Mary Simpson

Death is for the Living

Everyone has a hell. Mine is a basement piano bar with an all-day menu. The only vegetarian dish? Penne “al dente” drizzled in truffle oil. Did you know that truffle oil is a foul concoction synthesized in a laboratory to mimic pungent earth? Does the chef know this? The dark, worn wood of the bar reeks of fake truffle and of sour, filthy beer taps.

I am sitting at a round table, sharing a massive communal rum cocktail called the Scorpion Bowl. There are seven straws and six men. And me.

On my left is Tom Hanks. What’s the word for the white male hero who saves every oppressed soul in every war? He’s so nice!

Tom is seated next to Jon Hamm. I just hate his stupid face. I once ruined “Mad Men” for a friend when I told her Jon Hamm was a weak, unconvincing actor and instead they should have cast Chris Noth. NO, she cried, Mary doesn’t know what she’s talking about. And then she went home and tried to watch, and the Jon Hamm curtain lifted. She could watch no more.

Ben Stiller won’t stop screaming. I guess he’s in hell too.

Will Shortz is the only person on earth — and in hell — with a degree in enigmatology, from a curriculum he designed himself. What a dick.

There’s a secret on earth, in pop culture. It’s a very boring secret, but I’ll tell you – “basic bitch” does not describe Taylor Swift, Uggs, or pumpkin spice lattes. Basic bitch is Jack Antonoff. And he’s at the table, scowling.

Ben Affleck is also there. I feel bad for him.

Our Scorpion Bowl (what makes it purple?) is bottomless and needs refilling. In the 2010s, with the rise of farm-to-table brunch, waiters would plop down next to you in the booth to write out the day’s menu on the butcher-paper tablecloth. They would reek of the night before, body odor and hangover breath. Tonight Matt Damon is this waiter. He wears Estelle Getty eyeglasses and a V-neck.

Adam Driver is our bartender and he’s so angry.

At another table I thought I saw Kevin Costner but he’s just not important enough.

My eyes can’t stop drifting over to the video projection on the wall. When did bars start projecting films again? It is playing every Ken Burns documentary, back to back, with the sound off.

And in the corner, on the piano, Garrison Keillor is tickling the keys, his cultured gravel voice crooning of Lake Wobegon. Over and over and over.  

I open the menu. Kevin Bacon or a ham sandwich?

Mediocrity be damned. What else would the dead live on?

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