I already related the good time we had at a hole in the wall in downtown LaCrosse. We heard a fantastic singer while we sipped drinks poured strong by a friendly barkeep. Our second trip to that bar did not go so swimmingly.
It started after a trip back to the hotel to freshen up, call the loved ones and pop some ibuprofen in anticipation of the night ahead. When we got back to the bar, the bartender and clientele had changed. Where genteel and mild tipplers had previously occupied lopsided barstools, now there were full on drunks, faces staring fixedly on half-empty beer glasses or slurring over the top of a neighbor trying to tell a story.
Where there had been a smiling, congenial bartender making stiff drinks, there was now a young, pretty-if she-hadn't-been-covered-in-tattoos-and-a-see-you-next-tuesday-to-boot girl with long black hair behind the bar.
I can usually read the mood in a room and this one wasn't hard to read, like a large-type edition of Dick and Jane. In retrospect, I should have convinced the rest of the group to head to the festgrounds. Not wanting to be a puss (and owing to the fact that I really wanted a drink since I hadn't had one in two hours), I didn't.
I wander up to the bar and order a Southern Comfort on the rocks. Now, as far as cocktails go, this is a pretty simple one to make. You put some ice in a small glass (known helpfully as a rocks glass) and pour some Southern Comfort into it. You're done and you've barely taxed your cranium at all.
Anyway, as I order the drink one of my companions (he will not be known as a 'friend' on this day) is talking to an obviously wasted barfly. You know the type. She was pretty 20 years ago, except she's probably only 30. Then you realize she's had a really rough life and you feel bad for her. Then your companion says, "you should meet my friend Jay".
So she turns to me and tells me a rambling, incoherent, and vaguely racist story about her "mulatto nephew". Her breath reeks. I mean rotting flesh reeks. To borrow a line from Futurama, it's like there was a party in her mouth and everyone was throwing up. As she's talking she's spraying me with spittle, so I close my mouth and eyes and de-flare my nostrils to try an avoid catching the plague or ebola or failure or whatever else this woman has that might be contagious. It's kind of like when a spaceship loses structural integrity and all the blast hatches close automatically.
Meanwhile, I'm watching the "bartender" mix my drink. She's pouring SoCo into a glass of ice. Then she takes a second cup and pours the contents of the first cup into the second. She stares at the cups for a moment then pours the second cup back into the first.
Next she inverts the second cup and fits it over the first one like a strainer. Then she takes a third cup and strains the SoCo into it. Here's the conversation verbatim:
Me: "No, I wanted it on the rocks. You don't have to strain it."
Her: "Well, I did."
Me: "Can I have a cup of ice?"
Her: *takes the money and walks away*
That was my only drink in the bar that night. I kept thinking, what if I had ordered it neat? Would she vacuum the alcohol through a Hoover? Put the drink in the dishawasher and run it through a rinse cycle?
Next up was the free entertainment. Unlike a few hours earlier when we got to hear some cool music, this time the floor show was the owner of the bar, a squat fat fake blonde who danced around the barroom floor and sidled up to our table repeatedly. The first couple of times she pressed her sweaty mass into me while throwing an arm around my shoulders. I don't know if it was because I didn't smell good or because I shrank away from her in revulsion, but she eventually got the hint that while her sugar daddy may indeed be out there, he was not dressed like me.
Like I said, the whole vibe changed. After that first round we took off and headed back to the festgrounds, where more adventure awaited.