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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Fish Out of Alcohol

by Tom King (c) 2012

I've been in four bars in my lifetime if you don't count Applebee's (and I don't).  I wasn't impressed any of those times. I'm basically a teetotaler (my Dad did prison time for something stupid he did while drunk and I learned from the old man's example). Also, I don't smoke and I am thoroughly married, thus eliminating all three of the basic pastimes associated with bars.

The first time was when I went into Felix Bar in downtown Ft. Worth to pick up a customer (I was driving a taxicab during a downturn in employment back during the Carter administration).

The place was smoky, dark and the lights were predominantly blue. I couldn't think of a more fitting ambience for a place where depressed people would want to gather. The barkeep recognized my jaunty taxicab driver's hat and pointed at a puddle of humanity slumped against the wall at the end of the bar. I led him out into breathable air and bundled him into the cab.

When I asked him where to take him, he mumbled incoherently about going home and ordered me to "Just drive."

So I drove. At every corner I asked him whether I should turn or not. After about 10 blocks or so, I realized he was asleep. The snoring should have given it away sooner, I suppose.

He kept waking up and pointing vaguely in one direction and another. We looped around downtown Ft. Worth for almost an hour till he finally gave me an address. I looked it up in my Mapsco book and discovered he lived in a tiny house about four blocks from the bar. Three minutes later, we pulled up in front of his house and I poured him out onto the sidewalk where he tottered confused. He handed me his wallet through the window and told me to "Take out what I needed."

Being a good Christian is hard sometimes especially when you are as broke as I was at the time. The wallet was crammed full of 20 and 100 dollar bills. I took out my fare according to the meter - no tip - and waited to make sure he made it to the front door of his house before driving away.

My second visit to a bar was to Billy Bob's Texas. Some friends invited us and it was a new deal and supposed to be pretty tame. People said it was more like an amusement park. My Sweet Baboo and I went along. We'd been looking to meet some friends and this seemed like something different to do and besides it came with a baby-sitter and we really needed a break from the kids.

The place has an indoor rodeo arena, but there wasn't a rodeo that night. There was some kind of very loud cover band, but the music wasn't anything I cared for. I danced badly with my wife (we're not a dancing people the misses and I). Somehow we swappped partners with the other couple and I danced with his wife and he with mine. I was NOT at all comfortable doing that, although I probably managed it better than my sweetie. When it was over, I grabbed her and swirled her out on the dance floor, where we remained clinging together like lost sailors in a raging sea till it was over and time to go home..

I really didn't see the fun it in. though someone told me you have to drink to appreciate the darkness, the smoke, the ear-shattering music and the blue lights.

My third visit to a bar was when I went to South Carolina with a board member of the nonprofit where I worked. We were going to South Carolina to accept a gold award for a documentary film we did about our work at Worldfest Charleston International Film Festival. We landed in the wrong state.

We boarded a rented Lear Jet in Ft. Worth and flew to Charlotte, NC. Himself was so entirely snoggered he told the pilot the wrong city (and state for that matter). We made it to Charleston after refueling and arrived at the ceremony on time. Plaque in hand we loaded up in the car to go back to the hotel (I thought) but decided to go bar-hopping instead. As the poorest member of the party I didn't have any say in it. Himself, his son, me and the film's director soon shoved our way into a waterfront bar. Again, the place was dark, blue, incredibly smoky, loud and pungent with the smell of alcohol and perfume. We were crushed in amongst several dozen skinny "actresses" who heard there was a rich Texas oilman/film producer at the bar. They descended on us like locusts. We waited till Himself was thoroughly anesthetized and then his son (who was looking out for his mother's interests) and I steered him out into the blessedly fresh sea breeze. I vowed never to return to a bar again.

Fast Forward - Ft. Worth, Texas, an Irish Pub downtown. My sister was big into the Celtic Music scene and there was a benefit concert. My wife and I love Irish music and we knew the band, so off we went. Irish pubs are, I discovered, a bit brighter, a bit less smoky and I actually like the music (which did not make my ears bleed). We didn't drink, however, which apparently was the "fund-raising" part. I did manage to slip a few bucks to the lady that was running the show as a donation. She looked at me funny and said something I couldn't hear. I'm not sure, but I may have given her the wrong impression as to what my donation was for. We left early.

I made one more brief foray into Ft. Worth's swinging nightlife. I went to a bar on the south side in order to collect some Christmas gifts for kids at a treatment center for abused children. It was a biker Christmas benefit. I got a couple of steps inside and saw the place was dark with blue lights and the air was smoky to the point of being unbreathable . I was propositioned (I think) by a girl in a tube top who told me she'd danced naked on the table at the last "one of these" and invited me to stick around to see what happened.. I gathered up the gifts and retreated quickly. Since I never really got fully into the bar, that one I don't count.

There are just some places that someone like me does NOT belong!


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