Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 24

We are in line waiting to get into a club called, “Coyote Ugly” at the NYNY hotel and casino. I keep having to remind myself of this. The line is not moving very fast. A few girls in very skimpy outfits, whose faces look shiny, as do the rest of them, are selling some kind of slushee alcoholic drinks behind a counter, some kind of spiked slurpees that come in all kinds of flavors like watermelon, coffee mocha, raspberry, blueberry, and pina colada. They come in 20-ounce plastic cups and cost twelve bucks. You get a thick hybrid of a spoon and a straw to drink them with. The line is not moving and Chet and Leroy are standing around ogling girls and yabbering and smoking cigarettes. I am here in this strange world of plastic things that are not real. I say, somehow, “I want a drink,” and I move, thinking of thousands of popsicles melting on thousands of wooden sticks and dripping into a swimming-pool sized vat that spins slowly making a gelid ooze of sticky color, a pool of gestation covered by a gossamer sheen, a meek carapace for this mucilaginous high-fructose-corn-syrup-sticky pabulum mixing like cement in the spinning gears of my mind. I move and stand in another line. The menu is high up above filled with many indecipherable symbols and words that scramble and butt heads and fight internecine battles, sharp and sudden sparks of fulgurant scuffling dissipating into a miasma of confused spots. My eyes become scared and I close them for a moment, a moment that becomes a redwhitebluegreenyellow-then-all-spinning-colors-at-once sinistral bout of horripilation. I stand and squint at the letters on the menu. I make sure I know where my wallet is. I am ready to pay. I have money. Why does that man have two heads? The blue and red on the menu are both too loud. I need a softer, quieter color, one that I can hold in my hand and pet, one that won’t fly away and crash into a train and splatter all over my face like blood. The word “coffee” is there. I feel it. It is in my eyes and all over my skin. The brown of it is the way it sounds, mellifluous. It is in my veins, lulling me into a quiet comfort. I say it over and over, “kaaa….fffffff….eeeeeee…” and it is beautiful and wonderful and I can feel it soothing my whole mouth and it is blowing in my hair. I am a leaf falling from a tree made of feathers and cats and cotton balls. The ants have no business here. I am not a picnic. I am the hammer and the nail. The line moves and I go with it and there is a shiny woman in a bikini and her hair is jet black and she has monumental breasts and I look at her and I am holding my wallet in my hand and she is smiling way too big for the occasion and I say the word, “Coffee.” I hand her a twenty-dollar bill. A bell is ringing.



*




The cash register rang really loud when she opened it. Leroy had sidled up next to me, which was becoming much too common lately, and was doubling my order. Now we had two 20-ounce, coffee-flavored slushees that were supposedly doused with some amount of alcohol. There was really no way to tell. We took them over to the line, where Chet was still standing waiting to get into the club. I tried to suck some of the slushee up through the straw, but it was very difficult. Leroy and I were both having a lot of trouble drinking these things. And when I did get some of the icy brown liquid into me I started getting a horrible headache. Every time that I sucked down more of the stuff the same thing would happen, and I would curse myself and grab my head, yanking at my hair and screaming like a wild boar with an aneurysm. But then the headache would go away and I’d try to get some more down, figuring that I’d just paid like twenty bucks for the thing and better at least get the alcohol out of it. And each time, yes, another insanely painful headache. By the time we got to the front of the line I still had more than half of the thing left. Chet and the bouncer were having some kind of argument. It seems that Chet had forgotten his wallet and the guy wouldn’t let him in without ID. There was no way around it. Chet went back to the MGM to get his wallet and Leroy and I sat outside and drank our slushees, screaming out in pain every time we took a sip.

Plastic flowers were weary of time and dreaming of a plastic sun in the planter that I was leaning against while I drank that disgusting frozen coffee-flavored concoction that most certainly was not bringing me back home. Hebetude was flowing in my veins. Loss was stringing up constellations of sorrow in the backyard of my sky-blue head and every time I closed my eyes I saw shotguns pointed at me with their triggers cocked and a man laughing at me somewhere behind them, somewhere beyond the rusted Rube Goldberg machines and manifold cranking gears of my mind covered with this avaricious worn wisteria twisting its wending way through a make-shift iron trellis made of jelly beans and eyeballs. I tried to keep my eyes open. Leroy was smoking.

Kites flying in stormy weather.

The damn slushee was no good. I threw mine into the planter where it soaked all of the plastic flowers in brown ice. Leroy did the same. Chet came back with his ID and we where all set to go in. The guy at the door waived us through, apologizing effusively the whole time, and we joined the crowd inside. It was kind of steamy in there. A lot of bodies pressed up against each other. At one end of the place there was a long bar and that’s where I headed. The music was really loud and really bad. The bartending ladies were all wearing tiny shorts and Coyote Ugly tank tops that accentuated their busty figures. I tried to tell Chet a joke about the cops busting a brothel and it being a busty bust, but he couldn’t hear me. Then I tried one about a guy who got fired from the orange juice factory because he couldn’t concentrate. Chet wasn’t standing next to me by this point. So I went to the bar and ordered a Budweiser from the imitation lingerie model standing behind it. I stood around drinking my beer and watching what seemed like hundreds of people in their early twenties dancing around and holding clear plastic cups of mixed drinks with no ice. I kind of hung around the walls. There was a raised stage over next to the bar, and on it were dancing all kinds of odd women. It seems that there was some kind of selection process going on with the girls dancing up there. The leader was a black haired woman who was well over six-feet tall. She was wearing the requisite Coyote Ugly tank-top and shorts, and she was pointing into the crowd and mouthing what seemed to be, “You. Yes. You,” or some such thing. Then she would grab onto the lucky girl and bring her up on the stage with her to dance to the awful blaring music. They were really shaking their hips and asses up there. I watched and wandered around, staying close to the wall, not really wanting to go mingle in the crowd.

In the back of the place on the other side there was another bar. It wasn’t really a bar. It was just some extremely curvy girl behind a small table with a keg of Sam Adams under it. I watched her selling beer for a while back there. She was very easily confused. There was only one thing she could possibly do back there, and that was fill up plastic cups with beer from the keg and give it to people. It was five dollars a beer. Nothing even remotely complicated. Maybe sometimes a person might want two beers. That’s about as abstract as the whole thing could get. Every transaction was a nightmare of misunderstanding involving much mouth to ear shouting by both parties. Every time she poured a beer—always with a watermelon-slice of a smile on her face—and set it down on the bar, there was some confusion about how much change she should give. The beer was always five dollars. Yet almost every time the person buying the beer had to help figure out the change or the total. It was highly entertaining. I started enjoying myself at last. She just stood there with a vacant smile on her face, gyrating slightly to the music, every beer a new surprise, a new challenge that she’d never faced before. Take the nozzle from the keg, push on the lever to make the beer flow into the plastic cup, fill up the cup to the top letting the foam run off onto the ground, hand the beer to the person standing on the other side of the bar, tell them how much they owe you, take their money, try to remember how to use the cash register, push a bunch of buttons until it opens, do some addition or subtraction in your little head, try to pull out the correct amount of change for the person, try to remember how much the drink costs, how much the person gave you, look really confused and happy, keep smiling really big, hand them some bills and the beer and hope for the best. It was absolutely mind blowing.

At some point I went up and bought a beer from her. She went through her routine. When she set down the cup with the beer in it, all foamy and dripping, I handed her two fives, a ten, and three ones. She took all the money and spread it out in her hands like she was playing poker. She kept smiling. Then she went into the register, put my money in and then started pulling out all kinds of bills. I grabbed the beer and drank it down as fast as I could in two injudicious gulps while I breathed through my nose. I set down the empty cup as she came back. She handed me two ten-dollar bills and a one. I pointed down to the empty cup and said I’d have another. She couldn’t hear me over the music. So I screamed into an ear that she’d placed by my mouth. She was leaning over towards me and there was quite a bit of cleavage to be seen. She smiled and took the cup back to the keg. I tried to make it easy by giving her a five-dollar bill. I laid it down on the counter where it got really wet in all the spilled beer. After she brought the now beer-filled cup back I screamed thanks and walked away really fast. When I looked back to check on her she was still holding the bill in her hand and pulling ones out of the machine and then putting them back, gyrating her hips and smiling the whole while. Sweet salvation of oblivion and ignorance, such a beautiful thing.

I found Chet over by the stage where all the girls were dancing. Leroy was going affably berserk in the swarming, pulsating dance crowd. He kept pushing his way closer and closer to the stage. His arms were cracking like whips. His head was banging back and forth as his body seemed to disassemble and put itself all the way back together again as he danced like someone possessed by an evil spirit, or God. Chet and I were laughing and watching the spectacle, unsure of what might happen next.

What happened next was that Leroy came right up to the stage. His terpsichorean madness was intoxicating. Everyone around him was going nuts. The music was awful. The Amazonian woman with the long black hair, who was the Goddess of the stage, began taking an interest in him. She reached down with her massive arm and grabbed his checkered tie. She started pulling him around by it like it was a collar. He just went with it and started screaming in jubilation. All the girls dancing on stage started getting worked up. Chet and I were just standing there enjoying all of this sultry momentum. Then the black-haired Amazonian bent down on one knee and started untying Leroy ’s tie. She then pulled the tie off and started waving it around, driving the crowd into a saturnalian frenzy. Leroy was loving it. He was leaning back with a stupendous grin on his face, looking up at the giant woman who was waving his tie around like a lasso. She even whipped a few of the girls on stage in the butt with it. Leroy raised his arms up and let out a wild whomp. Between songs she motioned to Leroy to come closer. She bent down again and started wrapping the tie around his head, tying it in the back so it hung down like a braided queue. Leroy started screaming like somebody at a Van Halen concert. Everybody in the place was cheering and pumping their fists as the next song started. That’s when Leroy made a fatal mistake. He tried to get up on the stage. I guess, though nobody told any of us, it is verboten for guys to dance on the stage at Coyote Ugly. It’s a girls-only dance party up there. Leroy immediately started getting hissed and booed by the crowd. All the girls on stage looked really angry and disturbed. And Leroy ’s got his fucking tie wrapped around his head. The music stopped. Some corn-fed, muscle-bound bouncer came over and grabbed Leroy off the stage as the crowd continued to voice its disapproval of the whole thing. He went off calmly enough. The Amazonian grabbed a bullhorn and screamed into it, “What’s the first rule of Coyote Ugly?” And then, along with the whole teeming, seething crowd, yelled, “No guys on stage! Only girls dance on the stage!” Chet and I started to get worried about Leroy. Would the crowd tear him to pieces in a fit of rage? Would they mash and knead him and rend his garments and cook him at the stake over a fire pit like a pig roasting on a spit? We tried to follow him but the crowd, its rage surceased, was back to its dancing, and the bouncer seemed to have dragged him somewhere very quickly. I lost Chet at some point and went around looking for him everywhere. I even went outside the club and walked around for a while. Nothing. So I went back in, the door guy apparently remembering me for some reason and giving me a thumbs up, and saw Leroy talking to some tucked-in bro over by the bar. I got another five-dollar beer from the brainy, busty girl and watched him from afar. The guy was really giving him something to listen to. He put his arm around Leroy at some point and I went over to get a closer look. Chet was over there silently drinking his beer while Leroy and this guy went on and on. I don’t know how they could hear each other over the music. My good time was over, if it had ever started at this ridiculous place, and I wanted to exit soon. Chet wanted to stay and watch the girls dance. So I went over to Leroy, dragging him away from the yapper, and told him I was taking off.

“What? That fucking guy was trying to hook me up with his cousin.”

“This music sucks. I’m leaving.”

“Whatever. So this guy is like trying to show me his cousin, and I guess I picked the wrong girl to look at, because when I told him that I thought she was hot he got all pissed and said, ‘That’s not my cousin. That’s my wife!’ Shit. I can’t see anything anyway. My glasses are all fogged up.”

“And you’ve got a tie on your head. See you later.”