Last night, I happened to visit a neighborhood bar called (what else?) “Winner’s Bar.” I went primarily because it was an obvious dive bar, and I love dive bars and I also savor irony and how can one not love the delicious irony of a dump on Elmhurst Avenue, called “Winner’s Bar?” The bar was exactly what’d you expect: dingy, Christmas lights strung up; a pool table; people brooding…all covered by a weird mixture of Latino and Chinese pop (reflecting, I suppose, the two bartenders, one of whom was Latina and one was Chinese). But the drinks were cheap and poured with a heavy hand, and it was a good place to unwind after a tough week.
I started talking to the Asian bartender, A., a cute girl, who told me she had recently dropped out of a local community college and was now bartending 5 nights a week, because, as she put it, she “didn’t want to rush into anything.” Hmm. Now I have been a bartender (and in the interest of full disclosure: I was not the world’s best bartender. The world’s crankiest bartender… perhaps. And if you gave me your number, but not a tip, you got to watch me throw away your digits very, very conspicuously. And then I’d probably laugh. But I did give away a lot of free liquor, which is something. Some people educate schoolgirls in Afghanistan and some of us give away free drinks: six of one….) and there’s nothing wrong with it: god knows, someone needs to know how to make a good drink.
But something in that girl saying she didn’t “want to rush into anything” just bothered me. Have I really become one of those irritating people who is always proselytizing? Um yes, yes I have, because guess what: what I’m nagging you to do is NOT CHEAT YOURSELF! My mission is to get you to understand that life is short, there are no guarantees, and you can either fight for what you believe (or even, what you think you *might* believe, or even what you would *like* to believe in, fer Chrissake)…or you can Facebook. You can either be in the arena and make difficult yet ultimately rewarding choices that advance your path in this life…or not. Yes, that is exactly the kind of asshole I am: I want you to get excited by all the opportunities out there and go get ‘em, tiger! [Not that Tiger, btw.] And I’m not one of those sanctimonious assholes who never had to work for anything, or never had the courage to make a mistake, but still somehow thinks they can run your life better than you: those are your elected representatives. I’ve failed at plenty, but I’ve also achieved plenty and I still believe in the depths of what’s left of my soul, that I’d rather risk and possibly fail, then never risk and definitely fail.
All of this was really brought home to me this morning, as I read about the sentencing of the murderer of Annie Le, the adorable 24-year old Yale graduate student. Annie was strangled, her jaw and collar-bone broken, and then her body placed like so much garbage in a wall, just days before she was to be married. All that vibrant potential and ability and talent defiled and destroyed. One can only imagine her parents’ incomprehension, having to bury their daughter, when they should have been celebrating her wedding. So her callow, disgusting killer got 44 years, without the possibility of parole or early release…and Annie’s family got a life sentence.
And if that doesn’t want to make you “rush into” something, anything worthwhile and important…what will? I hope that we all honor the memory of Annie Le’s potential and ability, and her beautiful, captivating smile, by rushing into many important things.