May 1998
s m u g
by Joe Procopio

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Let me tell you how much I hate it when Prince comes to town. And yeah, it's "Prince." That whole artist and symbol shpeil is just a big joke he's playing on the media. Those of us who know him call him Prince. Or Tim.

And when Prince comes to town we always end up at the most ludicrous clubs in Raleigh. Without fail. I'm constantly trying to talk him out of it, to the point where I'm now suggesting we hit the dollar theatre instead ("Hey, they've got Speed 2!") or maybe just play some Monopoly with his entourage. But he's all jazzed about these stupid clubs. Every famous person has their quirks. And this one is pretty low on his list. I don't know, he always ends up talking me into it.

Humor me here. What do you see when you close your eyes and picture the perfect bar? Are the walls plastered with team-banners or post-industrial sculpture? Does it go thump-thump-thump or do your teeth shake with the screech of forty-year-olds playing Ozzy and Metallica covers? Is it pitch-black? Does it have a deck? Is it full of only guys? Are they gay or just bonding. Does it have pool tables? Darts? Or foam. Is the wait staff naked? Is there food? Liquor? What does it take to get kicked out?

Now, open your eyes again.

I'm twenty-eight years old and I've been frequenting all kinds of bars for nearly thirteen years (for those of you that did the math, the old New York State driver's licenses were horrendously easy to fake). And I can say that it's been maybe once in a blue moon that I've found a bar that has every single element I see when I close my eyes. Even when I find my nirvana, it's usually only cool for a little while before it ends up destroying itself under the weight of its own popularity. Like... well, like Nirvana.

But Posedown isn't about me. It's supposed to be a place where I give advice and instruction to you, my favorite person in the whole-wide world. Yes, you. Don't act all nonchalant. You didn't think I had been paying attention, did you? Anyhow, I don't have to tell you how to act in your favorite bar. That's remedial. Step 1: Get drunk. Step 2: Go home. What I do need to do is parlay the advice you need when you, unaware, set foot into the trap.

Back to our little exercise. If every person's preference is as different as every person, how does one distinguish between one person's poison and another's meat-market? Well, you don't. Or at least I don't. But I will tell you this. Some bars just suck.

Prince got in late Friday night and we had to skip dinner if we were going to do anything. It started off poorly. First I had to help him unload something like 7000 copies of Crystal Ball out of the back of his minivan and cart them over to Best Buy. That sucked. But he knows a couple of guys there and they let us play around with the surround sound display. He also bought me a mousepad, which, y'know, is pretty cool. We finished up there and I asked him what he'd like to do next.

"Well," he said, "There's this new place that Morris said is pretty good."

"Pretty good, how?" I asked.

"Well, he said the music rocked and you could still talk and there was a good mix of people. And some fine, fine ladies."

"Ah," I winced, "it's gonna be full of new-bar people. Besides, aren't you married now?"

"Come on," he laughed, "Don't be foolish."

So I asked the key question. "They got liquor?"

Affirmative. We rolled.

I was drop-dead accurate on the new-bar people. We saw them as soon as we pulled up, a bunch of guys in the line to get in, all dressed in non-natural fiber sports jackets and jabbering into cell-phones. Here's a side tip. Never bring your phone to a club. You'll look like a moron. Really.

We got to the front door and there was cover charge. Bad sign. But there's an unwritten rule that says you don't bitch about the cover charge. It took a couple minutes to get in. One of the cell-phone guys in front of us was bitching about the cover charge.

And when we finally did get in, my shoulders sagged instantly.

It was one of those standard-issue dance clubs with the balcony all the way around so that posing voyeurs could look down on posing voyeurs who were in turn staring at opposite sex on the dance floor. There was a lightshow. And the music was, no exaggeration, MTV Party to Go Volume One, track for track. Everything was pink and silver and neon.

Everyone, again no exaggeration, everyone, was wearing a beeper.

Trapped! Another night on the town with Prince.

At least there was liquor.

I bought the first round because, if you don't buy the first round with Prince, you know he's not going to and you end up standing around for like an hour without a drink until one of you gives in. Right away he goes up to the DJ booth and requests "Little Red Corvette." He always does this. It's so tactless.

I strutted (you have to strut) up the stairs and took a seat overlooking the dance floor. I watched for a while to get acclimated. I ordered a second drink. Then I learned what you do in a place like this.

Guys: You have two options, brooding psycho or half-dancing rejection-magnet. If you choose the former, you should sit at one of the tables, by yourself or with some friends, it doesn't matter as long as you're all stoic and stone-quiet. The objective, I'm assuming, is to get some young lady to notice how much ice is pouring through your veins. This will inevitably lead her over to you and, with a nod of her head, offer you her body at her place, which, by the way, happens to have a fridge stocked full of beer and a big-screen TV.

If you go with the latter, expect to be crushed, repeatedly, in front of jokers like me who will shake our heads and point you out to our friends and give you names like "Suede-Shirt-Boy," "Twin-Beepers," and "Haircut." Get out on the floor and stay there. Latch on to any passing woman and dance with her until she turns her back. Rinse. Repeat.

Gals: You're going to get hit on. This is why you're here. Don't deny it. But you have a range of personalities to choose from that span from casual ignorance to out-and-out laughter. And seeing as your choices are the aforementioned male types, I can't say that I blame you.

Don't despair though. There are some alternate roles, if you're up to them. Feel free to choose from:

  • Sensitive Guy Who Just Came Here To Dance, Baby
  • Girl Who Knows Better And Got Dragged Here By Loose Friends
  • Woman Drinking For Free
  • Guy Who Came Straight From The Office And Is Now Too Blasted To Give A Crap How He Looks On The Floor, Dammit!

Now, I know what you're asking yourselves. What did I do? Well, I'll tell you. I did what I always do when presented with a situation like this. I drank until I didn't know what I was doing. The bonus here is that I woke up and couldn't remember what I had done. But Prince made sure I got home alive, no warrants, and most of my clothes. I didn't have my tie, but then that always happens. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn't wear one. So there you go.

I suppose now I should tell you that this shouldn't have to be. When you go out to have a good time, you shouldn't have to erase the night's actions to get to a place that you find acceptable. But I can also tell you this. There's no such thing as the perfect bar. Or the perfect job. Or the perfect friends. Or the perfect life. Whatever. Sometimes you just have to make the best of what you have. And, if you're lucky, you'll be able to walk into any bar in the world and, like my friend says, "party like it's..." something or other.



in the junk drawer:

and such
and such

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