A few weekends ago I found myself bar hopping on U Street in Washington, DC. For the uninitiated among us, it’s a great part of town to find a place to catch some jazz and truly does have its charms. But U street also has the propensity to be a very dangerous place if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. This fact can sway many people to avoid the area but the more important thing to keep in mind is that you’re doing something different. If you “embrace the strange,” you have no way to gauge where the new path leads; in my eyes and in most cases, you set yourself up to come away with new experiences when you try something different. Makes sense right? Go somewhere new even if it’s close by and try something different with the mindset of “it’s strange and not my type but I’m trying it because I never have.” Those are the best kind of adventures.
We had been out to the bars on U street only a week earlier and left just before a shooting had taken place a short distance from where we had been hanging around. On this more recent weekend I was out with a crew of about eight people for a going away party. As it got later the entire group managed to get pretty smashed up and at some point we all unanimously agreed to leave the over-crowded rooftop bar in search of a more “divey” and less crowded spot to finish out the night. Granted it was already 1:00 AM and most of us were beyond the threshold of drunk, it just seemed like a change of scenery made the most sense. After the last person closed out, we spilled down the stairs and onto the street in search of a shitty hole in the wall bar named Solly’s.
From a few blocks away we could see blue police lights flashing atop cruisers parked in the middle of the road, an ambulance was sitting idle a little further away near the curb, and yellow police tape was strewn everywhere. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the street had been closed due to some type of crime. All of us drunkenly pontificated and speculated about what could have happened as we continued to walk towards the Solly’s in hopes that it might be open despite a violent crime or a nearby murder. Nearing the bar, we over heard people saying there had been a double shooting not more than a couple of blocks away from the area that had been shot up the previous week.
Lucky for us, Solly’s was just on the cusp of the yellow tape and they were still open for business. We edged passed people gawking on the edges of the sidewalk and managed to make our way into the bar pretty quickly. Most of the group stopped and clung to the bar downstairs while my friend Todd and I went upstairs to scope out the “crowd” and see if there was anything worth talking to. I spotted a group of four relatively decent looking girls close to the stairway on my way to the bar and took a quick second glance to check them out to see if they were worth walking over to chat with. None of them were particularly attractive but it’s not as though they were ugly either- besides I was drunk and quite frankly I was moreover just in the mood to at least have some harmless flirty banter.
My buddy Todd joined me at the bar after he got out of the bathroom. He sat down and scanned the room just as I had done moments earlier.
“How do you feel about a shot a jager and then we go chat up that group of girls?” I asked pointing sideways using my head.
“Yeah, alright.” Todd said agreeingly, “You want to go in first?”
“Todd, you never go first. In the history of ever, I can’t remember the last time you went in first. You know I’m going in first because you’re too scared to speak with strangers.” I said laughing at him while sipping my whiskey coke.
“Oh yeah, right.” Todd said looking around like someone else in the bar was going to give him a thumbs up or an imaginary man was tipping his hat to him.
“That’s fine.” I said shrugging, “I’ll go in first, you wait 30 seconds, then come over and I’ll introduce you. Deal?”
“Alright let’s do it.” He said straightening up.
“Let’s take a shot first.” I announced with a grin.
Todd had been drinking for a couple hours longer than I had and was bit more in the thick of it than I was at that point.
“Come on man.” Todd sighed while rolling his eyes.
“I think we’re going to have to.” I said smiling then turning to get the bartenders attention.
The two shots of Jager arrived within a few short moments and after a cheers and a nod, we took them.
“Remember, 30 seconds and just tap my elbow and I’ll introduce you.” I said hoarsely fighting through the burn as Todd nodded with watery eyes from the shot of Jager.
I walked away from Todd and appeared beside the group of girls with a big smile, “Do you guys know what happened outside? Like, did any of you actually see what went down?” I asked.
The girls began answering and I nodded like I was listening while counting down to see if Todd was going to hit his cue. To my surprise, none of the girls had been outside so they hadn’t notice there was anything going on. I began to explain how we had heard about the shooting last week when Todd ambled up.
“Oh, This is my buddy Todd.” I said turning towards him.
“Heyarrrffff!” In an instant; practically in a sneezing motion, Todd sprayed projectile vomit across my chest and downwards onto my forearm and shoes.
I stood stunned, frozen; turning only to see Todd barreling through the bathroom door covering his mouth en route.
Two of the girl made crying-grossed-out faces frantically waving their hands past their noses and mouths as I stood in awe.
Not missing a beat, I turned my forearm slightly upwards in a QVC-like demonstration to show the chunks of white slimy undigested food stuck to my lower forearm. “Todd actually creates exfoliating cream when he’s drunk. They go nuts for this stuff in China.”
The two remaining girls burst into laughter as I excused myself to grab a handful of bar napkins. I whipped myself off and actually managed to continue my conversation with the girls who seemed to be unaffected by the streak of vomit spanning the length of my chest. Mind you the stain on my shirt was less chunky and more so wetness, so it wasn’t an overwhelming eyesore.
Todd re-joined the girls and I a few minutes later. As the conversation took off, I left him for a moment to grab a smoke break outside.
Once out front, the main attraction was no longer the street but the spectacle on the sidewalk. Leaning up against a light post with his boyfriend, a shorter gay guy was holding his foot that appeared to be dripping a pretty constant stream of blood. He had apparently been wearing flip flops and stepped through a broken glass bottle. There didn’t seem to be anyone around that knew what to do as most of the people were just blankly staring while a few were telling him to “be cool” and “chill.” I walked up and asked if anyone had asked the cops for a first aid kit. Eventually the gay boyfriend spoke up and said that the police had refused to help because they claimed they needed to maintain the crime scene perimeter.
“I don’t have insurance!” The kid uttered drunkenly out loud a few times while holding his foot.
I rolled my eyes and let out a big sign. As drunk as I was, I’ve seen my fair share of drunk inebriated accidents. I knew there had to be a first aid kit in the bar and seeing as nobody was doing anything, I felt compelled to help. I told them to hang tight and turned to ask the bouncer just a few feet away if he could grab the first aid kit for us.
“Yeah it’s inside.” He said looking at me blankly.
“Can you go get it?” I asked pointing at the blood on the sidewalk then everywhere behind me.
“Yeah.” He said with a stupid look on his face, “But I can’t leave the door.”
“Agghhhh…” I groaned walking back inside and asking the bartender for a first aid kit.
He pointed to the upstairs and told me to ask the other bartender.
I climbed the steps and walked up to the large burly bear-like bartender, “Hey there’s a guy bleeding pretty badly outside. Any chance I could see your first aid kit for a second?”
The bartender turned silently, grabbed a briefcase sized red box from behind the bar, and pulled out a single small band-aid; then handed it to me.
I felt like I had been dropped in some alternate universe where nobody used common sense.
“No not quite, I need gauze and antiseptic. If I could just take the whole thing…” I said letting a bit of my impatience come through.
“We don’t give these out, sorry.” He said putting the first aide kit back.
“My tab is still open, if it doesn’t come back, charge it to my card. Ok?”
The large oafish man picked it back up slid it over to me. I briskly made my way outside where the guy and his boyfriend hadn’t moved and it didn’t seem like anyone was in the mood to help more than just look at the two of them.
I opened the case and to my surprise it was practically empty. All but one of the gauze pads were gone, no larger square band-aids, nothing was left in the way of wrapping or tape either. It just seemed to be a bunch of small band-aids and antiseptic cream.
I started laughing, “Just can’t win.”
I pulled off the wrapping of the large piece of gauze and began fashioned a few band-aids to the edges so at least he could have some sort of cover for the gash in his foot to get somewhere (most likely a cab) then a hospital or a clinic.
“Here, give him this.” I said handing over the antiseptic gel (it’s basically Neosporin in little plastic squeeze packets).
“It’s antiseptic, so the cut won’t get infected,” I said closing up the first aid box while I was still putzing with the gauze.
“Okay,” said the boyfriend who was drunk and confused but also appeared genuinely concerned for his partner.
“Um, Wait.” He said to me as I looked up the from the gauze, “Is he supposed to put it in his mouth?”
He had torn the gel packet open and was holding it inches away from his boyfriends lips. I paused as the boyfriends mouth began to slowly open.
“I don’t need this shit.” I said picking up the first aid kit shaking my head as I went back inside.
I was over dealing with stupid people and had done enough to warrant walking away.
I got back upstairs with the red first aid case and returned it to the bartender just in time to grab one last drink before last call. I exchanged phone numbers with two of the girls that had seen me getting puked on and chugged my last whiskey-coke as I explained where I had been to my friends on the way out the door. We all laughed as we spilled out of the bar and directly into a cab (some of us still smelling like vomit) for a ride home after yet another eventful evening out in DC.
Embrace the strange and make the choices that allow the adventure to go somewhere new.