The Thorobred Club

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I stopped into the strip club out near the race track early on a Friday night. They had just opened so there wasn’t a whole lot of action going on. Strippers sitting in little clumps here and there. I sat down at the bar and ordered a Budweiser. This is de rigueur for me at strip clubs because its an easy drink to order, it’s cheap, and doesn’t call a lot of attention. Usually a good way to change a twenty and get a lot of singles for the strippers. Strippers love singles.

“What’ll be Bud?”

“I’ll have a Budweiser, please.”

“This Bud’s for you.”

She opened one of the glass paneled doors covering the refrigerated room back of the bar and retrieved a bottle of beer and set it down before me.

“Just a minute,” she said when I tried to pay her.

They were still opening the joint and she and another barmaid were hovering over the cash register counting money and signing in. It was OK with me. I was in no hurry.

I was sitting there on my bar stool swigging my beer and swiveling around on the stool to check the place out. Back behind me there was a large main stage with two stripper poles. Music was playing in the background. Kind of low for a stripper place I thought. There were tables and chairs in the space between me and the stage. The lighting was low and seductive and of course mirrors everywhere. I had turned back around to the bar facing the mirror on the back wall when I noticed a thin young girl with long brown mousy hair wearing a black athletic jacket heading in my direction. Under the jacket was a nice lingerie set of matching black bra and panties. She was distinguished from the other girls because one, she was wearing a jacket, and two because her lingerie was nicer than the rest. The panties were high waisted and the brassier was rather full, more like a bustier, and while she looked good, she really wasn’t that sexy.

“Hi. What’s your name, cowboy?” She asked.

“Philip”, I answered. “What’s yours?”

She lowered her head and got closer and got a silly grin on her face.

“My real name or my stripper name?” She purred into my ear.

“Well, I always like to know a girl’s real name.”

“We’re not supposed to tell what our real name is.” She dropped her head and laughed. “It’s Crystal. My stripper name is Bella.”

“Oh, Bella! That’s a pretty name!” I was wondering if she knew what it really meant.

She smiled. “Thanks! Yours is pretty too.”

I smiled back.

“I don’t usually do this. I only work a couple days a month. Just enough to make a little money to pay the rent. I’m a single mother. I have a six-year-old daughter at home I have to take care of. She’ll be six in August.”

“Oh really? What day?”

“The ninth. August the ninth.”

“Wow! Really? That’s my birthday too!”

Her smile got bigger.

“Really? What’s your sign?”

“Leo. Just like your daughter. What’s yours?”

“Scorpio.”

“Oh! The most dangerous sign in the universe!”

“Do you study signs?”

“A little bit. You?”

She nodded her assent.

“Are Leos and Scorpios compatible?”

She laughed and allowed that they were. “I’m very passionate.” She said.

Then she went on about how she didn’t’ drink but that she smoked a lot.

“Weed?”

“Yeah. Buy me a drink?”

“I thought you just said you didn’t drink.”

“I don’t. Except when I come here. I couldn’t do this unless I drank.”

“How much are they? I don’t usually buy girls drinks because they jack the prices up and I don’t like that.”

She grimaced. “I really don’t know. Get me a shot of tequila. I’m going over here to talk to my friend to make sure she is alright. I’ll be right back.”

So, I ordered a shot. I figured if the barmaid thought it was for me, she would just charge me regular price.

“Silver or gold?” She asked.

“Silver.”

She poured a shot and set it down in front of me.

“Lemon or lime?”

“Lemon.”

“You want salt with that?”

“No.”

“That’ll be seven dollars.”

In a few minutes Crystal drifted back over to where I was sitting and spotted the shot of Patron sitting on the bar.

“Where’s your shot?”

“I’m drinking beer.”

This seemed to satisfy her. She picked up the shot of tequila and poured it down her gullet and then sucked on the lemon and made a face.

“Oh, that was awful!”

“The lemon?”

“No, the tequila. I told you I didn’t drink.”

Then she proceeded to tell me how when she was younger, she did a lot of bad things but she was trying to turn her life around. She said her boy friend was shot and killed right beside her. Turned out it was a drug deal gone bad. We talked about how dangerous Louisville was and what an underbelly it had. Then she went back over to her friend who was sitting at the other end of the bar.

I figured she be back for another drink but it looked like she got caught up in the conversation with her friend and some others who joined them. Thought it might be a good time to blow so I took the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby, baby, baby…

 

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Baby, Baby, Baby

One of my best friends from back in the day was the renowned football player Reggie Garret. Reggie once played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and had two Super Bowl Games under his belt.

Naturally he had two Super Bowl rings. One with one diamond and one with two. Sometimes when we went out together barhopping and catting around he would wear both massive rings, one on each hand. Needless to say, he was a chick magnet. The women would just gravitate to him and surround him. I always felt lucky to get his overflow.

One night while at the Brass Rail we were chatting up a very pretty black chick. After a while it became pretty obvious she was more into me than she was into him. Since we were a salt-and-pepper team he just couldn’t understand how a black chick could be more into me than into him. Oh well! Anyway, he never got over it and whenever the subject came up later on he referred to it as the, “baby, baby, baby…” incident. Even years later. We always had a big laugh over it whenever it came up. Sometimes we would even answer the phone, “Baby, baby, baby,”

On another occasion we were out having  drinks at the Frontier Club across the street from the factory where we both worked. It was happy hour. We were drinking with our boss, Jim Smith. Now Jim liked to take his subordinates out to drink and have them pay for it and then put it on our expense accounts. That way we all got to drink for free.

Well this one night at the Frontier Club we were having drinks up at the bar and a friend of Reggie’s comes over and says, “Is that fat faced motherfucker your boss?”

Well Jim’s jaw dropped opened, his face got red, and his eyes popped.

Reggie started in to stuttering and I excused myself to the gents. When I got back Reggie’s friend was long gone, Reggie was hanging his head in shame, and Jim was getting up to leave.

We got a big laugh out of this one too later on but we never brought it up around Jim.

We made bottles for the beer industry. Budweiser was just down the road. Whenever we went out we were expected to drink Budweiser which I couldn’t stand. I preferred Heineken. We don’t make bottle for Heineken, Jim would say, but Budweiser. This Bud’s for you!

Well I ran across this passage from The Road to Wiagn Pier by George Orwell, which pretty much sums up how I feel about Budweiser beer: “Look at the filthy chemical by-product people pour down their throats under the name of beer.”

That was it. It was beer in name only.

Baby, baby, baby….

Oh, the black chick? We got married.

 

 

 

 

 

TONY’S WAY

Philadelphia Story

Tonys way

There are a million stories in the semi-clad metropolis and this is one.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in each neighborhood there is a distinctive culture or ethnicity.  Each neighborhood has gradually become more mixed and diversified. In South Philly you have the Italians, in Fishtown the Irish. West Philly and North Philly are predominantly black. In Center City you see the greatest diversity, but it too has its own characteristics. In Kensington, where Tony’s Way is located, it is mainly Spanish, as in Puerto Rican. Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the elevated Blue Line in Kensington.

I lived in several different neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For a while I lived in Fishtown in a little house across from the Palmer Cemetery.  Fishtown is a neighborhood that adjoins Kensington.  I  would sometimes walk over to the Blue Line to take it into town. On the way back home when I arrived at my stop and descended the steps from the “El” I would find Tony’s Way beckoning to me in the darkness. So one night I hustled there inside.

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I stepped inside of the brightly lit cantina and immediately was blasted with the sound of Latin music blaring on the jukebox and uproarious laughter.  The joint was juking and very colorfully decorated with tinsel and streamers and signs of various descriptions. Very festive. The bar was in the center with seating all around. Behind the bar were a pair of barmaids in cut off jeans and tank tops.

I stepped up the the bar and ordered a shot of tequila and a Corona. That was what everybody else was drinking. I had a couple of rounds then stepped back into the night and walked home.

Since Tony’s Way was right on my way as I walked back and fourth from the El, I started to become a regular. I would go over in the afternoons sometimes and on the weekends. One day I was in there having a beer and a shot when Tony walks over to me and introduces himself.

He gave me a broad smile and stretched out his hand which I took. He had a strong grip.

“I’m Tony,” he said. “This is my place. Welcome. If you ever find you have a problem here, you see that large fellow sitting over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. And do you see that other fellow standing over there? That’s Edwardo. He’s my other cousin. You just call one of them over and he will help you.”

He smiled again and patted me on the back and strolled off to greet the other customers. That was how it was at Tony’s Way.

One Friday night I walked over for a little entertainment and to see if there might be some Puerto Rican girls just dying to meet me.

There was line to get in.  So I queued up and waited my turn to be let in. As I was waiting I noticed there were a couple of bouncers at the front door. They were frisking people, as in patting them down for weapons, before they were allowed in. Now this wasn’t too unusual for Philadelphia so I didn’t think too much of it at first. When It came my turn they just waved me in.

So I entered the establishment and walked around the bar to the other side so I could keep an eve on the door.  I ordered my usual: A shot of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Corona with a lime wedge.

I got to noticing the way the bouncers were frisking the patrons. A guy would step up to the door and they would  frisk him and then they would wave him on in. A couple of girls would step up up and they would get waved through. A guy come in gets frisked. The girls get waved through.

As I’m watching this it slowly begins to dawn on me, hey! Wait a minute, I didn’t get frisked. What’s up with that? They must not have thought I was dangerous enough to frisk.  Now in Philly, it’s not enough to look tough. You got to look dangerous too. So this was beginning to bother me a bit and I was feeling a little slighted if not insulted.

I turned to my fellow barfly sitting next to me and relayed my tale of woe to him. He said, relax, they probably just know you.

Ohhhhh! Yeah! I never thought of that! Well, I felt a whole lot better then and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I moved away from Philly a short while after that incident. First to Trenton then back home to Kentucky. It’s been about 10 years since I had been to Tony’s Way, but I always had fond memories.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia on business, and while there I wanted to visit some of my old neighborhoods and stomping grounds

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The first thing I noticed was the sign was down So I was’t sure if it was still Tony’s Way or not. I stepped into the bar from the bright sunlight and waited a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the light. I sat down on a bar stool and ordered a shot and a beer. I looked around and things looked pretty much the same. It was early afternoon so not too many people were in there. My eyes came to rest on a familiar character who was sitting across the bar from me reading a newspaper.

I  finished my drink and walked around the bar and approached the man reading the paper.

“You’re Tony aren’t you? I don’t know if you remember me or not but a few years ago when I lived in Philly I used to come in here. You were always very nice to me. I’m in town for a short visit and I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said. “Your hair was a little longer then. What happened to you?”

“I moved away.”

“Where did you move to?”

“To Kentucky.”

“To Kentucky?” He started laughing, Why’d you move to Kentucky?”

I explained I had family there and that was my home state, but he couldn’t get over the fact that I moved to Kentucky.

“Hey Angelina!. Come over here.” He waved the barmaid over. “This guy used to come here all the time, but he moved to Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?!!!”  Then she started to laugh.

She moved away from us and took another customer’s order who had just sat at the bar. And she told them what Tony had said and they laughed.  Then the people sitting next to them started laughing and shouted,  “Kentucky!” when they laughed. And pretty soon the whole establishment was laughing and shouting Kentucky! And no one was laughing more than Tony and me. But after a few minutes the laughter eventually died down, but it did not die down entirely for a long time for always at this table or that  a new area of laughter would begin.

I drank free that day.  Of course I suffered the next day from a hangover.  But it was definitely the best day of my trip.