk.

Preston behind the dance floor bar.

Preston behind the dance floor bar.

Upstairs you’ll find more couches and another bar. Lauren was holding it down on this particular evening, and she entitled her bar Lauren’s Lounge on a marker board next to the drink specials.

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Upstairs is a good place to people watch because you can see the entire dance room from there. It’s relaxing to observe patrons swaying to the beat the best they know how. That’s another perk: you don’t need to be a good dancer to feel comfortable dancing in Ibar. The variety of music they play (it’s all over the map) lends itself to just letting loose and not worrying about what you look like.

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If you are hyperactive like me, you’ll appreciate that you can travel through the club in a complete circle and never have to retrace your steps. So, if you’re feeling antsy in one room, you can just stagger over to others until you’ve reached your starting point. The downstairs bar provides a nice place to get away from the noise if you want to have a more intimate conversation with someone. It’s also a good place to go if you’re not in the mood to dance with your friends and just want to chill and drink. It’s like a tiny pub inside a club.

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Many longtime bar hoppers will tell you that they are too burned out for Ibar, but if it ever closed their mourning of its passing would be monumental. Ibar is an Orlando staple. For this reason, I think everyone should visit it at least once. Downtown Orlando on Friday and Saturday nights can be a real shit show with drunks everywhere and throngs of honking cars, but you’ll eventually make it to the safe haven of the club. During the week it’s much slower, so you can avoid the masses. The upstairs and downstairs rooms are usually closed during the week, but the smaller crowds free up more than enough space for you to get your drink on.

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Brett Pribble

Brett Pribble teaches writing courses in Orlando, Florida. He’s afraid of sharks and often isn’t sure whether or not he’s dreaming. He was previously published in Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, and 10,000 Tons of Black Ink.

Shakespearing #37.1: More on The Tempest

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 Shakespearing #37.1 by John King

 The Tempest

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I adore The Tempest.

David Foley was entirely right last week: the drama of this play is peculiarly light and strangely weighted.

The wizard Prospero’s grievances seem unfathomable, and his sense of family, of relationships, is both intense, yet distant, pushed through his mind like a vicious abstraction trying to form itself into something like love.

Nicholas Rowe Tempest 1709

The trap that Prospero sets for the brother and king and the other conspirators who betrayed him feels like a pageant of robots who know their crimes, but are incapable of feeling anything about them, not even a stoic callousness that denies morality or loyalty.

The love story between Miranda and Ferdinand seems passionlessly bland—the meeting of almost unbearable innocents–a retread of a fairy tale or Greek myth (Psyche and Eros) turned on its head.

Miranda and Ferdinands Log

The alcoholic antics of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo have a difficult time seeming funny.

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Few productions can live up to this illustration.

Only Prospero’s relationship to Ariel, the enslaved sprite, feels emotional throughout the play.

Prospero and Ariel

David said, “the island is a created world, and it’s created through language, and you need to pay attention to that.”

The words are the world of The Tempest.

And it is a world that will return the fantastic to the ordinary, through a deliberate leave-taking of magick and the transcendent. Propsero vows,

[T]his rough magic
I here abjure, and, when I have required
Some heavenly music, which even now I do,
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound
I’ll drown my book.

This is the last play Shakespeare wrote solo, and its farewells fill me with sadness, this sense of the ending that Shakespeare had before the ending. Four to five years before his death in 1616, Shakespeare said goodbye as a thaumaturge.

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John King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 159: Mixtape #4 (Lost in Sinatraland)

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Episode 159 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I talk to myself and share some music. Musicality affects my writing a lot. Perhaps I cherish sound since I nearly went deaf as a child. It took awhile for Sinatra to enter my imagination, but since taking up residency there, Frank hasn’t left. So this mixtape is devoted to this man and his music, and a few other people along the way.

Lost in Sinatraland

TEXTS DISCUSSED

The Frank Sinatra ReaderGay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is also available online here.

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Episode 159 of the world’s greatest writing podcast is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #94: The Devil’s Rain

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The Curator of Schlock #94 by Jeff Shuster

The Devil’s Rain

Shatner versus Satan? My money’s on Shatner!

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There are days I really don’t like my job as the Curator of Schlock, days where’s I’d rather just up and quit and raise ferrets for a living. That’s because every so often I run into a movie that’s so bad that I just want smash my DVD player and exsanguinate my plasma TV. You do not promise me a movie that features William Shatner versus an army of Satanists and the devil himself–Ernest Borgnine–and then switch out William Shatner for Tom Skerritt! I’m so angry that I want to type out this review IN ALL CAPS.

WHAT MOVIE AM I TALKING ABOUT?

It’s 1975’s The Devil’s Rain of course! What? You’ve never heard of it? Robert Fuest of Dr. Phibes fame directed this clunker. He also directed Revenge of the Stepford Wives which will make an appearance on this blog someday.

Anyway, I guess I need to discuss the plot. William Shatner plays this cowboy looking guy…well, it’s not in the old west, it’s in modern times. And the town he lives in was once inhabited by Pilgrims with the buckle hats and everything, which I guess means it really wasn’t out west. Shatner is wearing a cowboy hat at any rate.

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Anyway, he drives out to a ghost town to meet up with Ernest Borgnine who is also wearing a cowboy outfit. Borgnine wants some book that Shatner’s family has passed down from generation to generation, one of these forbidden tomes that people keep hanging on to just so some power hungry Satanists can swipe it from them. Shatner declares that his faith can beat Borgnine’s Satanism any day of the week.

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Shatner enters a church that’s filled with Satanists all chanting “Satan is good. Satan is my pal.” At least, that’s what I remember them chanting. Shatner starts reciting The Lord’s Prayer, but he falters, pulls out a gun, and shoots one of the Satanists who then oozes yellow slime.

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Did I forget to mention that these Satanists have no eyes? Ewwwwwwww! Borgnine is leading the ceremony all decked in a red robe and says Shatner failed or something and now his soul belongs to Satan. Shatner loses his eyes like the rest of them and Borgnine turns into Satan himself with the horns and everything.

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So who else is in this movie? Ida Lupino plays Shatner’s mother. I know I should know who she is. I’m sure she starred in something with Ray Milland. Anton LaVey is in this movie as himself, I assume. I guess he was brought on as a Satanic consultant.

I do give props to the way they portray the Satanists in this movie. They’ve got the black robes and the pentagrams and everything. Anyway, Shatner smashes some urn with a bunch of souls in it and the Satanists begin to melt. Yeah, every Satanist in the movie melts and it takes like fifteen minutes for them to completely deteriorate. I think the director thought all would be forgiven if the audience just got the chance to see some Satanists dissolve into slime.This movie doesn’t quite hold up the way The Wizard of Oz does.

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Oh, and Tom Skerritt escapes with his beautiful wife who is (obviously) Ernest Borgnine in disguise.

 

Five Things I Learned from The Devil’s Rain

  1. Death Wish 5 should have featured Satanists as the main bad guys. It could have ended with Paul Kersey falling into hell and shooting The Giggler again.
  2. Tom Skerritt and his mustache are not welcome at The Museum of Schlock.
  3. William Shatner does not make a convincing Pilgrim.
  4. Satanists need to come up with less complicated plans for world domination.
  5. William Shatner is still a hero even when he’s a hollowed-eyed Satanist.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124, and episode 131) is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #99: 1985

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Heroes Never Rust #99 by Sean Ironman

1985

I grew up reading comics, specifically X-Men comics. At first, my father would come home with a bag full of random comics for me, my brother, and my sister. My siblings lost interest over the years, but my interest grew. As a teenager, I would go weekly to the comic book shop. My mom never really understood my interest in comic books, but in her defense, reading comics in a time before superhero movies took over Hollywood and made hundreds of millions of dollars was very different. She would look at the covers of my weekly purchases and point at a muscular male character and joke that I was reading comics because I could imagine myself as that character. If a female character, drawn voluptuously as many female comic book characters are, my mom would joke that the reason I didn’t have a girlfriend was because I was looking for a woman who looked like that. I never understood why she thought I read comics because I wanted to be one of the superheroes. I’ve never understood that argument for any story in any medium. I have never wanted to be Superman, Spider-man, Cyclops, Wolverine, Batman, or any other superhero you can name. I have never imagined myself in their costumes or living out their adventures. But, on trips to visit family in New York during the summer, I would imagine Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (later renamed Xavier’s Institute for Higher Learning). I didn’t want to be a specific character, I only wanted to be me, but I wanted to live in a world where the X-Men existed. Being a superhero, with all the powers that would come with it, wasn’t nearly as interesting as living in a world of superheroes. The world of Marvel Comics with all those locales and interconnected stories and continuity sparked my imagination (the importance of world building may also be why Marvel films are reliable hits these days). I must not have been the only one to want to live in the world of Marvel Comics.

Marvel 1985A few years ago, Marvel 1985 was released. Written by Mark Millar and with art by Tommy Lee Edwards, the six-issue miniseries sees the villains and heroes of the Marvel Universe enter our world. Toby Goodman, a Marvel Comics fan, sees the Red Skull one day in his neighborhood while walking with father. Toby lives in our world, in 1985. From May 1984 to April 1985, Marvel Comics released Secret Wars, a crossover between Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four in which a cosmic entity known as the Beyonder creates a planet for the villains and heroes to do battle. In Marvel 1985, the villains have snuck into our world. There are no big entrances in the middle of New York City with portals opening in the sky and villains pouring out. The Red Skull, Dr. Doom, the Vulture, and the Mole Man live in an old house in the woods., the kind of house kids probably thought was haunted. I grew up in a South Florida suburb, and we had no house that was haunted, but we still had the houses we treaded carefully by as we passed by on our bikes. We still wondered what happened on the inside of those houses, mostly owned by childless couples or single men, who were rarely seen in their yards. The cars were parked in the garage, and we would only see the garage door open, a car pull away, and then the door close. After someone moved out of a house, we could sneak in, but without furniture and personal belongings, the houses were no longer interesting.

marvel-1985-1-3Most of my youth was spent reading and watching popular fiction: comic books, sword and sorcery fantasy, science fiction. Even in comic books, I wanted the fantasy. Characters without superpowers were not interesting to me. Real life to me was going to school a few blocks away. It was watching my parents work jobs they hated and living paycheck to paycheck. I wanted those houses on our block to contain something new and exciting. I liked the X-Men most of all because a mutant could be anyone. They didn’t need to be super smart, or super athletic, or super rich. They didn’t need to be in the right place at the right time and just happen to get struck by cosmic rays or radiation. The X-Men were just people, kids who reached puberty and gained mutant powers. In some ways, the X-Men were the most believable out of all the comic book characters. How many of us feel like we have more to offer, that there’s something inside that people haven’t seen? Comic book universes allowed us to imagine. Not imagine us with superpowers, or at least not just superpowers, but us coming across some bizarre and otherworldly creature walking through those strange houses.

Marvel 1985My mom wouldn’t allowed me to play Dungeons & Dragons because she thought people who played were much too into it and weren’t able to separate fantasy from reality. But, we knew going through those houses that there weren’t really strange creatures, horrific monsters, or alien technology. But, that’s not the point to imagination. How many things do we have today that were once a part of a person’s imagination? Imagination lets us see a different world, and we might come back from our imaginations with something we could use in the real world. I’ll admit, though, we don’t need imagination. Many people live their lives without exercising their imaginations. But, those lives seem so empty to me. Imagination lets us be kids again, riding through our neighborhood staring at houses and creating stories.

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Photo by John King

Photo by John King

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

The Global Barfly’s Companion #13: Eden Bar

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The Global Barfly’s Companion #13 by Susan Lilley (Photos by Phil Deaver)

Bar: Eden Bar

Location1300 S Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL  32751

IMG_3411(1)It’s five o’clock somewhere, but it seems to be forever five-ish at the lush and lovely Eden Bar, where the magical glow of twilight is filtered for hours through the moss-draped oaks that shelter this inviting outdoor hangout. I am waiting for a friend at the polished curved bar and gazing the vision of Eden portrayed in the trippy Bill Plympton mural on the back wall—think Alice in Wonderland meets Henri Rousseau.

IMG_4174A woman a few stools down is sipping a gin and tonic and reading a book of short stories by home-girl author Vanessa Blakeslee. What better omen than seeing a person you don’t even know reading your friend’s book?

The Eden Bar is attached to central Florida’s premier art cinema, Enzian Theatre, located happily on Orlando Avenue in Maitland within screaming distance of Winter Park and close enough to home for us to walk there. Bliss.

My friend Paula arrives, and we mull over some snacks on the menu—shall it be virtuous edamame? Mediterranean dips and pita? Or the full indulgence: fries laced with truffle oil? I order a French 75, rumored to be a favorite cocktail of The Lost Generation, and wonder if Zelda Fitzgerald ever had too many of these. Tending the bar today is Danielle—a writer and editor who also happens to be a whirlwind mixologist.

IMG_4173(1)She makes drink-making into a power sport. With a dazzling smile. Pulling beer on tap is dashing Andrew, surely the youngest skilled barman in these parts.

On another day you might see Peter behind the bar, a spectacular painter whose work I cannot afford. The music is always just what I want to hear when Peter is in charge. His cocktails are works of art and he treats his regulars like welcome pals. He’s also an affable host to first-timers. But don’t even think about being a drunken, loutish jerk at this bar; Peter ain’t having it, thank God. Having said that, you can be weird, quiet, chatty, tipsy, heartbroken, celebratory, or just in a hurry to grab a snazzy cocktail and get inside Enzian Theatre before the lights go down for tonight’s movie.

FullSizeRender-2Yes, writers love this bar, but so do artists of all kinds and interesting folk of every stripe. During the annual Florida Film Festival in the spring, the place is crawling with filmmakers and film people and film lovers, which makes for superb people watching. But I love ordinary weeknights here, where a writer can bend over a moleskin notebook alone or talk ideas with a friend or colleague. Where someone very nice will bring you a beverage and some food to keep you going. Where you can make new friends and catch up with the old.

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Susan LilleySusan Lilley (Episode 82, Episode 85) is a Florida native. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Slipstream, Sweet, The Apalachee Review, and The Florida Review, among other journals. She is a previous winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and her chapbook, Night Windows, won the Yellow Jacket Press contest for Florida poets. Her chapbook, Satellite Beach, is out from Finishing Line Press. She was stunned to be voted top choice for Best of There Will Be Words prose reading series in Orlando for 2013, which resulted in a chapbook of memoir essays called When We Were Stardust.

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