"Oh, my gawd, I'm going to die!" exclaims the brunette seated to my left, the one with the new-haircut glow, probably from Stun! next door. It's pretty dark inside Barry's on Broadway (58 Broadway), but from where I'm sitting, the cut looks good — a little short in the back, but nothing to scream about. "I had to buy Newports today because they were out of Kools by work!," she continues, at which point the six or seven of us within earshot turn back to our beers and collectively roll our eyes. I'd arrived with just under an hour left of the bar's 2 to 6 p.m. happy hour, but $1 off everything doesn't strike me as all that happy, so I opted for the Wednesday special — $2.50 import bottles — and am drinking Coronas.
Five minutes later, she's still the only one talking. "For the past week, I haven't had any appetite," she pouts while picking with a white plastic fork at a quesadilla in a Styrofoam container. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I think I might starve!" Her boyfriend, however, isn't buying it.
"Yeah, but how many beers did you drink each of those nights?" he asks condescendingly. Everyone laughs. "It's not like you've been going completely without calories." Still, she doesn't eat, so Becka, our bartendress, hops up on the edge of the bar and helps herself to the Hornet takeout.
The jukebox, at least for the moment, lies dormant, and the two large, corner-mounted televisions blare white fuzz. The place is essentially asleep, save the mewling mouth to my left, which rarely stops moving. I take it as a cue to play the Megatouch machine to my right, choosing the Jumble Crossword game and unscrambling words for a good twenty or thirty minutes on the ten credits that are already loaded. During my solitary word-nerd stupor, I don't even notice that my beer is low, but Becka does. "Hey, Andrew, you want another?" she hollers while bending over the bottle fridge. I'm startled at first — Andrew? Only Maggie and my mother call me that — until I realize she's the kind of 'tender who remembers the names on credit cards. I holler back: "Yes. Please."
Things get really sticky, though, when my friend Andrew (middle name) shows up, lays down a card with the first name Robert, and Becka tries to take refill orders from down the bar. Each time she yells, "Hey, Andrew, you want another?," we confuse her with our answers: YesYes. I'mgoodfornowYouknowit! OfcourseNothanks. Eventually I get the feeling she's caught on and is just fucking with us. I decide to smoke.
Outside, I notice a tripod chalkboard down the block advertising "2-4-1 U-Call-It" from 4 to 8 p.m. and wonder why I'm not there. I wander down and see that it's Blue Ice Martini Lounge — the kind of place I'm almost positive I've seen Nuggets entering from their limos and Escalades — and there's no one inside. So I shuffle back inside Barry's and reclaim my seat.
In just under five minutes, the place seems to have drastically transformed. The juke is now blaring everything from terribly mainstream country to mind-numbing techno, and there's a near-shirtless, Kid Rock-looking guy in a baseball cap dancing all over the open aisle — stumbling through a very broken line dance one moment, falling into the bathroom and making gagging sounds the next. Another beer or three goes by, and Andrew and I start to discuss our grumbling stomachs. The moaning Mexican-food picker and her crew are gone, but the sight of hamburgers coming out of the microwave behind the bar and the smell of miniature frozen pizzas popping out of the small industry oven every ten or twelve minutes are driving us bonkers. Andrew inquires about any other options. "Burgers and pizza, hon. That's it." We pass.
But oh, my gawd! I'm so hungry I could die!