12 January, 2016

My Bengals Loss, or: my Buddha Belly, My Body, Myself

hipsters: the ultimate in fetishists...
The good and the wise lead quiet lives. - Euripides

"Come on," he said. "One bearded guy to another?"

I was there to watch the Cincinnati Bengals play, and Amanda -- who has no interest in "sportsball" of any kind, loves me enough to feed my need to cheer for the football team I was destined (and doomed) to be a fan of. I grew up watching the Bengals. I think of them in athletic and literary terms. In athletic terms, the Bengals are a team with historic low self-esteem and an owner who has contributed nothing to the sport other than convincing his dad, Paul Brown, to escape Cleveland (by night) with truck load of uniforms to start another team.

In literary terms, the Bengals are canonical -- as in Greek Tragedy. Sophocles has got nothing on Paul Brown's brain child.

After the best start since the last time they made a Superbowl appearance, the Bengals managed to make it back to the playoffs. Because I'm a lifer, I know better than to get too excited. After all, I lost $5 on them when they lost the Superbowl to the San Francisco 49'ers in the last 11 seconds. If ever there was a team that could, through sheer hubris, lose a lead in less time than it takes to exhale, it's the Bengals.

This game was no exception.

The bar was busy, though not because of the football game. When we got there, well into the first quarter, all the TV's were on a college basketball game no one cared about since it was neither Louisville nor Kentucky playing.  Getting the channel changed was an ordeal, because the bartenders were swamped. Getting to listen to the game was also an ordeal, because once the channel was changed, one of the owners came out, turned the sound down and turned the juke box volume way up.

Saturday night is not usually a bar night for me. I'm usually a happy hour week day inhabitant of my neighborhood watering hole. Happy hour regulars hold down bars so that on weekends, people can drive in from the east end,  downtown, and the Highlands when they feel like slumming it by not having to pay extra for the atmosphere when ordering whatever cocktail is trendy at the moment.

There was an odd vibe, too. At least three drug deals*, one sketchy chick with meth-head shakes pacing back and forth looking for purses or cell phones to palm, and more than several not-so-casual trips to the unisex bathroom** that made me not want to pee there. It's not that I'm shy, and there was a stall clearly marked MEN so that only the most drunk would be confused. But I didn't want to walk into someone's Saturday night special. Listening to the sound of people trying to screw in a bathroom stall or that odd gurgly suctiony sound from a drunk sloppy blow job makes it difficult to pee.

I drank a few cocktails and watched the game. Amanda followed enough to cheer at appropriate spots and tolerated my sound high top coaching tips (that Marvin Lewis ignored).  The air was stuffy, and the crowd was just odd. I noticed a face I knew, though I doubt he remembered me. He's the son of a local evangelist who appeals to bikers with instant redemption and 2nd Amendment proclamations.*** I sat in on a service once because I was going to write an article about them for the the local alternative dining and band guide^. I ended up not writing the story because the managing editor wanted a cheeky culture/make-fun-of-the-rednecks piece and I was more bothered by what seemed to be a take on the old tent revival scam.^^

The bar isn't downtown, but that part of the South End is bit too downtown and too close to a busy immigrant neighborhood for him to patronize on a regular basis.

Jackyl
And then some fat bastard walked in, plays Jackyl on the juke and proceeded to act like he owned the bar. He walked bowlegged and stooped, like his designer jeans will drop at any moment. Or like he was still getting used to the cowboy boots he was wearing. They let him behind the bar, where he started mixing drinks and shouting that he's selling shots for a dollar. Amanda and I were distracted from the game by all this noise. Luckily, we were sitting far enough back that we didn't get the view when his pants actually did fall down and everyone who did had the opportunity to see why fat guys should never go commando.

Fajita Mike: Reality TV Personality and sketchy bartender
Amanda thought she'd seen him somewhere, but we both knew it wasn't at the bar. After one of the owners, looking like she was worried she let loose the black plague in her bar, came over and talked to us a bit, we found out who it was. Apparently he's on some reality show set in a bar in Sturgis that's only open during Bike Week.

I've never been much of a reality TV fan. There's not been much to convince me I'm missing something, either

The game was teeter tottering. The Bengals were one point up and there was less than 2 minutes on the clock. They were in the final stages of completely unraveling on the field. Fajita Mike had, by that point, started wandering the bar in search of people to impress and drum up interest for the brand of legal moonshine^^^.  He even stopped by our table after asking the bar if anyone was watching the game and I said I was. He was, I think, looking to bet on the game; but since my aforementioned loss, I never bet on football again. So, he kept on mumbling, kept on hiking his pants up, and wandered off. After that, I understand he exposed himself -- probably on purpose -- and tried to tongue a late night regular, a tall, wide-shouldered woman who always seemed to me to be playing for a different team than any Fajita Mike would have luck with.

There were some patrons there who had driven in to catch a view of Fajita Mike's Brown eye. They were obvious. Hoodies brandishing the name of the reality show "Full Throttle." A few sculpted beards and form fitting flannel shirts.

I was on my fifth bourbon on the rocks when I switched to a beer and shot. Neither Amanda nor I were feeling the mood, and the ball game wasn't breaking down well. Even when I can sense the loss coming, I hate to stick around for it. It's just too heartbreaking to watch my favorite football team lose to the only team that ever really defeats them -- themselves.

And that was when one particularly skinny east end kid brandishing a meticulously sculpted beard, baby-blue fitted flannel, skinny-baggy jeans with a pointless wallet chain, and a too nice to be punk Social Distortion jacket -- who was probably trying to impress his very uncomfortable girlfriend, asked what I would do if he reached over and rubbed my belly.

"Would I let you?" I repeated.

He nodded his head, quickly, like he was trying to seal the deal. "Yeah. I mean, would you punch me?"

Of all nights to ask me that, I thought. If there was one night I could probably get away with punching some east end idjit for being handsy with my Buddha belly, it was that night. I probably could've gotten free drinks out it, blamed the outcome of the game, and scored some low grade coke, if that was my thing.

Shit. Sometimes it's a struggle to not punch people. I swore off physically hurting people 20 years ago, and I haven't thrown a punch since -- in spite there being more than several occasions when I desperately wanted to. I didn't need some fetish+ addicted stylisto to point out that I, like Fajita Mike, am fat. I see it every time I see a picture of myself. What can I say? 2015 was both a happy and stressful year. Amanda and I got married, but I lost two jobs I excel at because while I don't physically hurt people anymore, I don't mind using my words in the slightest. But I do tend to eat and drink when 1) I'm very happy, or 2) I'm very stressed.

Moderation has always been a problem for me. But, like all creatures, even Fajita Mike and the Skinny Fetishist, I am a work in progress.

But how to respond? Not having an enormous amount of direct experience rebuffing advances from grabby hipster guys that didn't include a solid punch, I tried to imagine what someone else with more experience might do.

What would Wonder Woman do in this situation? 

The problem with that was she probably WOULD have punched him. Besides, I am clearly no Linda Carter. I'm not even that major with the super-white teeth that every boy who watched Wonder Woman tolerated just to see her.

So, like the Bengals, I tried for the two point conversion.++

"The only person who gets to rub my belly is her," I said, pointing to Amanda. I showed them both my wedding ring. "She paid the freight."

That was enough to make him laugh and to make his girlfriend breathe a sigh of relief. I paid the tab just as the preacher's son was making another loop from the bar to the backroom with a gaggle of girls with low-self esteem trailing behind.

_________________________________
* Spotting a drug deal in public is sort of like spotting a cockroach in your kitchen. You see one, you know there's more you're not seeing.
** The bar owner has been trying to get the restrooms redone. During the day, the unisex bathroom is never a problem. Apparently  a rainy Saturday night means running out to the car or, to a fine hourly establishment is out of the question. 
* You can find him on YouTube, cradling an AK-47 and talking about Jesus.
^LEO Weekly. There's not a better source -- except maybe Yelp -- for restaurant suggestions.
^^ The minister wasn't there that day. But one of deacons led the service and talked entirely about how much the preacher needed money to keep the lights on. This church, by the way, also runs a bar on Saturday nights. "Jesus died for you but the preacher loves you most!" Consequently, the managing editor was not interested in that kind of story, as it was hard hitting and not the sort of story that downtown hipsters can read and use to make fun of anyone who doesn't sculpt their beards into the shape of a pair of swans giving birth.
^^^ You know. Everclear. If it's legal and taxed, it may be corn liquor, or maybe even overpriced bathtub vodka. But ain't moonshine.
+For those who haven't read their Marx, fetishism is a symptom of late-stage capitalism. If you think I'm being unfair, look at a hipster sometime and tell me it's not a fetish. Come on. I dare you. 
++They didn't make it. They rarely do. It's probably one of the stupidest coaching calls next to hoping for a safety (also 2 points.)

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