Monday, August 14, 2006

A Trip to the Bullet

Saturday night brought the long awaited trip to the Silver Bullet. Having seen the outside on a brightly lit Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure I knew it was a country & western bar. Sure I knew they were only open on weekends. But would it be as sketchy as everyone made it out to be?

The parking lot was full of trucks. At least one of which was jacked up 2 feet higher than everyone else. The shack still looked decrepit – even with the bullet lit up in neon and a string of Christmas lights hanging along the roof.

Stepping into the shack was like being on the page of a book with an ocean setting behind you and crossing over to the next page and finding yourself in the middle of a forest. Except we stepped from desolate, highwayside shack to 1970s hunting lodge. The floor was covered in an unfortunate brown paisley/floral carpeting that puts the most outdated and ugly of hotel carpets to shame. Stuffed animal heads adorned the wall and one corner was guarded by a taxidermied black bear.

A man and 2 women worked the cash register. The sign above their heads advertised the price of admission: $5 for members, $7 for non-members.

After paying the elevated non-member admission, we walked down a flight of steps (still covered in the same unfortunate carpet) and entered the Bullet.

The first room we came upon looked like any old ordinary bar, save for the 400+ pound man in the bright orange Harley t-shirt and missing most of his teeth who took up several spaces. We walked through the bar and down a few more steps and that is when you truly enter the Bullet.

To the right, a dance floor which was crowded with a sea of men in cowboy hats pressed up close against their women, swaying to the strains of some country song. To the right, table after table – like some sort of giant catering hall that can host a 500 person wedding. Neon signs flashed everywhere and disco balls hung from the ceiling.

The men mostly wore cowboy hats (I haven’t so many since I attended the rodeo in Houston) and western wear (starched shirts, Wranglers, big belts) – although some looked more like bikers (jeans and t-shirts with the occasional splash of leather). And while mullets were thankfully scarce (although not completely missing), at least 90% of the men sported Dale Earnhardt style mustaches and all of them smoked.

Marty and Rick – both facial-hair free – stood out in their sage green and peach Polos respectively.

The women wore sequined tops, too tight jeans (giving whole new meaning to the term muffin topping) and had enough bleach in their hair to start a Clorox factory. One woman wore a top so hideous (it reminded me of the sequin halter I once purchased to wear to a Disco Inferno mixer in college) it prompted Rick to wonder out loud what she HADN’T chosen to wear that night. Another woman looked like Jane Fonda in 9 to 5 and writhed in her seat like Debra Winger on the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. Perms, bangs and feathers were a reminder that hairstyles are one thing that have not evolved down here. The women too had cigarettes permanently glued to their lips and many used the one they were smoking to light the one in their hand.

In fact, the 3 of us may have been the only people in the bar NOT smoking. It was so smoky that my eyes stung – the first time that has ever happened in 15+ years of going to bars.

Brown bagging is allowed at the Bullet and many of tables were littered with bottles of everything from Jack to vodka to straight rot gut – all delicately concealed in paper bags. The South’s answer to bottle service. Waitresses shuttled mostly set-ups (bottles of Sun-Drop, Coke and OJ along with buckets of ice and maraschino cherries) as well as beer. No need to buy a cocktail. And I certainly didn’t ask to see a wine list.

The DJ played everything from country songs I didn’t know to disco to the Electric Slide – that staple of 80s bar mitzvahs and 90s sweet sixteens everywhere. The dance floor for that was packed. Sadly, his tenure was short-lived as a fairly terrible band took the stage soon after we arrived. They looked like an 80s hair band, sounded worse than the karaoke singers at Zippers, and covered the sort of obvious songs – Talk Dirty To Me, Pour Some Sugar on Me – that allow obvious women the opportunity to act even more obvious by singing along suggestively while grinding in time to the music.

Eventually, the bad music and oppressive cigarette smoke were too much to take and we stepped outside onto the patio for a breather and some peace. But not 5 minutes later did an angry man come storming out, a pit bull of a fellow close at his heels. The angry man overturned a chair as he stormed through the patio in frustration, the pit bull right behind him. I thought a fight was getting ready to break out but it turned out the pit bull was the bouncer and he essentially chased the chair overturning, angry man out of the bar. Still, I was expecting nothing less from the Bullet so in that regard, it delivered.

I walked away from the evening completely satisfied. Perhaps because I had pages of notes on things to write about (and my goal after all is to keep you, my dear readers, entertained). Perhaps because I got to witness a culture so foreign from anything I know that it was by all counts entertaining. Or maybe I was just getting in touch with my inner country girl.

Whatever it was, I can honestly say this about the Bullet:

If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your…