The door to Our Place Lounge & Liquors swung open just as I was about to enter. Out came former Miami Heat player and current assistant coach Keith Askins. "Keith! Wassup buddy? We're gonna house it up with Shaq. Are you going to suit up for practice?" I shouted. Askins just shook my hand, smiled, and nodded on the go. Oh well, I'm used to having my silly questions ignored.
Walking into Our Place was like entering a portal to another world far, far away from my usual South Beach stomping grounds. The actual bar was not only the centerpiece of the joint; it was shaped like a hexagon. The patrons were unlike any I'm used to seeing. Their ages ranged from early twenties to midfifties, and most of them were American (only in South Florida is it appropriate to describe someone as American).
That night, I was trotting in with over-the-top personality/pseudo philosopher Chibe B. Free and a couple of lady friends from the neighborhood. As we walked around the bar, stares rained down from all around. The place is packed with shorts, sandals, and a random sampling of the most obnoxious Hawaiian shirts I've ever seen, so I guess I should have donned an outfit that made me stick out less rather than my metrosexual ensemble of a Guess button-down shirt, faded jeans, and black Kenneth Cole shoes (my "Eat My Ass" T-shirt and K-Swiss kicks felt too sick to go out that evening).
I immediately ordered a round of Jägermeister shots and screwdrivers for my entourage. To my pleasant surprise, I got the tab back and it was only $30 for four drinks and four shots! I thought it was a mistake, but the bartender assured me I was not on MTV's Punk'd. "Only famous people get on that show, kid," the blond femme fatale bartender explained. I then got into an argument with the hoodlums seated next to us.
"Ricky Williams is a pussy, a fucking faggot. Let him go smoke all the weed he wants, I won't sell him any," said hoodrat numero uno.
"Ricky Williams doesn't owe us shit," I interrupted, adding that my opinion counts more than theirs because I write for an esteemed publication.
"Oh, you're Dan LeRetard, aren't you?" said hoodrat numero dos.
"No, but I'm sure if he was here he'd thank you for the misidentification. "
The rest of the night at Our Place was spent listening to toxically inebriated people singing karaoke. A ponytailed Glenn Danzig wannabe played host, though he often bumped those who signed up to sing so he could perform himself. I finally worked up the nerve and the buzz to do a rendition of my favorite band Sublime's "Santeria." It should have been one of my proudest moments as I stood up there, thrusting my vocals and pelvis at an awed crowd. There I was, singing, "Tell Sanchito that if he knows what is good for him, he best go run and hide," but before I could hit, "Daddy's got a new 45," the karaoke machine cut out. For a few seconds it was just my voice, no background music. Subsequently, I got hit in the head by an ice cube. I'd like to believe it was just an accident, but I know better.
After soaking up the charming atmosphere at Our Place, and coming to the realization that I would not be getting lucky with either of the two women I was with (both of them were still married to men who needed papers to become citizens, and were experiencing a bout of guilt from going out with a touchy-feely scoundrel like me), I headed home via Normandy Drive. That's when I stopped at Happy's Stork Lounge.
If any place epitomizes dive bar, it's Happy's Stork. It's dark, damp, and completely barren of color aside from a few neon signs. A pool table takes up one end, and old trader cards depicting yesteryear's sports stars are strewn throughout this hole in the wall. And they have a Jäger pourer.
A large man in his forties walked out of the adjacent liquor store into the bar and plopped his wide load next to me.
"Are you a faggot?" he asked me.
The out-of-the-blue question was straight out of William Burroughs's Naked Lunch. So I said, "No, not by nature, but recent circumstances have forced me to consider that..." Then I explained that I was just quoting from a book, adding, "Why? Does it look like I am?"
"These days you can never tell, so I ask before I sit next to somebody here," he said.
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"Are you gay?" I asked him.
"Do I look like I am?" he responded.
Thinking that I was being mocked, I answered, "Yes."
"Well, I have to admit, I'd probably fuck you."