Road Trips : Vegas : Page 2

13 April 1997

The only information I had about Bakersfield was from maps and the song "Far Away Eyes" by the Stones. I was delighted to see that it looked just the way I'd imagined: flat, dusty, and a little bit trapped in 1962. Block after block of old motels, coffee shops, and drive ins caught my eye. While I'm sure that an "80's strip" full of chain stores and the like exists somewhere, I was mercifully spared the sight of it and my fantasy remained unchallenged. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Lord. (Thanks Mick...)


The terrain was flat and low-lying. The streets were wide. The buildings by and large were not "modernized" (which in the 80s and 90s usually means stripping away the original modernism in favor of something which is neither modern nor aesthetically pleasing).


I decided this would be a dang nice place to spend the night.

Downtown Bakersfield was great! Traditional "historic district" types would not be impressed, because the whole area seems to have been built between 1940 and 1965. Of course, this was right up my alley. Old department store buildings, a cool Woolworth's, and an old Kress store brought back to life as the City Planning office. Overlooking it all was the Padre Hotel, in all its seedy beauty, with coffee shop and "casino room" intact. There are also a couple of great old theatres and a really exciting drug store which I managed to see prior to its repainting in tones of "corporate blue".

OK...maybe it was because it was Sunday night. I don't know. But the nightlife just wasn't happening. The queer bars were not jumpin', there seemed to be no one out on the streets (except the police, who were very much in evidence), and live music was not happening at all.

All the same, I managed to hit a few spots, none of them tremendously populated. First on the list was the Casablanca Club (1030 20th Street). It was a friendly type spot; the bartender, Rick, was out front and bored and greeted me upon my arrival. I will say that walking in was a bit intimidating. There were about eight people sitting in the darkened room, IN TOTAL SILENCE. Apparently, the juke box hadn't been fed recently. When the music started again, it was country. Had two beers, talked to a couple of people and got recommendations on other spots, and hit the road... the Cellar (K Street between 19th and 20th). A sign out front warned that parking was limited to 36 minutes. I didn't use all my allotted time. I was in and out in about ten. Scary place. It tries really hard to be "nice", but the music was horrible and the crowd was desperately seeking something I was unable to define. Probably a good thing. This bar reminded me a lot of the Palms in Greensboro, except that I like the Palms.

The evening's last stop was The Place (3500 Wilson Road). The never accurate Bob Damron Guide listed this as a "country western" bar, so I was a tad leery. Needn't have been; it was standard generic faggot disco in a strip mall setting. It wasn't a particularly bad place...just not my scene. It was, I will admit, the only place in town that seemed to have any sort of energy.

Home. Bed. Alone.