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Boomerang

I heard the thumping bass as I drove past the place. The building looked like it was once a house, one of those depression-era homes with two stories, no shutters, and white siding that was scuffed with dirt and mold. It was the kind of place that didn't even look like a destination, just another house along a row of buildings that looked exactly the same, except for a small square sign hanging over the front door.

Five blocks away, I found a parking space. In an attempt to remember which old, white house my car sat in front of, I tried to count my steps. I lost track when my cowgirl boots kept slipping in the snow that still covered the sidewalks. It had been more than 24 hours, why hadn't the neighbors bothered to shovel yet?

I could smell cigarette smoke oozing from the place. Crap, I thought, it’s been years since I've been to a bar where smoking was still allowed. I should have left my coat in the car. And my scarf. And my boots. And myself, I briefly considered last minute. At least I didn't bother washing my hair.

As I walked through the door, I briefly pondered the possibility that I might run into some old friends here. That would be nice; after all, I hadn't visited this town in over a year. I didn't try to make a good excuse for my absence. I simply didn't want to come back. The only attraction this shithole city had, in my opinion, was a handful of friends I missed.  As soon as I saw the crowd, though, I knew there would be no possibility of a chance run-in. This was not my crowd.

The place was called Puzzles, but there was nothing about the atmosphere or decor that supported the name. No jigsaws, crosswords, or Sudoku adorning the walls. Just beer posters. My equally out-of-place pal pulled me by the arm through a pack of headbangers, past more than a few evil eyes and judging glances, all the way to the back, where we found the only two people waiting to see us. One friend was preparing to play some angry drums for the next set, so I jumped into a people-watching frenzy with the other friend.

The scene was typical of this town. Fishnet stockings, skull graphics, and tattoos abounded. The women were unfriendly, made-up and dyed, while the men were unshaven, untrimmed, and unwashed. I knew I wouldn't be taking home any of these guys tonight, but it looked like the other female patrons had different ideas. A girl in a leather tube top and red glitter stilettos was on a mission to not go home alone. She was also on a mission to finish the pack of cigarettes on the bar in front of her.

I absorbed second-hand smoke with my companions for awhile. My throat was burning raw with every word I said. I was well aware that my preppy pea coat and Indian scarf didn't belong in this bar any more than the black sweater or North Face track jacket that my friends were sporting.

A large guy with long hair and a blue bandana came through the front door with an attitude surrounding him. I welcomed the cold gust of air as a reprieve from the nicotine steam bath, but I knew it wouldn't come without a price.

Blue Bandana threw the first punch. Soon, a tight crowd of guys formed where the headbangers once were, and the girls stood on bar stools to get a better look. Someone announced that the cops were on their way, and that was my cue to leave.

I crossed the street to avoid the mob standing outside, each one threatening to pummel the other. It’s not that I was scared of them… merely aggravated. The night was ending exactly as I expected, and as much as I wanted to stay out, I needed to remove myself from this segment of humanity as quickly as possible. I slipped and slid in my cowgirl boots all the way back to my car, five blocks that felt like five miles. Disappointed, cranky, and smelling like an ashtray, I drove back to the place I was calling home for the night.

Nearly there, I turned onto the side road. My headlights caught fresh snow on the back street, undisturbed by any tire or foot print. The white street sparkled with the fresh powder.  The spectacle was most unexpected, and beautiful: The road was a blanket sprinkled with a thousand diamonds. Mesmerized, I slowed down to make it last longer.

It was the first time all night that I hoped it wouldn't end. Maybe this town wasn't so bad after all.


Comments

  1. I know this isn't the point, and you know I love you so I can say this, but you have cowgirl boots?

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    Replies
    1. Hells yeah I do! :) I rock those boots. Except, as I discovered this weekend, they suck in the snow. Disappointing!

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    2. I'm sure you do rock them. I just have never seen them. Not that I need to authorize your shoe choices. I just can't picture this. I will try though.

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  2. I love cowgirl boots and also own them. [See: Rap Video.] Loved the post, especially the contrast with the ending.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Cindy! Cowgirl boots rule.

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  3. Great story telling. Loved the details -- I felt as if I was there with you, coughing from the secondhand smoke.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad you could share the smoky experience with me. ;)

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  4. I love your description of the undisturbed snow at the end. There is something really magical about happening upon a blanket of snow that no one has touched, isn't there?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Samantha. I'm almost 40, but fresh snow still makes me giddy!

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  5. Well-described. I feel like my experiences with the townies back home are always similarly harrowing

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I think the experience is a common one for everyone!

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  6. Cowgirl boots rock. I got a pair for my birthday and love them! I don't, however, love second-hand smoke or bar brawls, so I'd have been with you for sure.

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    Replies
    1. I'm amazed that there are people who actually do like the smoke and bar brawls... or at least don't mind it enough to tolerate it constantly!

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  7. Oh man, I've had those nights. I loved how you ended it with the snow. There's beauty in so many things.

    And thank God you didn't wash your hair. Freshly washed hair absorbs cigarette stink like a sponge. Blech.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Larks. The snow really made my night. However, after I washed my hair the next day, I could still smell it in there as I blew it dry. UGH!

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  8. Loved the ending. I can't stand to be in smoky places anymore. And then when I wake up and can still the smoke in my hair--ugh. I'm so glad my state doesn't allow smoking in restaurants/bars anymore.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Marcy. Unfortunately the state I was visiting (PA) allows smoking in bars if they do not sell food. I usually don't end up in such dives!

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  9. Puzzles! I have 3 pair of cowboy boots and 2 North Face jackets. I don't think I would fit in at puzzles very well, but it was a great story.

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    Replies
    1. No you wouldn't, but I'm sure you would have had your own great story to tell if you went there. :)

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  10. I'm a cowboy boot girl too and I also have a leather Motorcycle Mama jacket AND an Indian scarf & pea pat combo. Potpourri for 100 Bob. I know these bars. I've been to these bars and I hate 'em. I could smell the stale smoke as I read this. Great job!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! After this experience, I have sworn off going to dive bars, no matter who else was going. We shall see if I can hold myself to it!

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  11. I have cowboy boots, bought them in the 90s when my college girlfriend told me she thought they were sexy.

    Now a thousand years later I don't wear them all that often, if ever.

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    Replies
    1. They are sexy! Everyone loves a cowboy. :) You should dig those kicks out of your closet and wear them with pride!

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  12. Beautiful imagery, Dana. I like how 'nothing' happened, and yet so much happened. I can picture this town, wherever it may be, unique and yet like so many other towns out there. Maybe you're right. . . maybe the town isn't so bad after all. . . I kinda wanna go there. . .

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jared. Every generic town has a unique quality, no matter how "every city USA" they may be.

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  13. I hate the judgy judgers. At least they left you alone and you got out in one piece!

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    Replies
    1. I was thinking in my mind, "they're more afraid of you than you are of them," but I highly doubted that. I adopted the "don't provoke them" rule and I escaped with my life, if not my dignity.

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  14. Great story, so descriptive and engaging.

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  15. Great post. It really reminds me of those days. Going out with friends, hoping it will be a fun night and then the reminder that very rarely do you meet people you would normally like to be around in a bar.

    Even the last scene, where the snow was sparkling reminds me of the contrast between being in a hole in the wall bar, and the regular world that isn't steeped in nicotine and sour beer.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. It's the little beautiful reminders from the universe that can pull us out of our little microcosm and make us see the big picture.

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  16. Wow, I smelled that smoke and saw those sweaty bar-folk, and I felt for you!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, I wish I could say I wish you were there to endure it with me, but I don't wish that on anyone! ;)

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  17. I so remember those smokey bar days and how awful my hair would smell afterwards. Don't miss that at all. Love the contrast of the snow with everything else that happened first.

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    1. Thanks Stacie, I don't miss it either, but sometimes I get coerced back into it, like this time. I'm glad the night ended on a good note. :)

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  18. Really good story telling in this post. Excellent details and imagery.

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  19. Hi Dana,
    i'm sure you have more than 200 followers now and, anyway, this is totally beneath you. But since i don't know other bloggers i 'nominated' you for a Liebster Award. Maybe one of my FB friends will follow the link to your blog. ;o)
    Love, Sarah

    http://sarahexnihilo.blogspot.com/2013/02/liebster-award-whoo-whoo.html

    ReplyDelete

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