April 27, 2007
I told Etch it needed to be a night worthy of writing a book about.
Maybe it wasn’t book worthy – but at least a few pages.
A quick two day job in another remote, small town in the south for me. Jorge was supposed to be my support but he had difficulties at his job on the west coast so Etch was dispatched at the last minute to ensure we had the people and time to complete the job. It’s becoming more complicated as the technologies advance and a second person was needed.
And, well, who better to join me at a job site.
“You know, I was supposed to be off today!” Etch bellowed as he walked in the room Thursday morning.
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t ask for you – I would have been fine on my own.” I boasted.
“Right, sure you would have been. They knew you’d screw it up, so they sent in the DH.” Etch shot back.
The job went as expected. A couple hours after Etch arrived, so did Jorge. The three of us worked until the evening hours to get the job done – obviously not a one person job as I contended earlier. But with the increased time to complete the job came increased tedium and fatigue. Especially for my colleagues; the one grabbing a 6AM flight, the other fighting 9 hours of travel and jet-lag.
A night of excess was needed, but this small town didn’t seem to offer too many options.
We started with a late dinner – quick appetizers and few glasses of wine. The three of us shared jokes and had fun with our waitress. She was an amazingly cute Mexican girl but by her obvious southern drawl, not from Mexico. Jorge, suffering from his jet-lag insisted he had enough for the night. I think he figured he would have trouble keeping up with Etch and I, and decided an early retirement for the evening would be best for all of us.
We dropped Jorge off at the hotel. We took Etch’s rental car, but I drove. He grabbed the GPS and started reviewing our options.
“Looks like if we want strippers, Sid’s Playground? Not far from here.”
“Sounds ok to me, but I wouldn’t plan on staying.” I resoponded.
“You know my feelings about those places. The strippers are great, but I want to take them all home with me. And I can’t. So, why bother?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Etch was obviously in the mood for strippers. “Whatever, just enjoy it and shut up.”
I did. But even Etch couldn’t possibly know what was in store for us at a strip club in this tiny southern town.
We arrived at Sid’s. Looked the same as most other strip clubs. The neon lights outside flashed “GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS – EXOTIC DANCERS.” The tinted windows and doors didn’t reveal anything of what was inside, so we sauntered in casually.
We were met at the door by a large white man with a shaved head, goatee and many piercings. He looked ominous, even sitting behind a desk in a booth, demanding ID’s and a $10 cover charge.
That’s pretty standard for such a place. What is a little out of the norm from our experience is to be frisked and walked through a metal detector after paying said cover.
That should have been our first clue. Really, it was. But how rude would it have been to walk out after paying our cover without even entering the establishment? We followed their procedure – emptying out pockets, walking through the metal detector, then being both frisked and examined with a wand.
This was not your normal strip club.
After processing we walked into the bar area. The “stage” was a railed runway – not elevated as per the norm. One solitary “dancer” was dancing… kind of. About a dozen patrons lined the bar of the tiny room; many of them obviously local gang members wearing colors and insignia. A few other dancers were hanging out at the end of the bar next to a wall made up entirely of large audio speakers. Behind the stage, a DJ was working. The music was so loud we could barely order drinks.
A couple of dancers stood up and left us bar stools to sit at. We ordered a couple beers – served in the can with ice on the sides of the cans. We sat on the empty bar stools, clanked our beer cans together with a silent toast and simply glared at each other with that “I know exactly what you’re thinking” look.
Simultaneously we tilted our drinks back. I leaned towards Etch, “Not exactly what you had in mind, is it?”
“No dude. Definitely not.”
“One beer and gone?”
“Yeah. But, don’t drink it so fast that we look like we’re scared, ok?”
I chuckled a little. “Yeah, no problem man. It’s almost frozen anyway.”
“Aww man, the beer is too cold to drink! We have to go!” he joked.
I chuckled again, “No, no. We’ll just say we left the iron on…”
Etch laughed a little. “Yeah, that’s it. So what do we say when we leave after only been here for five minutes.”
“We just say we were here looking for ‘someone’ and they didn’t show up. I’m sure it’s probably pretty normal with the drug deals that go on here.”
Etch laughed. “Sounds good.”
We slowly drank our beers. I finished mine and urged Etch to finish his so we could move on to something more interesting, and less life threatening.
We strolled out, past a dancer who asked, “Leaving so soon?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I think I left the iron on.”
Etch laughed from behind me and we kept walking – the ominous gate-keeper glaring at us, knowing we didn’t spend the small fortune required to make such a place profitable.
We got back into the car and grabbed the GPS.
“What now?” Etch demanded.
“Whatever, it can only get better from here, right?”
I was wrong. Very wrong.
We drove 10 miles further north to find a place called “Double D’s,” assuming it would be another fine entertainment establishment. The drive took us into a neighboring town. Even smaller than where we started – and even more desolate and run down.
The dilapidated buildings lined the street. Double D’s was not in the location the GPS claimed it to be – in fact, nothing was there at all. Most of the business looked like they were closed for good. The town police station was dark, in an old town square store-front. Around the corner, two police cruisers lurked dark and silent.
“Hey, look, “ I said, “it’s Barney Fife and Roscoe P. Coltrane’s cars.”
Etch just laughed. “Good call with the Barney Fife reference. Mayberry… this place probably used to be Mayberry.”
The comment and evening’s activities thus-far must have struck a chord with him. He began to talk about how things were better in our days as youths.
“We didn’t have anyplace with metal detectors. You could go out side and play – there was not such thing as sitting for hours in front of video-games or computers. We had good, modern convenience but life still forced us to be independent and do things for ourselves.”
It’s true. Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, things were a lot different.
We drove on, heading back toward the direction of our hotel. I grabbed the GPS and looked for someplace different. He pulled into a gas station to use the restroom and I found a place closer to our hotel and programmed the GPS to lead us there.
“Where are we going?” Etch asked when he got back into the car.
“Just drive. It can’t get worse.”
Well, it didn’t get worse, but it didn’t get any better.
We drove to the bar I found – the parking lot was empty with the exception of one or two cars. The place looked like it was built from a tool-shed and then expanded by adding on another tool-shed. We walked to the front and peered in through the window before walking in. We saw two elderly men sitting at the bar, smoking. Not exactly the kind of place we were looking for.
We moved on.
“This is ridiculous.” Etch bemoaned. “I’m just going to stop and ask someone for a suggestion.”
We pulled into a Hess station - empty except for a young person tending to the counter. I say young person because from the outside, I would have sworn he was a she – but when Etch returned from asking for directions, he claimed she was a he.
“NO!” I said
“Yeah, you want to go in there and see for yourself?”
“Not really, it doesn’t mean anything to my life.” I settled for not knowing for sure. Not exactly one of the great mysteries eluding man kind anyway. “So what did he suggest?” I asked.
“Well, he said a good place to go is Ham’s.”
“Ham’s? Are you kidding, that’s right next to our hotel! We could have walked there!”
“I know! Who would have thought?”
It was now 11:40PM when we walked into Ham’s and the quiet town was getting quieter. There were about a dozen people in the bar area; a couple still waiting on a take-out order seated at the side of the bar.
“Last call is at midnight,” the bartender called to us as we sat down, “what do you guys want?”
“A bud and a bud light?” Etch responded. “Oh, and how about a couple Jagerbombs.”
I sighed. “You and your fucking Jagerbombs.” I said as I glared at him.
Etch just laughed. “Hey, you liked them that night in Florida.”
“No I didn’t. You ordered them and I drank.”
“Well, and you will again.” He said as the bartender dropped drinks in front of us.
We toasted with our Jagerbombs and drank them as quickly as we could.
“Ugh, this stuff is nasty. Red Bull tastes like cough medicine.” I said as I flipped my glas upside-down on the bar.
“Yeah, but that cough medicine will keep you going for a couple more hours. Better than coffee.” Etch explained. I didn’t need the explanation; I just needed beer to get the taste gone away.
Etch asked the bartender if there are some decent places to go after last call at Ham’s. He suggested a bar, not too far away but last-last call is 2AM. We finished our drinks and headed back to the car. A quick run down the main road found us at a night-club that was definitely more active than anywhere we’ve been all night.
We walked in to find it was a private club. The woman at the front desk explained they will let us in as guests with ID. The cover was reasonable at $3.
We entered the bar and it had a loud, dance-club type atmosphere. Young crowd, many looking like they should still have a curfew, let alone be allowed into such a place. We approached the bar and I bought the first round of beers. The music was so loud, conversation wasn’t possible without screaming at each other from close proximity, so we wandered towards the dance floor to check out the patrons.
Interesting place. Seems like it was more of what we were looking for right along, but we didn’t find it until 90 minutes before last call. I went to the restroom – when I returned Etch had moved from where he was standing, so I wandered a bit to check out other areas of the bar. Making eye contact with the people, but I felt they knew I was a stranger to their area. My beer was running low, so I returned to the bar to get another. Etch was there doing the same.
“And two Jagerbombs.” He shouted to the very petite and attractive bartender.
I looked at him with disdain. “You suck, you know that?” I shouted back at him. Of course, I drank it. But that didn’t make it better.
“Hey, we don’t have a lot of time to drink, so let’s get it done!” he shouted back at me after we both dropped our shot glasses on the bar.
“But why always the Jager? Why not something tastier?”
“What, you’d rather do those fru-fru mellon fruity shots?”
“No, those are gross. Why not some Crown or something?”
“Man, you’ve got more expensive tastes than I do. Always with your wine at dinner, and Crown shots. That’s just not my style.”
“It’s not expensive tastes, “ I countered. “It’s just having… some taste!”
He laughed and started looking around the bar. I felt I may have offended him, but I don’t think he offends easily. He looked to our right and saw a dart board on the wall.
“Want to shoot some darts?”
“Sure.” I’m always game for darts. But we discovered once to the board that there were only two darts there to use, and one was broken.
“Nice.” Etch said, “I’ll tell you what, we each shoot two darts – closest to the bull gets to pick our next shots.”
That was pretty much all the motivation I needed to not have to drink anymore Jagerbombs. I drained a bull with my first attempt.
“You fucker!” Etch shouted. “You’re good at this, aren’t you?”
“Maybe.” I said coyly. “Crown?”
“Yeah, yeah…” he replied. We walked to the bar and I ordered a couple shots of Crown. Smooth, compared to the taste left behind of the Jagerbombs.
We dropped the shot glasses on the bar and started talking to the bartender. She was slim, and wearing a tied up shirt, showing off everything from the bottom of her breasts to her hips.
“We’re closing up in a little while,” she told us, “can I get you anything else?”
“I need to get the taste of that Crown shot gone.” Etch said, “What now?”
“I don’t know… how about a blue motherfucker?”
Etch grinned – he seemed surprised that I would remember that.
“Yeah! Ask her if she knows that one.”
I motioned the bartender back toward us. “Do you know the drink called a blue motherfucker?”
“No,” she replied, “but we have one called a purple motherfucker.”
I looked at Etch. “Purple, blue, it’s all a shade of blue to me.” I said. I turned back to the bartender and began to ask “What is in….” but then my lack of good judgment kicked in, “..you know what, just get us two of those.”
Etch and I looked around the bar, not paying attention, it seemed almost instant that she was dropping the shots in front of us.
“You want one for yourself?” Etch asked her.
“No, I have to go home to my kids, I don’t want to be drinking.” She replied.
We raised our glasses in a toast to life, and drank the shots down.
After a couple more rounds, the night wound down and we headed back to our hotel.
“We got started too late, we should have found that place right after we got out of work.” Etch said as we walked into the hotel lobby.
I pressed the elevator button, “Yeah, what can you do? Next time… we’ll get it right.”