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By Reid Wright

There comes a time when a man just needs a drink — an unstable concoction to strip away his mental armor so he may look deep into his glass and deep into his soul to find the greater truths that lie beneath.

It had been a long, grueling week and this was clearly one of those nights.

I sought sanctuary at the Blue Cactus Lounge — scoffing when Romero, the bartender, told me the place got crazy at night. I’d found previous ventures to the lounge to be quite boring. The only other person sitting at the bar was a silent old cow-poke with a handlebar mustache who was periodically told in jest to shut the hell up.

Little did I know the Fairy God Mother of Fucked-up showed up at midnight to turn the blue cactus into a forgotten corner of Dante’s Inferno.

“We’ve only got three people working behind the bar tonight,” Romero said. “I’ll be fine, but I don’t know about the other two.”

Whatever. I went back to my Bud Light.

This far out in the desert, good beer is hard to come by. I was mortified at the gas station earlier that day, where the 30-foot-long beer case was comprised of only two colors, red and blue, or Budweiser and Bud Light. At that moment, my inner beer snob screamed and died an anguished death within my chest.

So now I drink Bud Light, or at least I did until Willy showed up with his wife. Willy is a stout 50-ish man who makes a killing working HR at the nuclear waste disposal plant. He found out I worked at the paper and rumbled with a deep laugh.

“Romero, get this boy a drink,” he said. Then he pulled me aside and said quietly, “This is my place.”

Romero returned with two glasses of straight Don Julio tequila, explaining it was his favorite. After drinking the foul yellow water that is Bud Light, Don Julio felt mighty good sloshing over my taste buds and warming my stomach.

Willy handed a thick wad of bills over the counter and the drinks kept coming. Apparently he had a reputation for throwing down large sums of money on a whim. Romero happily helped himself when the security camera panned away. I should have been suspicious of a stranger trying to get me wasted, but I was headed for the bottom anyway, might as well accept the hospitality.

At some point, Willie’s wife taught me how to do the two-step to country music. I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a dance so easy, a three-legged bull with mad cow disease could do it. Clearly, it was a dance specifically tailored for the Caucasian male.

We had our jolly time and the older couple left. I wound up at a table of young outcasts. No matter where in the country I go, no matter how mundane I dress, the freaks see right through my leave-it-to-beaver façade and recognize me as one of their own.

And I love them for it.

Emily was a slender girl with dark hair and a skull t-shirt. Kim, a stout girl with broad shoulders and spiked hair, was quieter and more reserved. It didn’t take me long to figure out the two were a couple. Also at the table, Leslie and Marco are an older couple. Marco works out at the wastewater treatment plant. He happily explained he’d just been promoted from “Turd-herder” to “Turdologist.”

We went out to smoke. Emily explained to me, as if it was in dire need of explanation, that just because she was a lesbian, did not mean she wanted to sleep with every girl she met.

I wandered around the corner to discover Romero, still in his work shirt, passed out in the fetal position on a concrete bench with a soft smile on his face — the curse of Don Julio claims another victim.

The Blue Cactus Lounge is now down to two bartenders.

On the way back in, Emily said homosexuals in Carlsbad were terrified of publicly coming out and even more afraid of showing up at pride events, for fear they might wind up in the newspaper. I was just about to find out how hostile the environment really was.

The girls stood up to dance. By then, a good number of people had showed up and the place was alive with music and movement. Through the tequila haze, it was really quite beautiful.

Suddenly, a melee erupted on the dance floor and the bouncers dove in head first. Leslie staggered out with blood gushing out of her nose and onto her shirt. A thrashing Kim was pulled out of the pile. I’d never seen such fury. It took three bouncers to get her outside, where she was subdued by Emily’s touch.

What looked like a methed-out Malibu Barbie was escorted out to join her Ken doll at his car. Kim had to be held back again as the two lurched away.

Leslie walked out in a daze, unaware of the blood on her face. Her nose looked broken. All I could do was stupidly hand her some bar napkins. She pushed them away.

Kim said the girl had swung at her and accidentally hit Leslie. She wouldn’t say what provoked the attack, but I sensed a long history.They rushed Leslie off into a car and drove away.

 At that point, I just wanted to go home.

(The names in this post have been changed)

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One Comment

  1. haha, I was going to ask you how your new “home” was suiting you, I suppose this post will have to suffice as my answer…


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