Not many people take late-night strolls along NE Second Avenue between 20th and 26th streets. With the exception of my group and a guy named John, a gay Coolio look-alike, the streets were bare one recent Friday night. A voice out of nowhere asked if we "needed anything." It was John. We declined, but still he followed us as we neared our destination: El Camuy (2519 NE Second Ave., Miami, 305-438-0996), a white nameless building whose façade featured only a door and a neon "Open" sign above it.
Inside, it was nothing more than a small bar with plastic chairs, a few Corona signs, and a jukebox. There was food and beer (Corona and Heineken), and as to be expected, cash only. Our group, comprising three gringos and a punk-rock Cuban, and now John, awkwardly looked for a place to sit while trying not to choke on the tension. All eyes were on us, the obvious outsiders and a motley crew compared to the non-English-speaking Hispanic patrons.
One visibly intoxicated man, no taller than 5-3 with a jet-black soup-bowl cut, blatantly stared at us. At one point he appeared to be having a seizure, but he was actually dancing. His stare was seemingly amorous rather than aggressive. Strangely the clientele were all men. John stood up abruptly, determined to find out from the bouncer if "these here is gay mens." Terrified of an altercation, we anticipated a reply. "No," the bouncer said complacently.
Nearby, a bit of throwup splattered on the floor. A queasy man struggled to compose himself but failed miserably, swallowing his vomit as he ran to the bathroom. Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" played as one of my cohorts ordered a taco.
By the end of the night, John was relentless in his request for five dollars. "I deserve it," he said with a lisp and a smirk. I rolled my eyes and handed the poor bastard two bucks.
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