In Boozo Veritas #57 by Teege Braune
I was thinking about doing a piece for Labor Day about William Blake’s idea of the creative process as a form of labor embodied by the tension and perfect balance between inspiration personified by Urthona (i.e. the Holy Spirit) and reason personified by Urizen (i.e. Satan) and their place in connection to Tharma (both the senses and God the creator) and Luvah (representing the heart, love, and Christ), known collectively as the Four Zoas, but then I remembered that Labor Day is meant, ironically enough, to be a day free from labor not a day to voluntarily impose more work on oneself, especially not in the way of a particularly dense and time-consuming blog post. That being said, having worked in the service industry for the past decade, I can’t remember the last time I was actually off work on Labor Day and just so happened not to be scheduled at Redlight Redlight this year. Who really knows when a break like this one will come again?
This past weekend Bar-BQ-Bar, downtown Orlando’s favorite dive bar, meat-market, watering-hole, shut its doors for the final time.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for its run down, skeezy ambience, and I’m still unsure whether it was designed that way or as old as sin and simply never cleaned. I had even been tempted to assume the missing urinal was a stylistic choice until the night I entered the restroom to find most of the urinals missing. It seemed like a good place for a young, aspiring writer to hang out and collect priceless, debauched experience in order to avoid writing, and yet I can’t claim Bar-BQ-Bar has ever inspired a single word until today.
I first went to Bar-BQ-Bar shortly after moving to Orlando nine years ago. My friends Mike and Kosch were kind enough to take me out since neither of them knew me very well yet. We easily found a booth and Mike bought us round after round of Mickey’s Big Mouths. We struggled with the riddles inside the caps as we drank lazily into the night. Attempting to make out the illegible graffiti scrawled overtop of itself, layer upon layer, along the walls, I wondered at the ur-text that started it all. Written out line by line would the sheer immensity of it rival Infinite Jest, the collected works of Victor Hugo, or the entirety of the western canon? I thought I could become a regular at a chill, little dive like this one. It must have been a Sunday or a Monday night. I was unemployed and never knew what day of the week it was. I’ve never seen Bar-BQ-Bar so relaxed since then.
During a rowdier evening, Bar-BQ-Bar taught me the significance of a decent tip long before I became a bartender myself. One night I waited twenty minutes to order three beers. I stood with my cash out while the bartenders served everyone around me, failed continuously to notice me in that wall of people. When one of them finally filled my order I tipped twice the total of the High Lifes I was buying.
“Wow, thanks, man!” she said nodding in approval.
The next time I came up to the bar she jumped over several guys who had been waiting much longer than me to take my order, and while I didn’t continue to tip quite as much, I didn’t have to wait more than a minute for a beer the rest of the evening.
Another night I found myself sitting in a booth with The Detroit Cobras after their show next door at The Social. The drummer bought me shot after shot so the guitar player could hit on my date. We sat in our booth drinking long after the rest of the band had taken the tour bus and abandoned their two associates. Jenna, who I was not actually dating, nevertheless had no romantic interest in the guitar player, a man twice her age, but as a conciliation prize we drove them back to their hotel, the Travel Lodge on Magnolia Ave only two blocks away. We had to walk further to get to her car than they would have to get to their hotel, but the guitar player was persistent and didn’t give up until the very lat moment. In his defense, he was a perfect gentleman when Jenna pulled the car over and announced, “Here we are. Thanks for a lovely evening. You guys enjoy Orlando.”
I went to Bar-BQ-Bar much less after I started bartending and spending almost every night at Redlight Redlight, but still made the occasional jaunt through its seedy doors. One night a water pipe broke at the original Redlight, and we had to close down for the evening while it was being repaired. To this day, it was the only time we’ve had to close for a maintenance emergency, but as water was rapidly filling up the bar, it seemed like an appropriate last ditch necessity. Brent and I were swept along downtown with everyone who had been drinking at our own place to Bar-BQ-Bar where we decided to drink ourselves out of our frustration. After I was good and tipsy a young woman we called the Make Out Bandit began kissing me suddenly. This went on for a while and then she simply stood up and walked away without exchanging any of the niceties one usually goes through in such a situation. When I turned around my friends began to applaud me, so feeling red of faced, I darted off to the bar to order another beer. When I attempted to search for the Make Out Bandit a few minutes later, I found her already kissing someone else, but I was pretty drunk at that point, so I didn’t let it get me down. I remember much later watching her through a hazy cloud of intoxication as she left with another guy altogether.
The truth is these are just a few of the more memorable moments that standout from the stream of blurred together hours I spent inside Bar-BQ-Bar. There was a period in my mid-twenties when I was probably there a couple nights a week. Much of the time was spent wallowing in the banality of excessive alcohol consumption, my drunkenness making me feel like both part of the crowd and somehow outside of it. Bar-BQ-Bar was the hookup joint, and I guess some part of me hoped something like that would happen, but it was never really my style, so I just drank, alone or with friends, and sometimes I ran outside to puke in the middle of Orange Avenue and they wouldn’t let me back in afterwards, and sometimes I kept my shit together, but I always made it back home in one piece.
I didn’t go over there for their last weekend, didn’t feel like taking the night off work, but then everyone else’s stories and pictures gave me a pang of nostalgia, made me wish I had. I have long since misplaced my old photo booth snap shots and pretty much stopped going as our culture shifted from MySpace to Facebook and have no record of myself ever being there at all. The last time I went to Bar-BQ-Bar… Jesus, when was the last time I went to Bar-BQ-Bar?
Teege Braune (episode 72, episode 75, episode 77, episode 90, episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.