The Day We All Became English
Inauguration Day, 2000 AD, 10:00 PM, Eastern Central Time
I was at “A Moderate Amount of Soul,” a bar in Ybor City. Ybor had been a barrio once, a Spanish ghetto, completely surrounded by Tampa, Florida. In the late eighties, artists of questionable talent and even more questionable liquid assets had descended on the place like a plague of self-important locust in pursuit of cheap loft space. Then came the bostros. Then came the clubs. Then came the brooding, nihilistic teens. Then came the pretentious art community. Then, inevitably, came the tourists; out went the people who’d lived in Ybor all their lives. It was now too expensive and trendy to be poor there. By the turn of the century, the place looked a lot like Rodeo drive in L.A., and it had been featured in several glitzy credit card commercials.
“A Moderate Mount of Soul” was a blues bar that specialized in playing up-beat non-threatening blues songs that wouldn’t depress the mostly white upper-middle-class patrons. Hence the name, I suppose. It was rumored that Dave Barry, the Governor, frequented the place when he was in town, but I’d never seen him. Anyway, I was there with my friend, Evan Koulianos, and his friend, Craig Summers. Craig had blown into town that morning, and laded on Evan’s doorstep chanting “Chicks-chicks-chicks-chicks” to no one in particular. We took him out on a bar-crawl to convince him that we had lives.
An obscure band called “John Brandt’s Revenge” was playing,a nd I was flirting with a cute waitrest that, I was pretty sure, had been female all her life. Later on I’d make my move and ask to see her Sex License. (Or ’License Licence’ as they were commonly known) You can never be too careful in Ybor.
It was Inauguration Day. It shouldn’t have been Inauguration day, but it was. A few years prior, during the increasing mania about the end of the century, there had been a great public outcry to hold a special election in November of ‘99. It make a kind of backhanded sense, and the current president was terribly unpopular, so an amendment was passed. I think it was number 46 or something like that.
The election was held, and it was pretty much business as usual. The Old Money vested interests that controlled the Republicans versus the Old Money vested interests that controlled the Democrats. The Democrats had the bright idea of harkening back to the glory days of the early Sixties (And ignoring the disaster days of the early Nineties) and recalling the personal charm and charisma of a Kennedy-type personality. They even went so far as to run an actual Kennedy, what with name recognition being so important in advertising and all. Hence, the Democrats won the electoral coin toss, and John John Kennedy became president elect. It was really a stupid idea that nothing good could come of, sort of like running Tad Lincoln for president because his dad had been really popular. Tat would have had the class to turn down the nomination, though.
On the far side of the dance floor I saw these two incredible looking women, standing a bit too close together. They had their arms around each other. I was wondering if they were, perhaps, a little friendlier than the situation called for when two things happened. First: Craig leaned over and asked if we’d taken him to a gay bar; and second: the girls kissed.
“No,” Evan said, “It’s a straight bar. They must have wandered in by mistake, or else they just like pseudo-blues.”
“Or perhaps they’re just exhibitionists and like to cause a scene,” I volunteered. That settled, we pretty much ignored the band for the rest of the night and stared at the girls. I can only speak for myself when I say I felt rather unclean, but at the same time I couldn’t turn away. Presently a really dopey-looking guy came by, either too drunk to notice their tastes, or too trunk to care. He evidently propositioned them, and the next thing I knew, the three of them were dancing together on the floor, copping feels and so on. I decided the dopey guy was probably buying himself an E-ticket to hell,