“Oh, pipe down and eat,” says Stipe.
“I do soliloquize at times.”
“But the beat on ’15 Step’ is just so, oh, ambrosial, I could eat it with an acorn squash caponata.”
“So glitchy, but so decadent, I know.”
“And when the children’s voices…”
“Like little bambini on a piazza in Siena! Then they’re gone — haunting.”
Over dessert — profiteroles — Mario says, “Let’s go drinking downtown.”
“We are downtown.”
“Well, let’s go drinking.”
“Our original hangout. A couple of roustabouts out on the town.”
“It’s not there anymore.”
“Outrageous. What about our other place?”
“The Vietnamese speakeasy, down the stairs, near the bridge.”
“What’s it called? I forget.”
“It doesn’t have a name. Know what they should call it?”
“The Reckoner. Like twilight after your fourth ouzo. The strings as you stagger to the loo. The floor begins to slope. You smile, but you don’t mean to. Then the slide. The dramatic collapse. Grains of sand.”
“Can we find it?”
“Ask any cabbie, it’s famous.”
“The guy with the lazy eye and the bandage on his head.”
“Who tried to throw a bicycle at a drunk model.”
“It all comes back,” he says.
“Local color. Good talk. Festive music. Disease. Do you have the CD with you? Ask the waiter to put on ‘Bodysnatchers.'”
“That would be fiendish. Fuck with their minds — like, wake up to the butchery! Jonny is so extreme on that. So lovely, brutal. Like a firefight for the soul.”
“Always the poet.” Mario smiles warmly.
“Have you heard Derek Bailey?” asks Stipe.
4:30 A.M., Doyers Street.
“Nude” is playing on the speakeasy’s stereo. Thom Yorke’s various studio voices wail intertwined. “So don’t get any big ideas / They’re not gonna happen / You’ll go to Hell / For what your / Dirty mind is thinking.”
Two men and an elderly woman sit at the other end of the bar. On a step leading down to the toilets another man sits sprawled, mumbling something about his landlord working for the FBI. The FBI had placed cameras and bugging devices not only in his apartment but everywhere he went. It was worse than London. They preceded him, anticipating every step he made, day or night.
“Ever get swacked on absinthe?”
“Missed out on that,” says Stipe.
“Serious derangement of the senses.”
“I went through a disgusting mulled wine phase several years ago. It started in Zermatt and I allowed it to continue much too long and in far too many places.”
“Doesn’t beat a Caribou,” Mario says.
“Yes, very nice. But not to be mentioned in the same breath as a Bellini, which goes down especially well if you happen to be lounging on your terrace in Portofino, overlooking the bay.”
“Nothing beats a Caribou.”
“This is boring,” Stipe says. “Stupid way to converse.”
“What’s this one called?”
“‘All I Need.'”
“My goodness, this is…God…I feel like I’m gonna weep. That piano just — bursts, the demented cymbal. His voice is so exposed. I never know what he’s saying, but it’s like he’s been lost at the carnival his entire life. And never found his way home.”
“Leave the poetry to me.”
Huge stains, as of disruptions in the plumbing, covered part of one wall. The place smelled. There really were inclines in the floor, some unexpected grades and elevations. An unfinished mural — palm trees — covered a section of wall behind the bar.
“Oh, this is ‘House of Cards,’ right? Glorious. I love when it feels like they strip everything away but there’s still so much there.”
“Denial, denial,” Yorke whispers.
“I can’t help but think…”
“I know. Kurt didn’t really know what to make of Thom at the time. It was all about sides then. Thom didn’t know what he was doing. Kurt never heard The Bends, you know. It’s a shame. So much has changed, but then again, has it really?”
“Where are you originally from?” Mario asks.
“Originally, lately, whatever.”
“Have you ever read Delillo?”
“But, listen, are you the kind of person who sees himself as a man without a history — no past, no relatives, no ties, no binds? I know you’re the kind of person who sees himself as a man without a history.”
“But you like that kind of person.”
“I like that kind of person, true.”
“That’s the kind of person Thom wants to be — but he’s not.”
“Because they tend to be mean bastards.”
“And he’s not.”
“Yeah…but I like mean bastards.”
“They tend to be very, very mean.”
“And I’m attracted to that, yes.”
Mario slumps on his stool, wearied by these disclosures.
“Fascinating, yes. An interesting word. From the Latin fascinus. An amulet shaped like a phallus. A word progressing from the same root as ‘fascism.'”
“Videotape” begins. The tragic plinks. Yorke is whispering again. The pearly gates. Saying goodbye. Never face to face.
Mario stares at the bartender. “Can you make a Caribou?”
Stipe is still talking about fascism. The song ticks.
“It’s no ‘How to Disappear Completely,’ is it?”
“Pipe down and drink.”
For further clarification, see Don Delillo’s Running Dog.