While festivals and social gatherings have returned this summer, there has been a less popular, if not entirely unknown, event taking place along Main Street nearly every night for the past four months.
This free show hasn’t been advertised or heavily attended, but I believe it’s the most interesting to experience.
Each night, particularly during busier weekends, around the witching hour of 3 a.m. a mass of weary service industry workers finally make their way home in conducting a zombie waltz of sorts across Colorado Avenue. It’s not a celebration by any means, but the result of surviving another night on the frontlines. While the true corpses enviously rest in Lone Tree Cemetery, the local living dead can finally breathe a sigh of relief at that time under the veil of night.
As a doorman I’ve partaken in this Danse Macabre. The bars close. The usual gush of people stumbling and crawling about town like bloated worms after an evening thunderstorm follows, but the zombies must clean and restock for the next day before calling it a night.
After the streets are clear, the zombies emerge. We decompress by chatting about how our nights went and share war stories.
“How’d it go tonight?”
“We got a rush at midnight when the show let out, but then it slowed down. I had to throw a girl out after she jumped on the bar.”
“Did you see the guy with the Houston Astros hat? He couldn’t event talk.”
“Yeah, I didn’t let him in.”
Some need more time to process things and find refuge wherever they can.
“I’m gonna go down to the dungeon and hang out with the vampires.”
I typically head home. Nothing good happens between dusk and dawn, unless you’re looking for some type of sin. If I’m lucky, I’ll scavenge some leftover pizza or a sandwich during my shift and save it until I get back to my place. It’s not human flesh, but it holds me over.
Enforcing this month’s indoor mask ordinance has turned even the most congenial among us into brain-craving cannibals.
A man and woman stopped at the doorway recently and peaked into the bar. I told them that we ask everyone to wear a mask when they enter until they find their seat. The man saw the signs posted in the windows and looked at me like I’d just asked for his first-born.
“We’re from Nebraska, where logic lives,” he said, before informing me how virus transmission actually works.
Albert Camus has a quote I like, and it applies to most of my interactions at the bar, “As I usually do when I want to get rid of someone whose conversation bores me, I pretend to agree.”
The Cornhusker couple didn’t come in after our chat, but I’ve agreed with a lot of people this summer.
I recently asked my old friend Scarecrow how someone can talk without brains.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking … don’t they?”
No wonder why zombies want to eat the living.
One night, after the beer was cooling in the fridge and the doors were locked, the three bartenders and I sat on a bench outside and leaned against the wall to smoke American Spirits before going our separate ways. We didn’t say anything other than to ask one another for a light. The moment lasted no more than five minutes, but during that time, we were all unburdening ourselves. Tired and beleaguered, we said our goodbyes.
“See ya tomorrow.”
George Romero couldn’t have framed a better shot.
Some nights it seems like even the flies won’t befriend us, but for those who make their living in the service industry, there is no other option than to push on.
As a result, another strange phenomena I’ve noticed this year is that no one is talking about their exotic offseason vacation plans. Bali and Thailand can wait. Most people simply want some time to do nothing and recalibrate before winter.
When you live in one place long enough it becomes three-dimensional. Once the veil is pierced and the innards behind it are exposed, there’s no going back.
The hardworking zombies know this, so if you happen to witness their waltz one night, dear reader, please don’t intervene or mock them. An extra couple dollars as appreciation for their long hours or just treating them with respect is all they may crave.