When you've got a little too much month at the end of your money, you need a plan to cop a buzz. I could score a sixer at my local Fiesta Mart and drink at home, but imbibing alone at the crib means you have a problem, right? Besides -- financial qualms have made me a virtual shut-in all week. Like Team Mosaic, I've been adhering to a budget so tight it would give Trump a hard-on. It's time to get out of the nest, spread my wings and cut loose.
Low funds set me winging it to Catbirds, whose great nightly specials I haven't enjoyed in a while. It's Sunday, and that means buck-a-Pabst night. I can swing that. I mosey into the half-empty bar and quickly notice -- to my horror -- that the Sabbath special has changed. PBR has been replaced by Miller Lite. Miller Lite. As if that weren't bad enough, it's also gone up a buck. It being Sunday and all, I decide to take it as a not-so-subtle hint from God for me to slow down, look into a mirror and realize what a fat slob I've become. It's a test. Okay, Father. Light beer it is.
Matt Fry, drummer in the excellent band Dead Roses, is behind the bar. I go to order my Miller but somehow mutter the words "Scotch and water" instead. I'm not even sure how much it costs. I've become a free-spending madman!
A couple of drinks in, I notice another guy who, like me, has found himself out alone. His name is not Lyle, but we'll call him that. We make small talk. He offers to buy me a drink. I accept -- feeling a bit guilty about being unable to return the favor, but less so by telling him up front.
"Don't worry. I just came into a bit of money."
Out of fear that our chipper conversation will turn to one about a recently departed mother, I leave it at that.
Before I know it, Matt's telling us to finish our drinks. Catbirds is closed.
"Hey," says Lyle, "I like you. Let's keep this party going. Do you have to be at work tomorrow?"
I do, but not until noon. What does he have in mind?
"There's an after-hours spot called Shame on Commerce close to downtown. It's great. You see some wild shit there."
Wild shit is right up my alley, but out of my budget.
"Don't worry. I got you."
Lyle introduces me to a friend who seems to have appeared out of nowhere.
"His name is Brian -- just like you -- but we all call him Crackhead Bob."
I don't ask.
"Follow us," Crackhead smiles.
We drive through the abandoned streets of downtown, and after about 20 minutes, I notice we seem to be going in circles. Shame is as hard to find as the Bat Cave.
Crackhead and Lyle pull into the parking space of some newly erected posh lofts on the edge of town. Lyle waves me up to his passenger-side window. Maybe I should have inquired about the provenance of Lyle's mad cash, because for a brief moment, I think the phrase "I just came into a bit of money" might have been the first part of a sentence that ended "by robbing some chump that followed me into an empty parking lot at 3 a.m."
Instead I get "Hey! Where the fuck is this place, man?"
"I'm following you, Lyle. I don't know. I've never even heard of it."
He begins looking up the street like a sheriff hot on the trail of a felon.
"It's on this street for sure. It's close. It's right next to that whorehouse, you know the one?"
No. I don't know of any whorehouse.
"Yes, you do! The Mexican whorehouse. Shame is right next to it."
He keeps referring to the whorehouse like it's as common a landmark as Minute Maid Park.
"Look, are you sure we're on the right street?"
"Yes," Lyle says confidently, as he lights the filter end of his cigarette, "definitely."
I suggest we pull into a place that is not named Party Boutique, but we'll call it that for this article. We've passed it half a dozen times on this trip, and it's obviously still open.
"We'll ask them if they know where Shame is."
We arrive at Party Boutique, and before I can ask the young lady at the door anything, she's patting me down.
"Thank you," she says in a thick Spanish accent as she steps aside.
Lyle and Crackhead follow suit. I'm thrilled that neither of them is caught with a piece.
We follow the hot sounds of loud merengue music and soon find ourselves at a bar running next to a dance floor filled with couples. It's deep in the wee hours, and since everyone at the bar has a beer, that means that either the HPD car parked right out front is stolen or someone isn't earning his paycheck. The three of us pony up for $3 Coronas and turn our attention to the dance floor. All the men in the place are dressed as though they work on a ranch. The women are dressed as if they work at a different kind of ranch.
As a cook for more than eight years, I've heard about this kind of place for ages from my Hispanic co-workers. You come in, pay these young ladies a dollar to dance with you for a song, buy them some drinks By the end of the night you've spent about $100 or so, and the girl "owes" you a special favor.
Maybe this is the Mexican whorehouse Lyle kept blabbing about. It would better explain the cop outside ("I'll turn a blind eye for my pick of the litter"). Perhaps Shame is right next door. I'm in no mood to discuss it with Lyle. He's fast turned from soul mate to nuisance by repeating himself over and over. "If we get into any shit, let me handle it. I speak a bit of Spanish," he slurs, for the tenth time in the last hour.
I begin chatting up a potential dance partner. Her name is Sandra. Suuuuuuure.
"What time do you close?"
The girls are all beautiful. I ask her how much for a dance.
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Hmmmm the extra dollar must be Gringo tax.
We hit the floor. After each dance I re-up with her. She's keeping track so I don't have to awkwardly hand her two bills between each song. Lyle and Crackhead come out onto the floor and inform me that they're leaving if I want to come with. No thanks, head on without me. In my attempt to get rid of these two, I've gone over budget dancing with Sandra, but it's been worth it.
"We're going to an after-hours spot called the Library," Lyle says. "We know exactly where it is."
Sure you do.