Hell of a Guy

A Night at the Troubadour


The Troubadour is a honky-tonk bar you have to visit to believe.  The inside of the place reminds me of a house that has been over decorated for Christmas, Halloween, Easter and every holiday or occasion known to man, all at the same time.  It is a dizzying atmosphere with an incalculable number blinking lights of all colors hanging from anything and everything that will support them.  If a wall isn’t adorned with photographs of patrons and country music stars – past and present, and plastic things like palm trees, whatnots and illuminated beer signs (mostly mass-produced industrial swill) and,yes surrounded by blinking,colored lights, then it is plastered with some kind of hand-printed, warning signs and rules.  Lots of signs…lots of rules. 

One sign clearly notes that on nights with live entertainment, beer prices and other drinks increase by fifty cents.  Another states one can be barred from future entry for “using profanity,” but I don’t think it is enforced with more than a “shhhhhh!”  While still another sign lists instances in which one could be barred for “Life.”  Since this is one of just a few actual bars in the county, being barred for life carries some weight, apparently.  A very conspicuous sign posted just above the cash register advises the two bartenders, Rene and Kat, in very large print not to accept checks from two of their more notorious, less trustworthy customers.  The Troubadour is an adventure into a world of frenetic colors and fantasy, all illuminated with lights and haloed with ubiquitous cloud of cigarette smoke.  Smoke that so permeates your clothes you need to undress outside when you go home and leave your clothes hung out to let them air.

A week ago, The Nancy and I passed some time with the elite in the lounge of the W Hotel in New York City, where we were not very comfortable.  Six nights later we find ourselves at the Troubadour hobnobbing with a bunch of very real people, not prone to putting on airs of any nature – they just don’t give a hoot what people think.  I like that so much more than the haughtiness of the NYC crowd (but look forward to going back to New York because I love it, too). 

The Troubadour has about fourteen seats around three sides of a U-shaped bar.  Only four have an overhang to place your seat under.  If you sit at any other, it is as if you are seated next to a box – you have to lean forward to get your elbows on the bar.  Not real comfortable, but I don’t see it ever being renovated to accommodate my elbows or my knees.  We hadn’t been there in about six months, but, still, Rene remembered what we drank the last time we were there.  That floored me.

As we entered the Troubadour, we were greeted by the owner; a sweet man whose health is suspect, but easily guessed when he speaks with his raspy, low voice as a half-smoked cigarette dangles from his lips.  The Nancy always gives Jim a hug when we enter the place.  He reminds her in many ways of her favorite uncle.  We paid our $6.00 cover and made our way around the bar and sat down at the same spot we sat on our last couple of sojourns to the Country Music Fantasy World of Morgan County, West Virginia.  The live entertainment was in the throes of setting up huge speakers and instruments on the small stage, and was just about twenty minutes away from torturing us with a myriad of rock and roll oldies and a sprinkling of country music best heard on an unplugged radio – trust me; we won’t hear any of them on American Idol.  (I can hear Randy now, “Check it out!!!  Dawg, that just didn’t do it for me.”)

Our evening at the Troubadour began looking around the place and checking out the improvements since our last visit.  These included a number of new lights and more photographs and subtle warning signs.  We took it all in, especially the people (maybe twenty-five, but not many more), as we enjoyed – a term used loosely in this instance – a couple of the Troubadours finer beers.  I had a Heineken and The Nancy suffered through a Michelob Ultra.  Nasty stuff!  We saw some folks we recognized, not in the acquaintance sense.  We have seen them around town or at the Troubadour on previous occasions.  One is a regular there, a young man named Eric.

It became abundantly clear Eric had been in the place for a while; his speech seemingly impaired a smidge from being over served.  Eric is about five-foot ten, a tad overweight, has frizzy, long black hair, and would remind you, if you read the Harry Potter series or saw the movies, of Hagrid, but a bit shorter.  Eric was having some difficulty forming both his words and his sentences.  Checking out the room, we could see and hear a few of Jim McCoy’s other customers were having a fabulous time unintentionally doing Eric impersonations.  Eric came over and talked with us for a while; at least he thinks he did.  We were not exactly sure what he said, but I think Eric had a good idea of what he wished to convey, even if his diction and enunciation were a little off the mark.  He likes The Nancy a lot and likes to dance with her, and always asks me for permission to ask her to dance – it’s the way it is done in West Virginia.  Perhaps that was the subject and object of our conversation.  If it was, we missed it. 

At one point two of the boys probably pushed one another a little too hard in a verbal contest and an altercation nearly erupted, and as we listened and chuckled and awaited fisticuffs to begin, who appears and steps in the middle of the fray, our little frail friend, Joltin’ Jim McCoy (Google it.  Joltin’ Jim McCoy.  He has a celebrated history.)  Jim isn’t afraid of anything, or so it seems.  I think he has had some tough battles in his lifetime.  Some he has lost, but with many he came away the victor.  This time he won.  It wasn’t too long after these two guys, embolden by God knows how many Bud Lights, took their discussion of who-will-kick-who’s-ass to the parking lot, followed by none other than Jim McCoy, threatening both with being “banned for life” if they didn’t get the hell off his parking lot.  Jim is a real Hell of a Guy. 

This was a night of many contrasts.  The Troubadour is nothing but a gaudy, smoky honky-tonk frequented by a bunch of rednecks and redneck wannabes, and occasionally by this redneck “could-be” and his wife.  The Nancy and I sat at the oddly built bar, ate some of the Troubadour’s nearly famous American Fries from a menu full of epicurean delights of the breaded, fried variety – Jim don’t think much of the French, hence, American Fries.  We painfully sucked down a few Heinies for me and a few Ultras for her and took in the flavor of Troubadour in all its splendor, knowing all the while she and I will find ourselves sometime down the road in the same place, probably in the same seats and will enjoy every minute we are there.  We did have a blast this time, as we have had every time we go, and all of this for a total cost, including the cover of $21.50, which is about the cost of two beers and a tip at the W Hotel in New York City.  New York City was a neat place to visit, but it is not nearly as interesting, and never will be, as the Troubadour.  What a country!

And that is all I have to say about that

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