Down goes the cheap whiskey and ginger ale, an ambrosial concoction.

I don't understand why I can't just drink in peace anymore.

Outside the three walls that make up my low-rent apartment, I can hear sirens blaring. I can hear the ceilings dripping from water that rained over four days ago. I can hear randy cats getting more action than my fellow tenants.

‘Cept for the in-call girl what works the floor below me. If the fake orgasms stopped for more than ten minutes, I'd think she was dead. And it wouldn't surprise me.

‘Prolly wouldn't surprise her, ‘neither.

If I had to gamble, and I do, I'd wager that I was the only burned-out, broken down soul in this here building that owned a computer. Only one capable of puttin' a coherent sentence together, on paper, screen, or in speech. If I had a hundred bucks, and my pocket says I don't, I'd be willin' ta bet I'm the only one within a mile that knows what exactly “per capita” means.

Like the man said, ignorance is bliss.

But I know why I can't drink in peace anymore.

All the old places have closed down. All the ex-speakeasies, the decrepit pool halls, the bars with more holes in the floor than customers. The strip clubs with women so ugly, they'd charge less for a lap dance than you'd tip the waitress at a late-night Denny's (the same one she worked at on another shift, across the highway). All those places, gone the way of Bogie and McQueen, of Flynn and Hank Bukowski. There's no place for 'em anymore, 'cause there's no people for 'em anymore.

And there's no quiet place to drink anymore. There's no place to really, truly drink anymore.

‘Cept with me, and I'm here, alone. Indoors, and gettin' rained on.