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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A night at Jimmyz

Jimmyz. It sounds like the bad-idea-name for a bar on Rutherford Road. The bar that sits between the half million dollar townhomes and the $15,000 crack houses. The bar that used to be called 13 other things and was most famous for one of those Uzi drive-bys.

But it's not. There's no rock cocaine here. The drug in this Jimmyz is most definitely X. No doubt there's coke, too, but no one is smoking it. And there is booze. Four Roses. Dom. A bunch of high end liquors that I've never heard of. "Top shelf" doesn't begin to describe the drinks.

The Lambros and Ferraris are pulling up out front while we walk in through a back door, down a stairway so dark, I know I'm going to fall and hurt myself, or worse yet, one of the fragile women in front of me. The guy beside me, the guy with more money than I have self-deprecating stories, asks, "Is this the VIP entrance? It looks like Goodfellas."

He's right. I wouldn't be surprised to see Ray Liotta walking through the kitchen. But Ray doesn't come and DeNiro and Pesci aren't around either. The people here aren't from any particular country. The only place they are from...is money.

To wit: She's brunette and is wearing designer jeans that hug her hips like latex denim. Her midriff is showing and so is the crack of her ass. Her eyes are somewhere else. Even though she's looking in my direction, it's clear her head is riding on the back beat, on the uncensored "Gold Digger" track playing on speakers so loud. I'm on a catwalk above her, but her flailing hands brush my arm. She looks at me in a way that says, "I want you," but I know means, "I want money." I have no more than 700 euros in my pocket. Not even $800.

The girl, maybe 25 years old, is actually with a man who is no more than 5'1". He is likely just as wide around. He's probably 65 and he's grooving. His hips are moving in time with the bass and I know he's popped three Viagra tabs tonight in anticipation of the time his driver takes him and the nubile glassy-eyed girl back to the yacht. In terms of money, I can't begin to imagine how much the old dude has. Phizer would be both jealous and grateful.

On the bench beside them, another glassy-eyed girl is almost laying on a guy who was likely reproduced from a Vanity Fair ad. His hair is fashionably long and toussled. His sports jacket, more an affectation than anything, hangs open. He's looking at me. And so is she as she slowly unbuttons the guy's shirt and rubs his chest. I watch for a minute or so before getting uncomfortable.

The key to staying sane in this club, the kind of place that's so dark that even the ugly people look okay, is drinking. The strobe lights, neon lights, music lights...it's too much. Too much for anything. The line at the bar is four people deep and I've heard horror stories about the prices. I've heard we're getting comped, but despite a sectioned off area for us, there is no booze and I'm not staying unless I get a drink. Finally, a friend says, "If you go to the bar, I will go with you."

And, so my need for sanity carries me to the bar where Isabelle says she will buy, despite my protestations. She orders two glasses of champagne for her and her mother and a beer for me. She's holding a 50 euro bill and when the tab comes she turns to me and says, "I don't have enough money." It's only funny because, as Homer says, it's true.

True. For the three drinks, our tab is more than $70. Staying sane in this place is not going to happen. Five minutes later, I've learned the leader of our group has offered to buy a round of beer, which he does. It costs more than I have in my pocket.

I could transplant the bar, the lights, the music, all of it to Las Vegas, to Spingfield, to Columbia, to Greenville. It's just a club, with cigarette burns on the floor, drunk girls on the slick dance area, and guys looking to get laid.

But I'm not in Vegas or any other American town. I'm in Monte Carlo, where I don't order Diet Coke, but instead, Coca Light. I don't order a ham and cheese, but jambon et fromage. It's a city that's like a car wreck. You don't want to stare, because most of what you see is sick. Sick, because it's so insanely extravagant that no person in his right mind would pay $800 for a round of beers, and yet people are doing it. Instead of Ford, Mercuy, Honda and the like, the Miracle Mile is Bently, Rolls, and Ferrari. Sick, because the boats in the harbor are bigger than two suburban homes. Sick, because nothing but money talks in the little town.

I'm back at the bar, because no one is leaving and I'm slowly going insane. One beer hasn't made me like dance music any more than I normally do. I've told msyelf that 22 euros (I could buy two cases of beer in the States for that much) is cheap enough to ensure I go home with my noodle still intact. I realize as I pull a 50 euro bill from my pocket that I'm just as sick as the rest of them now. And yet, there I am, buying a green-bottled beer. One of the rich guys at the bar has pulled up a glass bar top and is stealing a handful of fake diamonds from the lighted underbelly. He laughs as he does it and I give him a friendly, "Um, yeah, stick it to the man," smile.

While I'm waiting for my beer, a lady orders a glass of Dom Perignon. The bartender pulls the familiar bottle from the ice and begins to pour. As the lady turns her back, the guy pulls out another bottle, surely cheaper, and tops off the glass.

Serves these people right, I think as I suck on my $25 beer. You come to a place like this, you derserve to get screwed. And yet, there I am. I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger, indeed.

It's late when I finally escape up the same dark staircase. I'm by myself and in search of somewhere else. Anywhere else. That somewhere else ends up being watching two girls play Go Fish for five euros a piece. Later, it's a hotel bar where I'm handed a guitar and introduce the Europeans to the Bottle Rockets and Delbert McClinton. We sing Don McClean and the harmony is the benediction. Bye, bye Miss American Pie.

We're going back to the States, where the beer is cheaper and we'd never walk into a place called Jimmyz.

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