the day we were cool.

It became time for us to meet Lissette.  Lissette was Rich’s girlfriend, the one he met while she was selling balloons in a shopping mall.  We had never met anyone Rich had dated; in fact, as long as I’d known him I hadn’t known him to actually date anybody.  It was only through stories related by Matt and Dave that I knew he actually did date people, and only due to the fact that he was infatuated with his former singer that I knew he had any romantic interests at all.

Still, he was protective about making the introduction, and dated her for a couple of weeks before we were “allowed” to meet.

The venue was Maxwell’s; I have no recollection of what band we went to see.  It was a Friday night, and Sandy and I were to meet Rich and Lissette outside the front door of the club.  When they arrived, we were already there, standing outside and freezing, smoking cigarettes and waiting.  

“Al, Sandy, this is Lissette,” Rich said.

We shook her hand and exchanged pleasantries, and then Rich started talking to us about something or other.

“Dude, can we go inside?  I’m fucking freezing,” I implored.

What happened next was something that went down not only in Dromedary lore, but in Al/Sandy/Rich lore as “The Day We Were Cool.”  It was, essentially, the weirdest example of repeated, bizarre serendipity, coincidence, and good fortune that I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve tried to remember it exactly as it happened, but there’s simply no way – it was just too weird.

When we walked into the club, the first thing we did was check the top of the cigarette machine.  Rich was distributing free copies of Indier Than Thou! by leaving them on top of the cigarette machine at Maxwell’s, so whenever we went there we would check to make sure they still had copies to give away.

There were, indeed, copies of the zine.  And there were two guys, standing next to the machine, reading it and commenting on how cool it was.

“You like that zine?” I asked one of them.

“Yeah.  It’s cool,” he said.

I pointed at Rich.  “That’s the guy who makes it.  It’s his zine.”

“Really?” he asked.  “Wow – nice to meet you.  It’s a really cool zine.”

We then walked into the club, and no sooner did we get into the front room than we bumped into Floyd from Ditch Croaker.  We said hello and chatted for a few minutes, and introduced Floyd to Lissette.  

While we were talking to Floyd, I felt an arm slip around my shoulders.  It was Ray.

“Love that shirt,” he said.  I was wearing a purplish, striped shirt that I jokingly called my “indieshirt.”  I wore the indieshirt a lot.  I kinda have a habit of overdoing it with clothes I like.

I made about ten seconds of small talk with Ray, made a quick introduction, and we edged our way up to the bar.  It was pretty crowded, and we had to wait, just to find a clear space where we could walk up to the bar and order a drink.

“Let’s clear some space for my friend Sandy, so she can order a drink!” someone said.  I looked up, and saw Bill from American Standard, sitting at the bar.  He stood up and gave us a big hug, then made room so we could get in and order.  Rich introduced Lissette, then looked at me with a funny expression.

Once we got our drinks, we decided we were going to sit down at a table and actually eat dinner.  So we found an open table and sat down.  The waitress came over and took our order, and then Rich heard a familiar voice.  He turned around, and sitting at a booth behind him was his friend Chris, a guitar player that had played with him in a few bands.  He was there with some other friends of his that Rich knew, and they began chatting.

While Rich was chatting with Chris and his friends, Bishop walked into the bar.  He came over and pulled up a chair.  

When the waitress saw Bishop come over, she sailed right back over and asked him if he wanted to order some food.  He looked at us and asked “Do you guys mind if I eat with you?”

“Not at all,” Rich said.

So Mark placed his order, then grabbed another empty table and pulled it up against ours, so that he could have a place to eat.  When he did this, it created some empty spaces at our table.  Bill saw this, and he came over and sat down next to us.

When Bill sat down next to us, some of his friends came and joined us at the table.  Ray saw Bill sitting with us, so he came over to say hello to Bill.  He wound up sitting and talking with Rich for a while.

After a while, Ralph walked into the bar.  I saw him walk in, so I waved him over.  He was with some friends as well – so we grabbed a third table and put it next to ours.  A second waitress came over.

I noticed that Floyd had sat down at a table behind me, with the other two guys from Ditch Croaker. At some point, a Ditch Croaker song came on the jukebox.  I looked at Lissette and said “See those three guys sitting behind me?  That’s their band, playing on the jukebox.”

Jim Testa walked in.  So we talked with him for a little while. Then Steve Bailey came in. 

Pretty soon I looked around the front room of Maxwell’s and realized that virtually everyone sitting at the tables was a friend of ours, or was a friend of a friend.  We were having one, big conversation. There were a bunch of other people there, too – not just Dromedary people, but friends we had met along the way – I just can’t remember them all.  

Maxwell’s is not some tiny, locals bar.  It’s a vital part of the New York music scene – always has been.  We were nobody.  For us to know everyone in the bar was weird.  For us to know everyone on the day Rich brought his new girlfriend around for the first time, well, that was just ridiculous good fortune.

At one point I got up to use the rest room, and Rich whispered in my ear “I feel like we’re really cool tonight.”

We finished up our dinner, and then went to go into the back room to see the band.  Bill was standing there.

“These four don’t pay,” he said to the guy working the door.  So he let us into the back for free.

Ralph and Mark walked up to us with beers, and handed them to us.  We watched the band (whoever it was).  After the show was over, we left – and as we walked out of the bar, a voice yelled “Al!  Rich!  Hey!”

It was Rich Masio with some of the guys from Oculus magazine.  He introduced us, and we stood around in the cold and chatted for a few minutes.  Since it was cold, they suggested that we go back into the bar.

So we did.

We had another beer at the bar, chatting with the Oculus guys, and with Jim Testa.  Rich was explaining to them why he chose to make Indier an electronic publication for the second issue, and then was discussing the merits of killing the zine altogether.  Jim and Rich were making the case that he should keep publishing.

Eventually, we got up to leave again, and as we made our way to the door, Ralph walked up to me and started joking about Ray.  I stopped and we talked for a few minutes.  Someone else suggested that we stick around for another beer.  We declined, and made our way out the door, only to see that all the copies of Indier Than Thou! that were on the cigarette machine were gone.

“Looks like I’ll have to bring back some more zines,” Rich said.

Lissette almost looked dazed.  “Jesus,” she said, “Do you guys know everyone in there?”

“Umm, it’s not always like that,” Rich explained.  “It was sorta weird.”

Sandy and I got into the car, and no sooner did I pull out of the lot than she said “Well, Mitchie Dingo has got to be pretty pleased with himself tonight, don’t you think?”  Mitchie Dingo was one of Rich’s nicknames.  I have no idea why, but we called him that, too.

“I would think.  That’s a far cry from buying a balloon at the mall.”

It actually made me feel pretty cool, too.  Maxwell’s wasn’t some cheesy, second-rate bar in Clifton or Passaic – it was Maxwell’s, for crying out loud.  And for one weird, stupid night, we knew everyone there.  We drank for free, we saw the band for free, we sat down at a small table and pretty soon there were three tables, all attached together, and probably 25 people all congregated around it.

I was normally not really into the self-important bullshit, but that particular night was really cool.

“Cool” was really the only way to describe it.

The next morning, Rich called.  When I picked up the phone, all he said was “Holy shit, I can’t get over how cool we were last night.”

“Not a bad way to impress a new girlfriend on the day you finally introduce her to your friends,” I said.  “I bet she didn’t think you meant all your friends.”

We talked about that night for years.  Lissette told us later that she was blown away by the sheer number of people Rich knew that night.  

Of course it amounted to the pure coincidence that practically everyone we knew was in the bar that night, but for someone who didn’t know us, the natural impression was that we knew a lot of people.  

Since then, that evening has forever been known as “The Day We Were Cool.”

~ by Al on April 5, 2009.

One Response to “the day we were cool.”

  1. Matt and I met you guys at Maxwell’s that night to a) celebrate Sandy’s 25th birthday, and b) meet Lissette for the first time. I remember that night well- both Matt and I bumped into friends there, too. It was weird. I was the one who ordered the Ditchcroaker song on the juke- I loved that single, can’t remember the name, I haven’t heard it in years. I remember Rich boasting at the table, “We’re the coolest people in this place!” It made me sad. In true Woody Allen fashion, I realized if I was one of the coolest people in that place, I needed to find someplace else to find even cooler people.

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