"Do you want me to order for you?"
That's the blonde in the purple power suit on the stool at the bar. I stand next to her, appearing awkward. Danny — she's a girl named Danny — means well, I'm sure of it. The gesture appears genuine. But it's the sort of thing that makes a person — particularly a prideful person like me — feel like a complete putz. Danny looks over at me with pity because, well, at the moment, I appear pretty damn pitiful.
It's Friday around 5:30 p.m., a couple of coworkers and I are inside Fly, the new hotspot on the mostly comatose nightlife scene of downtown Tampa. Fly opened last summer, occupies an old 1920s storefront and is big with the scenester/yuppie/moneyed set. The exposed brick walls and cement floors were already holding a sizeable crowd when we entered. But the place was still an hour or so away from being I-can't-hear-a-word-you-just-said packed. So there's no reason for the bartender not to at least make eye contact with me.
"She should at least tell you she'll be with you in a minute," offers Danny.
My coworkers had already grabbed beers and congregated in their own corner — just like the rest of the cliques. I had moseyed over to the far end of the bar, squeezed in by the empty stool next to Danny, who drank a glass of white wine. I pulled out a crisp $20, displayed it in my hand and rested my elbows on the bar — and waited. Finally, the woman behind the bar pops her head up from the sink and takes my order.
"I heard the raspberry mojitos are popular here," I mumble.
"Yeah," she answers flatly, "people order them."
Short glass, ice, dark red liquid with black debris at the bottom that makes it resemble one my dad's I.D.C.s (Improvised Dip Cups). Price tag for this trendy concoction? $9. It goes down smooth but is a bit sweet for my taste and lacks the alcohol kick I expect when I drop $10 (OK, so my $1 tip isn't exactly generous but, hell, I waited a long time for that sucker).
"Typically, I don't order anything fruity unless I'm at the beach," I tell Danny. "But I was told this is the drink to order at Fly."
She nods politely.
"I've seen one, maybe two people order one of those," scoffs the punk with the chinstrap beard standing to my right.
"Thanks pal," I mutter while slinking away, back to the Loaf crew that's currently holding up a banister by the dining area. I bitch about the long wait and high price of the drink. I point out the jerk who poked fun at my fruity drink choice, make fun of his chinstrap beard — curse his very existence, mother and any offspring he might be responsible for — and feel better about the whole situation soon after.
We ascend the outside stairs to the second-story rooftop bar. The view is less than spectacular. The Federal Courthouse Building, the old Floridan Hotel and Methodist Place, where good Methodists stop on their way to see God, his Son and everyone else deemed worthy of Heaven. There's also a great view of I-275. Actually, the most intriguing sight from atop Fly, which is dotted with rather comfortable wooden patio furniture and its own bar, is the new condo tower with the rounded corner patios dubbed The Residences of Franklin Street. The units are right on top of us.
"Look, you can see into their living room," says a coworker. "See, look at that huge TV screen there."
In addition to being quite the eavesdropper, I'm also down with a little tom-peepery. My rule is that if I can view inside your window from a public space, or my own private property, it's fair game. Unfortunately, despite several minutes spent studying the wall of windows, all that presents itself is the larger-than-life images on the flat screen.
"It's an odd mix of people here," says the same coworker.
And she's right. Frumpy looking baby boomers, horny housewives, silver foxes, hipsters, a blonde with a midriff-revealing green blouse, tight jeans and flat, open-toe sandals leaning over the ledge, puffing on a Marlboro Light. She takes a seat, leans forward and reveals a lacey whale tail. I elbow a male coworker but he misses the opportunity.
Willie Nelson, in reggae mode, sings a song called "Still is Still Moving to Me." It plays softly in the background as the sky darkens. My $9 Raspberry Mojito is done. The upstairs bar serves no Guinness, and that's what I need to offset the saccharine effects of the fruity cocktail. It's probably 6:30 p.m. or so by this time, and the bar is packed. So it's back downstairs to the not-too-attentive barkeeps. I stand at the bar yet again.
"Are you trying to order a drink?" inquires a young man dressed in a tight, black, button-down with a wide collar.
"Um, yeah," I respond.
"I know everybody here," he says. "Let me help you."
Know a good bar? Have a favorite dive? Wade Tatangelo and Bar Tab will be barhopping Tampa Bay on a regular basis. Tell him where to go at [email protected].