Me and Daniel

Me and Daniel
Me and my then 8 year old son, 20 years ago.

Monday 29 September 2014

July 4, 2004 Nights out at the Empress

July 4, 2004
2:48 am

What a crazy night this has been.
I'll start at the beginning. It was girls night out, so Brenda and Paula and Peggy and I gathered, first at Brenda's house for the requisite Jello shooters, and then, fortified with a gelish courage, it was off to the Empress for the lot of us.
Yes, yes, the Emp.
Queen of dive bars.
Smells like stale beer, carpet stains and spilled piss. Wall to wall caricatures.
Steven, the crack dealer scoping the joint out from the security of a shadowy doorway.
"Cory-oke" introducing the next act, a drunken rendition of  Mustang Sally, spewed out by one of the regulars.
It's always Mustang Sally.

When we got there, Peggy made her exit into the bowels of the place before our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, muttering something about John having a drink waiting for her.
We found a table on the far wall and set up camp.
After the first pitcher, Peggy reappeared and told us that Eleanor died!
Eleanor used to sit in the Emp for hours talking to anyone who would listen, about her main obsession, great books and the great authors who wrote them.
 She was a self-taught, drunken, bitter, but friendly, literary expert.
She knew everything about the works of John Steinbeck, DH Lawrence, and JD Salinger. She adored Oscar Wilde and Margaret Laurence.
She was one of the people I truly liked. She was interesting.
 This shaky, but functional, wobbly old woman didn't give a shit what anyone thought about her.

The squirrel in the wheel that runs Peggy's mind went nuts and came up with a conspiracy theory in .03 of a second.
"I think someone put something in her beer."
And then she set off again, back to the bowels of the establishment to find the truth.
What 'really' happened.

Peggy's octogenarian mother in law, who looks like a chemically altered Dame Edna, suddenly stood up and vowed to help Peggy find the truth because,
"Eleanor liked books."
The problem was, that when she stood up to follow Peggy, she spotted across the bar a gigantic woman, shaped like a carton of smokes, who, she said
"...used to go out with my old man!"
Seeing her old man's ex was, on its own, enough to enrage her to such an extent that she had to face the carton woman.

So they started yelling across the bar about whether or not the 'old man', (who is really super old, so I guess that's not just a nickname) went out with the carton woman, and suddenly the carton woman was at our table screaming into the face of Peggy's mother in law. 
it was stupid
the whole time Brenda was talking about 'poor Eleanor'
 Bar Stars were brandishing the Eagles and Van Morrison from the stage

The night clamored on and Peggy came back from her quest before it had sunk in fully that she had left. She was still unable to decipher what 'really happened' to Eleanor, but she told us that her band was playing at Tornado Joe's and she can get us in for free.
Her husband is the relief drummer so she claims ownership of the band.
 The actual drummer had a heart attack on Friday, she said, so now it's
 "John's chance for the big time."
Yeah okay.
We broke camp and headed over to Tornado Joe's.
turns out that this might be John's big chance to be the second worse cover band in Chilliwack. And there was a whole different drummer!
Either that or the main drummer's heart attack cleared up really fast.
All John did all night was sit at the table and pantomime all the drumming and spill people's beer. It was annoying.
It was like being caught in some strange dream sequence of a bad movie...

And all I could think was how, one time, a few weeks back, me and Brenda and Dave were at the Empress, waiting for a cab and we met up with Eleanor.
She was all folded up on the ledge at the front of the building and she ended up in our cab. We couldn't leave her there. The three of us sat in the back, and Eleanor sat in the front. The whole way to her building she was babbling about her keys and how she hoped she hadn't lost them.
She hadn't.
She stumbled out of the cab when it got to her apartment and the driver waited till she was in the door before he pulled away.
People always look out for Eleanor.

The sane people who knew Eleanor said that what really happened, is she dropped dead of a heart attack when she was coming out of her building on Thursday morning.
It was nice to know you, Eleanor.
It's late now. I'm going to bed.


  1. Sounds like quite the night! Glad you survived. Makes me recall some of my wilder times when I was young and hanging out in the bars. Man, I do miss those days sometimes! HUGS

    1. Hey Ron! Yeah...I don't miss those days at all...most of it seems stupid when I look back. Still, we were having fun at the time...I'm so glad to be done with that part of my life though. I haven't been in a bar for over a decade now, and it feels great.

  2. You know, I've never done that kind of thing. Never had a bar hangout or anything even close.
    But Eleanor sounds like someone I would have enjoyed talking to.

    1. Hey Andrew! Yeah, Eleanor was a kick for sure. She was very well read and knew just about everything about her favourite authors and their work. It's funny, I had kind of forgotten about Eleanor, until I was re-reading some of my old's funny how much goes on in life that you end up forgetting. It's like the saying, "In twenty years I'll have forgotten most of the stuff I haven't done yet."

    2. Or, you know, like I tell my kids: I've forgotten more than you'll ever know.

  3. George can really bring that 'bar' feeling into a song. Great guitar. Now, it's craft brewery bars in Vancouver. Much more posh and better food, so they say. . E

  4. Blogger took that before I was finished. I was going to say Eleanor sounds like a loveable character. Nice of you to cab her home.

    1. Hey DG! I agree about George! I don't think anyone else brings the whole 'bar' atmosphere into a place better than George...and Eleanor was such a wonderful person. She loved nothing better than a great conversation over beers, and preferably the subject matter would be writers and their work.
      I've heard of the craft bars in the city...I've never been to one. I haven't been to a bar for years and years...there are some fun memories, but for the most part it was unnecessary drunkeness and drama.
      Hope you're having a great day!

  5. Hey Eva! I really like your stories. You write so I always feel like I'm there. Good stuff.

    It's been a long time since I've been drunk. I started out as a happy drunk, but when I turned into a sad drunk I had no interest in it anymore. That and the fact that I'd rather spend my money on stuff like art supplies, or at least something physical so that I'll have something to show for it. When you drink, sometimes you don't even have memories to show for it. Actually, if I could get away with not buying food, that would be great. When I was in high school and working on an art project, I used to wish that I was a robot or something so I wouldn't have to stop to eat (and un-eat, so to speak). But then, even robots need maintenance, oil, etc.

    Eleanor sounds like an interesting person. I would have like to know her.

    1. Hi Jane! I know what you mean. I always hate to break for any reason when I'm in the zone...whether I'm drawing or writing or painting, having to stop at all is a pain in the ass.
      I hate being drunk too...and you're right, a lot of times you don't even have the memories! Yes, money is better spent or art supplies...or books!.....hmmmm.....or music....just about anything really.
      I am so glad you're painting again, and I'm really happy that we got in touch again! Social media is good for something after all!


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