Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Howling Betty: The St. Valentine's Case

February 14th. Couples' Day

Baltimore is alive. I am waiting for a phone call. The phone rings - I grab my coat and step outside. It's night and the air is brisk. Biting. Like a teenage pooch, teething without the need. Whimpering isn't my style. And I don't feel the urge. The phone rings. Another call tells me where to meet. A second voice is in the background. Male. Early twenties, maybe. An unknown element. My intrigue piques. I walk down the street quickly. Black car. Maryland plates. Hazards on. A warning? I cross the the street. I open the door and sit down.

Two men are in the car. Driving, Jason Schlafstein, a.k.a. "The Heat." The unofficial ringleader of a group known only as "These Gentlemen."Jason is known for his passion in pushing The Gentlemen to do what they do best. What exactly that is, well, should be left to the imagination. To his right sits Adam Winer, his associate. The second voice. A calm, collected man. But, wary. Greetings are exchanged. A joke passes around the car. Homoeroticism means trust. "Do you know where we're going?", the Ringleader asks. I say, "Yeah, its just within walking distance." They trust me. Had I entered another car, the night probably would have turned out differently.

Jason parks shortly. We emerge, pressing forward down the harbor. A pack of love hounds on the prowl. Hungry. The Ringleader bays in excitement. Adam and I choose a more reserved approach. A couple walks by awkwardly. Silent. Hands clasped. Hard. Unromantic. I wonder if we bothered them. Rita's up ahead. "I don't want anything they have tonight," I exclaim. The response, "Ice. Custard. Happiness? On Valentine's Day?" We bark with enthusiasm. Still hungry. Food is scarce, funds are low. We sniff the air and search. We don't like our choices. A "family" establishment. Kids are here for Valentine's. I wonder if they're visiting their mothers. We enter, ashamedly. "The line's supposed to begin at the door. But, since you walked right in, I guess we're not doing that," growls a tall femme fatale. She storms off. Jason receives a call. We decide to take our chances on starving.

Market Street in the dark. We approach our rendezvous - "Howl at the Moon," a piano bar near the edge of the lot. Two men in sailor outfits go inside. We wait.  The pack barks in frustration - rabid. Wanting. An angry, drunk man in a white tee stumbles outside. He snarls, "Where the fuck did she go?" I wonder what a "love grenade" is. We formulate a plan to work our way inside. Jason fronts the cash and enters to meet our contacts. Adam and I wait with the pack.  Jason returns in short time, successful. He hands us the vouchers and we enter. Inside, the bar is filled. Bars, actually, there are two - one in the front and one in the back. In the center are circular tables and high hairs - all filled - surrounding a stage where two piano face one another. Members of the armed forces flood the stage in celebration. The sound of pop-country emanates from the pianos. The sailor outfits make sense.  Jason introduces us to his contacts, who introduce us to the rest of the group - two dames and a couple. Adam and I leave for one beer. And then a second. 

The second beer is my round. I turn to the bartender to buy. A girl in a black dress scoots in behind me, to Adam's front. She giggles, "Do you have a girlfriend?" That was fast, I thought. She shows him a pink slip, grabs his hand, and drags him off. He looks confused. I look confused. I bid my regards. I order the drinks. Adam returns a few minutes later, bemused. He tells me about the bachelorette party. Games are involved. Men and women are socialized very differently. Two girls approach us during his tale. An embarrassed girl in a green tee dragged by a betty in a red halter - howling drunk. The howling betty throws her arm around me. The group of us exchange introductions. Twice. "Do you have a girlfriend?" she blurts out. "No, I don't", I say. She looks confused, face red, and asks, "Why don't you have a girlfriend on Valentines Day?" I don't know what to tell her. "I'm gonna be honest, I really don't have an answer for that." She grabs her friend's hand and stomps away. Did I say something wrong? Why is this happening? We drink our drinks amusedly. And head back to the table to tell our tales.

The night progresses. A swirl of PDA, karaoke, dancing, N-Sync, and Jello Shots. Jello shots come in syringes with whipped cream now. Less mess is a plus. Jason's having a good time. I've been entertaining one of our contacts for quite a while. Adam's made contacts elsewhere, looks bored, but isn't. A blonde dame tries to make eye-contact with me across the room. I'm not interested, but she seems nice. She tries to force a romantic cliché. I'm resistant. She walks over to Jason and me. She asks, "Are you guys Eagles fans?" I think she's talking music. "Football," she says. Jason explains, "I don't really like sports." She's confused - it doesn't compute with her. She turns to me. "How about you? Are you an Eagles fan?" I smirk, "I like the Pats." Her face scrunches into a ball. Disgust. Abhorrence. Other negative emotions. She skulks away to her pack. I should have wounds to lick, but I don't. I find it funny. Why is this happening tonight?

The night ends. Our pack leaves. We prowl into the night for home.


Jason Heat said...

"A swirl of PDA, karaoke, dancing, N-Sync, and Jello Shots."

That's what Valentine's Day is supposed to be, right?

Kristy said...

haha I like going to Powerplant :)

Stephen said...

Every perspective of this story sounds amazing.

weatherhallace said...

Two posts about this evening means we need to go out again!