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Tuesday, October 22, 2002  

The last time Trash and I went to Iowa was also the last time her brother and his wife got out of the house for the evening. You can check the archives to see how that went (8/19/02).

This time, we decided to go to a different bar. Because I wasn’t about to go back and subject myself to hip-hop versions of country TV theme songs again, and Trash’s brother thought my out-of-state plates would be cop magnets on the drive home, we ended up in a much smaller bar in one of Des Moines’s suburbs. Since this place wasn’t inside the city limits, and it didn’t have a dance floor the size of a pasture, and there was no cover charge, the band was a whole lot better. Go figure. You might not think that a band that has a cellist/bongo player, a lead guitarist who plays solos with just his left hand and his pelvis, and a setlist that includes covers by Collective Soul and INXS would be worth listening to, but the fact that none of the musicians performed a lap dance throughout the entire evening was greatly to their advantage.

By the way, what’s up with Des Moines bands being so big? According to my observations, the average size of a bar band in Des Moines is 6.5 people, and I’m basing that on my statistically significant sample of two bands. Maybe Des Moines bands are just easier to get into because they don’t know when to close the doors. Or maybe the musicians want to outnumber the audience members in case the latter ever start getting hostile. That might explain why the band from Saturday night waited until the place was almost empty before busting out their twenty-minute opus “Variations on “When the Levee Breaks’”, because I think even they knew full well that there was really just the one Variation, and that wouldn’t have cut it in a full room.

But today isn’t about bad barroom bands; it’s about bad barroom etiquette. When we arrived, there was one empty table and it was directly under one of the TV sets showing the baseball game. It was one of those high, round tables with the kind of chairs that leave your feet swinging a foot or two above the ground, and with my height I worried that I might be blocking someone’s view and that my big exposed head might start looking like a tempting dartboard to some frustrated sports fan. So as soon as a table with a more civilized height opened up, we adjourned to the lower altitude.

But now the problem was that we were sitting at the table closest to where people were playing pool. Normally that’s not such a big problem; if someone needs to line up a shot that impinges on the table space, they just say “Excuse me” and we lean to one side while the pool player, self-conscious about having asked a stranger to move so he or she can make the perfect shot, invariably bricks it. But tonight, the couple at the table was apparently unaware of the standard operating procedure. Not the shot flubbing; that went just fine. No, it was the “excuse me” part that escaped them.

Trash and I had our backs to the pool table, and there were three or four occasions where we’d be in the middle of a sentence as someone’s shooting hand whizzed past her ear. We let it go the first few times, figuring that maybe they just didn’t know the rules. But as the game progressed, we began to feel that it behooved us to embark on an intensive program of disapproving glares and annoyed gestures. Fast Eddie and his date simply continued to pretend we weren’t there.

Until the woman actually thumped Trash dead-center in the back of the skull with her cue. And the cues in this bar didn’t have the little rubber stoppers on the butt end. Trash and I whirled around in our chairs, snapping something openly hostile that the woman probably couldn’t hear over the band. She muttered some lame apology that we couldn’t hear over the band. Then she capped it off with this gem as she backed away:

“She was leaning forward when I lined up the shot, so, you know, she backed into me.”

Well, as long as she’s sorry.

“Oh, come on!” I hollered at the bimbo. I know she heard that over the band. I can’t say if she heard everything I was trying to communicate with those three words, to wit:

“Try having some freaking manners instead of acting like you’re the only person on earth. And by the way, you might have better luck if you said “excuse me” instead of rushing to time your shot against the random movements of the people whose personal space you’re invading. Idiot.”

It’s always tricky to verbally transmit that much information inside the aural equivalent of a jet engine, but I’m fairly sure the “idiot” part got across.

I’m also fairly sure that the righteous indignation of the rest of our party was conveyed (verbally and otherwise), if not to both of them, then at least to the bimbo’s Chipster date. Between the glares from my brother-in-law and myself, he seemed to understand that a repetition of the incident would, in short order, result in somebody eating an eight ball. After a few minutes of studiously avoiding our gaze, they hung up their cues and left. And that was the second near-bar-fight of my life.

Then my brother-in-law challenged me to a pool game on the newly open table. I agreed, but only after making Trash promise not to back into me while I was shooting.

* * *

The other weird thing about that night was the way Brooke Burke kept watching me pee.

The restroom had one stall with one toilet. Not a urinal, a toilet. Hence, maximum exposure. And on the wall directly above the toilet was a life-size poster of the E! Entertainment Television personality, wearing a bikini and staring back at me with an expression that in that context could only be described as “appraising.” By the third visit, her expression was looking more like “distinctly unimpressed,” and when last call sounded, there might as well have been a caption there that read, “Oh, please, you might as well just sit down because you’re not fooling anybody.” I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch E! again without feeling inadequate.

Okay, that may be the saddest sentence I’ve ever written.

posted by M. Giant 2:50 PM 0 comments


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