I walk in to the Buffet and there's already 15 men slouching at the bar. The joint smells like hot dogs and day old whiskey breath. The jukebox is streaming Walking on The Moon
by The Police. I take the closest available wobbly bar stool and order my first drink at 10:30 a.m. Day drinking and writing go hand in hand like riding a scooter without a helmet.
The bartender is easy on the eyes and friendlier than a pissed off hedgehog. She tells me her name is Cindy Clark. Clark is a native Tucsonan and loves to travel. One of the reasons she works at the Buffet is because she's always welcomed back to work as long as her shifts are covered while she's gone. Clark said she went to Boston, Nantucket, Mexico, Seattle and Portland this past year. "Have you ever been to Hotel Jupiter? It's the shit," Clark shouts. During our conversation she switches from wearing a black baseball cap that reads Brooklyn in gold letters to another all black furry Russian style hat. One of the day drinkers yells, "You can serve fucking vodka in that hat!" The entire bar, including Cindy, erupts in laughter. Everyone starts doing bad Russian impressions, and then the room gets awkwardly quiet for a little while. Even the jukebox stops playing music.
Photo by Henry Barajas
Cindy poses with her Russian hat and bottle of Vodka.
Then a voluptuous Hispanic woman walks in and everyone knows her name, but me of course. Cindy introduces me to Aurora. They compare outfits and start swapping stories accompanied with pictures and videos. "All the bartenders here are friends and we all hang (at the Buffet)," Clark says. Aurora has been working for the bar for over two years and loves what she does. She's another traveler and former Army war veteran. Aurora was born in Tucson and moved to the Midwest, back to Tucson, and then Las Vegas and has been back for the last two years. The war veteran works the Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday morning shifts. "We get a diverse crowd like the trauma nurses from UMC, firefighters and fourth avenue bartenders. There are a lot of older men from the gay community that wander in here on Sundays. They are so much fun," Aurora says.
Photo by Henry Barajas
Terry Texas Trash has been drinking at the Buffet for over 29 years. "I was born in Austin, but Tucson is my home."
I finally worked up the courage to walk over and introduce myself the the Terry Texas Trash. The man is missing his right hand and leg, has two tear drop tattoos and an old school shaving blade tattooed along the right side of his jaw. Terry was having celebratory drinks with his friend Art Bennett. Last night Terry's band Texas Trash and the Train Wrecks played a packed show at Hotel Congress. He said that there was a Weekly writer there interviewing people but he didn't talk to him. "Maybe it's a good thing I didn't talk to him because I have been known to put my foot in my mouth," Terry says while he lifts his prosthetic right leg near his face. Somehow we got on the subject about his trip to see his son in Manhattan, the live sex show he saw while he was visiting his son and his early days with Al Foul and The Shakes. Terry has been drinking at the Buffet since he was 18 years old. The 47 year old singer songwriter says the Iron Horse neighborhood used to be a bad part of town. "The only reason you came to this part town was for three reasons: to get drunk, hookers and drugs," Terry said.
I have noticed a lot of changes since I moved in the neighborhood in August, and so has bar owner Lesha Davidson. Davidson and was one of many community members that helped filled and planted the Chicanes along 9th Street in the beginning of November. We were talking about the rapid changes and thoughts about what's to come when the student housing is completed next door. This experience inspired me to write a story about what's going on in my neighborhood.
Inspiration comes from the weirdest places.