I tried to play pool in Bethesda, MD on Sunday. I should have known better.
It was one of those Sundays… I had worked a 12 hour wedding shift Saturday night till 3am, passed out in my filthy caterer clothes on my couch until about noon, then, after two hours sipping coffee and staring out the window like a stroke victim at the piercingly beautiful spring day, I decided that the only rational thing to do would be to go out to a dark bar and drink.
I started at Rock Bottom Brewery, because it’s terrible and nobody in their right mind would go in there on a glorious Sunday afternoon. I could be alone with the heavy-set waitresses and shield myself from sun, happiness, and humanity. The increasing trend in the area is to have an all day happy hour on Sundays and, since beer at Rock Bottom is barely worth the piss it’s made from, happy hour – when it’s reduced to $3 – is the only time to choke it down. After a few cheap pints, everything seems okay.
I had a few more than a few pints, and that got me longing for Rock Bottom’s out of the way and largely unsupervised pool tables. When I asked the waitress, though, she said no pool on Sundays, and she had this look about her like I had just driven into a small Alabama town in a loud Italian car and broken every blue law in the book.
Strange… But, you know, fuck Rock Bottom.
At this point, I knew where I could go. I knew the faux-British bar Union Jacks and the hideous Blackfinn’s had pool tables. But no decent person would go to those bars. I figured, if I wanted to play pool on a Sunday in a suburb that has 300 restaurants and bars squeezed into an eight block area, I’d be able to do so without having to sacrifice my soul on the altar of hideous venues.
My next stop was Tommy Joes, which may be my favorite Bethesda bar simply because it’s the only place in that soulless town that lacks any pretention. It’s a dive bar somehow succeeding at the intersection of Yuppie and Pencilneck. Even on a Sunday afternoon, it’s full of tramps, hillbillies, fuckwads, smokers, professional hookers, hoodlums, and potential serial killers. The waiters are all ready for a brawl and the waitresses, when not surfing the net on their laptops, look like they’re probably pretty handy with a switchblade.
I figured that, at Tommy Joes, I was stepping through to the Twilight Zone. Submitted for your approval, a 30-something suburbanite wandering around cracker-ass Bethesda finds a skeazy shithole and falls in love with it. He enters into a new dimension, a new city…into the…It Smells like Vomit and Semen in Here Zone.
Confidant that I was now operating with people on my level, I approached a laptop surfing waitress and asked her if they had pool tables. She continued to surf the internet. I asked her again. Her eyes flicked briefly to mine, then back to the laptop. I asked a third time and, heaving a sigh, she said, “No pool on Sundays. Try Union Jacks.” I told her she was the devil and drank several more pints.
I decided to lower my standards. To swallow my pride and descend to one of the lower levels of hell. I went to the Barking Dog, which skirts dangerously on the edge of being a frat bar sausage fest even during pencilnecks only happy hours. There was some absurd beanbag game going on with backwards ball cap faggots and I approached a “bouncer” who looked to be about 20 years old. I asked him if the pool tables were open and he said, “Not on Sundays.” Then there it was again – “Try Union Jacks.”
Interesting. Two bars have now suggested that I patronize their competition. I didn’t stay for drinks at the Barking Dog because the place makes me want to kill puppies with my cock, so I decided to bite the bullet. I went to Union Jacks. I walked into that soulless, evil place that’s a “British bar” by way of the Jersey shore and headed to the back room where a vast sea of inviting pool tables waited… Along with an attendant, just for the tables, who was in full intercept mode. Five bucks per person per hour is the rule. Not unreasonable when you’re on your own in Bethesda, I suppose, but that adds up pretty quickly if you’re along with friends, yes? It’s also a bit alarming when pool is one of those things that hasn’t gone up in price. Seventy-five cents and away you go. Or, if the balls are behind the bar, then a casual shrug from the bartender is the only charge if you’re drinking. Or, in Silver Spring, you’re a member of MS13. Then everything’s free.
Five bucks was a little rich for my blood, as was the strangely corporate feel of the place. Supervised, expensive pool.
I turned and left, and I started to think about conspiracy. Long time natives of Montgomery County, MD know what I mean. This county long ago seceded from the Union. We’re living in a Socialist Republic. Montgomery County, S.S.R.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Montgomery County somehow managed to continue as a breakaway state. But, completely islanded in an evolving and progressive world, it became myopic. Our leaders, without the guidance of Moscow, became increasingly paranoid and insane. This filtered down into the minds and souls of all the people. So here we are today, and everything is broken. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if there’s some demented backroom deal regarding pool on Sundays in Bethesda. If Union Jacks has somehow convinced everyone else in town with a pool table to shut down for one day and actively drive customers away, that would be a typical example of business as usual. That’s how this county’s run.
But, hey, I spent my hard earned dollars in Bethesda on Sunday, regardless of the pool situation. I sank a few pints and stumbled home. I played – and lost – a game of pool in my mind. That’s really all we need here in our rogue state. Imagination! As long as we don’t vocalize it, because then the Department of Liquor Control will disappear us.