Spare the Rod

Finally, something real in Boca. And it isn't the faux rocker.

"Hematologist?" I queried, knowing it had something to do with blood but not exactly what. "Cell counts and stuff?"

He set me straight: "No, I teach doctors and nurses how to get the mix right."

A mixologist?

"Like a blood bartender!" I joked, trying to find common ground with this guy, who looked to be upward of 50.

"Unlike a bartender, if you get the mix wrong, people die," he said, obviously more serious than his colorful tropical shirt might suggest. When Patrick began singing the praises of the Hot Rod show, I figured I'd pump him for important info.

"Does this guy ever take a break?" I asked, needing a break of my own both from the ear-piercing volume and the now-sore throat I had developed from yelling over the music.

Patrick cheerfully replied, "No, he plays like three hours, no break," like it was a good thing.

I decided it was time for a trip to the patio, where people had been drinking and chatting, oblivious to the stage show.

A couple of attractive guys were outside, swigging their light beers and looking uncomfortably unattached. One of them — who later introduced himself as Dan — brightened as Kim and I approached.

"Not here for the Hot Rod show?" I asked.

Dan shook his head. He and his buddy (cousin Chuck, who was visiting from Pittsburgh) had been directed by a girl in the car next to them as they waited at a traffic light. It was an adventurous, though unreliable, way to make plans for the evening.

Trying to make conversation with Chuck, who was very nicely dressed and a little standoffish, I asked him what he did for a living.

"Financial planner," he replied and clammed up again.

Maybe a little teasing would open him up some.

"That explains it," I said, smiling. "By the clothes, I figured you were either just really conservative or gay."

Nothing.

I turned back to Dan, who was far friendlier: "So where do you usually hang out?"

"Strip joints," he laughed.

"And gay bars," Chuck shot back.

At least it was something. I laughed and tried to draw him in further with a discussion of his work, a conversation that dead-ended in my professional motto: "If you don't have your ethics, what do you have? I mean, besides more money and a lot better car!"

Chuck and Dan excused themselves under pretenses of getting another beer and never came back. Kim, who wanted the boys around for company while she smoked, was disgruntled. Whatever. I left Kim with her addiction, shrugged off the abandonment, decided to blame it on the entertainment instead of my conversational skills (self-deception, after all, is an ethical gray area), and tried again with another group of patio people.

I lucked into a friendlier bunch.

"We're like the U.N. here," the blond said with an Irish accent and introduced me to everyone by their countries of origin: Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, U.K., and, of course, the good ol' U.S. of A.

"All the friends I have, I met in this pub," Miss Ireland continued, explaining that she and everyone at the table were regulars.

Miss Brazil, living up to the sexy, glamorous stereotype her countrywomen are known for, gave me a Miss Universe smile: "This place is great for meeting new friends."

"Everyone gets naked after 2 a.m.," Señor Venezuela interjected and then suggested we do a shot. "How 'bout a redheaded slut?"

I declined since it was late and I didn't want to end 2006 with a DUI.

"So you guys aren't into the Rod Stewart show?" I asked.

"He's a Rod Stewart impersonator?" their mate, Mr. Outback, quipped. "I just thought he had bad hair."

Speaking of hair, Venezuela was charmingly persistent.

"You want a redheaded slut?" Venezuela asked again, suggestively referencing my hair color.

"Obviously, you do," I laughed. "Look, don't start with me. I have no problem calling the INS on y'all about some expired visas."

Miss Ireland told me that what she liked about the place was that it was laid-back, adding without a hint of irony: "It's locals serving locals."

Obviously, the bunch felt at home despite their legal status as foreigners. While Hot Rod was performing his rendition of "Lady Marmalade," I was remarking that the place was very un-Boca despite its Mizner Boulevard address when it occurred to me why. I made a quick visual survey for confirmation and summed it up:

"The Wishing Well: Where the Rod Stewart is fake but the boobs are real."

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