Live band playing in the arsty district

"Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot" - C3

By jasonmcgathey | Jason McGathey | 3 Jul 2023

Hipsters toasting to their own trendiness

Still, there is one aspect missing thus far from his repertoire with the Healthy Hippie Market, somehow, even eight months into this experience. And it will take the Palmyra crew to begin resolving this oversight, however indirectly. When word begins to circulate that the newest guy in the deli, Dave, is also a musician, and that he's playing out this Friday night in Chesboro, a decent chunk of that store's workforce makes plans to attend together. One day Edgar happens to be up there, and is thrown an invite as well.

That it's the assistant store manager, Brady, mentioning this to him doesn't matter in the least. They were standing near the vitamin department, discussing music - or actually, Edgar was in the middle of his monthly scan audit, and Brady happened to drift past in his travels - and a casual mention was made of this. Initially he's noncommittal, but when Dave also shouts an invite out to him a short while later, from behind the deli counter, Edgar figures it wouldn't exactly hurt to step up his social game a little with this crew.

Dave is nothing if not an outgoing, engaging personality, and once you learn this, he does more resemble your average local musician more than he does a hippie. Not that these two terms are mutually exclusive. But he's got the shaggy bowl cut going in place of dreadlocks, and a perpetual five o'clock shadow instead of a beard. Rumor has it he did get the "free love" memo, however, for even though a married man, everyone is whispering that he's already begun sleeping with one of the cashiers here.

And this is another signpost, maybe. Edgar does have some…other things going on in that realm, away from here, but even while joking that he's not supposed to be fraternizing with the help, he knows that he would not fight this. Or even if mostly sincere, hearing about someone else's antics, particularly coming from someone who hasn't even been around all that long, does get one's wheels turning. There are indeed a fine number of females working for this establishment. And yet aside from one cashier here at Palmyra, right when he first started, who was also married yet allegedly confessing to multiple sources that she'd like to hook up with him, not much apparent interest has flowed his way on that front. It's the kind of thing you might not even notice, but once you do, it does somewhat begin bugging you, whether you'd even act on such interest or not.

Part of it he would chalk up to whole perceived management barrier. He understands that he is now viewed as one of the stuffed shirts upstairs, that he's on the other side now from the kids - never mind how untrue this is. Even though barely in his 30s, this is just the perception. And so in that light it totally makes sense that only another manager, or some new guy who doesn't know better and at any rate has a marked interest in drumming up as much publicity as possible, would invite him to this, while nobody else had even mentioned it.

Come Friday, since he's already working in Chesboro, it's relatively easy to kill a handful of hours until everyone begins showing up over at the music club. He works a little later than usual, grabs some dinner and a couple of beers to go with it at a sports bar, and the next thing he knows that magic hour has arrived. He drives across town to the trendy arts district, after passing the music club to make sure he knows where it is, and then parks on some residential street a few blocks removed from the action.

For an arts district to sell itself as trendy takes some clever tactical maneuvering. If someone didn't know any better, it would just look like your average downtrodden neighborhood on a decades long decline. However, once everyone involved makes it known that this is intentional, then the public, in particular the hipster portion of the population, begins seeing things in a whole new light.

The oddly named GD Computer Cafe looks like nothing remotely tech related, but rather a wooden shed from some train set, a scale model bright red barn. Interior features very much the same, heavy on the untreated wood motif, with pools of red lighting here and there breaking up the dim spots. As he arrives, Brady is already here, hanging out with Palmyra's grocery manager, Thad – Dolly's son – near the door. There's a square grid of maybe sixteen tables beyond them, followed by the cleared out dance floor, and the stage beyond it, where some opening act is already bashing its way through paint by numbers metal that sounds like it might be Christian.

To the left is the bar itself, awash in a sea of that garish crimson light, and after a cursory hello to these two, Edgar finds his way over there. At least the draft offerings are halfway interesting, as he suspected they would be, although hipster staples like PBR are of course well represented also. Now that he has the essentials covered, he returns and joins their conversation proper. In between random stabs at interjecting commentary, he appraises the remainder of this scene.

This tiny club is packed, which is always a good sign, and their sound system definitely does not suck. He's only been here maybe three minutes before Dave, making his rounds around the room, affords Edgar a broad grin and shakes his hand, thanks him for showing up. As Dave moves on, Edgar observes and sees him interacting with various people at a couple more, elevated tables, which are wedged in along the walls on both sides of the stage. These folks are presumably his band, for the most part, although he also spots the deli manager, Natasha, some other girl, Ashley, who was also hired back there not even a week ago, and the cashier that Dave is allegedly already banging on the side, Chelsea. Say one thing about the guy, he's got great networking skills – self-serving or not, which is really kind of the point anyway – and thinking about this fills Edgar in this moment with a resolve to step up his own game with this crew. Nobody ever said this was a competition, but it's kind of hard not to feel left out of the action.

His eyes land on this raven haired beauty sitting near the front, haired tied back in a lustrous ponytail, wearing these gigantic gold hoop earrings. She's seated by herself at one of those taller side tables, yet is close enough with and interacting in some fashion with that crew up there watching Dave. Though facing forward, she keeps turning around to peer back this way ever so often, which is how he knows she's hot, also that he has never seen her before. Well, this is shaping up as maybe a legitimate prospect.

During intermission, Dave and Thad slip out for some whiskey one of them has tucked into a glove box. Brady calls Christie Marsh, which Edgar finds a somewhat impressive move, though he's unable to talk her into coming out. And meanwhile, the metal band gives way to this quintet of black dudes, The Lucky Souls. Four of the five members take the stage without a shirt on, which is never a good sign. Except as they begin cooking up some jams, Edgar finds that he unexpectedly loves this act. They're blending funk and metal, but really well. It feels more natural than those contrived acts of the early 90s, who were all but shouting hey, look at us, we're blending funk and metal! but had nothing to offer beyond that.

This is probably working because The Lucky Souls mix in pop, soul, et cetera as organic extensions of their sound, yet their playing chops and melodies are strong, too. Lyrics nothing amazing, but the lead singer has mad presence – a chiseled, smiling, huskier kid, covered with tattoos and usually found rocking a keyboard. The band heats up progressively across their set. And must find that the temperature is rising in here as well, for even the last shirt-wearing member, the bass player, a lanky youth in glasses who looks at least partially Asian, soon removes his tee as well.

Unlike the first band, too, they draw actual dancing bodies out onto the floor, although not many. Those doing so stand out all the more, and as a result it's just about impossible for them to keep their eyes off this stunning blonde, objectively by far the most gorgeous sight to be found here. Unfortunately she is twirling around with some cheesy and slightly older preppy guy, who obviously cannot be into this scene or music at all, but is surely loaded financially, and smiles a lot as if unable to believe his good fortune. Well, who could blame him, even though she in turn obviously cannot be into this dude whatsoever, only his money.

Brady and Thad continually rave about her, but Edgar keeps looking over at and thinking about the brunette. His resolve has only increased in that she has spun her head around on at least eight occasions, to peer over this way herself, and while, yes, they have held down this same spot all night, standing near the door, he thinks he can tell she's looking at them and not at the door.

Well, who knows, maybe this is wishful thinking, but there's only one way to find out. And as the band plays on and he considers this, a plan begins to take shape. The route to the men's room just so happens to pass her table, found in a back hall beside the stage. He's already traveled that way once, for legitimate reasons, although it did afford him an up close glance at her. As soon as Dave's band begins playing, he's going to pass through there to hit the restroom yet again, and come up with some goofy pretense for talking to her, either on the way there or back.

There's another intermission, and Dave dips out for another whiskey pull, although this time he returns with someone who is introduced to them as his brother. This guy basically looks the same, but a little older and a little taller. Feeling fidgety, Edgar breaks away to grab a second beer, returns, tries to not be obvious about checking out the brunette. As expected, during this break, the decreased volume has led to her chatting with a number of the others nearby, which is a prospect he's attempting to avoid.

Finally, Dave's own five piece takes the stage. As they begin playing, Edgar enacts his plan, though watching it unfold almost ahead of his own actions like a slow motion trainwreck. Moving just a handful of paces ahead of Edgar, Dave's brother had exited their circle, is making his way across the room. He reaches that table, at which point the brunette turns and smiles, he places a hand on her back and they kiss. This is his woman.

Edgar had only veered away from a direct path to the men's room by a few steps, thus is able to course correct, away from her table, without looking like too big of an idiot. But he feels like one, that's for sure. Even if unable to reach a consensus on what he's thankful for, or wishes he had done differently. On one hand it's kind of a blessing that he took his time and avoided making an ass of himself, discovering that she was with Dave's brother. On the other, he somewhat wishes he had spoken to her earlier anyway.

As it turns out, the main attraction here presents its own conflicting response. As Dave strums and sings, his voice and lyrics both are pretty damn great. The lead guitarist is good, though the songs themselves, as a whole, only so-so. And there's no mistaking the the bass player and drummer are horrible, while Dave's wife, the Linda McCartney of the group, is maybe thankfully completely inaudible, plonking away on a theoretical keyboard and warbled backing vocal.

The place empties out, which implies that maybe The Lucky Souls were the main draw. But the super hot blonde remains on site, spinning around out there with her dude straight from banking management or hedge fund client acquisitions. When the music finally stops, Brady, Thad, and Edgar finally drift up to begin mingling some with their other coworkers, Ashley and Chelsea, and the other members of Dave's entourage. Edgar at last meets, but avoids much interacting with the brunette, whose name he thinks may have been Valerie.

The others don't seem tremendously interested in their presence, however, which leads to discussions about heading out of here. Though Brady has ridden down with a van full of the Palmyra crew, lives up that way himself, and might have no choice but to stick around.

“What are you getting into after this?” he asks Edgar.

“I don't know. Somehow I only had two beers the entire time I was here,” he says, extracts his phone to see that it's still only eleven, remarkably, which means this place closes early, “I actually wouldn't mind checking out some of the other bars around here, since I'm down this way.”

“You live up by the store, too, right?”

“Yeah, somewhat,” he shrugs. “I mean, I pretty much drive right by there.”

“Can I catch a ride with you, then? I might want to tag along.”

“Yeah, that's cool.”

As they head out, Thad joins them, although he is only walking as far as his car. He still lives at home with Dolly, though in his late 20s, which is somewhere out in the boondocks far east of Chesboro. And is due in up at Palmyra early in the morning.

“Who do you guys think was the hottest chick, back there?” Thad wonders.

“Definitely that skinny blonde,” Edgar says, camouflaging his unspoken, actual opinion on the matter, “of course, she had to be there with some total cheesenuts.”

Brady cackles loudly and offers, “did you just say cheesenuts? That is the perfect word to describe that guy!”

“I don't know...,” Thad says, responding to his own question, “I think the hottest one there might have been...the girl that was with Dave's brother.”

And this really caps off Edgar's night, considering he has said nothing about her. As Thad breaks away, to stroll off to his vehicle, Edgar and Brady continue onward through the artsy district, checking out everything. Yet somehow none of the actual bars look all that inviting, although the patio at a pizza place does. Even though neither of them are hungry, and grab only tall mugs of Kona draft at the bar, before drifting out to claim one of these tables.

These patio seats, elevated roughly a half story from the street, afford a perfect sightline of the sidewalk traffic below, at this district's primary intersection. Brady's telling him about only moving south himself a handful of months ago, albeit from the New England region, after his dad did so a number of years earlier – an experience that mostly matches Edgar's own. They might even have a similar impression of the girls down here, although standing at polar opposites in how they've responded to this information.

“Man, that whole northern aggression thing does not work down here,” Brady complains, “but I haven't figured out what the fuck I'm supposed to be doing instead.”

That's probably true, and as a result Edgar's brief flirtation with approaching that girl earlier was likely misguided anyway. Well, not exactly. His experience thus far has been that the way to operate in this realm is to go ahead and kind of throw your name out there, okay, sure, but to then...disappear. Granted, he hasn't hit it out of the park down here yet himself, either, but up north you were kind of forced to make things happen. The girls down here seem to find that approach off-putting, though, and he's already found himself bombing in a couple situations which seem like they would have been slam dunks back home.

Still, he doesn't mention as much now, only nods at Brady's comment, but his drinking buddy here must pick up on the vibe anyway. Asks Edgar what kind of results he's gotten down here, so far.

“Eh, I've done okay, but...I have to admit, I'm still hooking up with my ex quite a bit, whenever I go back up there...”

“That's cool.”

“It's cool, but in a way it's not cool. Because I haven't been all that inspired to make anything else happen,” Edgar laughs.

And Brady opens his mouth to respond to this, except they are interrupted by an insistent knocking on the wall length window right beside them. Creak their necks around slowly to peer at the pizza shop's warm amber glow, more specifically the pair of females just on the other side of the glass. The shorter one, with spiky blonde hair, in a plain white tee shirt and jean shorts, is smiling and waving a hand back and forth now, and Edgar recognizes her, of course. Her taller sidekick, with longer, straight yellow hair and sexy librarian glasses, he does not, although she is doing the same.

“Who the fuck's this?” Brady asks, like a ventriloquist attempting to not move his lips.

“I know the shorter one,” Edgar explains, nodding and raising a hand back at them, “she works at Liberty Avenue.”

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I am a professional writer with 8 published books under my belt. And many other unpublished ones, in various stages of disarray.

Jason McGathey
Jason McGathey

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