I tried to call it in today from a payphone on 21st Street. Nothing doing. I’ve no idea why but the call did not record.

I neglected to finish the Irma story. In fact the story of what happened with my contacts and relatives in Florida ended yesterday. The house in which I grew up got through the storm just fine, as did the property. The same could not be said for just about every other house in the area. My sister said that it looked like every yard but hers was buried under debris and fallen trees, and roofs partially torn off. Somehow the old house got through the storm without any such hazards. I knew things were well when she texted about 2:30am to say the worst of the winds had passed. She never texts that late. She typically goes to bed at 8:00 or 8:30. For that matter I do not usually leave my phone turned on or anywhere near me when I sleep at night. But I did this time. So on both these counts you know this was real.

People I know in Miami and Fort Lauderdale were without power until yesterday. An elderly FB friend broke her arm the night of the storm and did not check in for over a week. Another high school friend in Fort Lauderdale sealed his house in metal shutters and got back into town just as the power was restored. They went up to Philadelphia ahead o the storm. Coincidentally I’ve been listening to that person’s voice a lot the last few days, as he features prominently in my endless bags of cassette tapes from 25-30 years ago.

But the real story involved the one we were most worried about. My niece was 8 months pregnant as the storm arrived. A hurricane-induced birth sounded romantic in its way but utterly undesirable for obvious reasons. Alas, the baby arrived yesterday. Leonardo is his name, and he looks perfect.

So there you go. Now you know.

In more current news I’ve gone over 2 weeks without booze. I was fine with it until last night, and tonight. I need to poison myself. That’s how those high-octane beers feel to me now, not to mention the VODAK. A friend from Dallas suggested a Polish vodka, starts with a Z but I can’t think of the name offhand. It ships with a blade of grass in the bottle but that’s just decorative. Dallasian claims it’s the best vodka you (meaning I) will ever have. I looked for it online at the local shops but nothing turned up. I’m walking to Manhattan tomorrow and will look for it there. Zubrowsky, maybe?

I am not done with booze but I think I know what I am done with: Bars. It’s not that I will never set foot in one again. I would certainly meet someone at a pub if that’s what they suggest. This will probably happen next week when a college friend rolls through town. He has his mind set on the Old Town Bar, a place I used to like but which I now think I’ve outgrown.

I will go to pubs but I am done with trying to make a bar the cornerstone of my social life. I don’t think I have made a single lasting friend at a bar since the early RaR days, and nothing has come close to what it was like at Sunswick way back when. Those people, I can think of any number of them I could contact today with a punchline that we shared or a running joke that would still draw a laugh all these years on. One guy I could message right now saying “JAM THAT BITCH IN THE SIDE!” and he would know exactly what I meant and he would laugh. Another person I could send one word: “TREATS!” He would know what that meant, and he would laugh. And others. Those two people I have not spoken to directly in at least a year but it wouldn’t matter. This was how the meetup  with ‘Swicksters in Tampa felt back in May, just picking up right where we let off, then going our separate ways until the next time.

Anyway… I may romanticize just a bit but it remains undeniable that I have not made friends like that at a bar in what feels like a very long time. Quite the opposite, in fact. I feel like I’ve made ENEMIES, something I don’t think I experienced since the 7th or 8th grade when the coolest kids of all would EXCOMMUNICATE people like me from their inner circle. Even at that age I knew enough to never look back, to never attempt to rejoin whatever pathetic little clique had cast me out.

I cannot and do not dismiss the one interesting new person in my life this year. But he is a bartender. I’ve never seen him outside of the bar and I don’t think I ever will. He’s a good guy who I thought could be a friend outside the bar but it just doesn’t seem to have happened. Another bartender seemed equally promising but for other reasons. He is the only bartender at present who introduces people at the ar to the person sitting next to or across from them. He did that a couple of times with me, though the gesture fell flat as both times he had introduced me to surly Millennials with limited social graces and, apparently, nothing to say.

But it was cool that he tried.

As I tried to describe in the phone call that did not record, I’m probably half way through digitizing the mountain of cassettes I’ve rediscovered. I am reliving my early 20s in a way that might be unique. I’m listening to answering machine messages and voicemails clandestinely exchanged between a high school friend and me via the corporate voicemail system at the company where I worked from 1992-1995. Thinking about that now you would think that this person and I would have learned our lessons already, having been investigated by the Secret Service and FBI for crimes that bore uncanny resemblances to what we were doing at the first real job I had in New York. But no one ever yelled at me or asked why there constantly seemed to be 45 minutes worth of voicemails at extension 8330.

And I was calling dating lines and horoscope numbers and one line that called itself something like the TELEPHONE HOTLINE FOR THE APOCALYPSE. It was a funny if somewhat measured rant about the depravity of humanity and how we are destroying the world in which we live. Or something like that. I think he mentioned Revelation. Ah, pre-Internet crackpot culture, you had to work so hard to find it.

I’ve been drinking oceanic quantities of water and seltzer. This might be a contributing actor to the 7 or 8 pounds I’ve put on since going boozeless. Or it could be the mountains of garbage food I’ve been shoveling down my trap. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten so many candy bars or Frito’s.

I’m going to talk to The Wild Thing, but only if when he talks to me first.