It's not yet midnight and every local lush and barfly within ten miles of Washington Avenue has made way to the little spot on Española known as Lost Weekend. Women drink free from ten till two, so bar scene-savvy men show up early to offer companionship to the complimentarily inebriated maidens. No time to lose in washing down the no-cost booze.
There is nothing high-end about this assembly. No Ocean Drive price tags dangling from anybody's clothes; no modeling contracts waiting to be signed back in the room. Walter, a yacht captain from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, has steered serendipitously into this local hangout.
"I have trouble meeting these girls," the skipper grouses.
218 Espaola Way, Miami Beach
Opens 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. daily No cover. Call 305-672-1707.
"Dude, there are women everywhere. It's Ladies' Night," a helpful local points out.
"Maybe I just want to meet a different kind of girl," the seaman complains. Like Columbus, the seafarer hasn't landed where he hoped he would. He changes tack and heads back out into the night.
Now wait a minute, matey, these may not be your South Beach fantasy cover girls, but they are certainly seaworthy. What's not to like about hippie chicks in hip-huggers; buxom, braided black beauties; and curvy Colombian cuties all banging brews and sharpening cues? Ships ahoy!
One group of lasses accepts a challenge to shoot a few rounds with a rosy-cheeked lad named Brad. Brad's a bit of an over-the-hill lad, well past 40 and weathered by drink. He's wearing this summer's most fashionable ensemble: khaki shorts, flat-tire canvas sneakers, and a shirt promoting bass fishing stretched over his biologically enhanced liquid grain storage facility (that is, his beer belly).
No matter. The Molotov ladies take him on and take turns poking at balls with a single cue, all the while hoping the balls will magically sink in the pocket. Not a lot of skill here. Just some eyelash-batting and cleavage-revealing to go with the obligatory butt shot from bending too far across the table.
Then what promised to be a friendly game of pool among some newly acquainted drinking buddies turns into an all-out shoot-out with a local Rudolf Wanderone.
"C'mon, man, the ball went in," complains thwarted ace Karen. "I didn't have to call that pocket."
Brad ignores her and aims the nine ball at the corner pocket. While the women cackle and sympathetic men surround the table to support their sex, Minnesota Brad wears his ESPN2 game face. This is for all the money, baby.
"Dude, you are taking this way too seriously," chides one of the men hoping to get in good with the losers.
"Can you please move out of the way?" commands the obsessed competitor. "I am trying to play pool here."
He chalks up, surveys the table, then attacks the remaining balls with methodical precision. The only time this pool shark emerges from the murky waters of his concentration is to refill the dark ale waiting for him off to the side.
"Hey, are you drinkin' my beer?" Brad accuses a startled spectator before taking the winning shot.
Meanwhile, at other tables, winning the game has nothing to do with sinking the eight ball.
"You got me another Jägermeister?" asks one surprised competitor.
"Yeah, c'mon, do another shot with me," implores her rival, a Birkenstocked Argentine.
"I get sick whenever I drink these," reveals the besotted woman a nanosecond before wincing and throwing back the stomach-turning concoction.
Judging by the look on her face, this will not be the night she proves her theory wrong. The would-be love machine has sabotaged his own nefarious scheme.
If the pool tables host more Hustler than hustlers, the foosball table separates the gals from the gladiators. Recreation-room warriors tilt the table and roar like shirted Neanderthals. Elbowed out, girlfriends and groupies look on and scream, shaking to the 808 beats of the Beastie Boys' "Brass Monkey."
A baseball-capped nomad approaches the unattached party girls with a fresh, sudsy pitcher. He mouths along with the Cars' Rick Ocasek: I don't mind you coming here/And wasting all my time/'Cause when you're standing oh so near/I kinda lose my mind. Plastic cups appear just in time to catch the flowing barley and hops. "Just What I Needed," indeed.
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Who is the DJ mixing up the fly new joints and old-school jammies for this mating round robin? Who's spinning everything from Fat Joe and Ashanti asking "What's Luv?" to Axl Rose belting out "Sweet Child O' Mine"? We don't need no stinkin' DJ. Put another dollar in the jukebox, baby.
By the time the free well drinks and beer get cut off at 2:00 a.m., freak-mode is here. The Playboy pinball machine rings out in time with the music. The video-game poker players keep feeding quarters hoping to get all cherries and hit the jackpot. Some of our hunters are gathering up their prizes and leaving. Talk about cheap dates.
Our conservative fish out of water, Walter, wanders back to Lost Weekend after testing other equally unsuccessful waters. "I have trouble meeting these girls," he gripes again.
You're charting the wrong course, Cap'n. Quality conversation isn't at issue here. No brain surgery or bankrolls required. For better or worse, Lost Weekend has done all the talking for you. Free liquor in the front. Video poker in the back. Land, ho!