The world we live in today is kind of a bummer. There's a terrorist attack somewhere around the globe nearly every day. Racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia run rampant, and Donald Trump is actually running for president. Our Facebook feeds have become a bitter war zone and a hub for narcissism and low self-esteem.
We could probably all use an escape. And how better to toss your cares aside and forget the wicked ways of the world for a few hours than with a little sex, drugs, and booze? And heck, while you're at it, you might as well blow stuff up with guns, too.
The Flyer editorial team spent an evening getting into all sorts of trouble as we wiped our cares away. Editor Bruce VanWyngarden escaped into the river bottoms to shoot guns at all sorts of inanimate objects. Music editor Chris Shaw drank at local bars until the sun came up (or, at least, he thinks he did). Associate editor Bianca Phillips visited a strip club, and intern Joshua Cannon caught a flick at the Paris Adult Entertainment Center. An anonymous writer, identified here as Mr. X, spent an afternoon getting blitzed with his pot dealer.
After it was all over, Facebook was still at war, and the world still sucked. But at least we had fun. — Bianca Phillips
Guns 'n' Stuff
This cover story is about "bad behavior," and, on the surface, there's nothing intrinsically "bad" about shooting guns, unless it involves criminal activity of some sort. But there is no denying that something visceral is unleashed — something that sparks a surge of dopamine — when you fire a gun and watch the load hit an inanimate object, say a 64-ounce plastic Mountain Dew bottle.
Woody Allen was once asked if sex was dirty. "It is if you're doing it right," he replied. Same with guns. It goes back to my childhood. I grew up in a small country town. Plunking stuff with a gun out in the boonies is in my DNA. Now and then, I get the urge to relive my youth, and I've found a perfect spot to do it.
I won't tell you where it is, exactly, but I can tell you it's at the end of a dirt road in the Loosahatchie River bottoms.
There's something a little dangerous — or at least, creepy — about being there, at least in my mind. The nearby water is slough-like, green and murky — a slow backwater bend that's home to catfish and snapping turtles. Alligator gar cruise just beneath the surface like freshwater sharks, looking for something to eat. In the distance, you can hear the occasional whir of a car on the main road, but otherwise it's got the feel of a swamp, quiet and filled with mystery.
You get the feeling people come here to do secret things, bad things.
Like dumping their trash.
Yes, sadly, this quiet, dead-end back road is one of those places that locals have decided is a good spot to leave their leftover building materials, bottles and cans, tires, and old furniture, etc. There are piles of junk everywhere. It's disgusting and a crime against nature, the kind of thing that makes you ask: What the hell is wrong with people?
But, once you get past that, you begin to see it for what it is: a target-rich environment, and a great place to conduct Mythbusters-type experiments, such as: What happens when you fire a load of birdshot into drywall from 50 feet? How does a radial tire react when struck by a .22 pistol bullet? Will buckshot go through a metal garbage can lid? (Yes!) Is that old, black, pleather sofa bullet-proof? (Nope.)
It's, you know, science.
So here's my recipe for some mischief that feels good and hurts no one: Take a friend, a six-pack, a few boxes of shells, a couple of guns, and find some junk to shoot at. You're good for an hour of noisy fun. And as bad behavior goes, you could do worse, much worse. — Bruce VanWyngarden
A Trip to Paris
The first rule of porn theaters: Don't address fellow patrons. But when a faceless man walked into a dark room at the Paris Adult Entertainment Center — illuminated by one flickering corner light and a crooked flatscreen television that displayed three male prisoners and one female guard mid-foursome — I broke etiquette with a square "Hi, how are you?" No response.
The size of a modest bedroom — or a windowless chamber from the mid-2000s horror film Hostel — the room smelled like stale cigarettes and was decorated with scattered folding chairs and a broken couch. The faceless man sat near the front. When he reached into his pocket, my engineered Southern hospitality led me to extend him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was checking his phone.
Despite living in a time where access to porn is at our fingertips and more or less free, and online shopping provides discreet convenience, the Paris somehow stays in business. There are two "theaters" (a generous description) and private viewing booths. A single ticket for the theater is $7, but you can see both films for $12. A private viewing booth is $6.
The building that houses the Paris Adult Entertainment Center has a storied history. Michael Cianciolo built the theater in 1939 and named it the Luciann, an ode to his daughters, Lucy and Ann. A bowling alley moved into the building in the early 1960s and remained until 1966, when it became a nightclub complete with one of the city's first lighted dance floors. Paris Adult Group purchased the building in the 1970s. Above a yellow marquee that reads "XXX," the theater's original art deco exterior still towers over Summer Avenue. Cianciolo's daughters' names, cemented with pure intentions, still remain.
Romantix — America's one-stop shop for sex toys — manages the theater. There are DVDs to please all tastes, even a bargain bin (!), sweet and sour sensual body treats for you and yours, and vibrating nipple belts. While studying objects intended for my bodily orifices, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's recent animated film Sausage Party, in which supermarket food items take on life, came to mind. How would that toy, if sentient, feel while serving its purpose? Not well, I imagine.
Perhaps exhibitionists, as well as those who keep the latest releases on their radar, still have access to exclusive content. After ducking out of the film, Marc Dorcel's Hot Nights in Prison, I googled the title to see if it could be found online for free. No luck. I went home and showered, stale cigarette smoke lingering in my nose. — Joshua Cannon
Party All Night
Most of the time, when I find myself awake at 5 a.m. after a night of heavy drinking, I'll ask the familiar question, "How did I get here?" Intentionally partying all night takes some self-convincing, so when I was asked by my co-worker to go out drinking with the notion that I was going to stay out until the sun came up, I felt a little weird about it. One might even call that fleeting feeling responsibility.
That notion quickly went away after a beer and a shot in the old Le Chardonnay side of the Bayou Bar & Grill — the watering hole in Overton Square that the salmon-shorts-and-daddy's-credit-card sect haven't discovered yet. It was 9:30 p.m. Game on.
Then I went back to a friend's house so she could drop off her car, which is probably the last good decision that was made. I had another beer and another shot of tequila at her house, and then we headed to Lafayette's to see Chickasaw Mound play a free show.
I was starting to feel good, so I decided to have another shot and another beer. I was pretty sure that Lafayette's closed early (they do), so I wanted to make sure I got my money's worth. Plus, you can't really watch a band like Chickasaw Mound while you're sober.
After the show, we headed to the Blue Monkey on Madison. Things got a little weird from there.
I remember talking to a member of Lucero about Doug Easley being cool. I remember drinking a few Wiseacre Anandas and seeing my tattoo artist and his longtime girlfriend. I don't really remember much else, but at some point, I apparently decided to stroll down Madison and go to the Lamplighter. By that time, it was 2:04 in the morning. I had a beer at the Lamplighter, walked over to Zinnie's for a shot, and then there is this weird time gap where I have no idea what happened.
At 4:30 a.m. I was at Alex's Tavern putting on all of the worst music their jukebox has to offer. Y'all like the album Aja by Steely Dan? I hope so, 'cause here it comes.
I remember being really angry that an ATM wouldn't work. What kind of shit is that? At about 5 a.m. a girl sat down at the bar next to me and started talking about the bartender's cat and how he's going to give it away.
This caused me great pain. Why, I had no earthly idea. I didn't even know this cat. It could totally be an asshole. Why should I care what happens to it? A better question would probably have been, "Why am I still awake?"
I remember I suggested moving the cat to a rural area, perhaps somewhere with a barn. Everyone agreed that this was a good decision.
The sun was now coming up, and, as I rode home, I realized that my work wasn't actually paying me to get drunk as much as it was paying me to contract a blistering hangover. I had been duped. Touché. — Chris Shaw
A Night at a Strip Club
It's just past midnight on a Saturday as my boyfriend and I pull into the parking lot of the Purple Diamond — a relatively new "gentleman's club" at Sycamore View and Macon, conveniently located in the Bass Pro Shops parking lot (get your guns and girls, bruh).
"Do we have to do this?" Paul whines.
"Yes, it's for work. Now, get out of the car, and let's go see some tits," I reluctantly reply, realizing just how lame we've become in our mid-30s. We'd both rather be at home, sipping wine in our PJs and watching Stranger Things on Netflix. But work is work.
We pay $25 at the door — for both of us — and the doorman hands us four drink tickets. Each one is good for one beer, which seems like a pretty good deal, since we were only planning to have a couple beers each anyway. The night is already starting to look up.
We enter the dark bar, grab some beers, and sit in black velvet chairs close enough to the stage to see but far enough away to not have to engage with the dancers. There was a time when I'd prefer to be all up in a stripper's crotch, but those wild days are behind me. Honestly, I'm ready for my AARP card, but that's another story.
A bikini-clad woman on the mirrored stage takes the mic to introduce Sierra and says it's the woman's first time on stage. Sierra slinks out in a surprisingly tasteful halter top, thong bikini bottoms, and tall glitter heels. She works the pole with sultry skill as a woman from the audience works her way to a seat in front of the stage. The woman pulls out a bill and waves it at Sierra, who works her way down to the floor and shimmies her breasts in the woman's face as she takes the bill away.
And that's about as raunchy as it gets. Thanks to Shelby County's adoption of the Tennessee Adult-Oriented Establishment Regulation Act back in 2012, adult dancers in the county are no longer allowed to get naked. According to that law, the following is banned: "The showing of the human male or female genitals or pubic area with less than a fully opaque covering, the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple, or the showing of the covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state."
Bummer. Also, did that just say "discernibly turgid state"? Ha!
Back when I was much younger and way more fun, I occasionally found myself at the infamous (and long-shuttered) Platinum Plus, where it wasn't uncommon to see two totally nekkid ladies on stage, um, enjoying a little Egg McMuff (if you catch my drift).
What we witnessed on Saturday night is more of a glorified Hooters minus the hot wings — although the DJ was really pushing the club's 14-ounce ribeye.
Somehow, the no-nudity law hasn't kept the patrons away, though. On Saturday night, the crowd seemed unphased by the lack of nipple-age. An older man, who spent most of the evening sitting very near the stage with his mouth agape and a wide grin on his face, was clearly having a great time.
"It's like watching the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition live," Paul remarks, as a woman in an orange bikini worked the pole to Calvin Harris' "How Deep Is Your Love."
And indeed it was. While watching the dancers parade around in bikinis is nice, I must admit that I miss the old Platinum days. But seeing as how that's coming from someone who'd rather be watching Netflix, take that with a grain of salt. — Bianca Phillips
The Weed Guy
The Midtown apartment's air is thick with smoke as the Weed Guy packs another bowl for the green glass bong. In Junkie, William Burroughs noted that, of all the different flavors of drug dealers, the weed guy is the only one you're expected to hang out with. Sixty-three years later, this is still true.
Burroughs thought this was annoying, but I've always liked it. It's the reason why being a stoner can feel like you're part of a secret society. And besides, says "Bob," a long-haired 20-something, who looks like he just arrived from 1973, selling to strangers can get you arrested, and you don't want a dealer who seems reckless.
Memphis has always been a good town for weed. The geographical advantages that made us America's Distribution Center work the same for the black market. Legend has it that the 1967 Country Blues Festival at the Overton Park Shell was financed by — and presumably enhanced by — the sale of a giant block of hashish.
The Weed Guy notes that, despite billions spent on the War on Drugs, weed prices in Memphis have been more or less stable for 20 years. Stoners still hang out, have loopy, but oh-so-meaningful conversations, listen to music, and munch on snack food, but now there are bongs and blunts, vapes and dabs, and the video games are so much better.
Conversation turns, as it often does these days, to the prospects of decriminalization. The mood is hopeful. The full legalization experiments in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon have been unqualified successes, raising tens of millions of tax dollars for the states, improving access and safety for the heads, and pioneering a weed culture that looks something like wine culture, with dozens of varietals of varied tastes and effects available at boutique stores.
The Weed Guy says people now understand the anti-pot rhetoric of the drug war has always been bogus. There's no question weed has therapeutic value in this crowd. "Gayle" says a doctor prescribed Xanax for her anxiety disorder, but it transformed her into a zombie. Cannabis better relieves her anxiety with few negative side effects, helping her to be a productive person.
And who can deny the contributions the lambsbread has made to music, film, and art? Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Rihanna — so many of our greatest musicians have been dedicated tokers. The Weed Guy abstains from alcohol, a drug he considers extremely harmful. To him, beer ads running on television, while marijuana is classified alongside heroin as a Schedule I drug, are the ultimate signs of cultural hypocrisy.
But as marijuana goes mainstream, something is being lost. Pot is no longer the countercultural signifier it used to be. The real action is in Molly, but the Weed Guy doesn't like to deal with fluff-heads. When weed is legal, we'll just go to the store. The long afternoons playing Grand Theft Auto at at the Weed Guy's house will be over.
My head feels a little spinny as the Weed Guy pulls the last tube. He clinks out the bong's bowl in an ancient, heaping ashtray. "You want me to pack another one?"
Of course we do. — Mr. X