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High Tales

By Kevin N. Whiting
04/15/02

A bit back, after my girlfriend at the time had received a payout from her fathers’ life insurance, we decided to blow some money on a holiday. It was the beginning of summer and we thought we’d get away for a while. We told the travel agent what we were looking for and they gave us two tickets for a small island in the med - formally known as Malta. I was slightly under the influence when I hobbled off the plane and into the airport. I declared my occupation as ‘bum’ and tried to explain my profession to the clerk behind the desk before he’d stamp my passport. He ended up thinking that a ‘bum’ was a professional writer for law firms. We met the holiday rep at the exit of the airport where she guided us to a small, stinking bus that looked like it doubled as a butcher’s delivery van in the day. After waiting for around an hour in non-air-conditioned squalor for some snotty nosed tit of a kid, the bus/meat van roared into life and chugged us away into the night.

Each one of us was slowly gagging from the intense fumes of possible dead animal carcasses hidden in and around the bus. We had three drop off points along the route and, as usual, I had to wait my turn before leaping off at my stop. The night was boiling and my head was easing down from a high powered drinking binge before and during the flight. Just then I had a life-sustaining reminder of some duty free whisky I’d got at the airport. So with a healthy snap I unlocked the bottle and began to devour the piss-coloured liquid. I couldn’t help but pass the thing around when I noticed that the bus had transformed into a collection centre for rabid human beings - all foaming at the mouth, gawping at my urine coloured friend.

We lurched from the bus at our stop and collected our bags, right in the middle of a procession of queers and bikers, all digesting the new talent. Our hotel was situated just off the main drag of the town with an English pub practically sat in our lap. For the whole time some indecent prick would keep jumping on the mike and moaning out a rendition of a bile inducing ‘classic’. We got changed and went for a meal in an Italian diner, where the old lady who served us looked at us like I’d just raped her collection of pets. The meal was ok and in celebration I stole the salt and pepper mills off the table. Nothing like a good souvenir.

I awoke to a blistering heat filtering through the thin curtains and sounds of people getting their heads together. I got two slushy ice drinks from a stall down the road and blitzed them with vodka, drinking them on the terrace outside the room. I was gone before I’d properly started the day. Walking around the town I’d worked out that the place consisted, primarily, of Italian/Maltese locals and visiting tourists. Then we found the highlight of our jaunt - The Roulette bar. A beautiful looking place, where you stepped down into a seating area and through the doors into a dark wooden bar. In the time I was there I only saw two barmen, no matter what time of day you were there. One was a white Portuguese guy with a great sense of humour and an easy going attitude, the other was, probably, the most ignorant fuck I’ve ever met to this day. He’d throw your drinks at you and, eventually, I threw my money on the floor behind the bar in acknowledgment of his great service. Our days became filled with long days and long nights sat at the bar or on the street of the Roulette bar. The local beer there is called Cisk, which I highly recommend.

So, to cut a long article short we decide to have a ruff ’n’ ready night out. We stocked up on Maltese cigarettes, pre-swilled ourselves in Bells whisky and set out for a bitch of a night. I’d gotten in character for the thing by adorning myself with some cocoa beads draped across the front of my 70’s batik shirt - a grotesque advert for the contents of a food critic’s gut. Some suede flares and a pair of fly-like sunglasses I’d bought from a fast food restaurant...oh I was looking good! We began in a biker bar where the glares were coming thick ‘n’ fast from leather-clad queers. Shot back some throat burning cocktails, a coma suggesting mix between butane and acid, possibly with a small alcohol content. Then we moved off across the road where we popped in for a few tipples in the Roulette bar, where I watched virtually naked girls promoting Cisk beer.

From here we crawled next-door into a downstairs jazz/karaoke bar where the fun began. It was topped by a low ceiling, with topless waitresses delivering drinks to your table at least 20 minutes after ordering. Not only was it inhabited by a tribe of dwarves but they had the harsh audacity to let a group of German tourists into the establishment for whatever reason they deemed fit. The entertainment came in the form of semi-drunk karaoke, where a bunch of girls dragged each other onto the stage and burped out a version of some lowlife pop song. Then my enemy displayed itself. My foe for the evening was a very small man (being 6’7" it’s not very hard for people to look small around me) who strutted around thinking he built the fucking place. I could see he was itching to be lifted onto the stage where he could ‘do that thang‘. His time came. The whole room was muffled into silence when he took the stage, like he was some pseudo-microphone god. The prick was in for a nasty surprise. He waltzed over to the DJ and nominated his tune, then slowly walked back to the mic with a smug grin on his chops. I NEEDED to hand him a decent slap there and then. And so the backing music began and the crowd started to sway in unison. But I seemed to have a problem with the show. He’d chosen a Lionel Ritchie number, ‘Hello’ and was now bleating out the song with many adoring local fans looking hazy eyed at him. He could sing, no worries there but he sang it with the bad style of a club singer with an ego the size of...well...Lionel Ritchie. The number ended and he wound down with a rapturous applause from the audience. I’d decided that enough was enough after he did the damn thing again and bolted up to the DJ with a request of my own. All eyes were, uneasily, on me as this excellently dressed individual commanded the stage. I threw a brandy down my gullet and took the mic. The infectious backing music burst into life and I was out of the starting blocks. At the time I was singing in a rock ‘n’ roll band so my voice had a constant hard on. In the immortal music of Steppenwolf I belted out a husky revival of ‘Born To Be Wild’ and sure as I predicted the audience took on a look of live test dummies in a nuclear blast experiment. It turned out that they were only born to be mild and as the last note quivered from the speakers I noticed that most of the bar had left in disgust. I had done my job. With the help of tacky backing music I had cleared a packed bar within four minutes and I was proud...damn proud.

So we had a few more drinkypoos and vacated the place to the aura of silence and bad grimaces. My mad capped evening closed with a 3am trip to a tiny taco bar; you could get lashed while waiting for your Mexican snack. For once my timing was impeccable because as I entered the empty place the server was on the phone in some kind of frenzy that wasn’t immediately measurable. He was half in tears and turning more red by the second, not saying a word. He then let out a hellish screech as he slammed the phone down, turned to me and grabbed me by the collar and shouted ‘It’s a boy!’. Turns out his wife, while he was dispensing tacos, had squeezed another Maltese taco dispenser into the limelight. For an hour I ate tacos and swilled glasses of tequila that were filled again by the time they’d been put back on the bar. 50 minutes later than planned I rolled back to the hotel and threw up on my girlfriends’ feet, who’d fallen asleep.

All in all I found the place to be a whirling mix between extremely good times and stark raving arrogance. I’d had a good trip but it certainly needed heavy explosives in certain areas.

The moral of the story: When you’re born to be wild, it sometimes helps if you have tacky backing music.

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