Naked men are often spotted late at night in this small Balkan country; authorities believe the late-night strollers have either lost a drunken bet or are walking for "health reasons." The former is obviously the case, though, because when the air dips toward zero degrees, no sober guy would venture out into that cold without a hot tub within five feet. It's well known that prolonged exposure to such temperatures can result in what urologists call permanent "shrinkage." No, as any guy who's found himself locked out of his house wearing only tube socks, sandals and a smile can tell you, he landed in such a predicament after at least twelve beers and an offhand comment about "streaking in the quad."
After a hiatus of quite some time from Institute duties, the Head of Pathologic Drinking recently rejoined the fold. He was soon overserved and suffering through a streak of losing poker hands. One of the bets he lost involved streaking the cobblestone streets of the nearest Balkan nation. Not having our passports or any idea what the "Balkans" were, we ended up at an equally out-of-the-way and arcane locale: Ayja (7800 East Hampden Avenue), a strip-mall bar pronounced "Asia" like the 1980s supergroup.
In my experience, strip-mall clubs can be pretty shady. Typically, these places are very difficult to find, and what should be an epic night among friends who haven't seen each other for a while becomes an exercise in land navigation as each party tries to vector the other to the wrong location; eventually, everybody stops answering their cell phones and ends up at the nearest skin club. But we found Ayja, which took over the home of the old Proof of the Pudding, by the Fresh Fish Company, without much trouble. That could be because from the outside, Ayja looked like a seedy skin club that might not charge a cover. Inside, the atmosphere was rather eclectic -- by which I mean dark and dominated by crappy house "music." An interesting crew of characters populated both the two bars and the dance floor, where the main attraction was an attractive young lady doing a solo "robot." Only an attractive girl could pull this off without being escorted from the building, and while all eyes were on her, a fellow who looked like Rick James back from the dead tried to dry-hump another drunken girl. Accompanying Mr. James was Members Only Guy, one of the most aggressive males I've ever seen, who bounced like a pinball between groups of women who didn't give him the time of day.
Despite being in the right chemical condition to hit the dance floor, we decided it was much more entertaining to sit at the bar and drink. Anya, our bartenderess from Warsaw (I think that's in the Balkans), told us that the crowd was fairly standard for a Wednesday night, if a little thin. She also introduced me to a new drink that would have significantly increased my street cred if I'd discovered it before the All-Star Game: Hpnotiq. The sugary-sweet liqueur is listed on the "Hip Hop and Urban Drink" section of Google; while it didn't actually make me throw up, I can say with all sincerity that it came close.
If you'd like to make a wager with your friends that calls for the loser to run naked down the street, Ayja could be the place to do it. Load 'em up on Hpnotiq and turn 'em loose. In such a remote location, you're not likely to run into anyone who'd recognize your naked body. For all I know, we could have been in Montenegro.