Guest post by Jim “Dr. Dim” Fitzsimons
It was sometime in the early or mid 90s when two friends and I decided we ought to go on a road trip. My friends, John and David, and I would be heading east. Our destination was Lowell, Massachusetts. David wanted to go to a record store there called Rrrecords (not a typo). Of course, we’d stop at a few other places: Toronto, Niagara Falls, Lexington, MA, and NYC to name a few.
The record store was fine. I picked up a vinyl copy of the ‘Quadrophenia’ movie soundtrack. But, when we asked the record store clerk what else there would be to see in Lowell, he replied, “The exits.”
We weren’t sure if he was telling us to leave town because he didn’t like our look or Minnesota accents; or if he was saying there ain’t nothing to see in Lowell. Either way, we heeded his advice and were on our way.
We ended up in Lexington, MA which has the historical significance of being the town in which the first shot of the American Revolution was fired. Cool, no? As we waited for our motel room to become available, we took in the sites. At some point, however, David and John were coming to the decision that we should just push on to New York City. They asked what I thought. “Sure,” I said. I’m so easy.
So, we headed for Newark, NJ, figuring we’d use that as our base of operations for our assault on the Big Apple. We checked into a motel and got the info we needed to shuttle into Newark airport and then into NYC. That evening we made our way in and had a relatively quick look around. We went up the Empire State Building, had some New York pizza slices, and stopped at Downtown Beirut for a couple of beers.
Downtown Beirut was the name of a bar. It was a pretty cool bar with an excellent jukebox and a double scale sized soldier crawling across the ceiling. The bartender must have been new there, because John had to point out where the bottle opener was. John knew that a common feature in bars is to have a wall or counter mounted bottle opener. He was right. His hanging out in bars had done some good for him.
You see, the plan was that the first night would be a short visit, leaving the main assault for the next day. Day Two’s plan was to go in early, see everything we could, find a cool nightclub, and hang out there until closing time (3 or 4am), and then find some place to hang out until the first shuttle was available to take us back to Newark.
Throughout the New York visit we took great care to not look like a bunch of tourists. We made the decision to leave our cameras back at the motel. We would have no visual record of our being there. Our memories would have to suffice. However, we did buy a few things that meant we were carrying bags that probably gave us away as tourists anyway. We should have brought at least one camera. Oh, well.
John had done some research and found a promising nightclub for us to check out. It was called Mars or Marr or Marrs or some such, and it advertised as playing the cool 80s music we were so fond of then. (Still are.) The club had seven floors of dance music and would thump all night. Sounded great to us.
As we killed time waiting for the opening of the club, we checked out the intriguing boutiques on St. Mark’s Place. John scored himself a way cool black t-shirt with “NYC” printed in bold, black lettering on the front. Black ink on a black tee makes for a great effect.
In each shop we stopped at, there were stacks of flyers and postcards advertizing the clubs in the area. They were all making offers: “Bring this flyer in and it’s half cover,” “no cover,” “first drink free” and the like. It seemed to us they were begging for the three of us to give them our business. The clubs of NYC needed these three Minnesota rubes to darken their doors. It is so nice to be wanted.
Well, it was getting close to the time the doors would be opening, so we made our way to the club, certain we’d be welcomed warmly. We were early, no one was there yet and the doors were locked, so we went around the side of the building and made ourselves comfortable in the empty lot right next door. As we sat waiting, we noticed a rubble pile taking up about a quarter of the lot. We also noticed that the pile of busted up concrete, flat tires, broken glass, re-bar, and bricks seemed to be writhing.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but New York has a bit of a rat problem. There were quite a few rats crawling around that pile of rubble. Every now and again, a rat or two would venture our way. We would grab a rock or brick or empty beer bottle and throw it at the approaching vermin and they would turn tail and head back to the pile.
We found this quite enjoyable.
John was thinking, though. He realized that he and I had shopping bags filled with stuff we had bought that day. I don’t remember if David had one. I don’t think he did any shopping. Anyway, I had figured we’d just check the bags at the coat check. Surely, this club would have one. But John was more frugal in his thinking.
“Jim,” he said, “We don’t want to be lugging these bags around in there, do we? And why waste money on the coat check, when I know a perfect place to hide these?”
“Where are you going with this?” I asked.
“Who, in their right mind, would go anywhere near that rubble pile, covered in rats as it is?”
“Um, we would?”
“Exactly! No one else would go back there and it’s not like we have any edibles in the bags, so the rats won’t care and they’ll be perfect protection.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
So, we started throwing stuff at the rats to clear them away and we found a dry, empty tire, and in went our loot. It was perfect. Nobody would be stupid enough to mess with a rat infested pile of urban debris. Other than us, that is.
Our goods were protected and the hour of opening was upon us, so we moved out front to get in line with the few people who had gathered there for a night’s entertainment. The doors were unlocked and out came two or three big, beefy, bouncers. They set up stanchions and barriers to keep the crowd to the side, but they let no one in.
It had past the opening time listed on the flyer begging our attendance, but no one was going in. The bouncers stood immovable. “None shall pass.” So, we waited. And waited.
Two fellows approached. They were dressed in their best “club kid” gear and they were ushered right in. Then a few more clubbers arrived. Most joined the line. A couple few were let inside.
Time was passing and, as far as we could tell, there were only a handful of people inside, while several more patrons waited in line with us. So, this was the way it was still done in New York, eh? We had heard of the days in the Disco years when the bouncers held sway over who was worthy enough to be allowed in the club. Only the beautiful or famous went right in. Everyone else had to wait and maybe not even get in at all. Such power those guys had.
But, the Disco days were long past and all these flyers and postcards were begging us to please, please, please give them our business.
John, David, and I had been used to First Avenue, the legendary nightclub in Minneapolis. When the doors opened at that club, you went in. There was none of this big, beefy, bouncer bullshit. You got there, you got in.
We waited and watched the bouncers chat amongst themselves. One had looked around the corner and spotted a rat. It was one of the rats so diligently protecting our goods, thus confirming John’s idea that no one would mess with our stuff. He exclaimed that he’d just seen a huge rat and went on to exaggerate its size. People tend to do that.
We waited and watched two of the bouncers turn one of the barriers around 360 degrees. We couldn’t figure out why they did that, because, as far as I can recall, the barrier wasn’t any different on either side.
We waited and, finally, John and David decided to hell with this. They told me if we left now we could catch the last shuttle and get the hell out of there. What did I think? “Sure,” I said. See? I’m still so easy.
We went to the rubble pile; John was first, and scared off the rats to retrieve our goods. John reached into the old tire and grabbed out his bag and turned to walk away.
“You’re not gonna grab mine?”
We made our way back to the motel, got a good night’s sleep, and resumed our road trip the next morning.
I haven’t been back to NYC since. Are the rats still plentiful? Are the bouncers still assholes?
Jim ‘Dr. Dim’ Fitzsimons lives in St. Paul, MN and works as an office manager for a janitorial service. He is a graphic artist, cartoonist, and portrait artist. He has a wife, Amy, and an eleven year-old son, Hayden. Jim hosts his own internet radio program (Saturday nights at 11 Central) called Dimland Radio on the Z Talk Radio Network at http://www.ztalkradio.com. Z Talk Radio is mainly a pro-paranormal station and Jim is their resident skeptic. You can view his online portfolio, buy stuff at his CafePress shop, and read his blog at http://www.dimland.com. Please like his Dimland Radio page on Facebook. It will make him smile.