Let the Good Times Roll, Part 2
So we’re sitting there to the sounds of silence, and I’m smiling at the top of his head, as instructed, and he starts humming a song. And then the hum begins to take shape and substance and he’s singing, quietly to himself “come on baby let the good times roll.” Now he looks up at me, a twinkle in his eye, and he continues with his serenade, a little louder, “come on baby let the good times roll.”
“Roll all night long,” I add without thinking because I can’t help myself.
I screwed up; I should have kept my mouth shut. I’m guessing that the sales puke would be unhappy, like I failed some kind of test, but the smiling pit bull is laughing, that hollow, evil laugh of the demon just before he takes his first bite and the blood begins trickling down his chin.
“You’ve had quite a time,” he says. “New York City, Aspen, Rutgers Tavern. Come on, baby let the good times roll,” he sings again, this time with a bit more purpose to it, as his eyes try to pierce my skin, going from a twinkle to a near glare. “New York, Aspen, the college tavern, all aboard,” he yells out like a train conductor announcing stops along the line. “Come on baby let the good times roll,” and it’s starting to get irritating.
He changes tunes: “Come on Sally, come on Sue, you can come along to Aspen too,” but it’s no longer a song, it’s now a challenge, an accusation. So this is my soft spot that the mad scientists discovered working in the lab late one night, a devious plan to reduce my life to meaningless, self-indulgence twaddle. I can see it coming, like the train rolling down the tracks right at me as the conductor now leans out the window and signals the engineer to pick up speed. But I see it coming; I’ve got the whole thing mapped out, and yet my keen intuitive perception doesn’t help a lick because it’s definitely working and I’m getting more irritated.
“Come on baby let the good times roll,” he sings again, now bobbing his head and tapping his foot, rising to the occasion. “Come on baby let the good times roll,” not letting up, working it for all he can get out of it.
Okay, I am definitely irritated now! Is this guy a complete horse’s ass, or what? I can’t believe I’m sitting here listening to this crap, and I feel like jumping up and doing the watusi on his head.
But instead I start talking.
I don’t even know what I’m saying at first, as the words come tumbling out. My mouth has taken over the train and is driving it fast and reckless down the track, and I’m just along for the ride.
In total disbelief I’m wondering who this guy is that’s doing the talking. It’s not someone I’ve ever met before. Is that really me? Don’t tell me the sales puke, in fact, saw this in me. It can’t be, but I’m hearing it rolling out like distant thunder, moving in, gaining momentum, getting louder, and I can’t believe my ears. I don’t remember the exact words I used back then, but this is a close approximation of what came out of my mouth on that fateful day.
Interrupting the wicked fiend’s cry at its peak, I began like we were in the middle of a normal conversation. I said that bartending is hard work, and although it may look like a lot of fun, most of the time it’s not. All those places I worked sound great, I know, but it was demanding, tiring work, and they were very difficult jobs to get. As an example, when I got to Aspen in September 1971, the local newspaper estimated there were over 5,000 young people in town trying to secure 2,000 seasonal jobs, so the competition for a job was fierce. In retrospect, it was informative and instructive watching people planning to go here and planning go there and preparing to talk to this one or that one, all in the likely uselessness of finding a job, and when that eventuality arrived, they would go home, go back to school or go to California. In 1971, everybody was on their way to California. My own backup plan, as a matter of fact, was to go on to San Francisco where I knew a couple of girls.
To set the stage, I hitchhiked to Aspen from New York City with about $100 in my pocket. I didn’t know anybody when I got to Aspen and had no plan other than to get a job for the season and ski. However, I didn’t go to a single business looking for work because I knew the chances of success with that approach would be extremely low, and I surely wasn’t interested in schlepping around, following the fatalistic flock of lemmings on their frantic way to nowhere. Instead, I spent my time getting acquainted with the local color and learning the lay of the land, which was best accomplished in the abundant pubs and cowboy-like watering holes that dotted the old mining town. It was tough, challenging duty, but I was up to the task.
My plan was to unearth the hidden and unexpected opportunities from the concealed crevices where the mangled masses never roamed as they manically ran around, tripping over each other in their collective haste to fail miserably. I, on the other hand, was waiting for that special destiny to come knocking, looking for the right man at the right place at the right time.