Entering the Twilight Zone

This Dickensian hotel bar sometimes fades into just plain weird

The voice across the bar says, "You're telling me you wouldn't want to be in bed with two women who are eating each other out while you're having sex with them?"

John shows no signs of responding in the negative.

"Well," the voice says, "that makes you gay."

A woman with long blond hair says, "I'm a lesbian."

Nobody's totally sure of where anybody else is coming from, but there is a general purging of homophobic sentiment from the Entrada, which at first glance might seem like a roughneck hotbed for anti-gay sentiment.

Next thing I know, John's redirected the whole bar's conversation to the delusional extracurriculars of his college days: "My buddy had an assignment to read [Henry David Thoreau's] Walden. And so he was like, 'Hey guys, we're taking a road trip.' So, we smoked up and got in the car with our six-foot bong. We must have looked like a bunch of gaylords hitting this bong at Walden Pond saying, 'I bet Walden did this. '"

Everyone's chuckling, but Budweiser Bob -- so named for always drinking Bud behind the bar during his 42 years as a bartender -- is still slumped in his chair. He's depressed, having lost several close family members and his savings in the past couple of years, which, he says, has changed the way friends have treated him. "I've got $5,000 that I've given out to people up and down these streets, and now these people turn the other way when they see me. Some of them are good, but most of them don't want to know me." He apologizes for laying his woes on me.

With the voice of experience, he starts talking about local bars like Sneakers that charge too much for their liquor. "People ask me why I come to the Entrada. I can get a shot of Jägermeister here for $2," he gestures toward an empty shot glass. "At one of those places, it'd cost me $7." He drops his head back toward his chest when he's done talking.

The crowd files in and out. Conversation fluxes, heating up the whole smoky bar every so often, then wanes back into chit-chat.

A big, gray-mustachioed man comes in and stuffs a chair to capacity. He's staying at the motel for a couple of months while working on a nearby construction site. "I told them to put me in a hotel with a bar," he says. "It works out just right. I just come down here in the morning and have breakfast."

"Wait a minute," I say. "But they can't serve food in smoking bars."

He holds up his bottle of suds for everyone to see, says "breakfast," and laughs.

And then we all go, "Har, har, har. Har, har, har," and the light in the sky is only just starting to dim.

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