Antonia – 2012 – Possibly a Mob Front?

“The square shaped balding man burst through the kitchen door with two glasses of water for us, and in a very loud and deep voice, he explained that it was his birthday, and we would eat what he felt like making us.”

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Well, this one time I took my friend Antonia to dinner at (what seemed to be) a front for some type of illicit activity.

She had just moved to a new area, and we wanted to check out the local shops and restaurants. While we were wandering, we stumbled into a tiny Italian place. Back home, the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants always have the best food, so we were excited to give it a shot. Big curtains were covering the entry windows, so we had no idea what was inside until we trudged through the door.

Inside, we were met with emptiness and silence. We both immediately thought the place was closed, and I spun around and searched for the store hours posted somewhere on the door. While I was looking, we heard a heavy THUD as a young woman barked “I’ll be right with you!”

She appeared, greeted us confusingly, and asked us ‘what she could do for us’. Which, looking back, is probably a red flag. But we were naive and hungry, so we said we were there for dinner. She looked puzzled but motioned us to follow her to a booth right by the entrance.

She then disappeared into the back, and we heard a muffled conversation between our hostess and a man. The consensus was basically they were not prepared for us or didn’t know how to proceed. I asked my date if she wanted to split, but she insisted we stay for the story.

The square shaped balding man burst through the kitchen door with two glasses of water for us, and in a very loud and deep voice, he explained that it was his birthday, and we would eat what he felt like making us. We whole-heartedly agreed.

We waited around thirty minutes, and he again returned with three large bowls of spaghetti and meat sauce. He placed two bowls in front of us, and one next to me for himself. He sat with us and ate. We had light and awkward conversation with him during, and he kept asking us jokingly if we were cops or with the health board. He was incredibly nervous about us, so my date kept cracking corny puns or awful jokes because he would forcibly laugh at anything designed with humor. We talked about our lives, the cities we’ve lived in, our pets (he had a teacup Chihuahua named Princess) and his wife.

He decided we were good people and didn’t charge us for the meal. We wished him a happy birthday, he hugged us, and we went on our way. Easily the best spaghetti I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant, unfortunately, no longer exists.

 

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Church – 2012 to Present – Angel’s Envy – Part 2

“Did you touch them?”
 
“Yea.”
 
“You’re killing us, Liam!”
 

Church and I step out into the warm afternoon sun. We sadly run into this little troll from the Trestle Inn that loves us both. She literally looks like she has troll or hobbit in her family. She’s awful. We hug her and it’s absolute torture for me and my comrade, but we have to be nice.
Church brings the car around and Liam and I get in. Church is doing his usual rage driving and Liam starts talking.
There is a hip crazy waitress that works at Sofitel. We all love her. She’s a tall brown-haired beauty. She has damage, but who cares, she’s pretty. Church is cranking Ozzy in the car and we’re all feeling good.
Liam goes on to tell us that he’s been to this waitress’ house to drink and she always breaks her tits out. We love and admire this lovely woman and can’t imagine her doing this.
When you go to a bar and love and respect the staff, and you suddenly hear something like this, it’s like seeing nudity in People magazine on the counter at Rite aid. When you hear about your friend and server breaking her tits out with her co workers at a party it creates all sorts of new thoughts in your mind..
We’re driving Liam to work and Church and my brains are exploding because all we can think about how his co workers tits swinging free and somehow we are there. We really like her and find it hard to believe she does shit like that. But the more we think about her and her past, we sort of pull it together.
“Did you touch them?”
“Yea.”
“You’re killing us, Liam!”
We drop off Liam at Sofitel. Church and I are laughing as he searches for a parking spot. He’s the king of finding spots in the city. I don’t know anyone that can always manage to find a great space, usually right near wherever we want to hang out.
Church decides we’re going to crash the Angel’s Envy cocktail party at Dandelion. I’m already buzzed, so I’m down for anything. We walk in and tell the hostesses we’re with the Angel’s Envy party. Without even asking who we are or if we’re on the list they tell us to head upstairs.
Upstairs at Dandelion is nice. London’s culinary revolution cames to Philadelphia with this unique gastropub. Cozy rooms and intimate bars create a storied, Old World aura, while updated seasonal takes on British food make up the menu.
The event is being held in what’s referred to as “The Dog Room.” The whole room and bar is all done up with everything canine. Pictures of dogs, and little figurines on the shelves. Even the brass rail that surrounds the front of the bar is held in place by a row of brass bulldog heads chomping down on the rail. I always said they should hide one cat in there somewhere, and if you can find it among the dozens of dogs in there, maybe you get a free drink.
Now this is a party. The owner of the brand is there, and everybody is plowing delicious food and sipping bourbon cocktails. Church is chatting with his buddy the local rep for PA.  I take a bite out of a delicious slider and take a photo of it in my hand. I send the pic to Prova and tell her she’s missing free food and drinks. I tell her to grab an UBER and get down here.
Crickets.
The owner of Angel’s Envy makes a little speech, and they pour shots of the bourbon for everyone to do a toast. Church is on the wagon, and his buddy is working, so they literally pour their shots into my glass. So when we do the toast I pound down 3 shots of bourbon in one gulp.
I run into a few people I know in the industry and chat with some attractive ladies that are also present. So since 3pm this afternoon we’ve been having a wonderful day.
So after the happy hour/party we head over to Sofitel for some quiet frivolity. The bartender that went with us to Karma earlier is there with Liam. He talks shit on Prova saying she had “an agenda” to take us to Karma. Like she had ulterior motives. I don’t like how this clown was invited to a free bourbon tasting. Ate the food, drank the cocktails, and then disappears from Karma and doesn’t even finish his drink. He just scampers off to work. Then talks smack on one of my dear friends.
But all is forgiven because I can’t control the hearts and minds of others and I’m friends with Prova, not him. I hang out with her, I drink at the bar where he works and we really come to see Liam and some of the girls that host and serve there.
(But Prova has already texted me back and says she is on her way down.)
But he tells an interesting story. He said when he was younger he was riding in the car with his family. They were in the car on their way to New York. His dad has Philly’s local rock station on. The song Iron Man by Black Sabbath came on the radio. He had never heard it before and he instantly loved it. He asks his father who sings that song. His pop says some guy named, Ozzy.
So one day when he’s 12 years old, they stop in a music store. He can’t find the song on any of Ozzy’s records. He ends up walking up to this old hippie, and asks him about the song. The hippie takes him to the section where Black Sabbath’s CD’s are located. He pulls out the album entitled Paranoid and hands it to him.
He had some birthday money from his grandparents so he bought the album and has loved Sabbath ever since.
I really liked that little story. You’ve been redeemed!
Prova shows up half in the bag. On Church’s orders he tells her to get some food. I’m happy we’re all together. Good hospitality and good people make for a lovely day!
I go out for a smoke. I run into my favorite homeless guy outside. He always tells me a joke, so I give him a dollar or two to get him something to eat.
I tell him I may start to write for One Step Away, the homeless publication here in Philly. I’m feeling drunk and get a little misty about it. He senses it and moves on to get his hamburger at McDonald’s. I watch him shuffle off down the street and around the corner. I stub out my cigarette, and walk back into the warmth of the beautiful hotel Sofitel. My friends are there and so is a crisp glass of chardonnay and free bar snacks.
My thoughts return to my homeless guy. But I smile and chat with Prova and the gang and take a sip of wine.

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Samarah – 2015 – St. Patrick’s Day

Before we take our shots she looks me in the eye and says… “Whiskey makes me kind of crazy, just so you know.”

It was a couple years ago, and I had been an active online dater for a while. Long enough to know that people definitely exaggerate and even lie in their dating profiles, and that sometimes the person turns out to look nothing like their photos.

I matched with Samarah on Tinder, and she was definitely one of those questionable “swipes” where her photos were kind of blurry, but her apparent job and hobbies were interesting enough, so swipe right I did, and we ended up making a date to grab a drink on St. Patrick’s Day. Yea… St. Patrick’s Day. Not a fan. I don’t think drunk people sitting on the curb, throwing up into green plastic hats is what St. Patrick had in mind.

As an aside: When dating, for the first date I always only make plans to grab a drink or a coffee (generally a drink, because most people do better with a little bit of social lubricant when meeting someone new) so that I can get a quick assessment of the person and then split if there’s no chemistry or if they’re a weird, or whatever.

I get to the bar where we are to have our date, and the girl is nearly an hour late. (I HATE LATENESS) She texts me along the way to tell me he had trouble getting a cab, so being the nice person that I am, I wait for her to arrive instead of just blowing her off and leaving, as I was tempted to do because I thought about the nightmare I went through with Marisa (See: Marisa – 2017 – The Friendly Hostess)

When she finally arrives, she’s super flustered and weird, and clearly the socially awkward type. She looked sort-of like her photos, but had definitely put on a few. I’m not horribly superficial, no big deal. (Who am I kidding? Yes I am.) Anyway, back to the socially awkward. I know we all have our moments, but this girl didn’t even seem to be able to order a drink from the server without falling all over herself. I was like, “Whoa babe, relax. It’s just a beer.” I don’t believe she was drunk. However, that was my first suspicion.

So we finally get our drinks (I’ve already had two since I was sitting and waiting for her for so long) and exchanging the usual first date info, and I am definitely not into her. She had clearly lied about her job on her profile and honestly seemed like kind of a weirdo. This girl was a different breed of weirdo. Either that or she had some kind of mental disability that I was not able to pinpoint in the small amount of time we had spent together.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, she says “It’s St. Patrick’s Day. I feel like we should get some whiskey! Do you want some whiskey?”

Here we go.

I love whiskey and drink it occasionally, so I agreed. Samarah (awkwardly) orders two shots of Jameson and as soon as the server brings them over she tells her that we will have two more. I’m thinking “Okay honey. Chill out.” Because she had previously mentioned that she’s a lightweight in the drinking department.

Before we take our shots she looks me in the eye and says, “Whiskey makes me kind of crazy, just so you know.”

“Thanks for the intel,” sort of assuming that she meant massive quantities of whiskey made her crazy. Well, I was about to find out that she was being completely serious, and I was in for quite the show.

We clink our shot glasses together and before I can get the shot glass to my lips she asks if I am going to drink the whole thing. Um, yeah baby, it’s just a shot, but I confusedly mumble something like, “I don’t know, maybe?” I’m not a big shot drinker. Sometimes I drink the whole thing in one swallow, sometimes I don’t. Why does she care?

So I take the shot, and she takes about half of hers, and when she sees that I drained mine, she yells at me, “YOU LIAR! YOU SAID YOU WERE NOT GOING TO DRINK THE WHOLE THING! YOU LIED TO ME!” I just sort of stared at her, and didn’t have a chance to respond, because the server was back with our second round of shots.

At this point I am starting to think this is maybe a bad idea, but before I can say or do anything, Samarah downs the second shot and looks at me triumphantly as if she has accomplished something commendable.

Me: “Yay, you took a shot, what do you want, a fucking award? Is this date over yet?”

Obviously, I didn’t really say that, but I should have, because then she went berserk for absolutely no reason at all. As if I had at least said that, she may have had some mild justification for what was about to happen.

Samarah got super angry and started yelling and flailing her arms around telling me that she would kill anyone that came near me. She would fucking shoot anyone that ever tried to come near me. At this point, I was like,HOLY SHIT. This chick is psycho! And I start to wonder if she is possibly carrying a gun in her purse.

I make a move to get up so that I can pay the tab and be done with it. Samarah obviously sees me get up, and she just assumes I’m going to the bar to get more drinks, and says she needs to go to the restroom. I walk up to the bar and pay my tab, and look to the back of the bar (it wasn’t a large bar, just a standard, open, rectangular room with bathrooms in the back, clearly labeled) and I see her wandering around in small, drunken circles looking for the bathroom!

I decide to take pity on this poor thing, and walk to the back of the bar and show her where the restroom is (she had used it previously without incident so I couldn’t figure out why finding it again was such an issue. Maybe she’s on drugs?)

As soon as she gets inside the ladies’s room, I can hear her becoming violently ill. Puking her guts out. The people sitting at the bar can hear it and are looking at me like “What the hell is going on?” I literally told them, “I don’t know her. I think she might be crazy! Like, really crazy!” They continued to look concerned, but went back to their own conversations.

At this point, I should have just left, but being the gentleman that I am, I waited until she came out of the bathroom so that I could say goodbye. She comes out like nothing happened. She acts like a totally different person. All the rage and anger were gone and just this nice, normal girl comes out speaking in regular tones, and sounding not at all like the person that went into that bathroom a few minutes before.

I am saying my goodbyes to her, just saying whatever I have to say to get out of this situation immediately, and she pops a piece of gum in her mouth, and then grabs me and tries to kiss me! At this point I practically did a back bend to get my face as far away from her face as possible with her holding on to me.

At this point I actually ran. I full on ran out the door and started sprinting up the street. The bartender was actually around the corner having a cigarette and asked me as I whizzed past if everything was alright and I yelled back over my shoulder, “I’m fine! Just running away from that crazy girl!”

Bartender: “Who Samarah? Everybody knows that!”

I got home and figured that was the end of it, and I wouldn’t hear from her again.

Inexplicably, that was not the end. Samarah ended up texting and calling me incessantly for weeks asking what she did wrong, and begging to see me again. Those calls and messages went unanswered until I finally blocked her in all ways possible, and that was that. I hope I never see her again. I can’t imagine how she didn’t have any inkling of what went wrong on that date.

 

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Prova – 2015 to Present – Glow of the Sun – Many Happy Hours

“The girl with the lovely smile…”

Finally caught up with busy girl Prova! I had three appointments before my meeting with her that day. The first was with some clown from Brown Forman. I emailed him to confirm our lunch meeting and he responded with “I’d rather do this as a phone call.” So I cancelled that appointment. My second appointment was with the General Manager at The Hard Rock Cafe at 12th and Market. But VP Mike Pence was in town, and President Trump was coming the next day and staying at the Lowe’s Hotel right across the street.  The streets were all blocked, and when I got there the GM said he’s got the Secret Service here and could we do this another day? I see that this part of the city is a shit show so I tell him we’ll reschedule. Then my 3:30 meeting with hot redhead Cheyanne, (whom I’ve been meaning to write about but we can never get our schedules together) gets cancelled, because Cheyanne had been complaining about a migraine she’s been fighting all day. So that’s three down, and one more chance to go before I just give up and go home.

I check in with Prova and she is on her way. We decided to try some different places that we had previously discussed. (See Prova – 2015 to Present – Glow of the Sun) I meet her at Frankie Bradley’s. That bar formerly was a gay bar that was pretty much exclusively for lesbians. (It was called Sisters) But now it’s what I think is just a regular neighborhood bar. Based on some of the signage out front, I think they do a lot of drag shows there. Anyway, it’s a good spot to hang out. We catch up and have a couple of drinks. She tells me she had recently applied for a job there as a bartender. We get a hold of the manager and he comes over to chat. She tells him that she had applied, and he asks her to send him an email and reference her resume. So maybe our lady Prova will be working there soon. It seems like a nice place. We tell the bartender we’re trying some new bars, and he suggests Toast on Walnut. So after we pay our bill we go there.

Toast on Walnut is what the owners from “Sisters” made their new bar. So we walk in and there is a young lady at the door, who cards Prova. She doesn’t card me and I fret that I’m obviously over twenty-one. We all laugh and she asks to see my ID.

Inside it’s a nice bar. The bar itself is whitish blue and appears to be illuminated from within. I stick with the vodka and club and Prova sips a red wine. There aren’t many people in the place, but it’s early. The place is so new, it even smells new! Fresh wood and leather. We decide we’re only going to have one here, and then we’re going to go somewhere else. It’s a nice place but it just seems dead at the moment. So before we leave I tell Prova that I’m going to use the restroom. I walk back through all of the rainbow-colored lights, and walk into the bathroom.

Surprisingly, there is a dude in there using the urinal. But they aren’t your typical urinals. They’re not the vertical, rectangular boxes, with privacy barriers on the sides. These are just oval-shaped deep bowls sticking out of the walls, with no barriers. He’s shaking his dragon away in that little bowl, and I decide to use the stall. I just need a little privacy. I do what needs to be done and I come out of the stall, and see a woman with dark hair drying her hands at the sink.

It’s Prova!

Apparently, they must only have the one community restroom. I was shocked to see her at first.

“What are you doing in here?”

“I just wanted to wash my hands.”

“What if I’d been using one of those little urinal bowls over there when you walked in?”

“I don’t know.”

“You would have gotten a glimpse of what everybody in town is talking about!”

Honest mistake! But that was a close call I wasn’t expecting in a lesbian themed bar. We decide to head over to Boxers. That’s another gay bar on Walnut. It’s a sports bar. But all of the bartenders and staff, walk around with no shirts on. So even though it’s primarily a gay bar, there’s always something for the ladies to look at. All the guys are young and in great shape. I actually like going to boxers. I’ve been there twice. Both times with female friends. Think about it… If you’re a straight guy with female friends it’s the perfect spot. You’re able to watch sports, drink and eat. No assholes are going to mess with you or your friend, because gay dudes are nice. Your friend gets to take in the eye candy, and you do your thing. Everybody wins. We have gentleman’s clubs, at least it gives the ladies something to look at when their out with their male friends. I know most men don’t have female friends. But the men reading this should try. All women that like hanging out with you aren’t targets for you to try to bang. We’d all be better men if we had more female friends. Do it!

We order up some pizza and nachos and go to town on that. We were both hungry so we destroyed most of it. We enjoyed a few drinks there and chatted with the friendly staff. They used to have these drink cards that they would hand out. Every time you bought a drink they gave you a card and the next one was super cheap. So it kept you at the bar longer. It was a great deal! But I asked about it when I was there and the guys told me they can only do that in their NYC location now. When asked why, they said that it’s unlawful in Pennsylvania to encourage people to drink more. Technically it’s not, but it does keep you drinking more and for a longer period of time. PA has a lot of liquor laws because it’s controlled by the Alcohol and Liquor Control Board, which is a state-run agency.

Satisfied with our excursion into the Gayborhood, we decided to have a nightcap at the bar where she works. We hung out at a table and she had a beer and I stick with the vodka and club I had been drinking all night. Some of her co-workers would stop by the table and chit-chat. It was great. There is one guy there, I forget his name, but he’s really funny to talk to. I think he’s Prova’s favorite there.

Prova is a lovely, smart woman who I am glad to have as a friend. I like spending time with her. She continues on her spiritual journey of self discovery in the hospitality industry. I will do whatever I can to help her. Because that’s what we all should do.

Incidentally, it was the longest time I ever hung out with Prova.

Five hours!!!

 

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Annabelle – 2012 – Chapter 1 – Nice to Meet You

I get the bill. “The second one was on me.”

The title for the Annabelle series was going to be: “The Final Elegant Arc” but in light of what I’ve learned in the last year, I can no longer call it that. So I’m not going to call it anything.

My life has its moments of elegance and moments of pain, but it is far from final.

I was meeting ex-girlfriend Michelle (See: Michelle – 2007 to Present – Nice to Meet You) for brunch on a Saturday. She was getting her hair done in the morning and then we would do our usual Saturday ritual. I was early as usual and her hair appointment was running long. (That kind of amazing beauty takes time. Just happy we’re still friends!)

I stepped into one of the shittiest hotel bars I’ve ever been in. Just because it was a block from the hair salon. The Warwick Hotel is a beautiful place on 17th and Locust. They have a restaurant a coffee shop and a bar connected to the hotel. Prime Rib is a nice spot on Locust and Tavern 17 is at 17th and Chancellor. I’ve been to this bar many times before when friends would visit the city and stay at the Warwick. The drinks suck, the service blows, the management turns over on a semi-annual basis and the way the place is laid out is in a way where you can’t see anything. There are all of these large pillars or supports that are everywhere through the bar area, and you can’t see what’s going on at the bar. The bartender may not see you and you’ll have to wait.  You can’t find your friend, etc. It’s just a suck bar.

But I thought the number 17 would bring me luck. 17 is my family’s lucky recurring number. It is very prevelant in my father’s life and I thought there could be something there. Recently my friend Trish (See: Trish – 2011 to Present – The She Wolf) asked what my birthday was. I told her 8/9/62. She said,  “What’s 8 plus 9?” I responded…17.

I walk in a little hung over from the night before. The website I worked for at the time had a huge party the night before and we were all a little shattered from it. I walk in Tavern 17 around 1pm on that fateful Saturday. It’s empty and dark. Which for once I was happy about. Behind the bar was a very tall, fresh faced, slender blonde working the bar.

I swagger up to the bar and ask for a Corona. I introduced myself and run my usual program on her. “What’s your name, what do you like to do when you’re not working here?” She tells me her name, and says she’s a photographer as her full-time gig. The Corona is crisp and deliciously ice-cold. It’s actually just what I needed.

Something tall and golden that is no longer Michelle.

Annabelle seems nice and I’m making her laugh with my fatal charm. She’s 5’ll”. Taller and leaner than Michelle. We exchange business cards. I tell her I’ll check out her website. (Michelle is still way prettier though! Michelle reads this blog!)

I text Michelle and let her know where I am. I’m having a beer and she can just come here when she’s finished.

I crush the first Corona just to knock the edge off the day. Annabelle pops the cap from another and places it front of me. It’s just as good as the first. There is no one else in this shitty bar at this time of day, and she’s happy to have someone with which to chat.

She says she does a lot of head shots for local actors in the city. Annabelle is very connected with the local theater community here in Philly. She also does some wedding work as well. I’m assuming that pays pretty good. I can’t put and age on her but she looks to be about 24 or 25.

I’m feeling better now. Chatting with this tall blonde is good and the cold beer has reactivated the alcohol still in my system, giving me a gentle but effervescent buzz.

The door squeaks and the sunny afternoon light pours into the bar. Michelle enters the bar. “Oh, and here comes another charming and lovely blonde.” I say on cue. I introduce the two ladies and we have a laugh. “Your hair looks great, Michelle”

I get the bill. “The second one was on me.”

“Thank you, Annabelle!” I tip up to what the bill would have been and gather my stuff. We say goodbye to Annabelle and head out of Tavern 17 into the afternoon to have some delicious brunch and drinks.

Then we’d probably head back to my apartment and watch Netflix, sip wine, and smoke cigarettes. I’d be in my chair and she’d recline on my sofa.

I later checked out Annabelle’s website and reached out to her on Facebook, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t ask her out on a date or anything. I may have asked if she ever wanted to meet for lunch or something. My usual gentle M.O.

But like I said, crickets.

When you meet someone like that, and it’s brief, there is a good chance they will quickly fade from your memory. I met tons of people back in 2012. I had a job that was 50% socializing. I didn’t forget Annabelle, but I wouldn’t see her again until a year later in 2013.

And it would be a whole new ballgame.

 

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