In honor of Valentine's Day, Short Order offers a three-part story on a date gone wrong.
We scooted across Biscayne to Jamboree Lounge (7005 Biscayne Blvd.). Now, the outside of this joint, with the playful font on its sign and the warm red and green lights that shine across its door, had me expecting a hee-haw style American pub, maybe with banjo music and peanuts-in-the-shell. So I was a little confused at the locked down front door, complete with doorbell and buzzer system.
Once inside, it made more sense. It turned out to be a flea bag gay club. When my eyes adjusted, I took in the short, shirtless, and grimey-looking guy behind the bar. Next, I marveled at the tinsel-wrapped stripper pole in the corner. Finally, I absorbed with awe the images of two naked guys chewing on each others' balls on the TV screen on the wall.
"Maybe we could, uh, not stay here," I said, backing toward the door.
"I have to say, I've never had a date take me to a gay strip club before," Ken chuckled. He did not back up. "Come on, let's at least sit and have a beer. It will make a better story."
That fateful compatibility question, about the importance of a sense of humor, came immediately to mind. This guy did not realize that stumbling into the bar accidentally was funny, but that hanging out a while was just totally creepy.
We tried to continue our conversation about Hitchcock, but the ball chewing proved to be too much of a distraction.
"I really can't believe you brought me here," he joked.
"Listen, walking in the door was my mistake, but an innocent accident. I'm not the one who wanted to get comfortable here," I said, trying to be assertive without being offensive, and at the same time wondering why I was so concerned with being benign.
One of the patrons, a 50-something who looked like he was coming down off a four-day meth binge, leaned in and asked Ken a question.
"No, this is our first time here. Came in on accident," Ken replied.
"Yeah, I came in 'on accident' a couple years ago, and I haven't left yet," the man countered wryly.
Ken polished off his Bud Light and slammed it down in an exaggerated gesture. "Let's go!" he exclaimed.
We headed for the door. He suggested we have a nightcap, and I pointed out Uva 69 (6900 Biscayne Blvd.) across the street. "Hopefully this place isn't as raw as the last one we stumbled into," I said, praying that the '69' in the restaurant's name simply denoted the street it's on.
We walked in and settled on a low modern couch on an outdoor patio. It was after ten, and things were winding down in the Barcelona-style bistro. Trying to be pleasant all night had worn me out, and I could feel myself getting stupid with fatigue. I ordered a club soda to Ken's Tanqueray and tonic.
"I don't like gin," Ken said. He flashed me a shy smile. "I order it when I want to make sure I just sip and don't get wasted."
I found the comment kind of humble-cute, and had to wonder whether I had somehow misinterpreted the scolding over my lack of applause. Maybe I had judged him too harshly about wanting to linger in the gay bar.
"Be right back," he said. He headed for the men's room, and as he walked away I smirked at the swirly embroidery on the ass pockets of his jeans. "He probably thinks that's hip," I mused, and I entertained the notion that maybe, like me, he had no fucking clue what he was doing.
I gave in somewhat to gravity, letting my shoulders press into the couch. Ken returned, and I became vaguely aware that my right knee was touching his left. Somehow I ended up rambling about those fluorescent V.I.P. bracelets they give you in clubs. I lost track of what I was saying, and trailed off in the middle of the inane thought.
And then, he was grinning at me again. Except now closer, and ... yep, he was about to kiss me. It seemed like such a non-sequitur that I almost laughed in his mouth. But instead, I kissed back. He started playing this coy game where he pulled his face away in the middle of a kiss.
I was instantly tired of it and thought to myself, "Wow, this guy really thinks he's good at this." Suddenly, all the pieces of the douche-bag puzzle fit together, my softened picture of him quickly melting away. I wondered why the hell I was still here. I suggested we leave.
"Not until I finish my drink," he answered with authority. He had about a milliliter of liquid at the bottom of his glass.
Finally, we walked back to our cars and said good night. The sight of his Mercedes inspired in me a kind of senseless disgust. As he approached it, he turned back and gave me this squinty-eyed last look that was supposed to be kind of secretive and meaningful.
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He thinks he's done a really great job on this date, I thought. He thinks he's ready to write a book on wooing women.
Slipping into my messy Hyundai Accent, I realized I'd been a wimp, but I tried not to be too hard on myself. Old habits ― bad habits, ― die hard, but I'd be better next time.
But with Ken, of course, there would be no next time.