Bad Boyz n the Hood

Calling it Hump Day at this Wednesday-night meat market is beyond redundant.

The girls ignored the remark (probably because they wanted the dude to keep buying their drinks). Instead, Vanessa segued into another venomous attack: "The bartenders attract all the guys because they've got their boobs hanging out. They're whores."

I acknowledged it was a bit of a sausage fest. And for sure, the "gigantit" lure had something to do with it. I asked the girls if there was anything at all redeeming about their experience.

"Oh, there was one cool thing — one guy freestyled his advances," Vanessa observed. "I actually liked that."

I was about to remark that I too appreciate a creative approach when the beginnings of a fight pushed out onto the porch by our table and Vanessa and Louisa made their retreat.

"Me? Pussy?" a guy with a full gold grill antagonized caveman-style to his adversary. "You know I ain't a pussy!"

I stepped out of the line of fire and back into the bar.

There, I met David, a 40-something who was down from Connecticut for a few days of vacation. He tried to find common ground by comparing the Night Rider to Hunter S. Thompson.

"He used to come to my bar the Howlin' Wolf," said the LCD salesman, who claimed to once have been a partial owner of the Aspen drinking hole. "And he was a drunk!"

It would have been flattering to be compared (even indirectly) to the father of gonzo journalism, except that I suspected the guy was insinuating that I too was a lush (I'd had only a few beers!). It was a sort of tenuous common ground on which we stood while I listened to David's take on the South Florida scene: "It's more promiscuous here. They all have agendas. They want to meet someone and have a one-night stand. Their eyes are lonely."

Mr. Morality almost had me believing his shtick. That is, until he asked about my nightlife information-gathering. "So, do you ever get laid when you go out for one of these things?"

Yup, despite his Connecticut address, he was still straight from Planet Sleazoid. I was trying to shake the slimy, creepy feeling he'd given me when I met a pool-playing Deadhead whose laid-back attitude made him feel like I could trust him with my feelings about my sleazy asshole encounter.

"I'm a nonsleazy asshole," the guy reassured with a sweet smile and laughed as I jotted it down. "If you print that, I'll come give you the biggest hug ever."

It was the right thing to say. A hug is like anti-sleaze. I spent the remainder of my evening with him and his buddy as he abandoned his pool game so that we could play 10 questions (the abbreviated version of 20 questions). Again: a nice tactic as he showed an interest in our actually getting to know each other. The questions were all mine — but they sparked two-sided conversations on subjects that ranged from his rant about Donald Rumsfeld to my confession that I longed for a place I felt I belonged.

"Favorite cartoon?" I asked, lightening things up.

"Good one," he nodded appreciatively. "Drawn Together."

It was appropriate, really. Even in a place like this one, where I felt completely alien, I'd found someone to connect with. And though we didn't so much as exchange phone numbers, let alone swap spit, it was a far more meaningful hookup. A one-night stand of a different kind, it reassured that we all belong to some community — even if it's a vagabond one.

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