(report from Crawpappy's Bar, Tulsa, Okla.)
Life in Crawpappy's slows down for the summer. Perhaps that hot Tulsa sun just sucks the life out of all my partyin' buddies and they find some cool damp hole and crawl in till autumn. Or perhaps -- and this, sad to say, is far more likely -- there's a whole secret network of drunken lake getaways and allnight naked pool parties I know nothing about. There's a guy named Johnny who used to cruise up to Crawpappy's or Woodland across the street late at night in his white Rolls-Royce. He looked like Burt Reynolds and he owned a big titty bar in West Tulsa and he'd show up with slicked back hair and a dark suit, chomping a fat cigar with a girl on each arm. They said he had the best pool parties ever but I never got to see them and about a year or two ago he and his Rolls just glided out of our lives and headed for another town. Ten years ago I'd see a lot of guys like that, guys in white cowboy hats, slick-talking businessmen playing cards or sweet talking some sucker, brassy ladies with big shiny hair as tough as Brillo. Every once in a while some girl would get up on a table and dance and maybe if you were lucky she'd take her top off. And they're just about all gone now. Like the circus leaving town in the middle of the night, they all struck their tents and headed west.
So when Richard warned me it would be a wild night, I put on a silk Armani jacket - an old big shouldered one, so I could be like those cool cats in Miami Vice or Richard Gere in "American Gigolo" -- and a Hawaiian shirt and just strutted into that bar. Oh that place was packed and I felt that old forgotten thrill come back. But then, about 9:30 as if by some prearranged signal that crowd just melted away. And that happy music blared but the circus was gone. The thrill sagged and hissed away like a punctured balloon. I looked around that empty bar and I thought of Oscar Wilde, that most elegant of revellers, how he got locked up for a crime that wasn't a crime and left prison a tired sad old man. Somewhere there's a painting of me getting younger. I thought of Peter Pan, now that's a guy I admire. In fact when I grow up that's who I want to be. But tonight my thoughts kept drifting to that big ol' crocodile with the clock in it. And the clock is age and time and the crocodile is DEATH and the party music played on but all I could hear was TICK TICK TICK.
Sometime around midnight the crowds poured back in and all those gloomy thoughts melted away like snow in the Sahara. "Slow night," one of the waitresses said to me. "It was," I said, "but it's looking pretty good now."