Bouncer Communes with the Pinatas at the Latin American Club

Have you read that story about the Christmas tree that was adorned with decorations and looked on with adoration? The conifer that finally felt appreciated and loved? Then the holiday ends and he is stripped down and thrown on a garbage heap, abandoned and hurt? I read it as a kid, and I still get choked up when I think about it. I remember feeling better about Easter, where the eggs may get their insides blown out, but at least they remain painted and pretty for all eternity. And a flag from the Fourth of July gets ceremoniously folded and put into a cozy hibernation for a year before it is trotted out again, then unfurled high atop a pole. Firecrackers at least get to go out in a blaze of glory.

But consider, if you will, the piñata. Colorful, beautiful, filled with sweet goodness. Each child looks upon it in admiration. There it sways, our little piñata, being hoisted higher and higher until it looks down over the room like a grateful soul at peace ascending to heaven.

Then, out comes the stick.

I have some good news, though. The piñatas at the Latin American Club were hoisted long ago, and still hold their exalted positions, blissfully unaware of the fate of many of their comrades. These are the lucky ones, the 1 percent. Not only does the Power Ranger piñata not know his sad general purpose, he also doesn't know that the Power Rangers are, like, so 1993. But it is still better than having the Skittles beaten out of you.

You get the general picture, I hope: The Latin American is adorned with piñatas. It is dark and cozy, like a Día de los Muertos diorama come to life. A big neon horseshoe over the entrance marks the spot. There seems to be some confusion as to why the Latin American Club has a horseshoe for a sign, since folks don't understand what a horseshoe has to do with Hispanic culture, but I went online and found out that there are indeed horses in Latin America, and they are called caballos, and they are muy guapo, and they have feet. So now it makes more sense.

Besides eternal piñatas and horseshoes, the Latin American Club is known for its margaritas, which are big, strong, and cheap. I have never passed this place when it wasn't packed to the proverbial rafters; I believe this is because it's a bar that appeals to many different people; it is hip but not exclusive, divey but not dingy, kitschy but not classless. Also, it has a café quality that is good for people-watching.

I stumbled in, feeling a bit like a post-party piñata who had just pooped her last pop rock. I had spent the day at the DMV (say no more). I was supposed to meet my friend for a drink, so I muscled my way through the crowd and staked out a 2-by-2-foot patch of land in the back. Everyone around me seemed to know each other, and the men had beards. I suppose the same could be said for any bar in this city.

My friend was 20 minutes late, so I glanced at my BlackBerry. No text, no voice mail. “Where R U?” I sent. I kept fiddling with my hand-held communication device so as to look engaged; when you are being stood up, you are convinced that everyone in the room knows it. However, if you were the sort of person that everyone in the room actually noticed, you wouldn't be the sort of person that got stood up. Sad but true. I stood there, hanging in anticipation, my belly pregnant with the Mexican candy of hope, dulce de esperanza. Cue James Brown : Hit meh!

My compatriots clinked their newly refreshed margarita glasses and I snuggled further into the corner. Still no message back from my friend. I decided to read the Yelp reviews of the Latin American Club; I like to compare and contrast these things when I am actually in a place. As usual, most of the reviews seemed to be written by people who don't get out much. “We all woke up very thirsty and had headaches!” said one poster about the margaritas there. Oh dear; I hope they saw a doctor. Reviewer Annalise F. was indignant: “[This place] needs help FAST in two areas: The décor: WTF is going on in this place?” and what she calls “Nomenclature”:

“The Latin American Club? Represented by a horseshoe? Am I missing something?” The short answer, Annalise, is “Yes.”

At this point I was giving up on my friend, but was made to feel superior as a human in some ways by reading all the lame reviewers on Yelp. Not lame reviews, per se, but lame reviewers, who nonetheless probably had friends that actually showed up to meet them, however stupid they might be at condensing their experiences down to 500 characters or less.

The beard collective all seemed to be staring at me as well; each festival of follicles another reminder of my lonesome fate. Even the piñatas seemed to mock me. If only they knew their true nature!

Well, if I wanted this sort of treatment I would go back to the DMV. “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore!” I said aloud, no sirree. I squeezed through everyone and popped back out into the street. Behind me, the bar glowed like the belly of a firefly, another beautiful creature that shines brightly for one night and then expires, unaware.

I felt my BlackBerry in my pocket alerting me to a message. “Hey! Sorry!! Need to reschedule! LOVE you!!!”

I could be passive-aggressive and not text back until the next day, or I could be magnanimous and reply right away that everything was okay and cool. Strangely, the latter was how I was actually feeling as I boarded BART. I was tired but content, happy to be heading home. “No prob,” I wrote back, hulking down in my seat and pulling my hoodie over my eyes.

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