I was sitting somewhere in Dumb Fuck, Iowa, having some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in my life (seriously, it’s good there ’cause the natives moved there for all those meatpacking jobs) when I heard a conversation at a nearby table that completely sums up why I left that state in the first place.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle,” says a girl.
“Why’d you wanna go there?” says the guy.
“I don’t know,” she says. “It just looks nice and different and fun.”
There’s a loooonnnng pause at the table. Then the guy says:
“I always wanted to go to Dave & Buster’s.”
There it is, folks…’Mer-kuh.
See, I am an American. And I live in America, but it is the America that is New York City. And New York City is not ’Mer-kuh. ’Mer-kuh is filled with mouth-breathing breeders who think that a pair of Skechers will help them lose 48 pounds; that Taco Bell is “healthy” food; and that their hopes, dreams and aspirations can be fulfilled by a trip to a chain hamburger joint that gives out paper tickets to Whac-a-mole.
I’m from a tiny town west of Des Moines, East of Omaha, in the middle of nothing. The only entertainment is to go drink at the Bowling Alley. So, last Saturday, my sister, brother-in-law and I headed out to the Bowling Alley to meet one of her high-school friends who lives in Chicago now. On the way out the door, Brother-in-Law and I were already dreading the night before it began, him singing, “I’m so excited…. And I just can’t hide it!”
Roommate Jim texts from suburbs of Cleveland: “Im on a party bus. driver’s name is lightfoot. i’ll check in periodically because I know you need details.”
I text back: “Im on way to our towns bowling alley to hang out with all the losers from high schools and deadbeat dads.”
We get to bar and meet Chicago. “Why’d you pick the Bowling Alley? I thought you hated it?” I ask him.
“It doesn’t matter where we go,” he says. “It’s awful everywhere.”
You know what’s not awful at a small-town bar? The prices. After ordering two very expensive whiskeys, which are served in those tiny plastic cups the dentist uses to give you mouthwash in, and beers, the bartender turns to me and goes, “$12.” I turn to my sister. “It’s like drinking for free! We are going to get so wasted!”
We also have a standing bet on when the first baby will appear at the bar.
9:45 p.m. Yep, there’s a baby at the bar. About three, four months old, sitting on Mom’s lap as she guzzles a Bud Light tallboy.
We promptly take a picture of the baby to send to everyone we know. I text Roommate Jim: “Theres a baby at the bar.” He texts back, “Stop!”
Then update from party bus: “Ok, so I nearly pissed myself on the way over. weird vortex. heard bell biv devoe and b brown on the way over.”
Then at the bar: “Ok, saw lotsa plaster face makeup girls mixed with goth lite. jersey douche and midwest frat and failed art students.”
I send him the pic. He texts back: “Ok, no babies. youre up 1-0 on that.”
“I can’t believe I’m drinking whiskey out of a mouthwash cup,” I say. “This bar is so crappy.”
“You know what else makes a bar crappy?” Brother-in-Law says. “When they cover the old crappy bar seats with even crappier, cracked barstool covers.”
Chicago laments his Christmas at home. “My family are fucking nuts,” he says. “My sister’s kids are out of control.”
“Well, our family is fucking nuts, too,” Sister says. “My parents still have a set of encyclopedias from 1977 and ‘computer room’ that you can’t even use ’cause it’s so stacked with junk.”
“Goddammit, I wish my parents had encyclopedias and a computer room,” Chicago says. “They watch NASCAR while their smoke absorbs into my clothing.”
11 p.m. and change: Mom finally leaves bar with baby. It is also around this time that I learn of quite possibly the Greatest Living Feat I’ve ever heard of…. A former classmate of my Sister and Chicago’s recited ZZ Top’s “Legs” in English class as his own poem when they were in high school!
I don’t know about you folks, but anywhere ZZ Top is considered and understood to be poetry is a somewhat magical place. A magical place that may make you want to carry a concealed weapon, but a magical place nonetheless.
It’s also karaoke night at this bar. And after listening to the same folks—Mr. Belt Buckle (country) and the same two chicks—go over and over, I decide to take control and wow them with some “Welcome to the Jungle.” Then we hit them with Def Leppard, Journey and end the evening with Kid Rock. Pow! We not only delighted the crowd—we also managed to leave without getting punched in the face. A Christmas Miracle for All!
And so, I guess like everyone else who had to go out into ’Mer-kuh last week, I survived intact. Sure, there was plenty of dysfunction and passive-aggressive behavior. But I did score two sweet vintage dresses at the Salvation Army for $5. And isn’t that all any of us can ask for at Christmas?