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Baby, You Can Park My Car

In our long thin sliver of occupied territory, enjoying nighttime entertainment requires a serious commitment. Only a few lucky souls are fortunate enough to live near the scattered outposts of fun and diversion, and many of them wouldn't be caught dead walking to their destinations. When was the last time you saw someone riding a bike anywhere, let alone at night to join up with a party? Especially in the dead of summer, we South Floridians rely on our automobiles exclusively, which is pretty much what developers and city planners intended. Even though yours truly lives but a couple of miles from the center of Fort Lauderdale, the only watering hole within walking distance is a Flannigan's. Thus, any night in which the programming on Home Box Office is substandard (how many times can you really watch Regarding Henry, anyway?), there'd better be gas in the buggy, 'cause going out always spells road trip.

So that's a given. Most of us nightlifers have become so used to using our cars to get everywhere, we don't think twice about it. A pocketful of quarters claims the same status as wallet or keys, because most of the districts containing bars and clubs regulate what scant parking exists with hungry meters. Parking almost anywhere in downtown West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, or Lake Worth requires change -- and not the kind that comes only from within. Though a pain in the ass, fighting for a space and feeding a meter goes with the territory.

Anyway, Friday night, July 18, seemed like a perfect time to visit central Hollywood: Club M had advertised a free show with our pals the Marauders, Bobby Load's new band Southern Flaw, something called Gorgy, and a young energetic outfit called Haze Empire. Though Bandwidth is aware of a few parking lots around Hollywood Boulevard, around 10 p.m., there were still ample spaces on the street. Having abandoned the individual meters in favor of a "Master Meter" system that takes coins and paper and spits out a ticket to be taken back to your vehicle and placed on the dashboard, Hollywood's method requires more work than typical downtown parking procedures, but since it's so modern and all, it appears superior. At least you'd think it'd work right.

Ah, but there's the human component to contend with. With the heavy change burning a hole in my 501s, I pumped $2.25 into the Master Meter, which covered the Bandwidthmobile until 2:40 a.m. Only then did I notice that parking was enforced only until midnight -- meaning I'd bestowed upon the Hollywood city coffers an extra buck or so. Since that's considerably preferable to returning to a parking ticket, we walked over to Try My Thai on Harrison Street, a favorite spot among the area's rock cognoscenti (Mr. Entertainment recently celebrated his 39th birthday with a bash there) to sup upon some spicy victuals, then headed over to Club M for some rock and/or roll. And that was fun. Southern Flaw's guitar-throttling set recalled the Stooges and Nirvana throwing darts at each other inside the MC5's clubhouse. The Marauders were typically intriguing, and Haze Empire was, well, young and energetic.

By 2 a.m., Bandwidth determined that remaining would have necessitated a fresh influx of Heineken, so we bailed on a far-from-M-T Club M, in the process missing Gorgy, a mask-wearing metal band. Still, our visit to Hollywood gave us much to discuss into the wee hours. Upon returning to the car, an orange parking ticket rested on the windshield, maybe four inches above the slip of paper proving the vehicle had, in fact, permission to remain in said space for another 40 minutes. The ticket found its target only seven minutes after we'd parked. Obviously, Hollywood is efficiently serious about monitoring its limited but lucrative high-tech parking spots.

While this seems like a minor setback in a long-term career of wanton drinking and eardrum-abusing, the experience gave me much to bitch about. Between the Thai food and the beer at the bar, more than $100 quid passed from my wallet to the hands of Hollywood businesspeople, a mistake I'll be unlikely to repeat any time soon. The ticket was for only $10, but that's $10 I'll be out regardless of whether it's dismissed. Rest assured that the time lost forever by calling the city, being placed on hold, and passed around from one dimly witted employee to the next will end up being worth at least that much.

I should probably thank Hollywood for taking it upon itself to narrow the wide range of entertainment choices I regularly face. Next time those jingling quarters start hankering for a meter to fill, I'm looking to Pompano Beach. When I last checked, they have Thai restaurants and dive bars too.

And there's always HBO.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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