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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Salt Lake City: Almost as fun as South Bend

When I visit a town for work or pleasure, I generally try to eat and drink at independent establishments rather than your Melting Pots, Macaroni Grills, and the like. While I like to eat at somewhat nice places, especially on per diem, my strategy with bars is to walk around until I find a real dump. The way to find out about the innards of a town is to locate its asshole, stick your nose up it, and take a big whiff.

Since Sunday I have been in Salt Lake City attending a conference. Why would anyone want to go to Salt Lake City in the Summer? I cannot answer that question. It's extremely hot and dry, like a certain other desert town the next state over. Unlike that certain other desert town, Salt Lake City is no desert jewel. From what I have observed, it is dull. Take South Bend, IN, subtract seedy, fun aspects and that one college, stick it in the desert, and spray the whole thing down with a bizarre pesticide of a religion that has something to do with Jesus, Native Americans getting their skin pigment from a punishment by god, and Steve Young, and you get Salt Lake City.

After dinner yesterday I went out into the streets in search of a shit-hole bar. The first one I found looked promising. Only window to outside was very dark and filled with neon signs shaped into beer advertisements. Just like Joe Camel and Marlboro miles worked on me as a lad, neon signs make me want some. I walk in and the bar is filled with hopefully the ugliest people in town. Ashtrays were full. Smoke was thick. Black cigarette, motorcycle, and NASCAR tee-shirts covered their uppers. Mullets and perms covered their tops. Jean shorts covered their mids. I didn't look at the bottoms. It was early, but all the stools were filled, so I sat down briefly at a semi-circle booth until I realized that there was no chance that they had wait staff.

"Sir, do you have a membership with us?"
"Excuse me?"
"Yeah, you need a temporary membership here, it's $4."
I walked out, confused as a 2nd grader in a sex ed class.

Two doors down was another crappy looking place, this one with a NO MEMBERSHIP REQUIRED sign out front. I walked in and sat down on a stool and ordered a PBR.
"Dya wanna small pitcher, a glass?
"I'll have a glass."
Then I realized how foolish that was. If someone asks if you want a pitcher to yourself, order a pitcher for yourself. So I notified the bar tender.
"Did you say '$3.50'?"
I put a $5 bill down and left her the change.
A drunk sat down next to me. He seemed to be pretty hammered, in his late 30's, probably down on his luck. He was on his way back from the juke box.
"Barry Manilow and beer, you can't beat that! Hey buddy, you know this song?"
"No, can't say I do."
Next song was "Dancing Queen". After that I think was a Cindy Lauper song. He then started on about his old job dealing cards at a casino in Primm Valley, on the Nevada/California border.
"Yeah, I dealt there for two years and at a truck stop after that for about a year. You ever been to the Stratosphere? I worked there for two and a half years -- best job I ever had. Made $32,000 a year."
"What happened to that one?"
"I was up for three days on cocaine, went kinda crazy and went in and told 'em 'I quit. Say, man, you gay by any chance, cause there's this club..."
"I'm straight."
"Just checking. Don't tell nobody this, but I'm bisexual and I found this good club in town. Good place to meet women too. I'll be back, gotta go take a piss."
Bartender: "I'm sorry, you can move if you like. I've never seen him in here before."
She poured me a free half pitcher for having to deal with Mr. Special. She explained that the bars serving liquor are required by state law to charge a membership fee to discourage drinking. You can either get an annual membership for $12 most places or pay $4 for a three week temporary membership. The $12 goes to the state of Utah. So barhopping in Salt Lake City isn't very cost-effective.

The drunk, greasy bisexual man came back after playing some more tunes and told me about how credit trouble has reduced him to a night job at Wal-Mart unloading the trucks. I pounded the rest of my beer and got the fuck out of there.

Tonight I went out to dinner with one of my Dad's army buddies. He drives the '79 Lincoln pictured above. The state rejected his request for a personalized plate reading 'PMPMBLE"



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