Thousands of bars in the naked city, and every last one of them is "laid-back" or "relaxed."
Thousands of bars in the naked city, and every last one of them is "laid-back" or "relaxed."

Straight Up

Hello, reader. How are you? I'm Shea. I officially became the Houston Press Nightfly columnist two years ago this month. That equates to 76 articles, or more than 63,000 words written about Houston nightlife. That's 63,000 more than I thought I'd manage.

I assumed my time here would go like this:

Me: Here's the first Nightfly article, sir. Let me know what you thi—


Houston nightlife

Editor: It sucks. And your hair is stupid. You're fired.

But the editors let me stick around. And in the time I've been on duty, a lot of gems have been handed down. Here are the seven most important things I've learned:

1. Biologically, I am man. I added "biologically" because the "man" premise could easily be argued against. Exhibit A: I have no hair on my chest. Not a single one. I'm like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. Exhibit B: I like James Blunt. The prosecution rests.

But "Shea," as it turns out, is widely considered a girl's name, particularly when someone reads it in an e-mail or byline. I did not know this. I suppose it doesn't help that I've mentioned the relative attractiveness of a given man in at least five separate articles, and once marveled at the option of being able to buy a vibrator that you stick in your butt that attaches to your iPod.

2. Contrary to popular opinion, women are almost never impressed when you tell them that you're a writer. It's like telling them you have an extra elbow. And the ones that are impressed look like either David Bowie 1971 or frumpy ex-SNL player Rachel Dratch.

3. If you engage anybody at any venue in a conversation about nightlife, they will always refer to the bar they're currently in as "really laid-back" or "relaxed." It's a lock. If you were in a club in downtown Fallujah and asked 15 people what they thought of the place, at least 12 would tell you it's laid-back. I have no idea why this is.

4. It is way harder to see a bar fight in person than you'd reasonably expect. As The Nightfly, I've been to at least 85 different Houston bars, and I've seen the same number of bar fights as I've seen people spontaneously combust — zero. At this rate, Paul Wall is going to win an NAACP award before I see one person get coldcocked.

5. If you write someone's name in an article, they'll friend you on Facebook. Or they'll freakin' hate your guts. It can only be one of those two.

6. Nightclubs have a shelf life that rivals only kitschy dance-based rap songs. Clubs just don't generally stay open for very long. If a place does have a significant run, it's either because it's got some sort of built-in history that regulars can attach themselves to (à la Last Concert Cafe); both the club and its patrons genuinely don't care about what's going on anywhere else (à la Mr. Gino's); or it's made an unholy pact with Satan (Club Roxy, HUSH).

7. This is a well-known secret among industry types, but often escapes most club-goers: The life cycle of nightclubs is almost always predictable. First, they open up as hot shit, billing themselves as being really exclusive — which is a fancy way of saying that if you're not white and you get there after they fill their "Minority Guys Quota," good luck getting in.

Then, a few months later, when things inevitably die down, they'll start playing more hip-hop and become a lot less strict with their dress code in an effort to bring in African-Americans and Mexicans. They'll also throw out some house music and see if the Asians bite. Whichever group happens to show up the most, that's the club's new target demographic.

After that, the 18-and-up takeover happens. Then the ugly people show up. Then the place shuts down. Off the record, I've had no less than three separate club owners confirm this. It ain't science, but it's close.

These are all powerful bits of wisdom, friends. Here's to hoping that the next two years pass without us getting fired so we can write a similar column at the end of 2011.

Thanks for your support.


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