Besides the bartendress and the buxom Modelo girl whose image is plastered all over in honor of Cinco de Mayo, we're the only two women in the place. We would be the only people speaking English, were we saying anything.
I'd heard that the bar at Juan Colorado, a Mexican restaurant in South Park with a reputation for great food, had a drag night. A phone inquiry by a conscripted Spanish speaker proved this not to be the case now, if it ever had been. ("They have DJs and bands on the weekend; no arrangements have been made for the gay people" was the report.) The men here on Friday night at 11:00 p.m. are not into transvestites; this is the kind of macho bro-down that goes on in a certain type of Mexican bar all over the place. In search of a margarita and an experience, we've intruded on an entire cultural phenomenon. We are colossal assholes.
I've been in bars before where I wasn't wanted. The reception I got at the Eagle when I was taken there by an insistent, well-meaning gay friend was not-very-veiled hostility, and in a way, it seemed entirely appropriate. A foray into the iniquitous Turf at First Avenue and Pike Street led to the bartender slamming a plastic rat down in front of my party, causing other patrons to flee. The customers who remained refrained from killing us because they believed we were cops—thus the rat. The trip to the Eagle was just misguided; the Turf misadventure was slumming of the most idiotic, entitled kind—stupid white kids thinking even the saddest, seamiest parts of the world are put there for their desultory investigation.
On the way to Juan Colorado, we get lost in the no man's land between South Park and White Center. We're only interloping here because I randomly heard about it and wanted to check it out. Our feet propel us to the bar once we cross the threshold, and then there is no backing down. The bartendress makes our drinks offhandedly while everyone else stares.
I drink a margarita fast through a wide-gauge straw and focus on some pictures of horses on a nearby wall. My cheeks are burning with a mixture of embarrassment and weird, involuntary shame; seldom have I wanted so much to disappear.
A plugged-in mariachi band is playing loudly in the middle of the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see the drummer; he's got one snare drum on a stand and spotless white cowboy boots. The bartendress lodges bottles of beer in tin pails of ice to alluring effect. If I didn't feel like I wanted to die, I'd want to stay.
The band finishes playing as we finish our drinks. No one's spoken to us at all, but as we leave, fast, someone says, "Where are you going?"
Juan Colorado, 8709 14th Ave S, 764-9379.