Drunk Boy was allowed to get away with his intermittent screams of “Yeah! Baby!”, even when he began to punctuate his outbursts by slamming a palm against the Rip Tide’s well-worn bar.
He was roundly chastised but permitted yet another shot of whiskey when he set a $20 on fire, at once violating the bar’s “no smoking” policy while breaching federal law by burning US currency.
But the oscillating wheels of Drunk Boy’s fun night out came to an abrupt halt when he challenged a fellow imbiber to a fistfight. He labeled the barmaid a “bitch” when she intervened and then dropped the N-word on the target of his venom – who happened to be black – as he struggled to plot his next move, in the process earning an early eviction despite a $40 unpaid bar tab.
Just another night at the Rip Tide Lounge, Marblehead’s resilient dive bar that for years has served cold, inexpensive beers, mixed drinks that are heavy on the booze and light on the mixers, and the cheapest burger in town ($2). Catering to a working class crowd in a town peppered with one percenters promises a certain edginess, and this would explain the shenanigans my buddy Steve and I witnessed when we bellied up to the bar Sunday night to watch the Patriots manhandle the Bengals.
We’d just finished dinner at the upscale sushi bar next door, so catching the Pats on one of the bar’s flat screen TVs seemed a convenient end to the evening. Thinking about it now, grabbing a beer at the Rip Tide after sushi at Junjii is like heading to the Monster Truck show after dinner at The Palm. But we’re guys who love a bit of contrast, so off we went, arriving just in time for the start of the game – and the unscheduled entertainment.
Drunk Boy is apparently a regular, which would explain the significance of the 30 day bar suspension meted out by an off-duty Rip Tide bar tender who was sitting to my right. This drastic move occurred after the idiot violated enough laws and the Rip Tide’s behavior code to tip the scales of barroom justice against him. The off duty bartender tried to calm Drunk Boy down and begged the target of his anger not to silence the fool with a couple of quick jabs. He succeeded by averting a fight but failed to bring order to the evening, so he wrote the sentence on a slip of paper and requested the initials of the bartender, thus giving Drunk Boy a hangover hiatus for a month, as least as far as the Rip Tide is concerned.
All this business was conducted mostly in good humor, and it all seemed a logical part of the landscape in a bar where people go to get drunk as much as to commune with one another. In my younger years as a meat-eater I would go for the cheap burgers, so I can attest to the fact that the cuisine is not what brings people through the windowless door.
This is a place where weird behavior is the norm. Which would explain why no one else seemed impressed when the drunken young woman standing behind us repeatedly raised her shirt to expose the fringe of her bra, entertaining two eager young men who looked on, long-neck Buds clasped in hand, sporting big grins and anticipating a better show any minute.
And that would explain the humor which greeted a group of skateboarders when they arrived earlier in the evening, sucking back a few drinks before stripping to their boxers for a little Rip Tide romp. This activity preceded our arrival, but the barmaid happily shared photos of their exploits that she had stored on her Not So Smart Phone.
“They were fat,” she laughed, dismissing the impromptu strip show as irrelevant, “not even hot.”
Drunk Boy’s eventual exit precipitated more color commentary than the Patriots game that labored on mostly unwatched by the Ripper’s revelers, as the adrenalin rushes ceased and revelers took a few pulls on their drinks to bring themselves back to earth. All that was missing was a visit from the local sheriff with a curt “OK, folks, the show’s over” to complete the surreality of it all.
“I would have *&^%% ed him up,” promised the target of the fool’s venom, stating what to everyone else in the bar was fairly obvious. “He’s a good guy, I know him, but I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” earning a bunch of nods in agreement.
Repeating such insights apparently helps pugilists and witnesses alike to get over the trauma of having their drinking pace affected. The guy carried on with this theme until he left about 20 minutes later while the dwindling crowd eagerly resumed its pace of elbow bending.
This was far from the first time I’ve ventured inside the Rip Tide, but it sure was the most entertaining, even discounting the Pats’ lopsided win. Gabi and I have graced the joint a couple of times, more for the experience than to savor the ambience, and we’ve always had an amusing time.
It’s what’s advertised: a cheap place to grab a drink or 12 featuring low lights, cheap food and a distinct local flavor you cannot find elsewhere in town.
As for Drunk Boy, chances are he made his way home just fine, though he missed a fine performance by the Patriots. He’ll serve his 30-day suspension, pay off his bar tab and will be back in action in no time, flaming $20 bills and all.