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Motel Hell

Page 5 of 6

Wary of the elevators now that Lee was off duty, I walked seven floors down through the stinking stairwells and came out on the fifth floor, where the hallway trash can was filled with pizza boxes, diapers and an unopened package of rotten ground beef.

I took an elevator the rest of the way down. Five minutes and $15 later, I was standing in the scarecrow position while a Los Caporales bouncer patted me down for weapons and contraband. A stenciled sign above the entrance to the nightclub read, "No gangsters, no baggy pants. Playerz 05, 13, 18 SouthPole not allowed," a message to street gangs whose members are barred.

While I was searched, I watched through a window as bouquets of young women in slinky spaghetti-strap dresses, wearing no jackets in spite of the biting wind and swirling flakes, trotted on high heels toward the entrance to the gold dome. The bouncer patted me on the shoulder twice, my sign I was free to go. I went into the ballroom, where tequila shots are served with tiny packets of salt and fat, juicy wedges of lime. Fiberglass sculptures of stallions lined the dance floor. It was still early, but there were a few couples moving to the music, the women hooking their thumbs in their dates' belts between songs as they stood close, waiting for the music to resume.

I grabbed a seat at a bar next to a lithe young woman wearing a backward beige beret. She introduced herself as Angelica Romero, age 22, born and raised in Denver. "I don't really fit in here," she said. And she didn't. She was the only female among hundreds in the place to sport any sort of headwear, just as I was one of the few men without a cowboy hat. I asked her why she was there. "I'm fourth-generation Mexican-American, and I'm coming here to get back in touch with my roots," she said. "I want to learn Spanish so bad, and I come here to learn." She shrugged. "It's better than taking a class."

Wherever I went inside Los Caporales, I felt eyes follow me -- which was understandable, since I was the only white guy there who wasn't a cop. There were four of them, off-duties hired by Cormier. They were in uniform, and from what I could tell, three of them spent most of their time in a back corner of the downstairs billiards room talking shop, while the fourth, a portly, white-haired officer, walked a beat between the upstairs and downstairs restrooms.

The stall doors in the basement men's rooms at Los Caporales have been removed, possibly to discourage cocaine snorting. If so, it's not working. Those who wished to indulge simply posted a lookout at the entrance while they dipped car keys into tiny bags of coke. When the lookout saw the cop coming, he barked an alarm, and men flocked from the stalls, sniffling and thumbing glistening white crumbs off their upper lips.

Watching them, I realized I was in Tom Tancredo's vision of hell. Cinnamon-skinned men speaking Spanish, wearing thousand-dollar outfits and doing cocaine in bar bathrooms like they think they're white professionals in LoDo or something, all set to the soundtrack and bouncing accordion riffs.

"Do you like Spanish music?"

The question snapped me from my reverie.

An urban cowboy was in my face. He had one friend behind him. They were drunk and grinning.

He repeated the question.

"I said, do you like Spanish music?"

Sure, I said. I like Spanish music.

"Do you like to get the heinie?"

I gave them a look that said, "The what?"

"The heinie, bro. The beautiful little Mexican girl."

I wasn't sure how I should respond. On the one hand, I didn't want them to think I was there to pick up Mexican women. On the other, I didn't want them to think I didn't like Mexican women.

I settled for "Maybe not tonight."

"Are you a faggot?"

I didn't answer.

"Do you like to dance to Spanish music?"

Oh, shit, I thought, is this guy asking me to dance?

"I'm not very good," I said.

"That's because you don't have a hat."

His friend chortled.

"And you don't have a belt," he continued. "That's why I asked you if you're a faggot. Faggots don't have belts, so you can take their pants off easy."

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse