How do you get to Valentine’s? Stanhope asked the crowd.
Keep going ’til you get to the one that’s not boarded up.
He was warming up his nerves with a beer for what would be an hour and a half of blistering laughs. That line, however, wasn’t a joke. Stanhope laid into the city with a mix of vitriol and sympathy. Sometimes the funniest thing is the truth right in front of your face.
He wondered aloud if anyone in attendance even knew there was a Recession going on. From the look of things, the Recession hit Albany a long time ago.
Hack and I were musing about this before the show. We sat in my car, waiting for the upstairs to open, watching drunks and crackheads scuttle down the sidewalk. I had a can of Bud tucked between my legs, and we were drinking whiskey from flasks. I tried to squint my vision down to 20/20, looking for signs of economic stimulus.
Valentine’s is right in the middle of urban redevelopment squallor. Two blocks up is the Hospital, all fresh brick and spent money. We could hear the Med-Evac chopper overhead, drowning out the voices of the street urchins buzzing by. Across the street a college-aged kid pressed against the side of a Bank of America, blind drunk and waiting to be mugged.
It was only 6:30.
This was Stanhope territory. It looked like every joke he’s ever told. Depression, graffiti, malaise.
Once he steps off the stage, the thin patina of angry courage vanishes and Doug goes back to being the shortest man in the room. From that vantage, drunk and out of rage, he looks very tired. He has been burning the candle at both ends for decades. That kind of burn gets its brightest right when the two flames meet.
I’ve seen Stanhope perform a few times before. Saturday was the best yet.
Awkward, angry and alcoholic are not three ingredients of a natural showman, but Stanhope is one in spite of himself. He is also extremely gracious to his fans. He has a weird, freak following. He knows this, and he is very greatful for it.
I sat at the bar downstairs after the show trying to organize the rest of the night. I ordered a PBR.
“Can or draught?” asked the bartender.
“You have PBR on draught?” I replied. “Jesus . . . “
“Four more ounces,” he said.
“I think I’ll stick to the can . . . “
PBR isn’t one of those beers that a cheapskate bar-owner will save two dollars on by swapping in a keg of Golden Anniversary. It’s a safe bet that any tap-handle labeled Pabst is connected to the genuine article. In spite of this, I found myself holding that patriotic little can, leaning back against the bar in a fog.
Why is this? I wonder. What childhood trauma compelled me to require the guarantee of authenticity that comes with that pssshhhttt as I pull the little tab?
There was a blonde standing next to me with a noose around her neck. She said she was from Poughkeepsie, a mid-state shithole that functions as a pit-stop for drug mules from New York City. In more athletic days she probably paid her rent polishing a brass pole. From where I was sitting, the milk looked bad and she was past her Use-By date.
She introduced me to her “brother”, whose name I promptly forgot. I was not interested in certifying the authenticity of their relationship. Hack and I made for the door.
The rest of the night was an unremarkable blur of bars and neon. All college cunts and hipster jerk-offs, with Hack and me feeding yet another Sunday hangover.
No matter what I do, it always ends this way. Money gets spent. The whiskey runs out. The hangover always comes, and the show is always over.