"Old black Joe’s still picking cotton for your ribbons and bows…and everybody knows."—Leonard Cohen
A cool damp night…
It was another night at work at the restaurant I manage in DC. By then the days were much shorter and a gray canopy of mist had enveloped the metro area. It was an unusual shift for a Tuesday in that usually the bar is dead and the dining room area is packed for about two hours with Senators, media people, war criminals, and insurance reps and so on. Tonight, however, the dining room was so empty that I cut the entire floor staff. But the bar was packed with well dressed, clearly upwardly mobile white people in their 20’s and 30’s.
At one point the bar became so busy that I had to start making drinks for people along side the bartender. This was a terrible development for me because, well, I’m freaking lazy and not to mention that I’m a self described class warrior with nothing but seething contempt for the majority of our "guests."
As I was guiding a woman through the wine list she picked the second most expensive bottle of Cabernet. She explained that even though they were celebrating, they needed to "tighten their belts" a little. She then mumbled something about "the economy."
"Ask not what your country can do for you…"
After about an hour I got the bartender caught up and could finally get back to what I do best: jack shit. So I left the bar—a wasteland of half eaten rare Ahi Shashimi, empty wine bottles and semi-drunk white people—and sought refuge in the empty dining room. Soon after, for a brief moment, every voice in the bar was hushed. The bartender then cranked the television volume full blast and I could hear Wolf Blitzer’s voice say something about an historic moment and then everybody just went absolutely batshit.
Now, I love hysteria as much as any American, so I went back to the bar to take it all in. And it was all fantastic! The pomp, the Spectacle! An attractive female stranger actually hugged me for God sake! What a night. As I looked around the room my eyes repeatedly met other bright shining eyes, the eyes of well fed and buzzed liberals. Suddenly I noticed two men I often see but rarely notice. Four feet from the bar’s windows is a bus stop and standing there were two local black janitors, who appear to be in their sixties, standing in the slow rain looking in on us with tears of joy in their eyes. It’s seems like the more things change, the more they stay the…
"Same as it ever was."—Talking Heads
With my mood dampened somewhat after crashing back down to reality I went about my normal work while the white liberals went on celebrating the end of racism forever. After a couple of hours with all of the revelers of soft revolution back home in their condos, the empty wine bottles in the trash, the mostly Latino staff all then headed for the doors. It was interesting watching them leave that night. I had never noticed that they use the bus stop across the street and mostly black people use the one out front. I later learned that the one across the street takes the Latino working class to
"You gotta keep ‘em separated."—The Offspring
Like any night at work, the last two people to leave are me and the dishwasher. We’re the perfect duo due to our perfect symbolism of the system. He earns the least while doing the hardest work and I make the most for doing the least. As we started to part ways at the door I said, "hasta manana buddy." He said, "See you tomorrow sir."
Where were you the night the whole world changed forever? What about the day after that?
PS: Solidarity to our sisters and brothers in Greece and Palestine. One half of my heart is broken and the other inspired. It’s a strange time to be alive. World Solidarity and Action Now!