A pub crawl was wrapping up at Martini Corner when I arrived in the area early last Saturday evening. I had come simply to eat a sandwich at Tower Tavern, a sports bar over there that employs a person with whom I share DNA. A meal in peace is all I ask! Instead, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of drunk zombies.
I mean that literally. The occasion, as I came to understand it, was called the End of the World Pub Crawl. Participants dressed either as zombies or survivors, and hopped around the five bars in the district between the hours of 1 and 6 p.m. Crawlers were also required to carry "life flags" on their persons — kind of like flag football — and had to evade the roving group of very scary-looking zombies out on 31st Street whose goal it was to steal their life flags. Hold on, I am almost done. Then if you made it to all five bars with your life flags, you won a prize, or something. The prize did not seem to be the primary objective. Basically, this was an event for people who are into zombies and The Walking Dead and a bunch of other shit that I am not into. Wear scary makeup, take 12 Goldschläger shots, try to hook up — that seemed to be the long and short of it.
The tail end of a pub crawl is a pretty dark scene, and Tower looked as though a hurricane had just blown through it. The first thing I saw was a woman standing up at a high table scarfing down a stromboli with the deprived ferocity of a homeless man. As I was eating my chicken pesto sandwich in a probably-not-dissimilar manner, another woman with hideous white paint on her face came and sat down next to me. She knocked my shoulder with her purse as she hung it on her stool. Then she widened her legs and knocked me with her left leg and just left it there, kinda scraping up against my knee. These were not flirtatious acts. She just was so inebriated that her various senses — the sense of touch, for example — were not registering inside her brain. Before long, her friend approached, and they started having a dramatic conversation. Then I accidentally made eye contact with the friend.
"Can I ask you a question?" she said.
"If your friend jumped out a window, would you jump out one, too?"
"Probably," I said.
The loose-legged woman gave me a high-five. "Right on," she said.
"I don't like you," her friend said. "I don't like the way you think, and I don't like the way your brain works."
"People have told me that before," I said.
Then Alabama won — what a game! — and I cruised over to RecordBar for Found magazine's 10th-anniversary celebration. I wrote about Found creator Davy Rothbart in last week's issue, but if you're unfamiliar, Found is an irregularly published national zine that gathers strangers' discarded lists, letters, photographs and other ephemera, and assembles from them a sort of collective poetry. The "finds," as they are called, are sometimes poignant and usually funny. (I laugh every time I look at the cover of the recently published Issue 8, which is anchored by a found press photo of a young, white, rotund, bandanna-wearing rapper who goes by the name "Biggz.")
Rothbart, who is 37, took the stage in his usual attire: bright pants, a basketball jersey, and a houndstooth cap. It's not a style I can make work, but I respect that he seems to have settled on a look in junior high and stuck with it ever since. Three rows of chairs were set up in front of the stage, which I don't think I'd ever seen RecordBar do before — a nice touch. "Some good-looking women here," a friend said, and there were. There also seemed to be more women than men present — another phenomenon I don't believe I've ever observed at RecordBar.
For these Found tours — the current one covers 75 cities in 99 days — Rothbart is doing readings from his new book of essays, My Heart Is an Idiot. It's one of my favorite books of the year, and he read two of the shorter essays from the collection: "Nibble, Lick, Suck, and Feast" and "Southwest." He's also touring with his brother, Peter, who is a musician. Halfway through the show, Peter came up and performed some solo acoustic songs inspired by finds. It was a mostly comic performance, though it had a literary quality to it, somewhere between Sufjan Stevens and an early 1990s Adam Sandler song. One contained the lyric, I know I have been redeemed/To build the baddest-ass Nissans the Pacific Northwest has ever seen, which struck me as very Mountain Goats.
Later, the brothers shared the stage to perform "The Booty Don't Stop," a song from a blank cassette tape (titled "Booty Tape") that a Found reader picked up off the ground somewhere in Michigan. A few phrases stick out: dick-donkulous and taste that booty flavor. It's actually not a bad song.
Before the show, tiny pieces of paper were distributed to audience members, on which we were asked to write down a question that we might like to ask a stranger. At the end of the show, Rothbart asked for a crowd volunteer. A young woman named Stephanie went onstage, and Rothbart proceeded to ask her the collected questions. Ordinary everyday type of stuff, like "Who are you, really?" and "Would you rather fight 10 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?"
Rothbart has amassed a power trove of finds over the last decade, and throughout the evening, he picked through a cluttered stack of old papers and presented us with the gems. It was a little bit like a legendary band burning through its greatest hits. One was a shopping list that goes, "Gun, gun, ski mask, Nerds." He closed strong, with my personal favorite, a note that reads, "Dad, come get me at the coffee shop when you are done taking a crap."