Sometimes, nothing happening is good. Take Saturday night, the third of July. Perhaps it was the lull after a swinging Friday night kickoff to a three-day weekend, or maybe it was the relatively placid precursor to Fourth of July festivities, but the stretch of Q Street between 20th and 21st was tumbleweed city.
The weekend before, there’d been a full moon, and everything they say about how a full moon amplifies the crazies held true; by 9 p.m. on Saturday, a good-sized bunch of nuts seemed well hammered, staggering around Scoopy Hill getting their babble on, oblivious to any subtleties or nuances of polite behavior. But a half-hour before midnight on this Saturday? Crickets.
Usually by this time, Chita’s, the rather swell taqueria in the middle of the block with some of the best late-night nosh in town, has a line of mooks, guidettes and Maloofage spilling out the door onto the sidewalk. Not this night, and I ate my delicious soft bean tacos with chips and salsa and sipped my lime Jarritos in relative quietude. There were the occasional stragglers from the Jim Rose Circus, not to mention a very inebriated guy with a backward white baseball cap sitting on the curb in front of Benny’s a couple of doors down, pleading on his cell phone for someone to come pick him up. A couple of drunks in a battered Hyundai econobox swerved forward and backward, trying to find a place to park.
Toward 20th Street, a party spilled out of an apartment onto the sidewalk, where a makeshift memorial to Ryan McPhee, stabbed to death two weekends before near that spot, forlornly bore witness to the intersection’s violent possibilities. And across 20th, a very scribbled woman got out of the driver’s seat of her car across from the now-shuttered Whiskey Wild Saloon. “They didn’t even fuckin’ take me in for a DUI,” she slurred to her friends.
If the bars of Glitter Gulch around 20th Street between J and L are the gleaming white choppers on the body of Midtown’s nightlife, then the less-swanky nightspots several blocks to the south form its perforated esophagus. This is where you come to get rabidly drunk, to fraternize and vomit with other people who are working on serious impairment and, occasionally, to mix it up with them. No sommeliers proffering treasures of the grape in this neck of the woods, or the well-articulated dilettante moves of “day-raging” state workers—nothing but the desperate land crawls of walking catfish trying to wriggle their way back to wherever a convenient swamp might be found.
Presently, I walk up Q, hang a left on 21st, watch a van unload its cargo of chubby new-wave suburbanites in front of The Press Club, and keep walking past the line outside the TownHouse Lounge toward Pieces, where one guy in a crowd of drunks is berating a homeless black guy on a bicycle, who was crying as he walked his bike toward Capitol Avenue. I kept walking to K, turned left, and soon the clinking of glasses and laughter in Glitter Gulch drowned out the memory of his sobs.