Rockabilly and booze go hand in hand, and let's face it, if you are reading this, chances are you like a good piss-up. We all have our favorite watering holes where the liquor flows freely and lubricates the wheels of social interaction.
The summer brings on an incredible array of BBQ's and yard parties with the requisite amount of beer that goes hand in hand with the smoky allure of grilling meats.
There is nothing as Fellini-esque, though, as drinking in a strange town. The more remote the town, the more surreal the experience.
I will regale you with a few strange tales of some random places that I got hammered in.
The Elk's Lounge. Joplin, MO and Dirty's Steakhouse, Houston, TX
Several years back I took a road trip in a Kenworth from Toronto to Houston, TX. I had just been fired (surprise,surprise) from my manager's position, and while waiting for my paperwork, a driver that I knew came to get his load destined for Houston.
I asked if I could tag along, and he agreed. I rushed home to pack a few things and we were gone.
When we arrived at the Houston branch of said trucking company, I was greeted by the manager, who I had only spoken to on the phone. We had a day to kill awaiting our return trip so the manger decided to show me around Houston. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I had been fired, so I just let it slide.
We ended up at a place called Dirty's Steak House. Their motto was " Sit on our 2nd floor patio, and see if the roof of your car is dirty".
Everything is indeed bigger in Texas, and I couldn't believe the size of the chicken fried steaks ( never heard of them until then). The also had huge mugs of Lone Star Beer ( the national beer of Texas). The Houston manager was buying, so the Lone Stars were flowing.
The really hard part was bullshitting my way through the entire session, and not let it slip that I was no longer the Toronto manager, but just some bum who had hitched a free ride to Texas.
Our Return trip entailed a stop in Dallas and then onto Oklahoma. As we neared the Missouri border, my pill-popping driver buddy needed some sleep. I had mentioned that I knew somebody in Joplin and stopped at the truck stop there and urged me to look up my friend, while he slept for a few hours.
I had met this person through my previous job, and he and his wife had visited me in Montreal on their summer vacation.
This was pre-internet and cel phone, so I was easily able to find his phone number in the local phone book. He answered the phone and was flabbergasted to find out that I was in Joplin. He said he would be right over.
He pulled up in his Oldsmobile and I got a little tour of Joplin. We ended up at the local Elk's Lounge. The Elks being a fraternity of some sort, member's only. He opened the door with a card lock.
It was a cozy room, with an actual elk head on the wall and, this being the US, had a proper bar for drinking, padded elbow rests and all.
I swear everybody was wearing plaid pants, and not one of my buddy's friends had ever even seen a Canadian. I regaled them with tales of Canada, passed around some Canadian smokes and quarters and enjoyed all the rounds of free beer.
There seemed to be some animosity between my buddy George and some other dude , some decades old rivalry over George's wife or something and I found it pretty amusing.
Canadians tend to be smug about Canadian beer, but whomsoever among you may decry the low alcohol content of US beer, just haven't drank enough of it.
Twenty or so Miller's into the evening and George decided to call it a night. He drove back to the truck stop and we drunkenly looked at all the trucker paraphernalia displayed in the store. I bought a Missouri Mule pin because it seemd hilarious at the time.
Me and George parted ways. I staggered over to the rig and woke up my buddy. I took his place in the sleeper cab and slept pretty much through the whole state of Missouri. My buddy was really steamed when I woke up because he had to stop the rig because I really needed a piss.
Damn Missouri Miller hangovers.
Save The Robots, NYC, NY.
Back in my days as a full time artist, I would show in galleries in New York. I had a six month stint there and found some hilarious bars. Bars like no others in the world.
There was the Beauty Bar. An untouched fifties hair salon. They just added a bar. Patrons would sit in those old style hair dryer chairs and drink their cocktails.
There was the original Coyote Ugly, It was on Avenue B ( I think), It was a real dive, but the had the absolute best Country music juke box in town. The only reason the barmaids danced on the bar is that they were from Georgia and they were drunk.
New York never sleeps and, even though the bars close at 4am , there are plenty of after hours bars. I was much younger then, and could drink well into the wee hours (no drugs involved, I swear). I had randomly met some dudes from France staggering down the street and they told me about this after-hours called Save The Robots.
The doorman was from France and if you spoke to him in French, you didn't have to wait in line. I found this god-awful lamp in the trash on the sidewalk. It a statue of a naked lady in it. I picked it up for some reason.
When I arrived at the bar, I made my way to the front of the line. I spoke to the doorman in my best polished-up French and offered him the statue as well. That worked like a charm, because I was immediately let inside the bar.
The bar was in a basement and seemed cavernous. The floor was sand. Yep, sand. They had a makeshift bar set up and you had to know the code word, which was kool-aid. What you got was some watered down vodka cocktail at 5 bucks a pop.
After wandering around for a while and trying to strike up conversations, I realized that I was surrounded by New York weirdos. I left and went the closest Bodega. You can buy beer 24/7 in New York.
I woke up in somebody's doorway some hours later, sitting on a plastic garbage can. I was blocking the doorway and a resident trying to leave got mad at me. I went to McDonald's and I think I scared the security guard.
Somebody's Barn, Wetaskawin, AB
For some reason , I was spending a few months in Edmonton. Edmonton is great bar city, there are many good bars and lots of live music. Somebody I knew had horses, and one of them just gave birth. I was asked to tag along, because I had never seen a newborn colt.
A newborn colt is apparently cause for celebration, so beer and doughnuts were on hand a plenty.
I was asked to help wrangle the colt because it wouldn't nurse.The mother horse (whatever you call' em) weighed about two thousand pounds. She seemed to like me though, and didn't protest when I entered the stable.
For a newborn, that colt was strong and myself and another guy were unable to wrangle him.
We just kept drinking beer and eating doughnuts, the stench of horse piss permeated the air
and combined with the ever increasing inebriation, created a strange aura.
The long drive back on the flat Alberta prairie was surreal.
The Chicken Shack, Silver Spring, MD
For some inexplicable reason I drove from Montreal to Virginia to meet a woman that had been introduced by mutual friends ( what was I thinking?)
I spent a few days there, and went to some nondescript bars ( same all over I guess). Washington DC was just across the river, and I raised more than a few eyebrows with my occasional cursing. Pretty conservative place.
Saturday night the dude who had introduced us decided to take us out to see a band. It was more or less a suburb of Washington in a town called Sliver Spring in the sate of Maryland.
It was one of those run down places that has a lot character. The front part was really narrow and served up southern style fried chicken, my buddy was a pretty big guy, he was hungry and decided to eat and would meet us in the back later.
The back part was were the music was. We went up this narrow flight of stairs and entered a large space with very high ceilings Looked like it used to be warehouse. We were stopped by a doorman who wanted a five dollar cover. This did not sit well for my date, and she started ragging on this skinny, mullet clad dude. He was terrified, because she towered over him. I managed to calm her down and she kept going on about how much she hated rednecks. I had no idea what she was talking about.
The band started and the acoustics proved to be terrible. They were sort mangling some old standards, purporting themselves to be a swing band. My buddy finished his food and joined us. Him and my date both knew how to swing dance, so he took my surly companion off my hands for a while while I proceeded to furiously knock 'em back.
On the drive back, she was still ranting about something or other. We went another bar where I almost got into a fight with a big redneck because she was mouthing him off.
Next day she was still in a surly mood and my buddy's wife called to say that he had gotten food poisoning from that chicken.
That's pretty much when I decided to get the hell out of there. I drove the 800 miles back and was, of course, delayed at Canada Customs (like every other time). When I got home, I got 12 well deserved Canadian beers and thought to myself, " Oh well, at least I got see Virginia".
Just a few random tales for your enjoyment.