The Lower East Side, 2012ce
The lights are dim no matter what happens. You can dance all night if you have to, but eventually someone has to herd the cats out the door and hide the bodies on the floor.
The Mehanata Social Club is tucked away discreetly on 113 Ludlow Street.
This is its second location since many times police raided and finally burned to the ground in an ugly incident that took place in 2005.
At an infamous establishment such as this you ought to always know the names of the men “standing the watch” or women “pouring for your drinks” or the “holding down of your bags and coats. Most importantly you ought to be cautious of the seductive forces marshaled via inexpensive vodka and black magic to lead you to things you ought not to be playing around with.
There might was well be signs on the wall telling you anything not tied down will be carried away into the night, bags, souls, virginities.
Come to think of it, there are such overt signs!
One claims three teeth are needed for entry. One says anything not checked will be stolen. One says get naked get a shot, get fucked on bar earn bottle.
It’s a Gypsy Bar. And it lives up to that designation splendidly.
You wouldn’t find it unless you were looking for it. You’d only be looking for it is someone told you about it and perhaps you’d hate them for it later. But, in the wilderness a tavern of wild foreign and domestic people dancing to the tunes of the Roma can draw angels and demons by word of mouth and since 2001 it has been surviving pogroms, police raids and venue changes via fire.
There are three floors to the Tavern.
The website extolls patrons to “meet their future green card holding spouse.” There is live Latin music. Live fire juggling. Bulgarian contortionists on Thursday alongside with Bordel Dali; Ernesto and his business comrade Georgie who is from Romania. The cast of characters around here boggles the mind.
The club has the look of a vast lawless pirate ship or a wilderness brothel.
The waitresses and bar tenders are skinny or shapely, Bucharest or Sophia girls just arrived recently though generally well educated and for now, un-indentured. They mostly don’t stay long and the reason for that is partly because of the demands of the work, and because their boss is the devil himself. The club is only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There are private parties in the basement you’d do well not to crash unexpected or uninvited. The talent is highly various. There’s a rather pal-mal esthetic of transcontinental bacchanalia.
The booking agent is petit and elegant Victoria Lynch often wearing the hat of a Soviet officer the shoulder length locks of her hair falling over well fashioned skirts or flowing dresses. The primary live acts are Gypsy. Roma meets Latin American mostly. You get dance hall and reggae tone periodically.
The doughty wine.
The salsa, the tango, sometimes even a little Zouk.
The most popular disk jockeys are Raphael Ernesto Contreras Lynch also called the “DJ Rafflex” and Georgie from Bucharest also called the “DJ Mishto”. As stated “Romanian” but “not a Gypsy”. The most famous of the bartenders is Martina called Hella Dubreskaya. She has been here a good deal longer than the others.
She has the special constitution that a bartender needs to work the shit show around here longer than a month.
Outside and inside are James White, the retired Irish cop on ¾ pension after his ACL was torn chasing down a perp and James “Behemoth” Brown Pérezes a smart talking, burly Puerto Rican. Always outside is Slavi, the stone faced until a sneaked grin Bulgarian collecting the irregular admission wearing a Soviet wolf fur hat except during the time of summer.
You pay cash up front for everything unless, unless you’re a card carrying regular. James White and James Brown are sometimes easy going on admission and fierce to squash the fights which happen, generally around 2 AM, but often before and after.
Justin Toomey O’Azzello is the general’s manager. He has wandering hands. He is jovial and likes to tell elaborate stories about his days in the “air force”. He blames his flirtations with alcoholism over the years on bombing runs he inflicted over Bosnia. But Justin was never in the air force or in Bosnia. His hands wander though.
The owner of this place is a fearsome Bulgarian Jew called “Sasho”, but is real name is Alexandr Dmitrievich Perchevney. He has a soft spot for revolutionists, debaucheries of fallen men, as well as a hard spot for undocumented woman of theatre. Misha Kishbivalli, the long haired millionaire playboy from Bulgaria also is his silent partner. The cooks are all from the tropic of Capricorn but nothing is ever very good eat except the soup or the salad; white cheese over fries or some type of Borscht which is rumored to sometimes contain menstrual blood. It is rumored also that there is tunnel running from under the club to places unknown. Some nights Misha Kishbivalli has pontificated outside of the American engineered mega tunnels that run under the country in case of insurgency or general emergency. The traffic around here is always hard to predict.
There are tall glass confectionaries of apple cider ginger vodka that sit atop the bar. There is a sign informing people that “get naked get a shot, get fucked win a bottle”.
Also that patrons must have at least three teeth to enter the establishment.
The music is always playing loud at the Mehanata Social Club where Natasha makes eyes then orders a Vodka energy drink confection, then slides up to Sebastian at the bar. He is wearing a black suit.
“It seems that we have found each other again,” she says.
“We were misbehaved I dare tell you,” he says.
“I was bad. Rude should I say? I am told I insulted you greatly.”
“That you did. You remember nothing?”
She just gives me a devilish smirk. And shakes her head.
“I drink a lot for fun. I don’t always remember my Fridays or my Saturday nights. I was told I was bad. So I’m saying the sorry. For the being of bad. What are you drinking? This is our custom.”
“Nothing? No recollection.”
“No nothing at all. Oh, you were wearing a suit that’s a different color from the suit you’re wearing now, this I remember.”
Sebastian is now in a black suit. The night she almost killed them last it was white linen.
“You never acted all that drunkenly. You were calm and in control throughout, your, shall I say, outbursts. My friends have told me that it’s too late to stop your vodka calamities from unfolding sometimes.”
“Well we all have our demons in here don’t we. I’m good. Until I fall down. I fell down those steps one night,” she says pointing to a long downstairs plummet into the downstairs floor where the Ice Cage is hidden.
The Ice Cage is a freezer box in the basement where people pay thirty a head to slam wall to wall cheap vodka over a period of two minutes. It never ends well for those who get in that cage. There is perilous flight of stairs down to the basement where they keep the stripper poles and the blue lit cage by a second bar and dance floor.
“That looks like if would hurt,” he notes.
“I don’t remember,” she smiles wide and seductively.
But that’s a silly thing to say. Seductively. She is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen with a proclivity for homicide. Describing just how beautiful she is almost doesn’t fit in a short play. Her golden locks are like a lioness. Her eyes are capable of quick swing between fierce, curious and loving. She loves to hear men say it, how beautiful she is, but beauty isn’t where a man falls from when he falls from the heart not the groin. Beauty is a thing of lust. It has no bearing on love when that love is real love and not lust with imagined feelings. Love is energy, a wave crashing over you. Sebastian has drowned several times before. He’d be very careful to use the word again. In that regard he is reckless to no end. He feels an attraction and can’t comprehend it, must be love. Previous formularies for the same emotion dictated that whatever woman resisted his affections the most adamantly and then let down her guard to an elegant seduction of deeds and art, must be love. There were loves at first sight, or interaction as well as friendships that became romances and he was unafraid to say the words again. The words often came out without his permission.
Overtime several women had accused him of bastardizing the loaded phrase via serial usage. There were over a dozen women he’d uttered it to over the course of his 28 years.
Generally after the conquest of kisses, but to a couple before.
They were all very different women of course and they all brought out very different rolls to his emotional dice. Sides to his coin being a limited idiom. Supposedly in popular fictions man or woman is supposed to have only one true love in a lifetime, to marry them or be parted from them tragically. So Sebastian was working hard by that standard, which truly in real life it can never be that simple, that limited.
“You’re really something to write about,” he says.
“Absolutely I am. And I never say sorry to men, but Ernesto said he would cancel his friendship with me if I didn’t say sorry to you. Apparently I underestimated that you are the favorite host, the dashing revolutionary saint, the darling, the grandeismo also the confidant of Rafael Ernesto and Victoria.”
“I’m just Sebastian on my good nights.”
“And on the bad nights?”
“Royal Victory? Where did you concoct this other strange and slightly atrocious moniker? Moniker, is that the right word?”
He nods slightly.
“I’m Sebastian when the drinks flow and the desire to dance returns to my hard hips. All other times I’m at war. With myself and my nature, with a world of sheep and a den of wolves. In such circumstances I require a hard Russian name, and the luck of a royal victory.”
“Hm. Well it sounds ridiculous the way you say it. I’ll call you Vasa sparingly. But, Sebastian is ok too. I’ll see what rolls better off tongue. All that other stuff, well I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Martina the bartender comes over and gives Natasha a wink.
“This is sorry alright. Now I again reserve the right to be rude to you and forget about it later. Fair game yes?”
He looks deep into her blue eyes and gives a half smile wondering how much she really remembers. In her eyes he sees someone looking out at him below the swagger of her posture, behind her beauty is a much older beauty.
“Well aren’t you impressed with my new manners?” she asks
I find you quite a bit stunning, he thinks and almost says.
“Of course I am.”
“What are you drinking?” she asks.
And she thinks, terrible piss but of course she orders him one from Martina the raven black haired Bulgarian bartender. Because Russian apologies are based on acts not words.
“Are you coming to festival?” she asks then almost casually.
There will be a four day Bohemian Festival happening Labor Day Weekend where all manner of fuckery will take place in a park in Queens called the Onderdonk Public Fields. Sasho the owner had let Victoria allow Sebastian do a benefit concert for their Haiti efforts at Mehanta a month ago. So a week from now Sebastian and his EMT, Paramedic in training comrade Jared Forgetter from California will be freelance EMTs covering the first two days of festival.
“Wait,” she pauses.
“You are working the festival as our paramedic,” she says as she presses her palm to his side burn and face side.
“Sharp as a dagger you are dorogaia,” he smirks.
She smiles with big bright eyes.
“Don’t call me dear ever again, I’m not so old. I’ll alert you that I may well come to some of it and if I fall down, drunk, I will ask for very intimate and professional service.”
“Hand pressed ice,” he promises reaching for her waist then thinking again.
“Hand pressed everything,” she demands.
“It’s at the service of all attending,” he declares.
“You are a true servant of the people,” she mocks with a wink.
“Natasha, you’re a tough act to follow.”
“You’re gonna keep calling me that are you?”
“That a problem?”
“It’s rather intimate, I don’t know if we know each other like this or that.”
“Well I suppose we can work on that over festival.”
She smiles a lovely, practiced smile.
“Vasa. Press me best you can. The risk is completely yours not mine.”
A song about the great and noble Commandant Ernesto Che Guevara by the Buena Vista Social Club comes on and she thrusts herself into his arms for a last dance.
“I knew you back in Cuba,” she whispers.
“I’ve never been to Cuba,” he replies.
She sashays him across the dance floor muscling out the other couples with her buxom. She lets him lead and he does a fairly good job.
“You dance like you’re from the Caribbean,” she says.
“But I’ve never been to Cuba,” he repeats.
He dips her slightly. A full dip might turn into quite un-romantic arms to floor plummet.
She’s a gorgeous powerful woman who will always get what she wants in the end so it seems. Except perhaps happiness which no power or money can so far buy.
“You’re good at being an Amerikanski,” she replies.
It is 4am now and efforts begin to clear the worst kind of rabble out the tavern have begun. Only card carrying regulars and lovers of staff can remain and light things up or pound things down. It’s now with the storm shudders sealed just over two dozen left lingering around the bar.
“Right never on schedule,” says Justin Toomey O’Azzello to Sasho, the burly owner smoking a cigar at the end of the ground floor bar passage way, packed up with intoxicated patrons, tight except around his circumference.
“Hasn’t changed his cap much in ten years,” Justin notes.
“I know him of course,” Sasho says without looking up, “with or without the ridiculous peasant cap.”
“He’s dancing with Natasha, good for him! She’s got great big ones.”
“He’s always dancing with Natasha.”
“You’re thinking of…” notes Justin.
“No Azello. I’m thinking exactly what I mean to be thinking. He’s always dancing with Natasha right before thing get interesting.”
“They just met boss.”
“You’re thinking of things three dimensionally and I am thinking of things fifth dimensionally and I know that when those two dance. Fucking trouble. Niggers with arms in the streets. Israeli mind games. Decapitations on camera and lynchings to boot. Lynchings and burnings of bodies. It’s time to call up all our troops, every single man to the front.”
The lights come on and the remaining guests not vouched for are herded like drunk cats out the secondary exit on to Ludlow street until no one is left inside but the staff, a handful of regulars and of course Sasho with his cigar.
Out of the corner of his eye Sasho notices the Mexican weight staff are carrying the body of a man out of the tiny room upstairs where people go to fuck whores, or their drunk lady girlfriends, or NYU students, or he supposed less frequently, but evidently in case tonight; kill a man, drain his blood and empty his pockets. A little room to the very back of the second floor mezzanine. You can fuck or murder at the top of your lungs and no one would know.
Of the three little Mexicans none are taller than four feet a piece and they must carry drag the body down the stairs.
The corpse is pale from exsanguination.
“Into the soup?” asks Enrique from Monterrey in Mexican Spanish.
And Sasho nods. Let the dead keep eating the dead.