The parade is over, but the clowns still fill downtown. They shuffle along on big colorful shoes into first generation minivans on random street corners. The vans – probably bought in an optimistic moment of clarity when they saw their clown lives sprawled out before them as a surrendering virgin bride. Now these elderly clowns hide their tremors with broad movements – the failing tautness of their faces disguised by full-faced painted smiles. At the corner, an Aerostar’s horn honks with alacrity - their ride is here. I hide my disappointment when only one or two clowns climb aboard each van.
Not to be outdone, teams of Shriners bandy about - brash and haberdashed in the finest fezzes Shriner-town has ever fezzed. I don’t even know what a Shriner is. Whether they make shrines or simply use them – tinkering on go-carts at sacred altars. The sputtering little cars of a Shriner gang round a corner. It’s at once ridiculous and nightmarish. Some Shrining brethren, coasting erectly about on Segways, soon upstage the go-carts. They zip along – life-sized wind up toys – tassels flowing in the breeze.
These people of spectacle and dispersing onlookers are enough to confirm that I had, in fact, just missed a parade - that and the police cruiser holding ground amid a herd of sawhorses. I turn left, but the parade route has a wider sprawl than it likely needs. More cops. More sawhorses. I make a quick right and run the length by circling round. Though I only need to go a few blocks, I drive a mile out of my way and re-approach from the west.
I find a spot just outside the bar and plug ninety-cents into the meter to get me to nine o’clock without a ticket. Fucking fascists.
The bar is what you expect – guy in front checking your ID. He asks for mine to keep up appearances. He can tell by the hitch in my giddy-up and the white in my beard that I’ve seen twenty-one a couple times over, but I play along. I yes-and.
The bar is the Wild Beaver Saloon. The ambience is franchised karaoke. The house drink is the double entendre.
Out front, a handsome young Team Jacob look alike pimps the place by playing corn-hole – a game where you bore a hole into a piece of plywood and toss a bean bag at it. I imagine that the game was thought up by a terribly accomplished iconoclast who, having conquered everything in life they ever dreamed they’d conquer, decided they literally had nothing else left to do.
I pop into the bar and find the promoter of the show. The host. He’s a good guy. He’s working hard to make something happen. The host has a way about him. He has a way. I know I have something about me too, but I don’t know just what it is. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think it’s a way.
Just before the show, the audience trickles in. Drips in, more like – a double date of old drunks – loud and happy and exactly the kind of people that do not get me.
I do my eight minutes. I walk a table when I talk about Jesus. At least I tell myself that’s the case. It probably has more to do with the bar being empty, but I always assume it’s me. I assume it’s my failure. I let it go. I’ll get ‘em next time. And fuck them anyway – it’s a solid bit.
Bar shows are tricky. The audience didn’t come to a comedy show. A comedy show came to their bar. Sometimes it’s welcome. Sometimes it’s a distraction. I shrug off any impulse I have to take things personal. I hang around long enough to establish a beachhead into the headliner’s set, but I’ve been ready to go since I stepped off stage. The headliner’s not having any better luck than I did, which is a little satisfying. I gulp the last of my water. I thank the promoter for having me on.
I head to the next bar.