Thursday, August 17
A night of pool and redneck revelry in Hagerstown, MD
One of many creative uses for a pickup bed.
The trip from South Carolina to New York was fifteen hours (or so) and en route to the city my parents and I somehow we had ended up in Hagerstown, Maryland at the Clarion Hotel. It seems that this particular weekend wasn’t only the day the Yeh family arrived into town, but also a National TAP Pool Tournament, which is, apparently, a cross between Spring Break Cancun, Black Biker Week, and a Larry the Cable Guy show.
We got there at around 7pm and the parking lot was jam full already. We searched for a spot to park our truck -- we are known around my family’s circle as the only Chinese family with a big pick-up (a Chevy Silverado) -- we came across a group of people who were grilling out on a portable gas grill set up in the back of a truck. A couple of guys in black t-shirts with the sleeves cut off stood around tending the burgers and hot dogs. Five or six people of both genders, spanning in age three generations, reclined in folding lawn chairs that formed a semi-circle around the back of the truck. They were holding open cans of beer and, as if on cue, when my parents and I came around they all turned pink and sunburned and suspicious faces toward us. Where had we stumbled upon for the night? Hazzard County? Vicksburg before the fall of the Confederacy? A Hate, Not History rally?
After finally finding a place to park, my parents and I went in search for something to eat. The lot was, as I said before, quite crowded and my dad was reluctant to move the car.
“Besides," he added. "Why go anywhere else? There’s a restaurant here.”
And so this is how we ended up at Barefoot Bernie's, the sort of tacky tourist trap usually found in resort (i.e. trashy coastal) towns like Myrtle Beach, SC or Daytona, FL, places where thirteen year-olds who say they are eighteen-year olds lose their virginity to forty-year old bikers who say they are, well, I don't know what they say they are because I don't talk to them. Probably forty-year old bikers, for all I know -- I hear bikers are an integrous lot.
Anyways, what I'm saying is Barefoot Bernie's was the sort of place that would have a life-sized statue of a half-naked female pirate in its waiting area. The sort of place that would outfit their waitstaff in tropical prints and khaki shorts and play a mix of Jimmy Buffett, Toby Keith, and Aerosmith over its stereo with the volume turned up so you have to yell across the table. The sort of place that would have a so-called "shuttle bus" in the form of a white Ford van with the words "Uncensored" and "Too Hot for TV" emblazoned on it, circling the parking lot with its loading door slid back and purple black light glowing from within.
No, I'm not making any of this up.
Let me put it this way: this place was located in the middle of a hotel, which is to say, the kind of place that would have young children going around on any given day and the first thing you see when you walk in is a female pirate with a come-hither look and a ripped-open breech cloth shirt (if you could call it that) showing off two very globe-like breasts.
The meal was decent (I got a burger -- it took forty minutes before we got it -- what were they, slaughtering the cow?), however the overall experience was depressing, as expected. What came next was little better; after dinner my mother and I unloaded our truckbed of all our most valuable possessions and my father proceeded to the tournament room to watch Hagerstown's finest in action. As I brought in the last of our stuff back into the room, I passed by a group of teenagers standing in the hall, doing what teenagers do.
"You gotta do something about that hair," one of the guys said as I walked by.
To the derisive sound of laughter I slid the keycard in and went inside. It was one of those nights.
at 1:40 PM