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Ladies’ Night at the Brown Palace

Striking out at the Ship Tavern. Again.

Ask me how I ended up at the Brown Palace four times in the past two weeks.

Go ahead. Ask me.

The answer? Because I am one lucky sonofabitch, that's how. Because somehow, out of the tattered, twitchy, gin-soaked, uneducated, ass-backward mess I made out of my so-called career over the years, I managed to find work telling you good people where to go (and not to go) for dinner. Even after all the deliberate injury I have done to myself, I miraculously salvaged enough brain cells and gross physical coordination to turn myself into the kind of guy who can walk into the lobby of the Brown without being gang-tackled by a defensive line of security and night porters, who can decipher the French on the Palace Arms menu and not worry (too much) about dragging his shirt cuffs through the consommé. More to the point, I turned myself into the kind of guy who gets paid to do that.

There were other reasons for my multiple visits to the Brown, of course. I had that dinner with the relations at the Palace Arms (see Second Helping). Like some kind of junior Nancy Drew, I had the mystery of the Ship Tavern to solve (see review). And I was also on the make for something else.

A date.

Okay, not a real date. Though Laura, my wife, is an extraordinarily patient and understanding woman, I'm pretty sure she would drop my punk ass but fast if she knew I was cruising the Ship for a hotel hookup. Still, I was curious about the possibility of getting some action at the Brown: the fantasy of lonely people, far from home, looking for a little convenient lovin', and what form that lovin' might take. I think we all understand the class and caliber of partner we might find at a truck stop or in the lobby of a Motel 6. A couple of times, Laura and I lived temporarily in those $139-per-week "Executive Suite" hotels, and as a result, I know more than I ever wanted to about the financial underpinnings of the hooker's trade. But I didn't know anything about what might happen to a young fella on the prowl with the means (or corporate expense account) to hang out at the most expensive, distinguished and historic hotel in the city.

So on Saturday evening, I headed to the Ship's bar, where I bought drinks — well, one drink — for the only unescorted woman in the place who didn't look as though she'd gone to finishing school with my grandma. When she asked what I did, I panicked (as I always do) and lied through my teeth (as I always do), claiming to be "a securities trader for Pratt & Whitney."

Yes, I know that Pratt & Whitney is a company that manufactures airplane engines. Or rather, I know that now. And while I also have no idea what a "security" is or why people would want to trade them, I'd read an article that morning that had something to do with securities trading, so it was just the first thing that leapt to mind. I've learned that in a situation like this, the most important thing is to not sound like you're lying. Also, to be as boring as possible — to pick a job that no one on earth could conceivably be interested in hearing about. Securities trading is a good option, but the best one I ever heard about came from a woman I met (under basically the same circumstances) at a hotel in Chicago who blushingly told me about her work as head of marketing for the California Prune Board.

This woman's job involved doing something vaguely sinister-sounding with computers — formatting their bios or rebooting their whatchamacallits, I don't know. Anyway, we grew bored of each other's prattling rather quickly, so, being the sensitive and gentlemanly motherfucker I am, I gave her an easy out by excusing myself to take a piss, then making a run for the Churchill Baracross the lobby.

The Churchill Bar, by the way, is a total sausagefest.

I will say this, though, as a service to my female readers: Ladies, if you happen to be on the prowl for a little short-time boot-knocking, you could do a lot worse than the Ship, if you know what I mean. On each of the nights I stopped in, the sea of tourists and grandmas was dotted with young business-school types wearing nice watches and sporting professional haircuts. They crouched at the bar watching TV or reading the newspaper, drinking their microbrews, some of them still wearing the laminates or ridiculous name tags given to them at the registration desk of whatever conference they were in town for, all of them constantly scanning the room for the chicks who resolutely refused to show up. Like me, all of these fine young gentleman seemed confused by the abnormally high proportion of Estelle Gettys to Gisele Bündchens on the floor and, by the end of any given night, would've no doubt been happy to buy a drink or two for anyone with their own teeth.

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