Construction dust is thicker than Bigfoot’s dander when I push open the door at the site of what will soon be the new Liquor and Rubber Balls Sports Emporium and Artesian Headlamp Fluid (but see below). And here’s Don Tequila, frowning over blueprints, giving directions, scowling personably at day laborers and contractors alike, scaring them past shitlessness.
Let me catch you up: the old LRB is no more. “The only creatures lower than the slime-sucking commercial property owners in the city of Hollywood,” Don Tequila growls to me a few months back, “are the execrable stinking vermin that live under their buildings.” (Very pregnant pause.) “But at least those parasites have the decency to stay out of daylight.”
While Don has never confirmed or denied ownership of Liquor and Rubber Balls – he’s there 8 days a week, opening to closing, behind the bar, working the door, back in the office – the place has always has been his. So now, although it’s soon to be someplace else, he’s still The One.
Welcome to #RubberBalls&Liquor.
“Doors’ll be open for the Superbowl,” Don promises. Assures me the new place will cater to the same customer base – like LRB, it’s a lesbian sports bar, come one, come all, come often – great beer on tap and in bottles, full bar, and old fashioned bar snacks like hard boiled eggs, nuts, pickled shrimp, oyster crackers, fried cheese, etc. Pet friendly, too: Dortmunder, Don’s rhino-sized Rottweiler, patrols the perimeter even as construction roars around us.
#RubberBalls&Liquor. New name (sort of.) Why the hash tag?
Don waves his hand dismissively. “Marketing people. Something about expanding the customer base using social media. Like I give a crusted shit. Cold beer, good food, fun time ain’t enough? Whatever.”
Sure thing, Don – but look, I’m here because you wanted somebody to help test the taps! Gimme reasons to be inside talking to you instead of outside cultivating my basal cells.
Don fixes his gaze between my eyes and exhales noisily. Even though he’s not quite seven feet tall, and just short of 400 pounds of cut muscle, he can be a trifle intimidating. I remember a picture in his office of him carrying his 1958 Roadmaster to the dump. (“There’s nothing deader than a dead Buick,” he said, at the time.) But he knows expertise when he sees it, which is why I’m here.
We assume our positions: him behind the bar, me standing before it. He pours me 4 cold ounces of golden yellow bubbles and head, which I solemnly accept, sniff, then sip. I let it soak, swallow, then take a breath, and finish. I look him straight in the eye.
Don, this is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted, and not just because it’s free.
He almost smiles. Nobody on record has ever seen Don Tequila smile.
The next one is a bit darker, almost amber, and also wonderful. The third one is putrid pineapple juice (“That’s the IPA. I knew you wouldn’t like that swill”). After that it’s a very dark stout, not bad, but hell – why compete with Guinness? You can’t win, and this one doesn’t.
“Two out of four,” he says, opening a bag of salt and vinegar chips to cleanse my palate. “These are from a guy I know in Washington state. If he can get them to me at a decent price, I’ll stock ‘em when I can, along with the standards.”
Anything brewed locally?
Again, the laser gaze. “Quit yanking my chain,” he growls. “Like I don’t know what you think about Florida beer.” He flicks at some plaster dust in his nose. “Which I agree with. If I was the new governor, Executive Order #1 would be to close down Florida’s crap breweries indefinitely, until any one of ‘em learns to make a drinkable beer.”
Not a fan of mango coconut, eh? Or mint smegma?
Behind me there’s a sudden loud crash, the sound of something breaking, and chorus of cursing and screams in Spanish. Don’s on it like an echo. He moves fast for a giant.
Dortmunder lays his wet jowls on my knee. I give him some chips.
“Clumsy assholes,” explains Don, returning to the bar. He grabs a tap and pours me 12 ounces of pure delight, known commercially as Grolsch. The taps are ready, anyway. I ask him if he’s planning on taking my suggestion of setting up an axe-hurling station. It’s all the rage.
“Against my better judgment, I actually looked into that,” he says. “The insurance agent is probably still laughing. She says if we really want to do something stupid, dangerous, and utterly tasteless, we should consider dwarf-tossing – would be cheaper.” He sets his jaw. “Besides, we got enough hurling going on already.”
Where can you even find dwarfs these days. Maybe put an ad in Cahoots Quarterly – in fine print?
“No idea,” sighs Don. ”But there’s no shortage of mental midgets.”
He’s kind enough not to look at me when he makes this observation, but it’s time to make like horseshit and hit the dusty trail. I thank him, wish him well, and promise to return on Opening Day to root passionately against the Patriots and their Greatest Of All Tom.