As John Lennon's raw, razor-like voice croons "I Am the Walrus" from the jukebox, Pauly slouches over an L-shaped bar to take a gulp of his Manhattan.
"Funny that song should play," says the large, fleshy man with thinning hair and Miley Cyrus-brand choppers. "Sure, I may look like a walrus, but I think of myself as more of a bear."
Fox's Sherron Inn
"I'm really hairy, I can sleep for months, I once chugged an entire jar of honey..."
Pauly pauses and leers at a flock of youngish chicks packed into a vinyl booth. They sip bright green cherry-garnished cocktails as their eyes dart around coyly, waiting like a herd of gazelles for a male predator to pounce.
Pauly continues, nudging his chin in their direction.
"And I really like raw fish."
What a dog.
But hey, he did expose his true inner beast. And there's no better watering hole than good old Fox's Sherron Inn (6030 S. Dixie Hwy.; 305-666-2230) to find wild animals. This dark, iconic South Miami dive is known for stiff martinis and seedy, Frank Sinatra-approved red lighting that attracts bar flies like a bug zapper.
Not to mention the after-hours liquor window, located in the rear near a large makeshift patio area, where I meet Tristan, a 27-year-old with shaggy shoulder-length blond hair, bloodshot eyes, and B.O. that only Pepe Le Pew could love.
"I've always thought of myself as a turtle," he says after requesting a bottle of Southern Comfort. Sure, he's a little slow and wearing a large JanSport backpack that resembles a shell. But that doesn't explain why he feels a kinship with la tortuga. No, it's because he's always thought, "If I were boiled and seasoned, I would make a really great soup."
While Tristan looks for oyster crackers to munch with his SoCo, I strike up a conversation with Rob, his black-hoodied friend. He's 32 (but looks more like 42), sports a neat little goatee, and lives with his mom. He also claims to be an up-and-coming DJ. "If anything, I'd be a penguin because I love black people, I love white people, and if there's a Slip 'n' Slide around, I love to slide really fast on my belly," he says, caressing his gut. Then he licks his lips and sniffles.
As I'm about to walk away, he shouts:
"Or a sloth on cocaine!"
Sitting on the patio, I next met Hillary, a 23-year-old who resembles a cute otter. "I'm small and I don't need much," she says. "Just some water, a bit of food, maybe a little plastic scuba diver for company. So I think I'd be a goldfish."
I mishear her (hey, I mentioned Fox's has stiff drinks) and think she says the Grinch. "You mean, that green dude that stole Christmas?"
"You know, speaking of the Grinch, I always felt Angelina Jolie looks just like him, you know, when she cries in movies."
Nearby sits her pretty friend Lauren, who, with paisley-shaped hazel eyes and an athletic build, looks similar to a tigress. "There is something very Muppet-like about Angelina Jolie," she piggybacks. "But that's not her inner animal. If anything, she's a hyena. She waits around for someone else to make a kill, comes in, and steals what's not hers, laughing the entire time."
Wow, kitty's got some claws.
"But I'm not a cat," she says with a Cheshire Cat smile. "If anything, I'm a salmon. I can't decide on what to do with my life, and I feel like I'm always having to stop, rethink things, and start over. Like I'm constantly swimming upstream."
As she says this, I spot Pauly waddling outside for a smoke.
"Be careful," I say to this very small school of vulnerable aquatic creatures. "That guy over there is a total pescetarian."
I re-enter the foxhole of a bar, and even before my vision is clear, I notice Crystal, a loud and sassy 30-year-old who's bucking around like a bronco. She gets up, walks past the ridiculously cheesy wallpapered back dining rooms, and goes into the small, tiled, single-stalled bathroom, where she proceeds to pee with the door wide open.
"I'd be a roach!" she yells over her Niagara-like downpour. "I'm a survivor. I was here for Andrew in '92, was literally down the street when the World Trade Center fell. I've lived through a boyfriend hitting me, three car crashes, an addiction to OxyContin, and I'm still here, making noise. Nothing can take me down. Not even the apocalypse." She flushes the toilet and walks right out the door without washing her hands. Upon sitting down at her booth, she picks up a piece of fried chicken, takes a bite, and licks her fingers.
Hmm, hope she can also survive a case of E. coli.
At the bar sits weasly-looking Alex, a 45-year-old sporting slicked-back black hair and pouring a carafe of olive-colored booze into a martini glass.
"Clearly I'm a lion," he says, scratching his clean-shaven face. "I'm always the king of the jungle everywhere I go, and I like my women fast and weak. I steal their food and kill their young."
"My sister," he offers, completely unsolicited, "she's a kangaroo."
Does she box?
"No," he says, smiling and revealing a grayish front tooth. "Because as a kid, she liked to play this game where she'd hop around the back porch of our house, pretend to be a kangaroo, and poop everywhere. My mom always thought it was our elderly dog who was making that mess, but one day I caught my sister in the act, and ever since, I've called her Roo. And aren't kangaroos hit by cars a lot in Australia?"
I guess so.
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"Yeah, there's also something about her that reminds me of roadkill."
Lion? Scratch that.
This guy is clearly a jackass.