The Officers Lounge on Spangdahlem Air Force Base was designated for the upper crust of the military pecking order. And yes, the military does have a social hierarchy and yes, it does rival any hierarchy Bravo can cast.
There’s this culture in the military to ardently define life by your level in the ranking system. If you earn a promotion, it could be possible that the friends you once spent every weekend with are now subordinates and you can no longer fraternize. The top wives of the Officers Lounge could be real uppity, expecting strict verbal deference and respect from anyone ‘lower rank’.
Of course, the wives with the longest sticks up their asses often trolloped directly to the Enlisted Lounge in search of some meathead dick when their brainy husbands would deploy to Afghanistan. The Enlisted Lounge, where I straddled most of my bartending time, was designated for the airmen, or the low-ranking Air Force members without college degrees.
Working both bars, I earned the privilege of witnessing intoxicated stories like the cheating wives unfold from a (mostly) sober vantage point. Hold that thought. The idea of witnessing intoxicated stories. I’m going to bring it up again later because I am about to go off on a tangent, so please, hold that thought.
It actually was pretty fucking cool. I know ‘fucking’ is lazy writing unless it’s like S & M erotica literature or something, but seriously, it was pretty fucking cool. I was given the bank, the authority to run, and the keys to a military sports bar. Me! The faggy 18 year year old twink from Texas!
I was far too socially awkward and lacked the charisma to be popular in high school. I found it easier to find one person who fully understood me and latch on co-dependently, my bffl, Lizzie.
Working as a bartender was like free therapy for my social anxiety (anxiety probably onset from subduing my true self to hide sexuality, but no need to overanalyze here). If I wanted tips, I needed to win over consumers, which meant they needed to like me. At first, I served like a butler – quick and efficient like a German car, unseen and silent like a Japanese ninja. But the job just wasn’t fun and the tips weren’t that great.
One night, Ed, an alcoholic fool in a drunken stupor, verbally assaulted each individual in the bar, hunching his body over, glaring down with alarming seriousness and then asking, “Are you a faggot?”
After each customer reassured Ed that no, there indeed not faggots, he jolted his body on top of the bar, pressing himself up like a cobra-posing yogi, and asked me, “What about you, Jake, are you a faggot?”
It was like the penultimate gay nightmare (ultimate being the gay bestie “You’ve gained 10 pounds, now one wants to insta shirtless with you” intervention. At this point, I was freshly out of the closet, maybe two months, but I had not come out at work. Fight or flight reflex set on.
I calmly responded in front of a now silent but full bar, “Are you asking me if I’m gay?”
Ed scoffed. “Yea, do you suck dick?”
I flinched my head back, thinking about his comment. “Well,” I sighed. “Yea, I do. I am.”
Ed then flinched, as if he had just been shot by a .22, taken off-guard by my words. He lowered himself from his stiff yoga pose, shrinking in his unsuccessful attempt to rally a stupid, drunk army of ‘non-faggots.’
Ed’s voice jumped to a pleasant, calm tone, “Well. Awesome. Good for you.”
I think that may have been the first time Ed saw a real, live gay person. After that moment, Ed ended up being one of my highest tipping regulars.
That is what I LOVED about the Enlisted Lounge. The airmen were young enough and not smugly educated, growing up as a military fetus upon turning 18 instead of being hazed by immature frats; they were willing to learn. Pulled from every bumfuck town in the States, the military is a melting pot of cultures. Being the gatekeeper to alcohol, I made sure to add the spice.
After that moment with Ed, I was officially out. Word spreads fast on-base. Work dramatically improved. After being more open about my sexuality, having no pressure of arriving to that awkward, ‘oh by the way, I’m gay, does this mean you’re going to turn weird and slowly back away from my life?’ conversation, I felt comfortable fully exposing my whole self to my patrons.
“Patrons” soon became friends – they’d invite me to bar-b-cues, on trips, and the sexually confused ones would invite me to naked sleepovers (SCORE!). Through much positive reinforcement, I learned truly that if you are yourself and are willing to learn whatever someone else can teach you, you will find a humble confidence that brings inner peace. For the first time, I was popular! (And not just because I handed out alcohol). And being friendly, meant I was dished the most scandalous of tea.
Do you remember when I told you to hold a thought? I was privileged to witness many odd stories while working at my bar, including hot messes like Alexa.
It was Halloween night, 2009. Lady Gaga was atop the charts, we were still trying to figure out whether Ke$ha was a black or white chick, and I was dating an airman under the ominous reign of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – military’s one workaround for gay members. Okay, fine. Gays can join our club IF they promise to not do gay things and not ask for gay benefits for their gay partners.
At this point, I’d been out of the closet a full three months, just long enough to be taken off the market. I found myself in a confusing, non-relationship with Chase, a hot airman.
Of course, like any juicy soap opera, we were forced in a non-relationship because the concept of a ‘relationship’ was preempted from outside forces that impeded our union. The six-month process of kicking a gay service member out of the military was underway after I’d already met Chase.
We both agreed that we could only date for a short while until he’d be forced to move back to the States.
Chase visited my bar every night after we started ‘not dating’. He brought his friends, who were amazing and tipped well and became my friends, and taught me how to mix drinks like a pro. Chase could shoot me a look across the bar and I would fill from head to toe with jittery butterflies. We would watch philosophical documentaries and then expound on our views of the universe and after, we’d have loud, sweaty sex like cavemen. The ‘non-relationship’ just worked because we both stimulated each other physically and mentally.
This October night, as Chase sucked down a lemon drop martini in my military sports bar, we began a conversation with a stumpy Latina dressed as an Oktoberfest Maedchen.
“I see you’ve gone cultural with your outfit for the costume party.” I winked to her as I wiped an already dry beer glass with my towel. I was hinting at the costume party happening at the bar next door.
“It’s just a façade. I’m still a Patron-drankin chola at heart. Can I get a double por favor?” The Maedchen swung my wink back in my direction like a pro Tennis player.
She ordered shot after shot of Patron and enlightened Chase and I on her life. I was drawn to her affable and quite funny personality, so I spilled the fact that I was a homosexual to her.
After the bomb, the Latina – Alexa – sat wide-eyed, mouth agape, “I’ve been in Germany three years. I’m a third grade teacher on base and I haven’t had hot European sex with two men yet.”
Chase and I exchanged the non-verbal communication that successful couples do. The bottom of Alexa’s empty glass gurgled as she inhaled deeply from her straw, staring at us wide-eyed, expectant.
“Well, you won’t it find it here. We’re American, honey.” Chase said.
Alexa exhibited that intoxicated regression where you kind of bob around like a baby. In defeat, she hung her head towards her lap and stared down for a slight moment before pulling out a
A fucking chicken wing. She proceeded to go to town on said chicken wing before pulling out another. And another.
This was at around midnight. My bar didn’t serve chicken wings. Where in the hell did this woman pull those from?
Alexa transformed form patron to pest. She was no longer a sensible customer but rather a basket case I now had the responsibility of baby-sitting. That’s the problem with the little customers. One moment they’re fine, and the next, they’re on the River Blackout. And I was on the military base too, if, after leaving my bar, this crazy swill tub did something insane like roller blade on the autobahn, I’d be held responsible.
After sucking the cold buffalo sauce from her thumb she refocused her attention on Chase and I, “I want to take a shot with you.”
“I’m not allowed to take shots.” I informed (lied to) her. “They have cameras here.” In actuality, I was encouraged to take selective shots with patrons if it meant they’d buy more alcohol.
Alexa deflated again for a moment before quickly billowing up with excitement, “I’ll take them to the back of the bar! Behind the back door. You can take them there!”
The above conversation where she asked me to take a shot and I declined looped three times before I finally gave in and agreed to meet her.
“Fine! I’ll take a shot. I can’t make it look bad though. You head back there, I’ll meet you in about five to ten.” Alexa accepted my offer and trotted happily to the back with three shots of Patron.
I remained stationed at my bar for thirty minutes flirting and eye-fucking my boyfriend before Alexa stumbled over.
“Hey! You never came!” Alexa shouted as she pouted her face and placed her hands on her hips.
“I’m sorry! I had customers.” I waved my arm towards an empty bar. “Are the shots still there?”
Alexa started to resemble Honey Boo Boo. She hiccupped, “No! I drank them. You guys are boring. I’m going next door.”
She swung around and headed straight out the door, almost fighting with it on her way out.
“At least she’s not a violent drunk. Did you see her eat those chicken wings?” Chase asked me.
I laughed, “Really? The first time I’ve been hit on by a girl since I’ve made the change and that’s all you’re giving me? A size-too-small costume and cold chicken wings? Because that screams let me give up on giving up on women!”
“Plus she didn’t even offer us any. How selfish do you think she is in bed?” Chase said.
After stumbling from my bar, Alexa continued drinking next door.
I’m not sure what was said, or who said it, but someone pissed her off and the German Maedchen evolved into a wailing banshee. Apparently she began chucking bar glasses across the room. This was an extreme safety hazard, so, the bitch had to go. Police were called and the process of booking began.
Although, instead of going quietly, the teacher decided to channel her best Thelma and Louise. After hearing the police had been called, Alexa threw off her heels tried to outrun the military officers in her size-too-small, milkmaid outfit.
A beefy cop quickly tackled the poor drunk to the ground, forcing her on her stomach and locking her wrists in handcuffs. Alexa, the third grade teacher, belligerently resisted.
She kicked, spat, thrashed, squirmed, squalled, squawked, and elbowed, gnawing her way out of the police officer’s meaty grasp any way she could. Two additional cops arrive, to assist in the situation, aiding their colleagues to subdue the drunken woman.
Alexa spit in their faces while she writhed on the ground.
“Damn! She looks like she needs an exorcism or something!” said one of the officers with a drop of fear.
Alexa shrieked, “I have aids! I have aids, faggots!” She spit at them.
They managed to place her in the back seat of a police vehicle but could do nothing to penetrate her violent alter-ego. After placed in the backseat, she continued to kick, this time directing her rage at the car windows.
“I have aids, motherfucker!” She spat through the cage separating her from the drivers.
Silence sat in the car along with the inebriated teacher and as she heaved, energy depleted.
A switch clicked and the tears began to flow. “Please don’t do this. I’m a teacher.” she pleaded. “I’m a teacher…”
Apparently the sobbing card didn’t hit. Instead of booking Alexa and holding her with the Air Force, the security forces police decided instead to pawn her off to the German polizei. The German police were not subject to American laws and therefore, could issue corporal punishment if she kicked or spit at them.
“I have aids! (spit) Don’t do this! I’m a teacher!” She screamed and kicked vehemently before she was passed off like some venomous caged animal to the German Polizei. They immediately shut her up when they pushed her body against their bright green van, knocking the wind out of her. She could now be stuffed in the back like a cased sausage.
The bright green, official German Police conversion van drove off into the winding German countryside, Alexa’s wails echoed farther and farther, and the quiet stillness of night returned. Happy Oktoberfest!
I closed my bar chuckling to myself that night, I mean, not for her being arrested and probably losing her career, but just the ridiculous scene I’d watched unfold.
I slept in Chase’s dorm room that night, snuggling naked on his tiny twin bed and patiently waited to tune into the next episode. I may have lived in Germany, cut off from greater American pop culture for a slice of my life’s pie, but who the hell needs Shonda Rhimes when you’ve got The Real Housewives of the Air Force unfolding right in front of you?