Down at The Last Visible Dog, Alm and Ceanothus were talking about the upcoming Hoban Night.
“Fuck Burns Night. Nobody can understand a word that guy wrote,” said Alm.
“Yeah, because the made-up incomprehensible language inÂ Riddley Walker is incomprehensible in a better way than Scots. Dude, Burns night has bagpipes! What are you drinking anyway?”
“A Mise en AbÃ®me.”
Cean picked up Alm’s drink and took a sip. “Uh, yeah, no. That’s a Meese on a Beam.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The Mise en AbÃ®me has rosemary vodka from that place in B-40 and some nocino that Nautical Miles has been making from those walnuts they’ve been scraping up off the ground by City Hall.”
“Is that what they’ve been doing?” Alm asked. “I saw them when I was riding by and just thought, huh, whatever, that’s Nautical’s thing,”
“Yeah, that’s what they’ve been doing,” Cean continued. “They were going on and on the other day about the Rights of Common. They seem particularly worked up about something…right of pannage?”
“Oh, yeah.” Alm perked up. Unlike drink orders, this was a topic he knew about. “Also called the right of mast. It’s the right to drive your swine into the forest to eat dropped acorns.”
“Wait. What? Is Nautical claiming they’re a pig now?” Cean asked.
“Who the fuck knows. Probably? Maybe a javelina.”
Cean shifted uncomfortably. “I thought those were only in Arizona.”
“Maybe. Why does it matter?”
“Tobolito was talking about this in that public lecture the other day. He says decolonizing history depends on accuracy, or you’re just replacing the mythology of the colonizer with a different mythology of the colonizer, one that misrecognizes desire for a ‘natural’ past,” Cean made scare quote fingers, “as truth.” Cean sipped her drink. “We have wild pigs here, well, feral pigs here. They were introduced in 1924 for some stupid reason, and they’ve been a real problem.”
“Yeah, I remember. Forest Doug had that whole deal, what was it, five years back? You know, when they were all going into the woods with high-tech crossbows and then subjecting us to exceedingly gamy pork products. Dude, I mean, I like bacon and all but….” Alm made a noise of disgust, faking a total body shudder.
“Yes, it’s true. That was some rank shit. But it was in the name of cutting down a population of an invasive non-native species. Those pigs are real destructive. Forest Doug is still doing that, you know. It’s a side project of his New Masculinity Exploration. He just is selling his wildcrafted fatback or whatnot to foodie places up in the City.” Cean made the hand gesture lit. majors had invented to mock San Francisco’s particular brand of farm-to-table eateries. “Those restaurants are so fucking entrenched. I’ve seen their menus. They call it ‘savage meat.'”
Alm gaped. “Jesus Christ. What the hell is wrong with them? Read a fucking book, for god’s sake.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
Cean and Alm sat there for a few seconds, silenced in the contemplation of the total ignorance of San Francisco restauranteurs.
“Anyway,” Alm finally said. “What’s the deal with my drink? I ordered a Mise en AbÃ®me, and you’re saying I have a Mise en AbÃ®me. I’m super-confused.”
“You wanted a Mise en AbÃ®me. You got a Meese on a Beam.”
“I thought that’s what I ordered!”
“This is why you should have taken that summer intensive French for Humanities Majors that Driss did, what, two years ago? Listen.” Cean raised her voice to carry over the ruckus the Cultural Studies Aulinta “History” Working Group was making in the dart room. “Mise en AbÃ®me. Meese on a Beam. Mise en AbÃ®me. Meese on a Beam. One is French, the other is English.”
“Ok, I get it! What’s the difference?” Alm asked, then started muttering the two phrases under his breath.
“Right. Like I said, the Mise en AbÃ®me has rosemary vodka from that place in B-40 and nocino from Nautical Miles and…something else? I forget. The point is that it’s a bona fide cocktail. The Meese on a Beam is non-alcoholic. It’s a punishment for ‘not paying sufficient attention’ is what they say on their drinks list.”
“Ok, first, they have a drinks list? And second, how can the bartender even hear the difference?”
“First, yes, they have a drinks list, but only one and they treat it like a precious signed first edition of, I don’t know, Riddley Walker?” Cean looked at Alm strangely. “Second, what do you think people do when they drop out of academia? The people behind the counter are all A.B.D.s at least.” Alm leaned back to better look at the bartenders. Except for the Cultural Studies hoopla, the bar was only sparsely peopled. The rush would happen later, after the weekly Art Department movie night let out. The three bartenders were all polyphonically reading aloud to each other from individual copies of what looked like Stuart Christie’s history of the FederaciÃ³n Anarquista IbÃ©rica.
“Ohhhhhhh,” Alm drawled, wonderingly. “That explains so many things.”