If someone were to ask me what is my favorite thing to do, I'd probably say going to the club. Yeah I know that's the typical chicken head answer, but hey it's the truth, so if that makes me a chicken then I say, "BUKAAWWHHH!!!" But here's the thing, I don't go to just any old club. Over the past six years or so my tastes have become very refined. Only establishments catering to a predomoninately young (22-30) black professional (i.e. bougie) clientele, featuring the best DJ's playing hip-hop, R&B, and reggae, with no metal detectors at the entrance are eligible to receive my patronage. Well, that was the case until I moved to Grand Rapids. Now my favorite place in the world to be on a weekend night is at Billy's dancing my ass off to the best 80s pop music with a bunch of white folks. Why the sudden change? Well I still love hip hop music and the uppity Negro clubs like Vision in ATL and Float in NYC, however I've been forced to expand my horizons since that fateful June night in 2004 when I tried clubbing with the black folks in Grand Rapids. NEVER AGAIN!
On my first visit to Grand Rapids after I accepted the transfer my company offered, I decided to get acclimated to the place that would soon be my new home. I found a place to live within 48 hours, a church to visit, and even a salon to get my hair done. Wandering aimlessly around the "city" streets, I decided to find some potential friends and a good place for me to "back that thang up." Having no fear, I walked into a barber shop and introduced myself to the owners and customers. I told them I was moving to town very shortly and wanted to find the black folks. I asked where we all hung out and what clubs catered to us, making sure to clarify what type of place I was looking to find. Well Mr. Barber tells me that on Saturday nights all the black folks would be at the Howlin Moon. He assures me that it's not rowdy or ghetto (i.e. the club doesn't get shot up on a weekly basis) and the crowd is young and real cool. He flashes me a smile that would make Paul Wall proud and I thanked him for the information and decided to check the place out later that night. After I left I headed to the mall to see the caliber of shopping Grand Rapids would be offering me. Not shit, I soon found out. However, while browsing one of the stores, I came across a sales lady who appeared to be around my age. Once again I explained my plight (new to town, no friends, looking for a good time). She was really friendly and let me know that she would also be going to the Howlin Moon that evening and invited me to tag along with her and some friends. I was so grateful to find a companion that I didn't even notice that the name above her phone number was spelled T-E-Q-U-I-L-A.
I headed back to my hotel to change for the evening, then called my new found friend for directions to her place. As I'm driving across town in my rental, I notice that the closer I get to her residence, the more peeling paint, boarded windows, and collapsing porches decorate the houses. Still, I thought nothing of it. When I pull up in front of the address she gave me a pack of white T clad dudes are posted on the sidewalk just chillin. I walk past them without too much harassment and knock on the door. She answers dressed in a white cotton tennis skirt, a jersey, baseball cap, and Air Force 1s. Not exactly what I would wear, but it's all good. I thought nothing of it. A few minutes later we leave for the club.
Pulling up in the parking lot, I see that the full name of the joint is The Howlin Moon Saloon. Interesting name...it even rhymed. But I thought nothing of it. The parking lot was a party in and of itself, with hordes of people congregating in what are supposed to be parking spaces not outdoor lounge spaces. But whatever, all I want to do is get inside and get my dance on with all the other young black professionals in Grand Rapids. Waiting on line I look around and see an abundance of throwback jerseys, Nikes, tatoos, and mouth jewlery. I suddenly thought to myself, "These ladies sure dress casual for the nice clubs in town." As I near the front of the line I hear the bouncer telling folks to get out their IDs and that the cover is $10, unless you don't have an ID in which case the charge goes up to $20. Interesting. Where I'm from, no ID means no entry...but hey different places do different things. When I finally enter the club (passing a metal detector), I see a sign above the entranceway that says "Marijuana smoking is NOT permitted." No sooner than I read the sign does the pungent aroma of the California sticky green invade my olfactory nerve. I step further inside the club and survey my surroundings through the cloud of weed smoke hanging in the air. The place is divided into two rooms with a bar in each one. The main room has a dance floor complete with a stage, a cage, and several poles, while the secondary room towards the back is equipped with an airbrushed backdrop and photographer to capture all the memories that will be made that night. Dudes are in white Ts and jerseys...not a single button down is in sight. A good number of the women favored spandex outfits to complement their rolls while they spent entire songs face down/ass up. I made my way to the bar. No one offered to buy me a drink but one guy did offer me a perfectly rolled blunt. In the midst of all this fun I lost track of my club buddy and her friends. No worries though cause I later found them on the stage making good use of the pole. I spent most of the night by myself wondering if The Howlin Moon Saloon was really as bad as it was looking. When I looked over my shoulder to see a pregnant girl with a glass of henny in her hand doing the chickenhead, I knew it was worse than I could've imagined. I finally decided to leave after some dude pushed his crotch against my ass as a way to ask me to dance.
I got in my car and damn near cried. I hadn't been to a club that trifling since high school and back then it was fun. I made the decision right then and there to NEVER EVER NEVER EVER EVER EVER go to a black club in Grand Rapids again. Looking back on it now, I guess there were some warning signs that should've let me know what I was getting myself into. The barber's platinum encrusted mouth should've told me that his idea of classy was probably very different than mine. Just the name of club alone should've given me pause. But maybe the most glaring oversight on my part was Tequila. I mean really, what should I have expected from a chick named after a bottle of Jose Cuervo?