By Michael E. Miller
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For an inanimate object, Tobacco Road (626 S. Miami Ave.; 305-374-1198) has sure done a whole lot of living. Open (legally) since 1912, when it obtained Miami-Dade's first liquor license, this legendary pub has provided booze-filled teapots to Al Capone during Prohibition; witnessed B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, and George Clinton perform live; and survived hurricanes, police raids, and a visit from the critically acclaimed culinary powerhouse Playboy Brazil, which dubbed Pepaw T.R.'s burgers the best in the world (you and your Nobel Peace Prize can suck it, Obama).
Plus, for kitsch's sake, the bar has snagged and preserved one totally sweet flashback from the '70s — a Scarface-esque, zigzagged mirror-topped table located upstairs and in front of a stage that has been a cornerstone for many a local band. And it's apparent that after a recent weekend-long (and tapioca pudding-free) 97th birthday bash too big to hold on the Road's wooden outdoor deck alone (crowds, a makeshift stage, and vendor tents spilled into the parking lot), this granddaddy of a subtropical saloon ain't slowing down anytime soon.
Which is fine. But is this bar, with such a colorful history, outliving us — actual living, breathing, animate objects? Or do the people of the Magic City have some awesome aspirations to fulfill before we reach the ripe, old (haggard, grumpy, liver-spotted, and Matlock-loving) age of 97?
"I'd like to have sex with a midget in a bunny suit," says Keith, a bloodshot-eyed, weathered 45-year-old wearing a purple suede top hat and drinking a 97-cent Malibu-and-pineapple out of a clear plastic cup.
Seriously? You wouldn't rather swim with dolphins? Go skydiving? Ride a bicycle on the Great Wall of China? Preferably with Morgan Freeman in tow?
"No," Keith decidedly says as he chugs his extremely masculine drink. "Think about it: If I can pull something like that off, to me, it means my life has been a success. Either I have the money or the social skills necessary to convince a midget to have sex with me in a bunny suit. It's like... the Holy Grail."
Fair enough. So I turn to his 30-something friend Matt, who sports wavy, shoulder-length dark hair and — despite earning man cred for drinking whiskey on the rocks — a very snug, long-sleeve polyester blouse complete with a psychedelic pattern.
"By the time I'm 97, I'd like to have a threesome with Jessica Simpson and Scarlett Johansson," he says with a Hugh Hefner smirk.
In an attempt to stay, ahem, abreast with his slightly younger companion, Keith piggybacks with his picks: "I'd like one with the girl from Mad Men — Christina Hendricks — and maybe one of those big supermodels from the '90s, like Cindy Crawford."
"Ugh, not Cindy," says Matt, looking slightly repulsed by the thought of the gorgeous, ageless Rooms to Go furniture slinger. "She's so overexposed. Claudia Schiffer is a much better pick. You know what? I'm going to switch out Jessica for Claudia," he says as if this is an actuality.
And perhaps it is. Schiffer did date David Copperfield, and Matt resembles a magician — from New Jersey.
As the busted men continue to squabble over busty women, I decide it's time to embark on a threesome of my own — with gin and tonic — and head to the bar, where I meet Jenea. Willowy and tall, this 28-year-old has a lofty ambition:
"I want to walk on the moon," she says in a voice as sweet and unique as astronaut ice cream. And it's not because she wants to do the moonwalk while sharing homemade moonshine with Aqua Teen Hunger Force's Mooninites.
"I just think it'd be really cool to experience weightlessness and see the Earth in a different perspective. It just seems like it'd be one of those experiences that are too unbelievable to feel real. Not to mention it's almost as far as any other man has traveled."
Or woman for that matter, which is a gender that Ricky, a handsome blond 30-something actor, has a bit of an issue with:
"I want to beat a bitch before I die," he says. "Not really, but at the very least I'd like to strangle one sexually. See, when I was 18, a girlfriend of mine asked me to choke her in bed. She also asked me to do this after she told me a little story about how her last boyfriend used to do it to her all the time and once got so carried away that he left black-and-blue marks all over her neck.
"Her parents saw it and freaked out. When they asked what happened, instead of admitting she was into kinky sex, she told them that her boyfriend beat her! And they called the cops on him! And that's when she asked me to do the same to her. Of course, I flipped out and broke up with her. But now that I'm older and looking back... I think that may have been something I might've been into."
Ready to snuff this conversation and lured by the siren song of local act Afrobeta, performing in the parking lot on a makeshift stage, I take my chances with lady luck and talk to another female, Wren, a dark-haired, blue-eyed 25-year-old beauty with shiny red lips.