Sunday, July 11, 2004

Initial Impressions, Part III...
Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of hanging out in my first redneck bar, a fascinating experience, I can tell you.

Just what, you ask, is a redneck bar? Exactly what it says --
a place where rednecks can get falling-down down drunk in their native habitat. This habitat has all the charm of an American Legion Hall where the possibility exists that the military might have conducted germ-warfare experiments in the 1960's. If you doubt me, check out the men's room. The place is dominated by a central bar, around which is clustered a brace of pool tables, dart boards and the ubiquitous karaoke apparatus. Rednecks, it seems, love karaoke.

Now, despite the fact that the place looked like a bomb hit it, one must be a "member" or a "guest of a member". Memebership to a cesspool is a rather novel concept, I admit, but dammit, they are serious about it. Upon entering this inner sanctum of the inbreds, I was subjected to everything short of a strip search: Why are you here? Which member are you a guest of? You ain't the Po-lice, are ya? These questions were being asked by a bouncer who looked like he definintely served time, probably for molesting a farm animal, although I must say, he was polite about it and even waited for me to order my first drink so that I would have change for the $2 cover charge.

The atmosphere was thick with cigarette smoke and the smell of beer. You know --- that cheesy smell of sour beer that permeates every possible surface that it's ever been spilled on, or regurgitated into. The background noise consisted of the constant clacking of billiard balls, the muffled roar of engines from the race on TV (there is ALWAYS a race somewhere to be watched), the hillbilly wailing of the 300 pound blond belting out Country torch songs with such feeling that you have the impression that she's had this monologue with herself every night since junior high. And the subject of the monologue is some reprobate, presently serving time or "keeping company" with another 300 pound woman who might be just as dumb as the one belting out an out-of-tune cacophany of vicarious emotion.

License plates litter the walls. The question I had about them; how many of them legitimatly fell off and how many of them were actually stolen? Budweiser posters (Bud -- the redneck version of ambosia)hung everywhere, most with race cars, famous country singers or half-naked women on them.
The exposed workings of what passes for the air conditioning system, loose electrical wires and ancient plumbing are visible, if you know where to look for them, which is usually up. Most of the people in the place became so rapidly intoxicated that it would be a genuine effort to raise a head above shoulder-level, so I guess that's why no one ever took the trouble to hide the infrastructure.

And what an intersting mix of people one finds in such a place. There was the lady palm-reader. Women with unusual powers of prognostication or some other talent (I've heard of a woman who can TALK a wart off any part of your body -- just how did she realize she had this power?), are a staple in these places. Any man with an unusual talent like this can be reliably imagined to tell you they found their "power" after they were abducted and anal-probed on a remote country road by the little grey men. The number of barflies is legion, although they are much easier to detect here in the south --- look for the woman that appears to have been "ridden hard and hung out wet", as they like to say here. This type is usually the first to start slurring their words. Anyway, the palm-reader, who was at first "frightened" to read my palm (she claimed to have gotten a "bad vbe" from me, and I swear I did shower before I went), eventually gave in after a short protest -- she doesn't like to use this power of hers, you understand, but buy her a beer and she'll tell you everything you want to know. I did it solely for the entertainment purpose, I promise you.

Half the women in the room would have been fairly nice to look at if they hadn't plastered enough make up on their faces to resurface a battleship. The ones that were attractive without much makeup tended to be overweight and have a streak of nasty a mile wide. The other half wore their hair in multi-tiered masses of curls that could only be held together with joint compound. The men are prime examples of how some people should be forced at gunpoint to use birth control, although I must admit that there were a few who fell into the category of "normal" or "nice chap".

The playing of eight-ball is a religious experience. Karaoke is the national pasttime of the perpetually drunk or the constantly put-upon. The men seem to gravitate towards singing Elvis tunes, and the women all choose country tunes about unrequited love, a cheating man, or ones which have obvious sexual overtones that would be attractive in a normal female, but which seem more like a pathetic cry for attention. Any kind of attention.

There was a tremendous and obvious lack of hygiene present, an oppressive air of sweat, dirt and grease everywhere, undercut with the beer and tobacco smell. Drinks are served in disposable plastic cups because apparently it's difficult to actually wash glases. You can have any beer you want, provided it's Bud or BudLight. Ask for a vodka and tonic and they ask what the hell IS tonic?

What struck me as insanely funny, was that everyone at some point took the opportunity to tell you that this was a "a nice place". If one went solely by appearances, one might be able to successfully debate that you had stepped across the threshold to redneck hell, but dammit, it was a far sight better than most other places. Now what made this mess a nice place? The friendship. People treated each other with friendship and respect in here. They all knew one another, mostly they grew up together, and there was love here. An unspoken love that floated into every nook and cranny of the joint. These people were all here to have a good time, amongst friends, and it didn't matter that they were sitting in a building that should be condemned or that the plumbing arrangements were reminiscent of the 19th century. They came for each other, to be with each other. That made it "nice".

You know, we Yankees often consider ourselves to be so sophisticated and worldly that a scene like I've just described would be a heck of a knee-slapper on the Upper West Side. Sometimes, I think we're deadly wrong, and if we would just stop looking down our noses we just might be able to see what's in front of our faces. Simplicity in style and manner is the hallmark of the redneck and they can always surprise you unexpectedly with it's hidden wisdom --- don't judge the book by it's cover, read the damn thing first. How I forgot that is beyond me, but I relearned the lesson in a freidnly sewer full of drunks. Life is funny that way sometimes.

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