Saturday Night, West Virginia VFW

Posted by admin - 05/01/14 at 11:01 pm

It is midnight on a Saturday night, and I am drinking Bud Light in a VFW in Huntington, West Virginia. This might not be Hell, but I’m reasonably sure if you climbed the water tower you could see the city limits sign from here.

There’s a bar band playing here, working hard to entertain the crowd, which is about twenty people who’ve come to drink and dance. The crowd ranges in age from early 30’s up to senior citizens, which makes the music selection an adventure. We’ve got rock, rap, some country, oldies, basically anything that involves a danceable beat that might keep the locals happy enough to stay quiet.

Even so, the dance floor stays mostly empty, except for the couple that’s drunk enough to wander out, convulse and lean for a while, then “woo!” their way off the floor.

Behind the double doors is the bar and game room, where men and women who make dollars plunk down quarters to pass the time. There are enough people in there to be sad, as at midnight the place is still more packed than the dance floor, but with less hope of a happy evening.

I’m drinking Bud Lite, which appears to be composed entirely of the spittle of the homeless. It’s good and cheap though, this is not a crowd that’s going to pay much for a beer. Or a joint, or a bump, or whatever is available in the parking lot. This is the kind of crowd who’ll do anything to momentarily forget, but won’t pay a lot for anything. Not stimulants, not cars, not homes or trailers.

Everybody’s dreaming of something here. Some grand, some mundane, and some utterly ridiculous. The strongest voices in the place are slurred and unfiltered, power drinkers on weekend highs.

This is a place where the moment is all that they have, because the earlier day is too depressing to remember, and the future is too repetitive to contemplate.

Midnight is a magical time. When the calendar shifts, everything becomes intensified. If you’re having a good time and ride that until midnight, chances are things will get better, drunker, louder. And if you’re down by the time the clock turns, it will only get worse. The night is darker, colder, lonelier. Nothing good happens here. The best that you can hope for is that nothing awful occurs, and the status quo remains intact tomorrow. It’s all downhill from here, straight from a possible drunken hookup with a bridge troll right through to the inevitable meal at Waffle House.

The band kicks into a half-hearted version of “Mustang Sally,” a song so universally despised that you can almost taste their disdain. It is certainly a song, but not a good one. That song was old when Wilson Pickett played it almost fifty years ago, and every band that’s forced to play it now does so with utter boredom.

The drunken tall girl in too-tight pants squeals her delight at the band, as she’s been making requests all night, but never hitting the tip jar to show her appreciation.

Note to everyone who goes anyplace bar bands play. Pay for your songs. I’ve been those guys before, and even a hot chick making requests isn’t nearly as appreciated as a couple of bucks in the tip jar. Chances are, even if the hot girl sleeps with the singer, the bass player isn’t going to get much out of it. The tip jar is split evenly. Everyone who has to suffer through an impromptu version of “Sweet Child of Mine” should benefit from it.

This is the end of the world. Here, there’s no tomorrow that’s not the same as yesterday. This moment with cheap beer and loose women (and men) is as close to Heaven as most of these people will get.

And I’m just killing time in Heaven’s waiting room, nursing a watery beer and listening to a three-piece band with vocals work their way through a cover of “Purple Rain.”

— Reid Kerr  has served his time in cover bands.



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