Wet Dreams

It´s wedding month -- let´s get blown

Tropical Storm Barry kicked off hurricane season by pissing all over my Friday-night plans. When the forecasters promised more weekend water works, this Night Rider decided the Hurricane Bar & Lounge would be the perfect place to hunker down. Despite the Delray spot´s low profile (it faces the alley rather than Atlantic Avenue), it was a storm of activity that Saturday, probably because the weekend warriors had to make up for Friday night´s washout. The mostly local crowd churned through an air-conditioned bar that was decorated with tropical paraphernalia and murals of windblown palm trees. TVs provided light and distraction while the band Ghosts of Vegas rocked the house.

But wait shouldn´t there be open windows, flickering candles, a crappy, battery-powered radio? The growl and fumes of a generator? Shouldn´t the walls be lined with canned goods and first-aid supplies? Pasqual Ranich, former manager of the nearby Boston´s on the Beach, opened the Hurricane last August, but he apparently has a pre-Wilma/Katrina philosophy: Stock up on smokes, snacks, and booze and hope for the best.

Waiting for my coworker Kim, I decided to relax at the outdoor bar in the smoker´s ¨lounge.¨ I could not only sit but also be heard out there, so I was willing to be bathed in tobacco-saturated humidity. A buxom blond in a plunging, red polka-dot top blossomed among the tropical décor and foliage: Jen, the bartender.

Tony Gleeson

A guy in a ball cap approached. Claiming a corner of the bar, he leaned forward, took Jen´s hand, and kissed it. ¨Have you met my future ex-wife?¨ he asked me.

¨Here,¨ said the guy next to him, taking off his wedding ring. ¨It hasn´t done me any good.¨

It looked like hurricane season had kicked up some marital squalls, but that didn´t deter Jen´s suitor.

¨When he´s drunk, he proposes,¨ she explained.

¨And do you accept?¨

She shrugged. ¨Sometimes. But then he comes in and asks what he did the night before.¨

¨He´s missing an embarrassment gene,¨ said the buddy, who had slipped his ring back on.

I introduced myself and asked his name, but he hesitated. ¨Technically, I´m not here,¨ he said. Then he suggested that I call him Billy. At this point, I was beginning to wonder whether his visor and plaid shirt, which I took as a sign of tropical depression, were actually part of a disguise.

His friend Rob, who´d just arrived, was a standout. The tall drink of water began boasting that he was proportionally well-endowed, with ten full inches. On the Saffir-Simpson scale, though, I´d say he was a Category 1: a blowhard who wouldn´t cause much damage.

Flirting shamelessly, I´d completely forgotten about Kim. I mean, what was the strike probability here? The outlook changed when I noticed Rob´s wedding ring, which was quickly followed by the arrival of his tiny wife, Karen, more a better quarter than a half. A firm believer that honesty is the best policy, I brought her up to speed on our conversation thus far. Was her husband´s report accurate?

¨I don´t know about the veracity,¨ Billy interrupted, ¨but it´s true about the velocity

Kim returned. ¨I met the hottest guy,¨ she told me. ¨We bonded because we were both chewing gum.¨

¨Can I show you something?¨ Jen asked as she poured a beer into a plastic cup and passed it to a kid in a striped polo shirt. ¨You´ll be amazed.¨

El Niño sucked the thing down in a single, gigantic swallow. He told us that he was Matt, a 22-year-old who´d majored in civil engineering and was working as an estimator for a construction company.

¨Estimate something for us,¨ Kim said, pulling a scientific calculator out of her purse.

¨I estimate I can drink this beer in .63 seconds,¨ he said.

He swallowed it in a single gulp.

I forecast that if he continued on this course, Matt would have a horrendous hangover and a hefty bar tab, but there was a variable I hadn´t foreseen: Stephanie. The vixen had her hair swept to one side, and a mutual friend was making what was evidently a reintroduction.

¨I think I left you a nasty message once,¨ Stephanie said.

Matt, who had told us he had a girlfriend back home, said, ¨Yeah, I think I got a message like that from this area code once.¨

By midnight, a surge in clientele packed the place, making it feel a little more like a storm shelter, except people looked and smelled a lot better. As they converged and collided, Kim and her former boyfriend, another Matt, created their own quiet place as they caught up. The most turbulent systems revolve around moments of lovely calm.

¨I´ve got lots of stories,¨ a guy at the bar told me while he waited for a beer, ¨but none about this place; it´s pretty mellow... Got bit by a shark once,¨ he said, showing me a scar on his wrist. Then his drink arrived and he was gone.

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