“A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another, they will fall for each other….maybe temporarily, maybe at the wrong time, maybe too late, or maybe forever.” – Unknown
With a white picket fence and a gingerbread trim that closely resembles the old-timey, old-money feel of Cape May, New Jersey, despite being located in the hippy town of Venice, California, The Victorian is a historical site located between the heart of Main Street and the picturesque coastline. Well-known as a Westside hotspot for small weddings and family brunches, its also famous among the coastal yuppies who flock, usually after 11pm, to its Basement Tavern. Located inconveniently around the side, through the back and down a flight of creaky stairs that ultimately lead to…well…The Basement, I always feel a little bit glamorous, as if I was descending to a 1920s-esc speakeasy, even though the place itself is more like a regular bar than a scene from “Midnight in Paris.” However, what I love about The Basement is the dark, east coast feel that’s elevated by dim lighting, rich wooden interior, and a vast array of plush, antique furniture that provides privacy for groups and trouble for couples. It’s also worth mentioning that a band who often played there is called, “The Devil’s Box,” so needless to say, The Basement had the ability to bring out the inner sinner in all of us, which is exactly what happened on one particular night when my rambunctious group of long-time friends were brought together to welcome our mutual friend, S* to California with copious shots of whiskey, sappy toasts and yells of “Opa!”
“I can’t believe that I’m doing this. This is the one thing that I said I would never do with you,” I said with a slur of the tongue.
“And what is that?” said S*.
“I said I would never drink with you. WE should not be drinking together.”
“Is that right? Why?”
And with a gloss in his eye, a smile on his lips and a pass of the glass, I knew our friendship was never going to be the same.
But unlike so many love stories that start with a night like this, my relationship with S* began over a decade earlier nearly 3000 miles away in the semi-sticks of Pennsylvania. Originally meeting at a high school orchestra fest, we conversed as kindred spirits with nerdy humor, goofy tendencies and a mutual love for live music, notably punk rock and ska, that we fueled by scouting bands at seedy, underage rock clubs. One musical eyesore that we frequented was ambitiously named, Cafe Metropolis, which was nothing like a cafe or a metropolis, nor a cafe in a metropolis, and everything like a small town club posing as CBGB. In short, the place was a depressed living room with suspicious coffee on the burner, gum sticking to the floors, stickers peeling from the walls, and a tattooed crowd of mohawks loitering under a cloud of smoke outside. Unsurprisingly located in the least desirable part of town where we constantly had to navigate around the dangerous and unsavory, believe it or not, this peculiar place was a harmless haven with a come as you are mentality where the only cost of acceptance was being able to talk about the last show you saw.
Over the course of our budding friendship, we’d spent countless nights listening to everything from broody punks screaming about their long lost loves, to 8-piece ska bands tooting “Tower of Power” like horns. The Slackers…The Toasters…New Found Glory before the big time and Jack Antonoff before he was Fun. Another show, another band, another night of memories where they provided the soundtrack. We danced..we laughed..we got high from saying, “I saw that band way back when..”
Yet it was the moments outside the mayhem, huddled in the corner, smoking cloves, sipping root beer, and waiting for the next band to come on where we whispered or secrets. Our likes…our dislikes…the music we were playing…the music we were trading…Endless conversations about the next proverbial song of our lives.
Playing Catch-Up? The Full Story of S