Other Side

On a recent Sunday, my girlfriend in Japan, I find myself in need of suds and buds, so I join my roommate and our friend in WeHo for a romp in drink-dom. We meet at Mother Lode, a half-empty dive bar bumping clubby beats, its wooden interior reeking of Bud Light and Jaegermeister. To get the engines revved I order a shot of Fernet, which the bartender, a short, middle-aged woman wearing a baseball cap, pours heavy; it’s more like three shots, a giant gulp of chilled herbal sublimity in a frosty rocks glass. I chase it with a Lagunitas IPA. Then it’s off to Here Lounge.

The Fernet and Lagunitas begin to kick in. I wallow in my Sunday buzz, sipping and staring, taking in the throngs of young, muscular, scantily-clad men on the dance floor and patio. Amidst the in-your-face flamboyance that surrounds me, I decide another shot’s a good idea. “Want one?” I ask my roommate. He shakes his head, his blue eyes already glazed over from who-the-hell-is-counting-at-this-point many Bud Lights. Our feisty amigo, however, says, “I’ll do one with you.” Having already downed half my Stella, I signal the bartender’s attention.

“You ready?” he asks, frowning, avoiding eye contact.

Holding up two fingers, I say, “Two shots of Don Julio, a Stella, Corona, and a Bud Light.”

He leans in. “Three shots of Don Julio?”

“Two,” I say, “unless you want one, brother.”

“I don’t drink.”

Shot, beer. Shot, beer. I bob my head to electronica mashups, finish a Stella, and smile at our friend. “What do you want to do?” he asks me. “I wanna keep drinking,” I say.

My roommate having long since grabbed a slice from Pizza Rustico and hopped in an Uber, wasted and homeward-bound, I stroll with my buddy down the street to Micky’s where the crowd is drunker and the go-go boys wear fewer clothes, most of them toting nothing but a bandana draped over their man parts. My accomplice knows the bartender at the front. He grins when he sees us coming. Another Lagunitas for me, a Mandarin and soda for my bud. My drink-count nearing the double digits, the menagerie of intoxicated men and garishly dressed girls around me starts to spin. I find myself on the patio smoking a Parliament. “You chillin’?” asks a young Middle-Eastern guy with gelled, jet-black hair and a gold chain dangling from his neck. “Chillin’,” I reply.

I will say this: WeHo gets down like nobody’s business on a Sunday night. The deejays keep the crowd jumping ‘til the joints close, spinning everything from Calvin Harris to Rihanna to EDM remixes of the Bee Gees and Gwen Stefani. Boys dance, girls scream, and the bartenders get into it, too: a tall, buff, speedo-clad guy behind the stick at Mickey’s shakes a pair of Kamikaze shots with such gusto he inspires a high-pitched howl from the stocky, tattooed girl watching him. Nine drinks deep, I give in, let the beats take over my body, and I start to groove, or, rather, sway.

No doubt about it, this is a party town, seven nights a week, and as a veteran bartender, I appreciate a populace that’s down to rage for no damn reason at all on any given night. The MO here is simple: get smashed and have a blast, and be open to whatever that may lead to. The whole scene is an escape, from the looming Monday morning blues, from the weekend coming to a close, from life, in general.

And so, on this particular Sunday, I throw myself into the thick of it and get lost, on the other side of the bar. It doesn’t matter at this point whether I’m in WeHo, Hollywood, or Venice. After enough shots of tequila and Fernet, I forget where I am, anyway.

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