Main | Monday, December 12, 2005

SuperDaddy At The Dugout

Another Sunday, another hazy evening at the Dugout.

I arrive to find SuperDaddy at his usual position, guarding the jukebox. I check my watch, 6pm, good. I have an odd habit of setting unnecessary appointments for myself and it strangely pleases me when I arrive somewhere at my self-appointed time. Same thing for returning home.

I join SuperDaddy at the jukebox, now my comfortable station. I like the way that even in very crowded bars, groups of friends always stake out the same territory, week after week. The 10 square feet around the Dugout's jukebox are Camp SuperDaddy, and we mere satellites orbiting around his jovian person, using his height and brawn as a return beacon, when navigating trips to the bar and the can. New arrivals stop and pay homage to SuperDaddy before getting their first drink, this obeisance as much a part of their bar ritual as any other.

"Gawdamn it, Joe! You haven't blogged my Nipsey Russell story! I told it to you right after he died. You said it was hilarious!" That's Brooklyn Tad, the tall alt-rock/art fag with the septum ring. The last time I saw Tad he was in drag at Wigstock.

"Tell me the story again, so I get it right," I tell him.

Tad answers, "OK, this is how it went. I was at a dinner party a few years ago, on the Upper East Side, and after dinner the hostess was passing around some weed, when someone started pounding on the door. She went to answer it and we could hear a long, loud argument coming from the hallway. And I heard some man say, 'I know you got some good shit in there!'. Finally she came back into the living room and said, 'That's my neighbor, Nipsey Russell. He could smell our weed and wanted some. Nipsey like to puff, but he don't like to pay!'"

I laughed, "Right, that's a great line. And now let me tell you my favorite Nipsey Russell poem."

The opposite of pro is con
That fact is clearly seen
If progress means move forward
Then what does Congress mean?

What, you don't have a favorite Nipsey Russell poem?

Speaking of poems, on my last visit to the Dugout, I was drunkenly composing dirty limericks. I had just sullenly announced that nothing rhymed with bukkake. SuperDaddy happened to be passing and he leaned down to whisper, "Air hockey!", then kept going. That man is sharp, I tells ya.

Tonight, back at the jukebox, SuperDaddy is glaring over the shoulder of a guy who is feeding dollars into the machine. Clearly, this interloper doesn't know that SuperDaddy arrives early enough, and with enough singles, to commandeer at least 3 hours of jukebox time. That is, unless the interloper pays the extra money that this fancy new digital jukebox requires for his song to jump the queue and play next, which he does.

SuperDaddy watches the interloper make his selection and snickers to me, "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves! Tim won't let that play for 10 seconds." And sure enough, before Cher can even open her mouth, the bartender hits some button that cuts the song. SuperDaddy explains that two songs, "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" and "Half Breed" are strictly forbidden at the Dugout, for reasons known only to him and Tim.

As an aside, I'll mention that to my mind, digital jukeboxes are a step backward in saloon entertainment. A carefully curated jukebox is often the best sales tool for a bar. Skillfully chosen selections not only set the entire tone of a joint, they can actually define the sort of customer the owners are looking for. What do we go to The Phoenix for, if not for the superbly managed jukebox inventory? When a jukebox offers unlimited options, music for all tastes, how does a bar establish its specific crowd? I suppose this problem is moot in the case of the Dugout, or any place with a long-established category of clientele. But I'd certainly never open a new bar with a digital jukebox.

At the bar, I fall into a conversation with a friend of SuperDaddy's, after I hear him mention his passion for PeeWee Herman's Christmas Special, which is my own favorite holiday tradition. We trade our favorite moments from the show for a few minutes, and when the guy wanders away, I ask SuperDaddy about the guy's t-shirt, which has a fire hydrant on it. SuperDaddy confirms that it means exactly what I suspect it does.

It's 8:30 now, so I bid SuperDaddy good-night, leaving him and his constellation of admirers at the jukebox. I grab a cab on Christopher Street and ten minutes later I'm at the Eagle, which is packed. I haven't really been feeling the Eagle lately, not sure why, but within an hour, I'm ready to go.

In front of the Eagle, the usual line of cabs is not to be found and I have to wait an unreasonable ten minutes before one finally rolls up and disgorges a fabulously stacked Latina with glitter in her hair. She's obviously arriving for her shift at Scores, the titty bar next door to the Eagle. As she gets out of the cab, we share a smile, a nightlife insiders smile. She knows my story and knows that I know hers. "Haf a gud night, papi," she murmurs as I hold the cab door for her. "You too," I reply.

My cabbie takes the now-familiar route home, up 10th Avenue, a right past Lincoln Center, then through Central Park, passing under Tavern On The Green, which seems to be having a major event tonight. Once on the East Side, I detour the cab past Wok-N-Roll and with my pork lo mein in hand, walk into my apartment at precisely 10pm, which is right on time.


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