I am missing a front tooth. I used to be a bouncer.
(These two statements are completely unrelated, although both are true. It just made the opening seem much more interesting.)
In the late 90s, I hung out at a bar named Albuquerque Mining Company. I don’t remember how I became a regular there; I guess at the time it was the most welcoming bar I had found, and before long, I’d spend a number of my evenings there. I must have liked the atmosphere and the people, because I wasn’t a drinker then any more than I am now; soda or coffee were my choices.
I became friends with the cashier at the door, hanging out there and talking to him. Before long, people started showing me their IDs while I sat there on a stool, and not much longer after that, I started getting paid for it. Thursday nights were the busiest nights, and the bar’s manager, Midnyte, hired me to officially check IDs and help out around the bar.
In doing so, he opened a door and personally led me into a fascinating adventure featuring the bizarrity of humanity. Starting my very first night.
I sat on my stool checking IDs while George the ever-present cashier collected the cover. When the line died down enough to allow, I’d make a round through the various rooms of the bar. As I passed through the dance floor, the bartender waved me over- a number of patrons had told him of some sort of disturbance going on in the smaller room off to the side of the DJ booth, and he asked that I take a look.
The small room had low lights, and it seemed even darker coming from the swirling lights and strobes of the dance floor. The bed sheet that immediately hit me in the face didn’t help my eyes adjust any quicker.
After removing the sheet and adjusting to the dim lighting, I joined the circle of people staring at the center of the room, where there sat a folding chair. On the chair sat two women with one head.
No – one very large woman. In only her underclothes.
On top of her
three women with one head another large woman frantically removed her clothing in flagrante delicto. I realized I held the woman’s shirt, not a bed sheet.
The alcohol servers certification class I had taken did not prepare me for this. Neither did Roadhouse.
Ignoring all others, their hands writhed across each other’s body in time to the music; they hungrily mouthed each other’s face as if they’d been smeared with honey.
“Excuse me,” I said, gingerly poking the smaller of the large women with my finger on what I hoped was not a breast.
“EXCUSE ME!” I bellowed, straining to be heard above the dance beat and gelatinous sucking sounds.
Without stopping, their eyes opened and looked up at me. “YOU CAN’T DO THAT HERE!” I shouted down at them. I tossed the bed-shirt over their heads, and walked away. A few minutes later, they swept past me out the door and into the night, holding hands and giggling.
And so the spectacle began.
Another Thursday night, and again I made my rounds through the bar. Some of the rooms had themes- including the dungeon, lit only by TVs in the corners and the small light behind the bar the bartender used to read labels.
It usually smelled like leather, and wet pennies.
(This was the first time in my life someone actually said “psst!” to me.)
I looked down at a round man with slicked back hair. I’m not overly tall, standing six feet, maybe 6’2” in my boots, but he only came up to my chest.
“Hey … do you have any powder?” he hissed.
I drew a blank. Powder? I had no idea what he could mean … unless!
“Why?” I asked, concerned and puzzled. “Are you chafing?”
He looked at me, confusion obvious in his close-set beetle-black eyes, then shook his neckless head, and wandered away.
(I eventually understood what he wanted, but it took me a number of years. I wasn’t yet completely without innocence.)
Most other nights were not nearly as busy as Thursdays. To bring in more business, Midnyte hired talented local boys to dance on the bar, wearing as little as the law allowed.
This included Shorter Dancer and Taller Dancer. Shorter Dancer was wiry, and wore little more than spray-on glitter. He told me once how he managed to express such high levels of ecstasy while giving lap dances.
“I close my eyes, lift my arm, try to bury my face in my armpit, and open my mouth like I’ve just stubbed my toe,” he said.
(Go ahead, try this at home. It really works!)
On one of the especially slow nights, a few other employees, dancers, and I all sat around the corner of the front bar. Brian tended bar, and for ten minutes entertained us by rolling his bar towel up in such a way that it looked like a cooked chicken, then making it dance for us. Finally, he shook out the towel, threw it back over his shoulder, and took a long drag off his cigarette.
He put a plastic salt shaker on the bar, and looked at the taller of the bar’s two dancers.
“I’ll give you 10 bucks if you can pick that up without using your hands or arms,” he said.
“Ok,” said Taller Dancer.
With the flexibility of the young, he squatted over the salt shaker, pressing it into his sweating bum crack. As the minutes passed, he repeatedly clenched, strained, and grunted, but every time, the salt shaker slid free when he tried to stand. Finally, his cheeks (and face) red, he admitted defeat and hopped down off the bar.
Shorter Dancer immediately ran over and started sniffing the salt shaker.
We all howled with laughter, and a bit of disgust. They both earned $10 that night.
Towards the end of my time there, I sat at my usual place at the bar, wearing my usual outfit – trench coat, black clothes, boots, etc. Nursing my cherry coke (Brian always gave me extra cherries), I lamented to him that, for as much of a meat market the bar was reputed to be, rarely did anyone hit on me, besides the occasional drunken lesbian.
“Wellll …” he said, drawing out the word like he didn’t want to move on to what was to be said next, “It’s because everyone’s afraid of you.”
“Afraid of me?!” I asked, incredulous, after returning from the parking lot where I had just tackled another lesbian trying to throw a cinder block through her estranged girlfriend’s windshield. (“Suck my diccckkk!!!” she screamed at me from the car window as they drove into the night.) “Why the hell would anyone be afraid of me?”
“Psst …” came from behind me.
“Oh, go away already!” I snapped.
Eventually, the late nights started taking too great a toll on my day job, and I gave up my life of breaking up fights, lugging around the occasional beer keg, dodging the talon-like fingernails of Central’s finest “ladies” of the evening (the prettiest ones were always men in drag), and putting out the occasional flaming garbage can with a fire extinguisher, as well as the occasional heated couple in the bathroom, and left my job.
Decades have passed since, and I lived in another state when the Mining Company shut its doors for good, but not before one final blowout of a party that I would have loved to attend. Even the building is gone now, torn down to make way for a modern pharmacy.
Nothing’s ever going to tear down those memories of the crazy nights of dancing chickens, dueling drag queens, and daring dancers, however. Somehow, we all managed to keep each other sane.
I have no regrets, but these days, I’m long past the age of being able to hang out at bars until the wee hours of the night and still function the next day, let alone stay awake.
I’ll leave the new adventures in the capable hands of today’s uninhibited youth. Perhaps one of them will rise to the challenge, and finally manage to pick up a salt shaker without using their hands.
But hopefully, someone will at least try.