Trash, talk and tourists

Nov 3, 1999 at 12:00 am


After a grueling week of dental pain and the associated numbing of said mandibular throbbing, I stopped in on Thursday night to rest my weary bones with the bluesy magic of the Immortal Winos of Soul at Holbrook Café.

But is it ever possible to stop at just one Hamtramck watering hole? Of course not. Denying the draw of cheap beer, nonexistent fashion doctrines and the company of artists, celebrities and toothless drunks alike is an exercise in futility.

Edging my way to the bar with University of Detroit Mercy’s Laura Roman, a filmster of increasing merit, we found our starlet status suddenly threatened by the head-turning entrance of a few tall, leggy, long-haired stunners. Feeling competition for male attention in our future, we cattily made it our mission to check out our rivals.

Gulping back embarrassment for such silly behavior, we were nonetheless pleased to discover that the beauties were only glam rock favorites the Trash Brats, out for a little pre-Halloween tricking and treating. How obnoxiously fragile the female ego is.

I was ever so happy to catch up with my old "nights of tequila" buddy Verge, Wino’s bassist, an enigmatic force single-handedly responsible for the unparalleled energy and charisma oozing from their stage. He’s just as nice as he is talented, and better looking every time I see him.

Kibitzing is elevated to an art form at Holbrook Café, and I joined in with a table of such diversely interesting folks that I wondered why anyone would prefer a packed meat market to the intimate realness of a smaller, low-key venue.

Lit and happy, I tossed any thoughts of making it an early night at this point, ordered another Pabst (I feel a kinship — we sound alike) and gave in to the power of the people, the Pabst and the performance.


Madness ensues as my grandiose ideas of becoming a schedule-oriented person continue. It’s 9 o’clock Saturday night, and I’m freaking out that I’ve overslept in my prepartying catnap. Of course, an enormous steak at Como’s always knocks me out (What was I thinking? Perhaps "Coma’s" is a more fitting name!).

Quietly resolving to learn my lesson next time, I slipped into my Santa outfit and dashed out to join the rest of the costumed freaks. Resisting my lazy inclination to drive on fumes, I stopped for gas on my way out of Hamtown. Small World theory kicks my ass; at Mobil, I was recognized by a friend I had not seen since the third grade! Time to update my looks, you think?

Unlikely as this scenario was, turns out the friend, Connie Riopelle, and her husband, Chuck, were on their way to Small’s in Hamtramck to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, and invited me along.

Vowing to stick to my agenda next week for sure, I met them down at Small’s, my new favorite bar of all time.

Weirder still, I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen since I walked the hallowed halls of Helen Keller Jr. High, Tim Housley, now a feline connoisseur (don’t ask). Xiang Lao, a New York media bigwig in town to check out talk radio’s up-and-coming dysfunctional duo, Steve & Ginger (keep your ears peeled), rounded out my scholastic reunion — we’d been classmates ages ago in Claremore, Okla.!

Yesterday and today mingling with mind-boggling mystery, the David Lynchish setting of Small’s couldn’t have been more fitting. Zephyrs from the twin-propped ceiling fans gently lifted tufts of hair, lending an ethereal quality to the atmosphere; but I can’t say enough to convey the feeling and aura of Small’s. Just go there.


Even on a Saturday night — "tourist night" to regulars — Gusoline Alley still has more character than you can shake a stick at. "Ace of Spades" blaring from the jukebox, Olympic sprinter hopeful Felix Maplehurst barely able to walk but deftly hoisting whiskey after whiskey to his lips, legend-in-his-own mind Jay romancing the ladies … ah, I’m home.

Typically few Gussers were costumed for All Hallow’s Eve, perhaps because they regularly exercise freedom of expression in their styles of dress.

Rogues Jake and Elwood Blues (J.J. and T.W. of Berkley) looked every bit the part, however, making me a little more comfortable in my now seemingly silly Saint Nick wear. Unusually sarcastic for men on a mission from God, the boys snapped my photo in an act of hostile retaliation for my taking theirs. Thanks for the copy, fellas.

Socialite designer Tika made a rare appearance in public with her main squeeze, that handsome blonde financier whose wife is obviously out of town again. You really should employ more than clown noses for successful disguising, lovebirds.

Oh, the info I gleaned from the bathroom wall! For instance (coincidentally enough), I learned that my old friend Tim, seen earlier at Small’s, is apparently somewhat of a gospel musician, as reference was made to his large organ. To that add the countless blurbs proclaiming love for Tim Authier, Hemigod’s dashing frontman.

Nearing last call, I remembered a party I had promised to stop at. Our paper-bagged 40s of Magnum in hand, my stalwart companion and I spent the remainder of the night sitting on a curb outside a dying party, reflecting on model eggs and wombs for rent. Kids, don’t try this at home.