by: Lewis H Montaug
The complete absurdity of bullshit bar talk balanced out by the seriousness of the subject matter….
I live in Manhattan and I spend a lot of time saddled up to the bar. Especially in the winter. And especially in a city like New York where there are a seemingly endless supply of watering holes. Sometimes I get a bit tipsy. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I let my mouth run and I get into a conversation or two that I shouldn’t. Oftentimes though, I just sit back and try to listen to the people talking around me, bouncing in and out of their myriad conversations while they consume that foremost of social lubricants, alcohol. And sometimes, just sometimes, I pull out my pocket tape recorder and place it on the bar (sue me!), quietly pressing the “record” button and documenting what people say when they drink. These often hilarious, sometimes serious and always passionately loud interactions, well, where they lead is anyones guess, and sometimes what is uncovered is truly insightful. But more often than not it’s just empty words, or plain rubbish, light on substance and heavy on grandiosity. Like an outlet for emptying out all the unspoken words and half-baked thoughts that clutter up our busy minds.
What follows below is one of those times when my tape recorder and I went to work. I was a fly on the wall at a Russian vodka house out on Manhattan’s West side, saddled up to the worn-out wooden bar and letting the infused-vodkas warm me up from the inside out. Three guys in their thirties sat down next to me and let loose their views on all sorts of topics over shots of room temperature Russian vodka and over-sized flagons of European beer. What they said is not my words, and the thoughts conveyed are far from my own. But for a moment, frozen in time, I present for you their world of slightly inebriated viewpoints and unabashed buffoonery. Enjoy!
Guy #1: As laughable as Scientology is, throw it up against Christianity, you know what I mean, or throw it up against Islam. It’s all bullshit.
Guy #2: No way.
Guy #1: I’m just saying, like, everybody’s looking for answers. The problem everybody has with Scientology and Tom Cruise is that he honestly believes he’s found the answers. If he was more open-minded and was like ‘Well this is a possibility and this is a possibility’, you know, I’d be like ‘Yeah totally Tom Cruise, I’m open to Scientology.’ But the ideas of Christianity, if you put them up against the ideas of Scientology, they’re kinda the same thing in terms of how strongly they stick to their beliefs.
Guy #2: So you’re saying they’re both insane…
Guy #1: They’re not. I’m not. I’m just saying that they are both on the same level. Listen, maybe I’m not being clear. Let me come at this another way.
Guy #3: Good, because I’m confused. (takes another shot of vodka)
Guy #1: Ok, ok. So….why do I love hanging out in Southern cities more than any other place in the country?
Guy #3: Is it because you like….
Guy #1: It’s because I fucking HATE the Northeast!! Hate the Northeast! More than anything. (slams back a freshly poured shot of vodka)
Guy #2: Are you inspired by the fact that a Southerner will….
Guy #1: (Yelling and interrupting) It’s because I would rather be around Bible-thumpers over Atheist-thumpers any fucking day!!
Guy #3: Yeah, but how far South are we talking? How far South will you go, because it gets weird down there when it comes to religion. Are we talkin’ like Mississippi? Louisiana? Texas?
Guy #1: Just a second, just a second, let me…
Guy #2: (Interrupting) Wait! What did you just say?! Did you just say that you would take Bible-thumpers over Atheist-thumpers?
Guy #1: Yes….
Guy #3: Really? Wait, what the fuck is an Atheist-thumper anyway?
Guy #2: I do not fucking believe you. (Takes a shot of vodka) At all! At all!! (Now yelling)
Guy #3: Most of the time Bible-thumpers are ignorant sheep, believing whatever they are told. But at least an Atheist is well-informed.
Guy #2: Nah, nah. Don’t buy into his crap. I don’t believe what you just said.
Guy #1: Based on an Atheist’s premise that there is no afterlife, I’d rather hang with Bible-thumpers.
Guy #3: (Talking over Guy #2): I think most Atheists form their opinion based on fact.
Guy #2: Wait! What are you talking about? You need to explain yourself. You’re sayin’ you would rather hang with Bible-thumpers than Atheists just because they believe in an Afterlife?
Guy #1: Hold on. Hold on. Let me explain myself. Hold on. I will….
Guy #2: No, no, no, no, no!
Guy #1: You want me to explain myself? You want me to talk? I’ll talk. Just let me talk. Listen, I just don’t believe in the whole….
Guy #2: (Interrupting) Atheists have no…..have no voice man.
Guy #1: Look (Takes a shot of vodka). I would rather hang out with somebody who….look, I mean, I personally don’t believe in Jesus. But, I do believe that Jesus was somebody who….I mean, if you really look at Jesus and what he did, I think a lot of Southerners have faith in that. Like real faith. Like honest-to-God fucking faith. For real. I’m not fucking around here. I would rather spend time with someone like that than an Atheist.
Guy #2: Ok, I’m back with you because you are talking rationally now (Takes another shot of vodka and pours shots for his friends who also take shots). Go on.
Guy #1: Like, I would rather hang out with a Southerner who has real fucking faith. Real belief – and I’ve had those people in my chair when I cut their hair at my shop – than someone who is always saying ‘Oh, this is all bullshit. This whole world doesn’t mean anything.’
Guy #3: Yeah, but did that Atheist come up with that idea about faith being pointless on his own or did someone brainwash him from an early age and tell him that was what he should believe? Because that’s what organized religion does.
Guy #1: Listen, I don’t feel this way because I think one way of thinking is more better than the other. It’s because…
Guy #2: (Interrupting) What he’s saying is if he feels this positive feeling about something, like say Southerners who believe in the Bible, then it’s inspiring. But the Atheist who has the jaded viewpoint on life is different from the Atheist who has the realistic view. Not all atheists can be put into one box.
Guy #3: Atheism is just a fucking lazy way to view the world.
Guy #1: I fucking hate Atheists. I hate ‘em.
Guy #3: Yeah, but you just don’t wake-up and decide to become an Atheist. You do your research. You observe your world and weigh things against each other. You search out your answers and you try on things to see what fits. And then you say to yourself ‘I don’t believe in any of this’.
Guy #1: Listen, I told you guys this in my kitchen one time. We’re all Agnostic.
Guy #3: I’ve never been in your kitchen. I think we only met one other time before tonight.
Guy #1: Whatever, you get my point.
Guy #2: You’re telling me that Atheists are more lazy than the guy who is desperate to find a reason to believe? And then one day he finds some preacher who waves his hand and is like ‘Poof! Jesus’, and the guy suddenly has faith.
Guy #1: I’m not talking about magic.
Guy #2: C’mon man! (downs a few gulps of his giant beer)
Guy #1: I’m just saying I’d rather hang out with someone who believes than someone who doesn’t. (Takes a shot)
Guy #3: (In background) Organized religion is a joke.
Guy #2: (Standing up and yelling) You’re talking about the worst of the bad against the best of the bad!
Guy #1: You’re right, that’s not completely fair.
Guy #2: Listen, my parents love God.
Guy #1: Hold on. We’re smarter than this. Let’s all do a shot.
Guy #2: You’re right. We’re better than this. (Downs a vodka shot) You were saying…
Guy #1: Forget what I said. (Downs a vodka shot)
Guy #2: The way I see it, believing in nothing, it’s kinda bullshit. Leaving room….now stay with me. Leaving room for magic is what dreamers fucking do. Creative types likes us, we leave room for fucking magic. For dreams. Believing in nothing takes all that away. Atheism is such a harsh stance to take and anyone who does I say ‘Fuck you’. And most people think that I am an Atheist, but I’m not. I’m not. I mean, not leaving room….
Guy #3: (Interrupting) At least we’re not all Nihilists.
Guy #2: ….for something else. Acting like Tom Cruise. Like you know everything. That you’ve got it all figured out. That’s fucked up. Whether it’s saying that you understand there is a God. Or you understand that there isn’t one. You’re fucked up if you think you know the answer. Because you don’t. No one does. ‘So shut the fuck up.’ That’s what I say to them.
Guy #3: (Interrupting loudly) We believe in nothing Lebowski!
Guy #2: Leaving room for all that magic, that’s what belief is all about. (Pounds fist on bar)
Guy #1: So listen fellas, there’s this book. It’s called Zealot. Honestly. It’s about the actual life of Jesus and it’s amazing to read if you were raised a Catholic. And it really shows you how this dude really did not like anyone who wasn’t Jewish. Jesus was as Jewish as they come and he was worth believing in.
Guy #2: What?! A guy who doesn’t like anyone who isn’t Jewish is someone worth believing in? Is that what you just said?
Guy #1: I’m just saying Jesus was worth believing in. He was a revolutionary. Like us….
Guy #3: (Shouting) I believe in you!! (Hugs Guy #1)
Guy #1: Yeah. Right. Exactly. If you believe in me then you believe in Jesus.
Guy #2: I believe in that bartender over there in those leather pants. That’s what I believe in. I believe in the beauty of that more than Jesus.
Guy #1: Let’s go have a cigarette.
Guy #3: Yeah, let’s go get some air.