1. I’ve never been there
2. It’s wine country
3. Lompoc is home to Playboy magazine’s 6th best dive bar in the country
4. I was told there was a strong possibility of his father drifting off mid-conversation and playing the banjo, and that sounded really entertaining
We tossed a couple of bags in the Honda and left early on a Saturday morning. Along the way north we saw two members of a motorcycle club almost die in a screeching wreck on the 101 and I took a leak in a random porta potty on Santa Claus Lane (yes, this exists and it is littered with well kept outhouses, presumably for the use of its aging residents out for their afternoon stroll when the urge strikes) near Ventura. I consider both of these a relief though for different reasons.
One thing I learned quickly about the residents of Lompoc is that they are very eager to impart their knowledge on the filming locations of the movie Sideways. Unbeknownst to me beforehand, the Academy Award winning Paul Giamatti film was shot in and around Lompoc. This is clearly the greatest thing to happen to the area since they chased the last of the Indians out and built the first Tex-Mex restaurant. I’d read the book and seen the movie years before – thought both were rather good – and then forced Alyssa to watch it, against her better judgment, when I got back to town. Apparently I’d drank the Kool-Aid while I was up there as I was spouting things like “It’s a great movie!”, and then eventually, “Don’t worry…it’s about to get good”, until realizing at the end that it’s actually pretty bad and she was right all along. Moral: a woman’s intuition is stronger than everything you think you know.
Anyway, Max’s family is incredibly inviting and the cold cut sandwiches were delicious, but by 9 that evening I was ready to see the local watering holes.
Jasper’s Saloon, one of Playboy’s esteemed dives, is just another bar where someone thought that nailing a bunch of junk from the neighborhood hoarder’s shed would give it character. Although there was a pretty good mix of bearded prospector types, rednecks and clean cut folks, I was immediately soured by a DJ playing shitty dance music from his Mac Book in the corner by the door. Upside: they offer free shuffleboard. We decided to stay for a few drinks.
Shortly, two incredibly drunk women stumble up to let us know that we are now playing doubles with them. The ringleader sends her friend to Max’s end of the table while she proceeds to explain to me her version of the rules through vodka fumes. She began waving her wedding ring around and using my shoulder to stay vertical. I think to myself:
1. Which one of the drunken rednecks here is her husband?
2. Which direction will he come at me from when he thinks I’m trying to pickup his beast of a wife and can I use the wall to cover my flank?
3. Am I sober enough to win a fight with a drunken redneck in his bar with his buddies around?
I conclude that I will not be loosing a few teeth this evening when two other drunk women trip over to remind the ringleader that they promised their husbands that they’d be home early. Apparently it’s Ladies Night, which started sometime around 10am. One reached over and tugged on my beard while agreeing with the ringleader that, yes, Max is a great match for their friend even though she called him Chad and kept screaming “Max!” at me. At this point, the stag mumbled something from the other end of the table that sounded like “I’m way too fucked up for this”, attempted to walk towards her friends, tumbled into a table full of drinks and lay moaning on the floor. All four were summarily ejected. Sometimes your problems work themselves out…
Sufficiently buzzed and now eager for live music, we headed to Johnny’s Bar & Grill, the only live venue in town. This place was packed. About all I remember of this joint is that it was clean, there was Guinness on tap and they had a stage. We were lucky enough to move in on a high top table in front of the stage just as some people were leaving. The band that evening was a crappy greaser rockabilly combo with a lead singer that looked like a slightly more effeminate version of Michael Madsen’s portrayal of Tom Baker in The Doors. Although we couldn’t stop laughing at the time, I think I left pissed off for some reason.
Before heading back to Los Angeles on Sunday evening, Max’s mother gave me this pin: