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Scene 2

The scene is a railroad style bar and restaurant in the basement of Grand Central Station, NYC. The room is exceptionally long and exceptionally narrow, most likely much longer and narrower than the stage itself. A bar extends down almost the entire length to one side, from the entrance almost to the very back, where the bathrooms are and where some space has been left for musicians. There is only enough room to sit at the bar. There may be a few stools but no tables or countertops on the other side of the room. Currently, there is a trio playing in the back, consisting of a stand-up bass player, a saxophone player, and a DJ. They are all dressed in beige trench coats and deerstalker hats and wear dark sunglasses. They are very serious and alert in demeanour. The saxophonist and the bass player are exceptionally skillful in their improvisational style of play. Only the DJ’s role is questionable. He manipulates the digital turntables and mixer and fiddles around on three or four laptops, but the only noises that seem to arise from it are static, crackling, high-pitched feedback, and strange boops and bleeps like on an old sonar system, which he perhaps loops, distorts, or filters in order to add a vaguely musical quality to them. On the whole, however, it is difficult to listen to. Train noises also wash in from the bowels of the station. At the beginning, the barroom is empty of patrons except for a few degenerate-looking characters seated at the bar about halfway down the room. There is a youngish, attractive woman who could pass either as an upscale sex-worker or a professional who is perhaps facing a career or midlife crisis. Her clothing is expensive but a bit disheveled. She talks to a good-looking young man sitting beside her, but he seems more intent on the music than on her boisterous rambling. He is perhaps occasionally annoyed by her inconsiderately wild gesticulations. On the other side of the young woman there is an older man who could be senile but retains an air of dignity and independent will. He stares rather vacantly at the mirror behind the bar but appears generally content. He bobs his head very slightly to the music, but otherwise moves only to sip on some cranberry juice. The woman also tries to engage the attention of the bartender. There is only one bartender role, but the actors who play it change every time they go into the back room where the kitchen is. Nobody seems to notice. In fact, as will be seen, they tend to respond quite naturally (so, not quite obliviously), with a few exceptions. The bartenders wear uniforms consisting of white dress shirts with black ties. But they themselves are very differently proportioned, from dwarves who have to hop up on stools to see over the bar to giants who crane their necks down to avoid hitting their heads against the ceiling, from tall skinny women with breasts so large they must wear back braces to little fat boys who have to jump and pull themselves up to sit on the counter in order to interact with the patrons. The bar appears classic, an “institution,” at once cozy and energized, confined but dynamic. And yet it is furnished in an ad-hoc, spontaneous, improvised, scrappy, trashy way—a product of a certain sort of taste, but certainly not to everyone’s taste. The construction should be relatively easy, fun, and inexpensive, although the clean-up might at first seem a daunting task (it’s never so bad, in the end). One may let the following descriptions, however precise, stand as guides and examples, without needing to take them as strict directives: the bar itself should be irregular but continuous as it extends down the length of the bar. It widens and narrows, with only two or three places where it suddenly diverges, in a concave or a convex formation (some of it cantilevered, perhaps), from its broad swoop to the back. Most of this irregularity occurs on the side of the patrons. The space behind the bar is a more or less straight isle up and down which the bartenders move. The bar is made mostly of a single material, such as cardboard, sheet metal, foam insulation, or maybe foldable tables webbed together with cardboard and tinfoil, tacked together by appropriate means. On the wall behind the bar, around the midpoint, there is a liquor cabinet, vaguely neo-gothic in its inspiration. Expanding all around this cabinet’s edges there is a large mirror of irregular cut—whether jagged, rounded, or mixed. It is perhaps cracked in places but held together by transparent tape, and especially around the edges the mirror seems to dissolve in a sharded mosaic. Stickers and paint may be used sparingly on this mirror. Another mirror on the other wall parallels this mirror. In the place of the liquor cabinet, however, there is a collage made of cutouts from various posters or handmade paintings of Hannah Schygulla. Along the length of wall on the patron’s side of the bar, wainscoting of tinfoil, cardboard, black garbage bags taped together, or chain-link fencing extends almost to the ceiling. In the space between—right below the ceiling—there is a kind of gallery display of very small drawings, paintings, or wall-mounted sculptures. They are distributed at intervals in an even line across the wall. The room is lit by old televisions mounted in the ceiling or held in fixtures attached to the walls, their light modified and cast against the mirrors in the bar to produce an inviting, comfortable, fairly even glow. The floor is tiled white and black and the ceiling is covered with punched tin. The audience can see into the bar from just outside the station concourse. Any parts of stage outside a thin margin just outside the bar entrance must be submerged in darkness. Cindy Mulleimer and Harry Bilgewater can be heard approaching the entrance.


Cindy: . . . [responding to Harry] I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Tin Lizzy. Pretty good example, though. If you listen to what they’re saying, they usually seem to be coming from the losing side of things. All vagabonds and cowboys, lonesome seekers on the edge of one abyss or another.

Harry: The blues.

Cindy: Of course, there’s that influence among others. But it’s so entwined with this context of, like, class issues, the social-political situation in Ireland, folklore, literature, a certain sense of identity issues undergone by the young alienated male—actually, I always found there’s something boyish there.

Harry: Yeah, there is always something kind of desperate and conflicted about it. But kind of punk . . .

Cindy: Yeah yeah—they accumulate these descriptions . . . and that’s why how they pull it off is so surprising, so far from given. Total failure seems the more likely result. So fucking cool! Even when that full-on guitar-fucking mode does tend to provoke a certain sense of ambivalence in me, as a woman, somewhere between repulsion and attraction. [During the delivery of these last lines, the pair walks into the light before the entrance. Harry gradually slows to a stop and starts to appear a bit woozy.]

Harry: Yeah . . . I . . . I think the potential failure you see in it is kind of absorbed or . . . pre-empted . . . by . . . by . . . hold on, suddenly I feel a little nauseous. Must have been that cigarette.

Cindy: Haha, well, if you’re going to quit then you should just quit, man. No sense starting and stopping all the time, giving yourself all those mixed signals.

Harry: Auuughhd . . . [Straightens up and shakes his head a bit to try and jerk himself back into form. Suddenly notices the bar there.] Huh, I didn’t know that there was a bar here. Maybe we should just go in and sit down for a bit.

Cindy: Ha! “Go and sit down for a bit,” he says. At a bar you don’t usually just go and sit down for a bit, do you? [She gets an alert on her phone, pulling it out of her pocket]

Harry: [still struggling, slightly convulsed and wincing] No . . . I guess not . . .

Cindy: Well, by chance—ha! chance, right—anyway, I actually have a coupon for free wings from this place . . . and, now that I think about it, I could go for some chicken wings . . . maybe a beer?

Harry: [suddenly seems in slightly improved condition] Yeah, I think it’s starting to pass. Chicken wings and beer sounds good.

Cindy: Good. We have some time to kill before the meeting. It could be better spent than walking around the basements of this shitty train station. I’m glad we ditched that piece of pseudo-Germanic perversity early. Ha! Academicized anti-academicism, or something like that . . . [pause]. Not a bad looking place! [She pats Harry on the back as they walk up to the close end of the bar and sit down, Cindy waving to the bartender, who gestures “one moment” but doesn’t walk over. After about thirty seconds, the bartender goes into the kitchen and then another bartender comes out thirty seconds later with a large plate of sausages for the group in the middle of the bar before resuming the previous bartender’s position, drying glasses etc.]

Harry: [off-hand remark to fill the brief waiting period] How are your students?

Cindy: Geez, I’ll make the bartender take responsibility for leaving you with the time it took to ask that question. They can be really sadistic sometimes, can’t they? [She makes a low whistle. The bartender makes the same “one moment” gesture as the last but again continues polishing glasses etc.]

Harry: Well, it’s good to know there are others in the same boat as you.

Cindy: More like same shit different pile.

Harry: Haha . . . well, whatever way you want to put it. It’s nice to have evidence that you’re not wholly responsible.

Cindy: Evidence . . . yeah . . . if that’s what you mean by evidence and it’s evidence we need, I think we’re fucked . . . I heard this one girl the other day going on about how the students’ lack of responsibility is your responsibility . . . like we’re running an elementary school or something . . . I don’t need evidence . . . I trust my gut instinct . . . the students are old enough to get no more than they deserve . . .

Harry: A teacher who’s more attentive to nursing their own hangover than to them? [They laugh]

Cindy: If I didn’t have to get up so early to get there in time it wouldn’t be half as bad . . . having to think about other people, who aren’t just people but students, themselves blissfully irresponsible and indifferent, really ruins my whole day. Not because I want to wake up thinking about myself, since in thinking about my responsibilities to them I am thinking about myself . . . in the worst way, and about them in the worst way too. What I mean is that as a teacher, and especially one who teaches in the morning, you wake up each day thinking about yourself and others in the worst way possible. This speaks badly for the whole profession. Not that that it requires compromise, but that it prioritizes it from the get-go. Anyway, how is a toreador supposed to fight a sleeping bull?

Harry: You could try to wake it up first, I guess. But these are more like narcoleptic sheep. Although I’m not sure how blissful their irresponsibility and indifference are.

Cindy: With narcolepsy, I guess it doesn’t matter what they are.

Harry: There’s some kind of animal abuse at work, anyway.

Cindy: Vicious cycle of masochists. Committed masochists rearing reluctant masochists to maturity unto eternity.

Harry: Haha, yeah, not my idea of a world. I hope that’s not somehow representative of the state of the world. They basically want you to throw yourself offside against it . . . the world. I’m not capitulating to that. Still, it’s not their fault for being raw meat. And you have to feel bad about how much the kids are paying for this shit . . .

Cindy: The parents pay now. The kids pay again later. [The bartender goes in the back] God, the service is fucking awful here. Maybe we should leave?

Harry: Give them another minute . . . [pause] But, if we don’t even like it, we’re presumably only in it for the money now ourselves.

Cindy: Definitely not the job security or the intellectual freedom.

Harry: And what’s to like? Nobody could actually like it. Tolerate, maybe. The money’s shitty, too. Aren’t there better ways of making more money? I’m starting to feel like I’ve been sucker-punched . . . maybe it wasn’t the cigarette, after all.

Cindy: Well, maybe we should take this conversation as a kind of cue: we have seen, once and for all, what lies at the bottom of the barrel, and it’s enough to corrupt the whole batch . . . or whatever . . . whatever’s put into it . . .

Harry: You mean let’s finally, finally quit? If that’s what actually comes of this conversation, at least the bartender might have a little bit of redemption for leaving us here to mull it over in the first place. [A different bartender now comes over with a heaping plate of chicken wings and two pints of beer. Just as Cindy and Harry don’t notice how the bartender has changed, they don’t take any notice of the fact that they’re order was never taken. They are at first somewhat confused by their order, but they accept it happily in the end.]

Harry: Goddamn these wings look good.

Cindy: Why did we order so much?

Harry: You always say that but then it’s you who’s polishing it all off in the end. [after a short pause] But why did we get suicide? My eyes are already watering just from the smell.

Cindy: And you always say that before we eat. But then you love it.

Harry: Well, if there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that we always have a lot to capitulate to, or—a lot of capitulating to do. [After chugging half the pint] I do feel like Guinness all the sudden. I wasn’t so sure before.

Cindy: Enough with your bastard lunchtime dialectics, let’s eat.




Scene 3

Berlin Rathenauplatz: The Epilogue


Back at Rathenauplatz, later. The traffic has maintained its density and its pace, flags and banners still streaming. But there are now a couple more cars wrecked on the sculpture in the centre. In addition, there are more people in the centre, including the friends of Padraig, who have brought food and drink. They have rigged up an electric-powered cooking element and even a small hot tub to the batteries of the wrecked cars, arranging these where the crashed cars have offered more protected enclaves. The people in the centre apparently stand in solidarity with the protest convoy speeding around them. Presumably, they have only gotten to the centre of the circle by jumping from the cars speeding around it or even via one of the now-wrecked cars. But the scene has also become mildly orgiastic: in the hot tub, on top of the sculpture, in the wrecked seats of the cars, and even in the cars driving around the circle, as well as in and around those waiting outside of it, people are engaged in various kinds of decadent and debaucherous behaviour. This includes even the wounded, one of them now convalescing in the hot tub with blood stains showing through the bandages covering half their head. Some ambulances have arrived on the scene and one of the paramedics tends to a wounded person, but the paramedics also seem to be swayed by the principle of serious, principled fun, occasionally becoming oblivious to the dangers which periodically erupt to remind all in attendance that their principle has sometimes drastic consequences. Topping it all off, a DJ has set up at the top of the sculpture, the equipment contained on a kind of “Bauchladen” like a street vendor or an organ grinder (see Westbam music videos like those for “C’est la Vie” or “Way Up” for possible stylistic inspiration). The DJ is a late-term pregnant woman with a crazy punk hairdo dyed pink and green and yellow, her swelled breasts ready to feed their copious founts of milk to hungry twins. She has long flowing sausage links draped over her shoulders down to the base of the sculpture. Helicopters fly high overhead, rather passive-aggressively for the moment. All of this must be expressed to the audience at a quick glance. Padraig and Charlotte stand pensively looking at the sculpture atop a wrecked car. Charlotte moves her face in for a closer, “textural” inspection of a part of the sculpture’s surface.


Charlotte: Hmm . . . no, I don’t see it. Maybe it’s my trained eye versus your untrained eye.

Padraig: I sometimes face that problem myself, what is in a way most obvious eluding the most well-trained faculties despite remaining maximally significant.

Charlotte: Back when I considered myself to be in a more experimental phase I considered it a kind of ideal that I would strive to realize and then inevitably surprise myself in diverging from it. I find it difficult to claw my way back there now . . . but, you know, it’s maybe a sense you just need to revive from time to time. Some resist this need, calling it capitulation, or maybe recapitulation [she chuckles]. A sign of immaturity, as if a good dose of immaturity weren’t itself something to be instinctively embraced.

Padraig: What do you call it?

Charlotte: I’d call it . . . [A helicopter flies close down above them, one of the female occupants in serious military dress and demeanour squatting or standing to piss down onto the scene, and drowns out Charlotte’s fuller articulation of the thoughts she’s now harbouring. The following text may be incorporated by any means into the scene:]




GHENT (in the same mood of self-parody)

The whole of life is a prison sentence, some people say, usually Christians. Not me. Life is a holiday from the great nothing, a vacation from the void—and, like all holidays, it seems interminable.

–B. S. Johnson, What is the Right Thing and Am I Doing It?



Scene 4

Back in the Grand Central Station bar. Business is picking up after the lull. The scene is now viewed from a little bit closer in. Rather than the bar entrance beginning some way back from the edge of the stage, the edge of the stage now begins already some way into the bar, right from where Cindy and Harry are sitting. This gives us a clearer view of what’s going on in the deeper recesses. Speakers placed behind the audience might project sounds of guests sitting around the entrance, including the clinking of cutlery against plates and the clunking of glasses on the countertop. The band continues to play their free conspiratorial jazz in the back. The bartender works at a quicker pace and has to go into the back more often, hence changing much more frequently. One of the new guests wears a thick layering of all sorts of tattered, soiled rags of clothing, exaggerated to the point of being essentially mummified with them. The face is not very well visible behind it all, but a big scruffy beard emerges around the chin and neck. The legs are wrapped in a raggedy mess of plastic grocery bags. However, the figure wears a clean, crisp tando hat, royal blue felt with a long red father streaming out the back, drinking a frosty martini and doing a stylized mummy dance around the first group of customers. Every once in a while, it appears the attractive woman is trying to seduce him, although he gently rebuffs her advances. She says things like “nice moves,” “you smell good,” “cool guys like you don’t come around here that often,” “I’d love to get a peak underneath these royal robes,” and “that dance set my loins on fire.” Between rebuffs, she dances just a little bit away from him, trying subtly to harmonize their movements by doing a kind of crab dance, “walking like an Egyptian,” etc. At one point she tries to wrap herself up in a long loose scrap of the figure’s mummy clothing. A jet of steam pours out. She cups her mouth around the orifice to suck it in and then staggers back, intoxicated. Then she blows out the steam and starts dancing in an energetic but rather spastic, arrhythmic way.


When the scene opens, the DJ is slowly making his way from the back of the bar toward the entrance. A looped series of beeps, boops, and crackling continues, the other members of the band improvising along. The DJ walks in a kind of tensed, rigid, crouched dance that might be described in the following way: his legs are bent, feet pointed forward with one a half-step in front of the other; his back is hunched but with his shoulders up toward his ears, his upper arms hanging down from the raised shoulders with his forearms held forward and up (parallel to the ground), wrists limp and hands curling down like claws. He holds one forearm at a level slightly above the other and jerkily crosses it over twice in quick succession, keeping them more or less parallel, then alternates, the other arm now crossing over twice in quick succession. As he crosses one arm over the other, he rocks slightly up and down on his bent legs (as already mentioned, one foot half a step out in front of the other). Then, as he is alternating the arms, he takes a step which alternates the positions of the feet (and legs) as well, the foot that was behind now in front of the other. He now keeps his feet planted while crossing his arms and gently springing his knees again, etc. He does this rhythmically, although his form is generally cramped. He looks rather mischievous, with a vaguely sinister grin as well. He is still wearing his sunglasses; the collar on his beige trench coat is popped up.


Also from the opening of the scene, Cindy and Harry are about half way through their giant pile of chicken wings and their beers are empty. Harry gestures and yells to the waiter, who has just come out of the back after another went in. The bartender is already preparing to bring them another round, this time of pilsners.


Harry: Hey David . . . [the bartender signals that he is on his way]

Cindy: How did you know his name?

Harry: I don’t. I just guessed from his appearance. Remember that game we used to play . . .

Cindy: “Name and occupation.” Mmm . . . another round of pilsners. Crisp, clean. I never drink anything else.

Harry: Me neither . . . Except liquor and wine, of course [they laugh].

Cindy: [as the bartender approaches] Hey, is your name really David?

Bartender: Mhmm. Your friend probably read it off of my name tag here. We believe a little bit of extra familiarity goes a long way in this city.

Cindy: Very true, but . . .

Bartender: Don’t think twice about it. It’s the principle here.

Harry: These chicken wings are phenomenal. A little small, maybe, but—

Bartender: Actually, that’s squab.

Cindy: Squab wings?

Bartender: Right from the region.

Harry: Hmm. Never heard of squab wings before. Are they from upstate or something?

Bartender: Uptown, actually.

Cindy: Sounds expensive. Good thing we have a coupon.

Harry: Do you have some kind of vegetable plate to go along with them?

Bartender: Our chef insists against vegetable platters. But I can recommend the stinging nettle sausages, if it’s something fresh and healthy you’re looking for.

Harry: What the hell kind of a restaurant is this, anyway?

Bartender: Our chef came up with this concept of a philosophical kitchen. An amateur philosophical kitchen, actually. It’s her way of practicing two professions at once. Totally anti-establishment, of course. She says improvisation is the only way to make it in this economy while maintaining an ounce of integrity. She’d go out of her way for it, even if that means to the grave.

Cindy: That’s a bit severe for a chef, don’t you think? A bit severe for a philosopher, actually . . .

Bartender: Well, in the end she’s really neither a chef nor a philosopher. A committed anti-specialist.

Harry: Interesting! But how do you survive in this climate? I mean, New York City is a tough place for this kind of idea . . .

Bartender: People do say that, but once you get over a few humps, it’s not so hard. As long as you stick to the principles that drove you to it in the first place.

Cindy: How long have you been here?

Bartender: This summer it’ll have been three years.

Cindy: Well, what the hell—one order of stinging nettle sausages please.

Bartender: Do you want those in pork, fish, or onion casings? You can also add fish roe.

Harry: What the heck is a fish casing?

Bartender: It’s the roe sack, or sometimes the skin, depending on the availability of edible skins and roe sacks.

Harry: [to Cindy] Some of each?

Cindy: [nods and looks at the bartender] With fish roe.

Bartender: Okay, coming right up.

[The bartender goes into the back and another bartender comes out immediately, this time a woman, with a bucket containing live sea urchins. The waiter stops at the taps to pour two more drinks, this time a couple bloody marys with sprigs of some kind of leafy green. Meanwhile, the step dancing DJ is just passing behind them.]

Harry: What is this song?

Cindy: You don’t know this one? It’s, haha, “Non-manual stimulation of the clitoris,” by Birdie McMahon. [The DJ pauses behind them, rubbing his hands together and snickering.] I thought you were something of a connoisseur of this kind of thing . . .

Harry: No, no. An admirer, or an enthusiast at best. Or, what am I saying—do I need to justify myself for knowing only what I know? I loathe the dictatorial and the proprietary impulses of cultural consumption equally!

Cindy: Wow! Take it easy you hipster spaz.

Harry: I mean, you can’t blame the French for their Frenchness, or the German for their Germanness, so what sense or interest is there in judging the mere enthusiast or—apropos—the amateur, for their limitations?

Cindy: This is a conversation, not a trial, Harry. Besides, it’s in the nature of the game, whose ways and means may be artificially constructed, but just because of that don’t need to be taken so seriously, at least not like some sort of death match.

Harry: Well . . . there are many gaps in existence, and in knowledge, too. In fact, I’m more concerned about what happens when the compulsion to patch over the gaps in knowledge takes over.

Cindy: It’s called “progress” or perhaps “learning.” Anyway, this one you should obviously know. At least you seem to have rightly sensed that. [The DJ has step danced past and now turns to walk back in the opposite direction. The new bartender figure approaches with the drinks and food.]

Harry: I can’t drink any more bloody marys after this one. Three is already too much.

Bartender: Here are your drinks and your fresh sea urchins.

Cindy: Thanks Frieda. Hey, I saw you shelling some oysters back there—

Bartender: Shucking.

Cindy: Right. How much? Money’s a bit tight right now.

Bartender: A dollar a piece.

Cindy: Okay. In that case, we’ll take a dozen.

Bartender: I could tell you’d need an aphrodisiac after gorging yourself on all those fried wings this early in the day! [She goes down the bar and through the back. Another bartender comes out again after a short interval.]

Harry: Nice lady. Hey, what’d you say that song was called again?

Cindy: [taking a sip of here drink] Tastes a bit like the river. “Non-manual stimulation of the clitoris.” You get it?

Harry: [trying his drink] Or maybe piss? No. Why wouldn’t you just say “digital”?

Cindy: [cutting open a sea urchin with a paring knife] Haha, well, that could be the fingers, too. But, actually, it’s a bad play on Kant’s name. “Immanuel Kant,” you get it now? Birdie was interested philosophy, in a musical sense, you know. Fuck! I just got pricked [She washes the guts out in the bucket of water.]

Harry: [taking his turn with the sea urchins as Cindy slurps hers down] I think it’s starting to come back to me now . . . actually, no—what the hell is the musical sense of philosophy? Doesn’t everything just have its own sense?

Cindy: That’s a limited view. Can’t things be transmitted, repeated, or influenced by other platforms, other media?

Harry: Tempting suggestions. Haha, no pricks here [slurps the urchin right out of its shell].

Cindy: It’s a pretty surprising cover. They’ve got such a weird set-up going here. What should we order next?

Harry: Maybe some nettle salad and . . . a couple whiskeys.

Cindy: I’ll take mine on the rocks. [The new bartender is just approaching now—he perhaps has some sort of pronounced physical or mental disablement.]

Harry: Finally, our nettle sausages are coming. It’s really slow today with this new bartender. I hope Frieda gets out of the hospital soon.

Bartender: Here are your Rocky Mountain oysters. More drinks?

Cindy: [suddenly becoming rather severe with him] Hey! These drinks taste kind of like piss and our faces are beginning to swell up. [One sees that their faces have indeed become red and puffy]

Bartender: Hmm. Must be something with the nettle sprigs in your marys. We just got them today, straight out of the park. You’re the first to try them. You must have heard that we’re an amateur philosophical kitchen. Things don’t always go in predictable directions. That’s the cost of the kind of . . . liberation that our chef espouses. Certain hazards are unavoidable. More drinks?

Cindy: Yeah, these are done. We already ordered a couple scotch and sodas, remember, and an order of shrimp balls, too.

Bartender: I’ll be right back with the oysters. Did you enjoy your scotch and sodas?

Harry: As always, top notch. What do you think, Cindy, a couple more?

Cindy: Yes, please! And maybe some of those fried chicken balls with red sauce on special.

Harry: Thanks, Carl.

Bartender: Good to see you two back after so long. [He goes to the back.]

Cindy: Ich muss pinkeln.

Harry: Our clocks must be synced together. Me too!


They go to the bathrooms in the back. Meanwhile, the DJ step dances over again, sits down, and quickly eats a pigeon wing, then gets up again and goes to the back. At the same time, a choppy, grating techno remix composed largely from the sounds produced in the scene thus far—especially from bits of the conversation between Cindy and Harry—is played over the speakers.


Cindy and Harry return to their seats. A new bartender returns at the same time and starts clearing away all the dishes.


Harry: [to the bartender] Hey George, is it okay if we sit here?

Bartender: No problem, I’m just clearing these things away. [Gesturing to the leftovers] Some wings?

Harry: Chicken?

Bartender: Squab.

Cindy: They don’t call me Mülleimer for nothing.

Bartender: And to drink?

Harry: Whatever bilge water you’ve got swilling around back there.

Bartender: A couple malt liquors coming up. [He goes back]

Harry: Ich muss aufs Klo.

Cindy: Our clocks must be synced. [She winks and pats his shoulder flirtatiously. They go to the back together.]


Meanwhile, the DJ returns to their seats, sits down and starts eating chicken wings. At the same time, the chef—a very tall and beautiful woman dressed in a standard chef’s outfit—looks out of the kitchen, seems to spot somebody she knows at the front of the bar, and begins making her way there. When she walks by the old man seated sipping cranberry juice since the beginning of the act, he turns to her and speaks.


Old man: Don’t you just love this infinity effect of parallel mirrors? [We thereby come to realize what has been captivating his attention the whole time.]


Chef: [looking, but without stopping to chat] Specious infinity. [The old man continues to look, but in a more skeptical, “circumspect” manner]


The chef continues making her way to the front of the bar, i.e. of stage. Once she has crept off into the wings or whatever suitable place, the following segments play through speakers placed behind the audience. The first takes place between the chef and her parents and wavers between the endearing and the aggressive. The second is more ironic in tone. The whole thing takes roughly the same amount of time as it does for the DJ to finish off the chicken wings.


Woman’s voice: How’s our favourite little amateur?

Chef: Mom, Dad. Welcome. May all your income be disposable.

Man’s voice: We were just out for a train ride and thought we’d stop by to feast a bit on your amateurism.

Woman’s voice: What are you serving today? A little bit of irresponsibility? Perhaps some indifference?

Chef: Just some hypocrisy with a little bit of generational stupidity and cultural ineffectuality . . .

All three: Hahahahahaha . . . we’ll never change.

Man’s voice: Accretions and enormities all around.

Chef: Change? Never change. Lots of the time people apparently want you to change but also won’t let you. Fuck them. Become more of the same better. Never change. All change into the same. According to Zeno’s paradox everything is always already in motion. Before you were born you were in motion. And before you were conceived. Before you are dead you will be in motion and for a while after.

All three: [the same tempo but different melodies—including that of The Lady of the Night’s aria?] Never change never change never change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change change [the woman quickly slips in “sleep” without altering the tempo] change change [the man quickly slips in “sleeping” without altering the tempo] change.

Chef: [continuing the same tempo] Never would you like something to eat?

Woman’s voice: No, thank you. We prefer any old trash to your luxurious amateurism.

Man’s voice: Well, so long.

Woman’s voice: Between you and the sun, a specious infinity has already intervened to spoil the broth.

Man’s voice: But don’t be afraid! Fear is a kind of limit provoking nothing. The kind of nothing from which nothing comes.

Woman’s voice: Remain stoic and wild at the same time. Everybody can at least respect that kind of example.

Chef: Mom, dad—may all your income be disposable. So long! [Barely pausing] Oh, hey John! Did you come to fill the hole in your head with some of mine?

Another man’s voice: Rather empty the overfull hole in my head into the overempty hole in your—

Chef: Holy shit! That gives me one hell of an amateurishly philosophical culinary idea.


The chef rushes back to the kitchen and the next segment begins, delivered by a man in what one imagines to be an old-fashioned, theatrical style, but—as is suggested by the uneven pace—spoken at the same time that the words are being written:


Man’s voice: To whom it may concern:

I am restless content! I must confess to sniping the dj. I would have confessed earlier if the last 4 days were not to me less good than 4 seconds.  Sniping the dj is the last thing I remember before blacking out, and the only thing I remember after gulping down the noxious elixir attained by filtering a melted-down vinyl record—it was Luke Slater’s 4 cornered room, I believe, but perhaps it was Duke Ellington, or a mixture of the two—through a cottage-cheese maker’s cloth. Presently, from one second to the next, I might suddenly with deep regret remember the loss of the record until time proposes its own muzzy alteration to my forward-looking senses. As for the seconds lost to me in the clock’s actual ticking, it was expendable and still might return a profit to the hole in my head, and despite it. The dj I cannot ultimately regret having sniped. But certainly I must admit publicly to the incident. I had just returned home drunk, learning of the contest well over an hour after it’d begun. Small chance, I thought, typing in the seed phrase. Sent from many different addresses, a modest but momentarily inadequate sum of ether had accumulated in the wallet holding it at once captive and exposed to the human extraction game. Still, the fees then required to extract it from the wallet remained too high. I had not personally contributed any gas to the tank. But suddenly the fees began to drop before my eyes. I saw my chance. I was already properly crapulent. The dj remained in the crosshairs despite well over an hour of many failed transactions. I didn’t feel any particular pangs of conscience, because an apparent (but, of course, maybe specious) multitude had tried and failed already, in an anonymized game to whose debit or credit, who knows. Only a god or a perhaps a devil of a machine could finally account for it all. Meanwhile, we can each of us do our best to account for ourselves. I was then very late to the contest and I was drunk and under a pall of desperation, having been late to the liquor store as well, but then the dj suddenly came available and so I was now into some rare luck. Downward the fees spiked in an instant. I sniped. I thank you ever-anonymous ones in good sport and sympathize with the feelings of ill potentially lodged in anyone’s skin or spilled in sudden exasperated aspersion onto their blindly present-absent fellows. I will continue to play any game arising more or less conveniently to me in the future even if the recent spike to my luck may be as suddenly somewhat evened out by it. The game is not zero sum. I am on a plane now, having come to here. I don’t even know where it is taking me over this hazy blue expanse. But the plane does have free wifi, for once, to appease the many seeping wounds circling my body like a string of tired lights. How still the clouds are up here, even their detached wisps posed and petrified like statues! Apropos—before I lay back to rest, let me just articulate a parting wish, that all your spikes—upwards or downwards, for I swear by the ongoing motion, or pregnancy thereto, and not the tardy impress of form—may be spurs pricking you on to new adventures.


[At the end of this segment, as the DJ wipes his face and hands off with a couple wet naps after having finished the wings and the conversation played behind the audience comes to an end, Cindy and Harry walk out the doors of their respective bathrooms. Harry gestures comically at his wristwatch as they walk back to their seats together. Upon returning to discover their squab wings have been eaten, Cindy becomes very angry in a comically exaggerated way.]


Cindy: [to Harry] Who, the fuck, has eaten, our, pigeon wings!! [To the bartender, who has changed perhaps two or three times in their absence] Barkeep! [The bartender approaches. Harry maintains the same tone of comically exaggerated anger despite his intention obviously having changed] Another, round, of pigeon, wings, please! My man here, he isn’t, satisfied, yet!! [Still in the same tone, loudly projecting] Say there, honey, how about we, to the back, a little [she winks in a fittingly exaggerated way, yelling in the same tone which has by now been wholly emptied of its original intention to anger] suckyfucky!! [He nods his approval and they go together through the same door in the back. They immediately come back out through different doors. Cindy puts her arm in the crook of Harry’s arm as the stride with elegant buoyancy back to their seats, with the pleasant smiles of sated lovers. Once back at their seats, in a tone of cute, dignified happiness:]

Cindy: Oh, Harry! I feel like I’ve just walked straight through a wall.

Harry: And I’m walking on water!

Cindy: Or through the air!

Harry: See! It’s like I said, you always end up loving suicide.

Cindy: (suddenly with sitcom-type irony) Ha-rry, that’s not what I mean!

Harry: But all the empirical evidence I’ve seen leads me to conclude it’s a top-notch aphrodisiac.

Cindy: Ohh, hmhm, maybe you’re on to something there.


Sudden brief blackout

Scene 5

When the lights go on again, we are viewing the scene from the opposite end of the bar, which is empty aside from the band, but otherwise the same as at the beginning. Of the band, we see only the flickering rhythms of their elongated shadows across the floor in front of the slightly raised backlit stage. Perhaps it is less that the audience doesn’t see the band than that it is put in the position of being the band? Effects may be employed to suggest this perspective. In any case, we can now see behind the bar as well. The members of the original cast now enter by diverse, progressively outlandish means. First, the bartender rolls ineptly on roller skates from the back off the barroom (i.e. the wings of the theatre) behind the bar. Next, Harry rides in on a scooter, which he plunks down on the bar as he sits down. The bartender confronts Harry and, in a fit of anger, throws his scooter out the front. Next, Cindy walks in on her hands and flips herself over into seated position on the stool beside Harry. The older man now rides in on a segue drinking from a straw out of a large plastic beverage container toward his usual seat near the back of the bar. The woman is lowered down from the fly loft in the rigid pose of a cardboard cutout of a real estate agent waving and smiling warm greetings to prospective customers. She does not break the pose and take her seat immediately but stays that way until the homeless mummy is rolled in on a dolly by a delivery person. Both the woman and the mummy remain fixed as the delivery person who is also the young man from before takes off his uniform and then takes his seat. The peeved bartender takes the dolly, the large cup, and the discarded uniform up to the front and throws them out then walks to the back and is replaced by a different bartender. Things then resume normally. All along, the audience hears only a quite wild jazz rendition of a techno song, the DJ accompanied by the sax and bass players. As soon as the new bartender is behind the bar, the band stops for a break. The band members enter the stage, one shadow flickering off toward the bathroom, the DJ step dancing over to the bar for a drink, and the other becoming engaged in a conversation with the enthusiastic young man, who is obviously a fan. Cindy and Harry then walk into the bar from the entrance and sit down at their usual place. We hear the following conversation between Cindy and Harry, at the far back of the stage, quiet but easily discernible. At first their conversation is very stilted, monotonous, almost deaf to itself. Gradually, it becomes more naturalistically animated, although some of the original disorientation continues toward the end.


Cindy: . . . the translation of Café Tamagotchi. It’ll be good, not only because people have never heard of it. It’s good that it’s a loose translation.

Harry: Since we can’t do anything else. Couldn’t even if we wanted to, unless we moved to Austria for a year.

Cindy: And I think that’s nice. The main motivations we have to find mirrored in ourselves . . . amplified, distorted. We couldn’t do it at all otherwise. So, it really leaves no room for academicism, finally.

Harry: I’m not so sure.

Cindy: [Snickering] I like that line with the pun between “power cord” and “powder to the cortex.” I think people will like that. They’ll begin with nostalgia over this stupid toy and then become totally confused, maybe even to the point of being flabbergasted, if they’re the types to allow themselves that.

Harry: Sounds like something Roger will like. He’s good for that.

Cindy: Thank god. With too much emphasis on responsibility and trust, you simply suffocate everything from the start. If you want to stretch the fabric of something, you have to accept that a few holes will emerge here and there. The more holes, the more points of attack. But the more points of entry as well.

Harry: There’s no god in the social accounting room. It’s just us, although many try to play the god role . . . and so, little gets done beyond the rictus of our expectations and pre-judgments.

Cindy: And our subtle, devious plan is to put on a radio play by some untranslated Austrian who’s not even really known in the German speaking world?

Harry: Subtle, devious, fun, funny—choose your motive, the more the better. They don’t all have to hit. It takes all kinds. Mainly, we don’t have time to do something really original anyway. Or figure out whether we’re capable.

Cindy: That is bullshit. We have so much time. But it’s true that being a bad student and a worse teacher leaves you a little unnerved. Maybe it’s true that under these particular conditions we just don’t have patience to sift and sort through all the possibilities rapidly running through the time we have.

Harry: Possibilities—that is, motives, means, and opportunities—are in excess. We just haven’t figured out how to put the infernal Rube Goldberg machine in motion. Each day it is rent asunder, and each morning we can only begin again the process of putting it back together again. Maybe steal a moment of satisfaction just before the nightly exhaustion . . .

Cindy: The owl of Minerva’s a fly-by-night. We don’t lack comforts, though.

Harry: [Ironic] That’s a mixed issue. I may know I don’t. But I can still feel like I do. Personally, I have always tended to sabotage the possibilities for comfort amply available to me. And quite successfully at that.

Cindy: I feel like the logic we’re following has taken us off course . . . a word logic off the course of what’s really essentially ours.

Harry: Well, maybe we’re not covering the whole of what’s available to us or of what we could desire to pursue, but it’s certainly a significant part.

Cindy: To the radio play! Cheers.

Harry: Cheers!

Cindy: Hey! You don’t tap you don’t fuck.

Harry: What?

Cindy: It’s what Roger always says. His Spanish cousin or maid or someone taught it to him.

Harry: For so long, we have tried to anticipate and forestall criticism. Now, we will try to invite, precipitate, and provoke it.

Cindy: The critic always allows itself some usually generous degree of misunderstanding. At the very least, the degree that comes naturally from not directly doing anything about what they’re saying. That’s why they have to call criticism itself a praxis, which is more an empty wish than the essence of the matter. That’s what we need to judge them on. And ourselves, too, insofar as we play our own critics.

Harry: It’s obviously not the first or best or last thing we would hope for.

Cindy: [a waiter brings out a heaping pile of chicken wings and two pints of beer; they don’t seem to notice that they didn’t even order yet] Well, nothing to worry about for the time being . . . These chicken wings look good.

Harry: Why did we order so much?

Cindy: You always say that but then it’s you who’s polishing it all off in the end. [after a short pause] Why did we get suicide again? My eyes are already watering just from the smell.

Harry: And you always say that before we eat. But then you get into it and it’s like you’re dripping for it.

Cindy: Well, anyway, if there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that we always have a lot to capitulate to—or should I say, a lot of capitulating to do.


The bar crowd continues talking, dancing, and standing around more or less as they were, but as though the volume has been turned off. Meanwhile, the song “Birthday Cake” by Cibo Matto starts playing quite loudly but not irritatingly so as a new bartender flies out of the kitchen and around the bar at an extremely rapid pace (as much as possible, her movements should suggest either a sped-up or a time lapse video, although the rest of the bar moves normally) on roller blades with a can of spray paint and weaves a continuous line of white around all the characters. When she gets back to Cindy and Harry at the front of the bar, the can she’s holding runs out of paint but she grabs a fire extinguisher off the bar and starts spraying in more and more erratic fashion. As she makes her way back toward the musician’s stage again, the tacky white powder fills the space so that the line from her first transit across the barroom is sunk in the uniform white cloud. The song comes to an end and the following conversation is heard between the mummy and the woman:


Woman: I haven’t made any money at all today.

Mummy: Do you want to?

Woman: I’m not complaining.

Mummy: But—

Woman: What are you implying?

Mummy: What day is it?

Woman: Tuesday.

Mummy: How could it be Tuesday?

Woman: What do you mean? There aren’t many people here for a Friday, or even a Thursday.

Mummy: This is New York City, Grand Central Station. There are always a lot of people here, any day of the week.

Woman: But there aren’t right now.

Mummy: I think it’s a pretty good turnout.

Woman: What museum did you crawl out of?

Mummy: No museum. I’m homeless, actually.

Woman: So am I. So is everyone here.

Mummy: Don’t play thought games with me.

Woman: I go in and out of many homes each day. And it is then that I feel most without a home, in the same way that you can be most alone when with others, most silent when speaking, most bored when being entertained, or generally most empty when you are most stuffed full of crap.

Mummy: But the logic can’t really be reversed. I don’t feel the least homeless now that I don’t have a home.

Woman: I’ll let you touch my pussy if it’ll make you feel better.

Mummy: Okay.

Woman: I was only joking. How is that supposed to make you feel better?

Mummy: You don’t understand your own magic.

Woman: Oh? What, do you find that somehow tragic? Actually, I might agree with you there.

Mummy: Tragedy died with privacy.

Woman: Don’t be so sure. Smugness ages you and makes you less and less likely to change.

Mummy: And you think I give a fuck?






Scene 6


When the lights come back on, the scene is once again viewed from the original position just outside the entrance to the bar. The whole scene, including all the guests except the DJ, are covered in the cakey white substance. The DJ is behind the decks, mixing and scratching with his saurian appendages. Just as the guests took scarcely any notice of the spray-happy bartender on rollerblades in the previous scene, they are not concerned by the current state of affairs. Only the mummy and the waiter are missing from the scene. The music is an anemic, depauperate version of what it was in the first scene, the DJ accompanying the musicians with manipulated sounds of static, crackling, high-pitched feedback, and strange boops and bleeps like out of an old sonar system. Only now, the musicians’ instruments emit almost no sound, being muffled by the fire retardant in which they are caked, except what noise they do emit is amplified throughout the room as the musicians go through the usual motions, with just as much energy and enthusiasm.


Seconds after the curtains goes up, a waiter—not yet seen but nevertheless covered in retardant—emerges from the kitchen door with a large food cart on skis bearing an enormous covered serving platter of sparklingly polished silver. She tries to slide the cart behind the bar, but it won’t fit, so she maneuvers it back out and down the length of the barroom up to where Cindy and Harry are seated. Harry moves to help her hoist the tray onto the bar before where he and Cindy are seated, but the bartender tells him not to get up. Harry and Cindy remain seated in affectless silence while, with great effort, the bartender manages to lug the tray up onto the bar in front of them. The dialogue in the scene should be spoken in a tone that is as naturalistic and conversational as possible, although the content quickly comes to possess an odd kind of academic fragmentation and remoteness, the sentences themselves increasingly taking on a structure to be spoken only laboriously. As quickly becomes clear, the dialogue is also overwhelmingly monologic. In the end, perhaps the speaking of the sentences must force the naturalistic, conversational tone upon them.


Bartender: [removing the lid off of the tray to reveal the corpulent mummy swathed in white] Voila! Your order of fresh ant larvae.

Harry: Mmmm . . . how fresh, may I ask?

Bartender: Sorry, I meant mature. If you don’t get at it soon, you’ll be treated to an order of fresh ants.

Cindy: Hmmm . . . not a bad idea, two dishes in one.

Bartender: Bon appétit! Mahlzeit!


[Cindy and Harry begin picking at the material encasing the mummy to expose the ant larvae, eating them hungrily while not being totally piggish. They rarely stop speaking as they chew the white capsule-sized bits picked one-by-one from underneath the desiccated wrappings. At one point, armies of innumerable black ants begin streaming out of the holes they’ve picked through the mummy’s casing. They just casually pick specimens from these scuttering hordes as well.]


Cindy: Hello, baby.

Harry: Baby hello.

Cindy: Know’st though not, young Bilgewater, that the heart is possess’d of a shape inclining more to the spiky than the rounded?

Harry: Aye

Cindy: Eye?

Harry: Aye aye

Cindy: Aye yi yi

Harry: Aye yi yi yi yi, I—

Cindy: I

Harry: A E I O U?

Cindy: Y

Harry: Eh?

Cindy: IOU

Harry: Oh you

Cindy: OE?

Harry: Aye

Cindy: Why?

Harry: Eh yo

Cindy: Eau?

Harry: EAU

Cindy: EU?

Harry: AI?

Both: Nay.

Bartender: [yelling with mild aggression down the bar to Harry and Cindy, who nod in thoughtful recognition]

I was conceived in two pieces and had to be nailed together

I was born in three pieces and had to be contracted together

I was circumcised in four pieces and had to be stitched together

I was baptized in five pieces and had to be gathered together

I was communed in six pieces and had to be chewed together

I was confessed in seven pieces and had to be Hail Maryed together

I was confirmed in eight pieces and had to be bound like a book

I was married in nine pieces and had to be laid together

I was ordained in ten pieces and had to be sworn together

I was anointed in eleven pieces and had to be boxed together.

Finally, they buried me without counting the pieces.

Harry: [yelling back down the bar] Fucking bastards!

Cindy: [explaining to Harry] Mothers for quantity over quality.

Harry: Mothers for honesty over truth?

Cindy: [a little ironic]

Oh no, my account has been compromised!

Oh no, my integrity’s been compromised!

Oh no, my identity’s been compromised!

Oh no, my marriage is a compromise!

Oh no, all my friends’ accounts were compromised the whole time!

Oh no, my brain has been compromised!

Oh ya—

Harry: [preempting her] Life is long!

Cindy: Meet me at the public toilet.

Harry: [in a baby voice] We get the cwitticisms we desewve!

Cindy: [with mild aggression]

Get cancer level serious or die Get global warming level serious or die Get Cold War level serious or die Get murder-suicide level serious or die Get global-sex-ring level serious or die Get global-food-shortage level Get crack-cocaine Get American imperialism-seed-oil level seri—

Harry: [as if to say: what can I do about it?] The chicken gives out an egg each day whether it’s fertilized or not.

Cindy: What else would it do?

Harry: [after a pause—both are obviously becoming exhausted, disorientated, and delirious] I see black.

Cindy: I see white.

Harry: I see darkness.

Cindy: I see light. [They both lay their heads on the bar.]

Harry: They should have stuck to tinfoil.

Cindy: They should have stuck to cellophane, maybe cardboard.

Harry: America has always been a thoroughly unphilosophical place, after all. [They go silent and still]


The chef comes out and speaks to the waiter:


Chef: The garbage man told me a joke the other day. It went something like: ‘What’s the deal with logic? I mean, imagine Aristotle today: “A thing can’t both be garbage and not be garbage at the same time and in the same way”? “A thing must either be garbage or not be garbage”? “A piece of trash is always and everywhere identical to itself”? It’s obviously total shit. But, then again, Aristotle didn’t have my privileged perspective on the back of this truck.’ [They become awkward in the silence, and only then do they laugh just a little. Then the woman comes over and speaks to the chef:]

Woman: You know how much I love a fucking nerd, but [she points to the mummy, still prostrate on the bar] I think I’ve decided to go with him now. [Suddenly, Cindy and harry begin to stir, a carpet of black ants now covering the bar.]

Harry: Ahoy! Barkeep! Two beers, please, matey.

Bartender: [matter-of-factly] I think you two have had enough now. Once a guest starts talking like a pirate, I usually ask them to leave.

Cindy: [puts her feet up on the stool beside her] Those drinks drank for us and now we’re gonna pay it forward to these here, you . . . you . . . son of a . . . son of a . . . barkeep.


[The bartender walks over and taps the prostrate mummy, pointing toward the two unwanted guests. The mummy gets up off and bar and grabs Cindy, who resists, kicking over the stool on which her feet are planted as she’s forced out of her own.]


Harry: [gets up and takes a swing at the mummy, missing pitiably] Hands off the lay ee odl lay hee hoo!

[The mummy lets go of Cindy, who staggers to the floor, and pulls a very deft move on Harry, reaching up under his sweater and ripping his shirt off from underneath, at the same time swiping at his face with the other hand. But rather than punching Harry, he knocks Harry’s glasses clean off his face and onto the floor, then drags him out of the bar, Cindy following behind.]


Harry: Fuck you and your dirty bouncer’s tricks.

Bartender: [accusatory] Get two drinks in this guy and you never know what he’s going to do.

Cindy: Try thirty! It’s your fucking fault! Why else would you even have a bouncer unless you’re going to need to summon the bouncer in him, letting the drinks drink of themselves senselessly to us.





Scene 7


The bar is now empty of customers. The musicians have packed up. The bartender is cleaning glasses in the still whited-over bar. All remain caked in white. The musicians make their way to the entrance, the DJ taking the lead.


DJ: [from the back] Come along, boys.


As the musicians pass the bartender, they tip their frosted-over hats to the him. The DJ then addresses the bartender:


DJ: A largely unpredictable but still megalomaniacal success, Dick. [They shake hands.]


Once the musicians are at the front of the bar near the exit, the DJ rubs his finger along the counter and takes a lick of the black and white powder, then addresses the audience:


DJ: Influence!




End of Scene

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