Monday, July 14, 2008

Plato in the Bar

Plato was invited to read poetry at Dorsey's Locker, a bar in North Oakland known for it's Blue Candle poetry nites. Plato had resisted attending as he rarely reads his poems in public. (His last public reading was with Amiri Baraka at UC Berkeley: go to www.ucberkeley/hollowaypoetryseries/amiribaraka.) But the MC is one of his students, President Davis, an up and coming actor/poet Plato has encouraged and mentored.

President revealed his talent as Sisyphus in Baraka's Opera of the same name. So finally, Plato made his way to Dorsey's on a Tuesday night. President was elated to see him finally show up and said the first drink was on him. President brought him his favorite drink: Hennessy mixed with Baileys. He told President to taste it. Hmmm, President said. Plato warned him, "This is not a milkshake, this is not a milkshake, this is not a milkshake." President said ok and continued setting up the venue. He later came back with the same drink for himself.

Seated at the bar in front of Plato was a brother talking loudly about his exploits as a bomber in the US Air Force during the war in Kosovo. He was ranting at the top of his voice about the greatness of the American planes and how they bombed the Serbs into the Stone Age. He spoke of the pitiful Russian Migs the Serbs used to defend themselves and how the technically superior Americans outgunned the Serb pilots. He spoke about his skills as a pilot, sounding and behaving like the hero in Hancock, especially in his drunkenness. He admitted he was retired from the Air Force due to alcoholism. Plato was disturbed by the ranting of this sick man, even more so because he was so loud. Plato has been suffering from Vertigo so the man's voice hurt his ears. But then he thought about how loud he has been known to be after a few drinks of Hennessy and Baileys. He hoped he was not as embarrassing and disgusting as this man. The man ordered drink after drink, while Plato sipped his. When the man turned around to engage Plato in his mad monologue, Plato dropped his head, then turned away, saying to himself, "Nigguh, don't say shit to me. I'm not going to converse with you and your right wing bullshit."

Plato ordered a dinner of chicken wings and thought about the article he read in the morning paper on veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan drugged out, having bar fights and domestic violence, partly because there are not enough mental health workers to serve them. It was clear the man before him was a very sick puppy and needed healing for his crimes against humanity. Was not his ranting a cry for help, letting the world know the depth of his sickness and sorrow? Plato decided to move to another table far away from the man. But as he downed the chicken wings, the man followed him, stopping at a customer not far from Plato. Plato said to himself, “I’ll be damn, this nigguh won’t leave me alone.” The man was in his face now, repeating his story. Plato looked at the man and said, “Fuck America! Why don’t you black nigguhs in the Air Force drop your bombs on America?” The man was silent. Yes, Plato had hit him with a low blow. He tried to come back by saying there were some brothers in the Air Force “doing things.” Plato said nothing. The man walked back to his seat.

Plato finished his chicken wings. When the reading began, Plato was finally called. He read several poems, then departed.

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