Friday, September 26, 2014

Hungry Like the Wolf: Some Guy Hesitates

Hello, Readers.  Well, it’s the off season for The Bachelor and its progeny and that means that most of you are busy planning your fall decorations, getting your Christmas shopping lists in good order, and lamenting the fact that a brand spanking new episode of the show we love to hate is not waiting anxiously for you atop the Recorded Programs list on your DVR when you turn on the TV.  There’s always The Good Wife, I suppose. 

As I thought long and hard about this particular post, I realized two things:

A.              I haven’t revisited the folly of my youth in quite some time; and
B.              After watching Bachelor in Paradise for all of you, I’m entitled to a little self indulgence. 

Humor me, would you?

For those of you who care to read me in the off season, you’ll recall several stories involving the community pool in the town where I grew up.  Enjoy them again or for the first time below.  

The following story encompasses some of the themes in those stories but took place years later when Some Guy was an optimistic (and often drunk) college student in my beloved Austin, Texas struggling to pay bills and forge a path across that overgrown, craggy pasture known as life. 


When I was an undergraduate, I bartended my way through school.  As you can imagine, that is—to say the least—a target rich environment.  Everyone loves the person who pours the drinks and the person who pours the drinks loves everyone who stuffs an extra dollar in the jar on the counter. 

Like any other profession—yes, bartending is a ‘profession’—the universe tends to shrink upon itself as people quit, get fired, or go to work at some trendy hotspot in search of a bump in those coveted “extra dollars” we all needed to keep eviction notices off our dirty apartment doors and our phone service on so our mothers could call and make sure we’d made it home from the night before.  In short, in college there wasn’t a stranger behind any bar in town and I liked it that way. 

Incidentally, it was at that time that a certain Brad Womack and his brother Chad were introduced to me.  Both were “bar backs,” or the guys who kept the pint glasses clean and the ice bin filled in exchange for a cut of the tip money and a pat on the rear end at the end of the night.  Say what you want about the Brad Womack but there’s no doubt he’s never been afraid of hard work and he built what he has from the ground up.  Most of that took place before he refused to propose to DeAnna, by the way.  I digress, but I figured you’d enjoy the tie-in.   Annyyyyyhoo…

I lived with my twin brother for most of my college career.  The end of that little experiment is a blog post in and of itself.  However, when we parted ways I lived with the infamous Lenny, a guy named Scott, and the also infamous Ted (see A Friend Does His Duty link above).  Lenny bartended too and where I failed to have connections, he did. 

We spent a lot of time at the Chili’s next door to the restaurant where Lenny worked because Bruce, the manager, was always glad to see us.  How glad?  Glad enough to comp a few rounds of drinks which, after all, was the object of our little game.  I spent a lot of time talking to Bruce about everything from his hunting cabin to the bloomin’ onion. 

One of the places close to our house and filled with the aforementioned heavy pouring restaurant staff was a local Hooters.  I know, Hooters.  Look, to a 21 year old starving college student the prospect of heavily discounted drinks poured by a half-naked, nubile veterinary medicine major with a smile on her face was too much to resist.  We went there a lot. 

At that time, Hooters was the only Breastaurant in town and the staff warranted a little more attention than the slugs they hire these days.  It wasn’t exactly classy, but it wasn’t yet a weigh station on the way to the stripper pole either.  Our real friend there was a girl named (we’ll call her) Jenn. 

Jenn was a dead ringer for Jennifer Aniston except she didn’t smoke uncontrollably and never dated John Mayer.  She was cute, fun, and just a few months away from veterinary school.  Unlike some of the other professional junior college hangers on, Jenn “got it” and she was always glad when our bunch came in for a visit.  I had a small crush. 

Selfishly, we also loved the fact that she was an instant segue for us to meet the rest of the girls.  She was happy to play her part and thankful she didn’t have to wait on some fifty year old alcoholic who’d eventually ask her out after a few pops and a dozen hot wings.    

Jenn was friends with a girl named Amy and another girl named Elizabeth.  Amy was attractive and fun  as well.  She had a very pronounced Waco accent which meant that everything she uttered sounded either funny or dirty.  She had a very pleasant look about her but wasn’t the type to immediately turn heads when she entered a room.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, was quite special to us all.  She was absolutely drop dead gorgeous and the only thing greater than her attractiveness was her utter lack of a brain. 

I cannot impress upon you how dumb she was.  An example?  Sure. 

Ted spent a few months one summer living in Germany with his older brother who was a chef.  Every few years, his brother would move to a different part of the world to learn the cuisine and Ted would go and visit.  Elizabeth and Jenn were at our table one evening and we were discussing Ted’s summer stint in Germany. 

After pausing to absorb the story, Elizabeth looked skyward, took a deep breath, and said, “I think it would be so neat to live somewhere on a totally other continent.” 

“Oh yea, why is that,” I prodded, knowing I was teeing up a dead solid perfect ball for her to hit down the fairway. 

“I mean it would be so neat to see how they like celebrate Thanksgiving over there.”

Bless her orange shorts and tank top wearing heart.  It was on this same night that Elizabeth got the nickname that sticks with her memory to this day.  After she left the table, I said aloud to the group, “She’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, is she.”  Scott, without either hesitating or taking his eyes off of her from across the restaurant said, “she can be a spoon for all I care.”  From that moment on Elizabeth was known as The Spoon. 

Cut to a few pitchers of beer past good judgment and the end of the shift.  Scott and Lenny had left an hour ago to go meet Lenny’s cousin at a bar Ted and I didn’t like.  Ted knew I had “a thing” for Jenn and he chose to stick around to try and assist me in trying to make that “thing” happen.  It didn’t hurt that Jenn promised to make sure that Amy and The Spoon would join us after their shifts.  

Ted and I waited patiently by playing shuffleboard across the closed restaurant floor with sugar caddies and gambling with the Hooters manager while the girls did their closing sidework. Ted ended up taking the guy for eighty bucks and to pay up he comped our entire bar and food tab.  Those were indeed “the days.” 

Around midnight, the girls got done and we all hopped in Ted’s car and headed for our oasis:  Sixth Street in downtown Austin.  On the way there, the girls pounded shots of Jaegermeister from a bottle that one of them (the classiest one, no doubt) had smuggled into her bag while simultaneously stripping off the Hooters uniforms in exchange for something more comfortable but not quite as tasteful as the orange shorts.  Man, I miss college.  

We parked, took a shot with the girls as they took turns in the passenger seat checking their hair and makeup in the visor mirror and we headed to our favorite bar in search of whatever the rest of the night had to offer.  The Spoon looked stunning but I reminded myself that my goal was to ask Jenn out on a real date before the night was over. 

Here’s where it gets interesting. 

It’s essential for me to provide some insight as to what it was like to go out on Sixth Street with a girl the caliber of The Spoon.  If horny guys were mosquitoes, going out with The Spoon was like walking through an African jungle covered in sugar without the benefit of bug spray.  One had to be very careful where he allowed The Spoon to be displayed.  

The Spoon was, of course, oblivious to the shower of testosterone-driven attention she would get and would say things like, “gosh, everyone is so nice here,” or “there’s not even a line at the bar.”  If ignorance is truly bliss then The Spoon was the happiest person in Austin, if not all of Texas. 

The next hour consisted of Ted, Amy, Jenn, and I sipping beers and watching The Spoon get hit on by every guy in the bar.  There were several times when Jenn and I were alone at the bar but the moment never seemed right for me to ask her out.  Each time I failed to swing, I told myself that the night was not over yet.  I vowed to push ahead. 

At 1:30 a.m. the bar lights flickered signaling almost last call and I ordered another drink hoping that it might provide the courage I lacked.  Ted did the same and before the drinks were served The Spoon announced that she would like to go dancing. 

Another history lesson is in order.  At that time what is now known as “Dirty Sixth” was the only game in town for bars, give or take some great dives peppered around town.  Everything closed at 2am with the exception of two places.  One was known as The Buffalo Club.  It was an after hours college bar that (thankfully) served cold water and played pop music at an obnoxious volume until 4am.  A visit there was inevitably followed by a trip to Denny’s or Taco Cabana before passing out in anticipation of waking up smelling like a hobo and praying it was your own bed (or at least your own residence) you passed out in. 

The other place was a gay bar.  You can guess where The Spoon wanted to go. 

Let me just say this before the politically correct ones in the bunch get all uppity about my gay bar protest.  My reticence stemmed not from the fact that I would either be recruited or converted but rather from the fact that a gay dance club did not serve my interest at the time.  I needed precious one-on-one time in a subdued environment, not Duran Duran and sangria. 

As we approached the club, one of the only bars on Congress Avenue at that time, I grabbed Jenn’s hand and said, “please don’t abandon me.”  She laughed, squeezed my hand, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m sure there are plenty of cute guys in there who’d love to dance with you.”  “Maybe I’ll be The Spoon this time,” I said.  We laughed together as we entered the atrium of the bar. 

Just past the podium and cash register manned by a college girl and a guy in a skin-tight tank top and even tighter jeans blared “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran and I could see literally hundreds of shirtless man dancing in unison to their anthem.  “Must they perpetuate the stereotype,” I wondered. 

Ted and I hung back a bit as the girls paid their cover and walked past Freddie Mercury after he stamped their hands and opened the magical copper clip on the velvet rope signifying the boundary between my world and a bunch of hungry wolves.  Oddly enough, no one approached The Spoon. 

The girls put their ID’s back in their clutch purses and looked back at Ted and me as if to ask, “now’s the time, boys, are you coming in or not?”  Ted knew I still had business to take care of and he never minded looking at The Spoon.  We looked each other in the eye, nodded, and simultaneously took our shirts off, paid our cover, and walked into the bar. 

Jenn grabbed my hand, Amy grabbed Ted’s, and The Spoon parted the sea of Jordache jeans and suntan lotion as we searched in the dark corners of the club for a table.   We found one and I quickly headed to the bar across the dance floor just in time for last call. 

As I sat there waiting to make eye contact with the bartender, I smiled.  I knew I’d be back sitting next to Jenn in no time and my spontaneous decision to remove my shirt and jump out of my comfort zone to be with her would provide the perfect background for me to ask her on a real date. 

It was at that moment I heard my name.  “Some Guy?”  “Some Guy, is that you?” 

As I turned to my left . . . shirtless and glistening in sweat . . . alone . . . with a twenty dollar bill in my hand, I saw Bruce.  Remember Bruce?  He was the manager at the Chili’s next door to where Lenny worked.  You know, the guy I spent hours talking to about his lonely hunting cabin in the woods.   Like me, Bruce was shirtless and in search of a drink . . . and I assumed more than some hunting cabin chatter. 

“I had no idea he was gay,” I thought.  

It occurred to me that Bruce was simultaneously having the same thought about me. 

“Who are you here with,” he asked. 

Nervous and searching for common ground (I mean aside from the fact that we were both trying to make last call before dancing the rest of the night away to Duran Duran), I stuck with what we had in common.

“I’m here with my roommate, Ted.”   

Not the answer I was searching for.  The funny part about that exchange is where my mind went at the time.  First, I was actually excited that Bruce thought I was a Friend of Dorothy because it would mean a few extra drinks at the bar next time we went in there.   Granted, it would probably mean a strawberry daiquiri, but I wasn’t going to scoff at free booze. 

After I “outed” myself by giving him the impression that I was on a date with Ted, I became concerned that I might no longer enjoy the type of attention that Bruce was accustomed to giving me.  I’d courted, dated, and broken up with Bruce in less than 90 seconds.   

After nodding to Bruce and getting my drink, I sauntered back across the dance floor and sat next to Jenn in the booth we’d secured earlier.  The Spoon was on the dance floor and Ted and Amy were getting friendly across the table. 

On the way out, Jenn hailed a cab for the three girls because their apartment complex was in the opposite direction of our place.  Ted and I got a kiss on the cheek from Jenn and Amy and we both got an enthusiastic hug from a drunken Spoon.  “This was so much fun,” she bubbled.  “We should totally go out on a Friday night again.” 

“Sounds great,” I said.  “How about tomorrow?” 

“Call us,” she said, as Jenn and Amy rolled their eyes laughing. 

God bless her orange short and tight t-shirt wearing heart. 

For the record, I never did ask Jenn out on that date.  So much of life is timing, especially when it comes to romance.  She and I remained friends for several years and then, like most things we hold dear in our youth, she simply faded away; her presence replaced by the fond memory of our brief friendship. 

Also for the record, Bruce never asked me out.

Well, there it is.  Long, convoluted, and self-indulgent.  Thanks for humoring me.  Enjoy the off-season and, if you’re inclined to ask someone out, don’t think about it.   Do it and see what happens.  I’ll write as soon as inspiration finds me.  In the mean time, I’ll be headed to Germany to celebrate Thanksgiving on a Friday.  DP