Running into someone you hooked up with years ago is always an interesting experience. Especially when you're both half tanked at the time of the coincidental meeting. Particularly when the fling was a short, fiery one fueled by a shared appreciation of heavy drinking, late-night parties and strip clubs.
We'll call the woman in question "Carmen."
When I stumbled into the Tiny Tap Tavern last Friday I spotted her almost immediately. The bar is a former gas station. Most of the surrounding South Tampa houses have living rooms that are larger than the Tap. Pretending not to see someone there isn't an option.
Carmen and I talked. We flirted. Carmen also flirted with my younger brother Joel. Oh, yeah, and she was on a date. He made it a point to talk to me. In fact, he went so far as to whip out his phone and show me the beachfront home he owns in Haiti, saying that his family were colonialists that went back more than 300 years there. Being the asshole that I am, I made it a point to mention that his ancestors must have made their money in the slave trade.
It was shaping up to be an interesting night.
Joel, our friend Tommy and I strolled out onto Howard Avenue and began the night around 8 p.m. at MacDinton's. We put away a round of rum-and-cokes and decided to find a little less-congested scene.
"There are so many hot girls here," Tommy said. "But I think they're still a little too sober to be hitting on."
We walked around the corner to The Dubliner. A good-sized crowd filled the deck and both of the inside rooms. But it was just a little more chill than MacDinton's. We ordered our pints — I went with a Stella Artois — and found a table inside. Problem was, the table had a screw loose or something that made placing a glass on it very precarious. And it couldn't be corrected by placing a coaster under one of the legs.
This made me nervous. Not too long ago at the Dubliner, I committed a serious gaffe by dropping a full pint of Guinness. Where I dropped it was even worse — right in front of the kitchen entrance. Sure enough, moments after my spill — which elicited jeers from my co-workers accompanying me that night — out comes a server with a tray full of food. He ends up slipping on my suds and falling on his ass like one of the Three Stooges.
So I kept my pint glass off the faulty table and made sure Joel and Tommy, who already had a buzz kicking, did the same. We left after one round. I didn't wanna risk another spill.
We got back on Howard and hoofed it down to The Lime, a chic bar/restaurant that overflows with yuppies.
"This place just reeks of trendiness," Tommy announced for everyone in the place to hear. He and my brother drank $8 rum-and-cokes while I put away another Stella. It was time to hit a place with cheap beer and women who don't look at you like they're trying to determine the thread count of your shirt. Before we left, though, Joel got a big hug from one of Lime's many attractive servers.
"I hooked up with her at a party in high school," he explained after she walked off. "But back then she was kinda chunky."
"That's why you should always be nice to women of all sizes," I reminded him.
We walked across the street to the Tiny Tap. Carmen comes over by herself to chat with my brother and I. I'm looking good, she says, and my brother has gorgeous eyes. She offers a mischievous smile.
Joel and Tommy lay quarters on the pool table. As fate would have it, they're up against Carmen's date and his friend, some dude who looks like Trey Anastasio. I feel compelled to comment on the resemblance. He grimaces and mutters something under his breath and then misses his shot. Tommy is pretty terrible at pool but Joel is good. They won.
The Tiny Tap sells 16 oz. bottles of Bud for $2.50. It's the best deal in SoHo. Those beer torpedoes kept us there for a couple of hours.
Joel held his own on the pool table. I teased Carmen when her date wasn't yammering at me about how life in Haiti is so wonderful. Tommy managed to get a phone number from a gal who appeared to also be on a date. Joel and I watched cautiously as Tommy hit on her with the guy leering at him.
Around 1 a.m. we said goodbye. Joel's hunger prompted a stop at J's Grill for a hot dog, which he devoured in two bites. Problem is, J's Grill sits in the parking lot of MacDinton's. We couldn't resist. Wound up drinking there until the staff made it very clear that it was closing time and then led us out with the rest of the tipsy herd.
Tiny Tap Tavern, 2105 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa. 813-258-5212.