One recent Thursday at Hemingway's Key West Grille (1052 South Gaylord Street), we found ourselves spinning back into the Vortex.
I don't know whether the patio out back was infused with a particularly virulent type of spring fever or we were simply inspired by the legendary drinking abilities of the bar's namesake. I just know that whenever I go to Hemingway's, I invariably do something that I'll regret the next day. This time around our bartender, John, seriously overserved us vodka tonics -- they kept coming long after I was unable to keep my eyes open. No one in our group stood a chance; we all surrendered to the gravitational pull. In fact, the force of the Vortex was so strong this night that one of our number disappeared entirely. It could be that the Key West theme includes elements of the Bermuda Triangle, or he may have been lured away by womanly wiles. Either way, I hope he has his passport. At press time, we were still unable to locate him, and, hammered as we were that evening, it's far more likely that he was sucked into an alternate universe than taken home by a young lady.
Our nights on South Gaylord tend to start at the south end, where we drink overpriced alcohol at the Washington Park Grille and bitch about the beautiful women who look at you like you have the biggest booger ever hanging out of your nose just because you dare to say "hi" to one. We then work our way north (or southwest -- we're not usually sure) to Las Margaritas, where we continue the pre-drinking process with cheap, flammable margaritas while wishing that we were ten years younger and they made girls back then like they do now, because 80 percent of the women in their early twenties who hang here have bodies that in ancient times would have been worshipped with human sacrifices.
But since we can't get the time of day from these girls because we don't wear baseball caps backward and the waists of our shorts don't hang to our ankles, we usually stake out a spot at Hemingway's before the crowd gets too out of control. The group at this bar is a little more age-appropriate, and on Thursday nights, in particular, the place is populated by attractive people who look upon sex more as a recreational activity than a life-altering event.
On this night, we parked our rear ends at the bar on the back patio. You have to arrive early to get prime real estate like this, because by midnight Hemingway's is so packed you can't get to the bathroom without making it to second base with two different women. There's an advantage to sitting at the bar: The area around your party becomes a fiefdom with its own laws and policies. Any woman trying to get past is fair game for inappropriate and heavy-handed advances, and any guy who ventures into our sphere of influence will never get close enough to the bar to order a beer. The ability to catch the bartender's attention gives drunken guys with the social skills of spider monkeys a significant advantage in their quest to spread some love around the Wash Park area.
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As part of the Institute of Drinking Studies Pilot Program on Gender Issues, I was wearing the Playboy shirt that my girlfriend had bought me. This shirt has an alternating pattern of twenty or so classic magazine covers featuring mostly naked women, and it seemed the perfect instrument to test social mores. But surprisingly, it did not garner much attention. The scientific explanation for this could be that pornography and vulgarity have become so commonplace and socially acceptable with their prevalence on Skin-emax, the Internet, Jessica Simpson's show, in classic rock songs with the "F" word in them and Cosmopolitan that we've become a jaded society.
Then again, word may have gotten around about what happened to the women who did dare to make comments: I told each one that the shirt was a "Scratch-and-Sniff" item. For some odd reason, none of the women believed me. We guys thought this line was hilarious, and probably one of the better marketing ideas in human history -- a close second was our buddy asking random women if they'd done the "Thighmaster," a new sexual position featured in this month's Cosmo -- but these women didn't see it that way. The best unsolicited remark came from an extremely inebriated young lady who walked up and said, "I noticed your bar from across the shirt and had to say something." I cannot recall more profound words. Ever.
As spring progresses to summer, spring fever will heat up, and more and more people will be looking for a good outdoor bar where they can either "hook up" or complain that they're "not." If you need some help from the Institute, look us up on Thursdays at Hemingway's. I'll be the one sitting at the shirt, wearing my Playboy bar. If you know what I mean.