It’s the smell that hits me first, right as I crack the interior door. That rare mix of hairspray, spilled drinks and body glitter that one can’t find anywhere else. Then the music. Some kind of kinetic, driving beat. Metal. Hip-hop. Some Eurotrash rave track. Don’t remember. Doesn’t matter. Finally the blacklight hits my retinas. Decorative, glowing wall fixtures. Overwhitened teeth sitting on the corner. Stains on the carpet.
I see my two new friends waving to me from a table near the central stage. I walk over to them, replaying in my head, the crazy, and random way I ended up here.
I was on my way home.
Walking back to my car from an alumni event. It was a bit of a long walk, as I had not had much luck finding parking, but I didn’t mind. It was a beautiful evening. As I reached my car, I thought to myself that if it hadn’t been a Monday, I might have been looking for a place to happen. As it was, something found me.
“Hey! You from around here?” A voice, gruff and loud, and sounding more than a little drunk, from behind me. Someone I had walked by, but not seen.
Two silhouettes. A Laurel and Hardy pair, standing beside a couple of large motorcycles. Hardy was doing the talking.
“Kind of,” I answered. I like to think of myself as being from lots of places, but this was not the place to get into that sort of detail. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, we’re looking for a bar. Is there a strip club around here?”
I laugh as quietly as I can. “There is. It’s pretty close to here. You must’ve ridden by it. If you go back to the light and take a left - ”
“Can we just follow you there?” Hardy interrupts me. I get my first half-good look at him. He’s a lot larger than I am. Not the kind of person you want to disappoint, I gather.
“Um… sure. It’s basically on my way home from here. Just follow me, and I can signal out the window as we go by it. There’s a sign lit-up outside. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks man! That’s very kind of ‘ya…”
Hardy paused thoughtfully for a moment, and, thinking we were done, I reached for the door handle of my car.
“Hey! You’re coming in to have a drink with us, right?”
Too taken aback by the invitation, I felt, rather than heard the words “Uh, yeah – sure! I’ll see you in there” pass my lips.
Getting behind the wheel of my car, I waited until I heard the revs of their engines before I pulled out, and drove them past the club. I signaled out my window to show that we were there, and Laurel and Hardy pulled over immediately into what I am quite certain was a No Parking zone. I drove up a half block further and pulled into a legal parking space.
Sitting in my car, with the shifter in Park, and my hands at 10 and 2, I had then one of those conversations one only has with one’s self when one stands on the precipice of either disaster or adventure.
I pulled the keys out of the ignition and got out of the car.
Which brings me to this moment. Sitting down across the table from Laurel and Hardy, as a blond girl, reminiscent of a young Kim Cattrall with a nose-piercing dances on the stage in front of us.
Hardy glances across at me. The large man looks like he stepped right out of the dictionary definition of a Harley Davidson Rider. Tall, wide, bearded, with a mane of dark, but greying hair, held back by a black bandana decorated with white scroll work. Black T-Shirt with a skull on it. Camouflage pants. Black leather jacket. The works.
“My name’s Judd.” A huge meathook of a hand, adorned with multiple rings is held across the table.
Of course your name is Judd, I think to myself… it would have to be.
“Nice to meet you Judd. I’m Brian.”
It’s not a meathook. It’s a vice. And it’s crushing the life out of my hand. I make the effort to keep smiling.
Judd points to Laurel. “This is my cousin – “ and for the life of me, the name of Judd’s cousin is lost forever to the mists of time.
Judd’s cousin does not look at all like Judd. Judd’s cousin (let’s continue to call him Laurel for the sake of simplicity) looks like a boy-band version of a biker. Skinny, with a late-90s Justin Timberlake haircut, he wears but the thinnest veneer of biker badassery. The jeans are too crisp, and too expensive-looking. The white T-Shirt is too clean; too bright. And the thin, black leather vest looks like it could have been worn by one of the girls on stage.
Not that I said I any of that.
“Nice to meet you both.” Still smiling.
“We’re with the Hell’s Angels!” Judd makes the statement with undisguised pride and glee. The look he gives me is an expectant one.
I purse my lips and nod. “Cool!” is all I can bring myself to say as my brain processes my situation.
Judd tells me where they’re from, and where they’re going. One of those places is Connecticut, but I can’t remember which one.
“Where are you from?”
Again, a question I can answer a dozen different ways. I opt for simplicity. “Canada.”
“Canada, huh?” Judd furrows his brow and then smiles. “We have Hell’s Angels there!”
I can’t help but laugh. “You do have Hell’s Angels up there. You’re a bit of a big deal up in Montreal. Lotta strip clubs there.”
Judd nods. “So, Brian – What are you drinkin’?”
If ever a situation called for sobriety, this is the situation. “You know, I have to drive home, and I have an early day tomorrow. Would it be OK if I just had a ginger ale?”
“A ginger ale???”
“Well, I guess you don’t want to be gettin’ one of those D-U-I’s do ‘ya?” Judd waves over our rather less-than-attractive waitress and orders me my ginger ale.
|It is the champagne of ginger ale, after all...|
Once I have my drink in hand, the conversation tails off, and Judd and his cousin turn their attention to the girls.
There’s a kinship of sorts, between the communities of people who exist on society's fringes. I always suspected that, but never had entry to the places where it was made visible. Tonight, I was on the list. Every girl in the club wanted to come over to chat with us. And not for the usual, George Washington-related reasons. These were honest-to-goodness conversations going on. Like friends-of-friends meeting each other for the first time at a house party. It was amazing to behold.
I wondered what the other patrons in the club (which was surprisingly full for a Monday) must have thought at the sight of two bona-fide Hell’s Angels hanging out with a skinny, Asian guy wearing slacks and a pressed button-down. Two bikers and their accountant? Or perhaps their legal counsel? Maybe a Yakuza ambassador if someone’s thoughts went along lines of badassery…
Before long, Laurel had our young Kim Cattrall in his lap, cooing in his ear, and, conscious of being a third wheel, Judd returned to making conversation with me.
“Look at this place Brian... Look at all these women! God made them all different. No two of them are the same... But y'know what? They’re all beautiful.”
I set down my ginger ale, as yet more of my preconceptions were shattered into psychological dust.
“Wow. That’s pretty darn poetic there Judd.”
A song ends. Stage rotation. Two brunettes step down off their pedestals and sit with us. The usual small talk. Introductions. Short bios. I stop to think about the fact that we received their actual names (which I won’t repeat here, as I feel like it would be unethical somehow) and feel very… privileged. Like I’ve been included within a circle of trust to which I have no right to belong.
And at that moment, a realization strikes me: Tonight, I have carte blanche to do almost anything. The conventional rules I am usually subject to don’t apply tonight. If I want to start a fight here, Judd and his cousin would have my back. If I want to drink myself into a stupor and make a fool out of myself, Judd and his cousin would gladly join me at the bottom of any bottle. If I want to get a stripper’s real phone number, with Judd and his cousin as wingmen, I could probably get three. Hell, I’m probably only two conversations away from doing lines of coke off of a stripper’s ass if I want to.
That’s a lot of power.
I take another sip of my ginger ale and return my attention to our two brunettes. Judd is getting rowdy.
“Let’s do some shots!”
Hey, I think to myself, that’s usually my line…
I decline the invitation, but I’m not sure Judd heard me. He calls the waitress over and orders shots. I think I hear the word “Jaeger” but no number. I find myself thinking of ways to get out of doing a shot of Jaeger without breaking my little masquerade, but am instead relieved when only two shots show up.
The brunette nearest to me grabs her shot immediately and slams it down. I'm impressed.
The other brunette hesitates three seconds… which is one second too long.
At two seconds, Judd’s vicegrip hand reaches out, grabs the shot and the Jaeger disappears into his beard, and down his throat. He may have eaten the shotglass afterword, but I can't be sure.
The look on the hesistant brunette’s face as her shot is stolen from her by the man who bought it for her, is priceless, and her co-worker and I share a laugh and a high-five at her expense.
I finish my ginger ale.
It’s time to go.
I get up from my chair. “Hey Judd, it’s been great hanging out with you, but I’m afraid I have to go. Got an early day tomorrow.”
Judd gets up and gives me the kind of aggressively macho, back-slapping hug that leaves bruises on someone who isn’t wearing leather armor.
“It was great meeting you too, Brian. When you get back to Canada, you can tell all your friends that you had a drink with The Hell’s Angels!”
“I will, Judd. I will.”