I like to think of myself as the kind of person who is open to change, who doesn't judge and who welcomes other people into my world. But, apparently, that is not the case when it comes to my Tuesday nights. For months now I've been meeting up with a group of friends at The Matador for a drink or two, maybe some darts, lively conversation and a little old-school country music courtesy of DJ Prariedog (aka. visual artist Tim Jag). The bartenders/owners, usually, remember what we drink, chat with us about music and make us feel at home. Our little group has ranged from two to more than 20 but the thing is, it doesn't matter how many people show up, it's the kind of place where I can roll in alone and leave with that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from kicking it with the homies.
So last night, around 9 pm, when I saw my friends huddled in a frightened circle outside, not smoking, I knew something was going on. "I'm not going in there" one exclaimed.
I was beaded and suddenly the crowds I'd encountered on my short walk began to make sense. It was Mardi Gras and revelers had taken over our haunt. I braved it to see if some friends I'd been tormenting to come out were in there. Mistake. The place was packed with purple and yellow clad partiers. I raced up the stairs as fast as I could and ran to Evangelo's, where my friends had taken refuge. We whined like the good adults that we are and waited, staring out the windows as the celebrants slowly began to fill up the street between the two bars.
These guys were no ordinary trespassers. They were organized, they had instruments and we stared them down from a safe distance. As it appeared they'd nearly all gathered to move on, we left Evangelo's and staked out a place at the stop of the stairs that lead to The Matador.
"Don't look them in the eyes, they're wild animals" a friend joked, shielding me from the dancing.
As they moved toward San Francisco Street we ran down the stairs as a group to take back our bar!
Though the place was nearly empty, it was different. It was used, like a cheating lover, dirty but smiling. There were glasses strewn everywhere, beer bottles and it was hot. Cesar, the co-owner of The Matador, looked like he was in shock. Gazing blankly at us for a moment before breaking out into a familiar grin. He seemed happy to see us and relieved that the whirlwind of people to retake the bar were the regulars. We'd understand he was frazzled.
So who were those people? How were they so organized? And how did they end up at The Matador? It was the Hillstompers Band and their annual Fat Tuesday bar crawl. Truthfully, they were great. They were having a blast and were a wonderful thing to encounter. (They also probably, by the looks of things, dropped a lot of cash at The Matador and I can't complain about that.) They were just so unexpected and so colorful and so not what I'm used to in my dark little Tuesday night hideaway.