Smoke. Smoke everywhere, thick like rows of hanging curtains that part when you pass then close behind you in seamless swirling grey. Smoke with faces, leering apparitions that resemble long-lost lovers, age-old rivals, misshapen torments from the darkest corners of your mind. Smoke so heavy it muffles the sound in the room, and what would be raucous thunder in clear conditions is a low rumble that feels like it comes up from the floor and doesn’t make it to the ceiling. Cigar smoke, cigarette smoke, pipe smoke, and the smoke of dozens of illegal substances burning, burning all around in the dim, flushing coal-red and winking out, taillights vanishing in the distance.

Then, somehow, the bar. A long row of damp wood, tarnished brass, and cracked leather, glasses full and empty standing to attention in a rogue’s gallery of figures tall, squat, and tiny. A phantom tends this garden, a presence made known only by the flashes of a gleaming white dish towel. Here you can sit on one of the open stools and get under the smoke, blink it out of your eyes. It makes it easier to focus on the amber liquid poured out in front of you, filling cups that you drink one after another until the haze that covers your vision comes from inside your head.

That was what you came here for, wasn’t it?

2015.01.27 – 2023.08.24

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