Ernie's is a barbecue restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, actually just a block from my office, which makes happy hour easy for me. There is a quiet family friendly restaurant downstairs and an upstairs, loud and raunchy patio bar.
This place is our watering hole. Or, hole in the wall if you will.
The first few times we went to Ernie's we basically kept to ourselves and just watched the people around us. That may seem boring to some of you, but for us, there is nothing in this world we enjoy more than people watching. Our favorite place for this activity is an airport. We fly a few times a year and each time I bring my iPod and several books, each time hoping I can get some reading done. Wrong. I don't read. I barely hear the music coming from my ear buds. It's not for lack of trying; I just can't stop staring at people.
After visiting the place a few times, we met an awesome bartender named Rachel with long curly black hair (JewFro as I like to call it) and fake tits. I know what you're thinking and it's okay; we thought she was a bitch at first too but it turns out that although she's one of the most athletic, body-conscious people out there (and with breast implants too!) she's also extremely hilarious and down to earth. She's our kind of people. Outspoken, brash, rude, and funny.
The only reason we still go to Ernie's is because Rachel works there. Of course we spend time with her outside of work, but it's easy to catch up with her while she's working. If she didn't work there, not sure we could endure the perverted drunks and stupid yacht crew people who hang out there. I do like the townie bar feel to the place, but sometimes the customers are just too much.
Like I said, it is a great place for people-watching though. For my birthday this year, I think I'm going to ask Emily for a people-watching book and binoculars so I can identify all the weird species of people I'm not familiar with.
We've been going to Ernie's for almost two years now, and each time we are there, something hilarious happens. If it's not playing beer pong with two cute college boys from Indiana or threatening to slay the pervert Vince who asked me if I keep dildos in the microwave oven to keep them warm, it's watching Rachel get irritated with her customers.
Her least favorite customer is a black dude from South Africa. We'll call him KG to protect his privacy. Of course I first thought she hated him because he was black, but then I realized she's a Jew and since she herself is from a racial group that has suffered a history of mass murders and lynching, that probably wasn't the case.
But race doesn't even play a role in her hatred for this idiot. He is there every day, gets drunk every day, and racks up a huge bill and only tips her in pennies and dimes. She reminds him every single time that "Tipping" is NOT a city in China. The first time I heard that joke, I laughed. The 893rd time I've heard her say it, not so much. It's time she learns a new joke.
Last I heard KG's wife was sick of his public drunkenness and idiocy that she said quit it or go back to South Africa. Pretty sure he went back to South Africa.
We've encountered all sorts of people while at Ernies. Yachties (people who work on boats), who all have foreign accents and are cheaper than KG, if that's even possible. Travelers who are just stopping in to get a bite to eat before heading to the airport, which is less than a quarter mile down the road. College aged kids, single lonely men, and Canadians.
But there are only a few people worth mentioning just to get a laugh (they're not worth much more).
There is Chuck the Choad (he calls himself Charles), a young, naïve college boy from Illinois who hit on me relentlessly one night and bought me drinks all night. He even let me write "CHOAD" on his arm in red permanent marker. It gave me great pleasure to inform that I am a lesbian and sitting beside me was Emily (she kept herself busy while talking to our other friends there that night) and that I was sorry I couldn't take him home to babysit while he threw up Jaeger Bombs and suffered from Whiskey Dick. We still see him occasionally at the bar and when we do Emily and I burst into a fit of giggles and yell "Chuck the Choad!", but he won't even make eye contact with me. Not even when I give him the stink eye and point in his direction and laugh!
There's Robert, a Vietman vet who claims he carries a gun in his shoe, who wears a Crown Royal hat, plays 134 country songs and 89 classic rock songs from the jukebox in one night, and whose laugh can be heard from miles away. It doesn't matter if the bar is slow and quiet, or packed and loud, Robert's laugh hits a certain octave every time.
I'm not even certain Mariah, Whitney, or Celine could even hit that octave. Every time I hear it, I feel like I'm eating chalk while someone scrapes a fork against a plate. It makes me quiver, and not in a good way either. It's pure torture. Even worse when he acknowledges us, which is my fault because I made the mistake one night of asking him a question, and now the lines of communication are forever open (even though I do my best to ignore him and not break my beer bottle on the counter and stab him in the neck with the broken remains).
There's also Terri, a toothless, wrinkly old man who smokes non-filtered cigarettes and whom I would estimate to be at least 134 years old. He smells like a homeless person who just pissed himself yet always has enough money to drink.
There's Allister (one of the only regulars I actually like), an extremely handsome man in his 40's. He is a great conversationalist, he always smells nice, and he is desperate to take me to a gun range and learn how to shoot. I told him I would only go if I Vince and Robert would be my targets.
But none of these regulars at Ernie's can even compare to a guy we met a few weeks ago. Emily and I were extremely thirsty one Thursday night, also a night Rachel tends bar, so we headed to Ernie's for drinks and dinner.
Not two minutes after we sat down and gulped our Miller Lite, two guys came in and sat down right next to us. They work at EagleRider (a motorcycle shop) across the street, so they come in for drinks after work. We had seen these guys before, but had never sat near them to talk to them.
Until that night. The night we met Vegas.
Vegas (real name Michael) is an attractive guy—tattoos, piercings, good haircut, nice eyes, great smile. Although recently he's been growing this crazy mustache for some "Guy's Weekend", so he looks a little ridiculous. But still cute. He's also Italian and talks as if he's a castoff from Jersey Shore. Luckily, he is NOT a dumb Guido and has an amazing sense of humor (and doesn't even know it!) Nor does he know I'm writing a story about him (well, if he checks his Facebook, he'll know now!)
At first we ignored each other, but after a few drinks, Vegas and his friend Doug started talking to us. It's funny how alcohol can do that; when you are sober, people can be complete strangers, but once you have a nice dose of alcohol in your system, strangers become your best friends! Idle chitchat led to question-asking, name introducing, which led to Vegas sharing the craziest stories.
Doug and I were chatting about something not worth remembering when suddenly Vegas, after a few drinks, starts complaining about his ex-girlfriend.
Doug rolled his eyes and I found out later that Doug had been trying for a week to stop Vegas from telling the same story over and over again.
The story of how his girlfriend dumped him.
Which began like this.
"Man, what a bitch!" Vegas exclaimed, slamming his Blackberry down on the counter.
"Seriously dude? This again?" Doug asked. Vegas looked at Doug, then glanced at Emily and me and said "my girlfriend dumped me on Facebook!"
I nearly spit beer out my nostrils. Who gets dumped on Facebook besides nerdy tweeners and pedophiles posing as teenagers?
All I could do was smile and laugh.
"Dude, it's not funny!" Vegas said, but he was even trying not to smile.
"Pretty sure I've never met anyone who has ever been dumped online so this is a huge honor. I've always wanted to write a story about this," I said.
"I was really into her. She was cool with tattoos and she rode ponies and partied in South Beach. She also let me lick her asshole," Vegas described this seemingly interesting person.
"I hope she bleached it before she let you in there," I said, completely grossed out. Assholes are exit only ramps, not an appetizer for sex (personal opinion; I don't care if anyone else munches butts).
"Nah man...wait, who bleaches what now?" he asked, confused.
"Nevermind. I bet she dumped you because of your asshole licking fetish."
"No, she liked that."
"Well, then what happened?" I asked him.
Reminder: I had just met this guy and he was treating me like I was one of his oldest friends.
Vegas shrugs his shoulders.
"I told her I wanted to move to Broward from Miami. Then she deletes me and blocks me on Facebook and now she won't even answer my calls or texts!" he explains.
"When did this happen?"
"Last week! And since she kicked him out, he's been living with me and this is all I've heard about for 6 days! Thank GOD he picked up his keys to his new place today!" Doug says, clearly irritated.
"She even threw away a lot of my stuff! I am a sunglasses freak and she threw out all my sunglasses and a lot of my clothes!" Vegas shrieked.
For a moment, I got the scene from Waiting to Exhale in my head. The scene where Angela Bassett finds out that her husband is cheating on her and she piles all his belongings into his Mercedes and sets it on fire, standing by while smoking a cigarette. Classic.
Vegas goes on to tell me that he doesn't know what he did wrong (what man does), that he loves her (probably just loves having sex with her), and she didn't have a car or a license (sounds like a mooching bitch to me).
I told him he needed to go out and get laid. Apparently, that is not an option for Vegas. If Vegas just meets a girl one time, he cannot "perform" his manly duties on her; however, if he's met the girl more than once, he will "pound that pussy" until the sun comes up.
"So, you're saying one night stands make you flaccid?" I joked with him.
He nods and lifts his hand and makes his index finger flop, as if showing me what flaccid actually means.
"I've seen my fair share of whiskey dick in the past my friend; no need to illustrate", I joke with him.
"I've never had a one-night stand either. Sex has to mean something to me," Rachel interjects. I look at her as if she had just told me she was a Martian.
"Ha! You'd be surprised at the number of random hookups I've had!" I said, and Emily nodded her head. It may surprise you, but we have slept with many men once upon a time. We had gone to the same college and before we started dating, there were men, a fact that surprises almost everyone we meet here in FL. Goddamn lesbian stereotypes. They're not all true people!
"Well, you still need to get laid," I repeated. We all nodded in agreement, which led to another story.
Doug, being the good friend I'm sure he is, took Vegas out to a strip club one night after he was dumped. Vegas had his face full of tits and his lap full of ass, and he admitted that he could not get a boner.
"How does that happen? How do you not get a boner at a strip joint?" Doug and I ask simultaneously. That's almost like not getting a hard on when a Wisconsinite eats cheese (read: what happens to me every time I get my mouth on a nice slice of aged Wisconsin cheddar or a couple cheese curds).
"Strip clubs just make my uncomfortable. I need to know someone before I can get turned on," he explained. Oddly, I believe him; why tell me this when he clearly has no chance with me? I think Vegas is a hopeless romantic and he gets his heart broken more times than he gets hard.
Which is the exact reason why he says this.
"Even though she dumped me and won't talk to me, I know she has to get to the airport and I offered to drive to Miami and bring her!"
"Why would you even offer that? Dude, you got dumped on Facebook," I say, bursting into laughter.
"Fucking idiot," Doug says, and I laugh harder. Thankfully, Vegas laughs too, otherwise I might be slightly worried that I would hurt his delicate feelings, akin to the feelings of a Disney princess.
"Either you're hopeless, or you're a hopeless romantic; I'm not sure which is worse," I tell him and he nods in agreement.
After ordering another drink, Vegas goes on to tell me he has a giant cockroach living with him and when I suggested he get a cat to chase that thing out or eat it, he said he was allergic. But that didn't matter. He said he wants to get a hairless cat, tattoo a skull and crossbones on it's head, and punch it in the leg until it gets a limp so it can walk all "gangsta like".
Emily grimaced at my suggestion of him getting a cat (she hates cats; especially mine) so when he was getting freaked out by the cockroach (imagine Jessica Simpson falling into a spider web type of reaction), Emily took over and said as long as it was a big one and not small ones (offspring), he'd be fine. We've had two cockroaches in our apartment, and at first I thought it meant we were dirty, poor, and disgusting. Then I realized they were just cold and came in to warm up.
The mere thought of more than one cockroach made me feel physically ill (I may be a tomboy, but I'm worse than a little girl about dirt and bugs).
He still wasn't convinced that his apartment wasn't poverty type of filth (especially since he had just moved in that day!)
"Emily is a cockroach expert. Her clients have cockroaches, so you should listen up," I told Vegas.
"Really?" Vegas asked, surprised. He must think she's an exterminator or a hooker.
"She's a social worker," I interject quickly before Vegas has a chance to use his imagination as to what type of work Emily does.
"Sometimes I'll be sitting on the couch at a client's house and I'll have to flick one off my leg or my arm and when I leave, I usually shake out my clothes to make sure they're not getting in my car for a ride!"
It was true; as a social worker, Emily worked with clients who not only had but were so used to having cockroaches in the house, they were practically a part of the family. Emily suggested to Vegas that he get a roach aerosol bomb because that's what her clients have used before, but even the thought of bombing a cockroach seemed to make Vegas sad.
I sincerely believe he would never hurt a living creature (not even a cockroach? What...an idiot) especially since he is adamant about being a pescatarian (fish eater) and yelled at me for eating grilled chicken on my Greek salad right in front of him.
Even so, this guy is a gentleman, despite his rough exterior. He's Italian; he's taught by his Mama how to treat a lady, meat, and cockroaches. Just not how to treat cats apparently.
As we're eating, Vegas and Doug are telling us a story about how everyone in their lives thinks Vegas is actually an asshole. A lot of Doug's friends' girlfriends and wives hate the guy, which might explain why he has so many EX-girlfriend stories. I tried hard (that's what she said), but I just could not get the asshole vibe from him. Maybe it was because we were so much alike. Humorous without even trying, imaginative, exaggerative, and loved to spew out our inner monologue to innocent bystanders.
I took a minute to judge Vegas. Upon first glance, he would be easy to judge as an insensitive jerk, but once he opens up, he really is a nice guy. So what he eats assholes and has a small transparent skull and crossbones face tattoo? So what he dresses and talks like a Guido? Who cares that his hands are always dirty from working in a motorcycle shop every day?
That night he told us multiple stories about girls he used to date. The only one that stood out to me though, was the one I nicknamed "The Nazi Jew", after hearing his story. Apparently, this girl is Jewish, embraces her heritage, yet loves Hitler and even has a tattoo of a swastika on the palm of her hand. Vegas swears that she's not a Nazi, but I believe the evidence proves otherwise. And if the Casey Anthony trial can teach us anything, it's not what you did; it's what you can prove!
Vegas then proceeds to tell me that he was once interviewed for VH1's Tool Academy. Not because they thought he was a tool, but because his girlfriend at the time was a tool. Yep. You guessed it. Even VH1 knew his Nazi Jew girlfriend was a tool, a fact Vegas still will not admit (nor will he admit she's a Nazi).
Perhaps the most interesting part of the night—besides the fact that he was dumped on Facebook, dated a Nazi, has a horny grandfather who whittles canes in his retirement community, lives with an uninvited giant cockroach (no, not Doug; a real roach), and could be considered a tool—was when he shared a story about something he saw in South Beach. Or should I say, someone he saw in South Beach.
At first I was thinking this would be another chick story, but I was wrong. This guy was unpredictable and unbelievable. Somehow we had gotten on the topic of Hasidic Jews and how weird they were. Rachel is Jewish, like I said, but she's really a non-practicing, totally liberal type Jew. She even celebrates Chrismukkah because she can't pick between either holiday—Christmas or Hanukkah.
Don't ask how we started on this topic; I have no clue. I generally am clueless as to how I end up talking up creationism, dinosaurs, Hasidic Jews, and quoting lines from Napoleon Dynamite in one night. But it happens because I'm me.
First Vegas asked how tall I am, just so we could get an appropriate mental image of this person he saw. I said I was barely 5'2" but I do a sweet ninja kick to the nuts if needed. He nodded and said I was only a few inches taller than the person he saw.
"So, I was cruising down Collins Avenue in Miami and I saw a Hasidic Jew with those crazy curls!" he told us.
"And? There's tons of Jews in Florida. What makes this guy special?" I asked. We used to live in a Jewish neighborhood when we first moved here, and there was nothing special about seeing a Jew with curls or a Jewfro.
"It wasn't a man! It was a midget child!"
No sooner were the words out of his mouth that I collapsed into a fit of laughter. Bear in mind Vegas had not stopped talking and we had gotten to the bar about three hours earlier. He was on a roll and I had been laughing (read: drinking) all night, but as soon as he said "midget child", I lost it. Pretty sure Emily refers to me as her midget child, but at least not to my face.
"How can you have a midget child? A child isn't even fully grown yet, so of course it's short!" I said, completely baffled by this concept.
"Well, when midgets are born that means they're children; hence, midget child," Vegas explained seriously.
"I believe the term is 'little person' now," Rachel piped up while serving us a new round of drinks.
"All children are midgets! Until they hit puberty dude! So how do you know this was a 'little person/midget' child and just not a midget adult?"
"I'm telling you, the kid was a midget," Vegas said. I knew I wouldn't win, so I gave up trying to comprehend.
"Wait guys, it gets better," Vegas added.
"Not only was this a midget child, it was a Hasidic Jew midget child."
"Now you're just making shit up," Doug said, punching Vegas in the arm. I rolled my eyes and laughed. Emily was cackling right next to me, her laugh as contagious as the Swine Flu, so she got everyone else in an uproar.
"I'm dead serious!" Vegas said, once he caught his breath.
We laughed at the image of a midget child (still not understanding that) with curly sideburns. The only image I could muster was Weird Al as a midget singing his parody "Amish Paradise".
"Wait, it gets better," he said again.
"What could possibly get better than a Hasidic Jew Midget Child?" I asked him. Certainly this was a new species and I wanted to be the first one to call National Geographic and break the news.
"There was something wrong with the kid. Like he was retarded or something. I hate that word, but I don't know how else to describe it. I'm pretty sure he had Down syndrome," Vegas said.
Unbelievable. There is no way in hell such a person existed. I used to work in a group home and I had dealt with my share of people with Down's. Sure, a lot of them were short and fat, so I could see how he could have been confused. But for the most part, they grew like normal people.
"Can you tell me the situation in which you found a Hasidic Jew Downs Midget Child in South Beach?" I asked him, almost scared of the answer.
"He was walking down the street with his parents, and one of them was Asian!"
"Hasidic Jew Downs Midget Asian Child cross breed? HAHAHAHAHA!" I slammed my fist down on the table multiple times, laughing so hard my abs were burning (read: my abs are somewhere below my fat). I wondered if he even knew the difference between someone with Down's and an Asian, or the difference between an adult midget and a child, or the difference between fact and fiction. My guess would be no.
"Did you get a picture of this thing?" I asked him. He said he did not because he was driving, which if you've ever driven on A1A in South Beach, you'd know driving and doing anything with your phone is damn near impossible.
With no proof of this creature, Vegas could not prove its existence. He didn't need to because, although I wouldn't admit this out loud, I kind of believed him. I mean, I am the girl who got mistaken for a boy, almost got sliced and diced into chow mein while bowling with Asians one night, got kicked out of sex education for laughing too much, and slept with Spiderman. So who was I to doubt the authenticity of these stories?
We have now come to know Vegas pretty well and see him occasionally on Thursday or Friday nights. He is a super nice guy, very polite, and every time, he makes me laugh. And every time, I grab the nearest pen and pad of paper to take notes.
Even though we had to wade through the muck and slime known as Robert, Vince, KG, and Chuck the Choad, we finally found a rare and precious gem in Vegas, a cute Italian boy with tattoos, piercings, and a good heart.
Vegas, a guy who gives me amazing writing material. A guy who is not afraid to tell us girls sometimes queef in his mouth (and admits he likes it). A guy who is a psycho chick magnet. A guy who pisses on cop cars.
A guy who will tongue punch a fart box any day.