We wandered in around 8:30 on a Saturday night. There were some regulars-types sitting at the end of the bar, big boisterous men with bald spots and beer bellies. Mediocre pop music played on the radio and the football game played on various tv sets around the room. We settled on a table near the back (after sitting down and then wondering if maybe we shouldn't try the restaurant side and getting up again and trying the restaurant door and then being informed, after the pretty bottle-blonde waitress asked us if we were looking for someone because we were obviously interlopers and maybe we should get the hell out and leave the place to people from the goddamned neighbourhood because this is a neighbourhood bar (she didn't actually say that last part), that the restaurant was closed but that we could order from a limited menu in the bar side of the establishment. One of the regulars informed us that we could still get a steak and fries, and that the wings were good, which was comforting to hear, since wings were what we were after.
So we settled on a table near the back and ordered some wings and mozzarella sticks, which is what you order in neighbourhood watering holes. (Whatever you do, don't go ordering a sandwich or, god forbid, a salad; breaded and deep-fried is the only way to go. Trust me on this.) Now before I lose you completely, let me describe what was happening at the tables behind us, because it was pretty weird and I'm still not completely sure exactly what was going on, and this story isn't really about the mediocre bar food anyway.
The scene: on four tables pushed together, an extensive array of black felt-bottomed trays, and, in these trays, an extensive array of sparkling silver jewelry. Rings, ID bracelets, chains, tray after tray of them. (Is this some sort of tiny trade show? I wonder.) A tall man with thinning hair pulled back into a frazzled grey ponytail, wearing camouflage shorts, dirty sneakers, and an old T-shirt, stands with a middle-aged brunette woman in middle-aged woman attire (ergo nondescript). Together, they are attempting to sell a heavy silver chain to a young Italian? Greek? man in chef's whites. Young man exits via the bathroom, returns dragging a doddering old gentleman with him. (Is this Billy T himself? I wonder.)
"Grandpa, this is," and the young man introduces Ponytail and the woman but I can't quite catch their names, except he gets the woman's name wrong and she is kind of a bitch about it in that way that people are bitchy about things when they are trying not to appear as if they are being bitchy about them. Grandpa dodders back off to the bathroom.
"Can you make it longer? I want it longer," voices the young man.
"No, no, look. Bend over. If it was longer, it would fall into everything," assures the woman.
"This length looks perfect with a polo, or a nice shirt," advises Ponytail. "You don't want it longer. Otherwise you'd look like Eminem or Tupac."
"I just want it two links longer. Can you do it two links longer?" and the young man goes off to seek the fashion advice of his brother.
While he is gone, Nondescript hisses to Ponytail, "Stop trying to get him to buy it. He doesn't want it."
The bottle-blonde waitress brings two cups of coffee and a glass that she identifies as the bourbon on the rocks. Ponytail tries to give her a ring. She (wisely) declines. He sips his bourbon.
At the table directly behind us sits an older gentleman (who has been silent until this point) who introduces himself to the newly-returned young man and his brother as Sal or Silvio or something close to that but not quite that, but a name that suggests that he is certainly a member of whatever mafia currently exists in my hometown that is behind this bizarre silver-jewelry fencing operation.
The wings and cheese sticks arrive and I lose track of the conversation for a while. (The wings were pretty good: a little too heavily-breaded for my taste, but with a decent medium sauce that only made my nose run a little bit.) When I pick it up again, the young man is still trying to decide on the chain (which looked ridiculous, by the way), so Ponytail tells him he can wear it for the week and then decide.
"No, no. I'll pay you for it if I decide to buy it, but you gotta give me a deal. I wouldn't wanna go over a hundred and fifty bucks."
Ponytail looks to Nondescript. "How much do you think this would be?"
"At least two," she says. "I don't have my scale. Silver is expensive you know. It goes by weight."
And now dude and I have given up all pretense of conversation and are blatantly eavesdropping on this most unusual of activities for your average, every-day neighbourhood watering hole. (Or is it? Maybe this kind of stuff happens in neighbourhood watering holes every night and I have just never witnessed it before.) I am reminded of the drug-dealer in St. Lucia who promised us whatever we wanted even though we were wandering down the beach with no money, assuring us that we could just pay him later at the jump-up. Sure, wear it for a week, and then you can pay us five hundred bucks or we'll break your deep-frying arm.
As an aside, throughout the proceedings, a large man in an overly-large Kid Rock concert T wanders from table to table, chatting up a pair of older women, buying a couple of shots for some people at another table, but he never gets involved in the sales pitch. It's like they aren't there. (At one point, he glances at us, identifies us immediately as non-neighbourhood interlopers, and moves on.)
The silver-mafia don sits silently at the table and slurps his coffee, the guy with the thinning grey ponytail tries to tell the dopey young man about fashion, and we suck hot sauce off our fingers while Pink sings in the background and the boisterous balding beer-bellied regulars laugh over at the bar, seemingly oblivious to the odd goings-on.
Eventually the world's weirdest sales team packs up their black felt-bottomed trays, but not (to my silent hilarity) before the young man's brother gets sucked into the wear-it-for-a-week-we-don't-have-our-scale scam (he seems okay about the length, though), and we pay our bill and slip out into the night.
So, anybody up for a date next Saturday? I want to see how this turns out. Billy T's: Good Talk, Good Times, Good Tuna!