Monday, June 27, 2011

Cubing in Public Places where Alcohol is served.

Cubing in public where alcohol is involved is a hit-or-miss endeavor. For me, operation of the cube itself doesn't seem to suffer at the one drink level, which is about as many drinks as you will ever see me have. Since I'm still just trying to solve it in the 30-40 second range, but while talking, answering questions, being distracted, or working with really bad lighting conditions, one drink is not going to mess me up as much as other things might.

At a private party where everybody knows half of the other people there and many friendly conversations are bound to spring up, my Rubik's cube schtick is usually fun for a few minutes. People that might be inclined to coolly dismiss my demonstration as intellectual grandstanding when sober might be more vocally appreciative after a couple of martinis. One or two people may be really motivated to learn something. I don't know if that's still the case once the alcohol wears off.

In public venue where alcohol is involved, you have the same challenges with the sober crowd, but magnified. Since I had taken up cubing again, it had happened rarely, but I did have to deal with it a couple of times in the last month or so.

As it happens, I play in a band on weekends. We've just gotten to the point where people know who we are and want to listen to us, but it's not like our fan base is universal. A big chunk of the music we play is stuff that was popular 25 years ago, so the average twentysomething may not appreciate us that much if they rebelled from their parent's taste in music. It also might be noted that for whatever reason, a bar crowd may tend to want heavier music to listen to than the standard radio pop fare. Since we play 80's music, I bring a handful of cubes with me in case a fit of nostalgia breaks out, and some people that I knew from high school don't even recognize me without a cube in my hand. There is a bar that is local to us that we have played at a couple of times with mixed results. We didn't even think that they liked us at first. But, they asked us to come back, and my real cube anomalies were both from that second evening.
We showed up around 11 o'clock, which for middle aged people with kids and day jobs is clearly after bedtime. We were scheduled to go on at midnight, and did not really bring any of our own fans that evening. (It's probably past their bedtime, also.) The band that was already playing sounded to my old ears like early R.E.M. They were a 3-piece with a really big guitar sound, but the vocals were hard to discern. It was loud enough that it's hard to talk to the person in front of you without leaning in and talking directly into their ear. I was listening to the band, standing next to the guitarist and saxophone players from my band and nonchalantly fidgeting with one of my Rubik's cubes. One of the women who was playing pool there walked past us, and gave me a derisive look that let me know that I should not talk to her and how dare somebody try and foist a cheap trick on her or subject her to intellectual grandstanding while she's trying to drink and play pool.

Leon, our guitarist tried to liven things up by suggesting I give her a quick demo. "He's really good at it," he says to her.

I stupidly try to open with the same phrase that I would if there were a normal amount of background noise and I were dealing with a person receptive to the idea in the least. "Satisfy yourself that the cube is really scrambled." She has no idea why I am saying this to her, and I am stupid enough to repeat myself, so she grabs the cube from my hand, annoyed, stuffs it in the layers of her shirt like it was her wallet, and wanders off back to her pool table and the drunk guys in the back playing with the punching bag machine. I was later able to retrieve it once I spotted it on a table in a back corner. Luckily I was able to do so without uttering a word or walking into the back corner, and she treated me condescendingly like I was one of the frail, nerdy kids in high school that she use to spit on during her smoke breaks. She doesn't know the half of it. I kept my distance from her the rest of the evening, and tried to concentrate on playing a good set.

After we played, there was a couple that seemed interested in our band, and we all tried to talk to them while we were breaking down from our set. I gathered that they were not quite as old as we are, but older than the majority of the bar patrons there, and they seemed to like our music. At one point, while we were talking about the 80's music in particular, I showed them my Rubik's cube prowess briefly. They were adamant that if we played a show for them in the future, that I bring a cube with me and show their kids. Then, as a spur-of-the-moment thing, the wife in the couple grabs the cube from me and hides it on her person. I think the intent was to dare me to retrieve it, and having gone through the indignity of the similar situation not hours before, I didn't even have enough of a sense of humor about it to find it funny. The guitarist quickly attempted to retrieve my sense of humor, and sensing the awkwardness, my cube was handed over. In this second case, I'm sure the behavior was intended as playfulness, in stark contrast to the first situation where the interaction shouldn't have happened since the other party had no actual interest in the information available.

For those of you trying to satisfy your morbid curiosity about the music side of me that I don't normally talk about in this space on my blog, check out our band website at, or find Pee Wee Lewis & The Hues on Facebook.

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