The week started off tame enough— with my new bud / kindred spirit Daniel hernandez reading from his book Down & Delirious in Mexico City at Barrio Logan's Voz Alta gallery.
Afterward, the author suggested we grab a beer, and the twinkle in my eye was immediate as there was a nearby watering hole I was too chicken-shit to experience by myself. A short trek away, the cholo wonderland that is Chiquibaby's Bar (317 Dewey St.) awaited.
It wasn't my first time at this charreada; I'd attempted to check the place out twice before. The first time, a cast of sketchy characters sitting outside on an abandoned couch warded me off. The second— with two gringos in tow—I got denied as soon as we entered.
On our way in, we passed a Dodge Durango with the windows cracked open and a baby peacefully sleeping inside. Sauced-up day laborers were stumbling out from the joint, cement and lime particles emanating from them like fairy dust, and, inside, a raucous talent show was underway. We had stumbled upon the bar's twice-weekly karaoke night.
“Now, make way for el más chignón: El Chiquiboy Pérez!” the KJ announced, as a dark, cowboy-hat-wearing midget made his way up from the back, mic in hand, and performed the hell of out of a narcocorrido that spoke of tinted windows and heroin smuggling.
Later, a middle-aged lady took the stage and sang “Amor eterno,” a song that, in Mexico, is synonymous with the loss of a mother; though, it's rumored author Juan Gabriel penned it in memoriam to a gay lover who drowned while on summer vacay. Glimpses of the chanteuse's flan top (the Chicana equivalent of “muffin top”) peeked out from under her glittery green top with every heartfelt sway.
Like a bull, a patron then came toward me and grilled me on my Dodgers hat. “This is Dego, homie, and you're being disrespectful to everyone in here.”
Defiant in the face of his request to surrender the cap, I simply turned it around. I might have gone to private school, but I can still stare a fool down.
I called it a sober night, and my senses were heightened—the clickety-clack noise of a machete going though meat in the alleyway taco stand, notes of the gay bereavement anthem, and echoing hints of the weeping car-baby started to pierce through my skull. Is this how I would go? Drinking a canned Pepsi?
Pale-faced, hernandez reappeared, suggesting we bail. The offended vato followed him to the men's room, sold him a couple of his band's—Malvados Crew—CDs, and offered him some crystal.
“I didn't inhale,” he assured me.