Monday, August 24, 2009

PBR Promenade

So this weekend was somewhat of a rarity in that I changed out of my sweat-wicking fabrics and actually had Things to Do on both Friday and Saturday nights, things that didn't involve licking Cool Ranch seasonings from my fingernails, ThermaCare HeatWraps, and watching Dateline reruns about trophy wives who'd been tossed into one of the lesser oceans.

By Things to Do, I mean back-to-back concerts at my favorite un-airconditioned local music venue, a pair of evenings full of excesses that left my ears ringing and my liver wracked with sobs. I'm far from having a social conscience--or any conscience at all, really, since my baby one fell out and my permanent one has yet to take its place--but I do think that two of the most important things you can do in your own ZIP code are drinking your coffee from an indie shop and supporting your local music scene. I've adopted one particular bar as my fave, the kind of place that decorates with bowling pins and rusted signs, has floors that can easily be hosed down at closing time, and a variety of vinyl-covered seating options that will keep a piece of your thigh skin as a souvenir if you stand up too quickly.

Saturday night's show was by American Aquarium, a six-piece band from Raleigh who serves up slabs of alt-country with a side of Springsteen and garnished lightly with Ryan Adams. The lead singer, BJ Barham, crams a lot of attitude into his skinny jeans, telling stories about strip clubs in between songs about broken hearts and empty bottles. "If y'all wanna keep sendin' us shots, that would be great," he said, with an accent thick enough to sop up with a biscuit. "Cause it feels good in our tummies."

The place was overstuffed with an interesting all-ages crowd who ranged from Wet Seal to Withered Cougar. There were popped collars and madras shorts. There were Skoal rings and unfiltered Marlboros. And they were all shouting out the choruses to songs like "I Hope He Breaks Your Heart"--formerly known as "The Whore Song"--and "Ain't Going to the Bar Tonight".

Writhing in front of the stage was a pack of newly-minted college freshman who had swapped their free credit card t-shirts for spaghetti strap tanks. They all had identical asymmetrical haircuts and identical dance moves as they bounced and gyrated with their arms fully extended over their heads, a gesture that made the more coordinated look like they'd recently watched the Pole Katz Stripper Skillz DVD while the less-talented ones looked like they were trying to block a free throw.

Collectively they weighed less than my ottoman but were more than intimidating, what with their unlined faces and unwasted potential. "Whatever," I told myself while tearing a napkin into pieces of poorly absorbent confetti. "At least I'm old enough to rent a car. A CAR I COULD DRIVE TO A PARTY WHERE I WOULD ABSOLUTELY BE DANCING IF I'D WORN A PAIR OF SENSIBLE SHOES."

On the other side of the jumble of plastic furniture were the over-forties, all animal print skirts and their best attempts at Looking Sexy. They rocked identical expressions that featured raised eyebrows and sucked-in cheeks as they tried for Seductive but were closer to Quietly Choking on a Cough Drop.

One particularly intoxicated woman wedged herself beside me at the bar. She had dark roots and faded tattoos and introduced herself by asking if I thought she looked good for forty-six. I wanted to ask if she meant forty-six human years but realized she probably hadn't gotten those forearm scars by raising orchids and taking harp lessons. I nodded vigorously while trying to avoid both eye contact and any sudden movements. Satisfied, she leaned hard into the bar, shouting her order for another drink which she needed almost as much as she needed to be wearing a pale pink tube top.

"Gimmanothershotakeela" she slurred toward the bartender, who must've bought the Rosetta Stone program for the language of the Overserved.

"Coming up," she said, reaching for a bottle below the counter. "You're not driving tonight are you?"

"No, course not," Tube Top said, shaking her tangle of split ends. "Iss mah fortieth birfday."

She upended the shot glass and slammed it down, before wiping the back of her hand across her mouth. Turning her attention to the dude parked on the stool beside me, she scraped four press-on nails across his Levis and shouted "Donchu think I'm lookin good for thirdynine?"

She Benjamin Buttoned her way down the bar--somehow scoring another shot in the process--so I'm not sure how old she was when she fell in the middle of the floor, her skirt bunched around her Spanxx and her face resting against a table leg. She raised her head tentatively. "M'allright," she muttered to an empty chair, which was good news since no one moved to help her up. She made several false starts at standing, like Bambi on a frozen pond if Bambi had spent his formative years drinking Boone's Farm and flashing his tits at volunteer firemen.

Abouth the time she staggered toward the back of the room, Barham excused the band for a "piss break" as he delicately put it, and he strummed through a few acoustic songs. That was the cue for a prom to break out, as strangers paired off into couples and awkwardly swayed in front of the stage.

"These guys are great, right?" said a voice beside me. I assumed someone else had snagged the still-warm seat after its previous owner grabbed a woman in a peasant skirt, headed to the impromptu dance floor, and was currently spelunking her molars with his tongue.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see a twentysomething dude with massive biceps and a vacant expression, an Abercrombie ad in distressed denim. He flashed his Whitestrippiest smile and repeated "These guys are great, right?"

Wait. Wait. Wait.

I'm not very good at recognizing these kinds of things, but the way he rested his hand on my right scapula made me think he might have been hitting on me. And the way he swayed unsteadily toward the rear wall made me think he was drunk enough to try the same line on a river otter.

"Yeah, they're spectacular," I said. "I saw 'em at the Cat's Cradle a couple of weeks ago."

We swapped a few more sentences before he closed his eyes--as if to compose himself--leaned in toward my ear and whispered "Aren't these guys great? These guys are great, right?"

It was like talking to an ice bucket, although an ice bucket I probably would've made out with. "Yeah," I sighed. "They've got a great album."


He jerked his head away, surprised either by the unfamiliar term or startled by a sudden realization that I must be borderline elderly, that beneath my t-shirt was a set of brittle bones and irregular bowels.


I may as well have spewed another set of things he wouldn't understand, like "daguerreotype" or "laser disc" or "literacy".

He twisted one of the gelled peaks on his head, patted my knee and said "You have a good night, sweetheart", probably in the same way he tucks his grandmother in before rolling her back toward her oxygen tank and Poise pads.

And that's when I stopped having fun and started feeling old, with a capital O, I am the morning DJ at W-O-L-D levels of Old. I was a solid two summer Olympics older than the band and the dancing freshmen weren't helping, what with their invisible pores and unfinished Cosmopolitans.

I was closing my tab when two of them flounced toward the bar. "I need a dah-rink," one of them pouted, dropping an oversized purse on the stool.

"That's my cue," I thought, stuffing my copy of the receipt into my pocket. Then I headed for the dah-oor.


emmysuh said...

Drunk People watching is one of my great exploits and hobbies. Of course, sometimes I like to BE the drunk mess everyone's laughing at, but the rest of the time I like to sit back and watch the skanks and the Cougars and Mr. Money Pants all interact.

Sorry the Thing with Mr. Crest Whitestrips didn't work out, but he doesn't know what he's missing anyway.

ohhell said...

--all this time i've been following your blog and you're LOCAL? I had no idea!!

i feel all stalkerish....but now I know to keep an eye out for you at shows!!

lacochran said...


Wow. Haven't thought of or heard that song in... well... wow.

Laura said...

I'm with Emmy - nothing wrong with being the drunk girl too once in a while. Thought it makes me wonder if someone is ever writing a blog post about one of MY crazy nights...

Ms Behaviour said...

You're too funny! "I am the morning DJ at W-O-L-D" I might have just wet myself.

MonsteRawr said...

I was going to say something like, "I want to just like you when I get older," but then I realized that saying such a thing would make me a bitch. So how 'bout I just say that at 23, I can only dream of being at your levels of bad ass.
Also? Fucking hilarious. You. Are.

Michael said...

Genius, J. Sheer brilliance. You have an eye like no one else.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

I believe its 'daguerreotype'.

Also: I'm knitting sweaters...what are you, a 4?


miss. chief said...

i love this post

Perfectly Shelly said...

You are so NOT OLD. Old is when the Loreal Preference doesn't keep the GRAYS covered for more than 10 days.

That's old.

Old is when you wonder what happened to Scott Baio, and is he still hot?

And wasn't Prince's 'Erotic City' such a dirty song? Wow.

Perfectly Shelly said...

Holy Cannoli! Dooce follows you and you are mentioned on her site.

You must be famous!!

dancing_lemur said...

That's my favorite venue, too. The excellent crowd-watching helps. Have you ever seen the middle-aged couple that sits on the couch, and she falls mouth-open asleep with.out. fail. at every show?

Ed. said...

My God. I had no idea the elderly could be so brilliantly, engagingly funny.

I hesitate to pull out a quote because I love almost every sentence equally. But you had me at "while the less-talented ones looked like they were trying to block a free throw."

Evelyn said...

If you weren't famous before, you're famous now. Dooce visitors will probably crash your site!

rockygrace said...

" Bambi on a frozen pond if Bambi had spent his formative years drinking Boone's Farm and flashing his tits at volunteer firemen."


FunnyGal KAT said...

So, were the guys good? The guys were good, right?

Now that you're mentioned on Dooce's blog, try not to forget those of us who were reading even before you got all famous. (And you totally deserve to be mentioned on Dooce's blog-- you are hysterical!)

Calamity Jill said...

Granted, sometimes all it takes is intellect to scare off the kids.

nataliecottrell said...

I literally LOL'd. And I hate saying LOL, but it's what I did. It so nice to know I'm not the only one thinking all these quippy (word, maybe?) remarks while at bars. They need to open a bar in which cougars and pretty college kids are forbidden...or kept in plexiglass boxes so we can openly discuss them and enjoy a cocktail.

David M. said...

JM, this was one of your best ever. Of course the Chapin reference confirms that you (and I) are indeed O-L-D, but at least we are aging without grace.

Katie said...

"She Benjamin Buttoned her way down the bar--somehow scoring another shot in the process--so I'm not sure how old she was when she fell in the middle of the floor, her skirt bunched around her Spanxx and her face resting against a table leg."

You are hilarious! Found your site on Dooce. So glad she has good taste!

basilexposition said...

J-Money, I'm still shy of 21 (just - birthday's next week) and I'm still a college girl, and I feel as a result I can tell you this much with authority: it doesn't come down to age at all; you are not old, it's simply that you're not an arse, which is what those people are to a man.

Anyway, take heart. They'll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

Marcy said...

OMG, a mention on Dooce--you are about to get some serious traffic--I so hope this gets you all the accolades you deserve because you are HILARIOUS.

The Other Ashley said...

"They rocked identical expressions that featured raised eyebrows and sucked-in cheeks..."

All I could think of when I read that was the whole group practicing their 'Blue Steel' gazes a la Zoolander.

AlexMac said...

I'm 22, a recent college graduate and have a frankly pathetic musical history. I'm working on it. Anyway, the point is, album is not a strange and foreign word. Christ, I hear (and more importantly use) that word all the time! I think the guy was special in the way that makes me think he's missing his helmet. Head damage is the only excuse for not continuing to hit on you in an obvious and drunken manner.

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