Monday, 14 October 2013

My first and only trip to a speakeasy

Friends who worked in the entertainment industry told me that speakeasies were a fairly common thing in Toronto. Or boozecans as they were called in the local vernacular. Either for people who didn’t want to stop drinking when the government told them to stop, or for those who worked in bars and restaurants and wanted to go get a drink when their work night ended.

I’d been going to raves for years by this point, which also operated on the fringes of legality - but the huge difference was that raves had no alcohol at them. One of the many reasons I liked them.

This all took place in 1996.

I went to a night my pals Bill and Alex put on at Lee’s Palace every Sunday evening. We hung out up in the DJ booth all night, which was accessed by a ladder up to a loft.

At some point in the evening Alex’s friend Barb came up. I wasn’t entirely sure if they were an item, hoping to become an item or just friends. She worked as a pro domme, but that wasn’t the freaky thing about her. The fact that she looked like Alex’ evil twin sister was.

She asked us if we wanted to go to a boozecan after. We all shrugged and said sure.

So after we tore down and packed up, we bundled into a cab and off we went.

I was living on Stanley Terrace at the time, by King and Strachan. Turns out this place was on Stanley Terrace right on the other side of King. I could have lobbed a softball and hit it. And I never even knew it was there. I imagine the place was torn down years ago for condos.

Barb knocks on the door, a peep hole opens up, she gives the password and in we go. The doorman was huge. Like I mean really huge. I’m a big guy, but he was mammoth. We pass a room where two big, mean looking guys are sitting on a couch, watching porn. Standing on either side of the couch are two women wearing vertiginous heels and skirts that came about a millimeter below their hooha.

We go into the most charmless room imaginable, with white plastic patio furniture and TVs showing football games. And other than the two charming gents and their girlfriends, we were the only ones in there. The bored, haggard looking waitress comes over. 
“What’ll it be.” 
Alex asks what’s on the menu.
“Vodka or whiskey.”
“Do you have any beer, soft drinks...?”
“Vodka or whiskey.”
“Orange juice maybe...?”
“Vodka or whiskey.”
“Vodka or whiskey.”
I piped up. “Could we have a moment to decide. So many choices. It’s all a bit overwhelming.”
Now I should say that we were all, very, uhm, how to put this.......thoroughly and completely toasted. I’m not much of a drinker at the best of times, and neither of those two choices were all that appealing. A beer I could have gone for, but hard liquor, definitely not.

“Listen, thanks for the invite into this fascinating cultural experience, but I’ve seen all I need to see. I baked a peach pie earlier today, which should be nicely cooled off. I got some new records last night. Anyone who wants to come over and have a cup of tea, a slice of pie and listen to some tunes is welcome to come over.”

Bill, who lived close by also came over, and Alex stayed to hang out with his girlfriend/evil twin sister.

So that was my one and only time hanging out in a boozecan, an experience which I think took less than three minutes in total.

No comments:

Post a Comment