I was in some random bar the other day, all tarted up and trying to look professional, when I noticed this Steinbeck quote on the wall:
“I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.”
As I sat there, contained within my clothing and totally sober, I realized: oh, isn’t this what I do when I’m not at work. And here I am, working, trying to be the exact opposite of that, and, oh, isn’t this ironic. People are here, paying $16 for a cocktail with their money from their corporate, sixty hours a week jobs while perched underneath these immortal words, and here I am, eager to go home and do exactly those things that he talks about, but I can’t do it here because for some reason this place is actually the polar opposite of the idea put forth by this quote, even though that quote was put there to push people into drinking more. I kinda want to stand up on the bar, gesticulate wildly at that quote and shout, “I’m here! I am that person!” But I can’t, because that quote wasn’t put there so that other writers would feel inspired. It was put there to sell more alcohol. There’s something antithetical about the irony of this so-called poetry that was painted there to do the exact opposite of what it’s supposedly preaching. Which is why I’m confused: I think I’m supposed to relate to this because I drink and I’m a writer and I’m wild (kinda), but I can’t. Of course, I realize that as a woman of color, that wild white boy life will always be out of reach for me, but that’s fine. Me and my friends live by different quotes, ones that are modern and not forged within the fires of white, male heteropatriarchy. We’re more into “burn it down” and “punch a nazi,” but, I know, I know, those ideas don’t exactly translate into hip neighborhood bar wall quotes, and you can’t sell $16 cockails on antifa dreams. So, I tell myself to put more capitalism in it, make it cute, and walk away.