Thursday, December 24, 2009
gee ma, i'm a disc jockey!
So I’m bustin’ to tell you all about my most recent DJ gig, seeing as it was a rather comedic affair. Let’s set the scene:
Off The Wagon is a cleverly--if not predictably--named sports/college bar on MacDougal Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, mere paces from the monolithic Café Wha? (which once provided stage for Hendrix, Dylan, and Richard Pryor, among others) and the Minetta Tavern, an old Kerouac haunt that’s now nearly impossible to get into. Lots of history in this corner of town, which sort of makes Off The Wagon all the more ironic, seeing as no one in that crowd will be rewriting the history books anytime soon.*
*Unless, of course, beer pong becomes an Olympic sport. Some of these dudes are pretty good.
My DJ booth--a 4x4 foot caged enclosure--was located on the second level of the bar, back in a dimly-lit corner in which I finally, thankfully arrived after three or four minutes of body dodging. The key (which was attached to two dozen other keys on a gatekeeper’s ring) didn’t work in the outer lock, meaning I had to contort my hand and shove on through the narrow prison bars to manipulate the tumbler from the inside. No matter. I made it in all right.
So there I am. There it is. Lots of switches and lights, and a bunch of cable boxes at arm’s reach, since part of the job calls for constant monitoring of the bar's 14 television screens. When a game ends, I must immediately locate another from the guide and change the channel before management gets on my case.
Ok. It’s my first time at this particular bar, and I’ve been tossed into the pond for the sink/swim test. Is Mike a witch? Time will tell.
The Giants game is already up and running on 10 of the 14 teles. I’ve been instructed to play music during commercial breaks and cut back to game sound when on-field action resumes. To achieve these awkward aural switches, I twiddle two modern-looking dials on my left, both of which reside in an outlet just above shoulder level. When commercials commence, I turn the volume knobs counterclockwise (so as to kill all sound from the television) and queue the next song on my playlist. Once sounds cuts out completely, I adjust the output to “iPod DJ” (this is done by pressing the knob IN and maneuvering to a different lighted setting) and gradually up the volume until I reach the proper level of obnoxiousness. Ninety seconds of each song play before I’m back on the field, chillaxin’ in the huddle with an HD Eli. Have you ever seen the pores on the face of a professional quarterback?
More knob-twisting. All the drunkards, of course, could care less what’s on the big screen. Most of them have been blacked out since 7, and how can you blame them? Bukowski, in his most nihilistic moments, described Western civilization as a “bucket of shit,” thus sorta justifying his penchant for self-abuse and misanthropy since, like, what's the point of clean living? The man may have been an asshole, but he’s an asshole who was on to something. A "bucket of shit" doesn't require--nor deserve--doe-eyed clarity. Bring on the happy drink. That's where places like Off The Wagon come in.
Now, one of the benefits of being a DJ at said establishment is I get to drink for free. Pretty sweet, right? Every 45 minutes or so (and I’ve been doing this for nearly every shift since I began in March ’09), I make my way to the bar for a pint. But--But!--it’s a process, especially when there’s a game to deal with and a bunch of whistle-happy referees prolongating (a word? likely not) already-bloated games into four hour affairs. On a typical night, I’ll create an artful playlist on my iTunes and let ‘er rip, thus allowing me to wander from the booth without consequence. Game nights, though, I’m required to be the man at the dial, lest the drunkards miss a moment of irrelevant commentary from the old blowhards pontificating from the press booth.
Anyway, anyway. So I’ve told you about the key. Doesn’t work on the outer lock, which is a certain inconvencience; this logistical hiccup makes my beer runs more perilous. Dire situation, no? Nah. Just means I have to be agile with the key and nimble on the dial. Ninety seconds is usually enough time to dash from the booth and collect my beer, though my process demands precision. (What if I dropped the key while reaching through the gate? Horrors! For some reason I just flashed back to that scene in Titanic. You know, the one where Leo gropes around underwater for that key to unlock the door and save Kate. Remember that?)
Fine. So I’ve figured out how to nab freebie beers without consequence. Want to hear the first two song requests I received on this particular eve? Here they are, presented in convenient list format:
1) Jay-Z and Alicia Keys -- “Empire State Of Mind”
2) Journey -- “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Jesus, I thought. Unreal. Is society this predictable? Do stereotypes really hold so true? To the Jay-Z disciple, I offered an “are you sure?” look, but of course he (sadly) was, and since I’m just a lowly pawn in this frat-bar chess game, I granted his request with something not unlike hatred. The Journey request frightened and dismayed me. Why do people like this song? Would anyone be kind enough to explain? There’s a comment option at the base of this blog. Please let me know. I’m begging you. Do people really want to hear this shit, or is there some contract you have to sign when achieving bro status that demands blind worship of this mediocre song?
Yeah, asshole. I’ll play your asshole track…but I’ll pity you all the while.