Tuesday, January 24, 2006

From the Vault: Phoenix Hill Redux

This was originally posted in the original "Healthy Alternative to Work" on August 8, 2004. It's called Phoenix Hill Redux. In all fairness to my friend Numb-nuts, he's calmed down considerably (though, not completely) in the time since I wrote this.


Friday night I volunteered to be the Designated Driver for two guys in the barracks who wanted to hit up Phoenix Hill. One of them, Tim, had just gotten in from my old unit, the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea. Nowadays, I'm always up for a drive in the Road Shark, so I was more than happy to drive them up to the club.

Both of them were a bit in the bag already. The other fellow - who I'm having trouble coming up with a name for, other than "numb-nuts" - was most of the way through a handle of Captain Morgan, and was continually talking about the tricks and schemes he'd learned from Maxim Magazine to pick up "hot chicks" with.

Numb-nuts (I'm just going to go with this) is what I'd consider the prime club specimen. He's built like a football player and has an Italian complexion. Unfortunately, he's about as clever as a sack of hammers.

At any rate, Numb-nuts claimed that he could snag any woman at the bar, and made several statements during the ride up that illustrated his distaste for overweight females.

"They're revolting," he said. "I wouldn't touch one."

The rest of the ride was spent devising "cover stories" to use on unsuspecting female clientele at Phoenix Hill. Numb-nuts had decided that he was a first-round draft pick for the Carolina Panthers, and had worn a football jersey as evidence. Tim seemed to like this idea.

Once we got into the bar, I followed the two around, somewhat curious as to how they were going to set about seducing the creme-de-la-creme of the Louisville bar scene. Maybe, I thought, I could learn something from these two.

I was wrong.

Numb-nuts' strategy was to spot a pair or threesome of ladies and yell, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" Once he had their attention, he'd motion them over to the table we were standing at, which was near the center of Phoenix Hill's upstairs conservatory area. Sometimes, the women would come over, and Numb-nuts, football jersey and all, would say, "My friend here wants to talk to you," and pass them off onto Tim.

Tim would speak with them for a couple minutes, and then they'd invariably leave.

On one occasion, the dynamic duo decided that our cover story would be that we're in the Army (which is true) and that we're going to be sent to Iraq this week (which is patently false). I had been sipping water and smoking cigarettes at my side of the table for a while now, and this idea, aside from being morally repugnant, also struck me as incredibly bad.

Which it was.

The two ladies they first tried this line on turned out to be graduate students at the University of Louisville. They were spectacularly unimpressed by Numb-nuts' line.

"Why would you be telling us this right now?" one asked with a sneer. "You must think we're really dumb," said the other.

Numb-nuts was at a loss for words, fortunately.

The two women obliged Tim and his compatriot with conversation for a little while, while I put my face in my hands and desperately wished for it to be over. Eventually, I lit another Camel and listened to the mediocre rock cover band thrashing around on the stage.

One of the women eventually posed a pointed question to me.

"Why do you associate yourself with people like these?" she asked from across the table.

I shrugged. "That's a good question. I'm just the driver tonight."

"Are you really in the service?"

I produced my Army ID card, and she seemed surprised to learn that any part of Numb-nuts' story was actually true.

The rest of the night progressed in similar fashion. Numb-nuts would holler, and Tim would try to back him up. Numb-nuts eventually ran into trouble identifying attractive women. Apparently, he lost the ability to discern beauty unless it was under five feet away from him. This would cause serious problems for him later on.

During the evening, one of the bands' frontman informed us that Rick James (of "Superfreak" and now Dave Chappelle fame) had died. He urged us all to raise our glasses and repeat with him, "I'm Rick James, biatch!" I wasn't sure that it was a fitting tribute.

Numb-nuts found himself a friend later on, as the three of us were leaning on the main bar. She was - how shall I say this - of the variety that Numb-nuts had been disparaging of during the car ride up to Louisville. He struck up a conversation, and when Tim and I said we were heading upstairs fifteen minutes later, he said he would stay where he was.

Tim and I wandered through Phoenix Hill's many passageways, bars, and performance areas for over an hour, trading stories from Korea and watching unselfconscious girls in schoolgirl uniforms dance seductively in cages. Eventually, we decided it was quitting time, and set out to find old Numb-nuts.

We found him just where we'd left him. I saw the garish football jersey from across the crowded downstairs bar, and then I spotted the faux cowboy hat that his large new friend had been wearing. They were lip-locked, playing tonsil hockey, right there at the bar in the middle of the room.

Tim and I slunk over to a nearby table, covering our mouths to keep from howling with laughter.

After a while, we decided to collect the drunken bastard and take him home. Tim went over and informed him that we were leaving in five minutes, with or without him. He seemed to indicate that this was fine, he'd be right out.

We waited by the exit for a good ten. "We can't go home without him," Tim said. I agreed, and Tim went back in to convince Numb-nuts to come with us.

He came back to the exit shortly, and said, "Let's go." We walked outside and I asked him what had happened.

"He kept saying, 'I'm good, man,'" Tim said. "Then the fat chick said, 'Don't worry, I'll take care of him.'"

I hooted. "Well, let's hit the road."

* * * * * * * *

The next day, it turned out that Numb-nuts had eventually made it home, and had begun spreading the rumor that he had gone home with two women that night. To Tim and me, he said, "I totally didn't sleep with her, dudes."

Lesson learned -- stick with what works, Ian.