#199 - "The Last Call"

posted Aug 28, 2012, 10:53 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Aug 28, 2012, 10:50 PM ]
Featuring:
Hunter – Erick’s neighbor friend
Eugene – Erick’s neighbor
Moneca – Erick’s friend
Ethan – Chris’s roommate
Marko – the tavern manager
Cody – the bartender 

The Hollywood House was Erick’s first regular haunt since the Second Half back home in New Jersey. While he didn’t drink in those days, he certainly did by the time his neighbor friend Hunter introduced him to the House shortly after moving back to Los Angeles from Massachusetts three years ago.

At first, Erick would only go to the House at the behest of Hunter. But by the end of his first few visits, he had gotten to know the main server Teddy, the lead bartender Sarah as well as Cullum, who owned and managed the tavern. So he kept going back. It also didn’t hurt that Erick took an immediate liking to Teddy, a salt-and-pepper-haired force of positive energy.

Erick was drawn to the Hollywood House for its neighborhoody feel despite being located in the touristy, sceney heart of Hollywood. Like Norm on Cheers, Erick not only felt welcomed at the Hollywood House, but also wanted. He soon started talking up the tavern, and Teddy, to his friends and co-workers. He’d stop by on his way home for work a couple times a week for a quick drink before Happy Hour ended at eight – usually on days when he knew Teddy would be working. On the random occasion he was particularly interested in a weekend football game, he’d head over for the afternoon. It didn’t matter whether or not he went alone because he would invariably meet new people with each visit.

Then Cullum, the owner and manager, suddenly passed away. While Cullum’s family retained ownership, the new management who came in wanted to cater to a more upscale, trendy clientele. The shift drove away much of the staff and the longtime steady customers. The result was a circular flow of clubbers and industry types who stuck around long enough for the next hotspot to catch their attention.

Erick stuck around for a short time after the shift but eventually found a new stomping ground – as did many others.

“I can’t believe this place is closing,” Hunter says as she looks around the tavern. She and Erick returned to the tavern for the first time since the shift for its closing night swan song.

“I can,” Erick responds with a bit of disdain. “This place has changed – and unnecessarily so.”

“Mee-ow,” Eugene, experiencing the House for the first and last time, teases.

“What? I had some great times here but I don’t particularly care for unnecessary change,” Erick replies in defense.

“Where’s Chris?” Hunter asks.

“He’s having a Chris night tonight alone in his apartment,” Erick explains.

“Trouble in paradise?” Eugene asks.

“As much as you’d like that to be the case, no.”

Hunter looks back and forth between Erick and Eugene with a smirk. “There’s something here I don’t know.”

“Eugene wants me to break up with Chris and be his boyfriend instead.”

Eugene rests his head on Erick’s shoulder. “Like you haven’t thought about it,” he charges.

Hunter leans forward on the table. “Oh this is juicy.”

“I think about a lot of things, Eugene. And some of those things include you.”

“Exactly.”

“But not that.”

“We’ll see.”

“Eugene, how would you like to hear about the first time Erick met Teddy?” Hunter asks.

“How would you like me to buy you a drink for doing so?” Eugene responds.

“How would you like me to buy you two drinks for not doing so?” Erick counters.

“Sorry, Erick. Eugene’s offering a better deal.”

“How do you figure?”

“Because I actually want to tell the story.”

“So I had no chance to begin with…”

“Nope.”

“Too bad Teddy no longer works here,” Erick says looking around the bar and then down at his cocktail glass. “I would have already had another drink in front of me by now.”

Hunter leans into Eugene to tell him the story. “So the first time we came here, Teddy greeted us at the door and seated us. I hadn’t known Erick very long but I could see it in his eyes that he was already drawn to Teddy – it’s hard not to be. Over the course of the four hours we were here that night, Erick was getting progressively tipsier – never completely drunk but definitely less inhibited with his comments and his hands. Teddy soon met Drunken Erick -- as did Teddy’s then-girlfriend. Now Teddy introduced Erick to her, but the introduction went in one ear and out the other. So he continued to fawn over Teddy. And while this sad display unfolded with Teddy on one side of the bar, his girlfriend had situated herself on the other side of the bar to watch with mild amusement.”

Eugene laughs while Erick hides his head in his hands.

“That deserves the two drinks Erick offered you,” Eugene says.

“I thought it might,” Hunter replies.

Erick points a finger back and forth between Hunter and Eugene. “I don’t like you two,” he states.

Chris’s roommate Ethan and Erick’s friend Moneca walk into the bar, spot Erick and walk over to the table.

“How long before last call?” Ethan asks.

Erick looks at his smartphone. “About half an hour,” he answers.

Eugene and Hunter shift around in the booth to make room for Ethan and Moneca as they slide in.

Erick notices Ethan’s arm around Moneca. He looks back and forth between the two of them but they offer nothing by way of elucidation on whatever may or may not be transpiring.

“Are you two dating or something?” Eugene asks.

Erick jabs him on the shoulder. “Get out of my head!”

Eugene playfully jabs Erick back. “I just noticed you were looking at them as if you had a question that you weren’t going to ask. So I asked it for you.”

“You two seem like a far more interesting topic of discussion than us,” Moneca teases.

“Don’t try to deflect,” Erick retorts. “Eugene is cute and all, but he’s no Chris,”

“Who is?” Eugene responds with a shoulder shrug.

“That’s sweet,” Moneca responds. “How is Chris?”

“Chris is wonderful. He’s so wonderful. He’s just the best person ever. He’s so good to me. We have the best relationship. I just love him. I can’t believe my life existed before him,” Eugene answers mockingly.

“Bitter grapes, thy name is Eugene,” Hunter comments.

“Chris is fine,” Erick answers. “Anyway, how long has this been going on?” he asks, referring back to Ethan and Moneca.

“It just sorta happened,” Ethan explains.

Moneca glares playfully at Ethan. “There’s more to it than that,” she says to Erick.

“I don’t even remember you guys meeting each other,” Erick responds. “Then I saw you two at my birthday party...”

“We didn’t know each other,” Ethan interjects. “We both happened to be out and about with friends of ours a few weeks ago. I saw her and struck up a conversation. We discovered we both knew you and bonded over that.”

“So in a sense, you brought us together,” Moneca adds.

“So in the near future, I’ll either be thanking you or putting a hit out on you,” Ethan jokes.

Moneca playfully jabs Ethan in the side. “Try that again.”

Ethan winces. “Alright, I thank you today. I’ll thank you tomorrow and I’ll thank you forevermore.”

Moneca kisses Ethan on the cheek. “That’s better.”

“And safer,” Ethan whispers out loud to Erick.

“Don’t worry. You’ll muck this up before then,” Erick chides.

The current manager of the Hollywood House calls everyone to attention. The tavern quiets down except for the sounds of the occasional murmur, the sound of traffic and passersby on Hollywood Boulevard.

“We are all gathered here to say goodbye to the Hollywood House,” the tavern manager begins. “After eleven years in a tough economy and a highly competitive area of town, we are closing our doors after tonight. On behalf of the Hollywood House, I would like to thank all of you for your patronage. Whether you’ve been here from the beginning, from the middle or just discovered us last week, thank you for being a part of our history…”

The bar patrons applaud.

The manager continues. “None of this would be possible without the vision and heart of Cullum Tallen, who opened this bar and ran it until he passed away suddenly two years ago. Everyone please raise your glass in a final toast to Cullum and to the Hollywood House.”

Everyone raises their class and yells, “To Cullum!”

“Alright everyone, last call!” yells the bartender over the crescendoing noise.

The crowd rushes toward the bar and Erick takes notice of the growing line. “Let’s avoid the rush and stop off for a couple bottles of wine to take back to my place,” he suggests.

“Sounds good to me,” Hunter says.

“You guys go on ahead. I’ll settle up here and meet you back there,” Eugene says.

“Thanks Eugene,” Erick replies as he leads Hunter, Moneca and Ethan back to his apartment.

As he walks out, he takes one last look at the bar as memories of drunken escapades, embarrassing situations, interactions with Cullum and conversations with random people quickly play out in his mind.  

“I’m really glad to have been a part of this,” he thinks to himself. “Thanks, Cullum.”