The Society Page

Hail Caesar!

Dear readers, may these amusing musings tickle your amygdala and give you the lighthearted fortitude to both fight and laugh!

Sometimes I blush at the thought of how damn lucky I am. Although my situation may seem pitiful, from my perspective it’s worth more than all the world’s hordes of glinting gold and tinkling silver. I am free from the snare of ambition! This allows me to see and avoid many of the emotional tripwires others are blind to. Because I have been freed of these social bindings, I prefer whoopie pies and Fig Newtons to the force-fed banalities people choke on.

During the spring, summer and fall, I am easily overpowered by the seductive spell of my social devotions. But in winter, snowy sidewalks and bitter cold allow me to ignore this lure and hunker down like a happy hermit. The shortening of one’s social leash needn’t be a noose, though.

Because my winter range is limited, I frequently find myself at Flask Lounge, on nearby Spring Street. I have written before about Flask’s miscreant appeal and how, through a strategic combination of aloofness, goofiness and consensual lewdness, Flask fills a special niche in the Portland social scene. Although I pride myself on the lameness of my game, this place awakens my craving for musical transgression and the smashing of personal barriers. Because of the club’s compactness, the music usually comes courtesy of DJ sets delivered from behind a table full of computers, CDs and turntables. On the rare occasions when Flask hosts a band, there’s little room for dancing, grinding or moshing.

On a cold and snowy Friday last month, I attended a series of shows within a few blocks of my doorknob — culminating, as usual, at Flask.

The first stop was Blue, on Congress Street, to see singer-songwriter Sorcha Cribben-Merrill. Long before my brain injury, I was terrible at judging when to arrive at social gatherings. So while I would love to blame this handicap on my knock on the head, the truth is I’ve always had bad timing. Sorcha’s set began at 6 p.m., and I got there at what seemed like a judicious time, only to find that Sorcha, the bar staff and I were the only ones present. Nevertheless, with music entering my ears and nachos and tea entering my mouth, I was happier than a brawler in an alley. Acoustic guitar in hand, Sorcha played songs by Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Aerosmith. Between those covers, she sprinkled the gypsy-rabble rhythms of her enticingly aromatic originals. Meanwhile, a trickle of fans came in from the Arctic darkness to join us in the warm dimness.

The next episode took place a couple blocks away, at the Dogfish Bar and Grille, where the jazz trio LQH was playing. Being a non-drinker, I’ll sometimes order food just to dampen the sense that I’m a no-good moocher at these free gigs. At Dogfish, I started with an order of cookie pie that neither thrilled nor disappointed me, followed by a Caesar salad that did disappoint. Julius Caesar is said to have been 5’7”. While that seems rather short in this America of abundant, protein-heavy food, he was considered quite tall for a Roman of his era. Unlike its namesake, my salad was far from robust (and this was before the nationwide romaine ban). The skimpy plate of greens ($10) made me glad I’d already eaten at Blue.

LQH is Chas Lester, Tyler Quist and Evan Haines. Special guest Kyle Friday showed up, and soon the foursome’s music had me hooting like a fool!

Finally, it was time to get crass at Flask. I soon abandoned the snow-covered, impassable sidewalks and wheeled up Free Street, much to the annoyance of the oncoming drivers. It was Friction Friday at Flask, with G-Force (Gina Marie) spinning a fast and heavy drum-and-bass set. The aura of social transgression was only slightly diminished by the fact they were collecting money for Toys for Tots at the door in lieu of a cover.

I grew up on the other side of the Saco River, so I have little regard for people’s fashionable obsessions. I’ve been gifted with an adorable aloofness that lets me steer clear of such opulent distractions. This stubborn unfashionableness causes a mild sense of estrangement, but that’s countered by a stronger sense of invincibility. #HUMILITYISSTRENGTH