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Photograph by Eric Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Cadillac Margaritas

By Eric A. Carlson

"Now we own all the stars, and a million guitars are still playing."
-Black Pearl's rendition of "You Belong to My Heart"

GRACIELA, a former Cantaloupe Queen of Mendota, told me about the latest freakishness taking place in Los Angeles. Grace was visiting a swanky nightspot, when a man standing next to her leaned over and inquired, "Can I look at your feet?" The idea, she surmises, is that feet are seldom subject to plastic surgery and are therefore an honest gauge of a woman--who might otherwise be altered lock, stock and barrel. The condition of a woman's feet might be the imprimatur, suggesting the rest of the parts are genuine and untransmogrified--or not. The men of Los Angeles are a clever and discriminating lot.

Grace and I were discussing such matters while guzzling Cadillac Margaritas (without salt) at Murphy's Law Irish Pub and Sports Bar, an exuberant refuge on Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale made excessively exuberant on this particular afternoon because the bartender was smashing empty beer bottles into a garbage can. What's up with that? Customers should hoot and holler and break things, not bartenders. Is this a world gone mad?

Grace drives a very spirited Camaro, and my recent purchase of a 2003 Mustang Cobra has strengthened our friendship by dint of our sharing six-speed manual transmissions, heavy clutches and engines much too powerful for any practical application. Because I am a Mustang owner, I am allowed to use the word "Stang" when referring to my car. Also, it is required that I look askance when pulling up to Corvettes and Firebirds--as they look askance at me. And I am learning other new terms, such as "Melvin." A Mustang Melvin is a fellow obsessed with restoring old Mustangs to a perfectly stock condition. Same factory paint, same appointments, same everything down to a gnat's ass of anal-retentive duplication. "Melvin" is often a derogatory aspersion cast by Mustang "performance" folks. The performance crowd is obsessed with taking stock Mustangs and equipping them with after-market gadgets in an effort to squeeze out that extra 100 or 200--or more--horsepower. And of course there are many after-market items to improve appearance and handling. The Mustang market is vast and varied.

In fact, "more horsepower" has such a fine ring to it that I am taking my "Stang" to Apex Motorsports in Santa Clara for a few bits and pieces to bump it up to 425 ponies, give or take a few ponies. With enough money and willpower, there is nothing keeping one from 500--or more. It does concern me that this seems quite reasonable. Nevertheless, having more horsepower provides one with a sense of inner peace and moral rectitude, as well as increased confidence. And I don't buy into the theory that muscle cars are an adjunct to "My penis is bigger than your penis." At least not totally.

I purchased the Cobra from Frontier Ford in Santa Clara, and while I acquitted myself reasonably well during the negotiations--at least in my own mind, the manager seemed excessively forlorn for me to believe he was losing money. "Sir, we are only $1,000 from making this happen; I would hate to think we can't close a deal because of that amount." And so on. In the end, it was a happy conclusion for all concerned. And I appreciate the protestations of the salesmen that I was driving a hard bargain. They even had me believing it for a few minutes. Two thumbs up for Frontier Ford.

The day after I purchased the car, I drove to Pacific Palms in Milpitas, where Black Pearl was playing. Black Pearl is a quintessential lounge act that plays a wide variety of songs, standards to originals, to the delight of dancers and nondancers alike. Black Pearl at Pacific Palms is the last venue in the Bay Area for ballroom dancers to cut the rug to the sound of live music in the wild. Black Pearl used to play at Bay 101, but that gig ended when Mayor Gonzales and his minions of "righteousness and moral probity" banned dancing at the Bay 101 due to the lack of a "proper" permit. The consequence was five or six hundred ballroom dancers without a place to dance--self included. But we all live in a safer San Jose no doubt.

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From the July 10-16, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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